I have to admit, this was a bit inspired by Surreptitious Chi X's 'Jarlaxle discovers' series, the yearning for summer that comes from too much snow on the ground, and mostly because I need to slow down on writing on my other 'Realms fic. I find that if I don't slow myself down on a fic at least once and while, it becomes too fast and too jumbled to be understood properly. Besides, I find I really enjoy writing this one and I'd like to make it last.
Disclaimer: Jarlaxle and Artemis Entreri belong to R.A. Salvatore and Wizards of the Coast. I can only join them in their adventures to escape my own.
On a clear night, Artemis dozes next to the fire while Jarlaxle sits up with the first watch. There's something strange about the Drow tonight. Artemis notices this as his mind hazily swims in the peaceful in and out quality of a good doze. He's in a relaxed pose for once. Jarlaxle's legs are pulled up to where his elbows and arms are resting on his knees, his chin is resting in the palm of his right hand while his left hand swings in a rhythm of deep thought. He's minus a vest or shirt tonight. Jarlaxle has, very slowly, wormed his way behind the wall that keeps the world out of Artemis Entreri's heart. So when the drow sighs heavily, Artemis pulls himself back out of the warm flannel of dozing to inquire what the drow is thinking.
"That why don't we have stars in the Underdark? I don't think that even the folk of Menzoberranzan who despise the surface world, would find them offensive." he mused to himself and Artemis realizes something that Jarlaxle obviously doesn't. He feels superior for a long moment, before it occurs to him that he felt the exact same way only a few years ago.
"You're homesick." Artemis said as bluntly as he has ever said anything.
"Homesick?" Jarlaxle asked curiously. "I've never heard the word." he said and no, of course you haven't, Artemis thinks entirely uncharatibly. He heaves himself up right and is thankful that it's too early in the year for mosquitos because he's without a shirt too. The night is just sticky enough to make going without a shirt comfortable. It's a wonderful change from the cold, depressing winter where they had to wear layers upon layers and Jarlaxle complained endlessly that the females couldn't see his physique. Artemis chuckled as he recalled the fallout from that event.
"Fine, if you're so against being warm, walk outside in one of those ridiculous outfits you're so fond of." Artemis barked, gesturing at the door. Jarlaxle disappeared into his bedroom and when he returned, he was wearing a fine shirt, a vest and a pair of leather breeches along with his usual accesories. He smiled widely and nodded.
"I think I will, thank you." he said and went outside. Artemis walked into the small kitchen, poured a glass of Moonshae Whiskey and returned to the living room, picking up a thick blanket. Patiently, he counted up from one until he heard the door open and slam shut. Jarlaxle was visibly shivering when he walked into the common area of their little house.
"Here," Artemis said gruffly, handing the near-frozen Drow the glass of whiskey and tossing the blanket around his shoulders. Jarlaxle sipped the whiskey for a moment, then allowed Artemis to guide him to a chair by the cherrily burning fire. "Now will you stop complaining?" Artemis demanded.
"I see your compassionate demeanor has disappeared." Jarlaxle remarked dryly as his shivers lessened. Then he shook his head. "How do you humans survive this kind of, weather? Is that the word?" Jarlaxled asked. Artemis nodded.
"Yes. We survive, Jarlaxle, by putting on layers. Lots of layers. A kind of armor, I suppose." he said and sat on the arm of the couch. "Now answer my question, will you please stop complaining?"
"Oh, all right." Jarlaxle said and again, patiently, Artemis counted up from one. "-But why can't there be form fitting layers?" Jarlaxle asked and protested loudly when a pillow smacked him in the face and spilled the whiskey on his shirt.
"It's the feeling you get when you miss where you've come from so much is a physical or mental ailment. I felt that way when I was in Menzoberranzan." Artemis explained. Jarlaxle's brow furrowed gently as he recalled Artemis' behavior.
"I had no idea. Why didn't you tell me?" Jarlaxle asked. Artemis had to remind himself that Jarlaxle wasn't himself at the moment and that strangling wouldn't help the matter.
"Because I was trying to survive. I was trapped by my rivalry with Do'Urden at the time." Artemis said and caught a glimpse of regret on the mercenary's face. "What is it?" Artemis asked quietly. Jarlaxle laid back on his bedroll and Artemis followed his lead, staring upwards at the heavens.
"I knew someone by that name too. Odd, isn't it? The Do'Urden I knew was not that different from your Do'Urden. Relatively speaking." Jarlaxle said at Artemis' ugly look. "As a matter of fact, Zaknafein, that was him, was Drizzt's father." Jarlaxle laughed. "He loved fighting, Moonshae Whiskey, his children and me. No, not that way." the mercenary corrected, catching Artemis' raised eyebrow. "Though there was that one time..." Jarlaxle laughed again at the disgruntled look on Artemis' face. "No, we were friends. Good friends. I never trusted anyone as much as I trusted Zak." Jarlaxle fell silent, lost in memories.
"It sounds like something happened." Artemis said, prompting him out of his memories.
"Zak was Weapons Master of House Do'Urden at the time," Jarlaxle said and there was something pained in his tone. "I had a job, a mission that I couldn't do alone and I needed all my lieutenants back at base to run Bregan D'aerthe. So I enlisted Zak's help. I wish I hadn't." Jarlaxle's voice choked for a moment. "We were in deep, deeper than I had anticipated. I had used almost all my tricks and we were down to fighting sword to sword. I'm good, you've seen that, but Zak... He was brilliant." Jarlaxle laughed a bit sadly. "You've seen it yourself. All of what Zak knew he taught to Drizzt. Anyway, we were fighting back to back when I hear this cry, behind me. It was Zak." Jarlaxle's voice trembled and Artemis kept his eyes locked on the stars. "He'd been run through. Right throught the heart. I had one spell and I cast it. It was a fireball. I hadn't used it before because it would have affected us too. I was chared, but alive. Zak..." Jarlaxle ran a trembling hand over his face, fighting for control. "Zak had died, in my arms. I went through every piece of magical item I had."
"That must have taken a while." Artemis said dryly, startling a chuckle out of Jarlaxle.
"Not as long as you might expect. I finally found the Rod of Resurrection and used it. When he came back... There was something different about him. Despondant. Like he'd seen something he had never wanted to. Zaknafein lost his joy of living that day. And he blamed me for it. I could tell by the way he treated me. Coldly, like we were strangers. When I finally demanded to know why, he 'explained' the emptiness of our existence, how he finally saw the wicked ways I and the others of Menzoberranzan lived. Oh, Zak had mentioned, from time to time, wanting to leave Menzoberranzan for the surface, to follow his heart." Jarlaxle sighed shakily. "From that day, Zaknafein Do'Urden loved only two things, his children and Moonshae Whiskey."
Silence reigned for a long, long time. Only the sounds of the night and the crackle and pop of the fire filled the empty air. Artemis finally looked over at Jarlaxle to see tears shining on the Drow's face. Something twisted uncomfortably in Artemis' chest and he realized it was sympathy.
"He was a fool." Artemis said after a while. He sensed Jarlaxle's coming protest and continued before he could speak. "He was a fool for tossing away a friendship like that, for giving up as easily as he did. Drizzt must have inherited his drive from his mother. Just because you die and come back after seeing something horrible doesn't mean that you should throw away everything that matters." Artemis said. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Jarlaxle stare at him.
"Is it just me, or do the stars actually make a shape?" Jarlaxle asked a few moments later. Artemis smiled, knowing the question to be bait for a lighter conversation.
"They're called constellations."
"The shapes the stars make. Constellations."
"...How should I know?"
"You're the one that said it."
"I was just informing you! I don't know why!"
"Then why did you say it?"
"Because constellations sound better than shapes!" Artemis gestured lamely at the sky, grinning despite himself.
"Oh, so the stars care what they're called?" Jarlaxle retorted. Artemis groaned.
"Yes. They get offended if they're called bright points of light and that's why they fall." Artemis said sarcastically.
"They do?" Jarlaxle asked incredulously. It was on the tip of Artemis' tongue to demand to know if the Drow actually believed that, but a wicked notion crossed his mind.
"They listen to every word we say and if we are not properly respectful and refer to them as stars and constellations, they fall on us." Artemis whispered conspiratorily. Jarlaxle's eyes widened to size of a silver coin.
"Would I lie to you?"
"So the word constellation came about as a means of self-protection..." Jarlaxle whispered wonderingly and for a brief moment, Artemis felt bad about his lie. The drow would figure it out soon enough however and Artemis could use it a means of getting him to shut up until then.
"What does the moon like to be called?"