Its me again :). Sorry for taking so long...summer stuff and all.
Well I finished up Legacy ((NOOO Wulfgar! *sob*)), Starless Night, and Siege of Darkness, and am now reading Passage to Dawn.
I haven't heard anything from Entreri since Starless Night...but Jarlaxle got more page-time than before, though, I gotta say! And Captain Deudermont is back! XD
I also realized that in Starless Night R.A. Salvatore already introduced the elven girl Drizzt saved, Ellifain. When I created this fic I was not aware of that, since I was just reading Sojourn, so I created my own elf girl, Elwing. Pretty close in the names, huh? Anyways, even knowing this, I still want to keep Elwing. After all, she was unique and completely an OC when I thought of her; plus, why should I restrict myself to R.A's thinking? And the meeting I plan for her and Drizzt is more...violent. But no worries, they'll get along well later! Depends on when that is, though.
Thanks for your support!
And in this chapter, some hours after the crowd's all done being frightened by Drizzt's appearance, the night festival should begin. And a certain royal dwarf family will drop in on it. Enjoy...
Leoht nearly jolted at all the noise the crowd was giving off, but he did not let that deter him; he even nose-lifted a peice of wet cloth from a vendor's stall and aimed it perfectly on Kirin's wound. The cloth hit with a little splat and sprinkled a few droplets on the trailing drow's nose. That didn't bother Drizzt much; actually, it was more welcome than bothersome; but his main focus right now was Kirin and the sunlight.
How it burned! He wanted to keep his eyes open for any obstacles in their path, but every time he so much as squinted, the hellish morning-noon sunlight hit his eyes in full force, prompting him to close them back up again. That would then result in him bumping into other shocked, scared, and surprised humanoids and, once, Harkle Harpell himself. Luckily they were already speeding away before the curious wizard could have any say in what happened.
Leoht had his nose in the air, sniffing out for Kirin's older sister, Valkyrie. She knew some healing, enough to close this magical wound, at least, and she (hopefully) wouldn't be too surprised about Drizzt's prescense in this whole affair. As much as the Lung hated it, he had to admit that having the strong drow carry his ward was actually helping him lots. Perhaps he wasn't so bad after all...
The thought was immediately interrupted by a sword-wielding pair that intercepted them midway. The blades came out so fast that Leoht had to stop, lest he and Drizzt be unwittingly skewered.
Drizzt sensed the trouble and saw the annoying light reflect off those blades, but he did not wish to defend himself or to fight when he saw who the wielders were.
"Drizzt?" Huynh and Ahnnie asked in unison.
Regis the halfling stopped right behind the two teenagers, and when he peered around their bodies, he gave a shriek. A drow! Dark Elf! Here, in Sanctuary! And, if he remembered correctly, the girl the drow was holding was also the one who happened to be in the meditation/council room when he first came. Did the drow knock her out?
Woe is me, the halfling thought miserably. If it's not Entreri or Pook, it's something else! Much worse, too!
Ahnnie inched closer, but this time with her sword facing down. "Drizzt, what's happened to Kirin? We heard an explosion and-"
"Give her to me," Huynh interrupted. His face was stern yet indiscernible; no one could tell what he was thinking or feeling at seeing the drow handle the young girl. To further prove that his will be obeyed, he handed his broadsword over to a nearby dwarf and held his arms out to recieve his little cousin.
Drizzt stoically complied, with some directional help from Leoht. Once the transaction was made, the Lung dragon let go of his wrist and went off to float beside Kirin.
Before, in a rush of urgency, Drizzt had felt that he had been doing right in personally bringing the girl here. If he had tended to her at home and kept it secret until the family came back, they might have suspected something fouler. Leoht could have helped her, that much was agreed to, but for the Lung to have cooperated in this wild run meant that there was more to the girl's wound than Drizzt knew. Besides, Kirin's health and well-being was a great concern to her family, so the drow felt obligated to have let them known.
Now? Facing Huynh, the most suspicious and distant member towards the drow, he felt unsure. It was good that he brought Kirin...but was it so good a fact that he had possibly tarnished the Quang family reputation in front of their Sanctuary wards, by revealing that they had kept a drow in the house?
He didn't know. And didn't want to know.
"What happened?" Huynh asked as he gently held the girl in his arms. He had even removed his cloak to use as a blanket for her.
"I..." Drizzt sighed. "I do not know."
"What do you mean, you do not know?" The boys sharp tone sliced through the drow's conscience ever so painfully.
"Someone came at the door," Drizzt explained, "and his foreign words had upset Kirin. She loosed her magic from the inside and it went awry...A vein popped on the side of her forehad soon after. Her guardian and I then agreed to take her out to search for any capable healers." His lavender eyes set upon Huynh's yet again, in a contest of wills.
"Thank you," Ahnnie said warmly. She lifted the makeshift bandage and peered at the wound. "At least you understood enough to have known that it was caused magically." She shifted around to face Drizzt again. "If you had tried to tend to it as you would a normal one...well, she would probably be dead by the time the night festival started."
The weight of the news hit Drizzt like a giant brick wall. So he had been right in bringing her. Forget his reputation, and forget the family's (do forgive him) reputation; a person's life, especially that of a child, was much more important!
"Let's take her to Val," Huynh said, more a command than a suggestion, and with a few elves in tow plus the dwarf carrying his sword, he left in the direction of the musical stage.
Ahnnie lingered a little longer, and when Mallik and Simon were hurrying to join, she quickly grabbed Drizzt's wrist and dragged him speedily towards the outskirts of the festival. The run took several minutes, perhaps longer, but Drizzt's blood was racing as he wondered what was happening. Several times, he thought he heard (and saw!) his captor snatching things from vendors.
Then came an absolute blackness, a condition that Drizzt was able to function in comfortably. He switched to the infrared spectrum and opened his eyes. Ahnnie, a large block of heat, stood before him, brandishing a pair of strange spectacles and a bottle of some drink.
"We're in a cave," she said, confirming Drizzt's suspicions.
"I can see that," he said.
"You did good," she said at last. "You saved her life. We could not have asked for better."
Drizzt nodded, basking in the warmth of her appreciation. But still, there was an ominous and grim air about it all, and he knew that it involved him. So said his unhappy expression.
"Don't go making the burden worse for you," she continued. "They will be surprised and shocked for a few days...but afterwards, everything will be all right."
"Did you have any special guests?" he asked quietly.
"Three magical families," she reported. "Two of which are close friends, the other a first-time visitor." She gave a sigh. "Unfortunately, what happened today will have to be explained at the next Wizard's Meet..."
"Which is when?"
"Wintertime of this year. Don't worry, its a lot of tendays away."
Ahnnie seemed to remember something then, and opened up the bottle. "Here, have some; it's blueberry juice." Drizzt accepted it and he heard her relieved sigh as he began drinking the juice with gusto. Next, she began chanting something with her hand hovering over the spectacles. When she finished, she gestured for Drizzt to move his head in lower.
Drizzt complied, and she slid the spectacles over his eyes.
"They're enchanted sunglasses," she explained. "They'll help you cope better with the sunlight, and the magic will automatically lessen the more you get used to it."
The drow touched the edge of the glasses lightly, amazed that such a spell could help him.
"Actually, the magic degrades because I'm such a klutz at this spell," she admitted. "But I'm learning, and the degrading goes slowly...hopefully...so yeah, it'll help you."
"Thank you anyways," he said.
Something then rustled deep within the cave. Drizzt's head turned sharply in the direction of the noise, and he detected another shape of heat coming up to them.
* "Who are you?" the tall, slender figure asked in a strange accent. "And vie have you come to deesturb our sleep?"
"Put a sock in it, Dracula," Ahnnie said sourly. "We'll be leaving soon, so go back to bed or something."
"Who is Dracula?" Drizzt asked curiously.
"Count Dracula!" the vampire corrected them. "And I vill not tolerate unvonted visitors een my cave!"
"I said, we'll be leaving soon!" Ahnnie protested. "If you're so grumpy about it, why don't you try a little sunlight for a change? Maybe you'll sparkle like Edward Cullen and co."
"Do not speak to me of zose blasphemous vampires!" Dracula hissed. "Zey are not even vampires! Zey are a deesgrace to all vampires of the vorld!" His cape billowed mysteriously behind him. "Per'aps if you are not so afraid, I should try turning you into von right now? I do feel a bit peckish..."
"Cripes," Ahnnie muttered. "I picked the wrong cave to hide in." She grabbed Drizzt's wrist again. "Come on, we better go; he's serious when he does that."
With the help of some wind, Ahnnie speedily boosted them out of reach of the vampire, and back into the sunlight. They still stood on the edge of the festival, so it was basically empty except for a few baby bengal tigers playing nearby. Somewhere in the distance, a dinosaur roared.
At first, Drizzt kept his eyes closed, having forgotten about the sunglasses. When he remembered, he opened them, slowly, gently...
Indeeed, the light was much more tolerable now! No more stinging eyes, no more streaming tears of pain, and no more bumping into things from now on! Or, until the magic of the sunglasses ended.
The ony detrimental thing was...everything seemed a bit darker.
Ahnnie plopped down onto the grass, panting breathlessly but smiling. Giggling, even.
Drizzt sat down beside her, wondrously seeing the girl with a very, very heavy tan. He knew it was the coloration of the lenses from the bits of color at the lower corners of his eyes, but still, everything seemed so strange in a singular hue...
"Count Dracula's a big meanie when his sleep is interrupted," she explained to Drizzt.
"What is he, though?" Drizzt asked.
"A vampire. They cannot tolerate sunlight, kind of like you, but unlike you, they turn to ashes if even a drop gets on them. They feed by sucking blood from their victims, and if they're powerful enough like Dracula, their victims turn into vampires too. Sometimes they are ok with animal's blood; take note, the animal never turns into a vampire; but human blood is the most delicious to them."
"I see." The drow turned away to thoughtfully gaze at the tiger cubs. "And who is Edward Cullen?"
"A vampire," Ahnnie said, matter-of-factly. " 'Cept he's not a real vampire. He's from a story...and a crappy one at that."
"Is it a legend among them?" Drizzt asked.
"Legend? No way. The story takes place in this very century. It's only a few years old now, but trust me, it hasn't gotten any better. It still sells like hotcakes for some reason."
"Then someone wrote it?" Drizzt asked again, assuming from Ahnnie's words that the story was in a book. "Perhaps a wizard? Otherwise it wouldn't be so successful unless there was some sort of enchantment..."
"There is no enchantment. Just stupid people." She sighed. "The book's got it all wrong about vampires; the biggest thing being, the vampires there can go in the sunlight and sparkle! Second, Edward Cullen falls in love with a human girl named Bella. A big no-no in the world of vampires. True vamps like Dracula," she pointed briefly back at the cave, "treat any human they get their hands on as food or a slave. If they cannot have it as either, then they mercilessly slaughter the victim. You saw what he almost tried to do to us; and he definitely did not treat me like I was Bella."
"You seem very upset about that." The drow attempted to give her a small smile.
"Of course I am! I really hate it when someone gets something wrong about 'mystical' people and creatures." She gave a big huff. "They don't know anything and make up whatever they want, and then some fanatics even adapt to their theory. Then there are people who take what they know from 'mythology' and obsess themselves with it pointlessly. You probably don't know, but several teenagers in another state even started a 'werewolf pack' amongst themselves because they think that being werewolves is 'awesome' and 'cool'. And they're not even real werewolves."
Crazy indeed, Drizzt thought.
"Heck, they don't even know what damage a real werewolf could seriously do," she grumbled. "And the true loneliness behind it. That's the same as someone wanting to be you...but not knowing the burdens. Just shamelessly saying that he is you, or like you, without even considering..."
That struck a chord within Drizzt.
"Be prepared, Drizzy," Ahnnie said, tagging an affectionate nickname on him in the process. "The human world is ugly. No one is truly innocent here, not even amongst the humanoids. If there aren't people who want to use you, beat you, or criticize you, then there are people who jump to conclusions and act as if they're master of the world, or all-knowledgeable. Hence the 'werewolf pack' teens."
"It sounds like Menzoberranzen," Drizzt said softly.
"Perhaps even worse," Ahnnie agreed. "And there are many more types of people than just the two I spoke of."
"But I do not regret my decision."
"Well, I guess I wouldn't either, if I were you."
He gave a mocking smirk. "Are you assuming that you are me? Or like me?"
"No way!" She slapped his arm playfully. "I'm not a crazy wolf-pack teenager!"
"Then tell me." He adjusted the sunglasses to a comfortable perch. "Why would you not regret the decision to leave Menzoberranzan?"
Ahnnie sat back in the grass and let one of the Bengal tiger cubs pounce on her. She patted its fluffy head absentmindedly as she thought of what to say. "Well, from what I've heard, Menzoberranzan runs on secrecy, revenge, and power. Right?"
"And everyone seems to have a station in life there," she continued. "If I were a drow, I'd be trained as a priestess, blindly serving a ruthless goddess and killing innocent surface-dwellers and svirfnebli...why would I, the way I am now, even want to stay? Here, it may be more corrupt, but at least you still have the freedom to do and be what you want."
He gave a little smile, which grew wider as the same Bengal cub pounched onto his lap. His dark ebony hands ran through its soft, downy fur...how adorable it was, those big, baby eyes, and that cute little tail!
"Surely not everything is lacking in innocence here," he reasoned.
"Surely," Ahnnie repeated, and stroked the little cub behind the ears.
"For example. I met your family." Drizzt picked up the cub and let it lick him on the nose. "You are not like the dark elves of Menzoberranzan...and I'm sure none of the humanoids here are as corrupt as you fear. Otherwise, why would you shelter them?"
"Good question," Ahnnie said. "But we still allow in vampires such as Dracula and other 'gruesome' monsters because of one singular purpose. Human development."
"I wonder how bad that is," Drizzt said with a frown.
"Very bad." She rolled onto her back to look at the clouds. "They think of it as development...when it actually is a new way to slowly kill everyone and everything. You should read the Paradox of Our Age by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. It tells that in detail."
At "His Holiness", Drizzt's face grew sour. "Is he a prophet?"
"No. Not a god, either. Just a monk."
"A monk of what religion?"
"And you follow it?" he asked skeptically.
"My whole family does." Ahnnie looked at him from the corner of her eye. "Why do you seem so angry about it? Is it because you're afraid that we blindly follow it like the drow follow Lolth?"
"Sort of." He sighed. "I have had enough of religion, especially those that call for blind faith."
"Don't worry, then!" she said with a laugh. "Buddhism is more opinion than worship!"
He cocked an eyebrow.
"It has principles, of course, which I believe can relate to yours too. Yours, meaning, your new way. The statues in our meditation room represent followers of Buddhism who are like good examples for us to follow. (A/N: Minus Qwan Yin! Note, this family does not have her statue there.) We also believe in reincarnation, which is a cycle of rebirth."
"I've never heard of anything like that..."
Ahnnie then suddenly sat up, and earned a curious tilt-of-head look from the tiger cub. "We'd better be getting back," she said. "I'll tell you more about Buddhism later; but if we're late for this, I'll be grounded for the rest of summer vacation!"
But she had him running behind her in the next second. He remembered to put the tiger cub back, of course.
Eld watched Ahnnie and Drizzt from a distance, worrying all through their talk that the drow would try something funny, like take her sword and slash her throat or strangle her in the grass. But none of that happened; they seemed to have been enjoying themselves. He felt a twinge of fatherly jealousy knowing that Ahnnie had not even wondered where he was.
Whatever happened, anyways, he was still her guardian.
And now as Ahnnie prompted Drizzt to move, apparently from an important magical message from her grandfather, Ahmereld followed quietly, like a green shadow.
Huynh approached Valkyrie slowly, having interrupted another session of her song. Mallik and Simon followed suit; when Ahnnie suddenly ran away with the drow, they grew confused and tried to tail her, but she was gone too fast for them to find her amongst the many festival partakers and stalls. They found their way easily back to Huynh, who now with Valkyrie seemed to be the center of a very important drama.
"Kirin!" Val cried out, and hurriedly left her zither to see to her sister. Aubaine floated close by, her windy hands touching the girl's forehead a little.
"She burst a vein," Huynh explained. "Apparently, some unwanted visitor said some things to her which got her upset. And she used her magic too much..."
Val ripped the cloth away from her little sister's forehead and placed her hand on the wound, chanting softly but hurriedly. The wound started closing, and though it was small, the spell seemed to be taking all of Val's effort and strength to close it.
"Who was the visitor?" Valkyrie asked impatiently.
"Dunno," Huynh said. "Only Drizzt and Leoht were there. Drizzt can't understand any human languages, and Leoht can't talk and doesn't use telepathy much. So we're in the dark."
"Only until she wakes up," his cousin said softly. "If the house isn't safe anymore, then perhaps we can find some tent..."
Izdihar came up then, announcing that Yuusuke Fudo had some answers. "He saw the men," she said. "And a drow, carrying her away." The Arabic girl looked around, trying to find the 'drow'.
Yuusuke, as if on cue, appeared at the foot of the stage. "They looked like businessmen," he began. "One was Chinese, the other Caucasian..."
"Chinese?" Valkyrie frowned.
"Yup. A crooked nose, bushy black hair, some wrinkles here and there..."
"That doesn't give us any specific clues," she cursed. "Oh well. At least it tells us something. I trust that you can keep her safe?"
"Me?" Yuusuke pointed at himself.
"Yes, you!" Val began feeling the magical pulses in her own head. "Grandpa is summoning us for something at the Lake. Please keep Kirin with you until we get back."
Huynh felt them too, and after depositing the little girl in Yuusuke's arms, followed his cousin as she impatiently dashed towards the said location.
"What do you think it is?" he asked.
"Perhaps he found out," she said.
"I hope Ahnnie got it too," he said. "That little duncebucket might forget."
"Don't discredit her so much. She's your little sister."
"Oh, what a good reason. You didn't look back only to find out that she left alone with the drow."
Valkyrie turned an incredulous eye on him. "I thought you said you trusted him?"
"Not completely! Just enough to know that he's not going to kill us yet!"
Namiq, who had been silently following, butted her ward in the back of his legs. "More walking, less talking," she scolded.
"Well," Val said as they picked up the pace, "change of subject. Finished your science report yet?"
"That was done ages ago!"
"What grade did you get?"
"D," the boy said through gritted teeth.
Valkyrie pressed a hand to her mouth to stifle her laughter.
"Don't make fun of that! It took all my thinking and research to accomplish!"
But she didn't press the point.
They eventually came to the edge of the Arwen Lake, a favorite haunt of water nymphs and freshwater merpeople. Today there was not much activity in the water; everything seemed still. The only other people besides themselves were Long Ha, Ahnnie, Eld...and Drizzt (wearing sunglasses!).
Huynh and Val sooned joined their grandfather and sister under a giant willow tree, sitting cross-legged at their grandsire's feet, as was the custom.
"I suppose you have already known about your little sister," the old man said in Vietnamese to Val.
"I know," she said.
"But how did you know?" Huynh asked his grandpa.
"I have friends and resources," the grandfather said. "But enough with the questions. A rule has been broken."
The teenagers looked amongst themselves, wondering who had broken what rule. They came on time, and they did not dilly-dally; they wouldn't even dare to; so why had a rule been broken?
Ahnnie considered teasing her brother about eating too many sweets, but deciding the importance of the matter, she let it go. "What rule?" she asked her grandpa.
His old brown eyes turned squarely upon Drizzt. "You broke it," he said at last, in the drow language.
"I...I broke...?" Drizzt stuttered.
"Did I not tell you to stay inside?"
The drow looked confused and crestfallen. Perhaps not as confused as he was crestfallen because he had known, somewhere in his gut, that Long Ha would berate him.
"No way!" Ahnnie interrupted. "I mean...Grandpa, please, he saved Kirin's life. That was a magic wound, and no normal cures could have..."
"What is that supposed to do, then?" he asked testily.
"Well, Leoht couldn't have carried Kirin all the way out here by himself, and his healing fires are for physical wounds only...please, Grandpa, Drizzt is innocent!"
Drizzt's lavender eyes focused then upon the grass beneath them. But strangely, he felt no anger. Only determination. Those purple eyes then refocused on Long Ha, strong as ever, ready to prove his point. "I accept that I have broken your rule. But it was on behalf of a child." His gaze never wavered. "I could not stand to see her die, and could not bear seeing her so deep in pain when she thought she had killed a man..."
"You mean, her magic hurt somebody?" Val asked.
"The black-haired man," Drizzt said.
"The Chinese one," Huynh said.
"What?" Ahnnie asked confusedly.
Huynh quickly explained Yuusuke's findings to the whole group. "We don't know the motive of these guys," he finished, "but they said something that really bothered Kirin. And..." He turned a flustered look over to Valkyrie.
"One small clue stands," the bespectacled girl said quietly. "Our father is Chinese."
"But then what about the Caucasian one?" Ahnnie asked. "Who is he?"
"Dunno," Huynh shrugged.
"This is a matter that cannot go unprecedented," Long Ha said sternly. "Those men are outsiders to our family and are most unwelcome, whether they have magic or not. When Kirin wakes up, we shall learn more."
"Yes, Grandpa," the three teenagers said together.
"And finally." He turned a probing eye over Drizzt. "If you want to make amends for the rule you have broken, then you can find away to calm the poplace by yourself."
"I understand," Drizzt said grimly.
"But he can't do that all on his own!" Ahnnie sputtered incredulously. "He's just...just..."
"One drow?" Long Ha challenged. "Do you mean to say that they will never overlook the fact of his skin and heritage?"
"No, I mean...how can they, scared as they are?"
"You have little faith in him then," he said crossly. Long Ha then turned in his wheelchair, preparing to wheel it off to some other place. "Meeting dismissed. Go back to the festival."
Ahnnie's next look, to Drizzt, made her seem on the verge of crying.
"Yes, Grandpa," the three teenagers said with a slight bow.
The walk back to the festival was long and uneventful. No one spoke except maybe for Val and Huynh, who conversed with each other briefly about schoolwork. Ahnnie had her eyes focused on some distant thought, and Drizzt's heart was pounding yet again in trying to find a solution; a way to bring peace to the frightened poplace. It seemed quite strange and illogical that Long Ha should assign the very thing that scared everyone to try and calm everyone. But Drizzt knew the motive.
Long Ha told him to stay indoors only because his very presence was unaccepted by most of the humanoids.
And if he dared to break that rule...
...then those same humanoids must learn to accept him. And he, probably, will end up tasting yet again bitter rejection.
Never mind the fact that he saved Kirin's life. None of them saw it, so how could they ever believe it?
When they reached the borders of the festival grounds, Mallik, Simon, Lillyn, and Kellindil raced out to meet them. Drizzt's head rose up a notch, his face burning from a very bitter feeling.
"So what happened?" Mallik asked Ahnnie impatiently. "What about the drow-" The Arabic boy's dark eyes caught Drizzt's lavender orbs. "Oh my..." He could not even finish his exclamation. "A real drow! We were not dreaming!"
Simon gallantly reached out a finger to poke the said drow.
Drizzt turned slightly, and the Harpell boy yelped.
Lillyn, meanwhile, fluttered frantically over Drizzt's and Ahnnie's heads. "What are we to do? Oh, what are we to do? If Elwing sees this..."
"Elwing," Ahnnie muttered. "Crap! If Elwing ever sees him..." She cast a worried glance Drizzt's way.
"Out of my way." Kellindil pushed through Mallik and Simon to stand bravely before the drow. Switching to drow language, he said, "Greetings, drow."
Drizzt, slightly surprised to be seeing a surface elf, returned the greeting a bit shakenly. "G-greetings..."
"You are a drow," Kellindil mused. "And yet you dare set foot in this place we call our haven."
Drizzt frowned. "I have not come for warring purposes."
"Oh, really? And how are we to believe you?"
"Stop it, Master Kellindil," Ahnnie defended Drizzt. "There's much more to this than you think. Grandpa will release the news in time..."
"She is right," Drizzt put in. "You have not heard my story yet."
"Nor have you smelled his boots," Eld muttered quietly as an afterthought.
But Ahnnie, having caught every word, quickly added, "Or seen how dirty his laundry was."
Both guardian and ward remembered that night very clearly.
"And I believe that will prove its own point soon?" Kellindil asked skeptically.
"Yes," Ahnnie nodded. "Now please...let us pass into the marketplace."
"With him?" Mallik pointed at Drizzt. "You know, that won't sit well with many people..."
"Grandpa said so," Huynh said authoratively, and cut a path through the few people that stood in his way. "Come on Drizzt, time for you to 'calm the poplace'."
"Don't make him nervous," Valkyrie protested.
"What happens if he gets nervous?" Simon asked curiously. "I'd like to record this for Uncle Harkle. Does he sweat? Break out in hives? Excrete any certain substance?"
Ahnnie made a face. "No."
"He just gets nervous," Val said with a big sigh of exasperation.
"Perhaps he does it all internally?"
"Um, ew," Ahnnie said. "That doesn't sound possible..."
"It wouldn't stay inside for long," Simon said as reassurance.
"That would be worse!"
"Not so," Simon said matter-of-factly. "If he keeps it all inside, he'd bloat and then explode; now that would be worse!"
"I've had enough science for one life," Huynh said with a grumpy grunt. "So please keep all scientific research to yourself and my sister. Kay?"
"Why me?" Ahnnie asked.
"Because you seem fitting for all that gross stuff."
Normally, she would have playfully swatted her brother, but now as Drizzt saw, there was a noticeable heaviness in her steps. Perhaps what her grandfather had said struck her deeply. Drizzt heard it too, but didn't think of Ahnnie's opinions as lacking in faith.
They finally reached the festival, the turning point of the whole day and future of Sanctuary. The people still seemed merry and festive, but when their eyes saw Drizzt, everything went quiet.
"Hello, everybody," Ahnnie attempted. "Um, how's the festival going? Great, right?"
More silent, curious, and frightful stares.
"Talking to them yourself isn't going to do anything," Huynh remarked to his little sister.
"Oh, it is going great!" Simon said. He had not noticed the ominous air about them because he had been intently observing Drizzt the whole time. "I especially love the blueberry ice-cream, and the pancakes, and-" Now it seemed that he just noticed the staring crowd. "Oh...hello!"
"Drow!" A halfling from somewhere cried, pointing his little chubby finger accusingly at Drizzt. "It's a drow!"
"Yes," Valkyrie said dryly, "he is a drow. Now will you shut up and listen to him?"
"Ouch," Mallik remarked.
"Cold," Ahnnie added.
The bespectacled girl gave a sigh. "Well, how else are they going to listen now? Of course, Drizzt shouldn't do the same," she quickly added.
Pharaoh Atum-Ra was the first to raise his fist in the air.
"What is it, Pharaoh?" Ahnnie called out to him.
"Let us hear him!" the Pharaoh suggested. "I have never seen a drow, only heard of them, and even then I didn't believe in them full-heartedly. Perhaps they are not all stereo-typed as you think!"
"Yeah..." Ahnnie said. "Yeah, of course! Like Pharaoh said-"
Drizzt had, unexpectedly, jumped to the side and almost knocked her over. She gave a small exclamation of surprise and looked at Drizzt, dumbfounded. "Dr-Drizzt? Something wrong?"
The drow looked back at the tree behind him, where an arrow that had not been there before quivered from the force of its flight. He looked forward to the only place it could have come from.
The other teenagers and guardians noticed it too, and began mobilizing in front of Drizzt to shield him.
"Elwing, wait!" Huynh cried out. "Grandpa wants him alive!"
"Why should he?" the elf girl spat. "He is a drow! A killer!" She had her longbow pointed at Drizzt, as if he were some blasphemous thing she wouldn't dare touch.
Drizzt did his best to push away from his circle of protectors. "I am fine, I don't need all of you to shield me."
"But Elwing's a sharp shooter," Ahnnie objected. "She could have easily hit you right in the heart!"
"That will not stop me," Drizzt said firmly. "Your grandfather has given me this task, which if not given I would have never thought to do it. It's a new chance for me-"
"But what if you die?" she asked softly.
The drow only pat her head affectionately, and didn't say anything.
"Putting that aside," Valkyrie interrupted, "You must know some things first." She looked to Elwing, who already began fitting an arrow to the bowstring. "Years before, when my mother and uncle were still young, a drow raid took place in the forests."
Drizzt looked at her curiously.
"They attacked at a tribe of wild elves. Only one survivor remained...and it was her. Elwing."
Now his lavender eyes were open wide.
"She lost her mother in the attack," Huynh said. "That is why she's especially bitter towards the drow. Only thing is, it seemed strange for her to be spared; considering the drow ways, they would never have overlooked her or-"
"Drizzt!" Ahnnie suddenly called out, remembering her doubts from the beginning of the festival. "Did you take place in that raid?"
The sudden barrage of information and questions made Drizzt's head swirl. The facts reminded him of the raid that night, and the little elf girl with the sparkling eyes...he looked up at Elwing now, and somewhat recognized those eyes. "Yes," he said softly, "I was in a raid..."
Everyone around him went quiet.
"A raid," he corrected them. "I am not sure if I was in that raid of which you spoke of. But I do remember a little elf girl that was spared."
"What did he say?" Elwing asked the Quang teenagers, for she didn't understand drow.
Valkyrie translated it for her, word for word, and looked to Drizzt to see if he had any more to say.
"Ask her for me," the drow pleaded, "if she remembers a drow pushing her down to the ground, concealing her beneath her dead mother's body."
Valkyrie asked, and Elwing nodded slightly. "Yes," the elf girl said, "I remember. Is he implying that he's the one that did it?"
"I am the one," Drizzt said after being asked the translated version. "I remember it clearly...I had no desire that night to kill any surface elf, let alone a little child." He swallowed. "I saw her running to her mother, crying and yelling out to her...only to find out that she was dead..."
Ahnnie translated this time, and it seemed that Elwing could not hold back any longer.
"I never wanted to please Lolth," Drizzt continued. "So I hid the little girl under her mother's body. I told her to stay still, but I doubt she understood me. I doubt that she evern knew I meant to save her." He looked pained.
"Elwing?" Huynh asked when the elf girl began pacing up to them. "You all right?"
She ignored him and stopped before Drizzt. She eyed him evenly and continued her glare, though it was wetted with oncoming tears. "I remember," she said softly, "purple eyes."
Ahnnie gasped. "Really? You never told us..."
"I had always assumed it was a hallucination," Elwing said. "After all, drow have red eyes, not purple. But..." She sighed. "This does not prove anything yet. If you expect me to continue on in the festival with him around, then I think Mr. McGristle would make a better guest." She turned on her heels and gracefully bound off, tearing through groups of amazed onlookers and festival partakers. The suspense was only heigtened when Valkyrie translated for Drizzt.
"Well, at least she didn't kill him," Mallik said hopefully.
"What happens when drow get sad?" Simon asked curiously. "Do they cry like us?"
"If they're humanoid, then of course they have tears," Huynh said.
"Like what Drizzt is having now?" Lillyn asked, pointing to the drow.
Ahnnie turned to look at him. "Drizzt? Oh no, you really are..."
The dark elf took off his sunglasses wiped at his eyes gently, as if to make it look like he was only tired. "I am fine. Nothing's wrong." He put the darkened spectacles back on and continued to face the crowd, taking all their ensuing insults and jeers in stoic stride.
The night festival begun later, with torches and campfires to illuminate the dark sky. The moon was now only a slice amongst the clouds, and the more celestial light came from the stars.
The nocturnal inhabitants of Sanctuary came out at this moment; the vampires, the lycanthropes, and etc. Still some of the partakers of the day festival lingered, mostly to watch the dazzling display of blueberrry-blue fireworks.
Drizzt and the other teenagers plus some friends sat around a large fire, some feeling more than a little down, and others feeling absolutely cheerful.
After what had happened in the marketplace, Val had left to take back her little sister from Yuusuke, and Ahnnie and Huynh decided to find something for Drizzt to do. He didn't seem up to playing one of the festival games, so they decided to help unpack or unload things for the vendors for the rest of the day, proving somewhat Drizzt's helpful strength to the suspicious stall-keepers.
"Well," Ahnnie said softly to try and enlighten Drizzt's mood, "You can try taking off your sunglasses now."
The drow did, but the sight of the fire made him wince, so he put the glasses back on.
"Its all right."
Valkyrie came back then, her green cloak billowing behind her. Holding her hand was Kirin, awake and well.
Drizzt was the first to spring up from his seat, so glad he was at the little girl's recovery. He immediately came over and asked her big sister if she was all right.
"She is all right," Val said. "In fact, she even said she wanted to see you..."
"See me?" Drizzt asked curiously. "What fo-"
Before he could finish his sentence, Kirin had him wrapped in a tight hug from the waist down.
The drow was surprised, but he soon calmed and pat her on the back.
"Thank you," Kirin said appreciatively. "I heard what you did for me. And I owe you one."
Drizzt smiled widely and bent down to her height to return the hug. "It is I who should thank you," he said. "You have made my heart soar this night."
"Should this even be happening?" Huynh asked Namiq as he watched the scene unfurl.
The winter wolf only cocked her head to the side.
Leoht came to join in the embrace, breathing colorful little fires into Drizzt's hair so that it seemed as though the white mane was flashing in different hues. It didn't burn him, of course.
When the two separated, Drizzt went back to his seat, and Kirin and Val found two more places to join at the fire.
"So this Drizzt wasn't really hurting her?" Mallik asked.
"No, not at all," Valkyrie said. "It seems that he has helped her, and found a spot in her heart." She smiled. "Drizzt doesn't seem like other drow at all."
"Curious!" Simon exclaimed. "A willfull separation from culture. Interesting!"
"Is your Uncle Harkle anywhere nearby?" Huynh asked worriedly.
"Oh? No, not now, he's watching the fireworks."
"Good. Tell him your findings on the way home and not here then."
Lillyn stopped in her fluttering to land on Mallik's blonde hair. "Ah, nothing like some marshmallows to roast over the fire," she said, holding out a stick with very tiny blue marshmallows skewered on.
"I'd like some marshmallows too," Mallik said thoughtfully. "Where did you get them?"
"Here." The fairy dropped down a small (fairy small) bag into Mallik's hands.
The Arabic boy chanted an enlargement spell, and the bag of fairy marshmallows became a normal human-sized bag. He found a stick and poked three of them on, then held them out for the fire.
Ahnnie did the same, and so did Huynh, Valkyrie, Kirin, and Eld. Simon dug into some tentatively, and Drizzt only stared curiously.
Ahnnie, noticing his looks, used some of her fire magic to quickly roast a marshmallow. "Try one," she offered.
The drow took it and plopped it into his mouth. He then reached for some more, and a stick.
Eld purposefully sat in between them and started roasting his own marshmallows. "I hope you're not forgetting," he said to Ahnnie, "that you have a guardian with you?"
"Of course not, Eld," she said with a smile, and ate some marshmallows.
Valkyrie cleared her throat, meaning for everyone to listen. Everyone did, and they looked to her patiently. "Well," she began. "Kirin told me everything that happened."
They all leaned in closer, even Drizzt.
"The two people that came were my father and a social worker."
"Oh gods," Huynh breathed.
"A social worker?" Simon asked worriedly.
Val frowned. "Nothing is wrong in our family. Please listen and refrain from interrupting." She now lowered her eyes to the ground. "It seems...it seems that my father was trying to get in the house and inspect everything. He also wanted to take Kiri to some scientists to erase her magic."
"That can't happen!" Ahnnie cried out, and Eld pushed her back down.
"I know. It's unlikely." Val smiled grimly. "But what I know is, he'll be back in other ways we may not even recognize."
"Yuusuke told me I didn't kill him," Kirin said with a relieved sigh. "Thank goodness, I was so scared..."
Val hugged her closer. "Me too."
Drizzt sighed wearily. "He saw me."
All eyes turned on him. "What?" Val asked.
"When the door broke down," Drizzt said. "Your father saw me."
"That's very bad," Mallik remarked.
"Perhaps he doesn't remember now," Ahnnie suggested. "The force of the blow could have erase his memories..."
"We can only hope on that," Huynh sighed.
"He already knew of Drizzt anyway," Kirin said, "when he revealed some photos of Drizzt and Breanna."
"Why don't we put this all behind us?" Mallik suggested. "We have a festival here, and it'd be a shame to spoil it."
"I guess you're right," Val said.
But they had only gotten back to marshmallow-roasting when a gruff dwarven shout echoed among the crowd: "Make way for King Bruenor o' Clan Battlehammer!"
The Quang children looked amongst themselves and left the marshmallow roasting to see who King Bruenor was. If they remembered correctly, Clan Battlehammer was a clan of dwarves just on the farthest side of Sanctuary, at the mountains. But they have never met the dwarves before, and those dwarves had never bothered to come down for anything at all. So this would be a special meeting between them.
Once there, they faced a whole battalion of armed dwarves, with the front being led by a certain red-bearded one flanked by a slender, seemingly delicate human girl and a way-too-tall and way-too-muscular human boy. The boy was blonde, the girl, auburn.
"Greetings, King Bruenor," Huynh said as he swept into a bow.
"Eh," Bruenor grunted, not one for formalities.
"We're of the Quang family," Ahnnie explained. "And we've heard much of you."
Bruenor wasn't one for compliments either.
"What brings you here?" Val asked.
"I've come to give back a human," Bruenor stated, to-the-point. "Not me daughter here," he said, indicating the beautiful auburn-haired girl. "But this." He went behind the muscly blonde boy and pushed him forward.
"I don't want to go!" the boy said stubbornly; and his voice boomed right into everyone's ears. Drizzt cringed at the volume of it.
"Damn ye Wulfgar, yes ye will!" Bruenor huffed. "Ye've served yer number o' years, and done fine in the mines. Now beat it!"
"Wait, wait," Huynh pleaded. "Returning a human? What does that mean?"
"Don't get any funny ideas," Bruenor snarled. "I didn't do any kidnapping. 'Tis blondie here who caused the trouble!"
Wulfgar seemed ashamed.
"What did he do?" Ahnnie asked.
"Threw junk on me side of the mountain, he did," Bruenor huffed. "Then he just went and flew down from the sky!"
From what he said, some troublemakers had thrown trash into their backyard and somehow one of them toppled over into Sanctuary. This made the Quang children a little worried.
"There was an ad in the news saying a boy named Wulfgar **Ellingboe went missing a few years ago," Mallik suggested.
"That's me," Wulfgar boomed.
"They stopped the investigation, though," Valkyrie recalled.
"At that time, Mr. McGristle was pointing his fingers at us," Huynh said. "He blamed us for Wulfgar's disappearance...well, now we know he's safe and sound. And discovered our secret, too. Thank you, King Bruenor, for bringing him back. We'll make sure he is-"
"No!" Wulfgar roared.
The auburn-haired girl next to Bruenor frowned. "C'mon Wulfgar, don't make this any harder than it already is..."
"You don't understand, Cattie-brie!" the big boy shouted. "I don't want to go back, and I will never go back!"
"Why?" Huynh asked. "You can go back to your family. I'm sure they missed you-"
"No they didn't!" He huffed. "Ever since my father died, my stepmother thought she could take charge of everything. I couldn't stand it; she married another man, a DRUNKARD, and they made my life miserable!" He turned to Cattie-brie. "You've always had a loving father, and during these past few years, he has become like a father to me too! Please, dont' make me go back! And if I must go, then I will never return to that house!"
"Suren ye've known what the darn news said about you?" Cattie-brie argued. "The police stopped the search n' presumed ye dead! Ye're a minor still, and no adult yet in their eyes! If ye don't go back to yer family, where else can ye go?"
"Why not here?"
"Ye've finished yer years! Now beat it!"
"Hold it, calm down!" Ahnnie jumped in between them. "Ok, well Wulfgar doesn't have to go back to his family."
"Stinking family!" Wulfgar added.
"But this is a problem if he stays here." She cast a worried glance at the muscular boy. "I mean, no human has ever set foot in Sanctuary before..."
"Cept maybe Mr. McGristle," Kirin added.
"...and it would upset the order of things. If you want to stay and consider yourself endangered by human development, then you'll have to talk to my grandfather." She straightened up a bit. "He'll listen to you and decide on it."
Wulfgar brightened up and looked back at Cattie-brie as if to say 'I told you so'.
"Whatever," she mumbled. "At least he's off our hands."
The seemingly irritated facade Cattie-brie and Bruenor put up made them look as though they cared not a bit for Wulfgar; but closer observation would perhaps uncover relieved expressions and moist eyes. So, in truth, they were reluctant to let him go.
"We'll be stayin' here for a bit," Bruenor announced. "The long march here took, well, long." He stretched, and stamped a foot on the ground. "Since it seems ye're all havin' some fun, we'll just join in too."
Cattie-brie seemed to lighten up at the fact that they could stay awhile, and the entire group of dwarves behind her 'father' cheered out their happiness. Soon the lot of them was off trying to find a good drink, and Cattie-brie and Wulfgar took up conversation somewhere near a fountain.
"Well, that was surprising," Ahnnie remarked. "But at least they didn't see Drizzt yet..."
"Don't you find it strange that Cattie-brie is a human too?" Simon asked. "I mean, no one even asked..."
"Grandpa had a hunch that Bruenor Battlehammer had adopted a human girl," Huynh interrupted. "She was orphaned, as he heard it, so no actions were taken. I guess it's ok, since she supposedly came at a very young age, too young to have been influenced by outside world ideas."
"Her name is Cattie-brie..." Drizzt muttered.
"What?" Ahnnie asked him.
"Nothing," he said, and wondered why he seemed to have taken such an interest in the spirited young dwarf's daughter.
End of the Blueberry Festival
* What Dracula said, if you who couldn't quite figure out the accent:
"Who are you? And why have you come to disturb our sleep?"
"Count Dracula! And I will not tolerate unwanted visitors in my cave!"
"Do not speak to me of those blasphemous vampires! They are not even vampires! They are a disgrace to all vampires of the world!"
"Perhaps if you are not so afraid, I should try turning you into one right now? I do feel a bit peckish..."
** Ellingboe is a Scandinavian last name. I chose it because it somewhat resembes the word 'Elk' and because the barbarian names sound Scandinavian.