The next two weeks went by in a blur to Drizzt. Stories were read, poems were memorized, multiplication tables were chanted. Maggie Benson climbed all the way to the top of her tree. Pictures were drawn and painted. Wood was carved under Drizzt's watchful eye. Jed and Tom were speaking again, and Tom had improved remarkably at quarterstaff dueling. Drizzt had pulled the boy's stitches out, and his hand was healed, although a vivid scar remained. It would fade with time. Ethan was hunting alone every morning, and now his mother and younger sisters enjoyed some meat in their evening meal as well. But Drizzt was glad the month was over. He still found school tedious. He longed to be outside with Guenhwyvar beside him and the wind on his face. Tomorrow morning Cattie-brie would be back to teach, and Drizzt would be free.
Cattie-brie shivered in the early winter air as she walked up the hill to the little white schoolhouse. A cold wind carried the promise of snow in the near future. The harvest season was nearly ended, and soon students would be riding to school now that the horses would no longer be needed in the fields. She paused when she reached the clearing. A row of quarterstaffs leaned on one side of the school building. A smile lit Cattie-brie's lips. That would be Drizzt.
The cold air urged her inside, and she was surprised to see a banner tacked up on the cloakroom wall. It read WELCOME BACK! and was cut out paper-doll style with the letters connected at the sides. Her smile grew even wider as she entered the classroom itself. Drawings and paintings hung all over the walls. There were flowers, sunsets, and horses, as well as wolves, yetis, and stick-figures. There was a picture of a large tree with a smiling little girl waving from the top. That would be Maggie, Cattie-brie thought. Another picture showed a blond-haired boy and a drow elf with crossed quarterstaffs. Even more intriguing were the little wooden carvings that sat on each desk. Some were animals, some were names painstakingly spelled out, some boats, and some flowers.
Cattie-brie looked up, startled, when the door swung open.
In walked Drizzt.
Cattie-brie had been looking at the art, and somehow that made Drizzt feel ... unusual. Shy. But her eyes had seemed to brighten despite the question mark in them when he entered the room. He smiled. "I came to start the fire for you," he said, gesturing to the little stove in the center of the room. "I see you beat me here."
Cattie-brie smiled. "The art is wonderful! And the little carvings are so clever. I'm sure quarterstaff class was well-received too."
"Yes," Drizzt said simply.
"I'll have to keep giving time for art and weapons now, I suppose." She sounded reluctant, but the sparkle in her eyes belied her words.
"Was your errand successful?" Drizzt asked, moving over to the stove and arranging a pile of kindling.
Cattie-brie frowned for a moment. "It was," she said, but she looked away.
"Hmm." Drizzt shredded a wood chip into tinder. His friend's cryptic response wasn't like her. He sighed. What had happened to the trust between them?
After a few moments, she walked closer to the stove and met his eyes. "Drizzt ... I had no errand," she admitted, her cheeks growing red with that confession.
Drizzt had suspected as much, but he merely raised an eyebrow and waited.
"I just needed to get away from the school. I couldn't handle it. I couldn't handle Tom O'Neil!" Cattie-brie blurted. "He seemed so ... incorrigible. And he has no father at home. His mother told me she couldn't control him either. I thought I would go mad! Then I thought of you," she continued. "I thought, 'If anyone can change that boy, Drizzt can'." She looked at him sheepishly. "I didn't know what else to do. I hope you're not upset."
Drizzt shook his head slowly. "No," he said finally, "but there was no need to deceive me."
Cattie-brie's cheeks grew even redder, and she inclined her head. "I'm sorry. I just—I just thought you'd think it was silly, or tell me to deal with it myself," she mumbled.
"Cattie." She was clearly avoiding his gaze, and Drizzt waited until she finally looked at him. "Cattie, it's only very rarely that I have ever thought you were silly—" he smiled briefly, remembering her as an eleven-year-old child, "—and I am always glad to help you. Remember that."
Cattie-brie smiled too. "I'll try to remember." She walked over to Tom O'Neil's desk, admiring the detailed carving of a wolf that sat on it. She glanced back at Drizzt, who was watching her. "About Tom ..." her voice trailed off.
Drizzt nodded. "I believe Tom changed because he wanted to change, more than because of me. I just helped him along a little."
Cattie-brie's shoulders relaxed. "So, has he changed a lot?"
Drizzt raised his eyebrows. "You'll see, I expect." He could be cryptic too. At least for a moment. Then a smile broke out. He didn't want to worry Cattie-brie. At least not for too long.
She smiled too. "Oh, thank goodness. No—thank you, Drizzt."
Drizzt nodded. "The task was more difficult than I'd expected," he said, turning his attention back to the pile of kindling. "I've found that in some ways a teacher must be a counselor, healer, friend, and parent as well. It is a heavy responsibility for those who are called to it."
Cattie-brie nodded. "Indeed. Which is why it's so important the town find someone who is called to it." She paused. "I've let them know I'll only stay on until a suitable replacement can be found. I don't think teaching is for me."
The fire was blazing cheerfully now, and Drizzt stood up to go.
"But when that time comes, I'll miss these children," Cattie-brie finished.
Drizzt looked around the little schoolroom one more time, and his eyes came to rest on the drawing of the drow and the blond-haired boy with quarterstaffs crossed. A part of him would miss these children as well.
A/N: Updated October 2020. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the story. Reviews are welcome.