Author's Note: I wanted to tackle the problem of RotP eventually, but I wanted to wait long enough until I could come up with a solution that fully satisfied me. Now that I've thought of it, I wrote a short-short story. Notions of how to solve the problem of how RotP tore apart Jarlaxle and Artemis are out there, and while they're good, they didn't cause full satisfaction in me.


As improbable as it seemed, it all worked out for the best. The pain still flared up, as old pains were wont to do, but past remained the past, and the present…

Artemis Entreri looked down at his desk to find he was tracing circles over the grain with his fingers. He took a sip of his lukewarm coffee. His office in The Copper Ante was spare, but comfortable. The office of an ordinary spy. That is, an ordinary high-ranking spy in a guild where one was required to write such things as reports.

When Dwahvel told him of that duty, he'd first assumed she merely wanted to see more of his handwriting. The influence of Jarlaxle never wore off.

He didn't speak to Jarlaxle for the first ten years he came back to Calimport. For three of those years, Jarlaxle hadn't attempted to speak to him.

Then one day he found a note on his desk. He still remembered it perfectly. It was as good as if a mage rendered an illusion of it on his desk at this very moment. A piece of vellum folded in half, measuring eight inches by eleven inches. The writing was slanted cursive done with a quill pen with a faulty nib. There were spatters at the tail end of every 's' and the beginning of every 'l' where Jarlaxle pressed too hard. It had smelled pungent, like mold.

And when he read it, he'd been tempted to burn it just so Jarlaxle never guessed how deeply it had affected him. Artemis Entreri closed his eyes. He could remember every word. It lay in his desk drawer, secured behind several traps and locks, but he didn't have to take it out and look at it.

My dear, dear friend,

It has been three long years since I broke your heart. The fault is mine. You were not ready for the flute, and if I had been paying attention I would have seen; but I was too busy assuaging my own insecurities, proving to myself after failing with the shard that I could do everything by myself, that I could be the master of everything, everyone. I hurt you badly, and I am sorry. There is nothing I can say that can make your mourning bearable. I tried to save Calihye, but she died, after all the magic in the world. She didn't want to live, didn't want to be in this world anymore. Kimmuriel saved her body, but her heart was ruined. I have nothing to show for anything. Please forgive me.

Yours,

Jarlaxle

He wept when he finished the letter, for over an hour before Dwahvel found him. He'd been sure Jarlaxle was watching him somehow, and he still wept. Each tear was slow and painful, as if it were the first he had ever shed. The letter explained everything. How the mercenary withdrew, the unstable, foolhardy plans. Artemis Entreri thought he had hardened his heart against Jarlaxle, made himself an impenetrable fortress, and yet, all it took was this one letter. But it was the right letter.

Artemis ran his hand over the front of the desk drawer. He saved it for a reason. It was proof. Proof the mercenary named Jarlaxle had a heart.

Kimmuriel appeared in the room the week after he found the letter. The psionicist only said one thing: "He wishes to know if you will speak to him."

He'd replied: "Tell him…I will."

And Jarlaxle came, the most somber he'd ever seen the mercenary. Jarlaxle stood just inside his doorway and said, "Normally I do not come crawling back to my allies, hands full of apologies…but humans have taught me friendship."

He said, "Hello."

There was no yelling, no screaming. Jarlaxle pulled up a plain chair to the desk and sat across from him. They talked in low voices, never smiling.

"I need you. Please say you'll forgive me."

"I do."

Jarlaxle blinked, shocked. "You what?"

"I forgive you," Artemis said. "I shouldn't, but I do; because you're my friend."

Jarlaxle's voice was barely audible. "I am?"

"You are," Artemis said. He looked straight into the eye that wasn't covered up by an eye patch. "You are my friend."

Jarlaxle's mask of frightened calm crumbled, and he cried. Both fists clenched, resting on the edge of Artemis' desk, he cried. Big tears welled up and dropped down his cheeks, and he didn't try to stop them. "No one understands me like you do. Kimmuriel thinks I am a fool. When I went back, everything seemed so changed I thought I would die of loneliness. Only you would understand, and not hate me for what I am."

"A drow?" Entreri was thinking of Drizzt.

"A mercenary," Jarlaxle said.

All thoughts of Drizzt vanished. "I don't hate you for being a mercenary," Artemis said. "Mercenaries don't have to kill, if they don't want to."

"I knew you would understand," Jarlaxle said.

As improbable as it seemed, after that day, everything was alright.

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