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Drizzt mentally asked himself for probably the tenth time why he'd taken this job. He stood with his black arms crossed, studying the sullen blond-haired boy in the dim light of the school stable. Fierce lavender eyes met angry brown ones. Neither of them blinked.
Drizzt sighed inwardly. Defending Ten-Towns was one thing. Slaying brutish creatures, keeping watch during endless nights, marching until fatigue overtook him, standing back to back with Bruenor against countless foes, that was just routine to the dark elf. But teaching school? What had he been thinking? It was only for one moon, but the first two days had already tested the limits of his considerable patience. Then again, it was very difficult to say no to Cattie-brie. She had agreed to teach the one-room school at Termalaine for one year, but after only three months, she had approached Drizzt. It seemed she had an important errand she must go on, and needed this favor. Even when he pressed her, the young woman would not reveal what the errand was. But Drizzt was her friend, and he felt he owed her this. Cattie-brie had looked pleased and relieved when he had accepted. "I knew I could count on you," she had said, and without any further explanations, turned her horse and rode off toward the west.
And so Drizzt had gone to teach at the school on the hill the next morning. None of the students had seemed startled to see the dark elf. In fact, when he stood up to introduce himself, they all chorused, "Good morning Mr. Do'Urden!" Drizzt was momentarily taken aback, but then he smiled inwardly. It seemed Cattie-brie had told them he was coming before she'd even spoken with him. Perhaps the young woman knew him better than he knew himself.
There had been the usual name switching during roll call, but Drizzt's keen drow hearing had served him well there, as he had overheard the planning in the cloak room, and there were only three name-switchers anyway. He was mildly amused by their slack-jawed looks when he had pointed at each of them and matter-of-factly stated their real names. Even more amusing was their shock when he immediately set them to washing the floorboards while the other students were permitted to read library books. That over, he launched into the lesson plan Cattie-brie had left for him.
It had never occurred to Drizzt that teaching school could be such a tiring job. It seemed that whenever his back was turned, mischief was afoot. Girls screamed at snakes that suddenly landed on their desks. Drizzt disposed of these with grim efficiency, or simply threw them out a nearby window. Other students inexplicably had ink or paste in their hair. And, more often than not, the culprit was a boy named Tom O'Neil. Approximately thirteen years old, Tom was always scowling. Drizzt knew that new teachers were often tested by their students. He met each challenge head-on, and soon Tom had cleaned the blackboard, the windows, the stove, and even the privy. He had carried in so many armloads of wood that the stack against the side wall nearly reached the ceiling. And all this in two days. But, instead of becoming better behaved, his defiant attitude seemed unchanged.
Then, this afternoon, on Drizzt's third day of teaching, Tom yanked Jim Bradley's chair out just as the boy sat down. Tom smirked in satisfaction at Jim's startled cry of pain.
Drizzt's lavender eyes glinted and narrowed. Without a word, he swept down the aisle and helped Jim to his feet. He swiftly ushered the eleven-year-old into the cloak room and ascertained that his tail bone was not, in fact, broken.
The boy's face was pale and tears welled up in his eyes. He jammed his fist into his mouth.
Drizzt hastily escorted him outside and down the hill a way. "Save the boy some pride," he thought. The cloak room walls were too thin. Only then did Jim allow himself to cry. Drizzt laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Come back when you are ready," the drow said simply.
He turned back to the schoolhouse and stared at it for a moment, arms crossed. Justice must be done. He would have to mete out punishment.
Tom was still snickering when Drizzt strode back into the school. He stopped abruptly when a midnight-black hand clamped onto his arm.
"How many armloads of wood should I carry in this time, sir?" Tom asked mockingly. "Oh, wait! I already carried in all of the cut wood!" Tom studied Drizzt's black face for a flicker of some emotion, but the drow remained impassive. Mr. Do'Urden was weak, Tom decided. This last stunt proved that he could do whatever he wanted, for the price of some cleaning job. A job which would be less boring than schoolwork.
His hand still locked onto Tom's arm, Drizzt swung his gaze around the room. "You will all turn to lesson ten in your literature books. I expect the entire page memorized by the time I return." Lesson ten was, in fact, a poem, but the shock on their faces at this pronouncement was somewhat gratifying. That said, Drizzt hauled Tom to his feet and marched him through the cloakroom and outside into the chill fall air.