The light was blinding.
For most of the first day that the secondboy of house Do'Urden spent trapped on the surface world, he hid under a large, green plant, pressing his face into the ground to hide his eyes from the scorching sun.
Dinin had left him. He had been gone when Drizzt had awoken. Drizzt had looked for him, panicked, for less than a minute before realizing what had happened. It didn't even occur to him that it could have been an accident. Of course it wasn't. He had been meant to stay there on the surface, alone. He'd been meant to die there. Vierna had once told him not to trust Dinin. He had not understood why, at the time. Now, he still didn't. Why would Dinin want to kill him?
The realization filled him with a greater dread than he'd ever known. It was one thing to die. It was another thing to die alone in the hell that was the surface world. He knew nothing of this place. He had never felt so helpless.
When the light began to fade, he cautiously looked out at the landscape beyond his plant. His eyes wandered upward, toward the great dome of blue that lay above him. When he looked up at the sky, at the wide open air, his head spun. It was too big. Too much. He kept his eyes carefully on the ground, because when he didn't, he felt as if he would get lost in that emptiness.
He was relieved when the darkness of night came, but with it came the cold. Shivering, he got up and started walking, not knowing where he was going but knowing that he must go nonetheless. He refused to die. He was going to survive. Somehow.
The surface was dizzyingly large and empty, and too busy at the same time. The ground was covered in plants that scraped and poked at him, crunching under his feet and occasionally catching on his clothes. Strong winds blew on him, changing direction every so often as if out of boredom. Occasionally he heard the call of an animal, and would freeze in place until he was sure the source wasn't too close to him. If the animals of the surface were anything like those of the Underdark, he did not want to run into any of them.
When he spotted a light in the distance, he hesitated, nervous, then altered his course to move toward it. The source of the light must have been people. People would have food, and maybe something with which to keep warm. He dreaded encountering any people of the surface, whom everyone knew to be largely evil and dangerous, but he saw no better options.
When he got closer, he saw that the source of the light was a small campfire. Four humans sat around it, talking and eating. A man and a woman, and two children who looked close to Drizzt's age. They had packs with them, and two large animals with saddles strapped on their backs, so he guessed they were only traveling through the area and did not live there.
He watched them from a safe distance away, under the cover of a tall plant-out of necessity, because he intended to wait there until they went to sleep to rob them of whatever food and clothes he could get his hands on-but also out of curiosity. He had seen human slaves only once or twice in Menzoberranzan, but even that had been from a distance. They had skin and hair that was oddly washed-out and dirty looking, but they smiled and laughed a lot. It made him wonder what they were talking about.
Eventually, the humans stretched out on blankets, and appeared to sleep. Drizzt waited a long time-what seemed like a long time to him, at least-to be sure they were really asleep, then crept toward them. He paused when he came to the edge of the camp, just on the periphery of the firelight. He heard a snore.
The animals wearing saddles were still standing nearby, awake. He eyed them suspiciously. They were alarmingly large, but they did not seem bothered by his presence.
Very quietly, he began rifling through one of the packs. One of the animals raised its head, and snorted loudly. Drizzt froze, hands still in the pack, and watched the animal apprehensively. It stared at him for a few seconds before looking away again.
But then, there was another sound from behind him. Drizzt turned, heart racing, and found the human man staring back at him. He'd been roused by the animal's sound, and was looking directly at Drizzt. The man's eyes grew wide.
Drizzt quickly took his hands out of the bag, biting his lip. He had a knife in his boot-his only weapon. He was not confident it would be much use against two fully grown humans, even if they had no weapons of their own. He quickly crossed his arms over his chest-a peaceful, submissive gesture.
The man, to his surprise, did not attack. Still watching Drizzt with wide eyes, he picked up one of the children with one arm, and shook the woman awake with the other.
Drizzt watched them all wake, his arms still crossed. He was too afraid to move. All of them looked at him with expressions of disbelief and fear. They spoke in hurried whispers, watching him and also searching the trees around them for something hidden in the darkness, as if there might have been an army lying in wait behind him. They stepped around him and mounted their animals, then rode away in a hurry, not even taking the time to gather their things before they left.
Drizzt dropped his arms, staring after them in bewilderment. He almost laughed, despite himself. How ridiculous, for them to be so afraid of someone so small. He felt a little pride in the knowledge that humans apparently had so much respect for the drow.
When it was clear that they were not coming back, he returned to the pack. He ate some of the food they'd left. It tasted strange and made him feel vaguely ill, but at least he wouldn't be hungry for a while. He wrapped one of their thin blankets over his shoulders and kept walking. He did not want to still be there if they decided to return.
The next humans he encountered were not so easily scared off.
They came upon him as he slept the next day. He awoke to the sound of someone speaking in a clunky foreign tongue. When he opened his eyes, the sun was shining too bright for him to see, and he flinched. He was surrounded by three large shapes. Someone reached down and grabbed him by the front of his shirt, pulling him to his feet.
Panicking, he shouted and thrashed against the hands holding him. He fought even after the first hard slap-more out of principle than hope of escape. But after the second, the world went black for a moment, and when it returned, he felt dizzy and sick and his face hurt, and he couldn't bring himself to continue.
The three men brought him back to a wagon and threw him in the back of it among a stack of crates, communicating to him mainly via shoves. But after he was sitting in the wagon and they were moving again, they mostly ignored him. Drizzt stayed still and quiet as they talked amongst themselves, and tried not to draw their attention again. Whatever they were planning, at least they had not killed him yet.
After a day of travel, Drizzt saw the walls of some giant structure in the distance. They were coming to a city. A little thrill of fear and excitement went through him. He had never seen a surface city before, or even had one described to him. It looked enormous.
They made him climb into a hidden compartment in the wagon floor before they approached the city gates. It was quiet for a while except for the sound of the wheels grinding over rocks, and then they stopped, and he could hear someone climbing into the back of the wagon. There were voices, very close. Then the voices moved away. The wagon started moving.
Once inside the city, the humans pulled him out of the wagon and into the street. It was mercifully dark out. One of the humans, a yellow-haired man with a round face, put a too-large hood over Drizzt's head. He made it clear-while waving a knife in his face-that he was not to take it off. The man said something that sounded like a question, and Drizzt nodded, keeping his gaze on the ground.
The low hood prevented him from seeing much of the city other than the street, but he could still hear just fine, and the sounds of the city alone were enough to shock him. It was loud-louder than he could have imagined. He couldn't believe the way that everyone yelled and laughed, not caring that everyone else could hear what they were saying. He couldn't understand how any of them could stand the noise.
Once, in the midst of all the foreign jabbering, he suddenly heard a voice, softly but very clearly, say something in the drow language. He looked up, shocked, and desperate to find whoever had said it. A rough hand shoved at the back of his head to point his gaze downward again, and the human holding him growled something that sounded dangerous. Drizzt swallowed hard, and didn't look up again.
Water was dripping from the sky that day. Drizzt didn't like it. By the time the human had dragged him across the city, he was soaking wet and shivering, as if he'd jumped in a river, and it didn't seem fair that he should have no choice but to be bombarded by the wet and the cold just for walking under the sky. None of the humans seemed to notice it, as if it were perfectly normal to have water pouring on you wherever you went. The surface was a very uncivilized place in some regards.
The human took him down a set of stairs that led to a door at the base of a building. They walked through a maze of dark, musty hallways, occasionally passing rooms that were filled with strange-smelling vapor and stranger-looking people. At the end of a hall, the human stopped to talk to another man, and finally removed the hood. The new man looked down at Drizzt, and raised his eyebrows. Drizzt quickly lowered his gaze to the floor.
The men spoke for a few minutes. Then the new man handed the other one something, and took Drizzt's arm.
As he was handed off, Drizzt turned to watch the yellow-haired man leave. The man walked back down the hallway and turned the corner, without ever looking back. Drizzt felt a strange sense of hurt and loss. He had by no means liked the man, but the humans who had brought him here were the only people he'd known during his time on the surface. The only constants in an unfamiliar world. Drizzt had been nothing to him. Less than nothing. Even being disliked seemed preferable to complete indifference.
The new man pulled him down another hall and thrust him into a dark room, then shut the door behind him. In the room with him were a lot of other skinny humans, and, to his surprise, a few surface elves. Drizzt quickly found a wall to put his back against. He looked down, and tried not to draw attention to himself. The people there looked different from other people in the city, though he couldn't put his finger on why. All of them stared at him. None of them spoke.
They waited there for a long time.
Then, the man who'd brought him into the room reappeared. He pulled a woman into the hallway, and closed the door behind them. A few minutes later, he came back without the woman, and took someone else away. It happened again and again until half the room was gone. Each time someone went, Drizzt grew more nervous.
Finally, the man came for him.
As the man took his arm, Drizzt looked around the room, searching the faces around him for help. They all watched him, and gave no more reaction than they had for the last ten people who had gone.
The man pulled, more forcefully after Drizzt's hesitance. He dragged him down the hall and into the next room, and suddenly he was surrounded by tall humans, all looking at him. Instinctively he tried to back away from them, and someone put a hand on his shoulder to keep him in place. He stood very still, except that he was trembling slightly.
The room was quiet, and all the eyes on him were wide with interest. Then the room erupted with noise as everyone started talking at once-some laughing, some sounding almost angry. Drizzt could smell that odd vapor again, somewhere nearby. He spotted a small group of men and women in the back of the room, sitting around a table with a large pipe atop it. One of them seemed asleep in his chair. The rest had paused what they were doing to see what the fuss was about.
He resigned himself to staring at the floor, and tried to shut out the chaos that was all around him. Whatever was about to happen would happen, and there was little he could do about it but hold back tears.
The room quieted again, and the man behind him started talking. There was a lot of back and forth between himself and the people in the crowd. Drizzt was quickly growing tired of all the babbling. He wished someone would say something intelligible. The human language was ugly and made them all sound foolish and brutish, like orcs or goblins. He wondered if they realized how bad it sounded.
He looked up when one of the people from the table in the back appeared suddenly at the front of the crowd. He was even taller than other humans tended to be, had pale brown skin and long, dark hair tied behind his head, and wore a very displeased expression. He looked down at Drizzt, who tensed, uncomfortable with the direct attention. Then he looked up at the man behind Drizzt. They said some things. Then they argued, loudly. Drizzt winced as the man holding him grew angrier, and fingers dug into his shoulder.
Finally the two men seemed to come to an agreement, though not happily. The tall man dug into a pocket and threw a small sack of something at the man holding him before taking Drizzt by the arm and pulling him from the room. He had been passed off again.
Before they went outside, the new man unfastened the cloak from his shoulders and dropped it over Drizzt, then pulled the hood up over his head. Drizzt understood the rules by then. He was not to be seen.
The man held onto his arm, rather tightly, as if he was afraid of Drizzt running off-which he did consider. He might have been able to get away, with only one person to pursue him now-if only the man hadn't been holding on so tightly.
It was very dark outside, by then. The humans carried fires on sticks or in little glass cases so they could still see where they were going. Humans had famously poor vision.
The water was still dripping down from above. The cloak, Drizzt noticed, was made of some material that the water slid off of instead of soaking through. He was still freezing and damp from earlier, but at least he wasn't getting soaked again.
Drizzt chanced a glance up at the man as they walked through the city. His new jailor. It was hard to tell much about someone, just from looking at them. The man seemed to notice Drizzt's gaze, and looked down at him with a sort of irritated, harried expression. Drizzt quickly looked down at the ground. He had been able to hold back before, but now he did start to cry. He missed his house in Menzoberranzan. He wished Vierna was there with him, even though she would have slapped him for crying. He would have given anything to have a familiar face nearby.
He was alone in this strange, terrible place that was so cold and had water leaking everywhere, and had too much light during the day and still too much at night because of the humans' bad eyesight, and he hadn't eaten anything or slept since some time far too long ago, and there was no one around who could understand him or want to help him-only these humans who treated him like cattle, like something that didn't think or feel.
As far as he could tell, this man had just purchased him at a slave auction. Drizzt didn't know much about humans, or how their slaves fared. Maybe if he was obedient and worked hard, he'd be treated well. He had little other choice. He had nowhere else to go.
But perhaps, even then, he would be better off on his own. There were only a few reasons he could think of for someone to want a child slave instead of a grown one, and none of them were good.
When the man turned to look down an alley, and his grip loosened ever so slightly, Drizzt abruptly jerked his arm, trying to pull away. He almost made it-the man lost his grip on Drizzt's upper arm, only to grab his wrist instead. Drizzt twisted wildly, and the man only held tighter.
"Let go of me!" Drizzt cried in desperation and misery, choking back sobs. It was probably the only escape attempt he would be able to make, and he had failed.
The man grabbed both his arms to hold him still, and bent to look him square in the face. He opened his mouth to say something, then stopped, glancing around the half-empty streets. Then he said something in a harsh whisper, as if afraid of being overheard. Drizzt stared at him, not understanding.
The man turned and walked on, a little faster now, pulling him along behind. Drizzt didn't try to run again.
After two more streets, they climbed a set of stairs set along the back of a building and went through a door. The man pushed Drizzt inside first, then followed, closing the door behind him. Drizzt heard a click as the door locked. The room around them was small, dark, and empty, with just a small table in the middle and a bed and cabinet in the corner.
The man paused there, and sighed. He muttered something to himself before walking slowly across the room. Drizzt hovered by the door. He quickly tried the door handle while the man's back was turned. It didn't budge.
On his way across the room, the man inadvertently kicked the leg of the table in the middle of the room. He let out a pained gasp and a series of what must have been curses before continuing.
It was too dark in the room for the man to see properly, Drizzt realized.
His heart thudded in his chest. He reached into his boot and pulled out the knife that was hidden there. The man rummaged for something in the dark, his back to Drizzt. Drizzt edged closer, holding the knife in front of him. He hesitated. He was terrified. He had never killed someone before. Never even hurt someone. And he didn't want to. He felt nauseous.
Then there was a light. Drizzt flinched at the sudden brightness. One of those little glass cases with a candle inside sat at the man's feet, casting a dim light over the whole room. The man turned to look at him, and stopped, watching the knife in his hand. Drizzt froze, horrified. What a fool he was. He should have taken his chance. The human would probably kill him, or if not, would inflict such torture upon him that he would wish he was dead.
But then the man laughed.
"Gods, where did you get that? Have you had it this whole time?"
Drizzt was so stunned that he nearly dropped the knife. The man was speaking the drow tongue.
"How do you know my language?" Drizzt sputtered, shocked.
The man leaned against the wall, giving him an appraising look. "I have had dealings with some of your kin, in the past," he said. He did not look angry anymore-only tired and sad. "I'm not going to hurt you, boy. Don't look so afraid."
Drizzt squeezed the grip of the knife. He was shaking slightly, and he wasn't sure if it was from the cold or from nerves. "Why did you bring me here?" he demanded.
"To keep you away from the bastard who was trying to sell you to those other bastards. You're welcome."
Drizzt frowned at him, not understanding. "Why?"
"Because something bad would have happened to you otherwise." He looked Drizzt up and down. He went to the bed and pulled the blanket off of it, then brought it back and held it out to Drizzt. Drizzt cautiously reached out, but the man pulled it back out of reach before he could touch it.
"I'll trade you," the man said. "For the knife." He held out an open hand, waiting.
Drizzt hesitated. He looked up at the man, trying to guess what he was thinking.
Slowly, he turned the knife around and dropped the hilt into the man's hand, then stepped back, waiting to see what he would do. The man gave an approving nod, and tucked the knife into his belt as he handed Drizzt the blanket again. Drizzt took it quickly, afraid he might pull it away again. He pulled off his cloak before wrapping the blanket around his shoulders. He looked around the room for a place to sit down. He was not sure if he was allowed to sit on the bed, so he simply sat on the floor where he was, and pulled the blanket tighter around him. He already felt warmer.
The man looked down at him for a long time. "Why—" he began, then shook his head. "How did you get here?"
"Some humans took me," Drizzt said, waving vaguely at the door to indicate the wilderness far beyond. "Outside. They brought me to this city."
"And before that? How did you get to the surface? Where is your family?"
He sniffed, and wiped his face with the back of his hand. He watched the man, suspicious but cautiously hopeful. It didn't occur to him to lie. "My brother brought me," he said quietly. "A raiding party was going to the surface. He said I could come, to see what it was like. When we reached the surface, we all took a rest, and...when I woke up, he was gone, and it was so bright I could hardly see and…" He looked down, self-conscious.
"Someone must be missing you," the man said. "Your mother?"
He frowned as he considered that. It was a strange thing to suggest. He hardly ever saw his mother. He imagined she'd scarcely notice he was gone. Vierna, on the other hand-she would notice. Would she be sad when she realized what had happened? Would she look for him?
"Somebody will come looking for you, surely?" the man said. "To take you back home?"
Drizzt thought again, then slowly shook his head. Dinin had meant for him to die, or at least to be permanently gone. Perhaps he'd meant it as a mercy, bringing him here instead of just putting a sword through him. Or perhaps he'd merely thought it funny. Either way, he would kill him if he found a way back to Menzoberranzan. As for the rest of them-his presence would hardly be missed, would it? He was only a secondboy, and one that none in his family seemed to approve of, at that. He had often felt that they'd rather he was not around. And even if Vierna did miss him, she certainly wouldn't come all the way to the surface to find him.
The man sighed, and ran a hand over his hair in an exhausted sort of gesture. Drizzt shifted nervously, feeling the man's patience thinning. He did not want to be thrown out into the world again, alone. At least this man spoke his language. By the goddess it was a relief to hear his own language again.
"...can you help me?" Drizzt asked in a very small voice, his heart twisting a little in humiliation at having to beg a human for aid.
The man bent to crouch in front of him, meeting him at eye level. "I can't very well leave you to fend for yourself, can I?"
Drizzt hesitated, then shook his head in agreement.
"It's...alright," the man said, unsure of himself. "We'll figure something out. Maybe...maybe we can find a nice family of elves to take you in."
"Surface elves?" Drizzt said, eyes widening in horror. "You can't give me to them, they'll kill me!"
The man laughed again, but he looked sad. "Have you got a name, boy? You are a boy, aren't you?"
"Of course," he said, hardly believing anyone could mistake him for a female. As if a female would ever have been abandoned on the surface. He drew himself up a little straighter. "I am Drizzt, secondboy of house Do'urden."
"Not of any house anymore, I don't think," he said. "You can call me Torrah."
Drizzt drew the blanket up over his head, pressing it against his cold cheeks. The man smiled at him.
"I suppose you would like something to eat," he said. "Did they feed you?"
Drizzt shook his head, then nodded.
"Are you going to run off if I leave you here alone for a few minutes while I get something?"
He rapidly shook his head.
The man studied him for a few moments, like he didn't believe him. "Alright," he said eventually. "Wait here."
As he left, Drizzt heard a key turn in the lock. The man didn't trust him to stay. He frowned at the door. He hadn't been planning on running, anyway, so it didn't make a difference, but being locked in felt insulting. Normally it would have irritated him. But at the moment, he was so overwhelmed with relief that he didn't care.
He realized, suddenly, how tired he was. He rested his head on the floor, pulling his feet up under the blanket. He was asleep before the man returned.