Epilogue

Dedication, discipline, sound judgment, strength of character; these are the tools necessary to craft legends. I keep and utilize these tools with greater zeal, perhaps, than I harbor with regards to the twin swords at my sides. Yet I am constantly on the brink of destruction as a creature of the Underdark - particularly among my own people. The females, to be precise, do not favor the kind of ethics to which I cling in my daily life. Still, I hold to faith that my actions and private thoughts will one day be rewarded, perhaps by beings residing in a higher plane of existence: beings with tremendous power curbed by the wisdom of discretion.

Four long centuries have kissed these bones of mine thus far. I have lost none of my speed and stamina, nor sharpness of concentration. I welcome the challenges, each and every one. The priestesses of Lloth lay claim to a special part of me that I never fail to exhibit when one House moves against my own. For this exceptional service, I am deemed a priceless commodity by Matron Malice. Not so with the other females of the House. Briza Do'Urden is a prime example of one whose head I have come to specialize in decapitating. The brutish high priestess no doubt realizes this with no small measure of resentment. The irony of the situation is not lost on me. For I am, after all, "only male".

The battle with House De'Vir, for example, was perhaps the tenth battle that House Do'Urden has waged since my arrival. It occurred only a fortnight ago, when the fires of Narbondel were at their lowest. The whip I now carry in addition to my fine blades has served me very well indeed. For the foul, demon-conjuring tongue of a High Priestess of Lloth is forever silenced! I take great pride in my work, as well as assurance that I am making progress in some small way toward the greater good.

I say the greater good because I sincerely believe that I am doing my people a favor. By releasing them from the evils of our dark world, even that which resides in their own hearts, I am delivering their immortal souls to a new level of existence, one that is uninhibited by the corrupt doctrines of the wretched Spider Queen. But perhaps I am still being naive in my way of thinking. I prefer to think of it this way, nonetheless. Else I, too, am but a pawn with no power to change things for the better. That is a prospect that I simply cannot live with.

Jarlaxle has visited me several times since our graduation from the Academy. His generous offer still stands, he says, for me to join him and his mercenary band comprised of houseless rogues. But for the fact that I just learned today that I have sired a second child - a son this time! - I might have taken him up on his offer. He is clever in the extreme, I'll give him that; a survivalist like no other I have ever met. I honestly believe that Jarlaxle could establish himself anywhere, even the surface world, as unpredictable and wide open as that place is. Our first and only raid up there served to open my eyes to the various opportunities I should even now be aspiring to.

But baby Drizzt has changed my perspective in that regard. He is perhaps the only ray of sunshine in all my years in this underground prison that I am responsible for bringing into being, a crowning achievement that only a dark elf such as myself can fully appreciate.

So I do this for Drizzt. I will not leave House Do'Urden, as long as I know there is yet hope in a society where such a thing is viewed as senseless and weak. I have faith that my son will find a way to beat them all. For I will teach him my skills, as my father taught me. Most importantly, I will teach him to follow his heart, even if it leads him to places that even Jarlaxle dares not go. Perhaps I will die on the sacrificial altar of Lloth as penalty for my decision.

Nevertheless, I shall never abandon my legacy. I shall instill what strength I may into my only begotten son, so that one day he may rise up against even the Spider Queen herself if need be, knowing in his heart that he follows a higher calling and a greater destiny than any drow warrior has ever known!

--Zaknafein Do'Urden

* * * * *

Drizzt closed the tome and reverently placed it inside his traveling pack next to his own journal, then strapped it onto his back beneath his forest green cloak. He was just about to blow out the candle on the podium when he suddenly noticed a blur of movement out of the corner of his eye near one of the various bookshelves toward the far right of the antechamber. The ranger gazed in that direction. He wondered if it was only Jarlaxle and Gromph still moving about the place in search of rare artifacts and whatever treasure the fools believed was in here.

That possibility alone kept Drizzt's scimitars tucked in their scabbards. At least for the moment. But no sooner did he step out from behind the podium than he noticed the movement again. It appeared as though a darker shadow detached itself from the surrounding gloom and slithered a bit closer to where Drizzt now stood.

Out snapped the ranger's scimitars in one fluid motion. To his continued amazement, Twinkle did not flare its angry blue light as when enemies approached. He pondered this only for the split-second it took to glance down at the enchanted blade, which turned out to be a split-second too long. For in that same instant, a soft white glow sparked to life in the general vicinity where he had spotted the shadow. In its place stood a semi-corporeal figure from which the light emanated.

Drizzt stared at the creature in stunned silence. His mouth dropped as recognition gradually dawned. "Father?" he whispered at length.

The ghostly figure smiled as its aura strengthened about it, further revealing the proud, angular features of a drow weapon master long deceased. "We meet again, my son," Zaknafein murmured in a voice that sounded like a summer breeze blowing across a fertile valley. As the glow illuminated the entire chamber, Drizzt saw that his father sported a pair of radiant white wings attached to his shoulder blades. He wore a matching white robe with a golden band crossing down from his left shoulder to his right hip, and a sword belt strapped to his waist from which two pommels of some alien alloy protruded from the silvery scabbards. His eyes shone with a golden-red light, complementing the flowing white mane that fell down his back between the neatly folded wings.

Words were difficult to come by at that point. Drizzt tried but failed several times, swallowing hard as he looked on. He simply couldn't believe what he was seeing! It had been centuries since he'd last seen the spirit of Zaknafein, and that had been a special occasion in which the priest, Cadderly Bonaduce, had made a petition to some higher entity in order to bring him back, albeit for a very brief visit indeed.

In comparing the two time frames, Drizzt was at a loss for why he was so favored now. Neither could he understand this transfigured version of that same spirit. His facial expression revealed his confusion.

The spirit smiled again, a sight that slowly became infectious. "I have been... promoted, you might say," Zaknafein offered in response to the unspoken question. "It seems that you and I are more akin than either of us ever realized. For a certain deity of yours has chosen me, just as she chose you. This is the reward for remaining true to my own heart while I yet lived."

Drizzt arched a slender white brow at that. "You have met Mielikki?" he rasped.

"I have." The contented spirit surveyed the drow ranger, apparently noticing the straps of Drizzt's traveling pack for the first time. "You have found my journal, I see. Good. I am glad that you believed in the vision I sent you, and that you had the courage to return to your homeland to obtain it. You have done well, my son."

That said, the radiant weapon master extended a glowing hand as he seemed to glide across the stone floor. "Come with me," he resonated. "I will take you to places that no drow has so much as dreamed even exist. The Higher Planes are not for mortals, so you can only skim the atmosphere with me for but a brief time, as mortals reckon, but when I return you to the Material Plane it will have been seven years since your feet were on solid ground.

"But fear not," Zak continued. He nodded and tilted his head to one side as Drizzt clasped his wrist. "I have been granted this visitation with the understanding that there will be many more in the times to come, before you too must cross over and become as I am."

Without another word, the light of Zaknafein's aura exploded into such brilliance as to become all-encompassing. There came a rush of wind over Drizzt's keen ears, and the whispering music of many voices in a strange language that he had never heard before. The light intensified but no longer stung the ranger's eyes. Soon the two of them vanished from the Archives of the Academy, flashing through space and time toward the Great Beyond. Drizzt did not notice, but he too was no longer a physical being. The ties to mortality had been temporarily cut, so that father and son could enjoy the full experience of the glorious vistas of the Higher Planes for the first, but certainly not the last, time.

Together.

THE END