Author's Note: I hit a very big writer's block with this chapter, which is a crummy excuse for how long it's been since I updated. I sincerely apologize for that. *hides deep underground with a drow plushie to wait for the angry mob to leave* Anyway, to gain inspiration I read through the reviews and the story again (spelling errors and inconsistencies, oh my! I apologize. I swear, I did proof read it before I posted it).
Thank you again to all of my reviewers, you guys definitely provided the push to keep me writing this!
Disclaimer: The only thing of my own creation is my character Nadina Nemiah. Everything else belongs to R.A. Salvatore.
The last of the days before Jarlaxle and the rest of Bregan D'aerthe returned were far too short, in Nadina's opinion. With so many of the band's resident drow gone, Kimmuriel apparently felt it was safe for her to accompany him, and she reveled in the new found freedom. She imagined she was actually beginning to learn her way around the tunnels of the mercenaries' keep. The work wasn't too different than what she had done when in the Queen's employ: though organizing the storerooms and sorting the countless other items and chests that Kimmuriel found for them to document and put in the proper places were menial tasks at best, it was something she could do, something she was good at, and Nadina had always taken pride in a job well done.
Besides, it was a distraction, not only staving off boredom but any more thoughts of the future or her present situation. She had stopped resisting his use of psionics to send her to sleep, glad for to be able to forget her fears for at least some time. To her joy, she was learning bits of the drow language through their work: not much, certainly not enough to speak it at all, but marking items on lists required knowledge of numbers and the name of item in question, and she nearly absorbed the knowledge, always having hard a penchant for learning new things, though she did not want to ask questions of Kimmuriel beyond the necessary ones.
For Kimmuriel, Jarlaxle could not return quickly enough. He was hardly worried that the mission had gone awry; he was absolutely confident the band would be successful and knew they would return accordingly. Instead, his desire for a swift return was rooted in the fact that though he was quite certain he was much more organized and adept at these things than Jarlaxle, he did not want to command the mercenary band. It took up much of his time during the day, leaving precious little for his own research and personal work.
And the sooner the leader returned, the less time he would be spending in Nadina's presence, and the more he would have duties to distract himself. Running Bregan D'aerthe was a routine, one he settled into, and it wasn't enough to keep his incredibly powerful mind occupied. Dealing with Jarlaxle was, however. He frowned at the revelation that he was slightly disappointed for her to be away from him, even though continually setting her to new tasks interrupted his own concentration.
After their surprisingly intimate past few encounters, both of them had backed off slightly. If Kimmuriel was truthful with himself, it was because she was a puzzle to him that had so far eluded solving, something that had not happened in quite some time in his life, and he did not like how it upset his balance. Nadina's distance was out of uncertainty as to where she stood with the drow and, frankly, fear. She was still adjusting to life in the Underdark, trying to wrap her mind around how brutal the drow culture was. She had, of course, heard stories, but with her young age and untraveled eyes, she was rather naïve about the world, she had to admit to herself.
And Kimmuriel's acknowledgement that she did not like having her thoughts read, and the fact that he had stopped when she asked him to—well she hadn't, but he'd seen it in her mind and reacted to it anyway—had well and truly confused her. She clearly remembered that when she first woke in his quarters he had done as he pleased with no thought as to her feelings on the matter.
Furthermore, she found herself remembering the warmth of his hand on hers as he studied the white lines on her finger, and to her shame she found she wanted to feel it again. Nadina firmly reminded herself that he was a drow, a cruel, cold killer, and told herself she only had these thoughts because she was alone down here, and he was her only hope for contact, physical or otherwise. She found herself torn between fear of what he could do to her and not desiring to be alone. She tried hard not to let these thoughts surface, but from time to time—watching him deftly flip through a crate counting items, or searching for something on his desk, or walking away—her thoughts were involuntarily drawn back to those moments. She quickly quashed them, not wanting him to hear, but controlling her thoughts was a very exhausting process.
Traveling was one more thing she regretted about leaving the surface; even though she and Serenade had long known that with one having to rule a people and one sworn to protect her, there would not be a lot of travel in their lives, they had always dreamt of it. Still, now that the option was well and truly out of reach, she found she had been very interested in her land, if she had never had a chance to see it. Ultimately, she was left wanting to ask the psion questions, but afraid of what the consequences might be.
So the last few days before Jarlaxle's return were largely incident free.
Nadina had known the date when he was supposed to return, but she was still unprepared for the suddenness with which they dropped back into their former routine.
Instead of waking her when he woke, Kimmuriel woke her almost as an afterthought as he hurried out the door to make sure everything was in order before the other drow returned. She barely sat up and got a glimpse of him before the door was shut and locked, and she found herself alone in the dark again.
After being out, active, and working, the shock was almost as great as when she had first arrived. Still, she quickly shook it off and accepted the inevitable. Dwelling on it wasn't a place she wanted to go, and so she once again began pouring through the many tomes and books that lined shelves in Kimmuriel's room.
For the first time, she paused to consider that. It certainly spoke volumes about the drow. He was clearly very interested in a multitude of subjects, since the books covered a wide range. She wondered, with a start, just how old he was. He certainly didn't look old, she noted as she recalled his toned muscles with a blush, sobering again quickly. There were subjects here—some anatomical, some about different spells, or relating to his psionic powers, or about several different cultures, or weapon making—that would have taken many people she knew, herself included, a full lifetime to master. At least, a human lifetime. Admittedly, she knew very little about the lives of drow. She was already aware he was very intelligent. Nadina recognized that she had seen the books and not even recognized them as out of place, accustomed to seeing them someone's dwelling. Now she realized that any murmurs of drow she had heard only concerned brutality and violence. Never had she thought of them as scholars, yet the tomes filling the shelves in Kimmuriel's room certainly implied that he was one.
She found she had a new respect for him, for being so disciplined to learn so much, to study many topics in depth—and found herself a bit lacking by comparison. If he was really as clever and quick as the many books suggested, how could she even hope to hold any sort of conversation he would find interesting with him? Her only training had been the skills required as the queen's bodyguard, to be her closest friend, yet an invisible protector, to act like a lady while always watching for an enemy. No one suspected the maid as being a threat. She had some weapons training, but only with daggers or short swords, things that could be hidden on her person.
It was indeed a miracle the drow had put up with her as he had, as Jarlaxle had told her the last time they talked. She sat on the chair at the desk and simply stared at the books, now recognizing that something she had first overlooked probably represented Kimmuriel's life time. A part of her had hoped, over the last few days of working together, that they would find some sort of common ground, and he a use for her besides her body. Because even though he had yet to make any approach to her in that regard, she felt certain that was exactly what Jarlaxle had hoped he would do with her, and if he had lived so many years with needing any help, what other use would he have for her?
These thoughts unfortunately launched her into another round of depression, but when she felt tears burning her eyes her anger at herself cast them off and filled her with a determination, and she pulled out the tome she had found before and clean parchment and began to try to piece together the drow language with the bits she had picked up since last sitting down to this task.
The mercenary's settlement was buzzing with activity as those who had been gone returned. Only a small fighting force, just enough to guard the easily defensible stronghold, had been left behind, but nobody missed Jarlaxle's return. Something about the vibrantly dressed drow brought life and movement into the gloomy caverns of the Underdark, somehow more than the horde of returning drow did.
Kimmuriel was in the thick of the action, ensuring that his newly organized storerooms did not get turned inside out before a day passed, collecting information to file away in reports meant to track the company's incomes (something Jarlaxle dismissed and Kimmuriel thought they literally could not afford to), making notes of new things they would have to acquire, and generally being busy. Several times, Kimmuriel found himself waiting for Nadina to hand him something he had just set down and needed again, or to ask her to fetch something, only to remember that he had left her behind. It was a strange thing, to realize he'd accepted and grown accustomed to her presence in so short a time, and that he now missed that presence, however slightly, if only because she was very helpful.
Jarlaxle himself was in high spirits, fairly dancing around and speaking to anyone who would listen to him, and other things incomprehensible to Kimmuriel, and hence they were nearly alone before the lieutenant and leader finally came face to face. The leader immediately stopped and studied his lieutenant, quite eager to see if he had finally bedded the woman. Kimmuriel merely met his glance with a face that said nothing, waiting for him to give an order or inquire about business in his absence, and in general was his usual uptight self, and the other drow was forced to the conclusion that no, Kimmuriel had not in fact sampled her completely yet.
With a loud sigh he propped a fist on one hip. Oddly though, despite enjoying that pose, Jarlaxle never seemed feminine, Kimmuriel noted, not for the first time. Several instances of Nadina in that pose flitted through his mind and were squashed firmly before they were accompanied by the flash of heat they had initially brought him. He didn't need Jarlaxle picking up on that.
"Have you still not gotten under her clothes?" the mercenary leader asked, feigning exasperation.
Kimmuriel was mildly annoyed that the other drow would unfailing plunge straight into the subject that he was trying to avoid, wondering if the other didn't have some psionic powers of his own. But letting Jarlaxle know that would lead to many other annoyances. Fortunately he had ample practice keeping his face blank. He knew that Jarlaxle was more stating it than asking, and so he didn't even move to respond.
Not that Jarlaxle let him, already forging ahead. "She is still alive, isn't she?" Jarlaxe asked next, seemingly not interested in changing the subject.
"Of course she is," he responded as they began to walk back to Jarlaxle's throne room, Kimmuriel with an armful of notes to record properly.
"Oh good. That would be a shame. She'll be useful yet." The jaunty mercenary seemed very pleased about this, and Kimmuriel wisely kept silent though he was deathly curious, knowing questions were not the way to get information out of Jarlaxle, wishing not for the first time that he could read the others' mind. Did Jarlaxle actually have a plan for the human he'd thrown at his lieutenant? It wouldn't be the first time something Kimmuriel had taken as a spontaneous action would prove to be an important piece in some plan, but he had seriously begun to doubt that Jarlaxle had done it for any reason other than to torment him—he wouldn't put it above him. But a small, unexplainable sense of apprehension also flitted through his mind. Just what did Jarlaxle have planned for Nadina?
The mercenaries had settled back into their comfortable lives, as they always did after a job was finished, training and keeping themselves busy until Jarlaxle lined up another opportunity for them. A few days after their return Kimmuriel had relented and taken Nadina with him again, generally when he was on petty errands in which an extra pair of hands to carry things was helpful or when he could get her to sort something and spare him the waste of time. After seeing her work in the storerooms he trusted her to properly sort things if he only told her how he wanted them, something he had never done with another member of Bregan D'aerthe. It disturbed him in the back of his mind that he trusted her so quickly, but he cast the thought aside. He was using a tool, that was all.
After only a day spent in his company, Nadina noticed he had changed since Jarlaxle had returned. She didn't know if he was trying to be more distant or if it was indeed related to the mercenary leader's presence. The psion was more reserved, if that were even possible. She rarely found herself completely alone with him unless in his quarters, and even when they were, there was physical distance between them, and he never tried anything. Part of her was greatly relieved by this, but another was disappointed. Like it or not, Kimmuriel was her only source of any sort of companionship or conversation.
She was still left alone in his quarters some days, but she had hesitantly asked him about something to help her learn to read the drow language, and to her surprise he had easily supplied her with a book which dealt with translations. Her boredom was no longer a threat, but she definitely preferred being in his presence to being left alone, risky or not. Nadina had been surrounded by people all her life. Solitude was not something she had ever had to deal with. In fact her career was intended to be spent nearly entirely in the queen's presence. She knew nothing else to do except ignore the creeping sensation of isolation.
Kimmuriel was not ignorant of her feelings, being privy to her thoughts. But he had never had another living creature in his care before, and many of her wishes were foreign to him. He briefly asked himself why he should care, and decided that if she did indeed feature in Jarlaxle's plans, it would be best to keep her healthy. Then he sighed quietly and admitted to himself that ibilith or not, he unaccountably liked the human.
Kimmuriel needed to go into Menzoberranzan. There were items in the markets there that he needed for his personal projects, and a few orders he needed to place on behalf of the mercenary band.
In fact, he had needed to go for a while now, but he had kept putting it off, always finding something more pressing to do, until it simply couldn't wait anymore. Jarlaxle did not heckle him to get it done only because the leader rarely roused himself to check on such things—that was precisely why he had lieutenants, after all. If Kimmuriel did not do it, he doubted it would ever get done.
The decision to take Nadina with him had warred in the back of his mind while he worked for the last few days. If he were honest with himself, he would admit to not being sure she would be safe if left behind; needless to say, who else would take care of her? It was bad enough that she had access to his personal effects; he did not want another drow in his quarters.
In truth, he could use her help; going into Menzoberranzan was never something safe, and he tried not to draw attention to himself by carrying large amounts of things. She could assist him in that, and with her new drow features, she would blend in, provided she wore drow clothes instead of her human ones. Having a supposedly drow female with him might actually be a boon. But Menzoberranzan was indeed dangerous. Nothing Kimmuriel could not handle, with psionic powers that allowed him to hear an attacker's thoughts before they acted, but he felt a certain responsibility to his charge, and, he was forced to confess to himself, he did not want to see Nadina injured in any way.
More to the point, if she was going to feature in Jarlaxle's plans somehow, she would need to prove trustworthy. Perhaps seeing drow society at its finest would finally convince her that escape was futile, and let her accept her life among them.
Finally, he decided that her usefulness to him would outweigh the risks. Secretly, he hoped she would enjoy it, but that was a thought he barely let flit through the back of his mind. It was only logical, of course, because then she might be more inclined to help them with whatever Jarlaxle had planned—and gave her something to do, a change of pace. So he gathered the things mandatory for the journey and informed Jarlaxle he was leaving in the morning.
Despite knowing he would need to be well rested before the trek to the city, he was unable to will himself to sleep as he usually could, laying on his side of the bed. During the day, when he worked, he hardly noticed Nadina unless she asked him a question or needed a new task, but in the dark his sharp ears picked up on every tiny sound she made as she slept. He turned to face her, watching her despite the darkness, and reached a hand out to smooth back the hair that blocked his view off her face. She had stopped fighting when he went to send her to sleep, he had noticed a few days ago, but he could not fathom what that meant, if it indeed meant anything.
Lost in his thoughts, Kimmuriel slid towards her until they were almost touching and he could stroke a hand through her hair easily, and inhale her clean scent, undeniably feminine yet different from that of any other female he knew. It was uniquely hers, and in the Underdark where she was the only human, even more so, causing it to stand out in his mind all the more sharply. Odd, he had never dwelt on it before, but it was strangely intoxicating. He found the movement relaxing, the silkiness of her hair soothing over his fingers, and he finally drifted off to sleep.
Kimmuriel was still in bed beside her, propped on an elbow, when she woke, and she had to admit she was truly pleased to see him, though slightly wary. She still felt the need to tiptoe around him whenever he was near, as if she were walking on glass, but she had learned that his presence in the morning generally meant a day not spent in his quarters, and that she welcomed. He sat watching her thoughtfully for a moment, and she wondered if he was reading her mind again, before firmly reminding herself that he was always reading her mind and promptly blushing in embarrassment.
For a split second an emotion flitted across his face, perhaps a twitch in the corner of his mouth, then it was gone, and he turned away and slipped out of the bed.
"Today I have to go into Menzoberranzan," he said as he reached for the clothes he had retrieved from the stores the night before, and Nadina started thought at the mention of the drow city. That was the last thing she expected him to say. She was suddenly filled with hope that his telling her was a precursor to inviting her to come with him—she caught herself, he wouldn't invite her, he'd just order her to—but she quickly squashed the hope so she wouldn't be disappointed when he was only informing her that he was leaving, and leaving her behind. He turned back to face her, a folded pile of dark clothes in his hands, and she held her breath.
"I need you to come with me," he said, approaching her, and she couldn't help the thrill of excitement that ran her. Honestly she wasn't sure why she was excited; she knew absolutely nothing of the drow city, but it was something new, and fresh on the heels of her lamenting that she had never gotten to travel. Briefly she wondered if that was a coincidence, but quickly pushed the thought aside, studying the pile of clothing as he came to stop in front of her.
"You must wear these," he continued. "While you appear drow now, your clothes do not. Bregan D'aerthe is well known and respected in the city, but also both feared and hated. We must appear in control and offer no signs of weakness."
She was too excited at the prospect for even the reminder of her new drow looks to upset her, and reached for them. Kimmuriel did not release the clothes once she took hold of them, however, and she paused, which was his intent.
"The drow cities are dangerous places. You must do exactly as I say at all times. Do you understand?" His voice had taken on a very firm undertone, and she felt a first wave of nerves awash in her stomach, though she fought hard to hide it. More importantly, a flash of annoyance at being treated like a child ran through her.
"Yes," she said simply, glancing up at him for a moment and then back down, her face reddening as she realized he was watching her intently, and her natural defense of covering her more revealing emotions with anger took over. "But I've been trained to fight, and I'm not afraid of danger. If you would let me carry a dagger—"
He cut her off harshly, one hand grabbing her wrist. "Do you not remember how easily you were disarmed during the attack on your palace? You were trained for short fights, against men, with surprise on your side. These are drow we will walk among, not men, and you would not stand a chance."
He released her and she jerked her hand away along with the clothes, her teeth gritted in anger but unable to refute his argument, to her shame. Because he was right. All of her training, all her life, had come down to a single moment, and she had utterly failed. And there was nothing she could do but watch his back retreat, glaring daggers, and feel helpless in a way she never had before. His superiority was infuriating, she snarled as she turned away, hoping for once that he was listening to her thoughts. Then she was confronted with the shelves of books in front of her, and was again reminded of how far above and beyond her he was, and that his superiority infuriated her so much because it was true.
Severely chastened, she quickly dressed in the clothes he'd given her. They were clearly of drow make, and fit her like a glove without restricting her movement. A black sleeveless undershirt was covered by a purple-tinted sleeveless dress which hung past her knees, exposing her bare arms, and Bregan D'aerthe's crest was clearly displayed above her left breast. The skirt was incredibly thin and slit in two places, down the front of each leg, and she was grateful to pull on the thin breeches he also provided, because it did not cover her adequately. In fact, the top was cut rather lower than she would have preferred.
Kimmuriel, ignored behind her, was privy to her thoughts as he put on his own clothes and quite pleased that she had backed down so quickly. And he felt a thrill of excitement which stirred his loins: she had recognized him as her better. This was something that no drow female had ever done, and he had to swallow hard to dispel his growing arousal at the thought of being domineering. He forcefully reminded himself that she was a human, and his kind was superior to hers. But perhaps that was why Jarlaxle sought human women himself. It certainly was a new view of the other drow's behavior, something he had never considered before. Ibilith or not, he could see the appeal in that.
But now was not the time to dwell on such things; he had much to accomplish before Narbondel burned too high, and he exercised his perfect control and focused his mind at the situation at hand.
He turned to find her ready and paused, Narbondel burning higher or not. When he had selected the clothes for her from the stores the evening before, he had only been thinking of what one would expect a drow female of her ilk to wear, and what size would fit her best. Never had the thought of what she would look like crossed his mind.
Without her human clothes, all reminders that she was ibilith were gone. He saw a drow woman before him, a drow woman, as he had just mused, under his command. The clothes followed the line of her body very closely and gave her a very graceful air. He had to admit, as heat stirred in his gut again, she was undoubtedly attractive. And that was good, there would be no doubt to anyone he had to bargain with that she was a drow female, and the reputation that went with those words should be enough to ensure their gambit was uneventful. Then she took a few steps towards him, and he frowned as her hair moved, exposing her rounded human ears. He'd anticipated this too, and picked up a thin black headband from the table, beckoning her closer, fiercely battling back his lust. It was not a battle he was accustomed to waging, having mastered control of his body a long time ago.
Then again, his body had been sated back then.
Nadina did as he beckoned, bowing her head slightly so he could settle it on her forehead and over the tops of her ears, covering them, a bit embarrassed by the low cut of her top. Kimmuriel was not able to resist running his fingers through her silky hair as he finished, but he was quite confident she had passed it off as ensuring her ears would not be exposed Then he stepped back, her disguise complete.
"Must it be so...low?" she asked uncomfortably, fiddling with her hands. He glanced back at her and noted that she was running the fingers of her right hand over the white tattoo lines on her left and wondered if she realized it. His eyes dropped to her chest as she gestured, and he was amused by her blush.
"That is how drow women dress," he said dismissively, and heard her soft sigh in acceptance.
He himself turned to don more armor than the scant amount he usually wore. He lifted his shoulder pauldrons from their rack and went to slide them over his head. He had barely begun to fasten the buckles when he heard a footfall as Nadina stepped up behind him and her nimble fingers assisted. He paused for a moment at the unexpected gesture, but her movements were sure and he realized she must have had a bit of training in this regard as well, and he had no desire for her to move away from him anyway. He fairly imagined he could feel the heat from her body, though he admonished himself for such ridiculous thoughts. She was being useful, and speeding up the process.
After slipping on his breastplate, he sat down and guided vambraces over both his forearms and lower legs, and she moved around in front of him to kneel and tighten the leg braces while he attended to his arms. Feigning concentration on his task, he could not resist glancing down at her or ignore the pounding of his heart as she knelt in front of him, completely submissive, and it was hard to tear his mind away from those thoughts and run through his list of items to retrieve.
He carried no visible weapons, more than confident in his psionic abilities. Picking up the two thick black cloaks and a pair of satchels from the table, he passed a pair to her on the way out the door and led her down the hallway.
AN: I did a lot of research, so hopefully most of the Underdark and Bregan D'aerthe and drow, etc. facts are correct, but if you notice something incorrect, please tell me! Also, I would like to incorporate other characters of Bregan D'aerthe in this fic (because I'm beginning to get a little bored of only Kimmuriel, Nadina, and sometimes Jarlaxle, and if I am, you must be) such as Rai-guy Bondalek or Berg'inyon Baerne, or anyone you guys would like to see! Please let me know.