Chapter One: From Left Field

Drizzt Do'Urden awoke just before nightfall, the relative same time he had awoken nearly every day since he'd settled down in Icewind Dale nearly five months ago. With a yawn and slight stretch he considered sleeping in just a few more minutes, the furs of his sleeping area feeling unusually soft and warm. He considered the fading, but still ample amount of light collected outside for a brief moment before he rolled over into the comfort of his simple bed and closed his lavender eyes. He promised himself that he wouldn't fall back asleep necessarily, but just bide some time for it to get a little darker. That plan was tampered, however, when a rough but soft tongue dragged itself across the side of his face and drew forth a short laugh from the Drow.

"Guenhwyvar," he said, making a futile attempt to burrow into the furs, "just a little longer." The panther let out a low non-threatening growl and bumped his shoulder with its head. Drizzt grunted in response but made no movement. Again his shoulder was met with a firm but gentle nudge meant only to rouse the Drow and when that yielded the same response, Guenhwyvar stood up and batted a careful paw at Drizzt's shoulder. Feeling the gentle rake of velvet claws over his bare skin Drizzt rolled once more onto his back and regarded the panther that had for so long been his only friend. Yellow eyes looked down from a head cocked slightly to the side in a look that clearly said to Drizzt, 'you've slept long enough. It's time to get up. There is work to be done.'

"Okay," he conceded, reaching a hand out to run over Guenhwyvar's sleek, dark fur. He smiled at the panther, glad for the ever watchful company as the large cat closed its eyes and growled contently at the touch, even pressing its head more firmly into the hand. "Thank you, for reminding me to be diligent," he sighed.

As Drizzt rose, Guenhwyvar stepped back and circled to the front of the cave. It didn't take the Drow long to collect the chainmail and scimitars he removed for comfort's sake when resting, they were always right within his reach when he slumbered. It was only recently that he'd taken to removing them again, finally feeling secure enough in his new home to sleep without them on. The hard winter months had prevented most anyone or thing from crawling into his cave and attacking him, though he'd already had the misfortune of being driven away from a few choice spots from barbarians, yetis, and a silly lost human from Ten-Towns who'd brought an angry fleet up there after him with the first thaw before the whole matter about leaving him in peace was resolved. Seems Cassius hadn't thought to mention to the other towns right away that he'd let a Drow find his home up a little farther in the mountains. To say the other towns were unsettled by the revelation was putting it mildly.

He sighed and brushed the unpleasant memories from his thoughts. He had a few friends now, Guenhwyvar for sure and a halfling named Regis as well as the dwarf king Bruenor, and Drizzt supposed that would just have to be enough for him now. He longed for more friends and the complex social interactions that would come from living with close neighbors, maybe even a family someday, but recent events had minded him once more to be careful how high he let his hopes build up. For a moment he paused at the entrance to the cave as he wondered if, in the coming of the warm months, he would be chased off with more passion this time when snow and harsh weather wouldn't hinder the townsfolk as they had before. And if they did, what would happen to him then? The dwarves were still weary and Regis was timid in his own ways. Once more, Drizzt shook away the current thoughts bombarding his mind for though these were unpleasant too his spirit truly could not stand to contemplate what it would mean for him if he would be pushed away, yet again.

"Come Guenhwyvar," Drizzt forced an airy tone into his voice, more to convince himself that all was well. The panther looked up in the usual way it often regarded its master, not once missing the deeper emotions the Drow tried to hide. "I think some breakfast is in order before we set to work."

Catti-brie smiled as she came around a turn it the rocks and found Drizzt striking up a fire. The rabbit he'd caught lay motionless beside him, and his beloved Guenhwyvar was a few paces away already peeling the snowy fur off its own kill. She watched him labor over his work, his back turned to her as he blew gently on the kindle to flame the smoking sparks caught there, and her smile widened most mischievously as a thought came to her. Crouching low and as quietly as she could, the young girl snuck forward toward the Drow, careful to keep out of his line of sight. She was almost upon him, carefully drawing in a deep breath, when he uttered, "Nice try, Catti-brie, but I heard you coming before you knew I was even here."

She let out her breath in a huff and relaxed her muscles. "How did ye know it was me?" she asked, laying a gentle hand on his shoulder as she came around to sit beside him. Drizzt finished his work on the fire with a small mysterious smile.

"I have my own ways," he told her.

"I stopped by earlier in the day, ye was sleeping," the bright girl said. She reached over and patted Guenhwyvar's rump with one mitten covered hand. "Guen turned me away to let ye, but seemed startled when I first came around." Cattie-brie eyed the drow. "Ye haven't been in any trouble, have ye?"

"None that wasn't expected," Drizzt told her. He tried to smile reassuringly and added on, before she could press for details, "Speaking of keeping out of trouble, I think this is the latest I've seen you out. The sky will soon be dark, and I don't imagine your father would be wholly pleased to find you still outside when it is."

"I'm with you," Catti-brie said. "I'm safe." He smiled at her, touched by her faith in him and the deep friendship he found in her. "Besides, I just got here," she continued, "and me wanted to make sure ye were faring well. Oh! And I brought ye this." The young girl dug into a bag she carried that had seen better days. Out from it she pulled a folded collection of woven thickness, a blanket of many layers of color with no discernible pattern. "I wanted to give it too ye before the first snows, but all me was allowed was scrap yarn for it, so it took a little longer to weave…"

"It's wonderful," Drizzt told her, marveling at the blanket. His dark hands carefully unfolded it to the full size, and Catti-brie cringed inwardly when she saw it wasn't nearly as tall as her friend, but the drow hardly noticed. "Thank you, Catti-brie," he said. "It is the nicest thing I've ever been given." She smiled at him.

They sat for a while longer, and Drizzt shared some of the meal he'd cooked with her. As the sun began to dip into the west, the drow finally stood up and helped Catti-brie do the same. They truly weren't a far walk from the front doors to the dwarven homes but Drizzt wasn't surprised to see Bruenor waiting for them, flanked on either side by gruff and fierce looking guards, as twilight set upon the land. "Yer late!" the king called. "What have I told ye about being out after dark?"

"It's my fault," Drizzt told him, bowing slightly. "I wished for her company after long months spent alone; I'm sorry good king, but it will never happen again."

"Don't be making excuses," Bruenor said, waving him off. "I'd be a fool of a king if I didn't know my daughter better than that. Get inside girl." He pretended not to notice when Cattie-brie hugged Drizzt quickly around the waist before she skipped toward her adoptive kin. The dwarf nodded curtly behind her back at the drow, a motion that he'd come to know as the closest thing he was going to get in thanks from the king for looking after the girl the way he would have even if her father hadn't muttered something about doing just that nearly four months ago. Drizzt calmly turned and walked off into the raising shadows of night.

Guenhwyvar bumped his leg when he was a good distance away, having stayed behind in the shadows where the panther wouldn't startle the already edgy dwarfs. The panther rubbed its head up into Drizzt's hand and he scratched firmly.

"I know," Drizzt said to the panther. "It's time for you to go back. Thank you, my friend." Guenhwyvar padded away then, slowly turning to mist and then dissolving into nothing. Drizzt was left alone then to his rounds. He stepped forward, meaning to get right into it when there came a sudden blinding flash of light. One hand flew up to shield his sensitive eyes and the other found its way to the hilt of his scimitar, but a panic feeling overtook him when that too seemed to fade away like the mist that Guenhwyvar was made from.

The dazzling light grew to such intensity that he had to shut his eyes, but even that didn't keep the burning sensation of it form boring into him. The air around him swirled, violently so, and on some back burner of his mind he realized that it wasn't just his weapons that had disappeared, it felt like he was falling apart into nothing but couldn't do anything to stop it. Just as suddenly as this strange phenomenon began it stopped just as violently when his back slammed into something that forced the air out of his lungs. He laid there for what seemed like a long time before sensation came back into his limbs. Since he wasn't falling, for he was sure his body couldn't support any weight right then if it tried, he assumed that what he'd hit was the ground, though it wasn't the rock, dirt and icy snow he knew in the tundra of his new home. He couldn't place what the strange sensation of this kind of floor was, but he could clearly feel it pressed up against every inch of his backside.

Every, bare naked, inch of his backside.

Drizzt moaned and tried to roll over, then became aware of a shuffling and muffled squeak. Sensing something else in close proximity to him, and unable to place what it was, the prone drow fought off the dregs of his stun to move into a defensive position or find a weapon, anything to defend himself. There was another tiny scream and then something heavy slammed into the side of his head, effectively knocking him unconscious for several minutes.

Katie cautiously leaned over the strange naked man now lying face down on her bedroom carpet. She clutched the baseball bat tighter in her hands, ready to swing again if he tried to stir once more. She had little doubt as to what he was with his black ebony skin and pointed ears sticking out from strands of snow white hair, but that only served to make her clutch the bat tighter. Drow were dangerous. Naked or not, drow were dangerous.

A million things ran through her head, why and how and a million different whats, but who rang the clearest and frightened as she was to go anywhere near the body of a drow warrior she knew only one way to check. Creeping ever so slowly, as though he would spring up and stab her at even the slightest sound, she reached a trembling hand toward the body, the other one gripping the bat like a lifeline, and ever so carefully brushed aside the soft white hair that covered his face. She took steadying breaths and carefully peeled back the eyelid.

Stunned lavender irises stared blankly back, unable to process any picture at the moment.