Drizzt had been living on the surface for more than a century, but every now and then he felt the need to get up from the warm blankets of his bed to come out and admire the dawn of the rising sun. He still felt the nostalgia of his first time. It had been unhappy circumstances, since it had been his first raid against the surface elves, but the sight of the sun had been ... unforgettable. And so one day he found himself outside the legendary Gauntlgrym, house-fortress of the great Delzoun people among the peaks of the Crag Mountains, to gaze at the rising sun. Maybe it was a little absurd on his part to still indulge is such reminiscence, but after all that time the simple fact of not being tired of watching the dawn rise every day was a sign that he had no regrets on the life that he had build. No regrets for abandoning his drow family, to make his way over their corpses to find peace on the surface lands.
-I know that look- a voice came about.
Drizzt had a brief shudder of surprise, but he relaxed almost immediately recognizing Jarlaxle..
-You're thinking of something to regret again- the mercenary continued, sitting down gracefully next to him -After all you've done, all you've accomplished, I dare say, do you still regret something?
-It's strange to hear you say it- answered Drizzt -I don't think I can regret anything now.
Jarlaxle raised an eyebrow, not at all convinced of the truth of his words.
-And yet Drizzt, always finds something that he did wrong, a wrong he didn't solve and with it a hope of redemption- insisted the mercenary.
-Don't you believe in redemption?- the ranger countered.
-Would I be here otherwise?
-Did you believe in redemption even then? - Drizzt insisted, alluding to the long years before his birth in which Jarlaxle had abandoned his family to form a team of male drow mercenaries to escape the overwhelming power of Menzoberranzan's drow matrons.
-I believed in freedom - the mercenary answered sincerely -As your father, Zaknafein. And look where I am now.
He gave the ranger a slight pat on the shoulder -You still don't have any idea of the influence you have over young male dark elves.
-But you made sure that I remained alive to exert it, didn't you?
-Of course I did, my freedom was at stake. What hope would each of us have if you had failed in your fight against Lloth?
The silence fell between the two.
-You say I could convince other drows to join me if I wanted?- Drizzt asked.
-By "others" you mean your deceased family?
The ranger did not answer, meditating in silence: his father would have probably come with him, but his family was too focused on Menzoberranzan's shady dealings to understand the potential life that he had offered. Because for his mother, Malice, ambition and lust for power were too important. Likewise his sisters, who were educated to be matrons, masters and slaveholders rather than mothers or sisters. He remembered little of his brother Dinin: only his slimy way of behaving, the envy he had for his abilities. He also remembered the moment when, transformed into a Drider, he died under his blows, and the fact that he had killed their older brother Nalfein that fateful evening he was born.
-I don't think my family would understand.
-I agree. Your father had lost all hope of escaping from that family, because your family was like all the others. And yet, in your heart, you still think that maybe one of them could redeem himself. Does the last Do'Urden in Faerun suddenly feels alone without his kin around?
Maybe not, maybe yes. His family had hated him, chased him and some had almost succeeded in killing him, but for Drizzt the thought of being forced to kill them to defend himself still hurt a bit. He was not like his father, he had not buried his hope under a visceral hatred for the matrons; he had accepted his will to free himself, get out, and did not blame all the drow for an evil caused by blind devotion to a dark goddess.
-When Yvonnel cursed me with her spell, I found myself thinking of Vierna several times- Drizzt admitted, remembering his older sister who had educated him during his childhood.
-She? Oh boy- replied Jarlaxle, remembering how he helped Vierna seeking vengeance against him -What could she have done for you to be remembered in those dark moments?
Good question. Vierna had transformed Dinin, their last living relative, into a Drider, a fate only the ones cursed from Lloth suffered, and had used him as a pawn. She had summoned the Yochol who had killed his best friend Wulfgar. She had shed the blood of his new family to avenge the old one. Drizzt had not felt joy in piercing her chest with his scimitars, but he would never hesitate doing it again to save his new family. Zaknafein had sacrificed his life to give him freedom, he would not make his sacrifice vain.
-Do you still think that if she were here today you would still offer her a chance to bury the past and join you in happiness?- intervened Jarlaxle.
-Do you think it would be wrong?- he replied, seizing the opportunity to counter the insinuations of the old friend. The mercenary raised his hands, as a sign of surrender
-But I still believe that it is not so easy to accept redemption for something you believe is right.
-Yvonnel did it.
-Yvonnel is my three-year-old granddaughter in a twenty-year-old body in which my mother's mind, a thousand-year-old mother, was reincarnated. She is special, she is no longer tied to the world in which she lived, and she probably is also in a phase of rebellious puberty even with all the maturity she has. Don't you think that the most powerful female of all Menzoberranzan, again in her youth, would have tried to rebel if she wanted to?
-Don't you think that under the same conditions Vierna would have done the same?
-Why her, Drizzt? I don't understand.
-She is Zaknafein's daughter. We have the same father and the same mother. We were different from our siblings, in our way.
-And just because she was the last connection you had with your father do you feel responsible?
-Vierna was certainly not a compassionate sister. But not always.
-Do you remember the tunnels I showed you when we returned to the Do'Urden's household?
-I learned of them in my first years of life, to escape the constant vigilance of my sisters.
-And Vierna didn't punish you every time?
-She started at some point, when I was already old enough to have to show some decorum. But I don't think she really meant to.
-Are you telling me that your sister had fun having to look for you every time you slipped into one of those tunnels to escape her?
-I never knew.
-And here's your answer.
-It was Briza who usually punished me.
-And Vierna never did it?
-Sometimes when Malice ordered it, but she usually just looked at me blankly and made me go back to work.
Not entirely true because Drizzt was almost certain that his sister found it somehow amusing to catch him every time he tried to sneak away, at least from the strange light in her eyes when she trapped him at the exit of yet another tunnel with her arms folded. But then those days were over and the punishments became more frequent, reminding the young drow of the subordinate role in their society.
-Wow. It will sound like sarcasm, but your sister seems almost an elf of the surface compared to the one I knew- Jarlaxle commented, with a hint of amusement.
-And do you really think that, if you had asked her, she would have followed you in your crusade to free our race from Lolth? Would Drizzt Do'Urden's burden be lighter if his sister had joined him?
The ranger did not answer immediately.
-Do you consider me naive?
-The real question is whether you believe it or not- the mercenary countered, with a smirk.
-Not Vierna - Drizzt answered after a while -I'm afraid it would have been wasted on her. She would not be able to look at me as our father would. She has made her choice a long time ago, one I don't share.
-I'm glad you think so- replied Jarlaxle. Drizzt remained surprised of the answer.
-Did you do something?- the ranger asked, well aware that the mercenary was very good at unloading the responsibilities of his misfortunes on others.
-Have you crossed path with the wrong Matron?
-Did you sell the soul of my unborn child to a demon to save your life?
-Do you consider me your friend or not?- Jarlaxle interrupted him, outraged. A smile flashed on Drizzt's lips.
-I'm not here because I need something from you. Indeed, if anything the opposite- explained Jarlaxle.
-Did you bring me something?
-A gift from Yvonnel- the drow explained, standing up -A ... reminiscence of the past if you want to call it that.
-And this is why you asked me so much about my past?- Drizzt kept asking, a little unsure of Yvonnel's intention: the last time she gave him something was a curse, except she also undid it in an act of pure generosity.
-Let's say I like to be cautious when it comes to these errands. I would not like the client or the receiver to have unexpected surprises, if you know what I mean.
Drizzt raised his eyebrow, even more unnerved by his companion's insinuations.
-Jarlaxle- he asked, more insistently -What did Yvonnel give me?
-It's not a thing. It's a...
The mercenary took off his hat and massaged his bald head: he didn't look relaxed at all.
-It's complicated and at the same time very simple- said a new voice, booming like thunder in the mind of Drizzt. He still was very familiar with that sound, that tone, as if a day hadn't passed. He turned, coming face to face with a mature, tempered and somewhat wrinkled drow. All about him was familiar. Even the scimitars. Everything was like a century before.
-I guess you have a lot to talk about, so I'll take my leave- Jarlaxle said, but Drizzt paid no attention to him. He remained motionless in his place, fearing that any move could break the spell and destroy the image.
-Boy- Zaknafein said, crossing his arms -Is this the way you greet your father?