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An Oath Unbroken

"I can't talk to him about it."

"Why not?"

Cattie-brie was silent for many moments. "I'm . . . afraid."

"Afraid? My Cattie-brie has never been afraid of anything."

The young woman smiled in spite of herself. My Cattie-brie, he had said. The word tugged at her heart. She shook her head. No sense in wishing for something that would never be. As far as never being afraid of anything . . . "That's not entirely true—although I wish it were."

Drizzt smiled softly. "Why are you afraid? What have you to be afraid of?"

Again Cattie-brie was quiet for a long while. When she finally did speak, her voice was barely a whisper. "I'm scared he'll hurt me."

Drizzt's expression began as incredulous, and seemed quickly to be turning to outrage.

She hurried on. "He never has, and he probably never will, but I'm just scared because sometimes he gets so angry . . ." her voice trailed off. Cattie-brie buried her face in her hands and wept.

Drizzt reached a hand out to her, but then reflexively pulled it back. This was another man's wife. If he put his arm around her, or took her hand, would that not make Wulfgar seem all that much worse, all that much more inadequate? Well, yes, but his Cattie-brie was so pained, so distraught! Drizzt settled for putting a hand on her near shoulder.

She looked up at him with red-rimmed eyes, tears still slipping down her delicate cheeks.

"Now listen to me, Cat," the ranger said quietly, firmly. "If he ever lays a hand on you, I will lay hands on him." The tone was matter-of-fact.

Cattie-brie smiled weakly.

"If he ever hurts you," Drizzt emphasized, "I will hurt him—and I think he knows that."

The young woman mopped her face with her sleeve and then wrapped her arms around the dark elf in a grateful hug.

Drizzt returned the embrace, but kept a wary eye on the trail. It was midday, and they were out in the mountains, quite a distance from Mithril Hall, but one never knew when someone might show up and completely misunderstand the situation. After a brief moment, Drizzt ended the hug.

"I suppose if he ever did . . . you know . . . it would give me an excuse to lea—" Cattie-brie cut the word off and looked away, ashamed. "I should nae have said that. I made a vow. And I didna make it lightly. But how could I have been so blind?" The tears came again.

Drizzt's heart was breaking for his friend. He loved her, had loved her for so long, and it pained him to see her suffering. "You must try talking to him," he said. "Tell him what you told me. That you feel like a prisoner. That you still want to go adventuring, and fight. That you don't want him to patronize you."

Cattie-brie sighed deeply. "He won't understand. He thinks he's always right. He thinks he knows best. He sees me as a child. Except when he wants . . . other things. And then I'm supposed to want to give myself to him?" She bit her lower lip angrily.

"Perhaps he will understand a bit?" It was the best Drizzt could offer.

"Maybe." Cattie-brie did not allow herself to hope. She wiped her eyes once more. "I dinna want to dishonor myself, my father, or my gods by breaking my oath, but I just don't know how long I can endure. It would be so much easier if Dumathoin would just take him to the afterlife! Or take me. That would be okay too." She paused guiltily. "I ask him for this, all the time . . . but he always says no. If only . . . but I believe it's not for us to decide—it's for Dumathoin to decide." She looked up at him with anguish in her eyes. "Drizzt, am I a horrible person?"

Drizzt returned her gaze, his lavender eyes sparkling with the tears he was fighting back. "No, Cat," he whispered, not trusting himself to speak aloud. "No."