Sparring Partners

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"Why do I spar with you?" Jarlaxle said.

Artemis nodded.


They clashed, dagger to dagger, sword to sword.

"Jarlaxle, we can't be friends," Zaknafein said. A small smile played on his lips.

"This House war will be over soon," Jarlaxle said, smiling.

They pushed away from each other. Zaknafein attacked and Jarlaxle countered, pushing the weapon master off balance and whirling out of the way of his next strike.

Zaknafein drew back, pausing, a dagger in his left hand. He was ready to throw it at any moment, but he didn't.

Jarlaxle held himself back.

"I can't become your friend if I kill you first," Zaknafein said.

Jarlaxle clicked his tongue and shook his head. "Zak, Zak, Zak. What a way to address an enemy. It's hopelessly overbearing." He lunged.

Zak parried before he pierced the weapon master's kidney. A shriek of metal went up, but he was smiling sardonically. "I can prove it."

"You know, every male thinks he's the best sword fighter in Menzoberranzan," Jarlaxle said. "It's nothing new." He laughed, dodging Zaknafein's daggers as he threw them one by one in a succession, driving Jarlaxle closer to the edge of the rift. He levitated lightly a few inches off the ground. "And I know what you're doing." He disappeared in a flash and appeared behind Zaknafein, throwing his arm around the weapon master's neck in a hold.

Zaknafein struggled for a moment, then frowned and shot out his leg, kicking him. It hit him directly in the kneecap. Jarlaxle let out a roar of pain and let go. Zak grabbed him by the front of his cape and threw him backwards, against the rocks.

Jarlaxle landed hard, rolled, and winced. Zaknafein was on top of him before he could get up. The weapon master flicked his gold hoop earring teasingly, baring his teeth in a vicious grin. "This is an embarrassing position for you, mercenary leader," he said. His breath was hot on Jarlaxle's face.

"Displacement, remember?" Jarlaxle said. He flickered away, reappearing behind the weapon master. Zaknafein suddenly fell on his face, Jarlaxle's solid form being replaced by empty air.

He lay there, disgruntled, and then jumped back to his feet, turning on Jarlaxle once more. "So?" he said. He was holding another dagger.

"So, he says." Jarlaxle grinned at him fondly. "You're either lying, or too crazy to care what just happened. I defeated you."

Zaknafein looked around. "I don't see my dead corpse lying around anywhere." He looked at Jarlaxle pleasantly.

Jarlaxle shrugged. "I said defeat, not death." He pointed to his ear. "Listen."

The weapon master drew his sword.

Jarlaxle mockingly bowed. "Not now, young one. I hear a summons from my band. We'll continue this one later." He disappeared in a rising cloud of smoke.

Zaknafein penetrated it out of curiosity, but nothing happened. It was just a cloud of smoke. The mercenary leader was gone.


Jarlaxle stood there a moment, his eyes far away. Then he looked at Artemis and shrugged. "It makes my friendships more interesting, don't you think?"