The recognizable characters appearing in this story are © Wizards of the Coast, Inc., all rights reserved. They are used without permission and for entertainment purposes only. No infringement upon nor challenge to the rights of the copyright holders is intended; neither should any be inferred.
Translation of words/phrases in the Drow language can be found in the footnotes if not explained in the text.
The coals of the fire were just right for frying fish. Drizzt nestled the cast iron pan among them and scooped some butter out of the tin. The fish lay ready on a split board beside him. He perched on a fallen log that served as a natural bench and looked out across the icy lake as the butter melted. Towering pine trees stood stately and majestic, and the snow sparkled like a thousand diamonds had been lavishly cast there, glittering, just for him to enjoy. He took a deep breath of the fresh, crisp air and gave a contented sigh.
Seven-year-old Zaknafein returned with the kettle packed full of clean snow and plunked it down in the coals none too gently, sending a shower of sparks upward. "How much longer?"
Drizzt grimaced at his son's whiny tone. "Now, if you want to eat it raw."
Zak rolled his eyes and crouched by the fire with a huff. "Better than starving," he muttered.
Drizzt reached into his pack without comment and pulled out the tin of flour along with a half-frozen yellow apple. He tossed the apple to Zak. "Can't have you starving, but the whining tone is not required." He met Zak's purple eyes. "Kampi'un?"
Zaknafein frowned, but he nodded.
Drizzt sprinkled the trout fillets with flour and slipped them into the melted butter one by one.
Zak twirled the stem from his apple. "Mum cuts the core out."
Drizzt's mouth twitched. He sprinkled more flour on the tops of the sizzling fillets. "You must not be too close to starving."
Zak pouted. "I don't like just biting an apple. It makes the end of my nose sticky, and that hard stuff around the seeds gets stuck in my teeth."
Drizzt chuckled. "Go ahead and cut it up. Don't use the filleting knife. There's a clean knife in the sheath on the side of my pack." He gestured with his chin.
Zaknafein's eyes lit up. He pulled the little knife out and grinned, running one finger over the smooth handle, made from a shed deer antler Cattie-brie had found in the woods.
Drizzt wiped his floury hands in the snow and dried them on a rag. He rummaged through the pack for the little pot of salt.
Zak held the apple in one hand and worked the knife blade halfway through it. He frowned as it got stuck in the core. The other side of the apple was frozen, and he pushed harder.
Drizzt looked up from the fish. "Put it down on—"
"Aaahh!" The blade slipped through all at once, slicing a gash between Zak's thumb and forefinger. He dropped the apple and knife.
Drizzt dropped the salt. He grabbed his pack, yanking open the front pocket with the bandage strips. "Pressure, Zak. Hold it tight."
"Ow! Owww!" Zaknafein's face contorted, and he gasped out a sob. "Kel'nar!" Tears raced down his face. He stared at his hand, bright red drops of blood dripping down it to fall in the fresh white snow.
Drizzt took Zak's hand, pressed a clean bandage to the gash, and held it firmly. "You need to press on a cut to stop the bleeding," he said gently. Maybe he hadn't taught his son that before.
Zaknafein's crying quieted bit by bit, and he dragged a sleeve across his face. "Kel'nar, the fish will get burnt."
Drizzt glanced at the frying pan, and the corner of his mouth quirked. "Keep pressing this on the cut." He pulled the frying pan from the fire with one of his discarded winter mitts and cocked an eyebrow at his son. "If you're worried about the fish right now, something tells me you'll be all right."
Zaknafein sniffled, but his stomach chose that moment to growl. He looked at the golden-crisp fish and licked his lips. Then he looked back down at his hand. "I've never cut anything without a cutting board, 'cept for peeling bark off sticks."
Drizzt pulled another bandage strip from his pack. "I didn't realize, Zaknafein. That's something we'll have to remedy." He gestured at his son's hand. "We'll wrap it up now and have our lunch while it's hot, then tend it more thoroughly after."
Without warning, Zak scowled. "How come the knives have to be so sharp anyway? They're not your scimitars."
Drizzt sighed. "My scimitars are much sharper, Zak. Cut an apple like that with one, and you might have lost your thumb."
Zak's eyes widened, but then he frowned again. "Well, the knives are too sharp."
Drizzt shook his head. "A sharp knife is actually easier to use, Zak. You don't have to push so hard." He held out a hand for his son's.
Zak just glared at him. "The apple was frozen!"
Drizzt pulled back his proffered hand and tapped his fingertips on his thigh. "Partly. I should've told you to put it down on a piece of firewood."
"Or you could stop sharpening the knives so much."
Drizzt pressed his lips together. "Respect, dalharuk. I know your hand hurts, but you need to watch your tone."
Zak glowered, but he said nothing, just looked down and kicked the snow with the side of one leather boot.
Drizzt sighed again. "I'm not going to apologize for keeping my knives sharp, Zaknafein, but I will apologize for not teaching you how to use one yet."
Zak looked up, raised eyebrows replacing his former stormy expression. "Really?"
Zak's hunched shoulders relaxed. He scooted closer on the log. "Cutting stuff always looks so easy, but I almost never get a chance. Now Mum won't want me to for sure."
Drizzt reached for his hand again, and this time his son held it out. "We've been trying to keep you safe, but what we need to do is teach you, not coddle you." He pulled back the bloody bandage carefully, getting another look at the wound before wrapping it.
"What's coddle?" Zak sucked in a sharp breath as Drizzt replaced the bandage.
"It's like how you hold an egg, not letting anything touch it."
Drizzt wrapped the fresh bandage strip over top of the bloody one. He tied the knot gently, but Zaknafein still winced, and he winced along with him. "Lunch now," Drizzt said, clapping his son on the shoulder. And stitches after, he thought silently. The cut was gaping open. His stomach clenched. Mielikki help us both.
They could've been eating hot dirt for all Drizzt tasted the food. He wondered belatedly how long this bite of fish and bread had been in his mouth. He finally washed it down with a gulp of flavorless tea and a shudder.
His son took a large bite of fish and squinted up at him. "Kel'nar, why are you drinking hot water?"
Drizzt peered into his cup and frowned. It was, indeed, devoid of tea leaves. He blinked and ran a hand through his stark white hair. "I guess I had other things on my mind." He forced a smile.
Zak shrugged and shoveled in another bite of fish. He gestured to his fallen apple with his fork. "Cwan ni shtill eat thabt?"
Drizzt raised an eyebrow, and this time the smile came to his lips unbidden. He leaned over and snagged the apple halves, deftly brushing off the snow before setting them on a piece of split firewood. "If you don't talk with your mouth full." His eyes twinkled.
Zaknafein snorted. He gulped half his tea at once, swallowed noisily, and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. "That was good."
"Good." Drizzt belatedly picked the dropped knife up from the powdery snow that half hid it. He wiped the blade on his pant leg, took one of the apple halves, and shifted closer to his son. "Watch." He quartered the piece of apple slowly, the knife blade coming to rest gently against his thumb. "Then a curve for the core, or better yet, two small notches for you to begin with." He flicked the piece of core into the fire. "See?"
Zaknafein nodded and held his hand out for the cored wedge of apple.
Drizzt set it down and handed him the knife instead. "Your turn."
"But … but I cut myself."
Drizzt nodded. He picked up the other half of the apple. "Which is why you need to practice."
Zaknafein bit his lip. "But Kel'nar, my hand hurts."
"I'll help you." Drizzt gave him the piece of apple and positioned the knife in his son's hand. "Like this. Have your fingers a bit more this way. Put your thumb here. Good." He put his hands over Zaknafein's. "Now we'll slowly cut."
Zak stiffened, his fingers tensing beneath his father's larger ones. "Kel'nar, it's going to cut my thumb!"
Drizzt shook his head. "Not if you wiggle the blade slowly through the core like this. Trust me."
Zaknafein breathed a sigh of relief as the piece of apple fell neatly in half. His thumb was unscathed.
Drizzt smiled. "Here and here for the core." He drew imaginary notches with his fingertip. "Slowly."
"By myself?" Zak raised his eyebrows.
His son's hands shook a little, but the boy squared his jaw and slowly worked the knife through. When the core fell away, he looked up with a grin. "I did it!"
Drizzt's smile was warm. "Of course you did. Now do two more." He gestured to the remaining apple wedges.
Drizzt nodded again. "The more you practice, the easier it will get."
Zaknafein bit off half of the apple wedge and chewed noisily. He swallowed, popped the rest of the quarter in his mouth, and went to work on the next piece.
Drizzt glanced down at his own plate. He picked up his fork with a soft sigh. Teaching Zaknafein how to cut up the apple had relaxed him, but he was only postponing the inevitable. Could he hold Zak still and put in three stitches at the same time? They were hours away from home. Maybe it would be best to just take him home anyway. Cattie-brie could help hold Zak's arm, or he could take him to the dwarven mines where there was a cleric or two. He looked at his son.
Zak had finished coring the apple wedges and was downing them at an impressive rate.
Drizzt clenched his fork and tapped his knuckles on his thigh. Probably best to close the cut sooner than later, but he wasn't sure. Hadn't a healer said that once? He took a bite of his now-cold fish without tasting it and touched his unicorn pendant with the other hand. Lend me your grace to get us through this. Giving stitches really wasn't the father-son time he'd envisioned for this ice-fishing trip.
Zak finished off his last apple wedge and licked his fingertips before wiping them on his pants.
Drizzt struggled to swallow his fish. Finally he pushed the rest of the fillet to the side and set down his fork. No more putting this off. He looked up to find Zaknafein squinting at him.
"Don't you like the fish, Kel'nar? I'll eat it."
"Hmm." Drizzt held out his plate. "I have no appetite just now."
"Well, I think everything tastes better outside." Zak grabbed the fillet and tore off a chunk in a manner that reminded Drizzt of a wolf at a deer carcass.
"That it does." Drizzt watched while his son polished off the fish, licked his fingers again, and gulped the rest of his tea. When he lowered the cup, Drizzt met his eyes. "Zak, I have to stitch your hand."
Zaknafein stared at him for two heartbeats, eyes wide. The tin cup dropped from his suddenly-slack fingers and clattered against the edge of the plate in his lap before hitting the snow. His face paled, and he shook his head wildly. "No, Kel'nar. No!" He scrambled to his feet, sending his plate and fork to join the cup. He reached for them reflexively, then seemed to change his mind and took a step back, but his boot jarred against the fallen log they'd been sitting on, and his arms pinwheeled.
Drizzt's hand shot out, but too late.
Zak landed flat on his back, a gust of fluffy snow puffing up around him. He groaned.
Drizzt stood up. "All right, Zak?"
Zak groaned again. "No! I do not want you to stitch my hand! I won't let you!"
Drizzt sighed. "I don't want to do it either, but it will heal much better if I do." He offered Zak a hand up.
Zak ignored the hand, scooting back on his elbows. "I don't care if it doesn't heal good."
Drizzt stepped over him and caught him under the arms. "It was hanging open, Zak. Let's take another look at least. Sit up."
Zaknafein bit his lip but didn't resist as his father pulled him into a sitting position. "It's gonna hurt so much." The words came out strained and quiet.
Drizzt took his uninjured right hand and pulled him to his feet. "Nothing you can't handle. I'll be quick, and you'll be brave. Sit here. We'll wash it first."
Zaknafein hunched down on the makeshift bench they'd sat on for lunch and sniffled. His eyes welled up, and a tear slid down one cheek. He frowned and swiped it away with the back of his hand.
Drizzt shifted the heavy chopping block closer and set the battered camping dishpan on it. He poured steaming water into it from the kettle, then added a handful of untouched snow. He held his hands above the fire. After half an hour with his mitts off, his fingers were stiff with cold. Cold … His eyes lit up. Thank you, Mielikki! He turned to Zak and squeezed his shoulder. "Hey, now." Silent tears were streaking down the boy's cheeks in earnest. "Comes to mind that we can numb your hand with snow." He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to his son. "Blow your nose. It won't be so bad."
Zaknafein wiped his face and glared at his kel'nar. "Says you."
Drizzt sat down next to his son and unwrapped his hand without comment. Normally he wouldn't let such a tone of voice go unchecked, but this time he let it slide. The wound still gaped, although the bleeding had stopped. He held his son's wrist gently and put the boy's hand into the warm water.
"Sorry, Zak." Drizzt tightened his grip as the seven-year-old tried to pull his hand away. He gently washed the wound with the fingertips of his other hand.
Zak's shoulders relaxed a bit. The warm water probably felt soothing after the initial sting.
"There, now." Drizzt pulled out a clean piece of cloth and patted Zak's hand dry. He wiped his own hands and scooped up another handful of fresh snow, squeezing it into a ball. "Press this on it for as long as you can stand. You can hold it on with the cloth."
Zaknafein nodded mutely, taking the snowball.
Drizzt rubbed his back. "You know, this reminds me of the time when Mum cut her leg with a sword as a child."
Zak looked up at him, eyes wide. "She did?"
Drizzt nodded. "She was eleven. She was playing with a sharp sword without Grandpa Bruenor's permission."
Zaknafein's eyebrows rose. "Bet she got in trouble even though she cut herself."
Drizzt shook his head. "Your mum's a clever one, although I agree that Grandpa Bruenor might've done more than say, 'Now let that be a lesson to ye' if he knew the real cause of the cut."
Zak snorted a laugh at his father's imitation of the gruff dwarf's voice. "He never found out?"
Drizzt shook his head again. "She put the sword away and came to me instead, out on Kelvin's Cairn. I distinctly remember her trying to come up with a lie to tell. I think I inadvertently helped her come up with something believable."
His son stared at him. "Mum lied?"
Drizzt nodded. "As far as I know."
Zak's jaw dropped. "I should tell Grandpa Bruenor!"
Drizzt laughed. "She paid for that transgression, Zak. She needed seven stitches, as far as I recall."
Zak's eyebrows rose. "Did you give 'em to her?"
"No, Zak. I calmed her down and carried her right back to the mines. Well, almost to the mines. The dwarves hadn't met me yet at that point. But I did convince her to go to the cleric, and she showed me the stitches the next day."
"Huh." Zak sat up a bit straighter. "Did she cry?"
"I don't know, Zak. I didn't ask."
Zak bit his lip and looked down. "I might."
Drizzt nodded. "It's to be expected. I'll think no less of you."
Suddenly his son lifted his head, eyes gleaming. "Maybe I won't."
Drizzt tipped his head to the side, studying the determination in Zaknafein's gaze. Had he ever seen it before? Certainly he had from Violet, but the look was unusual on his son's face. He smiled.
The determination seemed to go back into hiding when Drizzt pulled a curved needle and some black thread from a drawstring pouch he carried in his pack. He'd shaped the needle years ago by heating it in the fire.
Zaknafein shifted on the log bench and glanced toward the woods. His muscles tensed, and he half rose.
Drizzt clapped a hand on his shoulder firmly. "Don't run from me, Zaknafein. You'll get through this."
Zak's face flushed, and he looked down.
Drizzt crouched by the fire and passed the needle through the flames. He cut a length of thread. The needle seemed harder to thread than the last time he'd done this. Then again, that time he'd stitched himself. Mielikki …
There was a whisper of cloth and crunching snow. Drizzt turned to see Zaknafein clear the bench in one leap and take off for the woods, snow spraying beneath his boots.
His son stopped as if the stern tone froze him in place.
Drizzt crossed his arms, threaded needle in hand. He arched an eyebrow. "Do you know the way home from here, Zaknafein?"
"Do you know what will happen if you don't come back now?"
Drizzt let his arms drop. He jerked his head toward the log by the fire. "Last chance, Zak. If you make me catch you …" He shook his head. "I'd hate to have to put you over my knee besides this."
Zaknafein stood still for two more heartbeats, then came back, dragging his feet. "Are you gonna?"
Drizzt sighed. "Were you listening?"
Zak stopped on the other side of the log. He kicked snow off of his boot. "I—I just can't do this."
Drizzt pulled him into a tight hug, lifting his feet over the log. "You can. Mielikki will help you." And me.
Zaknafein shook his head against his kel'nar's chest.
Drizzt lifted his chin with two fingers. Zak's eyes were sparkling with moisture. "Let's get it over with. Then we'll go home, and you can show off your stitches to Violet and Mum."
Zak bit his lip. "Are—are you gonna spank me?"
Drizzt shook his head. "Let's sit down."
Zak sank onto the log beside him. "I disobeyed you." He still wouldn't look up.
"I know. I'm making an exception." Mielikki, but his son's sense of justice! "Give me your hand."
Apparently resigned, Zaknafein did.
"How does it feel?" Zak had had the snowball on the wound for some time.
"Feels like I'm gonna throw up."
Drizzt rubbed his back. "Take some slow breaths. I won't start yet. Does it feel frozen?"
Zak shrugged. "I guess." He breathed a shuddery breath, his arm trembling against Drizzt's side.
Drizzt put his arm around him. "Just lean on me. Try to relax. I'm going to put my leg over both of yours to help you hold still, kampi'un?"
Zak pressed his hand against his mouth with a choked sob.
Drizzt hugged him tight. "Three stitches. That's all." He swung his right leg over both of Zaknafein's and pinned his son's hand against his thigh. "You can grab onto my leg as tight as you need to, all right?"
Zak nodded, eyes squeezed tightly shut.
"Mielikki, help us through this." Drizzt said the words out loud this time. "Hold tight, Zak. Count of three. Deep breath."
Zak's fingers tightened on his knee, and Drizzt positioned the needle. "One, two, three." He jabbed quickly.
"Aaahhh!" Zaknafein hollered, eyes flying open. Then his shoulders relaxed a bit. "Wasn't as bad as I thought it would be."
"Good." Drizzt tied the knot, bringing together the middle of the gaping cut. "Must be from the snow. Just two more."
Zak pulled out the handkerchief Drizzt had given him. He blew his nose noisily and gritted his teeth. "Tell me when."
Zak stiffened and took the second stitch with his jaw clamped tight. "Whew." He blew out a shaky breath.
Drizzt looked up from tying the knot. "Well done. One more, and you'll be all set to brag to Violet. Ready?"
Zak gave a tight nod. "Do it."
Drizzt punched the needle through for the final time, quick and hard so as to not prolong its bite.
"Ooh." Zak pressed his fist against his mouth and hissed a breath through his teeth. He sagged against Drizzt's side.
Drizzt cut the thread after the final knot. "Very well done." He hugged his son tight. "I'm proud of you, d'anthe dalharuk. Go ahead and cry—or throw up if you need."
Zaknafein exhaled a shaky laugh, flexing his hand experimentally. "Now that it's over?"
Drizzt shrugged. "Sometimes works that way."
Zak let out a long breath. He shook his head. "I cried enough before. Don't need to now. And my stomach feels better, too. Just a little hungry."
Drizzt laughed, feeling the tension drain out of his shoulders and neck. "Better not throw up then, or you'll be even hungrier." His eyes twinkled. He clapped his son on the back and reached for his pack. "I'll put some salve on your hand and wrap it before you put your mitts on."
Zak nodded, looking down at his stitches.
Drizzt felt around in the pack. "And if you're really hungry, I've got another frozen apple."
Zaknafein looked up at his father, and a slow grin spread across his face.
Drizzt chuckled, and then they were laughing together, the warm sound echoing across the picturesque lake. It hadn't been what Drizzt had planned, but it had been an ice-fishing trip to remember.
A/N: Well, parenting isn't always easy. Hope you enjoyed this little story. :)
Till next time,
kampi'un = understand
Kel'nar = dad
dalharuk = son
d'anthe dalharuk = dear son