Epilogue: Being His Child

Three Months Later ...

"Guard yourself!"

Too late he realized the opening, and Icingdeath was at his throat. Zak threw down the beautiful new weapons suddenly and violently, tears of frustration stinging his eyes. "I'll never be good enough!" he shouted. "Why even try?"

Slowly, deliberately, Drizzt's scimitars were sheathed, his face sober. For long moments he was silent, and Zaknafein counted the beats of his own heart, hopelessness like lead in his stomach. The burden that he always carried had at last been named; without even meaning to he had let the soul-crushing words escape. Like a buried thistle that suddenly sprang forth when the wind swept over the feeble dust attempting to choke it, his greatest fear had been named, and the roots went deep into his heart. Now Kel'nar would try to cut off that vile plant, admonish him that by practicing more he could be better. Zaknafein closed his hands into fists, closed his eyes against tears. The thorns would always be there, and the best he could do would be to harden his heart against them. He had shown weakness, and he resolved to never do so again. Better to feel nothing than to continue feeling this pain.

Kel'nar put a hand on his shoulder then. "My son," he said simply, and Zaknafein looked at him with narrowed eyes. Next would come his father's stories of practicing for hours a day, the necessity of dedication and discipline, all the ways in which Zak needed to try harder.

Get it over with then, his mind urged bitterly. I'll never measure up, no matter what you say.

Drizzt shook his head and smiled. "You're already 'good enough.' "

"What?" Zak's brow knit as the word tore from him, stunned disbelief in its wake.

Drizzt's grip tightened on his shoulder, firm. "Your worth has nothing to do with those swords, Zaknafein, or with any weapon. Even if you never picked them up again, I would see you the same. You are my son, and that is enough." His gaze was intent. "It will always be enough."

Something broke inside of Zaknafein, something false that had gripped his heart for far too long. The thorny plant was uprooted and he put a hand against his chest. The dusty soil was dry, and, as if his soul knew that the new seeds would need water to grow, he couldn't hold back the flood of pent-up tears any longer.

Kel'nar opened his arms and held him until the storm passed.

A/N: Thank you for reading, and a special thanks to those who commented. I look forward to sharing more stories with you in the future.