Death by Legalese: The recognizable characters in this fanfiction were created by R. A. Salvatore in association with the legal entity Wizards of the Coast, who owns relevant copyrights to additional Forgotten Realms material referred to herein. The characters are used without permission but no material profit of any kind is being made from the following work. WotC reserve rights to Forgotten Realms material, but all of the situations unique to this work of fan fiction are property of the writer.

A/N: I wrote this short sequence in November of 2005 and started penny royal tea in December to go with it. This scene is entirely based on explicit cannon from the short story, The Third Level, and from what I extrapolated from that material. Said material has since been contradicted by Mr. Salvatore's more recent writings. I'm not going to edit to reflect his changes of cannon, but go with his original inclination.

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running

It looked natural: a young apprentice thief walking out the common door of the guild house. Barely a teenager, he already knew the respect of a good portion of the guild in the short time he'd been brought in. Not that he cared, for the boy really didn't have the experience or understanding to appreciate something he was in the midst of throwing away.

The life they chose for him was not to his liking.

The bed, the food, the clean water, the skills: all were things he wanted, but not on his terms and not of his choosing. His choice came in the form of an ultimatum made of flesh and bone, holding a board in a white-knuckled grip. Forced to choose between life and death by a guild that had heard whispers of prowess unnatural in a child.

Artemis resented the choice and hated more the man that made it necessary. He chose both: his life and the death of Theebles Royuset's agent. And when he'd been pressed into the Basadoni guild after his victory, he chose what had never been offered: Royuset's grisly death.

The boy nodded to the seasoned toughs loitering by the entrance in their disguises. Even now, the boy mused, that disgusting slob of a man was gorging himself on sugar-spun death. Wasn't it funny how coarse sugar and finely crushed glass where indiscernible to the gluttonous?

He smiled at the thought as the last rays of the sun bled across the sky and Selune grew fat on the opposite horizon. Not yet, but soon, he would celebrate the death he chose.

In his ragged pockets there was neither food nor drink to go with his celebration. There were no announcements or invitations; this was a victory all his own. Barely fourteen and with a death on each hand, he felt freedom like never before in his short life.

It took a long time to get to the edge of Basadoni territory and when he did, he crossed into a part of Calimport he knew little about. He crossed several more streets, never looking back. Since his arrival into the cabal, he had not been beyond the guild's territory even once. Before that, he had only been through the area a few times and only in bright daylight. He didn't know his way, but he knew that if he traveled long enough in one direction he could get out.

Sufficiently far into a rival guild's territory, Artemis stopped his confident pace. The sun was nearly gone, the scent of the ocean in his nose, and Selune's Tears twinkling in the sky. The boy took in a deep breath. This air, he decided, was his air. This was a breath of freedom before inevitable death. He chose Royuset's death; he chose the consequences of killing such an important, powerful, man.

Perhaps five years before, the boy had been forced to make another decision; not unlike that of life and death. The horror of that unwanted choice was not something he thought about, though it greatly influenced him. The horror he had known at the hands of his male relatives in Memnon had sent the delicately young boy running across the desert. Running away from consequences to actions he never made.

But tonight was completely different.

The young boy flipped long strands of black hair out of his face and stared up at the early stars. Stars, he knew, were for wishes and he had no wishes to make. Stars were as useless as mothers. He took another deep breath in the gathering gloom and bared his teeth to the sky in what passed for a grin from his thin lips.

In the blink of an eye, the boy was gone. One moment he was standing, teeth bright in the moonlight, and then he was simply gone: propelled on legs grown strong with regular meals and real sleep.

Artemis raced into the wind. It distorted his black hair into a plague banner, whipped at his thin shirt, pulled at the thick gloves stuck into his woven belt, because he forced it to. Running hard and swift as a fox, the boy's passage created a breeze and it felt better than anything he had known in his entire life.

This time, he ran because he chose to. This time, he would be caught and he would likely be killed, but not because he had no choice in the matter. There was no question that he would do everything in his power to escape, but for now, Artemis Entreri was running because this time he really had broken the rules. This time, he earned the consequences.

He was glad he did.