Disclaimer: Menzoberranzan and everything in it are not mine. Shocking.
So. This is my second new FR story. This time I've decided to tackle a period in time rarely addressed in most fanfics: Zaknafein and Jarlaxle at the Academy! An incongruous balance of humour and high drama! Student antics! Duels, mayhem and Shakespearean-esque banter! Tahdah! Aren't you excited???
Also, there is a mention of original characters in this chapter. Don't flinch, worry, or flee. They will not take over the story. In fact, they will only very briefly be the focus of the action, later on in the story, and that only to make Zak and Jarlaxle look even more hot they than usually do;) Amazing, eh? Also, Jarlaxle has hair in this story, because I'm quite sure he had it at some point.
Finally, this is a short story, so it will be completed within three or four chapters, maximum.
This would also be the point in time at which I get down on my knees and beg, pretty, pretty please, for lovely reviews!
by Ziggy Sternenstaub
Even when the dark elves lay abed, Menzoberranzan was never dark.
Gleaming red eyes that perceived heat in all of its marvelous, multicoloured gradients did not permit the total extinguishment of sight. Every time one of Menzoberranzan's twenty thousand citizens closed her or his eyes, she or he could still see the dance of a thousand colours painted across the back side of paper-thin eyelids. The exquisite nature of these shades, their unspeakable clarity and abnormal beauty—these were things that were both expected, normal, and yet, like the bright danger of a candle's flame, they never lost their power.
It was for these reasons that Zaknafein Sev'ron, warrior student and common soldier in service to the House of Daermon N'a'shezbaernon, was lying in his Academy-issue sheets, unable to sleep, caught between contemplating the pictures painted across his closed eyes, and the pictures that awaited him should he open them. He was restless, bored, uneasy and faintly aroused—but he was a very young man, and young men, regardless of species, are always faintly aroused.
The subtle whisper was pitched low enough to alert an elf who was already awake; all others it would leave languishing in the crafty and demanding grip of Reverie. Zaknafein rolled over, opened his eyes, and was not surprised to see Jarlaxle standing at the door.
Come on! Jarlaxle's fingers moved with the same irascible cleverness that Zaknafein was accustomed to from his tongue, and the prone elf slipped out of bed. He pulled his plain clothes out from under his bed, leaving his Academy piwafwi beneath. Only once he had passed the threshold of his sleeping dorm mates did he slip on his clothing; students did sneak out, but getting caught never a good idea.
Jarlaxle took the kitchen exit, the way the slaves went while they cleaned Melee Magthere each night. It took longer to leave than the simple corridors would have suggested, for avoiding the patrolling Masters was a tedious business, but finally they slipped out of the tiny portal at the warrior school's back end. Zaknafein gagged at the stench of the rubbish lying there beyond the noses and the eyes of any admiring citizens who had cause to pass the school's front. Like the beauty of the dark elves, the elegant architecture hid its own fair share of ugliness.
It wasn't until they left Academy grounds—no small task in itself, but students made desperate with boredom would always find a way—that they dared to speak.
"I thought I was going to die tonight," Jarlaxle moaned dramatically. "Trapped in that horrible, stuffy dorm with Sinifein snoring along next to me like a duergar with a head cold, and Pazlan tossing and turning and turning over and over again! And no decent place to lie down—nothing but scratchy regulation sheets for company—silk! Silk sheets are what I need. Or ever better—satin!"
"You could still die tonight, you know," Zaknafein casually inserted into the self-interested monologue.
"If you don't shut up."
"Hmm. Always death threats with you. Not very original, Zak," Jarlaxle criticised his friend's verbal form with a brief shake of the head.
"Ah, but I'm humorous about it. Glaring with the promise of a thousand miserable dooms—that would be unoriginal."
"You do that, too," Jarlaxle pointed out.
"Only when I mean it," Zaknafein answered serenely.
Jarlaxle's brow wrinkled curiously under his long white fringe, but he did not take up the trail of his complaint again, and that was all that Zaknafein had really cared about.
"Where to tonight, then?" Zak asked as the complex and dangerous thread that was their road began to itch at his consciousness. Zaknafein despised uncertainty, and was always secretly uneasy with the unfamiliar.
"I thought we'd take a little jaunt to midnight worship in the Baenre Chapel and then head back to Arach-Tinilith for any orgy with the first-year clerical students," Jarlaxle suggested casually.
Zaknafein kept a straight face. "Sounds fantastic. It's been too long since we've been to an orgy."
They exchanged quick grins and short bursts of ironic laughter before Jarlaxle shook his head and threw his arm over his friend's shoulder. "To the Silver Web, I think."
Zaknafein glanced over at the other elf. "Are you saying what I think you are?"
Jarlaxle hummed a single bar of a short, haunting melody and then laughed with barely hidden joy. "Oh, yes. The twins are back."
Zaknafein caught the breath that suddenly tried to run away from his lungs.
They were called Nadalya and Nalfein. No one knew their family name, if indeed they even had one. Rumour—almost legend among their admirers—had it that the twins were orphans who had raised themselves in the stinking streets of Skullport, singing for their suppers in perfect harmonies on lantern-lit street corners, running away from lustful goblin glances and avoiding furious dwarven merchants who frequently accused them of petty theft—accusations that probably would have been true, if the whole story did not stand in doubt. Truthfully no one knew where the twins were from, where they had learned their craft or even if Nadalya and Nalfein were really their names. Just as truthfully, the truth did not matter. The legends were simply an intriguing additional to the real attraction—the music.
It was the music that set rhythmic fire to Zaknafein and Jarlaxle's booted steps, the music that drew them in like prey on the end of a cave fisher's line. Jarlaxle danced frivolously and Zaknafein glanced up at the ceiling with a tiny, secret smile. Silver heat crowded his eyes the pink comets of fluttering bats flirted with his sight as they ascended into invisibility.
Onward and onward they followed the spider's web, inevitable in its course, until they slipped into Manyfolk, where even the dark of Narbondel could not smother the sounds of merry-making leaking out of sinister-looking taverns. Rough and drunken laughter tickled the ears of the walking elven duo, each door sending out hasty invitations to all who had the coin to squander. A duergar dwarf, intoxicated or dead, lay slumped against the side of an inn, a large bottle of potent mushroom wine clutched in his filthy fist, while a malododorous half orc-half human ambled out of the door, stooping only to search the dwarf for valuables. When he found nothing else, he took the bottle of wine instead.
Jarlaxle chuckled with amusement. "Such delights as the night offers to us all!"
The half-orc glared suspiciously, but did not dare offer any truly threatening move to a drow. Instead, it scrambled off down the road, chased only by Zaknafein's contemptuous stare.
The two elves turned left at the next intersection, moving to the side of the road as a mounted lizard padded forward. Its rider was stiff-backed and proud, red eyes barely visible through the visor of his adamantium helmet. Hands glowing in bright shades of red, green and blue held the beast's reigns with light, arrogant assurance. Jarlaxle waved merrily. At this friendly gesture, the rider stiffened with puzzlement. Zaknafein nudged his friend aggressively.
"A nervous twitch, Zak?" Jarlaxle grinned. "I know a student cleric who would be only to happy to see to that for you."
Zaknafein grunted, but took the bait. "For a price, no doubt."
"No doubt," Jarlaxle agreed, "But nothing that wouldn't be enjoyable for both of you."
"I've my hands full enough with "enjoyable" bargains already," Zaknafein pointed out dryly.
"That pretty face of yours will get you into trouble every time," Jarlaxle agreed with a naughty grin, and lightly slapped his friend's cheek twice.
Zaknafein batted his long eyelashes. "Jealous?"
"Eternally!" Jarlaxle agreed ecstatically. "My affection for you can be contained no longer, sweet Zaknafein! Oh, say you will be mine!"
Zaknafein gasped in mock joy, pressed one hand to his forehead as though he had become faint, let his eyes roll back into his head, and then let his body follow suit. Jarlaxle caught him gallantly.
"I'll catch you, fair lad!"
Zaknafein growled playfully, kicked Jarlaxle lightly in the knees, pressed him to the ground and then straddled his waist. "I'll "fair lad" you."
"Oh, please do," Jarlaxle purred, wiggling his eyebrows playfully up at his friend.
Zaknafein stared intimidatingly, eyes filled with some nameless fury, and then leaned in close enough to touch noses with his friend. He held his breath, straight-faced, and Jarlaxle did the same. Then, suddenly, he could do so no longer. Zaknafein's face split with the force of his enormous grin, and he collapsed into forceful laughter, falling forward on Jarlaxle's chest, which vibrated as its owner giggled helplessly.
"And we're not even drunk yet!" Jarlaxle gasped out breathlessly.
"What are we waiting for, then?" Zaknafein demanded, rolling off of Jarlaxle and dragging him up by his left arm. "It's well past midnight and we've yet to have a single glass of wine. There's something wrong with that."
"Definitely," Jarlaxle agreed, finally catching his breath. "But fear not! We're almost there."
"I have been to the Web before, idiot."
They continued walking, their loud voices nothing remarkable in this neighbourhood.
"Just making sure your perilous fall didn't upset the delicate balance of your sensitive constitution, my dear friend."
"It's a pity only travelling companies perform in Menzoberranzan, Jarlaxle. You were made for the stage."
"Alas," Jarlaxle sighed regretfully. "The stage shall indeed never taste my genius."
"It's a shy thing, this genius of yours," Zaknafein agreed pleasantly, "I've yet to witness it myself."
Jarlaxle sniffed and tossed his long mane of hair with contempt. "Mere common soldiers such as yourself haven't the proper appreciation for the great subtlety of my genius. The only part you are likely to witness is the great rush of air as my genius flies right over your head!"
"As flighty as its owner," Zaknafein lamented. "And as unreliable."
"Unreliable!" Jarlaxle exclaimed indignantly. "Have I ever abandoned you in a time of need?"
"Only if there was profit to be had in the leaving," Zaknafein retorted dryly.
"Why, you--!" Jarlaxle performed a double backflip and landed four feet in front of Zaknafein, sword already drawn. "Such harsh words cannot go unanswered!"
"The truth is painful, is it not?" Zaknafein retorted, and drew his own two slim long swords.
"Not so painful as the cut of my blade, villain," Jarlaxle sneered, and then lunged.
Zaknafein's swords were ready for his opponent's rapier and shield, meeting the silver-fish quickness of the slender blade head on. Jarlaxle manouevred his shield and blocked the right-hand sword, stabbed at Zaknafein's hip with his rapier, and aimed a kick to the other elf's knee—but the blade was blocked, the kick avoided, and Zaknafein used his superior upper-body strength to slam his sword down on Jarlaxle's shield and send a heavy shockwave through the other student's arm.
"Brute," Jarlaxle sniffed disdainfully.
Zaknafein grinned viciously, his blood up and sending hot jolts of hormonal pleasure through all of his limbs. He dove into a roll and knocked Jarlaxle down onto the street, driving his arms into Jarlaxle's prone arms until the other male was forced to release his grip on his swords. Zak did likewise and grinned down at his friend.
Jarlaxle laughed and leaned forward, placing a revoltingly sloppy, wet kiss on Zaknafein's forehead. The other student drew back in disgust and Jarlaxle used the moment to flip him, reversing their positions.
"Do you now?" he mocked the warrior under him.
"I might be forced to use...unpleasant tactics if you don't get off of me," Zaknafein warned.
"Sounds exciting," Jarlaxle mused naughtily.
"It won't be," was the black response.
"You're just upset because I tricked you," Jarlaxle pouted.
"You're just upset because you lost," his friend retorted.
"Eh, out of the street afore someone walks over ye!" a gruff, annoyed voice snarled at them.
The two elves looked up with surprise as a grunting half-giant lumbered towards them. Quickly, they rolled to their feet in an ecstasy of self-preservation.
"My pardon, good sir," Jarlaxle said, more than half ironically, and offered a mock-salute.
The creature mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like "godsdamn drow," but the two truant students let it pass, continuing on their own way.
They managed to make it to the end of the street without further incidents, interruptions or duels of any variety, and finally came to a halt outside of the Silver Web. The tavern's shape was identical to the other squat stone bars that crowded the street, and its name was nowhere announced. Instead, the tavern's facade was carved with deep, magically inflicted triangles and stretched, pointed rectangles which, together, formed a gleaming silver web. In the uppermost corner of the bar's front, the glittering magical etching of a crafty, silver spider hung, eternally suspended, mandibles extended as if to catch and devour any foolish warm bodies that dared to venture into its tempting trap.
Carelessly heedless of this danger, Jarlaxle and Zaknafein entered the bar with the ease of familiarity.
Well? Thoughts? Mindless worship? Scathing reviews? Violent hatred because I've only posted one chapter and fanfic authors are notoriously unreliable when it comes to updates? All reactions are welcome! Let me know:)