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Summary: Pre-Maestro, missing scene fic. Something to fill in the gaps from Entreri going from refusing to exist in the same city as Jarlaxle to asking for his help. (Title from Robert Frost's 'To the Thawing Wind.')
Wordcount: 1286

 -

The ruins of Port Llast

The sun was setting over the waves on the distant horizon. Orange ripples, long shadows. A single man walked over to a ruined building and climbed up the eaves. He reached under, fingers searching carefully. He scowled, finding nothing.

Jarlaxle walked out of the shadows, the jeweled dagger in his hand.

"I knew you'd have to come back for this eventually," he said.

Artemis Entreri dropped back to the street and shook his head in disgust. "Of course you did."

"We need to talk."

"You need to give back my dagger before I cut your fingers off and make you eat them."

"That will be difficult to do without this." The dagger flashed orange in the fading sunlight.

"I'll improvise."

Jarlaxle sighed heavily, then walked over and carefully placed the dagger on the stones between them.

"There. A sign of good faith." Jarlaxle retreated several feet. "But I would like it if you stayed."

Entreri walked over and picked up the dagger, eyes constantly watching Jarlaxle for movement. He started to back away, eyes never leaving the potential threat, before stopping.

"What are you playing at, Jarlaxle?"

"I do not know what you mean."

"You rescue us from Draygo Quick, only to betray our location to the drow in Port Llast. If it weren't for you, we would still be petrified. If it weren't for you, Dahlia would yet live." He shook his head and looked out at the waves. "Are you a friend or an enemy, Jarlaxle?"

Jarlaxle frowned.

"I didn't betray--" he started. Entreri cut him off with a snarl.

"They got their information from Bregan D'aerthe," His knuckles were white on the hilt of his dagger. Jarlaxle tensed again, ready to defend himself. He sighed when no attack was forthcoming.

"Bregan D'aerthe is not me." Jarlaxle crossed his arms before remembering that humans saw it as an obstinant gesture, rather than the surrender it was. "If you'd listen to me, you'd know there are times when they've acted against my interests. This is surely one of them."

"And why should I believe you?"

Jarlaxle found that he didn't have an answer. Entreri began walking away.

"I didn't mean to leave you behind." The words leapt from Jarlaxle's mouth before he could think about them. He raised a hand in the air as if to call them back, but it was too late. Entreri turned to regard him with disdain.

The sun dipped below the horizon, leaving the light a cold dull blue. The waves crashed against the rocks in a constant roar. Jarlaxle's heart pounded in his ears and he felt cold.

"But you still did."

Before Jarlaxle could find the words to stop him, Artemis Entreri had vanished into the growing night.

-

Some months later, on the outskirts of Menzoberranzan

Jarlaxle frowned, ears twitching. He'd heard a low groan in the shadows of the cavern just to his left. Following mysterious sounds in the Underdark was often suicidal, but something about it caught his attention. He went to investigate.

The source of the sound was a human who had curled up behind a stalagmite. There was a coppery tang to the air that told Jarlaxle he was bleeding badly. The scent would attract predators soon enough. He looked back for monsters or observers, then walked forward, boots clicking against the stone, until he was close enough to recognize the huddled form.

"Artemis?"

Entreri looked up, grey eyes wary. He had one hand over the wound in his side. The other clutched his dagger. He bared his teeth.

"Jarlaxle."

Jarlaxle took the acknowledgement of his existence as permission to approach. He stayed out of reach and pulled out his healing orb. He held it up, half offer, half question.

Entreri hesitated for a long second, then nodded. Jarlaxle looked down at the bared dagger pointedly. Entreri scowled at him and put it back in its sheath. Jarlaxle knelt and started using the orb to seal the jagged cut along Entreri's side.

He paused long enough to ask "What are you doing down here?" He kept his voice low, unsure if he was being careful of predators or trying not to provoke the injured human. Entreri chuckled, then winced as the movement strained his injury.

"Trying to find Dahlia." He shook his head.

"You've heard she is alive, then."

Entreri nodded.

"You knew?" he asked. He didn't sound surprised.

"I've known for several months." Jarlaxle raised an eyebrow and continued. "I would have passed along the information if I could. You've been hard to find."

"Bad things happen to me when you know my whereabouts."

Jarlaxle took the rebuke without wincing. It wasn't getting easier, but he was learning to anticipate them.

"So you decided to look for her on your own?"

"Drizzt is busy with his own problems."

"I could help you." If you would deign to ask me.

"Like you helped me with the flute or like you helped me with the Netherese? I'm not sure I care for either method."

"Would you prefer I walk away and let you bleed to death?"

Entreri's jaw twitched and he looked away.

"Fine," he spat. "Help me. We need to get into the city, rescue Dahlia, then escape. Any suggestions?"

Jarlaxle balked. When he'd offered help, he'd been anticipating finding information, providing supplies. All kinds of things that would give him time to convince Artemis to abandon his reckless mission.

Entreri seemed to realize the meaning of his silence. He laughed hollowly.

"That is what I thought." He pushed against the ground, trying to stand, despite the half-healed wound.

"Wait." Jarlaxle pressed a hand against Entreri's chest to stop him from rising. At Entreri's expression, he pulled it away and spoke quickly. "I meant it. I want to help, and I'll do it. But only if you agree to listen to me. We need more information." And allies, Jarlaxle added silently.

Entreri's silence was ominous.

"Do you even know where to start looking for her? I'll help, but we do this my way."

"Or what?"

"Or I walk away and allow you to get yourself killed on your own, and Dahlia will still be trapped."

Jarlaxle waited, wondering if Entreri would recognize the bluff for what it was. But instead Entreri closed his eyes, resting his head against the stone with a soft thud.

"Fine," he said, opening his eyes again. Jarlaxle grinned and took a step back. He offered a hand to help pull Entreri to his feet, but was brushed away. He put his arms behind his back, folding his hands together to stop them from reaching out again.

"I will need to put together some supplies and gather information," he said, bouncing lightly on his feet. His heart was racing. "And you cannot stay at Bregan D'aerthe's headquarters. One of my soldiers might see you. As I said earlier, my control over who they give information to is... imperfect."

"I've no desire to go there again, at any rate."

"I have several other places I could hide you. They're closer to the surface, but you won't be in danger."

"Except from you. I do not need your assistance in finding a place to stay."

"If there is a window of opportunity to rescue Dahlia, it could be quite short, and I do not care to waste precious time finding you again simply because you find my presence distasteful."

Entreri glared at him and Jarlaxle knew there would only be so many times he could use this argument. But eventually he nodded.

"Very well." His shoulders slumped and Jarlaxle realized just how exhausted the man looked. His shakiness and drawn face weren't entirely due to blood loss. "Lead the way."

-
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