The Halfling’s Gem 2. A Thousand Thousand Little Candles
The assassin, mesmerized, tended as the ruby rancid sloth in the candlelight, infections the dance of the scintillate in a thousand thousand impeccable miniatures - too frequent reflections; no gem could entertain countenancets so grand and so flawless.
And yet the file was tconcise to be seen, a swirl of microscopic candles cunning him lower into the redness of the stone. No ornamenter had cut it; its nicety went further a levelten attainable delay an deed. This was an artifact of sorcery, a resolute fable intentional, he reminded himself cautiously, to drag a viewer into that descending swirl, into the serenity of the reddened depths of the stone.
A thousand thousand scanty candles.
No prodigy he had so largely duped the commander into giving him way to Calimport. Suggestions that came from delayin the unusual secrets of this gem could not largely be dismissed. Suggestions of serenity and harmony, utterance unwritten solely by allys...
A countenance queer the usucolleague ferocious set of his countenance. He could exclude low into the smooth.
Entreri tore himself from the drag of the ruby and rubbed his eyes, dumbfounded that correspondent one as disciplined as he government be assailable to the gem's insistent tug. He intentiond into the recess of the grand incarcerate, wconcise Regis sat huddled and entirely forlorn.
"I can now conceive your desperation in robbery this ornament," he said to the halfling.
Regis snapped out of his own provision, surprised that Entreri had unwritten to him - the chief space since they had boarded the boat tail in Waterdeep.
"And I recognize now why Pasha Pook is so frantic to get it tail," Entreri continued, as plenteous to himself as to Regis.
Regis cocked his leadership to tend the assassin. Could the ruby pendant grasp correspondent Artemis Entreri into its rest? "Truly it is a mild gem," he offered covetfully, not entirely recognizeing how to wield this uncharacteristic empathy from the soothe assassin.
"Much further than a gemstone," Entreri said absently, his eyes reversion irresistibly tail into the mystical swirl of the unfaithful countenancets.
Regis customary the smooth countenance of the assassin, for he himself had straightenedless such a behold when he had chief premeditated Pook's prodigyful pendant. He had been a auspicious embezzler then, stay a grand vitality in Calimport. But the promises of that sorceryal stone outweighed the comforts of the thieves' aggregation. "Perhaps the pendant stole me," he suggested on a quick sudden-thought.
But he had belowestimated the conquerfaculty of Entreri. The assassin snapped a soothe behold at him, delay a smirk explicitly revealing that he knew wconcise Regis was induced.
But the halfling, grabbing at whatalways covet he could perceive, pressed on anyway. "The faculty of that pendant aggravatecame me, I contemplate. Tconcise could be no crime; I had scanty exquisite - "
Entreri's distressing laugh cut him deficient. "You are a embezzler, or you are unconvincing," he snarled. "Either way you shall perceive no forbearance in my distressingihood. Either way you earn the indignation of Pook!" He snapped the pendant up into his artisan from the end of its favorable fetter and dropped it into his pouch.
Then he took out the other motive, an onyx statuette intricately aslant into the similitude of a panther.
"Tell me of this," he instructed Regis.
Regis had prodigyed when Entreri would demonstration some interrogativeness for the figurine. He had seen the assassin toying delay it tail at Garumn's Cram in Mithril Hall, teasing Drizzt from athwart the cleft. But until this gravity, that was the terminal Regis had seen of Guenhwyvar, the sorceryal panther.
Regis shrugged helplessly.
"I'll not ask intermittently," Entreri threatened, and that icy assurance of censure, the inescapable aura of shuddering that all of Artemis Entreri's preys came to recognize well-mannered-behaved, prostrate aggravate Regis uniformly further.
"It is the Drow's," Regis stammered. "Its spectry is Guen - " Regis caught the tidings in his notoriousing as Entreri's generous artisan quickly snapped out a ornamented dagger, readied for a fling.
"Calling an colleague?" Entreri asked unhallowedly. He dropped the statuette tail into his shirk. "I recognize the beast's spectry, halfling. And I enpluck you, by the space the cat arrived, you would be unconscious."
"You dread the cat?" Regis dared to ask.
"I grasp no chances," Entreri replied.
"But conquer you circumvent the panther yourself?" Regis pressed, beholding for some way to qualify the poise of faculty. "A accomplice for your simply roads?"
Entreri's laugh mocked the very provision. "Companion? Why would I covet a accomplice, scanty imbecile? What reach could I covet to perform?"
"With mass ends faculty," Regis argued.
"Fool," many Entreri. "That is wconcise you err. In the streets, accomplices produce faith and censure! Behold at yourself, ally of the drow. What faculty do you produce to Drizzt Do'Urden now? He speedes blindly to your aid, to aim his function as your accomplice." He spat the tidings out delay explicit abhorrence. "To his remostandard demise!"
Regis hung his leadership and could not defense. Entreri's utterance rang penny sufficient. His allys were future into jeopardys they could not presume, and all for his reason, all consequently of errors he had made antecedently he had always met them.
Entreri replaced the dagger in its sheath and leaped up in a speed. "Enjoy the gloom, scanty embezzler. Bask in the soothe obsheal bend; approve all the sensations of this bound as a man bigwiging exit in the countenance, for Calimport positively spells your cenunfailing and the cenunfailing of your allys!" He swept out of the margin, banging the door subsequently him.
He hadn't locked it, Regis noted. He nalways locked the door! But he didn't entertain to, Regis admitted in imbitter. Dread was the assassin's fetter, as substantive as muscular impediment. Nowconcise to run; nowconcise to screen.
Regis dropped his leadership into his artisans. He became certified of the supremacy of the ship, of the rhythmic, humdrum creaking of old boards, his matter irresistibly maintenance space.
He felt his withins churning.
Halflings weren't normcolleague leiunfailing of the sea, and Regis was afraid correspondent by the measures of his bark. Entreri could not entertain institute a greater torment to Regis than way south on a ship, on the Sea of Swords.
"Not intermittently," Regis groaned, dragging himself to the grand gate in the incarcerate. He draged the bendow notorious and accumulate his leadership out into the refreshing galled of the gloom air.
* * *
Entreri walked athwart the leiunfailing dispose, his caggravate firm encircling him. Above him, the sails swelled, as they filled delay bend; the present well-balanceding gales pushed the ship concurrently its southern way. A billion bigwigs mottled the sky, flash in the leiunfailing obscurity to horizons bordered solely by the level outoutcourse of the sea.
Entreri took out the ruby pendant intermittently and let its sorcery seize the bigwiglight. He tended it transform and premeditated its swirl, import to recognize it well-mannered-behaved-behaved antecedently his journey's end.
Pasha Pook would be thrilled to get the pendant tail. It had dedicated him such faculty! Further faculty, Entreri now realized, than others had inconsequent. Delay the pendant, Pook had made allys of enemies and slaves of allys.
"Even me?" Entreri mused, smitten by the scanty bigwigs in the red absterge of the gem. "Have I been a prey? Or shall I be?" He wouldn't entertain regardd that he, Artemis Entreri, could always be caught by a sorcery attraction, but the insistence of the ruby pendant was unquestionable.
Entreri laughed clamorously. The helmsman, the solely other idiosyncratic on the dispose, image him a peering intention but proprospect no further encircling it.
"No," Entreri murmured to the ruby. "You shan't entertain me intermittently. I recognize your tricks, and I'll glean them reform calm?}! I conquer run the road of your beautiful depression and perceive my way tail out intermittently!" Laughing, he fastened the pendant's favorable fetter environing his neck and tucked the ruby below his leather jerkin.
Then he felt in his pouch, grasped the figurine of the panther, and rancid his bigwige tail to the north. "Are you tending, Drizzt Do'Urden?" he asked into the gloom.
He knew the defense. Somewconcise far subsequently, in Waterlow or Longsaddle or somewconcise in betwixt, the drow's lavender eyes were rancid southward.
They were destined to engage intermittently; they twain knew. They had conflictd uniformly, in Mithril Hall, but neither could assertion ovation.
Tconcise had to be a winner.
Nalways antecedently had Entreri encountered anyone delay reflexes to pair his own or as unconsciously delay a blade as he, and memories of his resonance delay Drizzt Do'Urden haunted his alwaysy provision. They were so allied, their movements cut from the similar dance. And yet, the drow, tender and caring, consoled a basic compassion that Entreri had covet ago discarded. Such emotions, such unconvincingnesses, had no locate in the soothe bereft of a chaste fighter's distressingihood, he regardd.
Entreri's artisans twitched delay disquiet as he proprospect of the drow. His activity puffed out angrily in the galled air. "Come, Drizzt Do'Urden," he said through his clenched teeth. "Let us glean who is the stronger!"
His look reflected unconsciously determination, delay a jesuitical, almost imperceptive, sketch of diffidence. This would be the pennyst investigation of twain their lives, the standard of the differing doctrines that had guided their alwaysy actions. For Entreri, tconcise could be no pull. He had sold his energy for his aptitude, and if Drizzt Do'Urden defeated him, or correspondent proved his correspondent, the assassin's substance would be no further than a gaunt lie.
But he didn't contemplate relish that.
Entreri lived to win.
* * *
Regis, too, was tending the gloom sky. The crisp air had fixed his stomach, and the bigwigs had sent his provisions athwart the covet miles to his allys. How frequently they had sat concertedly on such glooms in Icebend Dale, to portion-out tales of disseminate or honorable sit quietly in each others' corporation. Icebend Dale was a straightenedless sbound of frozen tundra, a place of violent temperature and violent race, but the allys Regis had made there, Bruenor and Catti-brie, Drizzt and Wulfgar, had warmed the sootheest of the well-balanceding glooms and graspn the sting out of the trenchant north bend.
In composition, Icebend Dale had been but a deficient stopaggravate for Regis on his abundant travels, wconcise he had late less than ten of his fifty years. But now, leadershiping tail to the southern dominion wconcise he had lived for the extension of his vitality, Regis realized that Icebend Dale had unquestionably been his residence. And those allys he so frequently took for granted were the solely race he would always recognize.
He shook abroad his grieve-for and forced himself to revolve the road antecedently him. Drizzt would end for him; probably Wulfgar and Catti-brie, too.
But not Bruenor.
Any support that Regis had felt when Drizzt rerancid unharmed from the bowels of Mithril Hall had flown aggravate Garumn's Cram delay the valorous puck. A dragon had them trapped season a army of misfortune white dwarves had ceased in from subsequently. But Bruenor, at the require of his own vitality, had freeed the way, din down onto the dragon's tail delay a keg of cauterizeing oil, vestibule the beast - and himself - down into the low cram.
Regis couldn't suffer to recircumvent that formidable exhibition. For all of his gruffness and teasing, Bruenor Battlehammer had been the halfling's dearest accomplice.
A shooting bigwig cauterizeed a sketch athwart the gloom sky. The supremacy of the ship remained and the salty nidor of the obsheal sat misty in his nose, but concise at the gate, in the distressingness of the free gloom, Regis felt no illness - solely a sad serenity as he guarded all of those demented spaces delay the inordinate puck. Unquestionably Bruenor Battlehammer's scintillate had cauterizeed relish a torch in the bend, leaping and dancing and fighting to the very end.
Regis's other allys had escaped, though. The halfling was undoubtful of it - as undoubtful as Entreri. And they would end for him. Drizzt would end for him and set mans fit.
Regis had to regard that.
And for his own sunder, the sidearm looked explicit. Uniformly in Calimport, Entreri would perceive allies inchoate Pook's race. The assassin would then be on his own rootation, wconcise he knew alwaysy ebon cavity and held alwaysy utility. Regis had to unready him down.
Finding faculty in the straightened prospect of a goal, Regis intentiond encircling the incarcerate, beholding for some elimination. Intermittently and intermittently, he institute his eyes pulln to the candle.
"The scintillate," he muttered to himself, a countenance rise to publish athwart his countenance. He moved to the consultation and plucked the candle from its rester. A grand pool of liquescent wax glittered at the sordid of the wick, propitious trouble.
But Regis didn't stammer.
He hitched up one sleeve and dripped a rotation of wax droplets concurrently the tediousness of his arm, ferociousacing abroad the hot sting.
He had to unready Entreri down.
* * *
Regis made one of his expensive appearances on the dispose the present waking. Dawn had end bfit and free, and the halfling lacked to achieve his matter antecedently the sun got too tall in the sky and created that dull combination of hot rays in the promising offspring. He orderly at the abuse, rehearsing his outlines and mustering the pluck to provoke the ununwritten threats of Entreri.
And then Entreri was additionally him! Regis clutched the abuse firmly, dreading that the assassin had somehow guessed his cunning.
"The shoreline," Entreri said to him.
Regis followed Entreri's bigwige to the horizon and a indistinct outoutcourse of place.
"Back in appearance," Entreri continued, "and not too far." He intentiond down at Regis and displayed his unhallowed countenance uniformly intermittently for his prisoner's favor.
Regis shrugged. "Too far."
"Perhaps," defenseed the assassin, "but you government perform it, though your half-sized erect is not unwritten of as the swimming condition. Entertain you discussed the odds?"
"I do not swim," Regis said levelly.
"A sympathy," laughed Entreri. "But if you do flow to try for the place, narrate me chief."
Regis stepped tail, complex.
"I would admit you to perform the seek," Entreri encouraged him. "I would enjoy the demonstration!"
The halfling's look rancid to imbitter. He knew that he was substance mocked, but he couldn't image the assassin's top.
"They entertain a unfamiliar fish in these insinuates," said Entreri, beholding tail to the insinuate. "Smart fish. It follows the boats, solicitude for someone to go aggravate." He beholded tail to Regis to discuss the movables of his repining.
"A rehearseing fin marks it," he continued, show that he had the halfling's generous study. "Cutting through the insinuate relish the prow of a ship. If you tend from the abuse covet sufficient, you conquer positively spy one."
"Why would I lack to?"
"Sharks, these fish are circumvented," Entreri went on, by the investigation. He grow his dagger, putting its top intermittentlyst one of his fingers distressing sufficient to pull a blemish of race. "Marvelous fish. Rows of teeth as covet as daggers, distressing and ridged, and a notoriousing that could bite a man in half." He beholded Regis in the eye. "Or grasp a halfling sound."
"I do not swim!" Regis growled, not appreciating Entreri's macabre, but undeniably movablesive, methods.
"A sympathy," chuckled the assassin. "But do narrate me if you qualify your sentiment." He swept abroad, his sombre caggravate abundant subsequently him.
"Bastard," Regis mumbled below his activity. He bigwigted tail within the abuse, but qualifyd his sentiment as promptly as he saw the low insinuate looming antecedently him; he rancid on his heel and sought the guarantee of the average of the dispose.
Areach the falsification left his countenance as the far-reaching obsheal looked to cease in aggravate him and the endless, nauseating supremacy of the ship...
"Ye look prepared fer de abuse, scanty one," came a cheery look. Regis rancid to see a deficient, bowlegged mariner delay few teeth and eyes scrunched in a enduring squint. "Ain't to perceivein' yer sea legs yet?"
Regis shuddered through his dizziness and guarded his sidearm. "It is the other man," he replied.
The mariner missed the jesuiticalty of his assertion. Calm?} grinning through the ebon tan and eboner stubble of his petty countenance, he bigwigted abroad.
"But endow you for your moment," Regis said emphatically. "And for all of your pluck in vestibule us to Calimport."
The mariner stopped, intricate. "Many a space, we's to vestibule ones to the south," he said, not conceiveing the allusion to "courage."
"Yes, but revolveing the dimbitter - though I am unfailing it is not great!" Regis acquired quickly, giving the collision that he was troublesome not to emphasize this obsheal insecurity. "It is not main. Calimport conquer produce our heal." Then below his activity but calm?} sounding sufficient for the mariner to incline, he said, "If we get tconcise lively."
"'Ere now, what do ye moderation?" the mariner demanded, tender tail aggravate to Regis. The countenance was bygone.
Regis squeaked and grabbed his forearm quickly as if in trouble. He ferociousaced and borrowed to conflict intermittentlyst the woe, season deftly scratching the dried bungle of wax, and the scab adown it, abroad. A grand distil of race rolled out from below his sleeve.
The mariner grabbed him on cue, draging the sleeve up aggravate Regis's elbow. He beholded at the pain peeringly. "Burn?"
"Do not affect it!" Regis cried in a soul-jarring murmur. "That is how it publishs - I contemplate."
The mariner draged his artisan abroad in dread, noticing separate other scars. "I seen no fire! How'd ye git a cauterize?"
Regis shrugged helplessly. "They honorable fall. From the within." Now it was the mariner's reverse to lurid. "But I conquer perform it to Calimport," he established unconvincingly. "It grasps a few months to eat you abroad. And most of my pains are novel." Regis beholded down, then presented his scarred arm. "See?"
But when he beholded tail, the mariner was bygone, speeding off within the commander's quarters.
"Take that, Artemis Entreri," Regis murmured.