Chapter 5: Found

"Zaknafein! Thank Mielikki," Drizzt breathed. And then, "Are you alright?" Even as he asked, the ranger was quickly and carefully checking for wounds. Zak's hands were slightly singed, but nothing serious. In Darkvision he could see a small cut on one finger, showing itself to be new because it glowed with more heat than the surrounding skin. Not deep, and not unusual for his adventurous son.

Zak did not speak. The last ten minutes had felt like a surreal haze, moving in slow motion. He still held the small hunting knife, clenched in a white-knuckled grip.

Drizzt gently pried the knife out of his son's fierce grasp and returned it to the sheath on the boy's hip. Zaknafein looked at him blankly, still caught in the thrall of shock. Drizzt swept off his dark green cloak and wrapped it around his son's small shoulders.

All at once Zak began to shake – his entire body was shaking and he couldn't stop.

Drizzt squatted down and sat the boy on his knee, rubbing his back and arm. "It's okay Zak. You're safe now."

Zaknafein didn't want to cry – he didn't, but he couldn't help himself. Hot tears began racing down his face and sobs tore themselves from his throat. Drizzt hugged him close and Zak cried into the front of his tunic, comforted by the familiar outdoorsy smells of pine and woodsmoke that always clung to his father's clothing. Comforted, and yet at the same time thinking, "Father must think I'm such a baby! I've got to stop crying!"

"I'm so proud of you Zaknafein," Drizzt murmured. He continued gently rubbing Zaknafein's back and said once more, "I'm so proud of you."

Zak was, admittedly, a little surprised – after all, he wasn't being very strong now, was he? He continued to lean against his father's chest, safe in the circle of his arms. After awhile he began to feel calmer and the shaking subsided.

Finally Zak's tears stopped. He looked up at his father and smiled weakly. Drizzt smiled back. Then Zaknafein leaned over his father's arm and – quite calmly, Drizzt thought with some irony, proceeded to throw up. Too much adrenaline in his small body. Drizzt chuckled quietly and fished the water skin out of his pack. "Better now?" he asked, handing Zak the water. He casually kicked some dirt and dead leaves with his foot.

Zaknafein nodded, taking a few sips. Drizzt gently brushed a few stray wisps of his son's unruly auburn hair away from the boy's face. He was concerned that Zak hadn't spoken yet but he didn't let it show. He just continued to cradle the boy on his knee quietly.

Guenhwyvar was laying down on the other side of the fire, looking greatly fatigued. Drizzt smiled at her and gave a nod of thanks. The panther blinked her huge yellow eyes once in response. She needed to rest on her own plane. "Go home, Guenhwyvar," Drizzt said quietly. Then he just sat for awhile by the fire, cradling Zaknafein and staring at the embers, lost in thought.

"F-Father?" Zaknafein choked out. Drizzt looked down at him and smiled gently, much-relieved inside. Now the words came tumbling out, fast and furious. "Oh Father! I went hunting and I was walking North, but then there was this big buck, and I was so excited, but a crow cawed and the deer started running so I chased it, 'cause I thought I could still shoot it while I ran, but it got away–" Zak's eyes were stinging again, fiercely. "...And, and when I pried my arrow out of the tree I was lost!" He rubbed his eyes savagely. "I should've paid better attention to where I was going, but I remembered the "STOP" thing you told us in case we got lost, and I...I climbed a tree but it was too cloudy to see any landmarks!" The lump was back in Zak's throat and a single tear slipped down his cheek. Drizzt hugged him tighter. "I couldn't get the fire going, but Mielikki helped me because I prayed and then right after that I remembered to put my back to the wind...oh, I made the shelter first though, just like the one we made on our camping trip, and I sang Grandpa Bruenor's mining song...but then the wolves came, and I was so scared, but I knew I had to do something..." his voice cracked; in his mind he was recalling those seemingly interminable minutes with the wolves advancing and the flames burning his hands though he dared not let go of the blazing branches. "The wolves were...but then..." Zak couldn't hold it back, his shoulders shook with a suppressed sob and then he was crying again. The horror of those moments with the wolves was too fresh in his mind.

"It's okay Zak," Drizzt said gently, "You're safe now."

"I was so scared–"

"I know, dalharuk, I know, but you're safe now. The wolves are dead; look at them, they're dead, and if more come I'll kill those too."

Zaknafein breathed a shuddery sigh. He looked at the stiff, lifeless bodies of the wolves; the heat was rapidly leaving their bodies – before they had glowed a vibrant red when viewed in Darkvision, but now they were just a pale orangish-yellow, growing paler by the second. Dead. Father was here. He was safe now. Zak mopped his face with his sleeve. After a bit he felt calmer. Everything would be okay because father was here.

"You did good, Zak," Drizzt said. "You did everything right."

"But I got lost, I shouldn't have–"

"We all get lost sometimes," Drizzt interjected. "I've been lost before."

"You have?" Zak could hardly believe it.

Drizzt nodded. "More than once."

Zaknafein considered. "But I bet you've never gotten sick after a fight."

Drizzt smiled ruefully. "Actually I have."

"Oh." Zaknafein found it a bit hard to believe that his father would ever throw up. "Really?"

"Yes, but let's not tell your grandpa Bruenor that one, okay?"

"Okay." Zak smiled slightly. So it didn't mean that he was weak after all.

As if on some silent cue Zak and Drizzt both stood up, Drizzt groaning inwardly as he stretched his cramped leg muscles. The drow let one hand rest casually on a scimitar hilt and squeezed Zak's shoulder tenderly with the other. "Let's go home."

THE END

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dalharuk = son

A/N: What do you think? I hope the ending wasn't too cliché; I wanted it to be realistic but sweet nonetheless. Thanks to everyone who reviewed already. I really appreciate it. Feel free to click that "review" button again or for the first time!