By late evening, Cadderly's worst fears had been realized as he learned from Grandmaster Kane that Artemis Entreri had indeed been in Damara and was knighted there. However, he'd been banished only a short while later for treason to King Gareth Dragonsbane—banished despite the fact that most of King Gareth's advisors had called for the death penalty.
"So how do you want to do this?" Danica asked. "Should we go after him ourselves or turn him in to the City Watch?"
"The City Watch will not be prepared for Artemis Entreri," Cadderly said with a sigh. "There would be unnecessary loss of life if they confront him, even if they manage to take him in."
Then Cadderly looked at Danica with a solemn expression. "And what would they arrest him for? He might be under a death sentence if he should return to Damara, but he is not in Damara. And what has he done in Waterdeep that would warrant his arrest?"
"You know what the man is like, Cadderly," Danica began in moral outrage. "If he has not committed some horrible crime here already, it is certain that he will if left to his own devices."
Cadderly sighed. She was right. There was too much uncertainty at stake to do nothing. But he simply could not condemn a man because he might be up to no good even if the chances were almost guaranteed that he wasn't.
In the end, they settled for confronting him themselves the next morning. They rose early and took a carriage down to the Lathander shrine before the sun was up. Then each spent time in meditation and preparation—Danica centering her energies and preparing her body for combat, Cadderly reviewing the Tome of Universal Harmony, bringing its song to the forefront of his heart.
The silver haired priest was also there, waiting on the front row for the sun to rise.
Neither of the Bonaduces expected to see Artemis Entreri himself appear in the shadows beside them.
And Entreri did not expect to see Dwahvel step out on the far side of the amphitheater. He gave her a sharp look, but she simply smiled at him. There was no way she was letting Artemis face down two such powerful opponents without her.
When he'd slipped out of bed in the dead of night to track down the Bonaduces, it had been difficult, but not impossible to follow him, especially since she'd already done a bit of after dinner recognizance of her own while he was working with an evening student. By the time he'd come to bed, she'd already found out where they were staying, how long they had been there, what messages had come for them, and what they'd had for supper. She was not guildmistress of a information network for nothing.
So it was with trepidation that the two couples closed in on each other. But before anything could happen of a confrontational nature, Brother Ansel, the silverhaired priest, called out to them, "The start of a new day has come. Rejoice in it!"
And with the first fingers of dawn over the horizon, the entire amphitheater seemed to be filled with rosy light and they were all transfixed. Even Cadderly was not immune to the power that flowed in and around him as the priest brought forth a song to the morning, a song that rivaled the song of Deneir in beauty and in intensity.
In fact, if he were forced to admit, the song of the morning was even more beautiful in a way because of its unstructured nature, its unpredictability. Deneir's song was order and harmony; this song was creativity and life.
By the time the song was over, all four players stood silent. Tears streamed down the girls' faces and even Entreri appeared moved.
Then Brother Ansel turned to him. "Good morning, Artemis. It is nice to see you again." With a smile, he also took Dwahvel into his attention. "And your lovely wife is doing so well, aren't you, my dear? Your husband was very worried about you."
Then he turned to Cadderly and Danica. "The song of the morning has something for everyone, even a monk trained under Grandmaster Penpahg D'ahn and the Chosen of Denier," he stated with a smile. "Perhaps before you all leap at each other, you should sit in the morning sun for a bit and consider the newness of the day."
Then the old priest bowed to them all and walked away. No one seemed able to follow or truthfully to even move in the glow of the rising sun.
Entreri shook himself first and moved to stand protectively beside Dwahvel. "Go home," he told her firmly. "This is not your fight."
"I don't know that it is a fight at all," Cadderly's deep voice interjected.
"Perhaps Entreri should tell us if there is reason to fight him," Danica added.
"Artemis owes you no explanations," Dwahvel snapped defensively. "His business is his own, Lady Bonaduce."
"And his business is murder, Mistress Entreri," Danica replied hotly. "Or were you unaware of that portion of your husband's life?"
"There is no portion of my husband's life that I am unaware of," Dwahvel retorted, moving to stand toe to toe with the much taller woman. "And I suggest you mind your own business rather than involving yourself in ours."
Before things could get even more out of hand with his hotheaded companion, Entreri gently but firmly pulled Dwahvel away from the enraged monk. He did not think Danica would throw the first punch, but he knew how infuriating Dwahvel could be when her blood was up.
Cadderly meanwhile had also stepped in to place a restraining hand on Danica's shoulder. She shrugged it off angrily, but backed away a step.
"Mistress Entreri," Cadderly began calmly, "we mean no disrespect to you or your husband." Danica snorted, ruining the effect somewhat. "But you must understand that our previous association was less than amicable at times."
"I'll say," Danica added under her breath.
"That's your problem," Dwahvel retorted. "Right now you have no reason to seek out my husband nor to make plans to ruin everything he's built here just because you are afraid of what he might do."
"You are correct," Cadderly replied. "For that reason, I am glad this little meeting has come together."
"For what purpose?" Entreri interjected at last, his voice cold. "Do you presume to sit in judgment on me? Must I defend myself and my actions to you or face the consequences? Who made you my judge? Is Deneir my god?"
"You have no god," Danica returned scathingly. "No god but your own perverse desires."
Entreri had to move fast to catch Dwahvel. "How dare you!" she snarled at the monk. "How dare you make such an accusation of a man you cannot possibly know!"
"It is you who do not know him if you know nothing of the cruelties he inflicted on my friend, if you know nothing of the relentless way he pursued her companion, if you know nothing of the innumerable victims that lie in Artemis Entreri's wake," Danica returned angrily.
Cadderly placed a heavy arm over Danica's shoulders and forced her to sit. Entreri likewise pulled Dwahvel down beside him, placing an empty bench between the angry ladies.
While the two women glared at each other, Cadderly took the opportunity to study the shadows that stood on the shoulders of the two people across from him.
Mistress Entreri's soul was not without self-interest, not without its own litany of wrongs, but overarching it all was a passionate defense of the one she loved and a new understanding of what it meant to love. She was not a perfect person by any means, but her intentions toward her beloved were nothing but good and were ill only toward those who threatened the one she loved.
Of Entreri, he could only say that he was surprised. The brooding hatred and malevolence that had come through before had tempered to cynicism and distrust. He also could see that the distrust was not directed at him personally, but rather at his office. He wondered at the hurts that lay visible in him as well, hurts only recently remembered.
His deeds had been marked by great cruelty and callousness toward others, but his most recent dealings had been peaceful and marked by mutual respect. He was no saint, his motives were still more about himself than the good of others, but there was no sign that he planned any sort of conquest of Waterdeep or mass murder of its citizens.
But most telling of all was the unexpected deep softness and protectiveness he felt toward the little halfling woman beside him. It seemed to Cadderly that Entreri's primary motives at the moment were to protect the woman he called his wife, to shield her from any danger, to provide for her needs, and to love her. He'd not thought to see that in the man.
He knew that if he looked at his own shoulder, he'd see the same feelings toward Danica. And when he glanced at Danica, he could see the same protectiveness and passionate defense that Entreri's lady felt for him. They were all very much alike at the moment.
"Mr. Entreri," Cadderly said, rising from his seat, "it has been very nice to see you again, and, Mistress Entreri, it has been a pleasure meeting you as well. I sincerely hope you both enjoy living in Waterdeep." Then he turned to Danica. "Come along, my dear. I believe it is time for breakfast."
Danica just looked at him in disbelief, but the look on his face brooked no argument from her. She strode off without another word.
Then Cadderly gave them a little bow and turned to follow his wife.
Entreri looked at Dwahvel who still seethed in fury. "Breakfast does sound like a good idea," he suggested. She simply stood and strode off toward home.
Back in their rooms at the inn near the temple, Danica finally calmed down enough to blast Cadderly with every reason she could think of to go right back and take out that evil assassin and his harpy halfling wife. Though he tried to tell her what he'd seen in them, how the man had changed, she was not content.
"People can change, Danica," he stated again for the third time.
"But changed or not, Artemis Entreri has never paid for what he's done," she retorted. "How is it right to let him continue to wander the world, completely free of the consequences of his actions? How is it right that the kind of evil you know he has committed goes unpunished?"
"I cannot say about the consequences of his actions in this life," Cadderly repeated. "All I know is that I am not his judge, nor his jury, nor his executioner. I don't know what judge he will face and whether it will be in this life or will be in the hands of the gods, but I do know it is not my place to do it."
Then he took her hands in his and added, "And it is not yours. Your only responsibility is to let him go. Not for his sake, but for your own peace of mind. Let your anger toward him go, Danica. You heard the song this morning. Give yourself a new start where Artemis Entreri is concerned. Let him go."
In their rooms in the South Ward, Entreri was saying much the same to Dwahvel. "I don't care what that priest thinks of me, Dwahvel. I certainly don't care what his wife thinks. They do not know me. They do not know what I've done or who I am."
He added silently to himself that if they knew the whole truth, they would not have hesitated to kill him on the spot, and in looking back over his life, he could see that their action might be justified.
"All I care about is you," he assured her. "As long as I have your good opinion, that's all that matters to me. So don't waste another minute in anger toward people who do not matter. I know I will not."
Then he sat down on the little sofa he'd bought for her and pulled her into his arms. The curls of her hair bounced against his shoulder as she began to cry.
"No, don't cry," he said, his voice soothing and calm. "Don't waste a tear on me. I am not worth them."
"Yes," she replied, her voice thick with emotion. "Yes, you are Artemis. You are worth every tear I could cry and every drop of blood in my body. I love you with all my heart and I will claw the eyes out of anyone who dares to speak ill of you."
"Even when I deserve it?" he teased to cover the odd leap of his heart.
"Especially when you deserve it," she declared, placing her hands on each side of his face. "No one has any right to speak ill of you—not even me." Then she kissed him with a pledge and a passion he could not ignore, and he knew that she'd marked him. She'd marked him for her own at a level he'd not realized was possible.
He knew that she'd live with him or she'd die defending him, but she would not leave him.
How had he come to this place? How had he risen above the pettiness and the cruelty enough to feel the fresh air against his skin? How had he left behind the fear and resentment enough to love someone as completely as he loved her? How had he atoned for the terrible injustices he'd committed enough to be granted her love in return?
He did not deserve her. He could never deserve her. He could not do enough in ten lifetimes to earn her acceptance or her good opinion, to earn the wholehearted graciousness she extended to him.
Everything he'd ever wanted in life, he'd had to take by force. But the one thing he needed most was now being freely given to him and he was not worthy of it. He closed his eyes and held her tightly against him.
No matter what happened, he could not let that go. He could not be separated from her love.
Nothing could part them now.
(AN: End of Dawn. Part three on its way next—Disaster. I mean, how long can Jarlaxle stay away?)