Mercenary Vignettes

by Ariel D

Description: Scenes involving our favorite mercenaries, Entreri and Jarlaxle.

Disclaimer: Jarlaxle, Artemis Entreri, and all other recognizable characters belong to R. A. Salvatore and Wizards of the Coast. No challenge to the copyright is intended or should be inferred. Tai is mine.

A/N: Five entries for the Tricky and Deadly summer contest on DA. Each entry had to be a specific length: 100, 200, 300, 400, or 500 words. They also had to be specific genres like angst, humor, friendship, and action/adventure.

Mild spoilers all the way through Gy… Gym… Gyn… Uh, that most recent book of RAS's. Also some AU.


Never

The hard, flat voice was exactly as Jarlaxle remembered it: "I never wanted to see you again."

"You told me to fare well or fare ill; you didn't care which." The drow offered an empty smile, hoping Entreri didn't see through it.

"I still don't care." Entreri stood from behind his office desk in the Copper Ante. "Whatever your scheme is now, I refuse to be a part of it."

"Can you say that when you'll benefit also? Especially without hearing the deal?"

"I can." Entreri pointed at the door. "Goodbye, Jarlaxle."

The drow left as asked, feeling strangely defeated.


Cornered

A gleaming sword with a red blood trough, its reapers dancing in torchlight. "Have I ever mentioned that I hate drow?"

Glittering daggers that Jarlaxle could throw faster than human eyes could track. "Many times, khal abbil."

Back to back they stood, surrounded by dozens of red, glowing eyes. Entreri could feel the heat from Jarlaxle's back against his shoulder blades. "We must be perfect."

"We're always perfect."

Entreri decided Jarlaxle's cheerful tone didn't cover his irritation and confusion. No, that wasn't true — it covered it to everyone's ears but his. The mercenary didn't know why his own kind attacked them.

"To what honor do I owe this visit?" Jarlaxle asked, sounding airy. Entreri wasn't fooled.

The tall warrior in front grinned as the other foot soldiers remained silent and still. "Something a litter spider told Matron Baenre. We hear you've been sticking your nose where it doesn't belong, and we're here to put a stop to it. Permanently."

It was vague at best; the two mercenaries had a dozen projects in the works. The assassin had his usual solution. "Kill now. Questions later."

"For once, we are in agreement." An edge of steel underlay Jarlaxle's merry tone.

Blood flew.


Realization

"Damned drow! Don't die."

The words seemed to reach Jarlaxle through a soupy haze. An errant thought nagged him, the thought that something important had happened and he needed to remember what. No answers followed, though.

"If you die now, I'll never forgive you."

Jarlaxle wanted either to laugh or frown — laugh at the thought he'd die so easily and frown at whoever was making such odd pronouncements over him. As though he would die! But no sooner had he thought that than he remembered being in a fight, one worse than usual. Yes, that was right. He'd been close to breaking the ball that would whisk him off to a place even he couldn't predict, but if he'd been in that much trouble, why wasn't he safely elsewhere?

Wait. There had been someone else. A few someone elses, really. That crazy child of his long-dead friend and his equally insane lover. A grim dwarf who normally laughed and rhymed except things had grown too dangerous. And, most surprisingly of all, there had been a human introduced to him under the wrong name, a man who should have never agreed to fight at their sides except they all aimed to destroy the same person in the end.

Jarlaxle opened his eyes abruptly. "Artemis?"

The human leaning over him holding a glowing crystal to his bleeding chest barely looked like the man he remembered. "I'll never understand you," he muttered.

When Jarlaxle smiled, he knew he had to have blood on his teeth because he tasted it in his mouth. "Saving me, abbil? Why?"

"You manipulated Do'Urden into saving me."

"Making us even?"

Entreri narrowed his eyes. "I should let you die for it instead."

"Except?"

Entreri glanced back at the healing crystal. "Except in the end, I realized we're friends."


Tai

As his friend entered the forest clearing, Jarlaxle grinned at him. "So how goes the training of Entreri Junior?"

"Don't call him that." Entreri glanced at Tai, the "junior" in question, who had collapsed on the ground and leaned against a tree twenty feet away. The young priest of Hoar looked like he'd instantly fallen asleep, his long black bangs hanging into his tan face. "In another five years, he might make a decent fighter."

"Such a cruel assessment!" Jarlaxle pulled a blanket from a pouch on his belt. "I think the boy comes along well." He spread the blanket on the ground, pausing as it produced a veritable feast. "So much better than rations." He took a seat and smiled at Entreri, clearly waiting for him to join in.

With a longsuffering sigh at Jarlaxle's endless supply of magical items, Entreri sat cross-legged on the ground. Every meat he could want presented itself: mutton, beef, venison, and something he wasn't quite sure of. "What's that?" He pointed at what looked vaguely like straightened frog legs.

"Lizard."

Entreri picked up the mutton.

"Be adventurous! Try something new." Jarlaxle picked up a lizard-on-a-stick.

Wordlessly, Entreri pushed a dish toward him that clearly held a homemade Calishite dish of curry-infused rice and vegetables. Jarlaxle wrinkled his nose.

"Try something new," Entreri echoed, smirking.

"Not curry. I've tried curry."

"Makes every dish better." Entreri took a large helping.

Tai watched them blurrily, clearly trying to decide if he had the energy to join them or not. Jarlaxle waved him over, but the boy didn't move.

The drow raised a thin, white eyebrow at Entreri. "Wear him out, did you?"

"He leaves himself open too much," Entreri explained matter-of-factly. "I made him keep practicing until his guard was up properly."

Jarlaxle was grinning again.

"Don't start with the 'junior.'"

"I thought you weren't going to pass on your sword techniques." Jarlaxle picked up several wine bottles one by one, reading the labels.

Entreri tugged one from his hands, uncorked it, and smelled it. "I'm not." It smelled like a dry, red wine, and he nodded his head once, satisfied.

Jarlaxle gave him an exaggerated frown. "Lush." The insult was ridiculous; he continued before the assassin could respond. "I thought you weren't ever going to take on a student."

The shrug of a shoulder, the half-hooded eyes of boredom. "Call it ennui."

Jarlaxle wasn't fooled.


In the End

Jarlaxle stirred faintly, roused by the clanging of a buoy mixed with the splashing of ocean waves and the cries of sea gulls. The world had changed a great deal since 878 DR, when he'd been born. Now it was 1978, and Skullport's harbor was filled with steel battleships and cruise liners. Jarlaxle had grown old, although his mother than been older when she died. But there was no evil goddess to keep him alive unnaturally long, and the Weave had been exhausted, making magic die. And Jarlaxle was sitting on his private beach letting the soft rays of the sunset warm him. He got cold easily these days; he fell asleep accidentally.

But he was never so far gone as to miss the approach of the human walking up the beach toward him. The man wore white pants and a white shirt, the pants rolled up a few inches so he could let the waves lap over his feet. The shirt was unbuttoned, providing a stark contrast to deep brown skin with a faint grey undertone. Black hair glistened in the sunlight. The peace the man had finally achieved was evident in the way he walked barefoot down the beach, enjoying the wet sand and gentle waves. He still didn't genuinely smile or laugh often, but he traded it for a calmness that infused those around him without his saying a word.

Jarlaxle drank in the sight: the only true friend he'd ever had. He'd fought a major war to win back the man's trust and respect.

He waited until the man reached him before speaking. "Come to check on me, Artemis?"

Entreri sat on the sand by Jarlaxle's lone chair. Wind blew back strands of his hair, which feathered around his ears. "I see you're still breathing." There was a smile then, tiny and teasing.

Jarlaxle chucked. "For now."

"You won't die easily." Artemis stared at the ocean, no doubt watching the crimson sun dipping to meet the horizon.

"Of course not." Jarlaxle reached out and squeezed the warm shoulder, which was still muscular. Ever the warrior, that one, even in a changed world. "I think it's the greatest irony that you'll outlive me."

Entreri shook his head slowly. "I look better off than I am." He turned toward Jarlaxle, eyes dark and serious. And yet not grave, he noted. "You won't die alone, my friend."

Jarlaxle smiled.


A/N: Thank you to anyone who reads and reviews!