Thank you everyone for your wonderful reviews :D I love reviews, lol.
Aponie: My thoughts exactly, dear. I imagine that for someone who has worked so hard all his life to have such remarkable control over his body that the most confronting thing that could happen to him would be to lose that control.
Anyhoo, this chapter is mostly just wrapping up a few loose ends, stuff like that. Enjoy.
Disclaimer: Don't own, don't profit :(
Dawn came, lightening the velvety darkness in the cave (for the fire had died out completely some hours before) to a cold, grey twilight. Drizzt sniffled softly, stirring against Guen's side. His system was fighting hard against the poison which still coursed through his veins; his limbs still quaked and twitched, and to make matters worse his head ached and his stomach twisted with nausea.
Guen's warm breath tickled the drow ranger's ear as she gave a deep, rumbling sigh. He knew the panther would need to return and gather her strength on her own plane of existence, but Drizzt didn't dare send Guen away just yet. He was in no fit condition to defend himself should a foe happen across the cave, and desperately needed her comforting presence. He'd never undergone an experience like that of the night before, and it had shaken him to his core.
Somehow the goodly drow managed to drag his uncooperative body over to that of his attacker. He was most certainly dead, Guen's fearsome maw having squeezed shut on his slender sable throat. His ruby-hued eyes were still open; his blood-streaked white hair haloed grotesquely about his head; his long, elegant limbs contorted weirdly.
It would have been less unsettling if the corpse had borne some expression of rage; of passion thwarted. But the glazed and misty eyes were blank; the thin and dainty mouth was slack and formless; the delicate and arched brows weren't narrowed in hatred or bitterness. The body was serene, and in that serenity unimaginably disturbing.
Drizzt had Guen bring him the other's cloak, and covered that unpleasant visage over, unable to bare it anymore. He had not the strength to move the corpse from where it lay, yet he did not want to vacate the cave, knowing full well that in his present state he was safer hidden away then exposed on the mountainside, even with Guen to guard him. And it was comforting to be underground (well, almost) in this time of emotional turmoil. Drizzt had been bred in the Underdark, after all, and a roof of stone over his head- well, it was a drow thing.
Sitting there, staring morosely at the covered body, it truly sank in to the rogue noble that he was truly without a House, without family. Not just in terms of the individual family members whom he had fled, but without that unit, that social construction without which he should have not been able to survive in the harsh and lightless world of the Underdark.
He had never known of M'tarl. He had never known that he was being watched by a predator even in the supposed safety within the walls of House Do'Urden. He had never known that Zaknafein had known- and had dealt with the problem accordingly. Tears sprang to his eyes and his chest began to ache. He wished fervently for his father back, not just for Zaknafein himself, but for that protector, that guardian figure- for what he had hoped Elhand might have become.
Drizzt found he was all of a sudden in the grips of a cold fury. Crying out in anger he hit out at the cloak-covered body with his fists, pounding on the unmoving chest. He beat at it for a long moment, while sobs began to wrack his slender frame, and silvery tears to pour down his cheeks. He cursed and cried and lashed out- at the unfairness of the world, at the drow of Menzoberranzan, and at the dead elf lying with him in the cave, who, for Drizzt, at that moment, embodied all of it.
It was during that storm of weeping that Bruenor found him.
After Elhand had swept in to Drizzt's rescue the orcs had scattered to the winds, and some had found their way close to Mithril Hall. It just so happened that a small group of the wretched thugs had been passing near the dwarven stronghold about the time the goodly drow's friends had started to worry for him, and been roaming the vicinity searching for signs of his imminent return- much to the misfortune of the orcs.
With some persuasion, the foul brutes had revealed that their band had been hired to waylay Drizzt on the road by a blond-haired, blue-eyed surface elf, who had just walked right up to their fire one night, jingling a very large bag of gold. That same elf had then appeared and attacked them while they in the middle of fulfilling their commission. (except the orcs didn't use such long and intelligent words in their version)
Distraught, and desperate to find their friend, the band had set out from Mithril Hall immediately, and split up to search the countryside where the orcs had told them the attack had taken place.
Drizzt was unaware of Bruenor entering the cave. The first he knew of his friend's arrival was being wrapped in the kindly old dwarf's strong arms, and the scratch of his long, red beard against Drizzt's bare skin. The drow continued to shake with the force of his grief, unable to hold back the great gulping, hiccuping sobs rending his composure. Bruenor held him until, finally, the tempest had passed, and Drizzt was quiet, drained and utterly exhausted in his friend's embrace.
He continued to sniffle into Bruenor's beard, feeling the old dwarf rock him gently back and forth, crooning soothing inanities all the while.
When Bruenor had entered the cave he had encountered Guenhwyvar before Drizzt, and had gruffly bade the cat to fetch the others. She returned with them now, a frantic Cattie-brie scrabbling through the cave's entrance to throw her arms tightly about Drizzt's shoulders from behind, and Bruenor gently released the now-quiet elf into her embrace. Regis and Wulfgar followed, both blowing sighs of relief to see their friend apparently uninjured, though as naked as the day he was born.
Wulfgar's warm, heavy cloak was swiftly tucked about the drow's pliant form, the two young humans fussing over their dark elven friend while Bruenor (careful to make sure Drizzt was distracted first) snuck a peek at the covered body and Regis dismissed a weary Guen to her home plane.
Drizzt let Cattie-brie pull him back, pillowing his head against her shoulder. She was weeping softly into his dishevelled snow-white mane, her arms wound snugly about his ribs. "Drizzt?" he heard Bruenor ask softly, from somewhere beyond the grubby curtain of his hair. "What happened here, elf?"
He was aware of Regis' small hand taking his own midnight one, soothingly rubbing his knuckles. Cattie-brie was warm behind him, her arms about him. Bruenor and Wulfgar were nearby, their presence reassuring, and so slowly, haltingly, Drizzt began to recount the trials of the past few days, beginning with the storm and the orc ambush.
He found he couldn't look at Elhand/M'tarl's covered body as he recounted those first few days together. He found he was trembling when he told of the other's amorous advances, and choked up when trying to describe how he'd been shot with the poison-coated darts. If he'd have had any tears left the agitated drow believed he would have begun to cry again, but as it was his body had to settle with a lump in his throat, a pain in his chest, and a sharp increase in his headache.
His friend's formed their own (correct) assumptions when Bruenor held up the hand-crossbow that he had found near the body, and Cattie-brie groaned miserably; a deep, pained sound. "Oh, Drizzt! Me darlin'! What did that monster do to ye?" She began to run her hands anxiously over his body, as if expecting to find Wulfgar's cloak wet with blood.
The others' concern showed in the bright glimmer of their eyes. Drizzt shook his head a little, opening his mouth to say the word 'nothing' but found it wouldn't come. It wasn't technically true either, and a great shiver chased down his spine as his mind turned once more to what might have happened had Guen been but moments later- if she'd obeyed his orders and not come at all.
Taking a deep, shuddering breath he brought himself under control enough to resume his story. It helped to be clinical, and not elaborate much. Cattie sobbed heart-rendingly at several points during the tale, and more than once Regis squeezed his hand tight, a gesture for which Drizzt was most grateful. When the drow's soft voice trailed off wearily both Bruenor and Wulfgar looked very much like they would have liked to do something seriously disrespectful to the older drow's corpse.
Later Drizzt sat outside with Cattie-brie, dozing uneasily in the last of the warm afternoon sunshine, while the other's buried M'tarl in a shallow grave at the rear of the cave and gathered together the ranger's things. With this unpleasant chore done, they set out on the long trek back to Mithril Hall, the slumbering dark elf cuddled safely in Wulfgar's strong arms.
Drizzt awoke sometime after sunset, to find his friends had set up a camp, with a cheerily crackling fire and hot, sweet tea. The goodly drow gratefully accepted a cup of the steaming liquid, which turned out to have had a dash of something strong added to it by a well-meaning Bruenor.
Away from the cave- and the body- the dark elven ranger was feeling much calmer. He could hold the cup without his hands shaking now, the poison mostly flushed from his system, and surrounded by his attentive friends the young drow had his second epiphany that day. As Cattie-brie came and sat behind him, wrapping her arms about his waist and pressing her pale cheek to his dark one, it occurred to Drizzt that he did in fact have a family- and they were with him now. He smiled, leaning back into the young woman's warmth.
"Are ye ok, me dear one?" Cattie-brie asked him, bringing up one hand to stroke his hair. "Aye," he murmured softly, snuggling close. "Or, I will be, now that you, and Bruenor, and Regis, and Wulfgar are here."
"I'm glad to hear it," the young woman said, a gentle smile breaking out on her pretty face. "Now, let's get ye dressed before ye catch cold."
A somewhat abupt ending I know, but I kinda liked leaving the story at that particular point. How Cattie-brie goes about getting Drizzt I leave for you to contemplate...