Jarlaxle Baenre stood before the full-length mirror in the corner of the room, staring at his reflection. He was dressed in his finest clothes—a silk shirt and vest, with long trousers tucked into the tops of his tall boots, a cape over one shoulder, and his magnificent hat on his head.

With a sigh of disgust he tossed the hat and cape aside. It was all just a show, and not even for his benefit. Clothes couldn't fool him, but they could fool everybody else. They all thought he was so collected, so calm. They thought he knew what he was doing, what he wanted.

They were all so wrong.

They had no clue.

He had learned how to put on a front, to smile and be suave and unflappable. Everyone knew him as the drow that knew what he wanted and who had the means to get it. They all thought that he had everything anyone could ever want in their lives. A home, a bed, servants, women, everything.

But he wasn't happy. He could keep up his facade and make others happy, but he couldn't say the same for himself. He hadn't been happy in a long time.

It was so hard just to get up every morning. But he did it because he needed the routine. Get up, get dressed, fool everyone, go to bed. Get up, get dressed, fool everyone, go to bed. Day after day, month after month, year after excruciating year.

He was falling apart at the seams.

He was only fooling everyone else. He could never hope to fool himself.

Nobody knew the pain he went through every day. No one saw behind the mask of perfect contentment, even thought it was beginning to crack, little by little.

They only saw what he wanted them to see.

He was ready to give up.

He dragged the chair from beneath the desk and brought it over to the corner. There was a thick rope tying back the heavy curtain that covered the window that looked out over the sparkling city of Menzoberranzan. He flung it over a rafter and began to knot it.

He was sick of it all. He had been happy, once. No longer. So why go through the pain anymore? He had tried everything he could think of—medicines, herbs, everything up to drugs and alcohol. Anything to numb the sting of despair. But nothing worked. Nothing at all.

He was tired of pretending, tired of plastering on the same fake smile each day. If he wanted to be rid of it all, he could very well manage it. He was ready.

He stood up on the chair and carefully slipped the noose around his slim neck. He tightened it.

One deep breath, and he kicked the chair from beneath his feet.