The Road to Redemption: The Progression of a Killer
Description: Jarlaxle makes a discovery about Entreris childhood, and the two learn a little bit more about the nature of friendship. Warning: violence, torture, and implied child abuse. Drama/Action/Angst.
Disclaimer: Jarlaxle and Artemis Entreri belong to R.A. Salvatore and Wizards of the Coast, as do Drizzt and Zaknafein. The following story is just for the amusement of the fans and will never make any profit. Like many other fanfic writers, I am a very poor student, so suing me would do no one any good.
A/N: This fanfic is meant to take place several months after Empty Joys. The story is heavily based upon The Third Level from Realms of Infamy, in which we learn that as a child, Entreri was sexually abused by his father, uncle, and a man on a caravan. If reading about childhood sexual abuse and rape bothers you, do not proceed.
Update, Oct. 2006: Obviously, this fanfic was written back in 2004, long before the release of RotP. Like I said in the above paragraph, I based my fanfics on The Third Level, a short story RAS wrote back in 1993. In that story, fourteen year old Entreri remembers being sexually abused by three people, not just his uncle. I will not change this story in light of the revision in RotP, so simply take the change with a grain of salt.
Update, March 2009: I am now posting this to DA. Please remember that this story is almost exactly 5 years old now. I make no apologies for the difference between this and my current writing style or even for the few remaining typos. Please enjoy as is. Thank you.
Artemis Entreri sighed as he and his traveling companion ventured out of the caves. The winding tunnels in the foothills had provided Jarlaxle and him with ample cover from the nights rain, but the morning, while clear, was not promising. High summer had arrived to the lands southwest of Damara, and it had brought with it an unusually high temperature for such a normally temperate place. The humidity was suffocating already, though it was only midmorning, and waves of heat rippled up from the hard-packed dirt road as the sunlight punished the travelers with a burning glare. Within minutes, sweat coursed down Entreris forehead, and he pushed his cloak off his shoulders in an attempt to cool off. The assassin scowled. Heat was fine; hed lived in a desert environment for almost his entire life. Humidity was evil. Fortunately, the companions destination was the forest, and while the ample cover from the canopy of trees would not alleviate the humidity, it would cut down on both the glare and the heat.
Jarlaxle chatted away in his usual manner as they entered the trees; Entreri had rarely known one capable of such endless chatter. But the verdant foliage and sweet scent of honeysuckle in the surrounding forest enchanted the drow, just as the towering snow-capped mountains behind them had. This, of course, won the assassin a speech on their fine surroundings:
Surely you cannot be immune to such beauty! the elf was saying. Even if you cannot appreciate the mountains arching toward the very heavens, you should exclaim over these vibrant purple . . . Jarlaxle faltered in his dramatic speech as he eyed the flowers.
Just call them wild flowers, Entreri said.
Wild flowers, then! Or this colorful plant which is racing across the forest floor, Jarlaxle pointed to the right of the dirt path, where a vine-like tangle seemed to chaotically weave its way around everything in sight.
Thats wild strawberry, Entreri noted. More of a weed, really.
Jarlaxle was undeterred. What a world you live in, if even weeds are beautiful!
Entreri held in a sigh and gave up. Ever did this one find beauty in the landscape! Still, Entreri suspected a second reason for the speech; the drow, in his irritating, cheerful manner, seemed bent upon trying to show the assassin something about beauty, although the man wasnt quite sure why.
But their surroundings likely only added to the drows delight over their most recent adventure: a dangerous stint as bodyguards for a noble lady that had lined their pockets quite well. The companions had been hired by a family locked in a generations-old internal feud, and they had been promised much to keep a beloved daughter safe. Never had Entreri understood the use of the phrase hair-raising, but after the resulting battle with a lich, the assassin had to admit he was now closer to understanding the expression.
Although perhaps we should reconsider our attitude toward our new mission, Jarlaxle was saying.
Surprised, Entreri focused more fully on the dark elfs running dialogue. We should?
Unlike their previous job, their current mission seemed more mundane to Entreri. After quickly traveling far away from their previous employers in Ravens Bluff, theyd wandered into a remote city even further southwest of their original haunt in Damara, and upon arrival, theyd been almost immediately hired by a crime family to capturealivea highly-wanted assassin named Merrick. Capturing the man does not sound overly difficult, Entreri said. His skills in covering his trail have proven less than impressive, and we should catch up to him within the day.
Perhaps, Jarlaxle replied. But while you slept the other night, I decided to gather a bit more information about this forest. The locals hold that there is a fortress hidden out here, a base of operations for a criminal by the name of Brok Waylein. The locals seem quite fearful of him, spinning tales of dark magic and unimaginable torture.
Even with my considerable talents, Jarlaxle continued with a smile, I was unable to determine exactly where this fortress is said to be or who this Waylein really is. If our friend is connected to him, however, we may be facing greater odds than we originally thought.
I would hardly be surprised to hear that the assassin has connections, Entreri said, his boredom evident, but as long as we do not rush in like fools
Proper reconnaissance and careful preparation of the battle field, Jarlaxle chimed in, smiling for all the realms like he hoped to meet resistance.
Unless you want to die, the assassin said snidely, then dropped the subject. No one loved a challenge more than Entreri, but as the companions continued down the well-trodden trail, he admitted that Jarlaxle preferred living on the edge of disaster.
Yet Entreris contemplation of his likely imminent death floated away from him as they ventured deeper into the forest, which revealed to them trees with trunks as thick as buildings. Jarlaxle fell into a nearly-awed silence while he contemplated the massive, towering trees that dwarfed them and likewise seemed fascinated by the torso-thick vines looping from tree to tree.
These plants are even more spectacular than the previous ones! he remarked, and Entreri shook his head, once again amazed at his friend.
The assassin, however, was more concerned with immediate, practical issues, for as they rounded the corner, they found a river with no bridge to cross it. Posts on each side of the riverbank revealed that a bridge had once existed, but it had been swept away, presumably by the raging waters of the spring melt-off.
Improper maintenance, the drow chided.
Entreri considered their options, keeping in mind the width and possible depth of the water. Best just to use a vine to swing across.
Jarlaxle nodded in agreement, and the human went across first, landing neatly on the opposite embankment with cat-like precision. Instantly, every instinct in the warrior-assassins mind flared, and he drew his weapons so quickly his arms likely seemed a blur to any onlookers. The first arrow whizzed in, and he batted it aside with only a breath to spare. Ten forms burst from the undergrowth, all closing on Entreris position, even as the assassins quick eyes picked out a dozen archers. Jarlaxle landed behind him a moment later, and Entreri knew it would be a fierce battle indeed when their attackers surrounded them. However, even though these were experienced and talented men and women, the assassin had faith in his and his partners ability to either defeat them or escape with their lives.
An exclamation at his back was Entreris first indication that something was horribly, unutterably wrong. Even Jarlaxles yelp of surprise did not prepare the assassin for what he realized next: Charons Claw, his powerful, deadly sword, had not responded to his command to emit its ash. When the drows daggers did not begin cutting down their enemies, Entreri drew the only logical conclusion: they had crossed into a dead magic zone.
However, Entreri was a survivor to the deepest core of his being, so he didnt miss a beat as the realization struck him. He met the attack of the first two swordsmen with all his customary skill, using his sword to turn aside the first mans blade with an inside block. While his dagger would not draw the life-force from his attackers, Entreri didnt need its power to kill, so he thrust the blade forward without hesitation. His opponent parried even as the second attacker tried to impale Entreri from behind, but the assassin ducked and turned, twisting beneath the blades and leveling his sword simultaneously, forcing both men back. The instant Entreri jumped aside, gaining space in which to launch his next attack, a crossbow bolt whizzed past his face, cutting so close it opened a gash along his jaw. With the two swordsmen rushing him, Entreri hadnt the time to locate the crossbowman, but he knew hed do well to remember both the hidden attacker and the archers.
Not ten feet away, Jarlaxle fought two warriors as well, and he was uncomfortably aware of the remaining six swordsmen and the archers now circling the mercenaries. With the magic of his bracers defeated, the drow couldnt attack with daggers or even summon two daggers to turn into swords. In fact, the situation was dire, indeed, for Jarlaxle couldnt use even one of his many wands or engage the enchantment upon his cloak, which would misdirect the warriors attacks. Instead, the drow had to rely on wit.
Fighting empty-handed, Jarlaxle employed his speed to grab the first swordsmans wrist and hold his blade out wide. Instantly he stepped forward, punching the man in the sternum. The man gasped and coughed, and Jarlaxle, without letting go of his grip on the mans wrist, altered his momentum to whirl under the mans arm and twist his arm behind his back. This caused the man to drop his sword, which Jarlaxle caught on the toe of his boot and flipped up into the air to catch in his free hand. It also provided the drow with a living shield against his second attacker.
However, before Jarlaxle could press his advantage, a sharp sting in his shoulder alerted him to the fact hed been shot. The drow glanced back quickly, seeing a crossbow bolt protruding from his back. With a curse, he continued his attack, shoving his captive into the second warrior in order to stop his charge. But the burn in Jarlaxles veins told him the bolt had been poisoned, and he felt light-headed.
The drow had just enough time to witness Entreri taking a bolt in the arm before a cold darkness ripped his consciousness from him.
Hours later, Artemis Entreri was not surprised at all to awaken on the cold, damp floor of a poorly lit dungeon. His grogginess and pounding headache told him hed likely been drugged by some type of dart, and he suspected the crossbow bolt had been to blame.
A small, warm hand briefly touched his forehead, and Entreri wrenched open his eyes in an attempt to determine if the hand in question belonged to a particular drow elf. Sure enough, Jarlaxle was sitting by him on the floor and looking a bit worse for wear. The assassin felt relieved to see the elf still alive, but the many bruises decorating the mercenarys face reminded the man that their position was precarious indeed. Why had they been taken alive? And by whom? This Waylein man Jarlaxle had mentioned earlier?
Entreri pushed himself to a sitting position with great effort and scooted himself back to lean against the wall by his companion. He took a moment to try to clear his thoughts, but everything seemed fuzzy. The light of the single torch outside their cell appeared hazy to him, and the rhythmic dripping of water somewhere in the cell seemed to echo in his head. Despite this, every single cut, bruise, knot, and bump on his body didnt hesitate to make itself known.
How are you feeling, my friend? the elf asked, his voice conveying a slight weariness beneath his customary lightheartedness.
Groggy, Entreri answered truthfully. His drugged mind fought to sort out all the details, and the mans face screwed into a frown as he noted that Jarlaxle didnt seem quite . . . right.
With a sudden clearing of his mind, Entreri realized that Jarlaxle was not wearing his outrageous hat, his customary eye patch, or his multi-colored cape. He wasnt wearing any jewelry or his bracers. In fact, Jarlaxle wasnt wearing any of his own clothing or items at all. He was adorned in nothing more than an oversized and long-sleeved white cotton shirt that laced up the front and a pair of slightly baggy brown cotton pants. Entreri stared with comprehending horrortheir captors had determined the nature of their prisoners.
They took your clothes, the assassin stated.
An unpleasant process even when one is half-drugged, Jarlaxle quipped. And such horrid taste in clothing they have, as well!
Entreri shook his head over the drows undefeatable spirit, but he couldnt miss noting that Jarlaxle looked a bit chilled in the wrinkled, thin, and nearly see-through cotton. He sat curled in upon himself, his knees bent up so he could rest his chin upon them and his arms wrapped loosely about his legs. Small ebon-skinned elven feet protruded from the ends of the pants legs, and even as Entreri watched a flash of goosebumps ran up Jarlaxles neck and onto his bare head. Of more concern to the assassin, however, were the red splotches that had bled through the shirt in places. How severely are you injured? he asked.
Jarlaxle graced him with a self-depreciating grin. Oh, I will live.
For now, Entreri growled, not at all happy with the situation. Of course his own hat was gone, along with his belt and cloak. He could only hope that Charons Claw had killed at least one of the soldiers when they took it from him . . . provided that the dead magic zone had not also stopped that particular effect of sentient sword. What have you figured out?
We are the prisoners of one Brok Waylein, although I am unsure why we have been captured. Were free of the dead magic zone, but one of our captors is a wizard of not inconsiderable skill. Also, I know where our quarry, Merrick, is.
Entreri raised an eyebrow.
Jarlaxle waved in a grand gesture toward the cell across from theirs. The assassin glanced over and saw a large blonde man leaning against the bars of his own cell, his arms sticking through the bars.
Welcome to the first of the nine hells, the man quipped in a deep baritone voice, a wry grin lighting up his wide face. His large nose was helplessly crooked, which to Entreri made him look somewhat like a stereotypical pirate.
Just perfect, the assassin retorted.
Perhaps you would like to expand upon that comment? Jarlaxle asked Merrick, standing and walking up to the bars.
Merricks expression turned thoughtful. Should I help those sent to hunt me down? His wide grin returned, flashing an impressive set of straight, if yellowed, teeth. Ah, why not? In short, Waylein is a sadist. Merricks tone left no doubt to the depth of his conviction.
Jarlaxle paused to consider this revelation and leaned against the bars of his own cell, matching Merricks posture. What a human would define as sadism would likely fall short of the drow concept, but it was nothing to dismiss, either. How so?
He brutally tortures all his prisoners to the point of insanity, and even oft times lets them live with the horrors theyve experienced, the man replied, obviously trying to maintain bravado with his matter-of-fact tone.
Behind him, Entreri made an odd, short soundsomething between a snort and a growl. Jarlaxle glanced back to the man and noted his typically grim expression. He sat with one leg down and crooked in and the other bent up, an arm slung over the raised knee. The assassin glanced away as Jarlaxle regarded him and stared at the far back corner of their cell.
Many of Wayleins victims die in the forest because he lets them go to wander around aimlessly in their madness, Merrick continued, no doubt hoping to rouse fear in his would-be captors. Those that are found often recover from their many physical injuries, but they spend their rest of their lives slobbering on themselves and blurting nonsensical sentences.
Jarlaxle faced the man again and nodded. And you are here because . . .?
I was sent to assassinate him, Merrick replied, and his tone suggested that Jarlaxle not inquire further.
The mercenary decided one more question couldnt hurt; the man seemed to almost gleeful about giving out the disturbing information. And he would take us alive because . . .?
Simple! Merrick chirped with a rueful grin, although his smile was too forced to uphold his bravado. Anyone who enters the forest invades his territory, and he loves to torture each and every person he meets!
This time, Entreris response was closer to a snort. So were here only for his sadistic pleasure?
Merrick grew quite somber and serious, his cheerful façade slipping momentarily. Yes, Im afraid we are, and obviously dangerous types like ourselves are walking targets to be sure. Frankly, the mans atrocities are quite legendary among the . . . ah . . . less savory sorts of the region. My employer has a score to settle on the behalf of several family members, and the tale, if I were at liberty to tell it and were so inclined, would make even a drow elf uncomfortable, I dare to say.
Jarlaxle paused to digest those words. The odds did not appeal to him, but he was far from despair. His entire life had been nothing more than the overcoming of astounding odds, and the mercenary firmly believed that he would find a way out. Still, it had been a long time since he had felt so naked, alone without weapons or magical items. Well, not alone perhaps. Provided Entreri didnt decide to betray him, Jarlaxle had an angry assassin who didnt require weapons in order to kill.
Jarlaxle smiled to himself and abandoned those thoughts. He wasnt helpless, and he hadnt met a problem yet he couldnt solve.
I find it interesting to see a dark elf in these lands, Merrick commented. Why here?
Ah, the adventure, Jarlaxle remarked lightly, and the man laughed.
A bit too much of it, perhaps, Merrick bantered, for if you wanted to be tortured senseless Im sure you couldve just stayed home.
Indeed, the mercenary agreed, but likely the torture will have a different flavor here.
Merrick laughed again, although the sound was punctured by hollowness. Maybe it will, at that.
Jarlaxle could feel Entreris smirk without even having to turn around to look, but heavy rattling interrupted their dark jests. The three could hear the dungeon door open, and moments later a half-dozen soldiers arrived with two unconscious prisoners, a man and a woman. The pair were taken to the end of the cellblock and deposited, but the soldiers stopped at Merricks cell on the way out.
Time to face Waylein, the captain remarked.
Oh, joy, the assassin quipped, but offered no resistance as the soldiers led him out.
Jarlaxle assumed that the man had a plan, but he wondered how effective it would be considering one of the six soldiers was the wizard hed identified on his way to the dungeon. Mentally wishing the man the best of luck, the elf watched as the group disappeared down the hallway. When all the rattles and clicks subsided, Jarlaxle returned to his spot by Entreri.
I suppose youre already deeply into your planning, Entreri remarked.
Jarlaxle smiled but didnt respond. In truth, he needed more information, but his initial assessment suggested their best course of action was to overwhelm the soldiers who would come for them later. As he sat and pondered the details, the chill of the floor seeped through the seat of his pants, and before long he shivered. To his mild surprise, the assassin looked at him with a tiny flash of concern, although he said nothing and the concern passed instantly. Such a complex one, this human, far more complex than he first seemed.
Shall we make our move when they come for us, or shall we wait until were out of the dungeon? the assassin asked.
There is the matter of the wizard, Jarlaxle answered, for once not intending to be cryptic. He was simply distracted.
Artemis Entreri, so used to the elfs evasive answers, didnt bother to even sigh. The mercenary was brilliant, he knew, and he simply trusted that Jarlaxle would reveal his plan at an appropriate moment. It was fortunate that the assassin found Jarlaxle so compelling, for surely any other would have died for frustrating the dangerous man so. But Entreri, in his own way, was vaguely amused by it despite his irritation, and felt reasonably sure that the elf held no malicious plans for him. Let him have his mysteries, the assassin mused, for surely I have mine.
Jarlaxle, however, had pursued a minor tangent that his friends grammatically proper words had evoked. During his centuries of perilous games and intrigue, the drow had developed the ability to follow several lines of inquiry or planning at once. Even as his mind mulled over the matter of their escape, he considered once again an oddity about his friend: the man seemed educated. He spoke with grammatical correctness and could read and write. Jarlaxle assumed that Entreri had likely spent at least half his childhood living in Calimports streets, homeless and half-starved. How did such a child become literate? The guilds might ensure that their bright recruits had basic reading skills for reasons of practicality, but would they really take time to so thoroughly train someone to read, write, and speak? Or had young Artemis Entreri come to the streets already literate? If he had, what did it mean about his childhood?
Ever was Jarlaxle trying to piece together the puzzle of Artemis Entreri.
Numerous rattles and clicks announced the return of the soldiers. We move as one, Jarlaxle instructed quickly, you on the left and me on the right. As he stood, he gathered within himself the innate magic of the drow, preparing to drop a globe of darkness upon the soldiers as the second stage of their attack.
But the companions never had the chance to act. The wizard, expecting such a move, froze them in place with a spell, which settled upon them so heavily Jarlaxle could barely draw breath.
The soldiers entered the cell with ease and grabbed Entreri. Youre off to meet Master Waylein, too, the captain leered as they hauled him away.
Jarlaxle watched the fading procession with narrowed eyes, his anger over the frustrating situation burning coldly in his stomach before he could rein in his emotions. He hoped that the guild houses of Calimport trained their people in torture-resistance. Entreri would be no use to him mad, and Jarlaxle had to admit he simply didnt want to see his friend suffer such a fate.
Entreri tested his bonds one more time, but the magical shackles that secured his wrists and ankles to the wall did not budge. Added to his discomfort was a gash across his back which hed taken in his attempt to break free. The wizards spell had kept Entreri motionless for most of the trip to the chamber, but the man still had managed one failed attempt to escape.
The entire situation deeply disgusted the assassin. Obviously, he was in a private torture chamber that this Waylein figure had had custom built. The massive chamber was apparently connected to the mans bedchamber, and Entreri didnt allow himself to even consider the many, varied implications of that. Waylein himself was nowhere in sight. Merrick was hanging on the wall beside him, but the fellow assassin was unconscious and badly bloodied and bruised. With nothing else to do, Entreri studied the twenty-foot circular room. Chains hung from the ceiling to Entreris right, a fireplace burned brightly to his left, and a torture table graced the middle of the floor. Long counters wrapped around the table on three sides, and Entreri identified several of the gleaming instruments there. Several he did not. There were many whips and riding crops, as well as a few muzzles, obviously meant for people. The scent of sweat, blood, and urine hung in the air despite the two barred, open windows across the room from him.
A line of blood trailed from the now-clean torture table to the man hanging beside him, but Entreri had long since tuned out his sense of compassion.
The door to the chamber opened, and a tall, slender man entered, followed by two stone-faced soldiers, who took up positions on either side of the door. The man looked to be in his early to mid-fifties, his short hair a grey helmet on his skull. The mans green eyes danced with mirth as he considered Entreri, and the assassin realized with further disgust that the man was humming an aimless, happy tune under his breath. As the man neared, Entreri recognized that he was fit and strong despite his age, his gait surely one that bespoke of a warrior, and when he stopped before him, Entreri found himself staring up at a man a full foot taller than he.
Welcome to my humble fortress, Artemis Entreri, the man sing-songed. Entreri held back a scowl at the way the man purposefully stressed the wrong syllables in both of his names. I am Brok Waylein, your host for this evening. Please rest assured that there is a great deal of joy to be had this night, Waylein grinned a self-satisfied and predatory grin, although the greatest bulk of that pleasure will be mine!
Hes mad, Entreri decided in short order. Madness lit the depths of this ones eyes, along with an abundance of cruelty and perversion. Not since Menzoberranzan have I been in so much danger. But the confident assassin did not panic; he focused his thoughts on searching for an opening.
I was most surprised to find such a famous assassin in my territory, Waylein continued, the lilt still in his voice. And, yes, my dear man, a few of my associates over the years have mentioned your name. And more surprised still was I to find a dark elf as well! His grin threatened to split his face. What fun shall I have over the next few days! Perhaps I will even heal the drow repeatedly so that he can supply me with a few months pleasure instead!
That would be the last, worst mistake you could ever make, Entreri mused.
But obviously I cannot allow such dangerous creatures as yourselves near to my beautiful woodland home, Waylein sighed dramatically. So let us begin our evening together! The first course is poor Merrick here. He shall be your appetizer, so that you may better understand the great meal I have laid out before you. He twirled away like a dancer.
The soldiers came forward and removed the unconscious Merrick from the wall. The assassin kept a perfectly expressionless face as the soldiers poured a healing potion down Merricks throat, then strapped him on the table. Entreri watched as the lesser cuts on the mans arms and neck faded and the larger gashes turned pink and started to pull inward. Merrick regained consciousness after a minute and spat curses at his torturer.
Maintaining an unwavering, almost absent grin, Waylein ignored the name-calling and reached out, ripping down Merricks pants. Let me know how much you like this, Waylein said as he unbuckled his belt.
With a sudden, brutal realization, Entreri understood what was getting ready to happen, and his objectivity began to slip. Wayleins song-like chatter receded into a mumble of meaningless noise to Entreri as he watched the madman force Merrick into position. Entreri averted his eyes from the assault, tried to close his ears against the sounds, but his mind showed him all too clearly what he did not want to see. It was too familiar.
When Merricks screams quieted to whimpers, Artemis Entreri wasnt sure at all what his clash of emotions suggested. Disgust at the rape? Concern for his own fate? Hatred of Waylein? Perhaps. He had spent a lifetime hating men such as this one.
But Brok Waylein wasnt finished. He twirled in circles like a man dancing over to the fireplace and picked up the poker. He held it in the flames until the tip glowed red-hot.
Not wishing to acknowledge to himself where the madman was headed with the instrument, Entreri tore his gaze from the poker as Waylein headed back for his victim, and this time the assassin closed his eyes against the sight even as the screams of the dying Merrick seemed to puncture his eardrums. The weight of his anger and other nameless emotions were too much for the man, and just like many, many times before in the nightmare that was his childhood, Artemis Entreri felt the almost tangible click as his emotions disconnected from his mind. He sank into the comfortable coldness of apathy with a nearly vocal sigh of relief.
The soldiers cleared the dead body from the room, and Waylein spent several minutes obsessively cleaning his table. He sang a bawdy drinking song as he washed away the blood and urine. Entreri watched with clinical interest, his mind formulating multiple plans, strategies and scenarios.
He would not become the man on the table.
But Waylein did not proceed immediately with Entreris torture. Rather, he left, saying he was hungry and it was time for his dinner. The assassin knew he was meant to contemplate his fate. Instead, he used the time to try and free himself, but he had nothing with which to defeat the magic of his shackles. Ill just attack when the soldiers take me down, he reasoned.
Yet even after an hour had passed, Waylein did not return. From the next room came the sound of several voices, followed by the sound of a child crying, likely a boy. Entreri could hear Waylein shouting, could hear the child pleading with the shrieks of No, Father, please!
No, Father . . .
With these words, Entreris mind jumped straight to the inevitable conclusion, and with this not-so-psychic prediction came a powerful sensation Entreri wasnt certain what to call: it seemed that a nightmare or a memory beat against his brain, trying to tear free. A resounding whack announced that Waylein had slapped the child, who yelped, and moments later the assassin heard the sound of tearing cloth.
Artemis Entreri, having witnessed the sadism and sickness of many, many men, tried to maintain his stoicism, his apathy, but failed. A visceral disgust swelled in his chest with such power he felt unable to breathe. He closed his eyes again, but his revulsion seemed to lodge in his throat long before the first screams of the child came through the wall.
Jarlaxle had to fight the urge to growl in anger as his limbs grew stiff and heavy; his bones and muscles felt made of lead under the power of the holding spell. He could hardly even blink, and the dark elf did not enjoy at all such a sense of powerlessness. With simmering ire, he watched the soldiers drag in an unconscious Entreri and dumped him in the floor. After the soldiers had left and the spell had faded, Jarlaxle knelt at his friends side and checked him over. The result of the inspection was not pleasing.
Entreri was a mass of nasty bruises and cuts, and the sponginess on the right side of his ribcage suggested broken ribs. His back bled freely from a dozen lashes and one long gash, and Jarlaxle had to wonder how his friend had been lucky enough to only receive a dozen. A series of circular burn marks marched their way up the mans left arm, and his bottom lip was swollen from what seemed to be a score of tiny puncture wounds, likely from a needle.
There was, of course, nothing that Jarlaxle could do, for he needed his healing orb in order to effect repairs, so he simply arranged his friend upon the floor in as comfortable a position as was possible and sat by him, watching him with concern.
A full two hours passed before Entreri regained consciousness. The assassin came to with a choked groan, and it took several minutes for his mind to clear and focus. Instantly, he scoured his memory of the torture, and relaxed only when he recalled that Waylein had not yet raped him. That distinction, Entreri suspected, was being reserved for his second and final trip to the torture chamber. In fact, the assassins torture wasnt quite as severe as hed thought it would be, and he mused with a dark humor indeed that Waylein was likely too exhausted from his earlier brutalities to do him justice.
Jarlaxle watched his companion fight his way into wakefulness. Talk to me, my friend.
Just a short dip into the nine hells, Entreri quipped in a croak of a voice. Nothing too serious.
Jarlaxle smiled at the mans strength, but the dark grey eyes that gazed up at him told him a different story. There was a horror there, a pain there, that Jarlaxle had never before seen. Something had happened to Entreri that was not immediately obvious from his wounds. In that case, the elf said with a flippancy he didnt feel, well be up and out of here shortly.
Entreri blinked once, slowlythe shadow of a nod.
Sleep, Jarlaxle said simply, but Entreri was already halfway there.
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Entreri jolted awake with a choked gasp. The nightmare had been so real that the assassin, so often aware of and in control of his dreams even as he slept, had not known he was dreaming. Even now, he could still feel the hands grasping him, groping him, hurting him.
Jarlaxle still sat beside him and was looking at him with a concerned and curious expression.
Its nothing, the assassin immediately said, defensively. Why had his mind betrayed him so?
The mercenary nodded, knowing it to be a bald lie.
How long did I sleep? Entreri asked, trying to head off any questions.
About four hours. I estimate that it is about three hours before dawn.
Entreri grimaced. Less than a day in this hellhole, and he felt like hed been there a decade. Plan? He shortened his questions in deference to his parched throat.
Yes, Jarlaxle answered. But right now you need more rest.
Entreri didnt even bother to reply. He just went back to sleep, hoping against hope he wouldnt dream this time.
But there was no hope. Betrayed by a mind that had spent years burying the unthinkable, he awakened from a similar dream, sweating profoundly. This time, images of Merricks torture had mixed with his memories to create one of the worst nightmares hed ever experiencedand hed had many nightmares over the course of his childhood, even after hed fled his home.
Jarlaxle was leaning over him. This is twice you have awakened so. He didnt have to spell out the implicationsif something caused Artemis Entreri nightmares, it was serious. Tell me what you saw, my friend, he demanded, his stern tone contradicting his concerned expression.
With almost superhuman effort, Entreri managed, with Jarlaxles help, to pull himself into a sitting position. Merrick is dead, he evaded. He was right about the sadistic nature of this bastard. That was as much of a clue as Entreri wanted to give.
Jarlaxle was disturbed too greatly by his friends nightmares to stop there, however. Curiosity, and apprehension over the danger, motivated him to keep pushing. Tell me, he repeated.
Entreri was too tired to resist the nagging. He was weary, deeply weary. Would it hurt so much to report what hed seen? It wasnt like Jarlaxle would make the connection, would be able to tell just from these few events the past the assassin had buried so deeply.
Entreri was too tired to catch the illogic of that thought. Very well, he began, with the full intention telling the elf all that had happened. But the instant he got to the part about the first rape, an odd thing occurred: the assassins throat closed up suddenly, choking off the words. Entreri frowned, confused. My apologies, he murmured. I guess my throat is still a bit dry. He cleared his throat. As I was saying, Waylein then Again, his throat closed up. The assassins frowned deepened. Obviously he hadnt regained the proper amount of professional distance yet, and as a result, the visceral disgust he felt made him unable to continue.
Jarlaxle stared at Entreri, surprised by his sudden muteness and brief look of horror. To the drow, Entreris reaction might have been almost comical in any other situation, but for once, the elf was not laughing. Anything that could produce such a reaction in the assassin spelled doom, indeed. But amidst the drows concern for his own welfare was another emotion; it did in fact bother Jarlaxle that his friend was so disturbed.
Entreri was shaking his head no, and Jarlaxle let it go for the time being. Later, he said easily, now go back to sleep. Ill need you in the best form possible very soon.
The assassin accepted this without question and lay back down.
Jarlaxle pondered the troubling turn of events for the rest of the night.