The recognizable characters appearing in this story are copyright by Wizards of the Coast, Inc. This story is written for entertainment purposes only; no challenge to the copyright holders is intended, neither should any be inferred.

Carry the Weight

Drizzt glanced back at Cattie-brie worriedly. It was a fine spring morning, sunny and crisp, and it had been the young woman's idea to go for a hike, but they had barely been walking for half an hour, and she was beginning to lag behind. Perhaps it was because of the magical bracers-turned-anklets he was wearing, Drizzt thought. But he soon dismissed that idea. Surely he was walking at a moderate pace. He glanced back again, and Cattie-brie shot him a cheerful smile. He returned it absentmindedly, and waited for her to catch up. Usually Cattie-brie walked nearly as softly as the drow ranger himself, but now her feet scuffed the rocky path every few steps. Her cheeks were red and her breathing was labored - too much so for the short hike behind them. Drizzt studied her face concernedly. "All right?" he asked lightly, but his furrowed brow belayed his casual tone.

"Fine. Excellent!" Cattie-brie answered, a bit too quickly. She glanced up at the sun overhead to change the subject. "Suren it must be almost lunchtime," she said hastily. "Why don't we try for some trout?"

Drizzt nodded his accord, and they began picking their way down the rocky slope to the stream. Perhaps a rest would do Cattie some good. He glanced back at her red face again and wondered if she was fevered. Just then the young woman's foot slipped, sending a shower of pebbles down at him, and she began to slide feet-first down the slope. Drizzt planted his back foot firmly and caught the woman under the arms as she slid by, rolling to the side with her as the rest of the small rock slide bounced past. Cattie-brie continued to hold him tightly for several seconds as they lay on the rocky hillside, and Drizzt returned the embrace. He brushed her auburn hair back from her face. "Are you hurt?" he asked softly.

"No," Cattie-brie said, pulling away from him and quickly brushing herself off, although she would have loved to remain in that embrace for much longer. "Only me pride," she added. "Clumsy of me." She brushed more vigorously at the dirt on her tunic and avoided Drizzt's face.

"Could have happened to anyone," the drow said casually, offering her his ebony hand. She took it, and together they made their way down to the stream, both pretending that they only held hands because of the loose stones, but both secretly enjoying the sensation. Drizzt's hand was rough, callused, and warm, and his slender drow fingers were slightly longer than Cattie-brie's. Drizzt enjoyed the warmth of the woman's small hand in his, the contrast of her ivory skin against his black fingers. All too soon they reached the stream.

"This could be interesting," Cattie-brie said, experimentally twirling the sharpened green stick she was going to use as a makeshift fishing spear.

Drizzt smiled as he put the finishing touches on his own spear. "If we hadn't called Guenhwyvar yesterday, she could fish for us. As it is we may go hungry . . . or have to settle for something else," he finished, indicating the bow and arrows slung across Cattie-brie's back.

The woman laughed happily. "But I want fish," she said. She moved over to the edge of the stream and held her spear aloft. Drizzt joined her a few feet away. Fifteen minutes later they were both wet, hungry, and exasperated, for neither had caught any fish. At least Cattie-brie seemed to have her energy back, and no longer looked feverish. Drizzt let his concerns about her health slip away momentarily.

"Of course!" the drow exclaimed suddenly. "Why didn't I think of it sooner?!" He pulled off one boot, and then the other, and began to roll up his pant legs.

"What," said Cattie-brie with a laugh, "ye're not wet enough already? Now you want to wade—" she stopped as Drizzt's enchanted anklets came into view. He pulled them off and strapped one onto his right forearm. He crouched by the stream again, spear raised. Within moments he had a trout wriggling on the end of the spear. Drizzt held it up and grinned triumphantly.

"Let me try that!" Cattie-brie shouted, grabbing the other anklet.

"Be my guest," Drizzt said, his lavender eyes sparkling at the young woman's excitement. Within minutes Cattie-brie had caught a fish as well, and Drizzt had a second one. Cattie-brie pulled a few biscuits out of her pouch, and they built a small fire, roasting the trout and enjoying one another's companionship along with the simple meal.

"Dessert?" Drizzt asked, somewhat mischievously, inclining his head toward a dead tree a few yards away. "We may have to work for it though." A few bees drifted lazily in and out of a large crack in the trunk.

"Sounds great," Cattie-brie said, always up for an adventure.

Drizzt hopped nimbly to his feet. "All right," he said, "I'll-" he stopped abruptly. Cattie-brie had got to her feet slowly, almost shakily, as though she were off balance, even dizzy. The ranger's concerns for his friend came rushing back.

"Well," she said, "go on."

Drizzt's lavender eyes locked onto Cattie-brie's deep blue ones, searchingly. "Now tell me truly," he said, the fun gone from his voice, "are you all right?"

Cattie sighed. So he had noticed. "It's nothing," she began, and then hastily continued at the ranger's stern look. "Just the weights."

"Weights?" Drizzt echoed.

"Aye." Cattie-brie sat down on the grass and pulled back her loose pant legs, revealing what looked like fat, clumsy, short leggings laced around her ankles above her low-cut boots. She undid the laces now and let the heavy things fall to the ground. Drizzt picked one up and examined it. It was made of soft leather, and seemed to be filled with small pebbles. He hefted it in his hand. It weighed at least five pounds.

"So that's the reason you were dragging your feet and falling behind," he said, a relieved smile spreading across his face. "And losing your balance." He chuckled.

Cattie-brie fixed him with a glare, but the twinkle in her eyes belayed her cross look. "Aye," she said. "And what a sight I must've been when I nearly toppled over trying to stand up just now!" Drizzt laughed merrily and Cattie-brie soon joined him. "I was just trying to get stronger," she said with a rueful smile.

Drizzt wiped his eyes, still grinning widely. "It should work," he said, "you just need to get used to those things first!"

"Aye. I think I've had enough of them for today though!" She rubbed her sore calves and began stuffing the weights into her pouch, but they were so bulky that they didn't fit.

"Here," Drizzt said gallantly, holding out an ebony hand, "I'll take them." He knew they wouldn't fit in his pouch either, so he stripped off his anklets once again and laced the weights around his own ankles. Cattie-brie giggled. The ranger had put the weights on over top of his leggings and soft boots since they were too bulky to fit underneath, and it looked like his boots had sprouted strange growths. Drizzt got up and nearly overbalanced in the process as well. The extra ten pounds around his legs was definitely noticeable. Cattie-brie laughed again, and it was Drizzt's turn to look cross. He scooped up his anklets, intending to hang them from his belt, but Cattie-brie reached for them with a twinkle in her eye.

"May I?"

Drizzt smiled and handed them over, his fingertips touching hers as he did so. "Of course."

Cattie-brie eagerly slipped the anklets on, and Drizzt allowed himself to admire her milky white legs for a moment. She was so beautiful. The drow took a few experimental steps with the weights on, feeling slow and encumbered. "I may not be able to keep up with you," he said, only half-joking.

The young woman laughed merrily. "I kept up with you, didn't I?" Then she sprang lightly to her feet and raced off along the riverbank, impossibly fast, her auburn hair flying straight out behind her.

"But I was walking at a normal pace!" the ranger called after her in protest.

Cattie-brie's tinkling laughter floated behind her. Then suddenly she whirled around and was back at his side again in seconds. "These are wonderful!" she exclaimed, literally dancing in circles around the drow.

Drizzt smiled in wonder at the pure joy on her face, and without thinking he caught her hand in his as they started towards the honey tree. Cattie-brie was momentarily surprised. She looked up at Drizzt, who seemed just as surprised himself. Then she squeezed his hand firmly, letting him know without words that this was what she wanted too.

Cattie-brie discarded the last waxy bits of her honeycomb and sucked on her sticky fingers contentedly. "Well that was worth the trouble," she said, "I've not had honey for-"

Drizzt suddenly held up a hand to silence her and dropped into a crouch, scimitars coming out into his hands. Cattie-brie whirled so that she was back to back with the ranger and drew her own sword, Khazid'hea, as the first orc sprang out behind her and three more launched themselves at Drizzt, maces held high.

Khazid'hea sung through the air, parrying the downward stroke of the heavy mace aimed for the swordswoman's head. Cattie-brie felt the blow vibrate down both her arms and didn't have time for a counter before the mace swung around again. She danced back, impossibly fast, the enchanted anklets lending her speed, and feinted to the left, but then suddenly went right in a perfect ghost-step, as Drizzt had taught her. The orc kept going to her left, unable to stop, and Cattie-brie came in from behind, plunging Khazid'hea through its left lung. The orc turned, a confused look on its face as she withdrew the blade. Blood trickled out of the corner of its mouth, and then it fell to the ground, dead.

Drizzt had reacted immediately, dropping a globe of darkness over two of the orcs and slashing the third's throat out with Twinkle before it could get its mace down to block. He waded into the globe, completely prepared to fight in the dark, and caught a ringing blow with Icingdeath while Twinkle jabbed at the second orc's chest. The lucky orc was in the process of diving aside though, and the scimitar merely glanced off of its leather armor. The brute cleared the globe and Drizzt heard it cry "Eat you! Eat you!" as he parried another heavy mace strike with both blades. Drizzt brought his foot up to kick at the orc's unprotected face, but the momentarily forgotten weight on his ankle caused the kick to land on the orc's massive chest instead, driving it back a step and out of the globe. Drizzt followed it out, feeling off-balance and clumsy. He blocked another swing with Icingdeath, nearly losing his grip on the scimitar as the heavy blow vibrated through his hand. At the same moment he slipped Twinkle down and slashed at the lacings of one weight. It fell free, but now his balance was even worse, and to his horror, he stumbled and fell backward even as he parried another heavy blow, and Twinkle went flying. Drizzt held his remaining scimitar above his head defensively and tried to get his feet back under him, rolling to the side as a mace smashed down where his head had been only moments before.

A few yards away, Khazid'hea found an opening and Cattie-brie rammed it straight up under the orc's chin and up into its brain. Warm blood poured down the blade and onto Cattie-brie's hand as she wrenched the sword free. Turning, she saw Drizzt, fighting with only one blade, and badly off balance. In an instant she was at his side, slashing the bindings of the other weight.

"Mielikki!" the ranger yelled, performing a perfect ghost-step of his own, and plunging his blade deep into the orc's back. He straightened up slowly, pulling the weapon free, and surveyed the carnage on the riverbank. Cattie-brie stood there panting and grinning broadly at him, Khazid'hea bloody to the hilt.

"You matched me," Drizzt said. "Two for two."

Cattie-brie's smile broadened. "It would have been three to one, exceptin' that I decided to cut you free instead of killing the last beastie meself!" Drizzt's smile widened, but Cattie's suddenly disappeared. "I nearly got ye killed with those wretched weights!"

Drizzt shook his head and his lavender eyes sparkled. "They just evened the odds a little. I enjoyed the challenge!"

Cattie-brie stared at him incredulously for a few moments. "That's my Drizzt," she said, then blushed suddenly and turned away, busying herself wiping Khazid'hea on the grass. Drizzt retrieved Twinkle and began cleaning his weapons as well, but made no effort to hide his delighted smile. It had been a good day.