Chapter 4b: Jealousy

In the afternoon the three companions rested in their quiet place in the shadow of the trees. Drizzt had closed his eyes and appeared to be sleeping. He did not notice that Jarlaxle was steadily observing him out of the corner of his eye. The drow had his own thoughts today about the two fighters. He had known them both only as shining contestants in a battle to determine who was the best fighter, rather than in such a peaceful situation. Jarlaxle thought that several days ago, Artemis had shown for the first time in their long friendship that his resentment of the ranger might well had disappeared for good. Was it truly this tiny infant child who had brought such soft feelings to Entreri's surface? He wanted to keep a watchful eye over both of them. His thoughts lingered on the grandiose fight in the crystal tower, the one he had organised himself. So too did his thoughts linger of that conversation with Drizzt, the son of Zaknafein, his once-friend. How similar father and son were.

As Jarlaxle dwelt on the past and recalled important details to his memory, he considered the ranger, more casually than attentively. Only when Drizzt moved and awoke did the drow realise that he had been staring at his companion the entire time. Discretely, he moved his gaze away.

Later that evening, Diana was fed. The three companions, too, had eaten, and were once again on the way. This time Drizzt carried the bundle in front of him while Artemis rode at his side. Jarlaxle, who made up the rear guard, observed the two closely. A new battle was arising between the two adversaries. This time they were not fighting to prove their strength, but rather fighting over the child. He could certainly imagine such a stir of emotion in the ranger, but not from Entreri. It seemed that he had suddenly taken the baby into his heart. Jarlaxle smiled.

This night, too, went by quietly and without incident, other than that they had to give Diana her milk now and again. The next morning, shortly before sunrise, they reached a sign. It pointed to the west and told them that the next settlement was only five miles away. Unerringly, they rode further, and after an hour a weather-beaten sign pointed to the entrance of the village, only one hundred feet away.

"Wenta," Jarlaxle read aloud to his companions. "Let's go!" he shouted, wanting to immediately urge his horse onwards.

"Stop!" Drizzt threw in. "We should think of a plan before we simply march into this village with Diana!"

Artemis nodded in agreement and said, "Drizzt is right. We cannot-I can't and you can't-walk into this place and simply give them an infant."

Jarlaxle answered with a shrug of his shoulders and guided his horse back onto the path they had come from.

Only eight hundred feet away the three companions found a hiding place where they could protect themselves from curious eyes. A thick evergreen tree gave them the necessary coverage.

"What's your plan?" Jarlaxle asked curiously as he dismounted from his horse. But no one answered him. Instead, an eerie silence grew between the three companions; only the songs of the birds could be heard. Everyone seemed to be lost deeply in his own thoughts.

Drizzt sat on the forest floor with Diana on his lap while Artemis paced a thoughtful circle within they hiding place. Jarlaxle learned comfortably against a treetrunk and watched his two comrades.

Suddenly Entreri stopped and spoke calmly, "I looked at the houses as we approached the entrance to the village. They looked truly old and wretched. Should Diana truly grow up in such circumstances?" he asked the small company.

"I'll accompany you both to the next village; we'll give her to the villagers there," Drizzt responded, looking down at the baby.

Then the ranger and Artemis looked into each other's eyes and nodded in agreement before turning they heads to the drow who still sat casually against the tree trunk.

"Whatever you think," Jarlaxle answered indifferently, pulling his broad-brimmed hat down over his face. "I'm going to stop for a bit first."

"Good idea," responded Artemis. "But Diana should be taken care of first," he continued.

Had Drizzt heard incorrectly, or had these words truly come from the man who thought of no one and nothing but himself? The ranger attempted to keep his composure and acted as if Entreri had said nothing-but the worried tone in his friend's voice did not escape Jarlaxle. Last night he had come to the conclusion that the two were fighting a new battle, this time over who would be allowed to care for the child. It seemed paradoxical to him, but two days before a transformation had taken place in Artemis that even he, the former mercenary leader, could not explain. He, who was always two steps ahead of the others. The thought that his friend could cross over into a better life was not far, or was it? A smile shot across his face, but it escaped his two companions, who were currently busy taking care of little Diana.

As late evening set in, they swung themselves back onto their horses, Artemis having bound the little bundle before him in which Diana lay. Drizzt rode closely next to him, because he thought that the man could not take enough care of the baby. But instead he observed how Entreri continued to pay attention to the infant that slept in the little hollow before him. Drizzt could not shake the feeling that *he* should have Diana in front of him, and not this dangerous man-and that did not escape Jarlaxle. The ranger could feel the other's eyes in his back. He knew that this drow was friend to Artemis Entreri and that he probably trusted him. The last encounter with the assassin was now five years in the past. Five long years in which much had occurred. Could he trust the dark elf? Jarlaxle was always thinking to his own advantage, and this attitude had scarcely changed, but now he was friends with the most terrible enemy from Drizzt's past.

Drizzt' inner battle-to trust Artemis in the matter of Diana-lasted the entire night, during which he could increasingly see that Artemis truly did seem to take care of the child. On the other hand, Artemis' thoughts during the ride through the darkness churned over his own past. Yes, he had decided to give a better future to the small creature sleeping on his breast. Diana should not experience what poverty and hunger meant, nor what it meant never to be loved. And another thought shot suddenly through his head: if they did not succeed in finding the child a family who would love her as they would their own daughter, then he would be there for Diana. Yet he pushed this consideration far in the back of his mind-it should represent the last option in his inner battle.

Long before the sun rose, the three travelling companions had stopped to rest. Not only to take care of the small, screaming girl, who was hungry, but also because they had reached the next village. While Drizzt again held the small child on his arm, this time it was Artemis who handed the ranger the small water kettle filled with milk, so that the infant could be fed. A smile spread across Jarlaxle's face, for his companions looked so at peace with themselves. At the same time it was a strange picture, observing the infamous assassin and the equally well-known Drizzt Do'Urden in such a harmonious scene. His grin became ever-broader and he almost broke out into full-throated laughter.

Shortly thereafter the same discussion from the day before broke out and Drizzt and Artemis out-voted Jarlaxle. The decision was to try in the next village. The drow could not shake the feeling that the two companions did not want to separate from the child, but he kept this feeling to himself. He recognised that Diana could find no better protectors than Drizzt Do'Urden, Artemis Entreri and his own humble self.

After the sun had risen in the east, Jarlaxle again laid down in the shadow of a tree and let the day go by. Drizzt did the same, keeping a watchful eye on the infant, while Artemis had gone into the settlement before them in order to stock up on supplies. After an hour he came back with a near to bursting sattlebag, looking very pleased with himself. Jarlaxle could imagine what had brought such a smile to his friend's face. Like those before it, the village seemed very poor, and so they could be keeping the child with them for at least one day longer.

As the sun announced the coming of afternoon, it was again Artemis who pulled off his jacket again stood with a naked upper body in the middle of the three companions. At first Drizzt did not realise it, for his gaze rested next to him on Diana. Yet as he turned his head to Artemis, it felt as it he had been hit by lightning. How terribly he desired to touch this body. The ranger still had the rest of Entreri's shirt. His hand slid over to unobserved over to his rucksack and opened it. He acted as though he were looking for something while touching the linen that, some days ago, had still belonged to Artemis' shirt. A wave of passion sparked inside of him as his finger slowly stroked over the material and he wished nothing more than just once to touch the man's naked flesh, the flesh that had awakened these feelings inside of him.

As Drizzt was thinking this, Artemis was making himself comfortable in the sun, lying himself down in the soft green grass. He closed his eyes, rested his hands under his head and experienced an eerie feeling of happiness. They were going to keep little Diana for at least another day. This was the time in which he could watch over the child. When he could contribute to making sure that she had a better future than he had had. The thought calmed him and sent him into a deep and refreshing sleep.

The smell of cooked meat woke Artemis from his sleep. He deeply inhaled the scent and opened his eyes, then stretched his arms and slowly sat up. Drizzt was in the process of preparing a rabbit over the fire while Jarlaxle sat a little to the side with Diana in his arms. Suddenly the drow no longer looked quite so helpless, resembling more a family scene in which a grandfather would proudly and joyfully hold a child on his arm. Entreri had to smile.

"Hmm, I'm getting hungry," Artemis suddenly said into the silence of his companions. At the same time Drizzt and Jarlaxle turned their heads to the man sitting in the grass.

"Slept enough?" his friend asked.

"I've never slept better," Entreri answered, laughing inside.

"Then you can give Diana her milk," he heard Jarlaxle say, as Artemis sat up and stretched again. Out of the corner of his eye, Drizzt observed the body of the man who stood only feet away from him-but the other drow's words tore him out of his daydreaming. He didn't want Entreri to feed Diana, for then Artemis would most likely hold her before him on his horse through the night. Yes, the ranger was jealous. He did not want a former assassin to take care of such a tiny, innocent creature, even when he had to admit that the years had changed the man a great deal. But Drizzt tried to swallow his ire; only the glitter of his eyes betrayed his displeasure.

So passed the rest of afternoon relatively peacefully, as the ranger instinctively pulled back from the others, while his eyes cautiously rested on Artemis as the man held little Diana on his arm. Still the fact that shook Drizzt's composure more than any other was the eerie attraction of the man, which worked on him like a magnet. He was still 'Artemis Entreri' to the drow; the very name recalled earlier fury. But now he was a man like himself, with a well-cared-for outer appearance, and attractive to boot. His long black hair fell over his shoulders and played about the pleasant facial features in the light of the setting sun.

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