Chapter Four: Fatal Flaws

The Autumn mist lifted from the Blue Mountains, smoke rose from a small hut, fashioned from boulders and thatched with straw. From inside the hut, Drizzt Do'Urden shook twelve year old Estel, who was fast asleep in a crudely fashioned wooden bed.

"Wake up." The drow said calmly. "The sun rises and we have much to do this day."

"Five more minutes…" Estel said, turning over in his bed, pulling the pillow up and over his head. Five minutes later, Drizzt returned. "Estel." He said. "It's time to awaken."

The boy did not move, save for a small mumble.

"Come on." Drizzt said. "Get up."

"Leave me alone!" Estel yelled and turned over in his bed. The drow yanked off the covers and snatched the pillow from atop the young boy's head. "You asked for five more minutes and I granted that. Now arise." The Dark Elf shook Esyel's shoulder.

"Stop telling me what to do!" The boy shrieked and swatted at Drizzt's hand to knock it away. The drow grabbed the boy's hand and lifted him out of the bed.

"It is time to get up." He said.

"Fine!" Estel huffed and grabbed his tunic from the floor, pulling it down over his head. He smoothed his tousled dark brown hair, pulled on his boots and stomped out the front door, slamming it in Drizzt's face. The drow stopped in front of the door and closed his eyes, letting out a long sigh.

"You are trying much too hard." Thalion said as he plopped some peeled potatoes into the pot that was boiling on the hearth in the cottage.

"His attitude leaves much to be desired of late. I do not understand." Drizzt said.

"He is a human boy, nearing his thirteenth year." Thalion said. "He is reaching adulthood these random changes in temperament are to be expected."

"Perhaps I have failed somehow in raising him these ten years." Drizzt said.

"You ponder far too often and far too deeply, Drizzt Do'Urden." Thalion stated simply.

"It is not a matter in which you need to be concerned, Thalion Luva." Drizzt said darkly and walked out of the cottage and into the glade. Thalion shook his head and continued preparing breakfast. Out in the glade, Estel stood with his hands crossed in front of him, glowering at the Dark Elf as he stepped out into the morning light. Drizzt picked up two sticks and tossed one at Estel, Estel moved to the side, letting the stick tumble passed him.

"Pick it up, we must train." Drizzt said.

"No." Estel responded. "I have no wish to practice in swordsmanship today."

"Why not?" Drizzt asked.

"I also do not wish to talk about it." The human said, turning his nose in the air.

Drizzt walked over to the boy and pointed at the stick on the ground with the one in his hand. "Pick it up, now." He said.

"You cannot tell me what to do." Estel said.

Thwack! Drizzt hit the boy on the hand with the tip of his stick.

"Ow!" Estel said, pulling his arm in sharply to his chest and nursing the bruised fingers with his other hand.

"Pick up your sword! I am your enemy! I will not wait for you!!" The drow barked.

"I do not have to!" The young boy shouted back.

Thwack! Krrrak! Whump! Drizzt whirled the stick around, hitting Estel in the hip, the shoulder and finally behind the knees. The boy flipped over and fell on his bottom. Thalion came out of the stone hut after hearing Drizzt barking orders.

"Stand up!" The drow yelled, inches from Estel's face.

"Stop it!" The boy yelled back.

"On your feet!" Drizzt said, grabbing the child by the collar of his tunic and easily lifting him. "Your sword! Grab it! Quickly!" Drizzt said. Estel stumbled back and picked up the stick, Drizzt came in low first, then high, Estel blocked them booth, then up shoot Drizzt's foot, hitting the child square in the chest.

"Ooofff!" The boy said, the wind knocked from him.

"Enough!" Thalion said, running to them.

"The enemy will use anything to win!" Drizzt said, raising his stick high. The Moriquendi caught it in his hand, stopping the drow from swinging it down upon the boy.

"Enough I say!" Thalion roared, the blade of his curved sword resting against Drizzt's dark throat. Estel looked up at the two elves, tears filling his eyes.

"I HATE YOU!!" He yelled at the Dark Elf and stood and ran, sobbing, out of the glade and into the forest at the feet of the mountains. Drizzt stared after the little boy, dropping his stick and collapsing to the earth.

"What have I done?" He said, staring after the boy in disbelief. Thalion ran after the future king, leaving Drizzt alone to ponder his mistake. All this time, in all of his years on the surface, Drizzt had thought himself a good and kindly being, striving in all of his dealings to be the very best and taking the best possible course of action at all times. Had he made a mistake somewhere along the way? Had he missed something important? In this he could not be for certain. Thalion found Estel partly up a nearby pass, staring blankly at the crumbled head of a statue of an old and forgotten Numenorian king.

"These statues litter the land." The boy said. "These decaying memoirs of the old kingdoms of Men."

"They are reminders." Thalion said. "Of all that you can be gained and all that can be lost." Thalion looked Estel over, checking him for injury. "Are you hurt?" He asked. The boy shook his head. "No, I'm alright." He said. "He held back…but, he just…pushes me so far."

"He is only trying to do that which is best for you." The Elf said, his blue eyes gleaming at the human. "I know. But sometimes…" The little boy reached out with his hand, feeling over the crumbling features of the forgotten king. "Sometimes I just want to run and laugh, without worry of how powerful my downswing is or how true my arrow flies. I love these mountains and its streams and caves. I love its many animals and its secrets."

"Ah." Said Thalion chuckling. "You just want to play once in awhile, is that it?"

Estel nodded. "But he won't let me."

"Drizzt loves you." The son of Elrond said, patting the boy on the shoulder. "He loves you as his own son, more than anyone or anything on this green earth." Thalion walked to a sprinkling of flowers and lucked one, then moved to the stone head and dropped it, the blossom floating softly, until it rested on the ancient king's forehead.

"He wants to make certain that you are strong and forthright, that you do not crumble under the pressure and strain of your life." Thalion turned to the boy. "Now, let us return and see him." Estel smiled and nodded at the elf. "Alright." He said.

Drizzt stood and walked slowly back to the cottage where he gathered up his scimitars and his cloak, then he set off to the south, alone again.

'I am incapable of this.' Drizzt thought. 'My raising him is flawed.' The drow journeyed onward, unaware of the great evil that had been watching him, Thalion and Estel over the past weeks. Hiding in the shadows, waiting for the exact time to strike, and the time now was perfect.

Thalion and Estel returned to the stone shack. "Drizzt?" Estel called. "I'm sorry. I didn't meant to get upset! Hello?" The little boy looked all around in the cottage, outside in the barnyard, through the vegetable garden, in the orchard and the glade. "I don't hate you!" He called. "Please, come out!" The boy ran to Thalion, who also had been searching for the drow. "I can't find him!" He said.

The Elf closed his eyes, saddened. "He has gone." He said.

"Gone?" The boy asked, the tears returning. "Why? For how long?"

"He gave up." Thalion said quietly.

The little boy cried, leaning in and hiding his head tightly against the Elf's crimson cloak. Thalion sighed and held Estel in his arms. "I'm sorry." He said.

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Drizzt moved slowly down the road of Forlindon, beyond the Blue Mountains and across the River of Lhun. He wore his cowl low over his face and spoke to no one as he walked endlessly down the road, with no destination and no purpose.

'What is wrong with me?' He asked himself over and over again.

'Everything.' His scimitars responded. 'Your hall rests atop a broken foundation.'

But what did that mean? Ahead, Drizzt saw an old man moving toward him in dark robes, with a mule stubbornly being drawn behind him.

"Gandalf." Drizzt said. Just whom he wished to see, he knew with all that was going on, Gandalf the Grey would have the answers. Drizzt picked up his feet and ran to the wizard who had his back turned to him.

"Come on, you stupid old goat!" The old wizard muttered.

"Gandalf!" Drizzt called again excitedly.

"Gandalf?" The old wizard said, turning around. He wore dark brown robes and had a long bushy black beard and hair so thick that all you could see poking from them was a huge bent nose and two tiny green eyes.

"No, I am not Gandalf." The old man said. "I am Lomion, Son of the Twilight and I've come to help you, Drizzt Do'Urden."

"Well met, Lomion." Drizzt bowed. Then, the drow noticed an odd thing. Blood dripped down from the mules mouth and slobbered on the dirt path. He looked up at its eyes and saw that they were white and lifeless. The drow drew his scimitars, but Lomion was faster and was against the drow in the time of a lightning strike, a dark and rusted blade plunged deep into the dark Ranger's liver. Drizzt groaned, his black blood coughing up from his mouth.

"Long have I hunted you." Lomion said. "Yearned for this day." The brown wizard whispered, his old features melting and his cloaking dripping away like hot wax. They formed into a drow and Drizzt stared at him helplessly and disbelief.

"And now, you die." Maeglin hissed and pulled the weathered blade from Drizzt's belly, spraying his black blood in dripping half circles across the road.

"The boy's death will not be so sudden, know that as you fade here." Maeglin laughed as the drow Ranger fell to his knees, his life fading from him. A host of goblins exploded from the mule's belly like worms from a rotten fruit and the evil drow and his infantry marched onward, to Thalion and the king of men, to certain dismal victory. Drizzt collapsed onto his back.

'I am dying.' He thought. 'Countless times before have I been upon death's threshold…soon, I will again be with you…Catti-Brie…' Drizzt closed his eyes, letting out a long breath.

"So that is it then. It is finished?" Gandalf's wise low voice filled Drizzt's ears. Then he saw him in his mind, staring at him with sadness and disappointment and he also saw Thalion and Estel riding swiftly from a host of Orc, Trolls and Goblins, with that evil drow leading the charge. They launched their javelins, piercing Thalion's mount and slaying the Elf, then they were upon the little boy and…Drizzt's eyes shot open.

"No!" He said. "I cannot fall! Not yet!" And he tried to stand, but his strength had left him, he tried crawling but only moved a few excruciating feet, the hole in his side burning him, sending his whole body into horrible reeling pain. His heart filled with fear and panic and beat rapidly. 'I cannot die!' He thought and reached out, toward the blue Mountains that stretched like a floating grey bar on the distant horizon. Then all went black, and he knew the world no more.

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