Notes from the Author: The characters of Jaralxle, Entreri and Drizzt are property of R.A. Salvatore, TSR, and Wizards of the Coast. This story takes place after the events described in The Legacy, and largely concerns the time Artemis Entreri spent in Menzoberanzan before Starless Night. It will become obvious that I took a few liberties with what Salvatore has said about that time. I've made some changes that appealed to me, and I hope no one will take offence. Warning to Males: If this were a movie, it would probably be described as a chick-flick, so continue at your own risk…
His world was a haze of agony, red-hot and piercing every part of his being. He was grateful for it, though, because it was his only indication that he was still alive. He found that despite the pain, he wanted desperately to live. He didn't know why, for the world as he knew it was built on suffering, but then he had always been a survivor. His battered consciousness found a focus through the red blaze of agony; I must be near death, he thought as his eyes slowly discerned the image of a face, strangely moving in the midst of all his pain, soothing him. I wonder if this is heaven or hell? His thoughts were disjointed and made no sense to him. Hard to believe that I'd be headed to heaven, he thought as he heard a magical chant begin, a chant of healing. Not dead yet… was his final thought as he lapsed into unconsciousness.
Aramys turned from the battered human and looked to Jarlaxle. "Will he live?" the dark elf signed to her in the drow handcode.
"For the moment" she signed back to him. "At least this will keep him together long enough to get him back to base."
"Excellent!' was his reply. He motioned to two of his soldiers to bring to human assassin with them as they traveled along the underground tunnels.
As they moved further from the dwarven stronghold, they began to speak aloud. "Why are you bothering with this Colnbluth? " Aramys asked.
The flamboyant dark elf looked at the delicate features of his companion. She was herself half drow, and the term Colnbluth seemed more a sad commentary of her own ranking in drow society. He examined her closely as they moved along the tunnels, and was amazed again at how blindly prejudiced his people could be. Her mixed blood marked her as the worst corruption nature had to offer in drow eyes, worse even than the surface elves, the Fairies. Yet, in any other society the young elf would have been considered far from an abomination. Jarlaxle laughed at the ridiculous thought. Her body was slight and graceful, softly curving. Her heart-shaped face was set with large violet eyes. Her skin was very pale, a surprising development considering her heritage, for her mother had been a golden elf, and her father drow. It almost seemed as if drow coloration had reversed itself in her. Her hair was thick, and as dark as her skin was light. Jarlaxle knew though, better than any, how deceptive her fragile looks were. He knew her to be almost unbelievably lethal. After all, he had trained her himself… Jarlaxle smiled slyly at the girl. "You will find that there is considerably more to this Colnbluth that meets the eye." He said back at her.
Aramys looked doubtfully at the injured human. "He lookes like a sad specimen to me" was her only comment.
Artemis Entreri awoke in a dimly lit cavern. He lay still for a long moment, mentally examining his body for any sign of pain. Sensing none, he tentatively lifted his head. He slowly flexed his hands, and then experimentally moved his legs. His last memory was of being terribly injured, left hanging from a jag of rock after his last duel with drizzt. There was no way he could have survived unaided, but who were his saviors?
As if in answer, a most peculiar fellow stepped into the dim light.
Artemis recognized the dark elf as jarlaxle, the drow mercenary leader of Bregan D'earth, his most recent ally in his quest to destroy Drizzt Do'Urden. The drow had all of his races natural grace and beauty, but with a singularly unique flare for fashion. Instead of growing his white hair long like others of his race (and entreri understood that drow hairstyles often designated their family and rank) he had his head shaved bald. He wore a huge, feathered purple hat, and an eye patch. His other items of dress were equally colorful and outrageous. Entreri scowled at the sight of him.
"Now, is that any way to greet the person responsible for saving your miserable life, master Entreri?" Jarlaxle announced, amusement evident in his tone.
Entreri sat up slowly, groaning a bit at his barely healed injuries. "What do you plan to do with me?" he asked.
"Does everything have to have an ulterior motive for you?" Jarlaxle said, raising one eyebrow. Entreri continued to glare at him. "It has never occurred to you that I might have grown fond of you after our past association?", the drow continued. Entreri's cold stare didn't falter. "Well then, perhaps I find that a warrior of your skills would make a fine addition to Bregan D'earth."
Entreri nodded, his dark eyes still skeptical, though this reasoning seemed sound enough. Grimacing, he swung his legs over the edge of the cot he had been laying on. "So, what sort of fascinating plans to you have in store for me?" he asked.
Jarlaxle laughed as he bent and retrieved clean clothing that had been brought for the man, tossing them to him. "I just thought you might enjoy a stay in Menzoberanzan. You seem to have such admiration for Drow society." He smiled slyly and continued, "Perhaps you might benefit from seeing it up close. Consider this a little vacation from Calimport, and yourself a tourist to our Fair City."
Artemis Entreri, one of the greatest warriors on Faerun, and the most dreaded assassin the Realms had ever known, knew that there had to be more to the mercenary's offer. His skills would be invaluable to Breagan D'earth, and he knew the opportunistic Jarlaxle would find a use for them. Perhaps he figured Entreri would be so grateful for the rescue that he would be willing to work for him. "And so", replied the skeptical human,"I'm just to sit back, relax, and enjoy the sights here?" Entreri stood stiffly and looked around for his weapons. They weren't to be found.
Jarlaxle grinned and turned to a chest in one corner of the room. There he drew out a drow made dirk and saber. " I think that hafling relieved you of your dagger and sword while you were, uh… incapacitated." The drow offered Entreri the weapons. Though it seemed impossible, the man's scowl turned even blacker as he considered the things he would do to Regis if they ever crossed paths again. " However," the drow continued, " these will serve you well during your stay here, I believe."
"And just how long will my "vacation" here last? "Asked Entreri, gingerly taking the weapons that were offered.
"Well, that is a good question." The drow tapped his chin." You see, the underdark is a very different world from the one that you are accustomed to. There will be a lot for you to learn. However, I believe that once you have learned the skills necessary for survival here, you will become an invaluable resource to me." Jarlaxle smiled his crooked, charming smile. There it was, thought Entreri, spoken plainly. The drow wanted him to join his band of mercenaries. Before he could react or reply, the door to the room opened and in stepped a small figure.
Entreri's eyes widened as he recognized the face of the girl he had dismissed earlier as a hallucination. She was elven, though apparently not drow, although Entreri couldn't determine her exact race. She seemed very young, and was dressed in functional, plain clothing, two short swords sheathed at the hips. Her dark hair was pulled back from her face and braided down her back in several long plaits. She wore no cosmetics or jewelry, or for that matter, anything that was not strictly utilitarian in nature. Yet in that moment, Entreri found himself more intrigued by her than if she had been dressed for a harem. The unadorned face was utterly sweet and feminine, and seemed at odds with her rough accouterments. He shook his head, attempting to clear the unwelcome thoughts away. He was not accustomed to being so moved by feminine beauty.
"Ah, excellent timing, my love" purred jarlaxle, moving towards the girl and taking her hand, " Just in time to meet our guest."
The young elf-maid looked at him with eyes the color of Amethysts. " And so, the rivvil has survived." She replied, speaking in the drow tongue. Entreri didn't comprehend a word, but her voice was low and soft and musical. What is wrong with me? he wondered.
"Come now, my sweet," said jarlaxle, using the common tongue, " lets be polite to master Entreri, after all we want him to like us. Let us make a proper introduction."
The girl shifted her gaze to Entreri, seeing him for the first time in a healthy state. She had never seen a human before in her young life, and her curiosity suddenly got the better of her. She stared. Aramys had always understood that humans were generally larger than drow, but this one was only a little heavier in build than Jarlaxle himself, and no taller. His frame was compactly graceful, and the unlaced shirt he had just donned revealed a body that was all lean muscle. His facial features were finely made and angular, quite striking, really. His hair was very dark, like her own, and his skin light, though not so fair as hers. His eyes were intense and dark, and though the man's expression gave them the impression of being black, they were in reality a dark shade of gray. Aramys had never seen eyes like that, and for a moment the two locked stares, as if unable to look away.
"Ahem" interrupted Jarlaxle, breaking the sudden tension " Artemis Entreri, I'd like to introduce you to Aramys. Treat her with the same respect you offer me, doubled." The drow gave Entreri a sudden hard, warning look, a swift departure from his usual charming and mischievous attitude. "Aramys is second in command to me."
Enrteri looked at the young woman in surprise. Of course he knew that in drow society women were the dominant gender, but this delicate creature didn't look old enough or strong enough to take a position of leadership in a dangerous group like Bregan D'earth. As if reading his thoughts, Jarlaxle added, " Don't underestimate Aramys, she is much more formidable that she would appear. Aramys," he continued, "may I introduce you to Artemis Entreri."
The girl looked directly into the human's eyes. " Pleased to meet you", she said in perfect common. Like a well-schooled child at her first formal party, she extended her hand to him in greeting. Uncertain what she expected him to do with it; Entreri took the small, callused hand and shook it quickly, letting go as swiftly as possible. " Well met", was his gruff response to her formal greeting.
Aramys gave him an odd look, and then turned to Jarlaxle. "So, what are you planning to do with it?" she asked in drow again.
Jalaxle shook his head helplessly, wondering how these two surly individuals were going to interact. "Now Aramys", he said pointedly in the common tongue, "Master Entreri is our honored guest, and we must work to make his stay with us as comfortable as possible." Both the human and the elf-maid looked at Jalaxle with matching expressions of disbelief. "Truly", continued the drow, "Artemis here will need to learn much in order to be of use to us. And this is where you will come in, my dear."
Aramys looked at him with sudden annoyance. "What do you expect me to do with him!" she exclaimed.
"I expect you to teach him our ways, our language, both the handcode and the spoken word. Also, I expect you to keep him by you, until he is thoroughly familiar with the ways of Bregan D'earth and drow society." Jarlaxle smiled charmingly at the two, waiting for the coming explosion. He wasn't disappointed.
Aramys was the first to react. "You have got to be joking!" she exclaimed, "You want me to baby-sit this rivvil!" She was speaking quite clearly in common now and Entreri was spared none of her outrage.
"Hold on a minute here." The assassin said in a cold voice. "I have survived worse places than this." He was met with skeptical looks by both at this declaration. "I DO NOT need this girl to show me anything!" he continued defensively. "I prefer to work alone, and if you want anything of me, then that is how it will have to be!"
"Fine by me," Aramys said quietly, narrowing her large eyes, "Try to make it alone here and you wont be a trouble to anyone for long."
Entreri fastened on the girl his most deadly stare, but she seemed to take no notice. Grown men had fled when given that look, but this girl calmly and confidently ignored it. There was something annoyingly familiar about her attitude and bearing, and Entreri found he didn't like it at all.
"Now children, its time to look at this rationally." Jarlaxle raised both hands in a calming gesture, "Entreri, I realize you prefer to be alone, but surely you recognize what the assistance of one familiar with the language and customs of your surroundings might mean. Why walk around with no idea of what is going on around you when it is not necessary?"
"And Aramys, who could be better to show master Entreri here the ropes that you, another Colnbluth, one who has honed her survival skills here to perfection?" Aramys didn't look impressed by the flattery at all. Jarlaxle continued in a softer voice, " Also, you might consider doing it as a favor to me, because I am asking you to." Entreri noted that there seemed to be some underlying message in the statement, that there seemed to be something more between the two. Typical! He thought. That would surely explain her high standing in the group. He threw a disgusted look at her back, despising women who used their bodies to achieve power. Something about the girl didn't fit with this, though…
Aramys was not looking in his direction at the time. She rolled her eyes helplessly. "If you truly want me to help him", she said, using the drow language again, " then why don't I help him to the nearest tunnel headed to the surface?"
"That is not an option at this point." replied Jarlaxle in drow. "I have my reasons for this, I promise you. Will you accept this without questioning me further?"
Aramys sighed. "If I must." She turned now to Entreri, who was watching them closely. In common she said, "It seems it's to be you and me, human. Think you can handle it?"
Entreri glared at the girl and then looked to Jarlaxle. "I'm wondering what possible reason you think there is for me to accept this situation?"
Jarlaxle smiled his most disarming smile. "Well, there is the fact that being a member of Bregan D'earth can be extremely profitable and fulfilling. Then there are the educational opportunities we provide. Just think, you can learn invaluable information about your hated rival, Drizzt. There is also the great affection you have come to feel for me during our recent association." Here Entreri's scowl deepened. "And lastly, there is the fact that I am giving you no choice in the matter."
The man's face twisted in rage and disbelief. "You think you can force me to stay here?!" he exclaimed.
"Probably not, you are free to leave any time, providing you can find the way to the surface." Jarlaxle's charming smile didn't slip for a second. "It might prove more difficult than you think, even for one of your considerable skills."
The assassin looked as though he was contemplating an attack as he tried to sort through the statements Jarlaxle had just made. He controlled himself quickly, though, for he knew enough about jarlaxle to realize that there would be others about who would aid him if needed. The girl he noted had silently moved towards him, her left hand on one of the short swords. Her stance with the blade was easy and well-practiced, and Entreri wondered briefly if she would actually attack him. He relaxed his body and calmed himself, though his fear wasn't of Aramys, but of the possible others hiding in the shadows.
"Come now, Artemis,"the drow continued coaxingly, "What's the harm in staying with us for awhile? This could be a grand adventure. So many fascinating things to see and learn. The surface will still be there when you are ready to return."
"Do you think I'm to be your prisoner?" the assassin asked slowly.
Jarlaxle chuckled at that. "Do you think I would give you weapons if I did?"He snorted derisively. "My offer is honestly what I have said. I offer you employment and a chance to learn more about your rival. Haven't you ever wondered what made Drizzt into the warrior he is?"
Entreri looked at him speculatively. His curiosity about the drow civilization was great, but he didn't trust Jarlaxle's motives completely. He knew the drow mercenary always had something else up his sleeve (quite literally). However; he realized he didn't have a lot of options at this point. Perhaps it was better to bide his time and go along with Jarlaxles' wishes for the moment, and learn more about his surroundings (and he recognized enough about them to realize he was very far from the surface indeed) before he attempted escape. Besides, after his last fight with Drizzt, he had a lot of things on his mind. Going after the Drow ranger again wasn't something he was sure he was up to at the time. Employment here would suit him as well as anywhere else, and perhaps be a truer test of his skills.
"Very well.", was Entreri's reply, " I agree to your offer…. For the moment."
Jarlaxle smiled. "Excellent! Wonderful! Aramys, why don't you start showing master Entreri around immediately."
The girl's hand slipped away from her blade. She met Entreri's eyes evenly, her gaze steady and calm. "Follow me." she said, motioning towards the door. "And welcome to the Underdark."