Surprises, Part 1
A/N: All right, this is a two-parter, I've decided. Too much is going on for me to condense it further, so it had to be this way.
Artemis Entreri was not a man who was easily surprised. This was a talent that he'd worked hard as a lad to perfect into habit. Artemis Entreri was a man who would not twitch if a wizard's lightning bolt exploded a hair's breadth from his face, who would not flinch if an arrow was fired point-blank at him. In short, Artemis Entreri was never surprised.
Artemis Entreri, to his utmost chagrin and disgust, found himself surprised. Not by anything that had actually happened to him, mind you, but by the actions of his drow companion, Jarlaxle. An insane drow companion, yes, but that had always been par for the course with drow.
But this was something more than mere insanity- it was simply wrong.
Jarlaxle had abandoned his signature floppy purple hat in favor of...nothing.
Upon noticing this, Artemis Entreri insisted to himself that he was not surprised- he was intrigued.
A week went by. The hat remained in the corner of their shared room, it's violet hue almost morose in the dim light of the corner. Artemis Entreri insisted to himself that he was simply interested. Only this, and nothing more.
Three weeks came and went. The hat stared balefully up at the two rogues, turning a faded lilac color as dust gathered upon its sizeable self. It was almost like keeping a dying relative up in the room with them- one that could drive men mad with its reproachful stare.
Artemis Entreri was surprised.
Finally, when the time Entreri spent staring at Jarlaxle's bald pate began to near a month, Entreri felt that he was under an obligation to discover why in the Nine Hells the damned drow had forsaken that most heinous of his effects.
"You should dispose of that...thing if you do not intend to wear it further," Entreri began one morning, his eyes fixed upon the hat. Jarlaxle, in midst of a soliloquy on his newest encounter with a relatively nondescript member of the female sex, stopped dead cold. He turned about, his eyes wide and crazed.
"That," he hissed, "is what it wants."
Entreri was nothing less than dumbfounded.
"Your...thing over there has suddenly gained sentience?" Entreri waved a hand dismissively at the lonely pile of cloth in the corner. Jarlaxle shuddered once, his face twisted in a rare expression of something Entreri had seen many times in his career as an assassin, but never upon the face of his wily companion:
"You were there. You know of its- its...occupant," Jarlaxle spat, turning his back pointedly on the hat. Entreri shook himself when he was sure his companion wasn't watching, and started towards the doomed article of clothing on the floor.
"Then why not get rid of it, Jarlaxle? Why must it take up the floor- and on my side of the room, as well?"
Jarlaxle shifted once, his normally confident posture bent with paranoia.
"Because...it's watching me. Can you not understand that? It's watching me."
Entreri blinked once, shook his head and growled, "So? Get rid of it then!"
A crazed, almost feral expression twisted the drow's visage almost beyond recognition.
"What? Like we did the first time? No. No- it'll come back. Jarlaxle is many things, my friend, but a 'fuzzy little man-peach' is not one of them!"
Silence filled the room.
"A...what?" Entreri managed to blurt through his shock. Jarlaxle wrapped his arms around himself, fixing a determined glare upon Entreri. In his panic, he'd forgotten what Entreri had actually seen and what he hadn't.
"You heard me. I will not have it, you hear?!"
At this point Entreri, who later swore that he simply liked to breathe with his mouth wide open, sighed magnificently and gestured to the hat.
"Why don't you burn it, then? Destroy the entire-"
"What? And lose my toys along with it?! Don't be absurd!" Jarlaxle scoffed, rolling his eyes. Entreri's face sank into his hands at this.
"Because you're getting such marvelous use out of them at the present time," Entreri returned, his tone and facial expression making his disdain for the elf's paranoia evident.
The glare that shot from Jarlaxle's eyes could have melted an iron city.
"If it's such a waste, then remove them yourself," Jarlaxle huffed, tossing his head dramatically. Enteri snorted derisively at this.
"Because I know exactly what is useful and what isn't in that ridiculous horror that you placed on your brow for the past few hundred years," Entreri replied, sarcasm heavy in his voice.
Jarlaxle raised one elegant white brow in response.
"I'll help you. I won't touch the thing, I say."
Entreri snarled, glancing at the hat and back at its master. They were in this together- he knew it.
"Why must it be me? Why can't you do this your own self, Jarlaxle?"
"Because I don't wish to be forced to perform indecent acts in my own bed by the grandmother of all that is scaled and smells like a month-old corpse that has been marinating in the deepest, filthiest, most vile bayou known to any race," Jarlaxle snarled, his voice growing softer and more deadly.
"And, of course, it's quite all right if I'm at risk," sulked Entreri, his expression becoming that of a long-suffering martyr.
Jarlaxle's glowing eyes narrowed.
"If you wish the hat gone, it must be by your hand- I'll not have that thing return. Ever."
An explosive sigh escaped Entreri as he stomped towards the pitiful piece of cloth, eyes narrowed and promising only pain to the helpless hat. He snatched up the hat roughly turning the thing over on his lap. Across the room, Jarlaxle winced as though Entreri had trodden on his foot.
"Do be careful, Artemis. My toys won't work half as well if broken."
A curt grunt answered Jarlaxle's plea as Entreri glanced back at the dark elf.
"Well? What do I save, and what do I incinerate?"
Jarlaxle cleared his throat.
"The band, feather, anything under the band, anything in the crown, anything..."
"In short, everything, yes?" Enteri grumbled, glaring again at the woefully dusty hat.
"Almost everything, my dour friend. To live in a state of absolutes is to be a fool," Jarlaxle sniffed, adjusting his eyepatch absentmindedly.
Entreri sighed again, turning his attention back to the hat. After a few moments tugging fruitlessly at the band, the irate assassin turned back to Jarlaxle, proverbial daggers shooting from his eyes.
"Jarlaxle. How do I get this band off short of slicing it in two-"
"I'll kill you where you stand if you do such a thing- Rings of Adhesion aren't easy things to come by," Jarlaxle replied lightly, leaning casually against a wall on the opposite side of the room.
"A Ring of Adhesion? What-"
"I couldn't just have that fly off my head whenever it was windy, you know. It's undignified to chase after one's own hat."
"Right. Well, then, how do I get it off your hat that currently isn't on your head?"
"You could ask it. Nicely."
Entreri stared at Jarlaxle as though he'd begun singing the praises of celibacy.
"Ask it, you say? Me asking a hat band to, 'kindly remove itself from its present host as it is on the brink of imminent destruction' is going to-"
To Artemis Enteri's surprise, the band veritably jumped off the hat's crown and into his hands.
A satisfied chuckle came from across the room
"Ah, now, was that so hard? A little common courtesy-"
The chuckling predictably evolved into a full-grown laugh as the drow shook his head in mock-disbelief.
"Such manners! No wonder you are always without a woman- you are incapable of any and every kind of gentility. I believe that your race has a proverb for this very situation concerning flying insects and honey-"
"Continue this conversation and you will be forever without a woman for literal reasons, Jarlaxle. Now, what else am I removing?" Entreri snapped.
Two hours later, Entreri was covered in a grand myriad of objects, from golden morning-stars to fine literature to sewing needles to hand-woven throw rugs, and was currently pulling a seemingly never-ending streamer of white silk out of the hat's crown.
"What is this, then?" Enteri gritted through clenched teeth as he pulled on the silk, looking rather like a young child playing with his mother's clothes on his bedroom floor.
"Menzoberranyr spider silk. The very finest. A rope of it can lift a score of heavily armed dwarves without even stretching. I find it's also good for tying things up-"
"Does it possess an ending?" Entreri cut in, preemptively cutting off the elf as Jarlaxle's voice took on a lewd intonation.
"Yes. It might be stuck, though- do keep trying."
"Very helpful," sneered Entreri as he redoubled his efforts to yank the "rope" out of the hat. Only to have Entreri fall backwards as the remainder of the strand veritably flew out of the crown, dragging with it a tangled mess of wands, figurines, trinkets, potted plants, several female undergarments and other miscellaneous objects.
"Ah, so it was a tad snarled. Well, then, that's just about it!"
"No one is more relieved to hear this than I, I assure you."
The very last object attached to the snarl of shimmering spider silk was a small swatch of black cloth, one that was difficult to see in the growing darkness of the tavern room.
One that made no noise as it fell to the floor.
And promptly opened up to become an exta-dimensional hole.
Artemis Entreri, oddly enough, was somehow not surprised to find himself falling into nothing, a myriad of magical articles caught within and around his cloak and person.
I hate drow, Entreri thought distractedly as he tumbled downwards.
Up in the apartment, Jarlaxle scowled and took a step backwards.
"Naturally," he whispered, shying away from the gaping hole in the floor.
A/N: Hah. Sorry about the lack of Gregg- he'll be there soon enough.