(Brief) Introduction

I have been a fan of R.A. Salvatore's works as well as the Forgotten Realms universe in general for over half my life now. My favorite character in said universe is, of course, Jarlaxle Baenre. I've had a lot of scenarios in my head about him, and one of the most persistent ones has been what it would be like to see Jarlaxle as a father. This is based on that idea.

Chapter One: Stirrings in the Web

"She showed up four days ago at the outpost halfway between Menzoberranzan and Gracklstugh," said Valas Hune as he absently toyed with one of the many trinkets attached to his vest.

"And she has a child with her? How did she get that far in the Underdark without anyone else to escort her?"

Valas shook his head.

"She's not very forthcoming. I got the impression that it wasn't hard for her, though."

Jarlaxle was silent for a moment, his black fingers drumming a tiny beat into the fine mahogany wood of his desk. He was not caught off guard often in his life, but this was certainly one of those few moments. The woman in question was not a person he had expected to ever see again, let alone show up right on his doorstep several hundred miles of land and about five miles of stone from where he last spoke to her.

"Thank you for bringing her here. I don't know what she wants, but if this is some deception it is better that she is in Luskan where I am surround by allies, instead of down there with the servants of Lolth." He stood up from the desk. "Bring her in, but post guards outside the door."

Valas gave a curt bow then turned to open the door.

Jarlaxle checked his hips surreptitiously to make sure he was well armed. He did indeed know his guest quite well, and she was deadly, though he was at least a century older and therefore more experienced in all matters than her. He wasn't afraid of her alone, but who knew what kind of scheme she was planning.

A few moments later, he heard shuffling outside the door, then a familiar woman walked in. For a moment, he studied her, taking in her silken black skin, wide-set red eyes and wavy silver tresses that flowed down her back. It wasn't hard to be attracted to Vaelirra Del'Armgo. Many men chased her for her extraordinary beauty and Jarlaxle had been no exception.

Vaelirra used her appearance to her advantage and he had been more than eager to oblige her whatever she wanted just for a chance to enjoy her exquisite form. But his dalliances with her, though pleasant, had never been anything truly serious. His work with Bregan D'aerthe had kept him from becoming committed to a woman - or a man for that matter - for anything more than sharing beds. Moreover, the two of them had parted on good terms. He'd made no promises to see her again, though he wasn't opposed to it.

And that was why he couldn't understand what she was doing here.

He rose from his chair and reached out to clasp her hand. It was soft and smooth, just as he had remembered. He tried to think of when he had last seen the woman. Was it five years ago? Ten? He hadn't been to Menzoberranzan often in the last couple of decades. Jarlaxle much preferred the relative peace and novelty of the surface lands to the unending backstabbing of the City of Spiders.

"Vaelirra! It is wonderful to see you. You have certainly come a long way to Luskan." He smiled at her.

She did not smile back. Instead, she opened her mouth, then hesitated for a moment as if trying to find the right words.

"I am glad to see you well," she said finally. Her face twisted for a moment into an expression he could not read. Relief perhaps? That was some of it he was sure. But there was also fear. Did she fear him?

No, he thought. She fears whatever she has fled from.

She looked over her shoulder at the door. It gave Jarlaxle and opportunity to study her momentarily. Clothed in a simple tunic and slacks, she looked far different than the usually extravagantly dressed woman he'd known. Perhaps she had left in a hurry? He would know the reason she was here and soon.

"Kesrith! Come here."

In walked a tiny drow girl, perhaps no older than nine or ten. Like Vaelirra, the child was dressed in spartan clothing. His eyes scanned over her face and noted the resemblance between the two females. There was no doubt. This was Vaelirra's child. The girl resembled her mother, with her wide-set eyes and fine features, but there were differences too. Instead of a deep ruby, the girl's eyes were a pearl grey - a color unusual in drow. And she hadn't quite grown into her beauty yet. Her spindly limbs, long ears a bit too large for her face and buck teeth reminded him a bit of a rabbit. She was quite adorable decided Jarlaxle, a thought that surprised him.

She clutched to her chest an elaborate doll, all dressed up in a miniature version of the finest fashions of Menzoberranzan. The toy was the only

"Kesrith," said Vaelirra. "This is Jarlaxle. He is going to help us."

The little girl's pale eyes flitted over him, taking in his flamboyant attire, then over the office which which was filled with strange trinkets from every end of Toril. She examined these objects briefly, then returned her eyes to him.

Her tiny face furrowed.

"I don't want his help. I want to go home. Vaelirra, you will take me home, now."

Vaelirra gripped her little arm. The girl gritted her teeth in anger and attempted to twist away from her mother.

"Stop," said Vaelirra. "You won't talk to me that way here. And you will call me Mother here, and nothing else."

Kesrith glared up at her with a vitriol that surprised Jarlaxle. Drow children, as a rule, didn't dare disobey their often cruel mothers, or disrespect them in any way lest they feel the bite of her scourge. This girl, on the other hand, was defiant.

And she isn't afraid of Vaelirra, noted Jarlaxle. He pondered that for a moment, then spoke.

"Ladies," Jarlaxle began, trying to diffuse the conflict between the two of them. "I'm sure you've had a long journey. Everyone becomes a bit irritable after traveling so far." He gestured to the plush chairs in front of his desk.

"Please, have a seat."

Vaelirra sat immediately, but Kesrith still stood regarding him. Her grey eyes passed over him again and something about them was unsettling. Then the child calmly walked over and sat beside her mother.

"So, what brings you so far from the City of Spiders?" he asked.

"We need refuge," said Vaelirra and the little girl turned her head sharply.

"But I don't want to stay here!" cried Kesrith. "I want to go home. I don't want to be in this world of iblith! You will take me back to my matron!"

Vaelirra's eyes flashed in anger. Her hands moved, spelling out something towards the girl in the drow sign language. Kesrith's eyes widened and she shrank back from her mother, sufficiently cowed for the moment. The girl folded her arms in front of her and pouted which prompted the adults to ignore her.

"As I said, Jarlaxle. We need a place to stay for a while."

"I take it that things are not going well for you in Menzoberranzan?"

Jarlaxle had heard that she was not fond of her mother, the formidable Matron Mez'Barriss Del'Armgo. The Armgo Matron was known for being both fanatically religious and militant. She drove her children and her house hard, all in pursuit of the ultimate prize: the status of the First House.

Vaelirra, by contrast, preferred art, music and hedonistic parties to religion and martial training. She'd spent her centuries avoiding the myriad of responsibilities usually foisted upon a woman of her station. Luckily for her, she had several older sisters that interested her mother more.

"No, it is not," said Vaelirra, her eyes cast down.

"Are you thinking about moving to Luskan?"

Her eyes examined her hands for a moment.

"I suppose that is the only choice for now," she said, her lips pursed

Silence stretched out before the three of them for a few long moments. Whatever had made his former lover come to him was something she was frightened by. But he just couldn't allow himself to trust her outright. She was a drow female after all, and for all he knew, the church or her own mother could have forced her to come and assassinate him whether it was something she herself wanted or not.

But that wouldn't explain the child would it? he thought. Jarlaxle couldn't conceive of any reason a little girl would be here.

He glanced back over at Kesrith who was still sulking, then had an idea.

"Very well," he said. "We will protect you. Provided of course, that you have the funds." He threw his slender hands up in an apologetic gesture. "Everything has a price."

Truthfully, he would protect her for free if it came down to it, but he wanted to judge her reaction to the demand. Had she come prepared? If this was all a set up then surely she had something stashed away somewhere. He just needed more information.

When her eyes widened it confirmed at least one of his suspicions.

"I can't pay you much. I barely had enough to pay for food on the journey here and for a scroll of teleportation. Mother seized everything..." she started, then realized she had slipped more information than she should have.

Jarlaxle scowled coldly.

"And what makes you think that my company is a charitable organization?"

Vaelirra sputtered for a few moments. Then her eyes narrowed. Through gritted teeth she said: "You will help me, Jarlaxle. I will make you help me!"

"And what do I get out of it? What if I refuse?"

She shot up from the chair, her hands balled into fists.

"You won't refuse. I know you won't."

"And how do you know that?"

Vaelirra looked around the room. Kesrith was looking up now, her face nervously glancing between the two of them. Finally, after a few moments of angry pacing, Vaelirra stopped and looked him in the eyes.

"Because Kesrith is your daughter."