FIRST BLOOD

Zaknafein Do'Urden, weapons master of Daermon Na'shezbaernon, ninth house of Menzoberranzan, went through a slow attack routine with his newest protégé, non other than the secondboy of House Do'Urden, sixteen-year-old Drizzt. He had only had the boy under his tutelage for a week, and already the youth was able to spar, albeit clumsily, with two scimitars against Zak's favorite – double swords. Never had he taught a quicker learner, Zak reflected, and not without some pride, for the boy was his own son, although Drizzt did not know it. Imagine the level this one could reach when fully trained!

The weapons master called out the proper parries as he continued the attack routine. Drizzt was blocking well, although his stark white hair already hung in damp curls around his face. As for Zaknafein, he had yet to break a sweat. So far Zaknafein also had yet to teach any counterattacks – that would come later – so he was surprised and pleased when Drizzt suddenly slashed across with his left blade after completing the upper block with his right.

"Almost got you there, Uncle!" Drizzt said with a grin, although Zaknafein had parried the attack without thinking.

"Then try it again," the weapons master challenged, answering the boy's grin with one of his own. He picked up the pace a bit, but still called out the proper blocks to Drizzt. "Upper! Left up and right mid! Double cross-down! Upper block!"

Drizzt stabbed out with his right blade this time, aiming for Zaknafein's unprotected midsection. The weapons master brought his left sword down and across, fast, meeting Drizzt's blade and driving it harmlessly wide.

"Upper left!" he commanded, attacking again. Drizzt got his blade there, a bit too late, and was incidentally rewarded with a cut across his knuckles. Much to Zak's dismay, the boy dropped his scimitar.

"Ow!"

The weapons master paused. "Pick it up."

"Wait. My knuckles." Drizzt held up his injured hand for inspection, crimson blood pooling and slowly dripping off one side.

Zaknafein nodded, unimpressed. "It's just a scratch."

Drizzt frowned and sheathed his other scimitar, pressing his right hand against the wounded knuckles protectively.

"Drizzt. We're not done."

Drizzt ignored him, nursing his left hand.

"Drizzt!"

"What?!" the boy said, not looking up.

"Eyes here." Zaknafein indicated his own eyes with two fingers.

Drizzt obliged with a glare.

"Now listen. So your knuckles got cut. That's gonna happen a lot more before we're done. If you're lucky that's all that'll get cut."

Drizzt's eyes had found the floor again. Zaknafein was growing tired of this. "Eyes here," he growled. He'd been saying that all week. Sixteen years of staring at the ground was a difficult habit to break, but he was beginning to lose patience.

Drizzt wrenched his gaze upward, looking as exasperated as Zak felt.

"Look," the weapons master continued, "You're gonna get scratched now and then. You can't drop your weapon just because your hand hurts. You can't stop fighting in the middle of a battle or you'll die. You can't afford weakness! Do you understand me?"

Drizzt nodded, once, tears of frustration stinging his eyes. He looked down. A moment later the flat of Zaknafein's blade was under his chin, forcing his gaze upward.

"If Matron Malice has to remind you not to look down again, believe me–" Zak stopped abruptly, seeing the moisture sparkling in his son's lavender eyes. So he'd been looking down for reasons other than habit this time. The weapons master lowered his sword, somewhat at a loss. Perhaps he was being too hard on the boy. After all, this was only the first week of Drizzt's training. Then again, Zaknafein knew the harsh realities of the Underdark. The weak died. The strong survived. Still, he was only a boy...

All at once Drizzt leapt to his feet, scooping up his fallen scimitar and drawing the other in one fluid motion. The ring of the metal against the scabbard startled Zak out of his reverie. The boy fell back into a ready position.

"I won't disappoint you, Uncle." He was looking Zaknafein squarely in the face, and this time nothing but determination sparkled in his lavender eyes.

The weapons master smiled.

THE END