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Zak shifted restlessly on his narrow bunk. He rolled over and gazed at the moon making its slow trek across the sky. He'd watched it move quite far already tonight. He sighed and rolled over again. On the bunk above him, his younger sister slept peacefully. He could hear her rhythmic, shallow breathing. Zak could stand it no longer. He swung his feet over the side of the bunk and let them rest for a moment on the cool wooden floor. Then he crept softly out of the room and into the darkened kitchen, his stomach in a nervous knot. He could see the flicker of firelight and candlelight coming from the open door of the study. He could see the shadow of his father, a book in hand, projected against the wall. Zak's keen ears even detected the quiet scratch of a quill as his father wrote, then the whisper of a page being turned. He crept closer, and a floorboard creaked softly beneath his bare foot. Immediately the shadow's head came up, and Zak froze. He could see the profile of his father's pointed ear in sharp relief on the wall. It reminded him that the drow's hearing was as keen as his own. "No," he thought, "keener." "Go on," he silently urged himself. "You got up to talk to him, remember?" Before he could lose his nerve, Zak took two more steps and entered the room.
"Zak? What are you doing up? It's late." The tone was not unkind. Drizzt looked out at the moon. It was, in fact, midnight, and the boy had been put to bed three hours earlier.
The eight-year-old ran an ebony hand through his wild auburn hair. "I can't sleep," he mumbled.
Drizzt gazed at his young son concernedly. He noticed that the boy was holding one hand over his stomach. Should he wake Cattie-brie? No. She had had a long day. And Zak had come to him. "Do you feel ill?"
"Yes," Zak whispered softly.
Drizzt stood up. "Perhaps some peppermint tea—" he began to suggest, but Zak cut him off.
"It won't help." The boy seemed to be addressing the floorboards.
Drizzt frowned slightly. Why wouldn't Zak meet his eyes? Why did he say the tea wouldn't help when it was obvious that his stomach hurt? Normally his young son would have come and climbed up onto his lap, but now he was hanging back. Drizzt began to suspect that this stomach ache had a less-than-physical cause. "Zaknafein, did you get up to tell me something?"
Zak ran his big toe back and forth along the edge of a floorboard. "I have to tell him," he thought. Whatever happened would be better than this horrible guilt gnawing inside of him. The eight-year-old looked up, his lavender eyes meeting Drizzt's. "I did something really bad." He studied his father's face for a reaction, but Drizzt's expression was simply curious. "I smashed one of the windows over at the Blake's house. On purpose. No one knows it was me," he added, "and I feel awful." There, he had confessed. Relief washed over him as he finished.
Drizzt sank back down into his chair. "When was this?" he asked.
"This afternoon. No one was home there."
"I think they had all gone to town–"
"I mean, why did you do it?"
"I dunno. I just felt like breaking things. And I had a big stick with me, so I just smashed it." He paused. "Plus I don't like Johnny very much because he made fun of my eyes. He says purple's not a normal eye color...and then he called me a freak!"
So that's what this was about. "Do you believe that, Zak?"
Zaknafein thought. "Well, no," he said. "Why should I have a human eye color when I'm half drow? And you have purple eyes like mine...but it was still mean!"
Drizzt conceded that. "But it would have been better to just ignore it," he reminded. "It's likely that Johnny is mean to you because he is jealous of you."
"Jealous? Of what?"
"Well, you can see in darkvision, for one thing. What human wouldn't be jealous of that?" Drizzt smiled slightly. "Plus you have keener hearing, you can run faster...need I go on?"
"I've never really thought of that before," Zak said.
"Now, about this broken window," Drizzt said, his tone slightly more stern. "Tomorrow morning–"
Zaknafein cut him off. "I can't wait until tomorrow morning! Punish me now!"
Drizzt stared at his son for a few seconds, bemused. The boy suddenly seemed fascinated with the floorboards again. "I think your conscience has punished you enough already," he said evenly. Lying awake for three hours straight couldn't have been fun. "What I was saying was, tomorrow morning we'll go and see Mr. Blake so that you can make restitution."
"Resti-what?" Zak asked, climbing onto his father's lap.
"Restitution. It means to make things right."
"Oh. But even if I say I'm sorry, how will I pay for the window?"
Drizzt smiled wryly. "Oh, I'm sure he'll have some chores you can do for him."
Zak rubbed his lavender eyes sleepily. "But what if he doesn't?"
"I will pay him for the cost of the window. And rest assured that I will have chores you can do to pay me back."
"Okay." Zaknafein yawned hugely and laid his head against Drizzt's chest. Everything was going to be okay. Within moments he was asleep.
Drizzt smiled as he carried his son back to his bunk. How blissful was the sleep of a clear conscience.