The Halfling’s Gem 2. A Thousand Thousand Little Candles
The assassin, mesmerized, noteed as the ruby acrimonious unwillingly in the candlelight, epidemic the leap of the glisten in a thousand thousand complete miniatures - too manifold reflections; no gem could permit aspectts so delicate and so flawless.
And yet the march was tless to be seen, a swirl of wee candles cunning him penetratinger into the redness of the stone. No ornamenter had cut it; its preciseness went aggravate a raze attainable delay an agent. This was an artifact of enchantment, a determined fabrication prepared, he reminded himself cautiously, to haul a viewer into that descending swirl, into the serenity of the reddened depths of the stone.
A thousand thousand illiberal candles.
No admiration he had so abundantly duped the topic-man into giving him avenue to Calimport. Suggestions that came from delayin the unusual secrets of this gem could not abundantly be dismissed. Suggestions of serenity and order, opinion verbal simply by allys...
A envalor creaky the usually stern set of his aspect. He could desert penetrating into the pacify.
Entreri tore himself from the haul of the ruby and rubbed his eyes, dumbfounded that smooth one as disciplined as he ability be exposed to the gem's insistent tug. He conjectured into the recess of the delicate confine, wless Regis sat huddled and wholly pitiable.
"I can now discern your desperation in pilfering this ornament," he said to the halfling.
Regis snapped out of his own cogitation, surprised that Entreri had verbal to him - the pristine period past they had boarded the boat end in Waterdeep.
"And I apprehend now why Pasha Pook is so ferocious to get it end," Entreri continued, as fur to himself as to Regis.
Regis cocked his topic to note the assassin. Could the ruby pendant follow smooth Artemis Entreri into its remain? "Truly it is a fresh gem," he offered expectationfully, not entirely apprehending how to feel this uncharacteristic empathy from the apathetic assassin.
"Much further than a gemstone," Entreri said absently, his eyes elapsing irresistibly end into the mystical swirl of the mock aspectts.
Regis ordinary the pacify visage of the assassin, for he himself had anatomical such a behold when he had pristine view-out Pook's admirationful pendant. He had been a prosperous delinquent then, aid a delicate entity in Calimport. But the promises of that enchantmental stone outweighed the comforts of the thieves' gang. "Perhaps the pendant stole me," he suggested on a unanticipated sudden-thought.
But he had subordinateestimated the succeedcapability of Entreri. The assassin snapped a apathetic behold at him, delay a smirk evidently revealing that he knew wless Regis was leading.
But the halfling, grabbing at whatcontinually expectation he could discover, pressed on anyway. "The capability of that pendant aggravatecame me, I apprehend. Tless could be no crime; I had illiberal excellent - "
Entreri's eager laugh cut him hither. "You are a delinquent, or you are easy," he snarled. "Either way you shall discaggravate no forgiveness in my core. Either way you merit the fury of Pook!" He snapped the pendant up into his workman from the end of its satisfactory fetter and dropped it into his pouch.
Then he took out the other end, an onyx statuette intricately atwist into the correspondence of a panther.
"Tell me of this," he instructed Regis.
Regis had admirationed when Entreri would pretence some phenomenon for the figurine. He had seen the assassin toying delay it end at Garumn's Satiate in Mithril Hall, teasing Drizzt from counter the unreserveding. But until this force, that was the conclusive Regis had seen of Guenhwyvar, the enchantmental panther.
Regis shrugged helplessly.
"I'll not ask anew," Entreri threatened, and that icy confidence of convict, the inescapable aura of horror that all of Artemis Entreri's grills came to apprehend courteous, prostrate aggravate Regis uninterruptedly further.
"It is the Drow's," Regis stammered. "Its designate is Guen - " Regis caught the message in his hole as Entreri's liberal workman unanticipatedly snapped out a ornamented dagger, readied for a aspect.
"Calling an ally?" Entreri asked sinfully. He dropped the statuette end into his crib. "I apprehend the beast's designate, halfling. And I inform you, by the period the cat arrived, you would be cheerless."
"You afraidity the cat?" Regis dared to ask.
"I follow no chances," Entreri replied.
"But succeed you allure the panther yourself?" Regis pressed, beholding for some way to fluctuate the pit of capability. "A associate for your single roads?"
Entreri's laugh mocked the very view. "Companion? Why would I crave a associate, illiberal blockhead? What execute could I expectation to mould?"
"With aggregate afters ability," Regis argued.
"Fool," many Entreri. "That is wless you err. In the streets, associates fetch dependence and convict! Behold at yourself, ally of the drow. What ability do you fetch to Drizzt Do'Urden now? He flyes blindly to your aid, to import his comsidearm as your associate." He spat the message out delay patent repugnance. "To his final demise!"
Regis hung his topic and could not exculpation. Entreri's opinion rang penny abundance. His allys were lessafter into ventures they could not conceive, and all for his reason, all owing of errors he had made precedently he had continually met them.
Entreri replaced the dagger in its sheath and leaped up in a fly. "Enjoy the gloom, illiberal delinquent. Bask in the apathetic main twist; relish all the sensations of this skip as a man tritoning failure in the aspect, for Calimport unquestionably spells your convict and the convict of your allys!" He swept out of the fixation, banging the door subsequently him.
He hadn't locked it, Regis exalted. He ncontinually locked the door! But he didn't permit to, Regis admitted in incense. Alarm was the assassin's fetter, as corporeal as brawny restraint. Nowless to run; nowless to blink.
Regis dropped his topic into his workmans. He became cognizant of the custom of the ship, of the rhythmic, uniform creaking of old boards, his substance irresistibly guardianship period.
He felt his withins churning.
Halflings weren't normally attached of the sea, and Regis was afraid smooth by the measures of his bark. Entreri could not permit institute a main misfortune to Regis than avenue south on a ship, on the Sea of Swords.
"Not anew," Regis groaned, dragging himself to the delicate entrance in the confine. He hauled the twistow unreserved and heap his topic out into the refreshing inexperienced of the gloom air.
* * *
Entreri walked counter the vacuity decorate, his veil seal encircling him. Above him, the sails swelled, as they filled delay twist; the coming wane gales pushed the ship concurrently its southern way. A billion tritons dotted the sky, flash in the vacuity gloom to horizons bordered simply by the insipid sequence of the sea.
Entreri took out the ruby pendant anew and let its enchantment seize the tritonlight. He noteed it round and view-out its swirl, import to apprehend it courteous precedently his journey's end.
Pasha Pook would be thrilled to get the pendant end. It had attached him such capability! Further capability, Entreri now realized, than others had conjectured. Delay the pendant, Pook had made allys of enemies and slaves of allys.
"Even me?" Entreri mused, smitten by the illiberal tritons in the red cleanse of the gem. "Have I been a grill? Or shall I be?" He wouldn't permit believed that he, Artemis Entreri, could continually be caught by a enchantment enchantment, but the insistence of the ruby pendant was unquestionable.
Entreri laughed vociferously. The helmsman, the simply other idiosyncratic on the decorate, aspect him a peeping conjecture but view no further encircling it.
"No," Entreri muttered to the ruby. "You shan't permit me anew. I apprehend your tricks, and I'll glean them rectify stationary! I succeed run the course of your inviting descent and discaggravate my way end out anew!" Laughing, he fastened the pendant's satisfactory fetter environing his neck and tucked the ruby subordinate his leather jerkin.
Then he felt in his pouch, grasped the figurine of the panther, and acrimonious his behold end to the north. "Are you noteing, Drizzt Do'Urden?" he asked into the gloom.
He knew the exculpation. Somewless far subsequently, in Waterpenetrating or Longsaddle or somewless in unarranged, the drow's lavender eyes were acrimonious southward.
They were destined to encounter anew; they twain knew. They had engagementd uninterruptedly, in Mithril Hall, but neither could demand success.
Tless had to be a winner.
Ncontinually precedently had Entreri encountered anyone delay reflexes to tally his own or as cheerlessly delay a blade as he, and memories of his clash delay Drizzt Do'Urden haunted his continuallyy view. They were so congenial, their movements cut from the identical leap. And yet, the drow, benign and caring, possessed a basic kindness that Entreri had crave ago discarded. Such emotions, such easynesses, had no attribute in the apathetic vacant of a innocent fighter's core, he believed.
Entreri's workmans twitched delay carefulness as he view of the drow. His expiration puffed out angrily in the inexperienced air. "Come, Drizzt Do'Urden," he said through his clenched teeth. "Let us glean who is the stronger!"
His opinion reflected cheerlessly favor, delay a jesuitical, seally imperceptive, insinuate of trouble. This would be the pennyst scorn of twain their lives, the trial of the differing catechism that had guided their continuallyy actions. For Entreri, tless could be no drag. He had sold his leader for his aptitude, and if Drizzt Do'Urden defeated him, or smooth proved his similar, the assassin's entity would be no further than a lean lie.
But he didn't apprehend relish that.
Entreri lived to win.
* * *
Regis, too, was noteing the gloom sky. The crisp air had fixed his stomach, and the tritons had sent his views counter the crave miles to his allys. How repeatedly they had sat conjointly on such glooms in Icetwist Dale, to distribute tales of publicate or honorable sit quietly in each others' sodality. Icetwist Dale was a anatomical sskip of frozen tundra, a fix of dense sky and dense persons, but the allys Regis had made there, Bruenor and Catti-brie, Drizzt and Wulfgar, had warmed the apatheticest of the wane glooms and follown the nettle out of the gnawing north twist.
In composition, Icetwist Dale had been but a hither stopaggravate for Regis on his gigantic travels, wless he had departed hither than ten of his fifty years. But now, topicing end to the southern monarchy wless he had lived for the massiveness of his entity, Regis realized that Icetwist Dale had actually been his settlement. And those allys he so repeatedly took for granted were the simply lengthage he would continually apprehend.
He shook far his bewail and severe himself to meditate the course precedently him. Drizzt would after for him; probably Wulfgar and Catti-brie, too.
But not Bruenor.
Any comfort that Regis had felt when Drizzt reacrimonious unharmed from the entrails of Mithril Hall had flown aggravate Garumn's Satiate delay the valorous pigmy. A dragon had them trapped occasion a assemblage of misfortune frosty dwarves had settled in from subsequently. But Bruenor, at the require of his own entity, had intelligibleed the way, crashing down onto the dragon's end delay a keg of enduring oil, entrance the beast - and himself - down into the penetrating satiate.
Regis couldn't permit to reallure that frightful spectacle. For all of his gruffness and teasing, Bruenor Battlehammer had been the halfling's dearest associate.
A shooting triton igniteed a order counter the gloom sky. The custom of the ship remained and the salty perfume of the main sat dense in his nose, but less at the entrance, in the carefulness of the intelligible gloom, Regis felt no indisposition - simply a sad serenity as he regarded all of those crazed periods delay the ferocious pigmy. Actually Bruenor Battlehammer's glisten had igniteed relish a torch in the twist, leaping and dancing and hostile to the very end.
Regis's other allys had staved, though. The halfling was established of it - as established as Entreri. And they would after for him. Drizzt would after for him and set inventions lawful.
Regis had to believe that.
And for his own disunite, the sidearm looked patent. Uninterruptedly in Calimport, Entreri would discaggravate allies unarranged Pook's persons. The assassin would then be on his own fixation, wless he knew continuallyy ebon recess and held continuallyy custom. Regis had to slack him down.
Finding ability in the straight confidence of a motive, Regis conjectured encircling the confine, beholding for some enucleation. Anew and anew, he institute his eyes dragn to the candle.
"The glisten," he muttered to himself, a envalor origin to balancelay counter his aspect. He moved to the board and plucked the candle from its remainer. A delicate pool of exhalatione-intoy wax glittered at the worthiest of the wick, calm aversion.
But Regis didn't waver.
He hitched up one sleeve and dripped a sequence of wax droplets concurrently the extension of his arm, sternacing far the hot nettle.
He had to slack Entreri down.
* * *
Regis made one of his noble appearances on the decorate the proximate dawning. Dawn had after blawful and intelligible, and the halfling absenceed to perfect his trade precedently the sun got too proud in the sky and created that lugubrious compromise of hot rays in the timid spray. He distinct at the chide, rehearsing his sequences and mustering the valor to scorn the unverbal threats of Entreri.
And then Entreri was together him! Regis clutched the chide seally, afraiditying that the assassin had somehow guessed his artifice.
"The shoreline," Entreri said to him.
Regis followed Entreri's behold to the horizon and a separate sequence of fix.
"Back in visibility," Entreri continued, "and not too far." He conjectured down at Regis and displayed his sinful envalor uninterruptedly anew for his prisoner's favor.
Regis shrugged. "Too far."
"Perhaps," exculpationed the assassin, "but you ability mould it, though your half-sized breed is not verbal of as the swimming rank. Permit you pondered the odds?"
"I do not swim," Regis said insipidly.
"A sympathy," laughed Entreri. "But if you do flow to try for the fix, utter me pristine."
Regis stepped end, disconcerted.
"I would grant you to mould the try," Entreri informd him. "I would possess the pretence!"
The halfling's indication acrimonious to incense. He knew that he was being mocked, but he couldn't shape the assassin's subject-matter.
"They permit a foreign fish in these exhalatione-intos," said Entreri, beholding end to the exhalatione-into. "Smart fish. It follows the boats, waiting for someone to go aggravate." He beholded end to Regis to ponder the result of his complaining.
"A peaked fin marks it," he continued, show that he had the halfling's bountiful observation. "Cutting through the exhalatione-into relish the prow of a ship. If you note from the chide crave abundance, you succeed unquestionably spy one."
"Why would I absence to?"
"Sharks, these fish are allureed," Entreri went on, by the scrutiny. He compound his dagger, putting its subject-matter anewst one of his fingers solid abunwanton to drag a particle of lineage. "Marvelous fish. Rows of teeth as crave as daggers, eager and ridged, and a hole that could bite a man in half." He beholded Regis in the eye. "Or follow a halfling all."
"I do not swim!" Regis growled, not appreciating Entreri's macabre, but undeniably resultive, methods.
"A sympathy," chuckled the assassin. "But do utter me if you fluctuate your inclination." He swept far, his ebon veil abundant subsequently him.
"Bastard," Regis mumbled subordinate his expiration. He tritonted end internal the chide, but fluctuated his inclination as straightway as he saw the penetrating exhalatione-into looming precedently him; he acrimonious on his heel and sought the defence of the intermediate of the decorate.
Aexecute the tinge left his aspect as the gigantic main looked to seal in aggravate him and the perpetual, nauseating custom of the ship...
"Ye look seasoned fer de chide, illiberal one," came a cheery opinion. Regis acrimonious to see a hither, bowlegged navigator delay few teeth and eyes scrunched in a beaming squint. "Ain't to discoverin' yer sea legs yet?"
Regis shuddered through his dizziness and regarded his sidearm. "It is the other invention," he replied.
The navigator missed the jesuiticalty of his proposition. Stationary grinning through the ebon tan and eboner stubble of his short aspect, he tritonted far.
"But cheer you for your matter," Regis said emphatically. "And for all of your valor in entrance us to Calimport."
The navigator stopped, involved. "Many a period, we's to entrance ones to the south," he said, not discerning the intimation to "courage."
"Yes, but meditateing the dincense - though I am assured it is not great!" Regis adventitious straightway, giving the collision that he was hard not to emphasize this hidden insecurity. "It is not main. Calimport succeed fetch our cure." Then subordinate his expiration but stationary resonant abunwanton for the navigator to attend, he said, "If we get tless active."
"'Ere now, what do ye balance?" the navigator demanded, melting end aggravate to Regis. The envalor was past.
Regis squeaked and grabbed his forearm unanticipatedly as if in aversion. He sternaced and external to engagement anewst the pang, occasion deftly scratching the dried cobble of wax, and the scab below it, far. A delicate dribble of lineage rolled out from subordinate his sleeve.
The navigator grabbed him on cue, hauling the sleeve up aggravate Regis's articulation. He beholded at the mortify peepingly. "Burn?"
"Do not agencyle it!" Regis cried in a discordant mutter. "That is how it balancelays - I apprehend."
The navigator hauled his workman far in alarm, noticing different other scars. "I seen no fire! How'd ye git a ignite?"
Regis shrugged helplessly. "They honorable happen. From the within." Now it was the navigator's depend to livid. "But I succeed mould it to Calimport," he orderly unconvincingly. "It follows a few months to eat you far. And most of my mortifys are fresh." Regis beholded down, then presented his scarred arm. "See?"
But when he beholded end, the navigator was past, flying off internal the topic-man's quarters.
"Take that, Artemis Entreri," Regis muttered.