A/N: Wasn't planning on finishing the series yet, but I think that this is almost natural: if I don't stop now, I don't known when I will. Still, it doesn't mean that I won't keep writing about our friends – heck, if you guys ask me to, I might even end up reopening this story!

Anyway, here it comes: Kimmuriel's final test. Something had to work out well for our favorite psion... right? Hah! As if...



o O o

IV

o

If nothing else, Kimmuriel was proficient. He knew how to calculate risks, determine benefits, choose his ventures…: he was perfectly able to lead Bregan D'aerthe to heights of power that the mercenary band hadn't even dared to dream about.

However, he had to admit, at least to his innermost self, that he was a bit short on the, well, the leading department.

Perhaps that was the hidden reason behind the ungodly fuss he was making about the Tuin'Tarl job. Deep down, the psion knew that he had already triple-checked every possible liability, that he had assigned the very bets soldiers to the task, that he had a back-up plan in case the back-up of the plan went awry… But that didn't stop him from worrying and going over it all again in his head.

He gritted his teeth – this was the first job of the new Bregan D'aerthe, and it was going to come along smoothly, damn it!

His long, slender finders played with the small whistle that would give the signal for his soldiers to move. It was a leisured gesture, and it was all the nervousness Kimmuriel allowed to show before he strode out of his personal quarters.

He could have just opened a dimensional window, or had a wizard scry the location, to spy the perfect moment to turn the tides of battle, and probably he'd do so in the future. This time around, though, he needed to keep a closer eye on the battlefield.

He wanted to be close enough to feel what was going on in the doomed household. He wanted to hear the commotion, and he wanted to see how his soldiers performed in the moment of truth.

He had even picked the perfect spot beforehand.

Menzoberranzan was a sight to behold from that spot, too. The dim feeric fires lighted up the noble Houses, casting their otherworldly glow upon the statues and the spidery motives, displaying a true web in purples and blues. A bit further, the Braeryn was ablaze with its own sort of illumination: the heat of the endless souls surviving in that pit hole was a bright shade of fluctuating red in Kimmuriel's infravision. If he craned his neck a bit, he could even see Tier Breche: the Academy, the huge niche overlooking the city like a never-sleeping guardian… And yes, there it was.

A dark mass of moving shadows, hundreds of bodies hidden from view by the spells of some priestess or another, was scurrying like a deadly spider past him and towards House Holrbar. Kimmuriel almost felt his toes curl in excitement at the sight.

The strike force on the move was made up entirely of Tuin'Tarl soldiers and slaves: Bregan D'aerthe was waiting, poised to strike on its own conditions, already being part of the attacked House – like a canker that would kill its host unseen and unheard.

The psion waited a bit longer on baited breath, his sharp eyes following eagerly every move of the Houses below his feet: every spell flung, every trap triggered.

Then, with a devious smirk hinting its presence in his forever stoic features, he pulled out the whistle and blew.

No sound came out – no real sound. But every member of Bregan D'aerthe within the city and beyond heard the clear psionic note…

… and the double doors defending House Holrbar pulled open.

The confusion that broke then reached even Kimmuril in his shadowed corner, sending a thrill up his spine as Tuin'Tarl troops reacted in perfect sync and entered the compound.

With all defenses breached, it was only a matter of time before the House feel, so Bregan D'aerthe had technically finished its job.

But the psion didn't budge from his post until the last fires of the ransacking invaders started to go out. He was deep in thought, contemplating the scene, analyzing how the events had played out. Only when one of this mercenaries approached him in deferent silence did he take his eyes off of the breathtaking sight.

"Sir," the other male said softly, "it's over. All of our troops have reported back, and all objectives have been accomplished."

With a wave of the hand, the soldier was dismissed and Kimmuriel was once again left to his own musings. The former Oblodra couldn't help a small twinge of pride swelling in his chest: his subordinates had performed beautifully, each of them, uncovering the enemy's weaknesses during their short infiltration and exploiting them at just the right moment to allow Tuin'Tarl to topple the smaller House. More than half the valuable exploits were in their way to the Clawrift quarters, along with Weapons Master Rhyl'lyn of House Holrbar, currently of No House Worth Mentioning.

That drow alone was good enough payment for bringing down the House – he'd make an excellent commander, and, given time, he could perhaps make a good second lieutenant. The band was, after all, painfully short on those.

However, not all thoughts were focused on the success accomplished.

Kimmuriel also reflected upon the unbound chaos that had been the battlefield, even if it had only lasted a few moments thanks to Bregan D'aerthe. The shortness of it didn't make it any less terrifying in its magnitude, though: the order of the whole city had changed in a few scant moments.

Many of his fellow drow would revel on the thought, many would see the chances it presented. Any Lolth priestess would babble on and on about how drow were a race arisen from that very same chaos…

The psion simply shuddered.

To him, it was just a humbling vision: a peek at what could possibly happen if he were to ever loosen the hand of steel that steered his mercenary band.

Everything would crumble.

Kimmuriel allowed himself the barest hint of a silent sight. He had to brave the last part of the mission to ensure complete success, and he had to do it alone – or else he could kiss his future hopes goodbye.

This thought gave him half the resolution he felt he needed to gather before proceeding.

The other half stemmed from the very embarrassing thought that Jarlaxle dealt with this kind of things on a daily basis… and the psion was determined to step out of Jarlaxle's shadow.

Kimmuriel Oblodra was going to outshine the Baenre scion: he was going to be the leader the mercenary band needed.

He squared his shoulders and stalked out of the shadows, along the less known streets of Menzoberranzan and into the area he knew best: the shadowy abodes where Bregan D'aerthe could conduct business.

As he went on, though, he realized that there was something different this time: he was not a colorless figure fading to the background – there was recognition in the faces he passed by, there was a clear path opened for him, there were hasty bows of respect left and right.

He walked, and all the power and grace of Bregan D'aerthe followed him silently every step of the way.

By the time he reached the safe house where he was to meet with Vlondril Tuin'Tarl, he was already tired and his shoulders ached as if he had been trying to arm wrestle a gray dwarf.

The hungry look that the wrinkled female gave him did very little to help him relax, but at the very least it told him in no uncertain terms that she was dealing with him this time, not with Jarlaxle, and that gave him a bit of strength if nothing else.

Her sunken eyes practically raked over his frame, from his fine features, down to his leather-clad chest, stopping a bit in the exposed hollow of his throat before moving south to his form-fitting pants, zeroing in a certain area that made Kimmuriel highly uncomfortable.

"My, my, don't you look smart in lizard skin," she purred, licking her almost non-existent lips.

Kimmuriel kept his face carefully blank. He could deal with his. He was so going to be able to deal with his.

"Mistress Tuin'Tarl," he said, bowing slightly and letting the movement shift his sleeveless robe.

He wanted as many layers of cloth as possible between that harpy's eyes and his skin.

"I trust you're pleased with Bregan D'aerthe's performance," he added, completely overlooking her comment about his body.

"Indeed," she said, with a lust-filled smile. "Bregan D'aerthe… does please me."

Kimmuriel's mind was probably one of the most prodigious things in Menzoberranzan, but he thoroughly failed to catch onto the innuendo.

He had forced his brain to focus on the literal words, knowing that if he so much as acknowledged the suggestive undertones, he'd be scarred for life.

"I'm glad to hear so. It has certainly been a pleasure and an honor for Bregan D'aerthe to serve the mighty House Tuin-Tarl."

The female's eyes narrowed, and the psion pressed on before she could say anything that would have him backed against a corner.

"Because of the Future Markets arrangement, payment has already been served: if there is nothing else, then, I believe it is safe to say that our first joint venture has been a success."

Vlondril smiled and nodded, settling back on her chair like a great hairy spider retiring to the corner of its net to wait for prey. The Mistress of Arach Tinilith realized that this little fly before her had turned out to be a pretty spiderling, and she decided to wait, and to start to spin her web, patiently, making it thicker and thicker, stickier and stickier.

She made a dismissive gesture, and watched as Kimmuriel turned around and left the room while a wicked smile made its way to her old face.

It seemed that he was a fine successor to Jarlaxle, and he certainly made a fine catch.

The door to the safe house closed, and the big fat spider that was Vlondril Tuin'Tarl spun and spun her silky, deadly trap.

o O o

Kimmuriel relaxed slightly as soon as he stood outside the safe house, but he remained tense right up until the moment he stepped on Bregan D'aerthe's Head Quarters in the Clawrift.

He had every intention of heading straight away to his personal rooms, perhaps take an hour-long scented bath or two…

But he was interrupted by a gentle tap to the shoulder.

He didn't need to turn to know what it was his lieutenant, Eldath. For one, no one else would dare to touch him so casually, and then there was the fact that he was the only one whose thoughts the psion couldn't hear approaching.

"What do you want?" he asked thought gritted teeth and an incoming headache.

Eldath let out a rich chuckle in response.

"Someone's really sour, even though the mission was a complete success!"

Kimmuriel just shot a dirty look to the fighter, which only made him laugh harder.

"Okay, I see that it's not the time to talk about it… Rhyl'lyn is waiting for you to welcome him to the company, but there's no hurry. Besides, if you go right now you'll just scare him." the other drow reported, before giving an appreciative once over to his leader.

"But do tell me how you feel with your new image, though! I created it, I got a right! And I can tell that today you truly walked the streets as Bregan D'aerthe's leader. You do look impressive, if I may say so myself."

The psion forced back a sigh, and confessed.

"Yes, it has presented the expected results. No one will question my identity from now on, I think."

Only, Kimmuriel was no longer sure about wanting to step out of anonymity. He found himself missing his comfortable pants, loose shirt and non-descript piwafwi.

Other males just had to endure the looks of desire incited in females, or the envious (and occasionally lustful) stares from other males, and try not to wonder about what they wanted to do with them.

Kimmuriel, though, was a different case.

He read people's minds. He didn't have to suppose or wonder: as he crossed the city, he had heard what all those perverts wanted to do to him.

Worse, he had seen what Vlondril wanted to do to him.

Kimmuriel Oblodra openly shuddered in public.

He was never ever going to look phosphorescent mushrooms the same way.