A bright light assaulted Drizzt's sensitive eyes, foreign noises cluttered his ears, and noxious air choked his throat. Coughing, blinking, squinting, he looked around. He was surrounded by humans in strange clothes, all walking past him in a single direction. None of them looked at him; all seemed intently focused on the ground or, in rare cases, each other.
Drizzt sighed and put a hand to his aching head. What had Harkle Harpell gotten him into now?
Despite having his ears covered by a bandanna, Zed heard the familiar "pop" of a teleportation spell. The sound didn't bother him until he remembered that he was at state college, and that precious few people here knew about magic, and that none of them should be allowed to teleport, for the sake of their own safety and that of those around them. So it was understandable that he panicked, dropping into a crouch and throwing his backpack out in front of him as a shield. Students passing by gave him weird looks, but he paid them no heed, his senses focused on other things. He scanned the horizon, looking for anything that seemed out of place.
Then he noticed the drow in the crosswalk.
"...SHIT!" Zed dropped his bag and sprinted down the sidewalk towards the crosswalk. Now he was turning heads, but at this point he really didn't care. It was better that all attention be focused on Zed the freaky film student than on the drow elf who'd appeared out of nowhere. "Beg pardon, 'scuse me, sorry--" he pushed his way against the herd of students shuffling towards early-morning classes and finally reached the drow.
Drizzt was disoriented, yes, but not so much as to lose all his skill. He noticed the boy running at him and delicately stepped backwards out of his way. The boy followed Drizzt's step, grabbing for Drizzt's wrist.
"Begging your pardon, sir, but you'd best come with me," said the boy.
Drizzt snapped his arm out of the boy's reach. "What for?" He was in a strange place with only the faintest idea of how he'd gotten there, but he wasn't about to follow any random passerby. It could easily be a trap.
The boy opened his mouth to speak again, looking annoyed, but before any sound came out he was interrupted by one of the most horrible noise Drizzt had ever heard. The drow snapped his head around to find the source of the noise and was confronted by a contraption the likes of which he had never before seen.
The noise came again, halfway between a screech and a bellow, lasting only for a second but ringing in Drizzt's ears for a fair time afterwards. The contraption was about the size of a farmer's wagon and sat low on the road. Drizzt couldn't quite discern what it was made of, or what it was for. Then a head - a human head - leaned out the left side of the contraption (that Drizzt could now, with reasonable certainty, refer to as a "vehicle") and shouted at them.
"YO, FAGGOT! YOU AND YOUR BOYFRIEND GET OUT OF MY WAY!"
The boy winced, then grabbed for Drizzt's arm again. "Seriously, we need to-"
Drizzt made no argument this time but followed the boy as he walked briskly out of the street and stepped onto a side path, lined with young trees. As soon as the drow and the boy were out of the road, the vehicle made a noise like the growl of an angry beast and lurched forward, speeding away down the road more quickly than Drizzt had expected.
Now Drizzt took his arm out of the boy's reach. "Who are you?"
The boy smiled weakly and bowed. "Zedric Grimes; most people call me Zed." Zed straightened. "And you?"
The name sounded unfamiliar and, quite frankly, weird to Drizzt's ears. He wasn't sure how much information was safe to reveal to the stranger, this Zed. "Drizzt Do'Urden," he said finally, figuring that honesty would get the best results.
Zed's green eyes widened momentarily. He quickly tried to cover up his shock by coughing a little and rubbing the back of his neck profusely. "Right. Do you know where you are?"
"No," Drizzt admitted.
Zed sighed. "Do you know how you got here?"
Drizzt shrugged. "A friend of mine is a wizard. His magic has... mixed results."
"I know the feeling," Zed muttered, rolling his eyes. "But yeah, think your friend can get you back to where you were?"
"If I had a way to contact him..." Drizzt paused. He wasn't sure he wanted Harkle to be the one who came to his rescue. He'd been teleported without warning to gods-know-where, but at least he was in one piece. If Harkle tried to put him back where he belonged, there was no telling what would happen.
"But you don't have a way to contact him," Zed guessed.
Drizzt sighed and nodded.
Zedric rubbed the back of his head, deep in thought, going so far as to remove his kerchief and run his fingers through his red hair.
"Right," said Zed. "So you're stuck here a while." He sighed and retied his kerchief. "And you really, really don't fit in." He glanced nervously up and down the path. "Follow me," he said, then added, "Please."
Drizzt couldn't see any other option but to comply.
Zed was very happy that all of the early-morning foot traffic had already passed by. He could expect to have another hour of relative privacy before the next round of students bothered to get up, get dressed, and leave their dorm rooms. Glancing back at Drizzt, Zed estimated he would need that hour. The drow looked like he'd just gotten back from a Ren faire. A high-quality Ren faire, Zed admitted to himself, but a Ren faire nonetheless.
Clothes. The drow would need clothes, and a place to hide. Hell, if they couldn't get in touch with the wizard, he'd need a place to live. And food, because who knew when he'd last eaten? And after food came, inevitably, the need for... facilities. Zed couldn't help groaning; he did not want to be responsible for toilet-training Drizzt Do'Urden.
The thought of the name almost stopped Zed dead in his tracks, but he forced himself to act normal. Drizzt Do'Urden. Drizzt fucking Do'Urden! Not just anybody who didn't belong, but the most famous not-belonger practically ever.
Focus, Zed told himself. Step one: hide the drow. Where? Not Zed's room. Zed had three roommates; three not-very-friendly roommates, at that. Who did Zed know that had the space to hide the drow, plus the friendly disposition that would be needed to insure against the eruption of violence?
"This way," said Zed, taking the left fork in the path. He couldn't hear Drizzt's footsteps, which was unnerving, to say the least, but he had to trust that the drow was following him. If he wasn't... Well, Zed didn't want to think about that.
Soon Zedric had led Drizzt to a large building made of red brick. Up to the building, through the door (unlocked, Drizzt noted), through another door and up a staircase, another door at the top of the staircase that led into a hallway, then a door at the end of that hallway to another hallway which was filled with nothing but doors.
Drizzt wrinkled his nose. The drow had experienced worse smells, certainly, but the scent of this place was still less-than-pleasant. It smelled of lightly-spoiled food, with just a hint of poison and sewage. Was there any clean air here?
Zedric approached one door and knocked on it. "Corey?" he called.
Zed looked nervously back at Drizzt, then knocked on the door again. "Leigh? Corey? Come on, open up. I need your help here."
The door swung inward, revealing a short, skinny, bespectacled creature. "Howdy, Zed!" it squeaked, smiling broadly.
Zedric's face fell. "Merlin? What..." He looked around the hallway, confused. "This isn't your room!"
"Nope!" said the creature, which Drizzt now recognized as a human female.
"Then why..." Zedric sighed, shook his head, and began again. "Merlin, why are you in Leigh and Corey's room?"
"They went hiking," said Merlin. "I'm room-sitting." She stuck her head out into the hallway and looked Drizzt right in the eye. "Oh, hello there! What's your name?"
The drow cleared his throat. "Drizzt."
"Cool. I'm Merlin!" said Merlin unnecessarily, grinning even wider. She turned back to Zedric. "What do you need?"
"Um..." Zedric looked distinctly uneasy. "My friend... Drizzt here needs a place to stay. For a bit. Just while I figure things out."
Merlin disappeared into the room, leaving the door open. "Come on in!"
"It's not your room," Zedric said weakly, but entered anyway, motioning for Drizzt to follow. The moment Drizzt entered the room, the door slammed shut behind him, making both Drizzt and Zedric jump.
The room itself was about the size of Drizzt's chamber back at Mithril Hall. There was a bed on either side, and two desks sat side-by-side against the far wall. Each side of the room would have been a mirror image of the other, were it not for the bright greens, purples, and pinks of the left side contrasted with the more muted reds and browns of the right. The floor was covered with tomes and parchment. The desks were covered in vaguely metallic devices that Drizzt couldn't recognize. Merlin sat cross-legged on the left side's bed, her nose in a tome.
Zedric sighed, and turned to face Drizzt. "So!" he said, spreading his arms out wide to indicate the surrounding area. "This is Corey and Leigh's room. They're friends of mine, and you should be safe here." Zed dropped his arms. "I have a pressing engagement at the moment, but I'll be back in about an hour. Any needs or questions--" he pointed at Merlin, who seemed not to be paying the least bit of attention, "--ask Merlin, she'll be happy to help. Understood?"
Drizzt nodded gravely.
Zedric wished there was more time to explain, but a glance at Leigh's alarm clock told him he was already a half-hour late for his art history lecture. Flashing Drizzt a weak smile, he opened the door and departed.
Now it was just the drow and the girl. Several moments of tense silence passed before Merlin looked up from her book.
"You can sit down if you want. I highly recommend the red chair. It's very nice."
Drizzt glanced behind himself to the high-backed chair on the other side of the room, upholstered with some sort of shiny red material. He walked over and sat, finding that it was indeed more comfortable than standing.
"May I ask you a few questions?" he said tentatively, unsure if it was wise to distract the squealy girl from her reading.
"Sure!" Merlin verily threw the book onto the bright green blanket; it bounced a few times and then settled. She hopped around a bit so that she faced the drow, then put her chin in her hands and stared, again, directly into his eyes. Her gaze was a little unnerving. "Whaddya wanna know?"
It took a moment for Drizzt to understand what she was saying. "Where am I?"
"Leigh'n'Corey's room." Merlin grinned.
Drizzt sighed. "And where is that?"
Drizzt rubbed his forehead; he was starting to get a headache. He thought carefully about how to phrase his question so that he would get a straight answer. "What is the name of this realm?"
"United States," said Merlin, "of America."
Drizzt considered her answer. "That name means nothing to me."
"I didn't really expect it to," said Merlin. "You're severely not from around here."
"Do you know where I'm from?" Drizzt asked her.
"I'd guess Faerûn, what with you being a drow and all."
"You have me at multiple disadvantages," said Drizzt.
Merlin grinned wickedly. "Sure do." She frowned suddenly. "'Course, you've got a nice pair of swords there," she shrugged and gestured to her own empty belt, "and I don't."
"Are you suggesting that I threaten you for information?" said Drizzt, knowing full well he would never do such a thing. This Merlin was obnoxious, to be sure, but she didn't seem evil.
The girl shrugged. "You could." She yawned. "Frankly, I'm kind of surprised that you haven't. You're rather polite, for a drow."
Drizzt smiled weakly. "So I've been told." He intended to continue questioning the girl but paused, frowning, at the sound of footsteps outside the door, and the scrape of a key in the lock.
The door opened, revealing a tall human girl with long brown hair. She gawked at Drizzt, then screamed.