walked the halls of Bregan D'aerthe, his boots clicking softly
against the stone. All had not been the same since the psionic had
taken over for Jarlaxle, the former Mercenary leader. After the fall
of Crenshinibon, or the Crystal Shard, an evil artifact that had held
Jarlaxle under its persuasive spell for a long time, nearly causing
the fall of Bregan D'aerthe, a band made up completely of rogue
males. Rai-guy and Kimmuriel, two of Jarlaxle's treacherous
lieutenants, attempted to overthrow the opportunistic mercenary
leader. Once Crenshinibon was destroyed, Jarlaxle surrendered Bregan
D'aerthe to Kimmuriel, but also warned the drow male that he would
perhaps one day be back to claim his seat of power.
The fine hairs on the back of the psionic's neck began to stand on end. Something felt out of place.
"Do you sense it?" Kimmuriel felt the mind flayer, Yharaskrik, ask.
"Yes," he replied. "Something is out of place here."
"Investigate it if you wish, but be on your guard, psionic."
"I am no fool, Yharaskrik; I am always on my guard." Kimmuriel dropped the mind communication then and there.
The drow turned on his heel and began to walk down the opposite end of the hall, his boots still scuffling against the stone floor. It made him wish he had Jarlaxle's talent for stealth.
Maybe if he ever saw the mercenary again, he would ask about it.
it, too, and the general sense of uneasiness caused him to drop his
lizard's reins and take up his crossbow. Red eyes glowing with
infravision scanned the darkness of Menzoberranzan's caverns, but he
saw nothing other than the large giant mushrooms that bloomed on the
cave's walls, smooth white tops glowing faintly with blue faery
light. However, the drow did not put away his crossbow. He knew that
just because he couldn't see anything didn't mean there was nothing
He picked up his reins again, still holding his crossbow in one hand, and eased his lizard deeper into the cavern. His eyes wandered from left to right; yet he still saw nothing out of the ordinary. Relaxing somewhat, the drow replaced the crossbow on his saddle, picking up the reins with both hands this time.
A moment later a burning pain shot up his side.
Dvinil glanced down to his side and saw a wicked dart protruding from it. His eyelids were already beginning to droop with the effects of the potion when he wrapped his fingers over the instrument and pulled it out, gritting his teeth sharply against the pain. His lithe form drooped over the neck of his lizard; he barely had the strength to glance up when he heard footsteps coming towards him.
A tall drow stopped in front of him. Dvinil did not see much more than the tops of the boots and the cape of colors until the drow knelt in front of him on one knee, and then he saw that it was definitely male, and wearing an outlandish overpowering hat with a huge white plume. The drow crooked his index finger and grasped Dvinil's chin, tilting his head up until he was staring the drow right into his good eye, the other hidden in a patch of darkness behind a ruby eyepatch.
"My apologies, Dvinil," the new drow said quietly. Dvinil struggled to recognize the drow in front of him, and did not make the connection until the very last minute when he felt the cold steel edge of a dagger slicing through the tender skin of his throat.
said I would be back, Kimmuriel."
Kimmuriel turned immediately around, slender sword flashing. He scanned the room for the source of the voice.
There was a slight chuckle.
"Well met," the voice had a hint of mockery. Kimmuriel snarled.
"I know not who you are," he growled, forcing himself to remain calm.
"Oh," the voice sounded genuinely wounded. "It has not been so long. I thought you might have recognized me."
"How can I recognize someone I do not see?" the drow demanded, eyes still scanning the shadows. "Who are you? And what is your purpose in Bregan D'aerthe."
There was a moment's pause, and the psionic tensed.
Jarlaxle stepped from the shadows.
"I have come to reclaim my throne," he replied.
Kimmuriel's white eyebrows shot up, and his sword snaked out towards the mercenary hardly without a thought. Jarlaxle slapped the blade away, clutching a tiny throwing dagger in his hands.
"Not quite the reaction I expected from you, Kimmuriel," Jarlaxle said. "I had hoped this might go differently but, ah, well."
A globe of darkness began to settle over the psionic's vision. He dropped his sword and clawed at Jarlaxle, trying to dispel the darkness that was beginning to creep in from the corners of his vision. He found himself clawing at empty air.
When Kimmuriel could see again, he found himself in the chair behind Jarlaxle's stone desk. His wrists and ankles had been bound tightly, and the tip of a sharp dagger pricked the back of his neck, a reminder to behave for if he did not then Jarlaxle's pet human assassin Artemis Entreri would remind him to.
Jarlaxle sat on the corner of the desk, one ankle hooked under his knee, jewelry clinking with every movement.
"I was beginning to fear you would not wake," Jarlaxle remarked, tipping his hat to the still-drowsy Kimmuriel.
"Why are you here?" the captured psionic asked helplessly, not even bothering to struggle against his bonds.
"I believe I specified that," Jarlaxle replied thoughtfully, tilting his head slightly to one side. "In the hallway."
"You've come back for Bregan D'aerthe,"
"As I said I would," the drow mercenary's tone was more than condescending. Kimmuriel wanted to call up every demon at his disposal to come and rip Jarlaxle apart, but he knew that Entreri's dagger would be embedded deeply in his neck if he even attempted magic.
Kimmuriel lifted his eyes resigningly to meet with Jarlaxle's.
"So now you kill me," he reasoned.
"Did I say that?" Jarlaxle shifted positions, drawing his cloak of colors back to display an item hanging from his belt. Kimmuriel leaned in closer to peer at it, Entreri's dagger following him down.
"What is it?" the psionic asked, his voice holding a questioning lilt. Jarlaxle grasped the handle of the scimitar on his belt and withdrew it, it slid easily from the oiled scabbard, the blade glowing faintly blue.
"This is a weapon once belonging to the rogue Drizzt Do'Urden," Jarlaxle explained while Kimmuriel stared admiringly at the fine work of the blade. "I took it from him in a fight on the Surface. It is quite a fine piece of work. I believe its name is Twinkle." he glanced back to Kimmuriel, red eyes revealing nothing of his thoughts. "Drizzt shall be sorely missing its company," he added. "It is my belief he shall be soon in coming after it."
"And what is my role in all this?" the psionic asked, eyes following the scimitar as Jarlaxle carefully slid it back into its sheathe.
"Gromph Baenre has expressed interested in the rogue. If - when - Drizzt comes to retrieve his weapon..."
"Drizzt is no longer of any significance," Kimmuriel cut in, the tip of Entreri's dagger just beginning to break the surface of his dark skin. It earned him another chuckle from Jarlaxle.
"Not to the Matron Mothers, perhaps," the mercenary leader cryptically replied.
"But what could Gromph Baenre possibly..." he was interrupted by a vague wave of Jarlaxle's hand.
"All in good time," the mercenary promised.
Drizzt tightened his grip on his
one remaining scimitar, Icingdeath, while absentmindedly scratching
Guenhyvvar's head to keep the great cat calm. The patrol below had
excited her, and her claws flexed impatiently as she waited for the
command to go and slaughter each and every cursed, evil drow.
Catti-Brie squatted on the other side of Drizzt, Heartseeker bow clutching tightly in her deceivingly delicate hands. Drizzt knew that those soft hands could ball instantly into fists of iron that could smash an orc's face. He smiled at the young woman and she smiled back. Drizzt felt his chest tighten at the sight. How he loved her!
"Are you ready?" he signaled to her, using the most basic movements of the intricate drow sign language that he was trying to teach her.
"Yes," she signed back, or tried to. Her human fingers, no matter how slender, could never match up to the dexterity that belonged to the drow. After fumbling with the sign, she punctuated her meaning with a nod.
Drizzt released Guenhyvvar, who went shooting down the rock formation like a black jet stream. Drizzt drew Icingdeath and wished sorely for Twinkle, but reminded himself that if it weren't for the missing scimitar they wouldn't even be going back to wretched Menzoberranzan in the first place.
He skid down the rock formation to the patrol, where Guenhyvvar was already taking care of things. The great panther bore down the first drow she saw before he even had a chance to draw his sword. She drove him into the ground, both large paws on his shoulders, and then she clamped her maw around his throat. Another drow soldier spotted his fallen companion and rushed towards the panther, crossbow loaded and ready to fire. He did not get two steps before Catti-Brie's bow sang and a whistling arrow struck him solidly through his chest.
Icingdeath scored the next hit, shattering another drow's kneecap. The drow gasped and collapsed, curled up in a ball of pain and clutching its wounded knee. Drizzt did not go for the kill; rather he leapt over the fallen drow and turned to the next immediate threat.
No matter how many were cut down, more drow seemed to spring up literally from the ground not long after the dust settled under the dead. It baffled Drizzt, but he had no time to ponder life's little quirks as he continued to fight off more and more drow in hopes that their numbers would die down soon.
A poison dart tore into Guenhyvvar's flank. She roared and swiped at her attacker, who fired another dart into her leg. The cat ignored it and dug her claws into the drow's sides, ripping holes into his lungs. The drow gasped for breath and drew his dagger, but he didn't get to put it to use before he fell down dead, an arrow through his throat.
Catti-Brie reached behind her to load another arrow, already eyeing the drow she intended to bring down. A hand grabbed her wrist from behind her in a cold, iron grip and a second hand clamped over her mouth. The human woman thrashed, legs flailing wildly as she was slowly lifted off the ground. Her struggling came to an abrupt halt when she felt the sharp, honed edge of a knife scrape across her throat.
"Cease, Drizzt Do'Urden!" Kimmuriel called in a voice amplified with the use of magic. "Drop your weapon and call off your cat, or she draws her last breath here and now."
Drizzt spun on his heel to face the ledge, surprise splayed across his handsome features. He did not hesitate; he immediately dropped Icingdeath to the ground. Guenhyvvar looked up, blood dripping from her muzzle, making sure Drizzt did not need help when she heard his weapon clatter to the dirt. How surprised she was when he called her back to his side! Growling with impatience, the cat padded over to Drizzt and sat down beside him, head nuzzling his knee.
Kimmuriel nodded to his soldiers, and they immediately surrounded Drizzt, two of them grabbed his arms and another picked up Icingdeath from the ground before checking for any other weapons. When he was certain Drizzt was clean, he nodded to Kimmuriel and backed away, still holding Icingdeath in his hands, admiring the fine blade.
"Can I trust you to keep your cat in check?" Kimmuriel asked. Drizzt glared up at him.
"Yes," he responded.
Kimmuriel nodded and set Catti-Brie back down on the ground. His dagger slid away from her throat and back into its sheathe. His hand still held her wrist, however, twisting it behind her back painfully at an awkward angle, causing her shoulder to arch and her face to gray in pain as if it were chiseled from stone.
"You come with us willingly, Do'Urden, or we can drag you along. Just remember whatever pain you force upon yourself shall return to her tenfold."
Drizzt nodded to show he understood and allowed one of the drow behind him to secure his arms tightly behind his back.
Kimmuriel handed Catti-Brie over to one of the soldiers and levitated himself off the ledge, landing safely on both feet. "It is a good thing that you are so cooperative," he said to Drizzt. "I'd hate to have to drag you all the way back to Jarlaxle."
Drizzt's lavender eyes flashed with anger. He thought he and Jarlaxle had settled their differences, or at least agreed to leave each other in peace. Apparently that was not so, the battle that had occurred between the two of them not long ago was evidence of that. He shouldn't have expected anything less from the opportunistic dark elf.
"What does he want with Drizzt?" Catti-Brie demanded. Kimmuriel responded with merely a shrug.
"I do not know Jarlaxle's intentions, I only carry out his orders," he replied in the common Surface tongue.
"We be wanting no fight with ye!" she protested. "We only came to this wretched goblin-hole to be getting Drizzt's scimitar back!"
Kimmuriel silenced her with a dismissive wave of his hand.
"Jarlaxle knows of your quest," was all the explanation he offered before signing to the soldiers. Before he even finished signing, Drizzt felt a needle stick his skin and a powerful sleeping potion began to take effect. The last thing Drizzt wondered before his world slipped into complete darkness was what game Jarlaxle could possibly be playing now.
Baenre shoved the drawer back in so forcefully the entire desk
shuddered. It had been a long day, he was tired, and it seemed as if
one third of his life had been spent in the last hour searching for
answers that just weren't there.
His gaze wandered over the many items of his desk, finally settling on one in particular. Perhaps the most powerful item to ever find its way to Menzoberranzan, perhaps the most powerful item in the world.
Gromph could hear the call of the Crystal Shard, promising ultimate chaos and glory to any worthy wielder. It was enough to make any drow's eyes sparkle. Gromph shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs from his thoughts. He knew the item for what it was, an artifact, nothing more than a mere artifact. Its promises were as fleeting as a human's life. Anyone who fell under its hypnotic persuasions was immediately sealing their own doom.
A light knock came from the door. Gromph looked up, irritated to be interrupted.
"Yes?" he snapped.
The door opened, and Rai-guy stepped into the room.
Rai-guy bowed to Gromph, his eyes fixed up Crenshinibon, as if it were the only thing in the room. Gromph quickly covered the artifact with his hand and scowled. He had saved the drow - for purposes completely of his own - and also Crenshinibon for he knew how Rai-guy lusted after the Crystal Shard and how easily manipulated he could be with such a sweet temptation dangling before his eyes.
The mangled dark elf took a staggering step forward. Gromph had not been able to save him completely from the dragon's hellish fires. Half of Rai-guy's face closely resembled melted plastic, and the effect worked all the way down from his forehead to his collarbone on the right side of his face. The other half remained as whole and as perfect as it had ever been. His thick white mane had been burnt away and had been trying to grow back the past few months. He had lost the use of his right eye; it had developed what seemed a layer of film over the burning red iris.
Rai-guy stumbled forward another step, then dropped to his knees in front of Gromph. The Baenre grimaced as Rai-guy lifted his grotesque face and they locked gazes.
"The Shard," Rai-guy pleaded. "You promised me the Shard."
"When the job was done," Gromph hissed. "It is not yet done."
Rai-guy fell back, defeated. He had lost more than just his eye and features to the wicked flames, he had lost his wits. The only thing keeping him alive now was the desire to possess Crenshinibon, the very desire that had led him to sell his soul to Gromph Baenre in the first place. Without the Crystal Shard, Rai-guy would have no motivation in life and would very soon die. And Gromph could not allow that to happen.
Not yet, anyway.
Gromph waved his hand, and Rai-guy slowly rose to his feet, madness gleaming in his one remaining eye. He looked to Gromph expectantly. Eager to please, eager to serve, eager to march into single-handed battle against the Spider Queen herself if only to possess Crenshinibon.
"Jarlaxle comes this way," Gromph addressed his newest tool. "Greet him, and lead him here to me."
Rai-guy nodded, saluted, and spun on his heel towards the door.
When he had left, Gromph uncovered Crenshinibon. The wicked thing was glowing faintly with hopes that it might someday rise to power again. Gromph was not overly concerned on who ended up with the Shard or what they did with it. As long as they stayed out of his way and did not interfere with his plans, they could do anything they wanted and he would lose no sleep. After all, the Shard was merely another tool for the great Baenre. He had no desire to keep it for himself. The thing fed off sunlight, a fact that immediately repulsed the drow elf. No, let other kingdoms fall under the mighty Crenshinibon's shadow. Gromph was after a bigger prize.
Jarlaxle felt the familiar
vibrations bouncing off of Sorcere and he frowned. It was almost as
if something were…calling to him. Like the dreadful Crystal Shard
used to call to him, only that was impossible, Crenshinibon had been
destroyed, consumed in the very flames that took the life of his
treacherous lieutenant Rai-guy.
Entreri knew what was on Jarlaxle's mind; he was thinking the same thing himself. He too, felt that familiar call. It made him dread the meeting with Gromph Baenre, who could have easily been listed among Jarlaxle as one of Menzoberranzan's most powerful males.
Jarlaxle shot Entreri a look, which the assassin only responded to with a shrug. Neither had any idea on what was going on. But, they both had a feeling that they were about to find out.
Jarlaxle spun around to face the voice that came from nowhere. His mouth nearly dropped open when he saw Rai-guy staring straight at him. Entreri recoiled in horror at the sight of the drow. What a horror he had become! Jarlaxle stared in open disbelief. He couldn't believe it. Rai-guy was dead.
"Rai-guy…it's not possible…" Jarlaxle peered closely at his old lieutenant to see if it was indeed he. It was, but the look in Rai-guy's one good remaining eye was enough for Jarlaxle to realize that Rai-guy no longer knew him from a gray dwarf. No spark of recognition ever flared in the drow's eye. His mind (if indeed he still had one!) was clearly on something else.
Jarlaxle took a step back, shaking his head slowly.
"No, my friend," he said when he noticed Entreri had gotten over his initial shock and was reaching for his dagger.
"He's supposed to be dead," Entreri argued, but slid the dagger back into his sheathe anyway. Jarlaxle nodded, thoughtfully.
"Yes, he is. But apparently, dead no longer."
Entreri shook his head.
"How is that possible?" he asked. Jarlaxle merely shrugged.
"With Gromph Baenre, nothing is impossible." Was the only explanation Entreri received. And, he felt, the only one he was going to wrench from the mercenary.
"Jarlaxle," Rai-guy repeated.
Jarlaxle nodded. When Rai-guy didn't respond, the mercenary sighed and said aloud, "Yes."
Rai-guy nodded, turned, and began to lead them towards Sorcere.
Gromph Baenre was the
Arch-Mage of Menzoberranzan, and perchance the most powerful wizard
in all of Sorcere. His office was filled with many sharp, dangerous,
and magical objects that Jarlaxle knew from personal experience that
it was best not to touch. The great man himself sat behind desk,
Jarlaxle tipped his hat to Gromph, who returned the greeting with the barest of nods. Jarlaxle's eyes fell to the object on the Arch-Mage's desk. His eyes popped open wide. First Rai-guy, now Crenshinibon!
The mercenary fought hard to keep his breath even. He had thought Crenshinibon was destroyed forever, he himself had watched the flames consume it…
Jarlaxle slowly lifted his eyes again and locked stares with Gromph. The Arch-Mage was grinning slyly, as if for once he knew something that he mercenary didn't.
A bit miffed, Jarlaxle smiled and moved closer to the desk. Rai-guy stepped aside until he was standing next to Entreri. The assassin's hand moved slowly to the hilt of his dagger, but he did not draw it. Not yet.
"Do you know what this is, Jarlaxle?" Gromph asked, gesturing towards the Crystal Shard.
"Of course I know of Crenshinibon," Jarlaxle replied coolly, noticing the hungry, animal look that splayed across Rai-guy's face at the mention of the name. Jarlaxle reached towards the Shard, only wishing to close his fingers around it once more and feel the steady thrumming of power, beating as regularly as a heartbeat…
The flat of Entreri's jeweled dagger slammed into Jarlaxle's hand. The mercenary withdrew his hand immediately and glared at the assassin. Entreri merely shook his head.
"Don't. It's pulling you under its spell again, you must resist it." He signed in the intricate hand-language of the drow, which he had just come to master. Jarlaxle hesitated, and then nodded.
"Of course, you're right." He signed back. Gromph did not miss the silent words exchanged between the two, but he pretended to ignore it.
"Are you Crenshinibon's new wielder, Gromph Baenre?" Jarlaxle dared to ask. Gromph shot him a glare from across the desk.
"Crenshinibon does not wish me for its wielder," he replied. "I have resisted its calling so far, and now I believe it has given up completely on me. It wants someone else."
Rai-guy flexed his hands, simply itching the snatch the Crystal Shard off of the Arch-Mage's desk and run.
"So why all this?" Entreri piped up. "Crenshinibon, I can understand. But why bring back the annoying wizard?" here he gestured to Rai-guy. Rai-guy didn't seem to notice.
"For my own purposes," Gromph replied. "Rai-guy is just another one of the necessary pieces I need to play my game with Quenthel."
"How is she, anyhow?" Jarlaxle asked, fingers dancing across the Baenre's desk towards the Crystal Shard. Entreri's blade came down again and Jarlaxle drew back, cradling his smarting hand.
"She will be dead soon, so it does not matter," Gromph put all the ire in his voice that he could manage. Jarlaxle merely nodded.
"I have one more question," said Entreri. "Where does Drizzt fit into all this?"
There was a long pause, as if Gromph were considering whether or not his question was worth answering.
"Crenshinibon needs a new wielder," was all the explanation he offered.
Drizzt opened his eyes one at a time, the
second slowly following the first. He had no idea where he was, nor
where Catti-Brie was, as that he could not feel her near him at the
time. He felt as if his entire body had been shredded to pieces by a
whip of fangs.
He made a great effort to sit up, but found the task impossible. He didn't have to look to know that the onyx panther figurine had been taken from his belt. He wondered where Guenhyvvar and Catti-Brie were, and if they were all right.
A hand grabbed his forearm and hauled Drizzt to his feet. The sudden movement sent his world spinning and he fell forward, collapsing to one knee. He found himself staring at a pair of boots that he knew all too well.
"Jarlaxle," he said.
"Well met, Drizzt Do'Urden." Jarlaxle replied with a broad grin.
Drizzt pushed himself up and slowly rose to his feet. His hands were still tied behind his back, and he felt he had a new bruise somewhere to add to his growing collection.
He looked past Jarlaxle's shoulder and noticed Gromph Baenre seated behind his desk.
"Who am I going to be sacrificed to now?" Drizzt asked wearily. Jarlaxle laughed.
"Sacrificed? Whoever said anything about sacrifice?"
"That's the usual reason I am brought to Menzoberranzan…"
"If I am correct, we didn't bring you to our fair city, you came here entirely of your own free will."
Drizzt glared at the mercenary leader, who was still smiling in amusement.
"Then why was I brought here?" Drizzt demanded.
As a response, Gromph picked up something from his desk and placed it into Jarlaxle's waiting palm. Jarlaxle rubbed the object for a moment, an almost wistful look crossing his face, and then turned back to Drizzt, extending his hand so that the ranger might see the item clearly.
"Crenshinibon!" Drizzt exclaimed, stumbling back a step in surprise. He glared at Jarlaxle accusingly. "I thought you had destroyed it!"
"So did I," Jarlaxle admitted.
"Allow me to explain," Gromph said. "The Crystal Shard is an instrument of chaos. My fool sister knows that, and will eagerly seize the thing up for herself. It shall be her ultimate downfall."
"You mean to bring down Lolth?" he asked in disbelief.
"No," he replied.
"And where do I fit into all this?" Drizzt asked.
In response, Gromph reached into his desk and brought out the Spider Mask.
"You are going to make sure the Shard finds its way to Quenthel," he replied.
Drizzt shook his head, but he seemed a bit confused. Jarlaxle was confused, too. And not much ever confused him. He wasn't seeing Gromph's bigger picture. What was that Arch-Mage up to? He highly doubted one of Menzoberranzan's most powerful males would go through all the trouble of preserving the Crystal Shard for something as petty as settling a sibling rivalry…
He could only hope that all would be made known in due time.
lay on her side, curled up in a little ball of pain, her arms hugging
her knees to her chest and forehead pressed up against her knees, her
auburn hair fanning out around her like a pool of blood. She had
woken up in a room so completely dark that she could touch her
eyeballs and still not see her fingers. Drizzt had not been there to
whisper to her that everything would be fine. When she woke up
without him, she had curled up and not moved from that position.
Her muscles were beginning to ache, but she was afraid to uncurl and stretch in the infinite blackness.
A pair of eyes appeared, hovering right in front of her. Catti-Brie curled up even tighter and shut her eyes, willing them to go away. Soft, slimy tentacles slid over her face and her neck, weaving into her auburn hair and pressing against her eyelids so that even if she wanted to open them again she couldn't. Catti-Brie wanted to scream, but her throat was tight.
There was no mistaking the touch of an illthid.
Kimmuriel's hands dropped to his sides, settling on the hilts of the scimitars once belonging to Drizzt Do'Urden but now belonging to him. The first one, Twinkle (a magnificent one indeed!) had been a gift from Jarlaxle. The other, Icingdeath, he had taken himself from the ranger. Drizzt would no longer need them. He was just a small pawn in Gromph Baenre's game. The psionic sighed. If only he knew what that game was…