Close Your Eyes: Epilogue

Dwhavel watched with some measure of interest from her rooftop as the ruddy glow in the distance grew. The Temple was burning---and from the looks of it, to the ground.

The Basadoni guild would certainly be bragging on this one for some time to come.

"Cousin", said a winded voice from behind. Dwhavel did not turn to greet Dondon, though she heard his footfalls as he shuffled over to where she sat. "I'm spent" he sat beside her as he caught his breath, immediately reaching to his pocket and withdrawing a bag of dates; only half full.

"You've had an industrious evening, I see." She smiled slightly, though Dondon noted with no difficulty that it was largely forced. "How did you get into my establishment?" A knowing glint touched her eyes.

Dondon nodded. Dwhavel followed his direction and looked upon a slightly disheveled Artemis Entreri. The young man slowly climbed the steps, dawdling uncharacteristically, it would seem. From her perch upon the small cushion the Halfling woman could see that the assassin's entire midsection was covered in dried blood. Dwhavel feigned disinterest, though to her surprise she found herself fighting the urge to run to him and tend whatever wound had caused the mess. "I have some information for you, Artemis." She said, hoping to lighten the mood to some extent.

"Since when do you give information for free?" He asked blandly, his voice betraying the exhaustion that was beginning to take hold of him.

Dwhavel smiled. "Consider it a gift. One of my contacts at the Pook guild told me that a thief of theirs returned this evening; he'd been thrown out temporarily a few weeks ago. Evidently this thief--Regis is his name—happens to have spent the past few weeks in the company of someone in whom you may be interested..."

Dondon only half listened to what Dwhavel was saying, his hand straying absently to pluck a date from the small bag and deposit it into his mouth as his mind drifted back to recount the evening's events. Dwhavel paused and looked at her cousin knowingly, as if to say 'I have to tell him'...The Halfling nearly choked on his date, but he was too late to stop her.

"It's the girl you were telling me about--Jorie. And Artemis, I think you should go to her....she's with ch---Artemis?" Dwhavel blinked, raising her brows quizzically as the assassin turned abruptly and walked down the stairs. She turned to her cousin, the other Halfling staring at her in disbelief. "What the hell was that about?"

"She's dead, Dwhavel." Dondon replied simply.

"What do you mean 'dead'? My information is solid, Cousin, and I know for a fact that Entreri had no idea of her whereabouts as recently as this evening..."

Dondon turned to face his cousin, brows furrowing slightly as he noticed the concern in her eyes---more for the fact that her prized information circuit might be flawed, he noted, than for any grief over the death of the girl. "She was among the dead we found at the temple. Theo, too." He paused, taking a breath, hoping to steady his voice. "There wasn't much left."

"I see." She raised a small finger to her crimson lips, tracing their outline absently as she digested the information. "Perhaps it is for the better."

"What do you mean?"

"A woman is a liability in his trade. A child even more so. His is in a dangerous line of work, and he cannot afford such distractions..."

She was cut off by Dondon's sardonic snort. "Listen to yourself, Dwhavel...truly spoken like the coldest of the pashas." He rose to his feet, chubby hands tucking themselves into his pockets. "He may be a killer, cousin, but it is his heart with a blade through it this night." The Halfling turned on his heel and padded toward the stairway, calling over his shoulder "He wont talk to me. Maybe you'll have better luck. Good night, Cousin."

Dwhavel lingered a few moments more, peering down from the rooftop to the street to watch as Dondon's form exited the Copper Ante and meandered toward the main thoroughfare. She raised her hands to her face, smoothing her dark tresses from her eyes as she looked upon the smoke billowing up through the orange glow. "And so your innocence dies completely...gone with the ashes into the midnight sky." The Halfling wrapped her arms around herself and started toward the stairs...

* * * *

"Artemis?" Dwhavel asked softly as she poked her head into the doorway, her gaze settling upon the still form of a half naked young man curled in a ball on the bed. His boots and cloak lie discarded in the far corner of the room—as if they had been unceremoniously tossed there. The belt and saber were dropped beside the bed, his blood stained shirt flung across the room hanging from the corner of the dresser. Dwhavel stepped into the room, narrowing her eyes slightly as she noticed the peculiar dagger lying on the bed beside the unmoving form. She felt her heart drop into her stomach, and in an instant she stood beside the bed, her hands slapping at his face frantically. "Artemis! Damn you, look at me!"

Much to the halfling's astonishment, the man opened his eyes, the dark orbs staring at her tear-streaked face. He reached out a hand and brushed the tears from her cheek. "Don't do that."

"By the gods...I thought---I saw that..."

The assassin sat up, his dark hair falling all about his face and over his shoulders. "I am not so weak, Dwhavel." He reached a hand back to fondle the dagger, its green gemstones flickering as his fingers caressed them. "Give me a little more credit than that."

She hurriedly wiped at her face with her silken sleeve, trying desperately to regain her composure. "I'm sorry...you just---just took me by surprise. I came to--"

"I don't want to talk about it."

"But Artemis, I know you're hurting right now, no matter what exterior you decide to display to me."

"I do not wish to speak of this, Dwhavel. Not now, not ever."

"You're a pigheaded, stubborn measure of a man, Entreri. You can do whatever it is you do to bury your feelings for now, but one night many years from now when you lie alone in your bed all of this will come rushing forth like a tidal wave and it will eat you from the inside out, and you won't be able to fight it off with a sword or dagger. You can't just kill everything that hurts you..." She broke off as the assassin lifted the dagger to her throat.

"I said I don't want to talk about this."

Dwhavel grinned wryly, raising a small hand to push Entreri's dagger away. "I know you loved her, Artemis, and I'm sorry you've lost her..."

"You don't have any idea what I've lost." He laid his head back on the pillow, rolling over so as to put his back toward Dwhavel.

"No? I know that you've lost the last piece of you that might have become a good man. I mourn that part of you, Artemis, and I hope you find it again before your own hatred and anger destroys you." She backed away from the bed, turning toward the door.

"Dwhavel."

"What?"

"I hated her. I always hated her."

The Halfling furrowed her brows, looking at the young man—so exposed and unassuming—as he brought his hand up to wipe at his face.

"She made me feel weak, and I hated her for it. I hate her for the way she makes me feel right now." He sniffed, rolling over onto his back, and resting his hands on his bare chest.

"That's what love feels like, Artemis."

"Then I never want to love anyone else as long as I live."

Dwhavel let out a long sigh, walking back over to the bed. She climbed up onto it, sitting her small form next to Entreri, allowing a hand to stroke his head, her small fingers running through his hair. She leaned down, placing a kiss on his forehead. "You may live to regret that." She whispered.

"I'm tired."

"Then close your eyes."

And that's it. Hope you all have enjoyed this fic, it certainly has been a long time in coming. Many thanks to those of you whose reviews and suggestions kept me going. There may eventually be a sequel in the works, although that is dependent upon a number of factors. Once again, I am grateful to RA Salvatore for giving us these great characters and wonderful stories, and to all of the dedicated fanfic readers and writers for filling in all of the gaps. Happy reading! -CBS

Maybe with you I can find some consolation. But I will never have peace.