This contains SPOILERS for The Ghost King, so for those of you that have not read the book and don't want it to be spoiled, I would advise you to not read this.

Disclaimer: Legend of Drizzt and all associated trilogies, short stories, characters, etc, belong to R.A. Salvatore.

He felt each moment pass, keenly, as if each elapsing second was a red-hot blade cutting deep and burning scores into his skin, marking him, one by one, with the scars of their silent passage. Each scar was a tally, marking every moment of his suffering; every moment he was forced to live without her.

A deep and profound despair had settled into his bones over the last few months, cold, and Drizzt felt as if he was reliving the first winter he had spent on the surface – frozen, confused, and barely surviving. He found rising at dawn every morning to watch the birth of a new day difficult, and he wondered, not for the first time, whether it even mattered anymore. He felt no joy from it anymore; not like he used to, when he used to spend these precious moments with his wife. It was over-bearing. For forty years he had watched her grow from a young and raucous, sassy girl with a thick Dwarvish accent to a strong, beautiful and determined woman with a heart as big as the halls of their Dwarven home. And then, in the blink of an instant, Catti-brie had been taken away from him.

His throat clenched with the cold finality of it. Catti-brie and Regis were gone; bodies buried away underneath cairns and grave offerings in a room full of the bodies of so many others, somewhere in the tunnels of Mithral Hall. Suddenly, their home for all these long years had become her tomb – and he couldn't bear it.

He sighed, and blinked his eyes against the glare of the midday sun, although he was really blinking back the tears he felt prickling beneath his eyelids. He had been preparing for the eventual reality of losing her. She had been human, after all; but he hadn't been prepared to lose her so soon. Not now. Years down the road, perhaps a decade or two, but not now; not so suddenly. All the battles they had survived through, to be taken by the Spellplague without a fight.

Drizzt realized now what Jarlaxle and Cadderly had been trying to do. They hadn't wanted him to abandon all hope for his wife. No, they could never have asked that of him, but they had wanted to prepare him for the very real possibility that she would never wake up. As much as he had wanted to deny it, to call them liars and prove that they were wrong, to prove that she would wake up and return to them as she had been, he had been unable to.

That woman had been a constant in his life for more than forty years, the sun that his very world revolved around. She had been one of the very first friends he had made, besides Mooshie, after leaving the Underdark and living alone on the surface for more than seven years, too frightened to make contact with anyone. And indeed, she had been one of the few who had not been scared off by the dusty black of his skin.

Now that she was gone, he wasn't sure what he should do without her.

He sighed again, and ran his hands restlessly through his white hair. What would he do without her?

"Catti, I'm so lost without you," he whispered, his voice cracking with grief.

The drow had been thinking about many things during the passing months, particularly in these last tendays – too much thinking, he ventured, with as much of a laugh as he could muster – but, inescapably, all of his thoughts had led him to the same conclusion: the time had come for him to leave Mithral Hall, as much as it pained him to do so.

Drizzt was finally starting to understand the reason why Wulfgar had made the same decision, years ago, to leave after Delly had been killed – there had been nothing left for him except the dead, and the oppressive reminder of what once was. Now, after the loss of his own wife, Drizzt knew he felt the same way. He could no longer walk through the long and winding tunnels without feeling Catti-brie's ghost lingering at his back, couldn't stand the fact that her body, which had been so full of life and energy only mere months ago, lay cold now, still and buried, within these very walls.

And what of Bruenor? Drizzt couldn't help but feel guilty that he was leaving the Dwarven king behind; they were the only ones left, the last remaining Companions of the Hall. Did he even have the right? Drizzt had not been the only one to lose someone important to him; Bruenor had also lost a friend that day, and his only daughter. The dwarf had an obligation to this place, however; it was his home and he its king. He belonged there, despite all the tragedy.

Drizzt, who had called many places home, could only hope that Bruenor would understand his decision in time.

He stood up, trying to enjoy the warmth of the sunshine as he stretched the stiffness out of his limbs. He did not immediately regard Jarlaxle as the dark elf approached, his magical boots clicking loudly with each step across the soft grass. Although Jarlaxle made no effort to conceal himself now, Drizzt had the feeling that the mercenary had been observing him for a while.

"Where to, my friend?" Jarlaxle asked as he came to a stop, eyeing the pack that was resting on the ground by a nearby tree. He wore his wide-brimmed hat low on his head to protect his eyes from the sun that he could never quite get used to, despite all of the years he had spent adventuring on the surface.

Drizzt glanced at the drow out of the corner of his eye, catching the concerned look upon his dark-skinned face. He didn't answer for a long while. He had given much thought about his decision to leave, but hadn't really thought about where he would go – not in any conscious measure anyway. He knew that part of his decision was born out the need to get away from the cold, dark, winding tunnels and away from that little room where he knew Catti-brie was buried underneath a pile of unrelenting stones, but he also realized, suddenly, that it was also because he felt a need – a push of sorts – begging him to venture out and seek a specific place. And he knew, unmistakably, where that force was compelling him to go.

He smiled wistfully, taking in the view of the Sunbrin sparklingly brilliantly below him. For the first time in what seemed like a very long time indeed, he felt a sense of hope; a desire to live and breathe. He couldn't help but laugh.

"To Icewind Dale," he said, as he turned to face Jarlaxle, "to the place where everything began."