Of Madness and Men

By Ariel D and Surreptitious Chi X

Description: Slapstick and situational humor. Jarlaxle magically loses . . . his hand! Now Entreri is stuck with the oddest retrieval task of all. WARNING: Sickeningly cutesy humor. You can skip chocolate for a week after reading this.

Disclaimer: These two mercenaries belong to R.A. Salvatore and Wizards of the Coast. It is not my intention to trample any copyrights. No profit is being made, which proves there is justice in this universe. But the lawyers aren't the source of it.

A/N from Ariel: Set pre-PotWK. Chi and I were in a totally odd mood writing this, and it went wild. Hopefully it makes you smile for five minutes of your life. If so, mission accomplished. Anyway, Chi and I role-played this via MSN Messenger a few months ago, with each of us taking a part. So thanks to Chi for writing half the dialogue!

A/N from Chi: I admit that this story is totally tainted by the fact that I think Jarlaxle finding that his hand has disappeared is hilarious.

Jarlaxle glanced around the crumbling brownstone temple, and Entreri could almost hear the mercenary's calculating thoughts: Are those statues solid gold? Does that door lead to a treasure room? Is there an underground layer hidden below?

Entreri sighed and stepped away from the bronze chest he was disarming. "We can look through the rest of the ruins first, if you wish." The walls of the abandoned temple of Umberlee were covered in reliefs showing snarling female form emerging from the ocean and crushing a ship in her fist, and statues of long-dead high priests and priestesses lined the walls, each with a green-turned bronze plaque below that named them and listed the dates of their service.

Jarlaxle smiled. "We have enough time for that. Please continue. We cannot afford to waste time; if the rulers of Thay find out we're treasure-seeking on their land, things are certain to become rather difficult for us."

"That is an understatement." Entreri resumed his task, finishing the job in a matter of minutes before stepping back and gesturing to the chest.

"Are you sure it is safe?" Jarlaxle asked. "Are you sure you disarmed all the traps?"

Entreri glared at the drow. "I have checked the chest for all known mechanical traps and most magical ones as well." He smirked. "If there are any traps left, they're magical, in which case you'll have to open the box and pray, won't you? Unless you have a way to check for traps I can't detect."

Jarlaxle grinned and whipped out a wand. "As a matter fact . . ." He waved the wand over the chest, and a green light bathed it. "That should disarm any remaining magical traps." He stowed the wand before opening the chest.

Entreri scowled. "You could have warned me you had acquired such a device."

Jarlaxle seemed to not hear him. "Artemis! Look."

Entreri glanced over the drow's shoulder and understood the reason for Jarlaxle's sudden tone of lust. A fist-sized garnet sat in bottom of the velvet-lined chest. "Impressive."

Jarlaxle rubbed his fingers together as though he meant to pluck a gold coin from the tightest of purses. "And it is ours." He reached in to grab the garnet, then froze suddenly. "Um . . . Artemis. I seem to have lost my hand."

"What?" Entreri scowled at him incredulously, feeling sure it was a joke.

Jarlaxle turned and held up his right hand, which had magically vanished. "See? It is simply not there!"

Entreri stared. "How could you lose your hand?"

Jarlaxle shrugged.

With a frown, Entreri grabbed Jarlaxle's wrist and passed his hand over where Jarlaxle's hand should be. A black hole was where the wrist ended, not bone and flesh nor a stump. "What is this?"

"Oddly, it doesn't hurt." Jarlaxle seemed terribly calm to be facing such an ordeal. "I can still feel my hand. Yet it's not there."

Entreri swallowed his irritation at the situation and kept his façade of cool logic. "Well, if it still exists somewhere, and it is apparently still attached to your wrist, where do you think it might have gone?"

"Another dimension?" Jarlaxle examined his wrist. "I have no idea; most of the alternatives I can think of would result in severing it."

Entreri sighed. "This must be the magical equivalent of having your hand chopped off for thief." He paused and smirked. "That's why good thieves don't get caught. Suppose we fail to find it?"

"Don't even say such a thing!" Jarlaxle's composure slipped momentarily.

Entreri ignored the comment. "If your hand is in another dimension, then we clearly need a wizard." He ran his hand over his face. "However, we really don't know that is where your hand is."

Jarlaxle seemed distracted; he stared off at the corner of the room as though he hadn't heard Entreri's words. "I wonder what I could touch in another dimension." He shook his head as though to clear it. "Of course. A wizard."

"Worse than that," Entreri continued, immune to Jarlaxle's oddities, "what if your hand has materialized out of nowhere? A wild beast could come along and bite it off, or if it's sticking out of a street, someone may run over it with a carriage." He paused at that thought, grinning in spite of himself.

Jarlaxle raised an eyebrow. "That is not funny."

"Perhaps." Entreri smirked, even though he was secretly concerned over the fate of his partner's hand. "Either way, we need a plan of action. Maybe the first thing we should do is talk to Kimmuriel. Would he not know something about dimensions?"

Jarlaxle snorted. "Before or after he stops laughing?"

"If you fear humiliation that much, I doubt you'll ever get your hand back."

Jarlaxle seemed slightly irritated. "That is not the issue, I assure you." He pulled a whistle out of his belt pouch and blew it. "I just assumed you didn't want to see Kimmuriel."

Entreri tried to look innocent. "Me? Why would I mind? I, after all, won't lose any respect to Kimmuriel. He doesn't respect me as it is."

"True enough."

Irritated by this reminder of his insignificance by drow standards, Entreri threw a barb at his friend: "Feel anything nibbling yet? I only assume it's a matter of time before something notices your hand in its territory."

"You're enjoying this, aren't you?" Jarlaxle jerked his arm. "Don't say that! You're making me imagine sensations." He started laughing uncontrollably. "That tickles!"

"I can't help an overactive imagination like yours."

Jarlaxle burst into more laughter. "Stopstopstopstopstop!" He sucked in a desperate breath. "Something is licking my hand!"

Watching the drow's uncontrollable mirth, Entreri chuckled in spite of himself. "Well, if that's all it's doing, I'd say you're lucky, in spite of losing your hand in another dimension."

Jarlaxle stopped laughing abruptly. "It has its teeth on my fire protection ring!" He shook his arm violently. "Leave that alone! Gold is not food!"

Entreri frowned, starting to become concerned. "Why hasn't Kimmuriel arrived?"

"I didn't arrive immediately because I have important business that I can't drop on demand, human," answered a smooth male voice from behind him.

Entreri turned and stared with hooded eyes at the austere drow. "Too busy spying into Matron's minds? No wonder you are always so sour." He gestured toward Jarlaxle. "Much to your misfortune, however, your commander-in-secret has lost his hand—inter-dimensionally."

"Inter-dimensionally?" Kimmuriel sounded vaguely intrigued for once and began examining Jarlaxle's wrist. "The result of a trap, I assume? Most fascinating . . ."

Entreri wasn't impressed with this show of scholarly interest. "You are talented enough to find it, are you not?"

"Of course!" Snapped out of his inspection by the implied insult, Kimmuriel drew up to the extent of his short stature.

Ignoring them both, Jarlaxle simply burst into laughter once more. "It's licking my hand again!"

Entreri sighed and shook his head, much in the way of an exhausted father.

"It's your fault, Jarlaxle, for insisting upon wandering around the Surface," Kimmuriel said.

However, Jarlaxle danced up and down once and shook his arm again. "Get off! Off!"

"Wait." Entreri frowned. "Is it actually trying to hurt you now?"

Jarlaxle gasped for breath. "No. Just little nips. Apparently it thinks my hand is a salt block." He wiggled. "It just tickles!"

Entreri traded looks with Kimmuriel. "Perhaps we should shove his entire body through the dimensional hole and be rid of him."

However, Kimmuriel—obviously finding himself above the human—ignored the comment and fell into something much like a trance.

Jarlaxle froze suddenly. "It's. Sucking. On. My. Finger." He wiggled again. "No! There are two! Sucking on my fingers!

"Quiet!" Kimmuriel ordered, for once sounding like the leader of a mercenary band. "I'm trying to concentrate."

Entreri clapped a hand over Jarlaxle's mouth and held him still, not willing to risk Kimmuriel making a mistake. Jarlaxle accidentally bit the inside of his hand as he tried to speak: "Mmmhphf nhpf fmooph!"

Entreri growled but didn't let go.

Kimmuriel opened his eyes. "I think I can open a dimensional door and reunite you with your hand."

"Mmm-hmph!" Jarlaxle replied.

"Finished." Kimmuriel waved his hand, and a blue screen opened. "Very well, human, you may release him."

Entreri let go of Jarlaxle and shoved him through the door, quickly following him. He found himself in a wooded area that looked much like the Dalelands of Faerun, except all the vegetation was aqua instead of green.

Kimmuriel stepped through behind them and sniffed at the scenery. "Too bright."

Jarlaxle nodded to their left. "It's—" He interrupted himself with an involuntary laugh. "It's over here! I can feel it."

"As strange as it sounds, when we reach your hand, I'll need to align it with your body," Kimmuriel said. "Truly, this is fascinating. I would like to study the particulars of such a dimensional separation, especially given that the door I opened did not form exactly where your hand was, nor was your hand immediately severed by the dimensional disconnection. It suggests that the harmonics between—"

"Kimmuriel . . ." Jarlaxle sighed, obviously irritated, "I'm sure it's interesting to you, but right now all I want to know is what is sucking on my hand, and then see my hand back on my body."

Kimmuriel bowed in acknowledgement, and Jarlaxle ran in the direction of his lost body part. Following suit, Entreri raced through the trees, slapping aside the branches crowding their path, until they finally reached a small clearing. Towering aqua-leafed trees jutted up around them on all sides, but their "prize" lay in the middle of the aqua grass: a disembodied ebony hand surrounded by . . .

"Puppies!" Jarlaxle exclaimed. "Puppies?"

Entreri sighed in relief, although he hadn't realized he was tense. "Puppies." A sleek black puppy was sucking on Jarlaxle's ring finger, and a sleek chocolate-brown one sucked on his thumb.

"They're quite adorable," Jarlaxle admitted with a laugh. "But please get them off my hand!"

Entreri shook his head and picked them up, one in each hand. They were short-haired and shiny-coated, with triangular ears that folded over toward their faces. To him, they looked barely weaned.

Kimmuriel had pulled Jarlaxle over to his hand and then went into deep concentration. "Stay very still," he whispered. Moments later, a light flashed around the hand, accompanied by a popping sound.

"My hand is back!" Jarlaxle rubbed his hand vigorously against his pants. "It feels prickly."

"The sensation will fade," Kimmuriel said.

Jarlaxle nodded to him. "My thanks."

Kimmuriel returned the nod. "It was a small service, and I shall enjoy researching the phenomenon."

Entreri balanced one puppy in the crook of his arm and grabbed Jarlaxle's hand, checking for injuries. "I see your luck remains intact."

Jarlaxle squeezed Entreri's hand as though the assassin had sent some hidden message. "My apologies for biting your palm."

Entreri shrugged. "Puppies were attacking your hand."

Jarlaxle merely laughed. "Yes. May I see them?

Entreri groaned and held out the puppies for inspection. Jarlaxle carefully tucked them into one arm and petted their heads, watching their tails wag when he scratched their ears.

"They are indeed cute creatures," Jarlaxle said. "They fit right in my hands!"

Kimmuriel shook his head. "You are going daft, Jarlaxle. I realize it would make an exotic pet, but you needn't shower such an animal with compliments or affection."

"An exotic pet?" Entreri snickered. "Yes, I think you could keep one of them as a memento."

"What a brilliant idea!" Jarlaxle held them up. "Which one should I choose?"

"I wasn't serious!" Entreri slapped his palm against his forehead. "That's all we need—a puppy to look after."

Kimmuriel lifted his hands to his face. "You do these things to spite me."

"Don't you both think they're cute?" Jarlaxle asked.

Neither Entreri nor Kimmuriel deigned to reply.

"You know they are," Jarlaxle said. He held the black one up at eye's height. "Well, I believe I prefer this one. Sleek and black, like me!"

"May all the gods spare us," Kimmuriel said, then turned and opened another dimensional door. "Let us leave. We don't know anything about this dimension. It might not be as tranquil as it seems."

"For once, I agree."

Jarlaxle set down the brown puppy and cuddled the black one. "Very well!"

They stepped through to their dimension, and Kimmuriel immediately excused himself and returned to the Underdark. Jarlaxle, however, was still pondering his new puppy.

"Now, all I need is a name for my puppy and the garnet we were after in the first place!"

Entreri shook his head. "Assuming it was a one-time trap."

"Oh . . ." Jarlaxle considered the puppy. "But I want my garnet!"

Entreri sighed in frustration. "Which do you want more? Your hand or your garnet?"

Jarlaxle looked extremely pained. "Well . . . my hand."

"And for that matter, how do you know it isn't your greed that triggered the trap in the first place?" Entreri asked. "If that is the case, you'll never get the gemstone."

Jarlaxle looked disgusted. "I suppose that is possible."

Entreri crossed his arms. "In the worst of all scenarios, perhaps you would have to be the garnet's owner to get it out of the box."

"Very well! Perhaps I shall buy the temple."

Entreri snapped his fingers, then gave Jarlaxle a fake happy expression, pretending like he had a brilliant idea. "You're unwilling to walk away without your garnet, aren't you?"

Jarlaxle pretended to pout. "We did go to a great deal of trouble to get here." He held up his puppy and spoke to it. "Didn't we?"

"It's so simple. I have the perfect solution." He sneered. "Why don't you name the puppy 'Garnet', take your acquisition, and leave?"

Jarlaxle sighed. "I should run you through for that."

Entreri merely laughed.

One Tenday Later

Sitting upon a small bolder in a normal green-grassed forest clearing, Jarlaxle played with his puppy, watching it plunge through the tall wildflowers. With a smile, he tossed a stick across the meadow for him to fetch. "Garnet is a fine animal."

Entreri looked up from his whetstone and dagger, having set himself to sharpening the blade while Jarlaxle wasted time with the animal. "Thankfully, what your hand encountered wasn't something worse," he said. "Like a bear or a dire rat. I can just imagine a rat gnawing the flesh from your fingers." He gave a mock sigh. "Ah, Jarlaxle. I knew him well before he bled out by being slowly devoured by a rat."

Jarlaxle glared at him. "Don't even say it."

A/N: Thank you to Darkhelmetj for betareading, and thank you to anyone who reads and reviews!