almost wish he'd killed me," Kimmuriel mused aloud. Entreri
glanced up briefly from sharpening his dagger.
"Now why do you say that?" he asked, returning the dagger to its sheathe on his hip. Kimmuriel gave a bitter laugh.
"Because," he replied. "If he doesn't, then Jarlaxle will get around to it sooner or later."
"What makes you say that?" Entreri asked, folding his arms and leaning against the wall, mildly intrigued. He had never liked Kimmuriel much, but then again Entreri had never liked anyone very much. Kimmuriel waved his hand dismissively.
"You are not drow," he said. "You would not understand."
"If I remember your earlier remark correctly, I am drow in everything but skin color." Entreri sneered.
"You have the heart of a drow," Kimmuriel clarified. "You think like a drow, you feel like a drow, but yet you do not know the drow ways, or are rules for things."
"I have been down here for three years, I'm beginning to pick up." Entreri never took his burning gaze off of the psionic.
"Jarlaxle will kill me because I'm a challenge to his throne,"
Entreri raised an eyebrow.
"You mean his control over Bregan D'aerthe?" he questioned. Kimmuriel nodded solemnly.
To the psionic's surprise, Entreri burst out laughing.
"What is so funny?" he demanded. Entreri did not stop; he clutched the wall to keep himself from falling over, shoulders shaking with unsuppressed mirth.
"Trust me, if you were a threat to Jarlaxle, you would have been disposed of long ago," the human assassin assured him once he managed to catch his breath.
"I do not find that entirely comforting,"
"Pity. Because you should."
Kimmuriel scowled at him, but it only increased the assassin's mirth.
"But Jarlaxle…" the psionic began to insist. Entreri shook his head and waved his hand dismissively.
"Oh, don't flatter yourself." He said, at last straightening. With that said, he gathered up his bearings and went to go see the mercenary leader himself.
one stack of scrolls aside and set another one in front of him. He
sat back and rubbed his one uncovered eye wearily. Going over the
scrolls was probably more exhausting to the mercenary than a thousand
days of fighting hand-to-hand combat with House Baenre. Of course, it
had to be done, and the mercenary leader figured he would have little
time for paperwork when - if - Gromph's plan succeeded. Jarlaxle
figured that then he would have more important things on his mind.
Staying alive, for instance. He was also pondering on an effective
way to switch sides if things took a dramatic turn. Whichever side
went down, Jarlaxle didn't care, he just didn't want to go down
with them. He always thought a fall looked better from the victor's
point of view.
A sharp knock on the door shattered his reverie. Jarlaxle growled, knowing he was never going to get a thing done with the continuous interruptions.
"Who is it?" he asked, forcing his voice to remain calm.
"Entreri," came the voice from the other side. "Don't tell me you're busy."
"Of course I'm busy!" Jarlaxle exclaimed, annoyed but not letting that assassin know that. "Do you think I sit here playing sava with myself all day?"
"May I come in? Or do you prefer I stay here and shout this entire conversation through the door?" Entreri made no mood to hide his own annoyance.
There was a small pause.
"Jarlaxle?" Entreri questioned when the mercenary didn't answer.
"I'm thinking about it," Jarlaxle teased, smiling.
"Oh, alright, if you insist." Jarlaxle waved his hand, and the door opened. In stepped a fuming Entreri.
"You're a bastard, Jarlaxle." Entreri replied, seething. Jarlaxle chuckled.
"You could have shouted that through the door. I'm sure the soldiers in the hall would have enjoyed hearing it." He said, jovial as usual.
"And then had their voiceboxes ripped out if they so much as snickered," the assassin replied evenly. Jarlaxle laughed again and gestured for Entreri to have a seat.
"What is it you have come to me with, my dearest of friends?" the mercenary leader asked, parting his pile of scrolls down the middle so he could better view Entreri from a more comfortable angle. He sat back; tilting the brim of his enormous hat low so that is shaded his eyes. Entreri noticed that Jarlaxle was wearing the eyepatch on his left eye this time rather than his usual right. He didn't know what the signified, if anything at all. Jarlaxle, the most composed of people, distracted?
As if reading his mind, Jarlaxle's eyepatch quickly swapped eyes. Now it covered its usual resting place. For some absurd reason the gesture made Entreri feel a bit better.
"What is it?" Jarlaxle asked again, sitting back in his chair, his jewelry clinking with every movement. The noise bothered the assassin. He shook his head, what was wrong with him today?
"Kimmuriel is certain that you are going to kill him," Entreri finally managed to reply. Jarlaxle gave an amused smile.
"Now why would I do that?" he asked.
"I told him the notion was absurd."
"Not absurd," Jarlaxle was quick to correct. "I just have no reason to kill him."
"He has not yet given you one," Entreri reasoned. Jarlaxle's smile grew wider - if that was possible. Entreri shook his head. The drow was too easily amused.
"How are your plans making progress?" he asked. The abrupt change of conversation did not faze Jarlaxle, or did not seem to, yet his smile wilted a bit around the edges.
"I have not heard from Gromph in many days," Jarlaxle replied. "My guess is that either things are going quite well and nothing has changed - or things have taken a dramatic turn for the worse, our plot has been uncovered, and he is either dying or dead."
"You always were a dramatist," Entreri said wearily. "I'm sure things are going splendidly, just like you planned all along."
"I guess it never hurts to be optimistic," Jarlaxle replied happily.
"I can assure you I do not know the cause for your sudden pessimism,"
"I always tend to look at the downside of things, that way I am pleasantly surprised when things go otherwise."
"I never knew you to have such a theory before,"
"That's because I just made it up," the mercenary waved his hand again, and a goblin slave scurried forward, bearing a tray that held two crystal glasses and a bottle of fine wine. The slave set the tray on the desk and reached for the bottle, but Jarlaxle waved him away and picked the bottle up himself, uncorking it with a simple twist and a pull. "Really, Entreri, you are too stressed. You are getting paranoid."
"I am not paranoid," Entreri replied grumpily. Jarlaxle arched one eyebrow skeptically and handed the assassin a glass of the deep red wine, and it was readily accepted.
"I am not paranoid," Entreri repeated once he had drained the glass of every last drop. Jarlaxle sipped his wine, allowing the sweet libation to linger on his tongue.
"As you say," he too easily complied. Entreri cast him a suspicious look, but Jarlaxle ignored it, managing to look completely innocent as he finished off his wine. "More wine?" Entreri nodded, and Jarlaxle refilled his glass.
Baenre was in no mood to be patronized, and particularly not by his
sister Quenthel. So upon leaving Arach-Tinilith, he was in a foul
Woe to the unfortunate messenger who scurried to his side at that moment.
"This had better be important," Gromph growled dangerously. The messenger's eyes widened, but he bowed to the Archmage.
"Sir, I have the information you requested…sir."
"Then let's have it and be done with it," Gromph did not stop his quick, long-legged strides. The messenger struggled to keep up, panting his message.
"Matron Mother Triel Baenere has announced today that more crystal towers should be built," he said breathlessly. Gromph hid a smile.
"How many more?" he demanded.
"There are to be eight crystal towers in all, one for each of the eight ruling houses, House Baenere included, sir."
"Seven more towers are to be constructed!" Gromph mused, more to himself than to the messenger. "When will these towers be completed?"
"Tomorrow afternoon, sir, at the very latest."
Gromph nodded, this time not even hiding the cold smile that spread across his face.
Gromph dared to think Arphaeus was excited, nay, ecstatic at the
"The more towers, the greater the threat." Gromph reminded the avatar. Arphaeus raised his highly arched eyebrows in amusement.
"The more towers, the greater our victory!" he crowed. Gromph did well to hide his expression of contempt. He had never seen an avatar act so un-godlike in his entire six hundred years. Why, Arphaeus was practically bouncing off the walls!
"You look like an over-excited child," Gromph said. "I suggest you calm down."
Arphaeus glared at him coldly. Most would have flinched at using such words against such an obviously powerful deity, especially one who was so completely aiding their cause. Gromph, however, did not care about that at all. He got his point across, Arphaeus calmed down.
"How long until we can pull down the towers?" Gromph asked once the avatar was calm again. Arphaeus shrugged and glared at the Archmage, intending to pay him back. Gromph barely resisted rolling his eyes at such a display of childishness.
"We must bide our time and wait," the deity coldly deigned to reply. "Else we are doomed to failure."
Gromph drummed his fingers anxiously against the surface of the desk. Waiting he had no problem with. It was waiting for too long with an overly energetic and cocky young avatar that he was afraid would stretch his patience thin.
If the messenger was to be believed (and Gromph saw no reason to doubt as to why he should be) then Triel's new towers would be set up by the next evening. He must allow time for her confidence to build after that, allow her to think she was safe, that she was once again basking in the glories and favor of the now long-dead Lloth. If for only a few months, Gromph could make her believe she was safe, then he could strike quickly and cleanly, and perhaps sooner than he expected.
Arphaeus sat in a plush, comfortable chair just opposite of Gromph's desk, nitpicking at a loose thread on an expensive embroidered pillow. The god's obvious disinterest in the conversation almost anger Gromph, but he wisely kept his temper in check.
"I must go now," Arphaeus said, at last rising. "I have many things to attend to before our moment of triumph."
Gromph gave the deity no more than a curt nod before its departure. For it was well known the Gromph Baenre bent no knee to anyone, avatar or otherwise.