Hi, everyone! I'm back to FR again, this time with a very special story I'd like to share on behalf of the original author, Elbenstein, who wrote this story in German. I'll be translating both this story, which runs 17 chapters, and eventually also its sequel. I'm hoping to publish one chapter per week.
Warning: This story eventually contains slash.
isclaimer: Jarlaxle, Artemis Entreri and Drizzt Do'Urden belong to R.A. Salvatore. All additional characters were invented by Elbenstein.
Love Changes Everything
Translated by Ziggy Sternenstaub
Chapter 1: Meetings
Blue light flared furiously as Drizzt's hate-filled enemy, the assassin and bounty-hunter Artemis Entreri, moved slowly towards the drow; Entreri had drawn his glowing sword with his right hand, and his jewelled dagger with the left. The two warriors circled slowly as they stared at one another with glittering eyes.
"We meet again, Drizzt Do'Urden!" Entreri taunted his opponent.
Rather than answering Drizzt was watching the space over Entreri's shoulder, for there stood the cunning mercenary Jarlaxle, the drow who five years ago had lured Drizzt into the Crystal Tower, there to fight his final fight against Artemis. Back then the ranger had co-operated for the sake of himself and his friends, though he had neither wanted to see or fight the assassin again, busy as the drow had been trying to free the world from a threat. That final fight between the two warriors had demanded tremendous mental and spiritual sacrifices from them both, yet it was precisely those sacrifices that had allowed the two enemies to rid themselves of a great deal of their mutual resentment.
More respect than hatred lay in their eyes now. Even if Drizzt and Artemis denied their brutal battle with wild passion, there was one thing about which Drizzt could not lie, and that was the fact that Artemis had wanted to die that long ago day. The assassin had warned his archenemy with a single scream, and then came the end—yet that end had been different than either had expected. Drizzt had been mortally wounded, and Artemis had believed that his opponent was no longer amongst the living. Yet with cunning and trickery Jarlaxle had proved one thing: that the assassin was inferior to Drizzt Do'Urden—and it was exactly that same cunning drow who now leaned casually against a shadowy tree to watch the two adversaries with anticipation, seeing that they were once again facing off for battle.
The assassin's dagger hand raised suddenly to strike, and Drizzt instinctively fell into a squat, where he raised up his twin scimitars, anticipating that the Artemis would throw his dagger. Yet rather than doing this, Entreri took a step forward towards the dark elf, even as a broad smile appeared on the man's unfeeling face, and Drizzt immediately realised that the man had never planned to follow through with his manoeuvre. The dark elf did not hesitate to advance two steps toward the assassin's sword, where the drow's scimitars began their own flowing dance.
"Are you nervous, Drizzt Do'Urden? Of course you are! That is the weakness in your heart, the weakness of your passion! This is our fight!" the assassin sneered again, and struck the extended blade of blue light with his own sword.
Drizzt attacked with a skillful cross strike and lifted a scimitar to Entreri's belt, forcing Artemis to pull in his stomach and take a step back. The assassin's grey eyes glittered with the desire to attack in turn when he suddenly paused; Drizzt's movement's froze as well, both opponents now watching the nearby edge of the forest.
A young woman who was crying for help had run into the clearing and stood abruptly still as she caught sight of the three figures, and even Jarlaxle transformed his ever-so-casual stance with lightning speed into a tense position, pushing his broad-brimmed hat out of his face as the woman, who had let loose her cry for help only three feet away, sank down into the grass next to the drow. Immediately after, two dozen men armed with pitchforks and shovels appeared out of the woods from behind a row of closely knit trees and stood suddenly still, as if, like the trees, they too were rooted to the ground. Jarlaxle could just make out how the eyes of the wild hoard bulged and their chins fell with the proverbial clap to the ground. The men turned on their heels and soon Drizzt, Artemis and Jarlaxle perceived only wild screaming that quickly faded away into the distance—yet they could clearly make out one word in the vocal confusion: drow.
The crafty mercenary fell into loud laughter, which Artemis ringingly joined as he travelled the ten feet from the campsite to the woman lying on the ground. Drizzt immediately joined him, and the three males exchanged disbelieving glances as the woman lightly moaned. Jarlaxle squatted and kneeled down in the grass, his gaze travelling over the body of the young woman. She had long black hair that clung to her face with sweat; her eyes were closed, and her breathing came in fits and starts. As Jarlaxle's eyes wandered down, he noticed her swollen belly.
"She's pregnant!" he exclaimed, amazed. At the same moment he heard another moan; softly, he took the woman's cold, sweaty hand in his own. "She's not injured," Jarlaxle murmured softly to himself as he watched how the woman was clearly suffering. "Obviously the contractions have begun. We have to get her away from here," he said as he turned to Drizzt and Artemis. Yet the two of them merely stood frozen and bewildered in front of Jarlaxle, holding their weapons in their hands as if readying themselves for a battle.
"Don't stand there like stuffed dummies; help me!" Jarlaxle suddenly screamed at them.
Drizzt was the first of the two fighters to return his scimitars to the sheathes on his belt and kneel down across from Jarlaxle, next to the woman on the ground. Disbelievingly, he glanced first at the mercenary leader, and then at the woman. Drizzt had seen a number of pregnant women in his life, but not yet one lying helplessly on the ground next to him. He simply did not know what to do.
Artemis let his gaze wander about the area and the edge of the forest until he was certain that no one outside of themselves lingered about the clearing. Only then did he return his sword and dagger to his belt.
"What now?" Artemis asked Jarlaxle disbelievingly as he watched the pregnant woman lying before him in the grass. The assassin felt suddenly very out of place.
"We'll bring her to the cave we spent last night in," the former mercenary leader said to Artemis with a voice that was now very firm. "Then we'll see what we can do. Get the horses; we have to hurry!"
If over the last years Entreri had not come to know the clever drow as a friend, and he had not known that Jarlaxle precisely calculated every one of his actions, then the mercenary's words might well have provoked a reaction from the assassin that would have degenerated into a violent confrontation. Instead the assassin watched Drizzt with glittering eyes. "We'll end it later, Drizzt Do'Urden," he growled, and strode quickly to the horses.
A short time later Jarlaxle, Artemis and Drizzt were riding on a narrow path heading east. Jarlaxle was holding the young woman in front of him in the saddle, trying to gently hold her tight so that she didn't fall off of the horse as she lost consciousness again and again.
"We must hurry!" the drow said with concern to his two companions as he again sped up.
"Where is this cave?" Drizzt asked the cunning dark elf as his own gaze roamed over the area.
"We're almost there," Jarlaxle said, looking now at the ranger who rode next to him. Drizzt had always regarded this drow as underhanded and unpredictable, but he had been amazed more than once by the seemingly unfathomable behaviour of the enigmatic mercenary leader. Jarlaxle had saved Drizzt's life and at the same time had ensured that he would never again have to see his most hated enemy. Yet not more than one hour ago, these two equally skilled enemies, Drizzt Do'Urden and Artemis Entreri, had once again encountered each other in a remote forest clearing.
"We're here!" Jarlaxle called to his two companions, startling Drizzt out of his thoughts. The ranger followed the other drow's finger to small cave not one hundred feet away, somewhat concealed behind some bushes. Drizzt alighted from his horse and secured the reins to a small tree branch before striding over to the still-mounted Jarlaxle.
"Give me the woman," Drizzt instructed the other drow, his arms held up to receive her. Jarlaxle carefully pulled the pregnant female over the side of the horse so that the ranger could hold her fast with both arms. Then the mercenary dismounted from his own horse and caught the young woman's legs. Both drow trod towards the entrance of the cave, one carefully holding the girl under her arms, the other by the legs.
Artemis too sprang down to tie his horse, and his friend's, on another branch. He continued to watch the proceedings with disbelief, shaking his head in time with the actions of the other two.
What do these drow mean to do? he asked himself. The woman was in pain; that was clear, but how could they help her? The assassin had never attended a birthing, and he continued to feel out of place. Still he followed the others without protest into the cave.
"Don't just stand around doing nothing, my friend!" Jarlaxle turned around to regard Entreri with a serious mien as the assassin crossed the threshold. "Go get water; quickly!," the drow said authoritatively. Entreri scowled to his friend's face, but dropped his satchel without further objection and soon disappeared outside behind the bushes. Next Jarlaxle spoke to Drizzt. "Get wood; we need fire. Quickly! Hurry up!" he ordered, watching with worry the young woman lying on the ground in front of him. In the corner of his eye he could still catch a glimpse of another shadow disappearing behind the bushes.
Now the drow set down his own satchel and rustled about inside until he found what he was looking for, pulling out two woollen blankets. One he folded up and lay carefully under the head of the pregnant woman; the second one he laid under her body to protect her weakened form from the cold, hard cave bottom. Next he went to Artemis' satchel and likewise drew forth two blankets, one of which he also laid under the woman's shivering body. Then, as if out of nothingness, Jarlaxle summoned a small knife from his wrist and began to slice the remaining blanket into small, square pieces.
Soon after Drizzt returned to the cave with wood piled under both of his arms. Adroitly and as quickly he could, the ranger ignited a small fire close to the edge of the cave. The flames were already burning when Artemis returned with three burstingly full waterskins over his shoulder; these he let fall to the bottom of the cave.
"We need hot water! Get moving; hurry up!" Jarlaxle snarled at them both. His nonplussed companions jumped, and started off looking visibly nervous. Neither of the two had ever encountered such a situation in either of their lives. Drizzt collided into Artemis' shoulder, and Entreri stared at the drow with menacingly glittering eyes, but abandoned the matter in favour of hauling up the waterskins. At the same time Drizzt desperately riffled through his pack, trying to find his small kettle.
He'd just used it this morning! Why couldn't he find it now? This was all so unusual, and the ranger was feeling more nervous by the minute. Finally he felt the kettle, pulled, it out and called joyfully, "I have it!"
"Good, then go boil the water finally!" Jarlaxle's authoritative voice rang out again. "She's almost ready to give birth. And you bring cold water to me, my friend," he indicated to Artemis.
Entreri did as he was ordered and stood shortly thereafter directly next to the dark elf, who was sitting on the ground next to the young woman, holding her hand. The drow took the waterskin out of the assassin's hand and soaked a small piece of cloth with the cold water, which he laid on the woman's hot forehead.
A situation was unfolding in front of the assassin which he could neither calculate nor control. Everything was unfamiliar and strange. What were they doing here in this cave? What would happen when this woman lying here before him truly brought a child into the world? Jarlaxle was the only one of the tree males who truly had a handle on the situation—or at least he gave the impression that he knew what he was doing. Entreri's most-hated enemy also stood next to him and appeared to be equally deep in thought as he observed the picture being painted before him.
Then a loud scream tore both of them out of their contemplations.
Everything was happening terribly quickly. The woman was screaming over and over again. Artemis and Drizzt were becoming more and more nervous as they paced excitedly through the cave, and every time their eyes met, each glared menacingly at the other. Yet helplessness was written clearly across both of their faces. Only Jarlaxle tended to the young woman as she went through her contractions.
Endless, waiting minutes seemed to go by.
"The child is coming!" both warriors heard the drow suddenly shout, and both abruptly stopped their pacing. Yet when their gazes met their time, only relief was visible on their faces. Drizzt turned about to regard the pain-riddled countenance of the young woman lying before him on the ground. He wanted so dearly to help her, yet he knew that she must endure this trial alone. So the ranger did the only thing by which he could gain some measure of inner peace, and knelt down on the other side of the woman to hold her hand.
"Don't just stand around like you've grown roots," Jarlaxle said to Entreri. "Help us!"
Before Entreri could so much as blink, his friend's hand had pulled him down to the ground so that he knelt directly in front of the woman. Entreri stared down with bulging eyes. There it was, right in front of his knees: a tiny infant child.
"Cut the umbilical cord," he heard Jarlaxle's voice again. "Go on; get to it!" But Entreri could not understand what his friend wanted from him. A baby was lying in front him, a tiny, screaming creature. What could he accomplish in such a situation? He belonged in battle, not in this cave!
"Take your dagger and cut the umbilical cord!" Jarlaxle instructed him once more. Entreri lifted his head, finally able to look into his friend's dark gaze. Jarlaxle truly meant what he said.
Quick as a whip, Entreri drew his dagger and cut clean.
I'm sure that the author would love any comments you have to share, and I'll make sure that they all get to her.
Any comments or suggestions about my translation I would of course welcome.