Author's Note: I apologize for any OOCness on Kimmuriel's or Jarlaxle's part. I tried very hard to keep them in character, however. I also assumed that everyone reading this would probably already know what they look like, so I didn't bother explaining it. Please R&R. It really helps.
Disclaimer: Everything canon belongs to R.A. Salvatore, everything else to me.
The Best Laid Plans
Nothing made Jarlaxle happier than battle plans playing out smoothly.
The heels of his boots clicking with every step he took and the bracelets on his arms jangling, the drow mercenary leader strode casually down the wide, marble-floored hallway, six soldiers at his back.
Infiltrating the High Palace crowning the city of Armadan had proved far too easy, such that no one outside its walls-and a few inside-would even notice until morning, and by then his task would be complete.
As he reached the end of the hallway, the two drow who had replaced the chamber's original guards turned and pushed the large, ornately carved gilded doors inward. Without breaking his stride, Jarlaxle entered the room, a genuine smile spreading across his face at the sight that greeted him.
This was the throne room, with floors of the same polished marble, thick tapestries adorning the walls, and the throne in the center of the floor and three steps up. His warriors had made short work of the guards stationed in here, their bodies strewn about, some unconscious, and others sleeping more permanently.
Before the throne, oblivious to the killers standing all around her and standing defiantly with her shoulders straight and chin up was the Lady Serenade, the freshly crowned queen and the one who had broken her mother's trade agreement with Triel Baenre, Bregan D'aerthe's employer this evening. Behind her, looking much more unsettled by their captors, were her ladies-in-waiting, dressed as the queen was, in nightgowns and robes.
"Your Highness," Jarlaxle greeted, stopping before her and bowing low from his waist, sweeping his great, plumed hat off.
"You must be the famed Jarlaxle," she returned, face blank of emotion.
The drow looked up from under his brows with a one-sided grin. "I see my reputation precedes me," he said as he straightened with a flourish and replaced his hat.
She smirked. "Yes, I've heard of the untrustworthy cutthroat called Jarlaxle," she replied. "Why are you here?"
"I'm sure you know the answer to that, my dear," Jarlaxle said, businesslike.
"I haven't the faintest idea," Serenade said, hostility obvious beneath her calm tone.
"Well then, allow me to enlighten you," the rogue drow said, beginning to circle to the left, gesturing broadly with his hands. "Now, you've been the ruler of this magnificent city for—I believe four tendays now?"
"Ah, three. And already you have managed to anger one of the most powerful rulers in Faerun. Do you still not know why I am here?"
She fidgeted and swallowed, unable to hold his gaze. Jarlaxle glanced to his right, where Kimmuriel Oblodra stood casually beside the throne, and exchanged a glance with his lieutenant.
"Well, perhaps your human memory needs more jogging, then. Do you remember a certain pact you broke between your city and Matron Triel Baenre?"
"My mother was wrong to make that treaty!" the words exploded out of the queen, and Jarlaxle began walking back to the right, nodding, a knowing smirk on his lips. "Dealing with dark elves brings nothing but regret, as this encounter proves. This is my reign now, and I will choose who my cities allies itself with. It is my right."
"Only as long as it does not stand between the drow and what they desire," Jarlaxle told her, his tone that of a teacher correcting a student. "I truly think you should rethink your last statement, considering my soldiers are more than eager to wreak havoc on your citizens should I merely give the word."
"What?" the queen cried, aghast. "No, they are innocent civilians, they—"
Jalaxle interrupted her. "So you would reinstate your contract with Triel Baenre?"
The queen froze, clearly torn, and the room fell silent without their conversation, the others present watching with interest.
And then the tension was torn down the center.
Jarlaxle's sharp eyes snapped to a movement emerging from the rear of the ladies-in-waiting, then a figure in a dark clothes rushed forward. The mercenary leader caught sight of a flashing knife as the unexpected, leaping defender lunged for the nearest drow, who happened to be Kimmuriel Oblodra.
The room dissolved in chaos, the human women shrieking and stumbling away, the drow soldiers coming to life and drawing blades to crush the resistance.
Had it been anyone but a drow, the victim would not have escaped unscathed. However, fast as any human may have been, a dark elf, even caught unaware, was still faster. Kimmuriel whirled, throwing up a kinetic shield that stopped the knife cold mid-swing. Relentless, the attacker drew back and spun a full circle to attack Kimmuriel from the other side. The drow stepped back, allowing himself time to whip his own blade out and parry the strike, before following with several of his own blows, driving the attacker back under his superior strength, before locking the two blades and dragging his attacker to him, his free hand finding a slender wrist and applying a bone crushing grip until the dagger dropped to the floor.
The woman writhed in his grasp, twisting and yanking, but Kimmuriel held fast as two soldiers stepped round him and seized her arms tightly. The psionicist turned to face Jarlaxle, oblivious to her struggles.
Jarlaxle chuckled, having been the only one in the room to not move, simply watching, relaxed, throughout the drama. "Well now, who is this?" he asked, strolling forward to look down at her. "She branishes a knife as if she knows how to use it. What is your name, warrioress?"
The woman's lips remained pursed, her eyes staring over his shoulder, and Jarlaxle laughed. "My, such stubborn women your city breeds, Highness. Kimmuriel?"
Knowing what he wanted, his lieutenant focused on the captive, who glared and tried to squirm away, but Kimmuriel answered Jarlaxle's question a moment later. "Nadina Namieh, Jarlaxle. Specially trained to defend the queen from those who wish to harm her."
Jarlaxle chuckled again. "A cousin to the queen! Who could waste such a jewel by training her as a killer? Surely she among the most exquisite beauties I have seen on the surface—besides yourself, of course, Highness." Jarlaxle captured her chin and turned her face to catch the light. A look that Kimmuriel did not like spread across the mercenary leader's face.
It was true, the young woman—compared to other surface females, at least—was better looking than most. She possessed dark, lustrous hair that had fallen out of the leather thong meant to keep it out of her face and tumbled across her shoulders. Her eyes were as dark as her hair and looked out of a carefully crafted face, delicate yet with a fierceness hidden behind it, above a dainty mouth with a fuller bottom lip.
Jarlaxle released her and stepped back to address the queen again. "It seems to be taking you quite a while to reach a decision, my lady. Therefore," he continued quickly, as she moved to speak, "I'm afraid I'm going to have to charge interest." He turned and grinned at the captive woman held between the two drow, and the queen started.
"What? No, you can't—"
"Can't I?" Jarlaxle challenged. "Who can destroy your city?"
The queen fell silent, her eyes seeking Nadina's.
"Accept the offer, my lady," the younger woman urged, her quiet voice carrying in the still room, returning the queen's gaze with resolve. "Better just me, than our people."
The queen shook her head helplessly, whether refusing or not accepting, the onlookers weren't sure.
"Think of it as adhering to an old custom," Jarlaxle said cheerfully. "Have not humans used marriages to seal alliances for ages?"
Serenade closed her eyes in defeat, then nodded. "I…Alright. I will reinstate the treaty with the drow."
Jarlaxle grinned. "I knew you would see the situation from my point of view." He produced a scroll and quill. "Then, Highness, if you would simply sign…? Kimmuriel? Would you be so kind as to escort our guest out of here and begin the recall?"
The drow lieutenant gave a curt nod and turned to the door, his captive attacker being herded by her guards behind him, the rest of the drow falling into line except for the six that had arrived with Jarlaxle.
The last thing Nadina saw was the queen's distressed face growing smaller behind her and Jarlaxle's leering grin beneath it.
Nadina jerked awake with a gasp, bolting upright. Panting, her wide eyes searched the gloom, confused, until she remembered the events in the throne room.
Oh. It hadn't been a nightmare.
With a moan, she glanced nervously around the small room, almost feeling that unbroken stone walls closing in on her, suffocating her. Wrenching her mind away from such thoughts with her teeth gritted, Nadina forced her attention elsewhere.
Her heartbeat finally began to slow. She was lying on her back—now propped up on her elbows—in a simple bed. The stone walls were empty, the only light spilling from a single candle left on the table to the right of the bed which was barely bright enough to light the farthest corners of the room. Also to her right was the door. As her eyes settled on the only break in the seamless gray of the walls, the portal swung inward, opening to reveal two drow faces, only their white hair and a vague outline of their lithe bodies visible in the scant light.
The human sat up completely, instantly wary, swinging her legs over one side of the bed as both soldiers started towards her. She swallowed but attempted to keep the anxiety and fear she felt building in her chest off her face. Without speaking, each elf grabbed an arm with one hand and dragged her to her feet, starting towards the door before she could get her legs under her properly, leaving her scrambling to keep up.
The corridor they led her down was even darker than the room, with nothing lighting it, and she was completely dependent on the drow to guide her. That didn't stop her from struggling every few steps, however, trying in vain to wrench her arms out of their iron grip. Even if she could free herself, she doubted she would make it far in the dark, but even that small victory would give her a chance in the future.
"Why did you bring the human woman with us?"
Jarlaxle turned from depositing his cloak over the back of a chair to glance at Kimmuriel, debating how to answer him. "She has obvious fighting skills," the mercenary leader finally replied, looking back at the table.
"So you mean to bring her into our ranks?" It won't be the first time Jarlaxle had invited a human to join them, but not a female.
"Do you truly mean to marry her?" His lieutenant's voice was slightly strained. The idea of being bound to a human repulsed him, but Jarlaxle was known for having unique and different tastes. Jarlaxle grinned, his face hidden.
"Oh, she's not for me, Kimmuriel," he answered slyly. He could sense his lieutenant's unease at that statement, and turned around, despite his cat-like grin, wishing to see Kimmuriel's face with his own eyes. "I myself am too easily bored to stay with one partner for too long, if you catch my meaning. And, busy as I am managing our affairs, I hardly have the time to deal with an unwilling human," Jarlaxle began melodramatically. "This tender surface creature we've dragged into the bowels of the earth needs someone a bit steadier to keep an eye on her and guard her. And teach her the ways of the drow...something you have plenty of experience in. "
Kimmuriel schooled his face blank, oblivious to the innuendo, but Jarlaxle still saw the dread growing inside him. "But, of course," the mercenary leader continued nonchalantly, "I can't just give her to any common soldier. Hence…the human is yours. After all, she seemed so taken with you back in the throne room. Practically threw herself at you." He laughed at his own joke.
Kimmuriel was not amused. "Jarlaxle, I have neither desire nor need for her."
"Don't you? How long has it been since you last saw a female privately, Kimmuriel?"
His lieutenant ignored the question, knowing Jarlaxle knew the answer. "She's a human, Jarlaxle, ibilith. Doesn't even look like us."
"That can be fixed," the other drow said, holding up a finger to forestall anymore arguments. "And here she is now," he added more loudly, looking towards the door at the other end of the room, and Kimmuriel turned to see the human thrown into the room by her escorts, who immediately released her and stepped back out of the room, leaving her shoving on the door.
"Do join us, Nadina," Jarlaxle called, beckoning with a hand. The woman glanced at the door, then started towards them with trepidation.
Because of the candle on the table, Nadina was able to see the two drow as she moved across the room, albeit barely. She sent a hardened look in Jarlaxle's direction, and he merely grinned.
"Don't look so upset to see me, my dear," the mercenary leader said, taking her chin gently. "It's unbecoming on your pretty face. Besides, you yourself chose to come here with us to save your people. Rather a brave thing to do. Or naive, depending on your point of view."
"Just get it over with," she demanded hostilely. "What do you want me to do?"
Jarlaxle released his hold. "I used the word 'marry' because that is what you and your queen were familiar with, but we drow have no such practice. Still, you are not to be passed around my soldiers. My travels have brought me into contact with many different sorts of magic, so we can replicate such a bond here." He retrieved something from the table and turned back to her, holding a goblet in one hand, which he made a show of presenting to her. "Drink it all, if you please."
She took the goblet carefully, holding it delicately, as if it would break, sniffing the dark liquid. "What is it?"
"It will allow you to see using infrared vision, as we do," Jarlaxle answered patiently. "You will hardly be useful if you cannot see what you are doing." Throwing him a warily glance, unsure if that line contained any innuendo, Nadina looked into the goblet again. He could be lying to her, but being able to see in the dark would certainly assist in her escape. Deciding that since he had gone to such great lengths to drag her down here it would be illogical for him to give her something deadly, the human emptied the contents of the goblet, forcing herself to swallow before handing it back to the drow, who simply produced another. "Now this one."
Nadina took the goblet. "What's this one do?" she demanded, annoyed.
Jarlaxle caught a strand of her hair, though she immediately jerked away. "White skin and dark hair simply isn't as attractive as dark skin and white hair," he explained bluntly. "Drink it."
She thrust the goblet back into his hands, turning to run, but Kimmuriel reacted instantly, catching hold of her arm and pulling her back to face the other drow. "No!"
Jarlaxle caught the goblet and glanced at his lieutenant. "Thank you, Kimmuriel. Now, Nadina. I give you one last chance to retain your dignity and drink this yourself. If not," he nodded to Kimmuriel, "we tip your head back and shove it down your throat. Your choice."
Nadina swallowed, glancing at the goblet Jarlaxle offered, trying to make herself reach for it. The thought of her white skin turning black sickened her. It would be as if she was becoming one of them, corrupt and twisted. She shook her head hopelessly. Jarlaxle glanced at Kimmuriel and gave a subtle nod.
The other drow had no desire to be close to her, but he didn't let that show as he dragged her strangely limp form back against himself. It was impossible to talk Jarlaxle out of one of his schemes once they got into his head, so he might as well get used to being around her. Besides, humans lived much shorter lives than drow, and Jarlaxle was correct in saying that he had not coupled with a woman recently. Perhaps, with her skin a different color, however…
He pulled his attention back to the task at hand and crossed one arm in front of her torso, his other hand landing on her forehead and pulling her head back, so the he saw her dark eyes looking up at him before she closed them.
"You'll still be human," Jarlaxle soothed, taking hold of her chin again, pulling her mouth open and pouring the contents into her mouth, his hand clamping over her nose and mouth until she swallowed. "There, that wasn't so bad, was it?" he asked, stepping back to set the second goblet beside the first. Kimmuriel stepped back as well, and she lifted a hand to wipe her mouth, bowing her head.
"Now then," Jarlaxle continued as if nothing had happened, turning back to face them, a thin silken silver cord held lightly in his hands. "We have one last task. Your hand, please, Nadina."
The human thrust her left hand at him, turning her face away and closing her eyes again, letting Jarlaxle lead her to the table and press her palm down against its surface.
Nadina numbly registered that this was the first time she had heard the other drow's name. She didn't move or open her eyes as she felt him come to stand behind her again, laying his hand over hers. It didn't matter which one of them she was bound to, they were still drow. She felt the string Jarlaxle had been holding draw tight around her ring finger twice. With a quick incantation, Jarlaxle tapped it, and the string sank into their fingers and disappeared, leaving only smooth white lines on the skin.
Kimmuriel removed his hand, and his warmth left her back. Nadina opened her eyes then, forced to blink back tears, to her anger and shame. She clenched her hands into fists, oblivious to Jarlaxle's chuckle. She was aware of him blowing out the candle, then her head swam and her knees buckled.
Jarlaxle caught the human as she fell unconscious suddenly, his potions finally taking affect. "Excellent timing," he commented to Kimmuriel. "Now you can take her securely to your rooms without the threat of her attempting to escape. Congratulations, old friend."
The other drow made no acknowledgement, but he stepped forward and easily gathered the slender form in his arms, an arm behind her back and one under her legs. He paused only long enough to throw Jarlaxle an unhappy look, then he turned and carried her out the door.
Jarlaxle grinned broadly as the door shut behind his lieutenant, pleased with the circumstances. Nothing made Jarlaxle happier than causing chaos.