The recognizable characters appearing in this story are copyright by Wizards of the Cost, Inc. This story is written for entertainment purposes only; no challenge to the copyright holders is intended, neither should any be inferred.

A Brave Girl

Eleven-year-old Cattie-brie looked longingly at her pile of winter clothes beside the practice room door. Dad had been called away for something or other in the middle of their sparring lesson, and he'd told her to practice the short sword routine one more time before she could go outside to play. Cattie-brie was glad the lesson was cut short; not only was it boring, but she was also looking forward to visiting her new friend Drizzt again.

Resignedly she lifted her practice sword – a heavy, ugly thing with scratches and dints all over its tarnished gray surface – and went through the motions of the lesson. She finished with a flourish, throwing the dull sword up into the air and surprising herself by catching it easily. She'd seen some of the younger dwarven miners throwing swords in the air and catching them a few nights ago, with many a bet on who would drop theirs. Her father didn't know it, but she'd secretly been practicing the impressive-looking move too. She couldn't always manage it yet, but then she'd just jump back out of the way and let the dinged-up weapon fall on the floor. The sword routines she was supposed to be practicing were so boring, and they needed a little embellishment.

Finished practice, Cattie hung the dull sword on a wall rack. It was then she noticed that a weapon's cupboard – where some real swords were kept – was unlocked! As eager as she was to go outside and visit her new friend, Cattie-brie couldn't resist looking inside. She tugged the door open and inhaled the enticing aromas of metal polish and leather-wrapped hilts. She admired the row of gleaming blades, and a dozen red-headed reflections peered back at her, wide-eyed. She reached out with one finger and tentatively touched the flat of a shining blade. Glancing behind her to make sure that the door to the practice room was closed, she gripped the hilt experimentally, then carefully lifted the short sword out. It felt much more comfortable in her hand than her beat-up old practice weapon. She hefted the sword and gave a test swing, grinning at the whooshing noise it made as it cut through the air. Surprisingly, this sword seemed somewhat lighter than her practice weapon.

There was a small sound behind her and Cattie-brie jumped guiltily, again looking towards the door. Only a lizard, scuttling along the wall. She blew out her breath in relief. She knew she should put the sword away, but she couldn't resist swinging it a few more times. Maybe next summer dad would finally let her start practicing with a real sword. Or better yet, maybe he'd stop making her practice swords and just let her do archery, which was way more fun.

Cattie-brie moved to put the sharp sword away, but then stopped, a smile slowly spreading across her face. "I bet I could catch it in th' air." Even if she had to drop the weapon, it didn't look expensive or anything, and she doubted it would be damaged. After all, this was still just a practice sword, albeit a sharpened one. Confident in her reasoning, the eleven-year-old flung the weapon up towards the high ceiling of the practice room. The sword flipped end over end as it began its downward rush. One flip...two flips...three... Cattie reached out for it but it was going to be too hard to grab. Oh well. She jumped back, a little too late. The sword clattered to the stone floor, cutting a gash in her leg as it went.

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Drizzt Do'Urden stood at the entrance of the cave he called home and squinted out across the harsh white snow. It pained his sensitive drow eyes, but at least today was cloudy. When the sun shone full and the snow reflected it back in ten thousand dazzling sparkles, he could hardly bear to be outdoors at all. He wondered if his little friend Cattie-brie would come to visit him today. She was usually here by now. Drizzt swiped a hand across his watering eyes and scanned the horizon in the direction of the dwarven settlement. Nothing – only the ever-present wind that moved like a restless spirit across the surface of the snow. Drizzt's heart sank. He couldn't help the disappointment he felt. The cheerful little girl's visits always brightened his otherwise lonely days. He started to turn back to the cave when a movement caught his eye. Cattie-brie crested the ridge and was hurrying across the snow towards him. The drow smiled.

As the girl came nearer, Drizzt waved, but she didn't return the gesture. She seemed to be covering her mouth with one mittened hand. Maybe she'd forgotten her scarf or lost it somewhere. Her cheeks were red from cold. The child slowed to a walk and began to pick her way up the path towards the cave. Drizzt frowned at her unusually slow progress. Something was wrong. "Well met!" he called, and started down towards her. Cattie-brie stopped, looked up at her friend, and burst into tears.

Drizzt hurried down the path, slipping and sliding on the ice in his haste. "What's wrong Cattie? Are you hurt?"

She nodded, trying to choke back her tears as he reached her side. "I cut me leg!"

Drizzt looked down and noticed a bloody scarf tied around her right leg, just below her knee. "It's going to be alright," he reassured. After all, she was walking. "Here...let me carry you."

Cattie-brie put her arms around his neck and Drizzt swung her up onto his back, careful of her leg. He started up towards the cave. "We'll take a look at it and then I'll bring you home." Or close to home, he thought. There might be too many questions otherwise.

Cattie-brie clung more tightly to the dark elf's neck. "Nae home! Ye canna take me home!" She wiped her runny nose with a mittened hand. "Ye canna take me home like this cuz...cuz I'll be in sae much trouble!"

Drizzt was confused and a bit startled at the forcefulness of her response. They reached the cave and ducked inside, out of the wind. "Trouble?" Drizzt set her down gently on a chair by the fire.

"I was playin' with a sword and I wasna supposed ta be."

"Ah..." That explained things.

Cattie-brie pulled off her mittens and wiped her eyes with them. "That's why I came here; I knew ye'd help me." She smiled a teary smile.

Drizzt knelt beside her without comment and carefully unwound the scarf from her leg. He inspected the bloody gash on her calf through the tear in her deerskin leggings, then carefully worked her pantleg up above her knee. Cattie-brie was still gulping in deep breaths and sniffling, but she seemed to be calming down now that Drizzt was tending to her. The dark elf hadn't taken Cattie-brie for a clumsy girl. He frowned. "How exactly did you do this?"

The eleven-year-old's cheeks grew even redder and she looked away from his searching eyes in embarrassment. "I was tryin' ta throw the sword in the air an' catch it."

Drizzt's eyes widened and the corner of his mouth twitched. "I see," he said, trying to keep the amusement from his voice. She was a mischevious little sprite, that was for sure. "Well, it's not too bad. Just a moment." He went out and returned almost immediately with a handful of clean snow. This he placed in a wooden bowl, then added some steaming water from the kettle that was hanging over the fire. It wouldn't do to have it burning hot or shockingly cold. Drizzt found some clean cloth for bandages and ripped off a few pieces. He gently washed the cut with the warm water. It was no more than a healthy scratch, and had mostly stopped bleeding, though it gaped open somewhat. Cattie-brie bit her lip.

"So, what ever gave you the idea of throwing your sword in the air and catching it?" Drizzt folded a bandage and pressed it firmly against the oozing cut.

Cattie-brie shrugged. "Saw some a' the dwarfs doin' it last week. Been workin' on it ever since, with me practice sword." She looked away from his piercing gaze and stared, instead, at the fire. "Thought I was gettin' good at it."

Drizzt couldn't help a brief chuckle.

Cattie pouted. "It ain't never come close to hitting me a-fore, e'en when I had ta drop it!"

"Your father allows you to engage in such an exercise?"

She thrust out her chin defiantly. "He don't know."

"I see. And whose real sword were you playing with?"

"Nobody's."

"You said–"

"Dad had to go off for some important thing. After he left I noticed that one a' the weapon's cupboards wasna locked." Cattie-brie frowned angrily. "He ne'er even lets me hold a sharp sword."

"Perhaps with good reason," Drizzt commented. He began wrapping a bandage around her leg.

Cattie-brie looked hurt and angry. "Ye sound jist like him!"

Drizzt tied a firm knot and she winced. "I'm sure he only wants to keep you safe. You should be grateful he cares so much about you."

The girl crossed her arms and glared at him. "I didna come here for a lecture."

"It's not a lecture," Drizzt said mildly. He stood, stretched, and got out some tea herbs and two mugs.

Cattie-brie tugged her pantleg down angrily. "Sure sounds like one. I should ha' jist taken care of this on me own." She stood and wrapped her cloak around herself huffily.

"I suppose you'll manage to stitch it yourself too," Drizzt said off-handedly, pouring water over the tea leaves.

That gave her pause. "Stitch...wha...what d'ya mean? It's bandaged."

He nodded. "It is. But it should really be stitched."

The dark elf took a step towards her and Cattie-brie drew back in alarm. "Yer...yer not gonna..."

Drizzt merely handed her one of the cups of tea. "No. I'm not." He gestured to the chair. "Sit. Drink."

Cattie-brie sighed, finally allowing herself to be placated. "Okay." She took a sip of the hot liquid and grimaced. "I dinna suppose ye have any sugar?"

"I don't."

"Oh. Maybe I can sneak some out a' the kitchen tomorrow."

"I think you're in enough trouble already."

Cattie's frown returned. "I was jist tryin' ta be nice!"

"I prefer my tea this way."

"Yer crazy."

"I've been called worse."

That brought a small smile back to her lips. "Ah well. I didna really mean it anyhow." She bravely took another gulp of the bitter brew and swallowed it down with a small shudder. "And I'm no gonna be in trouble. Dad will nae find out."

Drizzt smirked. "How do you intend to explain the injury, the torn leggings, the bloody scarf...the bloody sword that's lying in the practice room?"

Her anger came back full force. "How stupid do ye think I am?! I wiped off the sword, an' I put it away and locked up the cupboard! I wrapped me scarf 'round me leg a-fore it could drip on the floor!"

Drizzt held out a hand disarmingly. "Alright. Alright."

Cattie-brie looked away unhappily. He had helped her, and now she had hollered at him. Maybe Drizzt wouldn't be her friend anymore because she was mean. "Sorry." Her voice was small.

He merely nodded once and drank his tea.

"I know what I'm gonna tell me dad," Cattie-brie said after a few moments.

"Oh?" Drizzt waited expectantly.

"I'll jist say I slipped an' cut me leg on some sharp ice."

He shook his head. "Unlikely."

"Well...on some rocks then."

"The cut's not jagged enough."

Cattie-brie pouted again. Was he deliberately trying to frustrate her? She thought awhile longer. "I know! I'll say I was tryin' ta carve some wood, an' the knife slipped!"

"Hm."

Was it her imagination, or was there disapproval in that one word? "Well I canna tell him I was playin' with a sharp sword. Dad would be jist furious! I dinna want ta be in trouble."

"Look – what you tell him is your business. But you should go to the healer and have it stitched. He'll–"

"She'll."

"Oh. She'll have herbs to numb the pain, and will make sure it heals well."

Cattie-brie looked worried. "I dunno...what if I jus' don't bother?"

"There'll be a much bigger scar."

Her eyes lit up. "Oh! Well if that's all..."

He tried a different tack. "It might get infected. Then you could get blood poisoning or have to have maggots put on it to eat the dead flesh or–"

He had her at maggots. "Okay, okay...I guess I'd better do it."

Drizzt smiled. "Good. Smart decision. I knew you were a smart one."

She beamed at his praise, then paled again after some more thought. "It's gonna hurt."

He shrugged, and met her blue eyes steadily. "It's just a little pain. You can handle it. You're a tough girl. You'll be brave and you'll be just fine. I know it."

She smiled again, though her smile was small. "I guess I'd better be goin' back now a-fore I'm late."

He nodded. "Come and visit me again tomorrow. You can show me the stitches, and I'll give you tea with plenty of honey in it."

"Honey?!"

The drow smiled. "I have a little left from summertime, and I think it should go to a brave girl."

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Complete. Reviews appreciated! :)