Fallen from Grace
Chapter 10: Bregan D'aerthe
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters belong to R.A. Salvatore and Wizards of the Coast.
Author Note: Ok, so this story is now super AU as of Servant of the Shard, the last "Drizzt" book I read many years ago (though from what I hear, it may fit surprisingly well between the transition books). Anyway, I'm having some trouble remembering all the details of the Forgotten Realms, unlike when I began this story back in 2001, so please bear with me. Furthermore, after so many years this story is strange to me and I have changed a great deal as a writer since it began. I know that the flashbacks were supposed to continue up to the death of Bruenor, but really the story was getting far too sidetracked, which caused me to abandon it. Nonetheless, I feel guilty for having never finished it and will attempt to do so now depending on reader response, i.e. please review!
"Guen?" for a moment Drizzt was speechless. The flamboyant mercenary leader forgotten, he threw his arms around the neck of the huge cat and hugged her as if she was a lifeline, weeping unashamedly into her fur. How long since he had lost her! How long since that awful day when he had lost the last of his friends to an insane mage, who with one blow had stolen his sanity along with all he loved. The panther purred thunderously and licked Drizzt's face like a dog, obviously as happy to see him as Drizzt was to see her.
"Ah, Guen! I feared I would never see you again!" Drizzt said hysterically through his tears. It was as if a vast darkness had lifted off his shoulders. He was not alone! In this vast world of bigots and enemies there was at least one who knew him, one who he could call friend.
"How touching," a voice remarked. Drizzt looked over Guen's shoulder and saw the Jarlaxle leaning casually against a wall, his trademark hat at a jaunty angle and the red eye patch on a different eye than Drizzt last remembered seeing it. He felt a split second of panic as he realized that he was effectively pinned by Guen and could make no move to defend himself.
"Truly a marvelous item," Jarlaxle commented, holding up the statuette for Drizzt to see. Drizzt loosened his arms from around Guen's neck, ready to spring at the bald drow and wrestle the item from his grasp. "But if I'm going to have you working for me I can't keep such a powerful artifact from you," he said and moved to toss the figurine but paused and smiled slyly, "Unless you wish to finally take me up on my offer to buy it from you," Drizzt's violet eyes glistened as if on fire. Grinning even wider, Jarlaxle tossed the figurine to him with a flick of his wrist. Drizzt caught it easily and cradled it in his arm as if it were made of glass.
Pushing Guen aside, Drizzt rose to his feet and turned his gaze back to the mercenary leader, "Work for you?" he said sharply, "Why in the Nine Hells would I consider such an offer?"
Jarlaxle's grin disappeared. Without making a sound he approached Drizzt until they were face to face, "Because I know what you are looking for, son of Zaknafein. And it would be a shame to waste such talent as yours to a priestess, a mage, or any other drow who can give you what you want. You search for death, Do'Urden, but you are not ready for it or you would have ended your life already," Drizzt winced and Jarlaxle grinned, knowing that he had touched a nerve. Perhaps Drizzt wasn't all that different from Zaknafein after all. "It would be a shame to waste such talent on any wandering priestess who, with a dagger through your heart, could advance herself in the eyes of Lloth. Fight for me," he paused teasingly, "and maybe you can reclaim something of what has been taken from you."
*Have ye lost your fight then?* once again Catti-brie's words echoed like a call to war in Drizzt's mind. "No," whispered. When he raised his eyes to meet Jarlaxles' again the mercenary leader had to keep himself from stepping back from the sheer ferocity in Drizzt's eyes.
"I will join you."
"Of course," Jarlaxle said and turned to walk away, gesturing from Drizzt to follow him. For a moment Drizzt was caught off balance. Had the mercenary leader known he would join all along? Had he gained any advantage in joining Bregan D'aerthe?
Did it matter?
He had not joined out of any sense of bloodlust, he though as he trailed after Jarlaxle, Guenhwyvar trailing at his side. He cared not who he fought here in the Underdark, he trusted that the svirfneblin had safely locked themselves in their tunnels, avoiding any conflict that he may be forced to fight in. He cared even less who he fought for. Bregan D'aerthe was only a temporary anchor. Perhaps from here, surrounded by renegades of the drow society, he could find a niche from which to survive until, sometime in a future to distant to make out, he would return to the surface and start anew.
But such plans would not aid him here. The Underdark provided little room for dealing with vague futures. All of one's attention needed to be centered on surviving in the present. The future would come when it may.
"You realize that you are a legend here in Menzoberranzan?" Jarlaxle ask, waking Drizzt from his private contemplation. "And I don't mean for the trouble you caused those decades ago when Yvonne Baenre tried to conquer Mithril Hall. You are acknowledged as the greatest weapon master that this city has ever seen," he paused for effect and was not disappointed. Drizzt looked as if someone had hit him in the back of the head with a board. "None here have stood against you with blades and defeated you," he continued, "Which is why I'm putting you in charge of training the new recruits.
"What?" Drizzt exclaimed, rounding on Jarlaxle, who had a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth and an evil glint in his eye.
"No favors, Drizzt. You are undeniably the best, but to survive in Bregan D'aerthe you must start from the bottom. I have no doubt you will climb quickly," he stopped outside a plain looking door, "This is your room. However you are no longer safe in Mithril Hall, usst'abbil, if I were you I would sleep with one eye on the door. If I slept at all. The recruits will be waiting for you after eight stages of Narbondel."
Drizzt nodded and opened the door, his ears perked for the sound of traps before catching himself. Jarlaxle could have killed him a hundred times over in their few moments together but had not, he wasn't likely to trap Drizzt's room. The other soldiers now, that was something he would have to worry about once he began to train them. Guen padded inside the room and lay down beside the bed.
"You never said you how you lost that magnificent creature in the first place," remarked Jarlaxle.
"She was stolen from me," said Drizzt, seeing no point in lying. The room was quite Spartan, with only the bed and a wardrobe. Some candles lay unlit on the table, a luxury in the Underdark and one that told him how much time Jarlaxle had had to prepare for his arrival. Likely the mercenary leader had known of his presence since he had left the surface, at least since he had been in Blindenstone. "Some fool mage tried to summon Errtu and failed. Bruenor and I arrived too late to stop him and one of the imps stole the figurine during the battle."
"That explains a great deal," said Jarlaxle.
"Are you going to tell me how you found her?" said Drizzt.
"Now now, I can't be revealing all of my secrets," said Jarlaxle.
"Or any of them, for that matter," said Drizzt. "But I deserve one answer. What ever happened to Entreri?"
"Can't say," said Jarlaxle flippantly, "We parted ways over a century ago. You know he was a human, he's certainly dead by now."
"I see," said Drizzt, "I always thought that one too evil to die."
"Evil, unpredictable, probably a bit mad, but always interesting," said Jarlaxle, "It's been awhile since a non-drow has held my attention for so long. But such is life."
"And what holds your interest now?" said Drizzt.
"Chaos," said Jarlaxle with a gleam in his eye, "I've always liked you, Do'Urden. Even when you are destroying my plans you cause enough chaos to make it interesting. You should probably watch your back while you're here, I can't be protecting you from ever knife in the Underdark."
"I never thought you would," said Drizzt. Jarlaxle acknowledged this with a tip of his ridiculous hat and closed the door.
There is no such thing as a "green" recruit in the Underdark, even a child plucked off the street would know at least six fatal places to stab an enemy, and probably would have done so already. The difficulty with drow would not be to train them in weapons, but in but teaching them not to turn those weapons on one another.
This Drizzt realized glumly as he faced the row of two dozen new recruits Jarlaxle had placed under his command. Tell a dark elf to destroy a list of enemies and as long as she, or he, did not add you to the list you could reasonably assume the deed would be done. Tell a drow to work with another drow for longer than their personal agendas immediately required and you would have a problem.
Fortunately for him, each of the recruits' personal agendas was, for the moment, to present a façade of obedience while they learned from the greatest swordsman Menzoberranzan had seen in centuries. He could see from their eyes that all of them knew of his exploits in the Underdark, and chances were many of them had lived through the war between Menzoberranzan and Mithril Hall. Here, at least, he had not been forgotten. He would have to keep a close eye on the few drow women in the group, they would have the most to gain from presenting his head to the current Baenre Matron.
"You all know who I am," he finally announced after giving them a moment to squirm, "Which means you know that I would just as soon kill any of you I saw on the surface. My standards are different than yours, and I don't expect any of you to meet them. As far as I'm concerned you are all worthless wastes of life, and the world would be better off without a single one of you. But for the moment my task is to make you more effective at killing your own kind, and that's fine with me. And the first way to do that is to make you stop thinking like them," some of the men had begun to eye him with a certain respect, while the women to a one looked as if they had bitten into something sour.
"I have no doubts that every one of you is an effective warrior. You would not have lasted this long if you were not. My first task will be a simple one. I shall assign each of you to a three-man unit and spend the next week patrolling the Underdark. All you have to do is come back alive. But there's a catch," said Drizzt with a grim smile, "If anyone in your unit dies or does not return with you I will tell Jarlaxle that you are unfit for Bregan D'aerthe and have you cast out. And lest you think that I am sending you into danger that I would not bear myself, I will be shadowing all your groups and monitoring your efforts. You will have other criteria as well. Stay too close to Menzoberranzan and I will fail you. Kill a svirfneblin or a pech and I will fail you," there were some murmurs of disgruntled confusion at this, "Attempt to disqualify other teams by killing one of their members and I will fail you. And I will know." His violet gaze swept the recruits. Some looked thoughtful, while others were annoyed. "Are there any questions?"
One of the females stepped forward, "Yes. What exactly is the point of this little field trip?" she said disdainfully.
"I would have thought that would be obvious," said Drizzt, "You are no longer in your House, nor are you a free agent. Bregan D'aerthe is your House now and your loyalty to one another is more important to the band than any individual feat you might achieve alone. There will be no heroes in this exercise, a unit will succeed or fail as a whole."
"But you are a weapons master," she retorted, with a tone that place the position somewhere below scullery boy, "Won't Jarlaxle be expecting you to teach us how to fight?"
"What Jarlaxle does or does not expect is none of your concern, and you likely wouldn't understand him even if you tried. He gave me command of your unit, so I will do as I see fit. Anyone else?" said Drizzt, shifting his attention from the indignant female. Silence greeted his query. "Fine, I will select the groups and send you out. You have one hour to prepare and meet me at the northern gate of the city. From there you will disperse, and you will not be returning here for a week, if you return at all. Dismissed."
The recruits scattered and Drizzt watched them go, some turning to look at him, some with curiosity and others with carefully blank expressions.
"I never took you for a drill sergeant," came Jarlaxle's voice from behind him after all the recruits had left. Drizzt started, the other drow had not made a sound.
"I have been in armies before, and I have trained others. Skill with a blade is the least of what they will need," said Drizzt.
"Well, most of them were expecting it. They are the best fighters in Bregan D'aerthe," remarked Jarlaxle.
"You said they were new recruits," said Drizzt with an edge of irritation in his voice.
"Some of them are, but I thought it best that I let you lord it over them a bit," said Jarlaxle with a smirk, "You struck the right tone, though I am curious to see how your little exercise plays out. I assume you have something more up your sleeve?"
"I'm not you," retorted Drizzt, "I had thought the patrol would be enough for raw recruits, but I suppose now I'll have to add something to make it worthwhile," at the thought of this a small smile spread across his face. Giving the cream of Bregan D'aerthe's fighting force a taste of humility would not be such a bad thing. True that some of them had survived in the Underdark before, but no drow he knew of had survived there as long as him, and if Jarlaxle thought him skilled enough to train them then he likely held the advantage in skill as well, so long as he was careful.
He glanced to the lights of Narbondel and saw that the time he had to meet the force was dwindling. He nodded farewell to Jarlaxle and returned to his room, double-checking the packs he had prepared of food and what supplies he would need in the wild. Guenwhyvar's figurine he placed in hidden pouch deep within the pack. Never again would he risk losing his oldest friend.
It was not until he had left the Bregan D'aerthe complex and made it halfway to the north gate that he realized how alive he felt. True they were dark elves, and likely stood in opposition to every principal he held dear. But for the first time since… since he had awoken from the Hunter, he felt alive. He had a purpose again. The future was still dark, but it did not concern him. For a little while it would be like the old days, stalking the Underdark with Guenwhyvar at his side. He found the prospect unexpectedly appealing.
*Am I betraying their memories?* He wondered but could think of no certain answer. Surely they would not have been overjoyed to hear of his return to Menzoberranzan, but none of them could have imagined what would befall him in the decades that followed their passing. Perhaps it would be enough for them to know that he was, if not happy, at least content and free of the madness that had followed him for longer than he dared calculate.
It would not be enough for long, but at least for now it would have to do.
Whether or not I continue beyond this point is entirely reliant on the response I receive. With that in mind, please review!