=And now, continued :D=
Hey everyone, I'm baaaack! After four long years, I have returned!
I'd really like to say that, during those years, I was busy. So busy that I wasn't able to update the fic. However, that would be a lie. Well, not that I wasn't busy (of course I was; especially after getting into college!), but the real reason for not updating was because I rage quit. I had Chapter 13 half-done in the Doc Manager and, stupidly thinking I didn't need a Word Doc backup, I left it alone for the better part of a month or two (I think this was when the expiration limit for docs was 60 days) to focus on studies and it disappeared :(. You can imagine how that deflated a lot of the motivation for the fic. I just couldn't bring myself to rewrite everything. Eventually, I just stopped thinking about it altogether. But then I recently re-piqued my interest in the Legend of Drizzt and I came back with fresh ideas!
Also, if you have not noticed it by now, I have given the previous 12 chapters a MAJOR revamp. I highly recommend going to back to see the difference (sorry!), because some things crucial to understanding the rest of the fic have been changed. Really sorry for this inconvenience. If you don't wish to haul yourself through all those chapters though, shoot me a PM and I'll do my best to explain what's been changed. However, I can't guarantee that I'll remember everything...hence, my recommendation. However, if it's been a long time since you've read it or if it's your first time reading the fic (in which case, you wouldn't have read the old version to notice the difference), it should be rather enjoyable :).
As to my reading status. Um, yeah, I did not go farther than The Silent Blade. Really ought to continue reading. But either way, I've been using the Forgotten Realms wikis to re-boost my LoD (short for Legend of Drizzt) knowledge and HO BOY do I have good news for you!
There's a website that translates Common (or, English) into drow! Words and phrases! Chosen of Eilistraee. Mostly based on an infobook released by DnD, I hear. Check it out! It's going to be soooo convenient for this fanfic ^^.
So without further ado...Chapter 13 of Not-So-Journ!
"Today is the last day," Drizzt murmured to himself. "The last day of my servitude."
Indeed, as he lay awake in bed in the wee hours of the morning, he could not help but think of what that would entail.
The Quang children and the other magician families did not stay up long after the night festival began. The Rashids and the Fudo brothers went home before midnight and while some Harpells partied late, they retreated into the guest rooms provided in the dorms before three. Drizzt himself went back inside with the Quang children around ten, had a late dinner with them in the dining room, and then retired to his room. As for the dwarven Battlehammers, they partied even later and were all probably snoring the morning away in several of the town's inns.
The beginnings of the birdsongs outside his window was what woke Drizzt, and somehow he was alert enough to realize that Sunday was the seventh and last day of his term as a servant for the Quang household. Ever since that thought first registered to him, he had not been able to go back to sleep.
Neither would he anyway, for an hour later Ahnnie knocked on the door to his room, uncharacteristically early. "Bwelleh kre'tin!" she greeted him after he allowed her in. In other words, good morning. Not a usual drow greeting, but one that made sense.
"You mean, bwael kre'tan," Drizzt corrected her, stressing the correct pronunciation. "I think it is time you learned to untwist those words of yours."
She shrugged. "Perhaps." She then came over to his bedside, smiling. "Do you know what day it is today?"
He smiled back. "Enlighten me."
"It's the last day of your test!"
He chuckled. "Indeed, it is."
"I'm positive that you've done well," Ahnnie continued. "Especially after you saved Kirin yesterday! Grandpa may have been all grumpy about you running outside, but deep down I'm sure he's really happy that you did it for her sake."
Drizzt nodded. He didn't think Lông Hà was the type to care so little for his youngest granddaughter's well-being, either. If anything, his terse behavior had been meant to catch the drow off guard. "Is that what you are here for?" he asked the human girl. "Or is there something more to this visit?"
She pursed her lips. "Yeah...um...about breakfast..."
He frowned. "What about it?"
She looked over her shoulder. "Well, it's...uh...Wulfgar's going to have it with us."
Drizzt then remembered the overly muscular human boy that King Bruenor was so bent on 'returning'. "Does he know about drow?"
Ahnnie shrugged. "I don't know. The dwarves might've told him, but then again, they might've not. He's a human who grew up outside of Sanctuary, after all. His term in their forges and mines was only five years...he could have heard something, but it's far too little to be sure. Now, Catti-brie is a different story. She practically grew up in Sanctuary. She would definitely hate you if she ever saw you."
Drizzt contemplated that. "I suppose so," he finally acknowledged, albeit reluctantly.
"You'll have to eat in here," Ahnnie continued, "but!" Her face lit up. "If we find out that Wulfgar doesn't know anything at all about drow, then we'll call you out! How about it?"
"All righty then, I'll see you in a bit," she said cheerfully, then left.
Valkyrie set out the plates, utensils, and cups on the table while Ahnnie went about frying the bacon. Today's breakfast theme: classical Southern. Buttermilk biscuits were baking in the oven, sausage gravy simmered in a pot, and Ahnnie would soon get to preparing the eggs and hash browns. Val wasn't sure if it was accurate of a Southern breakfast, but she had mixed some sweet tea in a pitcher that she would later pour over ice into the cups.
The reason for all this rich food was simple: their brawny breakfast guest.
Of course, Wulfgar's ethnicity was probably Scandinavian, Danish, or some other Northern European nationality, as his name indicated, but he most likely grew up in Georgia and would probably be more used to this sort of food than what the Quangs usually made. Ahnnie and Val did indeed make American breakfast foods often, but they also included some traditional Vietnamese dishes like xôi, cháo, bún, bò lúc lắc, and on days that required rushing, bánh mì sandwiches. And then Val sometimes made new things altogether. Besides, after living with the dwarves for five years, Wulfgar probably wouldn't be up for anything light. His constitution was evidence of that.
"Hey, can you check the biscuits?" Ahnnie asked her cousin. "I'm kind of busy with the bacon here."
Valkyrie went over and peeked into the hot oven. "Almost done. Just give it a few more minutes."
Shutting the oven door, she studied her handiwork on the table and then turned to Ahnnie. "Where's Huỳnh?"
"He's looking for Wulfgar out in the town. He hasn't texted me yet, so I don't think he's found him." She pointed to a smartphone sitting on the counter beside the stove.
"I see," Val said. "Well, I'm going to give Grandpa his breakfast first. He'll want to be ready before he talks to Wulfgar." She still couldn't believe that her grandfather had accepted the invitation to an audience with the barbaric boy, but then after having a drow stir up most of Sanctuary, the citizens would probably be more relieved than shaken to have a human join them. "I guess I'll feed great-grandpa and great-grandma while I'm at it, too."
Valkyrie went over to another corner of the kitchen where a tray laden with hot tea, a bowl of cold noodles, and two bowls of the rice porridge cháo sat ready for her to bring up. Sliding her hand underneath the tray, she lifted it up and walked upstairs to her grandfather's room. "Ông ngoại ơi, con đem lên đồ ăn sáng cho ông ngoại (oh-m ngwigh uh-ee, cong dem luhn doe ah-ng sah-ng cho oh-m ngwigh)," she announced at the door. "Grandpa, I've brought up your breakfast."
The door magically opened. "Come in, Valkyrie," her grandfather said.
She entered the room and, setting the tray on his desk, picked up the bowl of cold noodles and placed it near him. Next she took a small, handle-less cup and filled it with the hot tea from the porcelain teapot, setting it beside the bowl. Once that was done, her grandfather dismissed her from the room and she went down the hall to the great-grandparents' room.
She needed no permission to enter, for they were always happy to see her despite not remembering her name. Once inside, she set the tray on the floor and mumbled an enchantment under her breath, waving her hand over the two bowls of rice porridge upon its completion. The bowls floated up to the elderly couple and the spoons automatically moved to feed them.
Valkyrie poured out two cups of tea and asked her great-grandparents: "Would you like some tea?"
"Cheese? Yes please," great-grandfather nodded.
Val cautiously handed the cup to him and the soup spoon stopped moving while he drank. The same thing happened for great-grandmother. When they finished drinking, they resumed their eating, docile enough for now to not disrupt the magic of Valkyrie's enchantment. At the same time the seventeen-year-old girl had to be ever watchful for when they would really try to do so. She had to be quick to quip with a counterspell, or as trial and error proved, the bowls would come crashing down onto the carpet, spilling porridge everywhere. Drizzt had not been tasked with this job for that reason.
The spoons soon had no more porridge left to transfer into the mouths of the elders, so Valkyrie stacked the bowls onto the tray and left the room. Fuyumi would help them go to the bathroom later; most of the great-grandparents' care was left up to the yuki-onna in addition to Drake's. The baby, luckily for her, was not a fussy one.
When Valkyrie reentered the kitchen, Ahnnie was laying out the food on everyone's plates. Even the biscuits were done, nice and golden brown. A small bowl of the sausage gravy sat next to the plates, in case anyone wanted it separately. Kirin was at her seat and Drake already in his high chair, kicking his legs happily.
"Did Huỳnh text you yet?" Val asked Ahnnie.
"Yeah. He's coming in a few."
"Ok then." Valkyrie went over to the fridge and took out the ice tray from the freezer. "How're you feeling today?" she asked her little sister as she popped the ice out into everyone's cups.
"Much better," Kirin replied with a smile. "Where's Drizzt? Isn't he going to eat with us?"
Kirin's favorite drow, Val thought amusedly. "Probably not today, Kirin. We have to find out if Wulfgar is prejudiced against drow or not first."
"Aww." The little girl visibly slumped. "Do we have to?"
Ahnnie, done with the food arrangement, finally sat down. "It's that, or have him do something unpredictably destructive when he sees Drizzt. Haven't you seen the size of his fists? They could break this table just by slamming down on it!"
Kirin looked up at Val as she began pouring out the sweet tea. "Why do people have to hate Drizzt so much? Can't they learn to know him before they judge him?"
Valkyrie nodded in thought. "Hmm. Well, the problem is that the drow race has had a bit of a checkered history. It's a really long story, and it happened long, long ago, but it ends with most of the dark elf race coming under Lolth, the Spider Queen. Before that they were known as an Elven tribe called the Illythiiri, then were corrupted into becoming the drow we now know."
"So?" Kirin challenged. "Not all of them got corrupted. Drizzt and his dad, for example."
Valkyrie smiled sympathetically at her sister. "That's true, but the majority of the drow are not as nice. They've done a lot of damage and spread so much fear over the years that other humanoids can't exactly get over it. Drizzt is the exception, but you shouldn't trust another drow if you see one, Kirin."
"I know," the little girl sighed sadly.
Eld then appeared and sat next to Ahnnie. "Looks like I'm not too late," he remarked. "Has Huỳnh found Wul-"
He was interrupted and had his unfinished question answered when the kitchen's back door opened and Huỳnh led in their big guest. "We're back," the boy said to his cousins, sister, and her guardian.
"Good morning!" Wulfgar boomed, right before hitting his forehead on the door frame.
Kirin giggled and Drake screeched with laughter.
"You all right?" Huỳnh asked him.
The big blonde rubbed his forehead brusquely. "I'm fine," he insisted. Then his eyes caught sight of the food on the table. "A full Southern breakfast!" he exclaimed. "I haven't had those in a long while." He quickly ducked under the door frame and chose a seat with the plate holding the most food. "Did you make this yourselves?" he asked them.
"You can thank moi for the food," Ahnnie said proudly.
"I made the biscuits and mixed the sweet tea," Val added. She and Ahnnie grinned at him.
"Oh, that's right, because you're girls!" Wulfgar agreed heartily.
The smiles on their faces fell almost immediately.
"I wouldn't have expected your brother to make something this good-looking. He's your brother, right?" Wulfgar asked, not sensing their displeasure.
Huỳnh winced at the drop in the mood and, taking a seat, quickly tried to rescue it. "I'm her brother," he said, pointing to Ahnnie, "and I'm their cousin," pointing to Val and Kirin. "So, uh, Wulfgar, did you enjoy the festival last night?" he asked.
"Of course I did," Wulfgar said. He poured sausage gravy all over his biscuits and began attacking the eggs and bacon. "There was plenty of mead to go around," he said between mouthfuls, "and I've gotta say, blueberry flavored mead isn't so bad!"
"He's a sexist," Ahnnie muttered unhappily in Vietnamese as she stabbed the yolk of her egg with her fork, "and a drunkard."
"Shh," Val shushed her, even though Wulfgar didn't understand Vietnamese.
"Um, how old are you, Wulfgar?" Huỳnh asked curiously.
"I think I should be sixteen now," Wulfgar replied. "Don't worry, I still remember the drinking age rule. Rest assured that I won't drink while I'm in your house. It's just the dwarves, you know?"
"Yes, they do love their mead," Huỳnh agreed. He pointedly looked to his sister and cousin, encouraging them to speak with their guest as well.
Val was feeding Drake a mixture of puréed carrot-and-peas baby food with soft food chunks while she ate, occasionally spooning the food into the baby's mouth between bites of her own. Huỳnh's look caught her during such an action.
"Careful," Ahnnie warned her cousin in Vietnamese, "or he'll say something about having babies as well."
Eld placed a restraining hand on hers underneath the table, giving her a pointed look.
"Phương Anh," Valkyrie warned, her voice stern.
"What did she say?" Wulfgar asked curiously.
"Oh, nothing," Valkyrie assured him. "Nothing important."
He nodded and continued eating.
"Did King Bruenor treat you well?" Huỳnh asked next, eager to keep the conversation flowing.
Wulfgar looked at Huỳnh with widened, incredulous eyes. "Of course he did!" he boomed. "I wouldn't have wanted to stay with him otherwise. Never has anyone treated me as well as the dwarves have treated me. Except for your family, of course," he assured them. To Huỳnh, he continued, "If you didn't speak up for me in front of Bruenor, I might've been alone in the streets by now!"
Ahnnie's grip on her fork tightened. "I was the one who did that, if I remember correctly."
Wulfgar pondered that. "Oh, that's right!" he remembered. "You were!"
She waited for him to say 'thank you'. But when he simply went back to eating and no thanks were forthcoming, she dipped her head down to take a bite of some hash browns and muttered "You're welcome" sarcastically under her breath.
Noticing the tension, Valkyrie decided to change the topic to something different, something her incensed cousin could participate in. "How's your Dwarvish, by the way?" she asked Wulfgar. "You must've learned a bit in five years."
The boy gave her a proud demonstration of his knowledge, which she agreed was quite fluent. Ahnnie begrudgingly agreed as well, even partaking in a Dwarvish conversation with him. Eventually it led to Valkyrie and Huỳnh joining in. It surprised them that he knew so much, given that dwarves also spoke their own variation of English in addition to their native tongue, as demonstrated the previous night by Bruenor and Catti-brie. It only went to show just how deep his bond with the dwarves ran.
Kirin, however, paid no attention to that and continued eating, waiting for a break in the talking so that she could bring up the matter that had bothered her so much before Wulfgar joined their table.
"If I may ask you a question, Wulfgar," Kirin piped in when such a break was found. She, too, could speak Dwarvish; it was the only other humanoid language she knew besides Goblin.
"Yes, little girl?" he asked her after downing some sweet tea.
"Are you prejudiced against drow?"
Huỳnh and Valkyrie immediately looked at her. "What?" the little girl asked in Vietnamese. "Drizzt's got to eat, too! If not now, then when is anyone ever going to bring it up?"
But Wulfgar's face was already darkening. "Drow?" he asked. "Do you mean the dark elves, little girl?"
He slammed a clenched fist on the table, the vibrations of which clattered the plates, cups, and cutlery. "Prejudiced does not even begin to describe how I feel about them! Hate and loathe are better words! Never have I heard of a more vile and evil race than the drow!"
"But-" Kirin wanted to protest.
"Sorcerous, murderous dogs, the lot of them!" Wulfgar continued, not hearing her. "I know it's unacceptable to be racist, but with drow?" He let out a dry, booming laugh. "No, hating drow isn't racist! It's common sense!"
At the rising volume of his voice, Draky began to cry.
The giant boy turned towards the baby. "Oh, sorry."
Valkyrie blinked. "N-no, it's ok...He'll calm down." She started humming soothing tunes to Drake until the baby's crying lessened, somewhat enough for the rest of the teenagers and imp to continue their meal. Eventually it ceased, thanks to the magic of her Second Ability.
Kirin, quieted, poked at her hash browns with a sigh. Huỳnh drank down a gulp of sweet tea to calm his shaken nerves.
Ahnnie pushed away from the table, politely excusing herself. "I'll go get Drizzt his food," she said in Vietnamese.
"That certainly was a disaster," Eld remarked to Ahnnie when everyone was finally finished with breakfast, and Huỳnh left with Wulfgar for the meditation room. The dishes being done, Valkyrie and Kirin also left for the meditation room soon after, Draky in tow. Only Ahnnie and Eld were still downstairs in the living room, because the girl was still too disgruntled about Wulfgar's attitude to even look at him and wanted some time to herself.
"Too bad for the drow, huh?" Eld remarked again.
"Hmph," Ahnnie grunted.
Ahmereld sighed. "There's more to it than just the drow, is there?" he guessed.
"What do you think?" she asked him heatedly. "'Oh, that's right, because you're girls'? Where in the Nine Hells did he get the notion that only girls are capable of cooking? Dwarves aren't like that! Did you see Catti-brie? Does she look like a woman of the kitchen to you? No!"
"Female dwarves labor in the forges all day," Eld pointed out. "Perhaps that's where he gets it from." The earth imp shrugged. "If not that, then it's something he learned before he came to the dwarves. It is a common norm in human society that girls do the cooking and cleaning, after all, even if it's changing."
Ahnnie thought on that, remembering what Wulfgar said at the night festival. "His stepmother. She thought she could take charge of everything. Maybe there's more to that opinion than an evil stepmother," she remarked bitterly. "And then there's his hatred for dark elves."
Eld sighed. "So it had something to do with the drow, after all," he muttered to himself.
"He's only been with the dwarves for like what, five years, and he's acting as if he's heard stories of drow his entire life!" Ahnnie continued, oblivious to Eld's comment. "I'll bet he's never even seen one!"
"If he's sixteen now, and he spent five years with the Battlehammers, then he first came to them when he was eleven," Eld reasoned. "A pretty impressionable age, if you ask me. Impressionable enough for such stories to have a deep effect. Think, for example, of the Christian's Satan, or pretty much every other religions' demons and devils. Most surface humanoids don't get a chance to see a drow in their lifetime, either."
Ahnnie pouted, acknowledging the truth of her guardian's logic. "Still," she argued, "you don't enjoy being around him, do you?"
"No," Ahmereld admitted.
"He's so loud, right?" Ahnnie continued, nitpicking at Wulfgar's flaws.
"My ears are still hurting from his voice," Eld agreed.
"He such a...such a..." Ahnnie's frown deepened the more she tried to think of a fitting word. "...such a barbarian!"
A knock at the living room's back door interrupted her rant. Perking up, she looked to Eld confusedly. The earth imp simply looked back, just as confused as she was. Together they got off the couch and walked to the door in question. Peering into the house through the door's window were the young, curious faces of Simon and Mermaia Harpell.
"Oh." Ahnnie unlatched the door and opened it. "Simon, Mermaia; what brings you here?"
Simon gave her a smile and Mermaia fidgeted eagerly beside him. "Good morning, Phương Anh of the Quang family," Simon greeted her.
She nodded in his direction. "Simon and Mermaia of the Harpell family."
"We hope that we are not intruding on your family during this time..."
Ahnnie shook her head. "No need to be so formal. Call me Ahnnie. We're the same age, aren't we? Fifteen?"
"We're both turning fifteen this May," Mermaia said. "So yeah!"
Simon nodded, still smiling.
"Come on in," Ahnnie invited them, and they happily stepped into the living room. After closing the door, she turned around to find them gawking at Eld. "An earth imp," she explained. "His name is Ahmereld q'Ilarbundl Derizzgickshelhar. But I usually call him Eld. He's my guardian. I believe you saw him yesterday, Simon."
"Yes I did. He's so very interesting!" Simon remarked.
"So green," Mermaia added, poking the imp lightly on the cheek.
"Yes, well, we come in a variety of different shades, from green to brown to rust," Eld explained, beaming pridefully. "It depends on where we live. The greener ones spend more time on the surface, for example."
Mermaia jumped back a little. "He can speak in English!" She gave a delighted squeal. "Oh, how wonderful!"
Ahnnie remembered then that Mermaia had not yet seen Ahmereld, hence her amazement. "Indeed, he's very good at English. But that aside, is there anything I can get for you? Something to drink, a snack, or...?"
Simon quickly turned to her, the pinnacle of etiquette all over again. "Oh no thank you, we have already refreshed ourselves before coming here. We did not want to inconvenience you, after all."
"It's no problem, really," she insisted.
Mermaia shook her head as well. "No need, no need."
Ahnnie shrugged. "Oh, ok. Well, is there something you'd like to do? My brother and cousins are still upstairs in a meeting with my Grandpa, but once they're done, I could get Huỳnh to drive us out and show you what's good in Georgia. Ever heard of Stone Mountain? Or we could go to the World of Coca-Cola."
"Oh, well, it's, actually..." Simon fidgeted, and he and Mermaia looked at each other, the both of them anxious and yet eager at the same time. "We, um, were hoping that you could...well..."
"Wewerehopingthatyoucouldshowusthedrow," Mermaia suddenly blurted out. She then shut her eyes tight, as if awaiting some sort of retaliation.
Ahnnie blinked and exchanged glances with Eld. "Sorry, could you say that again?" she asked the nervous Harpell teens. "I didn't hear it very well."
"We were hoping that you could show us the drow," Simon repeated more legibly, this time with a noticeably hopeful twinkle in his eye. "Please," he added a little later.
Now Ahnnie knew the reason for their overly done politeness, or at least Simon's. Before she could answer, the Harpell boy continued:
"If it's not convenient, then we will, of course, ask no more about it. It's just...well, I told Mermaia about what happened yesterday, and she wanted to see him, plus I wanted to see him, too, because I wanted to see him again, and oh, listen to the drow language maybe; it sounds so curious!"
"Yeah," Mermaia opened her eyes and nodded.
"Hey, don't worry about it," Ahnnie assured them. "Drizzt wouldn't mind. I'll just stop by and ask him. Just curious, though...what're the people of the town talking about? Have they said anything about drow, or...or...?"
Simon thought about that. "I think so. I heard some halflings whisper about it. What about you, Mermaia?"
The ginger haired girl shrugged.
Eld looked over at Ahnnie. "We should probably go check it out later."
But she waved the matter away. "Oh, it's...never mind. I'll go get Drizzt. Or, actually, you two should just come along with me." She sent a wary glance towards the stairs. "It's, uh, more convenient to see him in his room at the moment." Then she led the way, the two Harpell teens curiously trailing after her and her guardian pacing evenly behind them. "Twins?" she asked as they entered the hallway.
"Oh yes," Simon nodded. "We're twins."
"Cool," Ahnnie smiled. "So when are you going back to New Jersey?" For that was where the town of Longsaddle was, and where the Ivy Mansion was located. Their famed tavern, the Fuzzy Quarterstaff, was also nearby. Izdihar had once gone to study magic with the Harpells, and her family had eaten dinner at the Quarterstaff during a visit to check on her, but they had not the opportunity to meet with the wizards themselves; hence Mallik's knowledge of the Quarterstaff's eats and yet not the acquaintances of the proprietors. At least until yesterday, anyway.
"In three more days," Simon told her. "It's no biggie for us, since we're homeschooled."
"Lucky!" Ahnnie exclaimed. "We can't go on trips like that until summer vacation starts."
"Our homeschooling is still as rigorous as traditional schooling," Mermaia assured her. "It's just the schedule that's more flexible."
"That's still lucky," Ahnnie reaffirmed.
They soon reached the door to Drizzt's room. Ahnnie cleared her throat and knocked on the door.
A shuffling sound was heard inside, accompanied by the creaking of a swivel chair. These little sounds made the Harpell twins hold their breaths.
"Drizzt, it's me, Ahnnie," she announced in drow. "And some guests." Of course, to the ears of the Harpells, the words sounded a little more like this: "Drizzt, ol shah uns'aa, Awny. Lu'fol quivvedoon."
"Zhah. Quivveden," a dark, rich, and exotic voice corrected her from behind the door. "Vel'uss ph'l'quivveden?" Who are the guests?
"Simon lu'Mermaia Harpell. Nind ssinssrinil ul' kyoral dos," Ahnnie replied. Simon and Mermaia Harpell. They wanted to see you.
Ahnnie rolled her eyes. "Jugare, jugare! Shlu'ta udo..." She paused, trying to remember how Drizzt said the word, to avoid being corrected by him a third time. "...udos doer wun?" Ok, ok! Can we come in?
"Vel'bol d'Wulfgar?" What of Wulfgar?
"Uk shah...zhah k'jakr pholor l'nythe phor." He is still on the floor above. There was no single drow word to signify 'upstairs', after all.
"Ph'dos naut ifna ulu tlu gaer 'zil al?" Are you not supposed to be there as well?
"Usstan sh'luta bihurr ol ul'...ulu hiak'tanuek gajak." I can explain it to grandfather later. "Quelleh?" Please?
"Qualla," the voice corrected her again. But after a while, it said, "Dos xal sultha." You may enter.
"Finally!" Ahnnie huffed. She turned to the Harpell teens, who were staring at her in awe. "He can be a bit cautious at times."
Mermaia breathed again, her face brightening happily. "That was amazing! You must teach us some drow words later, Ahnnie."
Simon, releasing his breath as well, nodded eagerly.
"Sure thing." She smiled back at the Harpell twins and twisted the knob, pushing in the door. She'd long ago dropped the wards on his door, only reinstating them for nighttime when everyone went to sleep. Very soon, wards would probably be unnecessary altogether.
It opened up to reveal Drizzt Do'Urden, freshly changed in a borrowed T-shirt of Huỳnh's (since he'd ripped his tunic the previous day) and a pair of black lounge pants with two white stripes running down each side, sitting at his desk with a sheet of paper and a pencil.
"Simon, Mermaia," Ahnnie began, "this is Drizzt Do'Urden." Turning to Drizzt, she spoke in drow, "Drizzt, Simon lu'Mermaia d'l'Harpell fuma. Dos tha Simon mufiga." Simon and Mermaia of the Harpell family. You met Simon yesterday.
Drizzt turned in the chair and nodded his head at the two young humans. "Ol zhah biu bel'la ulu thalra dos, Simon lu'Mermaia." It is an honor to meet you, Simon and Mermaia.
The way the drow slightly (and exotically) rolled the 'r' of Mermaia's name gave the girl a thrilling jolt. "It is an honor to meet you as well, Drizzt," she replied bashfully after Ahnnie translated Drizzt's words.
"What is he writing?" Simon asked curiously, pointing to the paper. "Can you ask him for me?"
Ahnnie nodded and did as he said. She was about to ask the drow that anyway.
"I am just comparing some English words to Drow," Drizzt explained to Ahnnie. "At least, the words that I know. It seems our alphabet is able to catch most of the sounds that the English language makes." He pointed a dark finger onto the paper where he had inscribed the runic, elegant drow script with the pencil. Ahnnie was not sure if his handwriting was good according to drow standards, but she thought what she was seeing was some rather extraordinary handiwork.
Simon and Mermaia Harpell crowded around the desk, gazing wide-eyed at the paper.
"What sort of words are you comparing?" Simon asked, enthralled.
Ahnnie translated this for Drizzt, who said, "Basic words. I am, he is, she is, it is, they are, yes, no..." He waved his hand in a trailing gesture. "I've yet to think of more."
Drizzt had said his string of words - I am, he is, she is, it is, etc - in the best English rendition that he could. There was enough of an exotic accent to linger, though, and it made Mermaia want to swoon. She stumbled a little and caught her twin brother's shoulder to steady herself.
"What are the drow versions?" Simon asked Ahnnie eagerly. "Oh, could you read them for us, please?"
"Well, I can only tell them to you," she offered. "I can't read in drow. Sorry."
"Oh, that's ok."
"Usstan tlun, uk zhah (now knowing better to use 'zh' instead of 'sh'), il zhah, nind phe, siyoll, nau."
Drizzt shook his head. "Nind ph' and siyo."
The Vietnamese girl looked exasperated with him and his constant corrections.
"It's ok," Simon assured her. "It's not easy to speak a foreign language when you're not of its nationality."
"It's not that," Ahnnie protested. "I would've been able to speak it perfectly, if it weren't for what Master Kellindil did." She proceeded to tell them of how Kellindil purposefully taught her, her brother, and older cousin a twisted version of the drow language.
"But you speak it well, anyway," Drizzt assured her when he saw the look on her face.
Ahnnie straightened up and stretched her arms back. "Yeah, well..." Eld tapped her on the shoulder. "Yes, Eld?"
"Perhaps I should run up to the meditation room to explain why you haven't arrived?" the imp asked his ward. "It has been a while."
Ahnnie blinked. "Oh yeah!" she said, remembering. "Go do that. Just make it sound like Simon and Mermaia came in sooner than they did. Grandpa'll understand it better that way. Oh, but don't mention Drizzt," Ahnnie quickly added. "Because, you know...the barbarian..."
Her guardian frowned at her new epithet for Wulfgar. "Ok. I'll just tell Lông Hà you're entertaining the guests." Eld then left for the stairs.
Simon immediately looked guilty. "I'm sorry! Did we detain you from something important?"
Mermaia added, "If so, we can leave now..."
Ahnnie shook her head vigorously. "Oh, no, no, no, you guys are ok! Grandpa is just listening to Wulfgar. You know, that boy King Bruenor wanted to return? Well, he put forward a petition to stay in Sanctuary due to human development, and Grandpa agreed to hear it out. Us Quang kids usually sit in for these things, but I didn't feel like it much today." In fact, if this could get her out of attending the meeting entirely, that wouldn't be such a bad thing.
Drizzt was able to guess at what Eld ran up the stairs for. "Are you sure that is wise, Ahnnie? I don't want you angering your grandfather unnecessarily."
"It's totally fine," she assured him. "I got this, don't worry." She winked conspiratorially at him with a secretive smile, as if they both shared some mischievous joke.
But of course, it was so easy to see through the girl. Already she disliked Bruenor's rowdy charge; that, and she felt bad for the drow, as she always did when she feared something involving his race might bother him. Wulfgar's powerful slam of the table and heated words about the drow race did not go unheard after all, not even from the distance of the guest room. Though Drizzt didn't understand everything, he was sure he heard the word 'drow' used, once again, in a negative context. When Ahnnie came in moments later to deliver his food and thus, confirmed his suspicions, the drow wasn't even the least bit surprised or disappointed. He'd grown too used to this sort of behavior to expect anything different.
But it was not in the sense of surrender. No, while he had been alone in his room, he did some soul searching and found out that, especially after the events of the previous day, he didn't care much how the people of Sanctuary would think of him. He had come to terms with the rejection, so to speak, deciding that as long as he had the few people who believed in and accepted him - Ahnnie, Kirin, Val, Lillyn (yes, that little fairy too), perhaps now even Mermaia and Simon - his quest to find a place better than Menzoberranzan had not at all been in vain.
"My mother passed away when I was only a little baby. My father remarried when I was five, and then he, too, died six years later."
Wulfgar's powerful head bent down as he recalled the memories. His sky blue eyes were lost in some distant point in time, and his voice was (for once) in a manageable volume.
"I was in school when I got the news," he continued. "I was called into the principal's office. All the teachers looked sympathetic, but I didn't know why. And then they told me...they told me that he was in a car accident. He was pronounced dead on the scene, his body so badly damaged that there wasn't any chance of resuscitation even if they tried, because his chest was crushed in and the bones-" Wulfgar forced himself to a stop, then swallowed. "Sorry. The teachers didn't tell me that, but I found out later on the news."
"It's ok," Valkyrie assured him quietly. "We understand."
After taking a deep breath, he went on, "What happened next was a blur for me. The funeral, the lawyers, the well-wishers, even the news crew...I don't remember it very well, but I know that since there were no other known relatives, I was allowed to live with my stepmother. When my father was still alive, she seemed nice. I was ok with her. She was nice, for the first few months. But then...
"...she met this man, who she began dating. And then she married him. And then my life went to hell." The boy looked up sharply and his eyes seethed with a raging inner fire that, had Ahnnie been present, she would have sworn was equal in intensity to the drow's dangerous glare. "The moment he stepped into the house, she changed into a different person entirely. She forced me to do all the housework - and I mean all the housework, from the cooking and cleaning and laundry and even massaging the bastard's feet - and if I wouldn't, or if I did it wrong, her new husband would beat me. It was worse when he was drunk, which was pretty much most of the time. I kid you not, he once cracked my skull with a bat, and if the old bitch didn't somehow stop him, I would have died."
"Ahem." Fuyumi cleared her throat, and then nodded her head towards Kirin and Draky. "Moderate your language. We have kids here." The other guardians, also present (minus Eld), nodded their agreements.
"Oh, sorry," Wulfgar apologized. Continuing, "All the while they seemed to be spending a lot of money on new things. Money which I suspected came from my father's death. They taunted me about it often enough for me to pick up on some clues. They wasted most of it, though, and we were reduced to an old house in the ghettos within four months. You can imagine the beatings grew worse after that. Eventually, I couldn't take it anymore. I wanted to tell somebody...but at the same time, I was afraid." Wulfgar's bravado quickly turned to shame. "I was afraid that no one would believe me. And that if I said something, but it wasn't successful, then the jerk might actually kill me. So I ran away."
"You came into our neighborhood," Huỳnh reasoned.
Wulfgar nodded. "I ran in whatever direction I could find. I had nothing with me; I just, literally, ran away. I only stopped to catch my breath when I was at the fence of your backyard." He shook his head. "It was probably midnight. Everything was quiet. But I let my anger get the best of me. I was just so frustrated with my life. I let out a scream and threw some random trash over the fence. Then I instantly felt bad, and I climbed over to get it back." He chuckled lightly, then threw back his head in great, belly-aching laughter. "Imagine my surprise when I landed on the side of a giant mountain instead!"
What happened next was predictable. A dwarf sentry, on whose head the trash had fallen, caught him and brought him to Bruenor, who was holding a typical dwarven feast (with lots of mead) in honor of some holiday. The dwarves were obviously angry at this intrusion but he was just a boy; thus, Bruenor declared his sentence be that of five springs' apprenticeship in the mines and forges. Despite the seeming harshness of it in the beginning, Wulfgar reflected that the dwarves had not been rough with him. They started off slowly and never gave him any tasks that his eleven-year-old self couldn't handle. Of course, they quickly warmed to him and he, them, so the apprenticeship was soon enjoyable. It was also this sort of work (and hearty dwarven food) that gave him his present physique.
"Catti-brie was your age too, wasn't she?" Kirin asked him, no longer angry with him after having heard his story. "Did you guys become friends?"
Wulfgar laughed again. "Yes, little girl, we were - we are - the same age. But did we become friends? No!" In fact, their initial relationship was more like that of the elementary school boys-vs.-girls sort of dynamic. But not in the sense that Catti-brie was a girly girl. She was quick-tongued and ready to quip with witty remarks against his bumbling ones in their many arguments, had a fiery, tomboyish personality, and was not afraid to deflate his pride whenever she thought it was misplaced.
"But as we got older, and of course, much more mature, we got along better," Wulfgar explained. The subsequent blush on his cheeks told the Quangs that there was probably more to his feelings than simply 'getting along better'.
Valkyrie turned to her grandfather then, trying to see what he thought of the matter. The old man's face seemed indiscernible, so she looked away. I can relate to him, she then thought, remembering Wulfgar's childhood ordeal. It was hauntingly similar to what she went through, so much so that it sent shivers down her spine. It only reminded her of just how common and yet unknown dysfunctional family situations were. She and Wulfgar were among the luckier ones, for both did not suffer longer than a year.
But of course, there were some differences. Where Wulfgar was eleven, she was nine. Where the abuser was his stepmother's new husband, hers was her paternal uncle. Where Wulfgar suffered beatings, she suffered...
"Valkyrie," a windy voice cut through her thoughts.
The bespectacled girl looked up, stupefied. "Wh-what?"
Aubaine met her confused gaze. "You do not look well. Is everything all right?"
"M-me? I, I didn't...oh..." She then saw that almost everyone was looking at her. Her grandfather, her cousin, her little sister, the other guardians, and even Wulfgar.
"You seem pale," Lông Hà added, concerned.
"Chị hai? (chee high; oldest sister)" Kirin asked in Vietnamese, one hand holding onto Val's sleeve.
The girl shook her head and ran a hand through her thick, black hair. "Ah, it's...it's nothing. Do go ahead." She did her best to smile casually at them all, hoping that she would not be probed for further answers. "Where's Ahnnie, by the way?" she asked. "She hasn't come up yet."
Just on cue, Eld appeared at the double-doors of the meditation room. "I'm sorry to interrupt," he said after bowing politely, "but Ahnnie has been detained by guests. Simon and Mermaia of the Harpell family entered the house before she could come upstairs. She's busy entertaining them at the moment, but she sends her apologies."
Lông Hà waved the matter away. "Of course. Guests are important. It would be appreciated, however, if you could sit in for her for the rest of this meeting, Ahmereld."
"Of course." The imp bowed again and squeezed in next to Kirin and Fuyumi.
The yuki-onna leaned towards the earth imp and whispered in his ear a recap of the meeting so far. At that moment, Lông Hà was speaking, but Eld was not able to catch it until Fuyumi finished her whispering.
"-most unfortunate what you went through," the old magician was saying. "No child should ever have to live through such horrible experiences. It is only further proof of what an ugly world the human world can be." He shifted in his wheelchair, turning his cane a little as he did so. "This is not to say such ugliness isn't present in other races...but for the humans, it appears to be an increasingly common occurrence..." Lông Hà shook his head. "I ramble on. Well, Wulfgar, I do not deny that you have every reason to dread returning to the human world."
The boy nodded.
Even though he could probably beat the living crap out of his stepmom's husband now? Eld wondered, noting that the boy was almost seven feet tall and had muscles that any self-respecting bodybuilder would envy. What were the chances of his former abuser being able to even compare?
"And that King Bruenor of Clan Battlehammer has certainly treated you better," Lông Hà continued. "Despite his nonchalant demeanor, he has probably grown attached to you, just as he has with his adopted daughter, Catti-brie."
Wulfgar held his breath, waiting for the old man's next words.
"However, he kept to his promise, for he knew he could not keep you in Sanctuary longer than those five years of apprenticeship." Lông Hà looked at the boy with a pointed stare. "He had every chance to ignore it and let things continue on as they were, with no one the wiser. Still, he came to my family with you, and on a holiday at that. Then there's the fact that there was a police search for you when you first disappeared. That's something I cannot ignore."
The boy gulped, looking down. "Bruenor heard of it, too," he admitted. "He sent a few dwarves down the mountain on occasion to learn its progress and only stopped when I was 'presumed dead'." He then looked up again, a sudden determination in his eyes. "But surely that is proof that no one is looking for me anymore? Catti-brie is a human, and yet she can stay as Bruenor's adopted daughter. There must've been an investigation for her in the beginning, too. Not to mention, we heard rumors this morning of a drow sighted in Sanctuary. If you'd let a drow in, why not a human?"
The bold statement elicited gasps from the others in the room. Even Lông Hà was a little startled.
But their surprise did not last for long. News of Drizzt's arrival was bound to spread anyway, whether or not he ran out into Sanctuary before his service term ended.
"You certainly are bent on getting your way," the grandfather remarked, "aren't you?" Before Wulfgar could say anything, he continued, "Rest assured, young one. I'm not going to throw you to the world outside of Sanctuary as heartlessly as you seem to think I would." The boy's broad shoulders relaxed as soon as he heard that. "At the same time, I cannot deprave you of a normal human life. Tell me, Wulfgar; what grade were you in before you ran away?"
"Sixth," the boy answered.
"And if it's been five years since then...you would be in the eleventh grade. When is your birthday?"
Lông Hà nodded. "You make it before the cutoff date. Indeed, you would be in the eleventh grade. That is the same grade Valkyrie is in now."
"I'm seventeen," she supplied, "because my birthday's in October."
"But..." Wulfgar scrunched his eyebrows in confusion. "Why do you ask me this?"
"Why do you think?" Lông Hà asked him back. "You may only have one year left until the end of high school, but that doesn't mean you can forsake your education. If you are to stay in Sanctuary, this is the least you can do. College, of course, is your choice. Oh, that, and Huỳnh will teach you how to drive."
"How will I, though? Go to school, I mean. My name...everyone will remember it..."
Huỳnh laid a hand on his shoulder. "That's nothing magic can't fix! Don't worry about it."
"Or he can just use a new name," Valkyrie pointed out.
"True. But magic'll work to get you registered at our high school," Huỳnh continued.
When Wulfgar still didn't look convinced, Kirin came up to him as well and said, "Hey, who cares about that? You got the result you wanted: you get to stay in Sanctuary!"
"Yes..." The boy was only starting to realize it. "Haha! YES!" he cheered, grabbing the little girl unexpectedly and throwing her into the air. Of course, he caught her and set her down gently.
"This meeting is dismissed," Lông Hà concluded. "Go downstairs and tell Phương Anh about it; perhaps she is done with the guests by now."
"Not just Cousin Ahnnie; King Bruenor, and Catti-brie, too!" Kirin added enthusiastically.
"Well, c'mon then," Valkyrie beckoned, smiling at Wulfgar.
"We'll want to catch the dwarves before they start marching back to their mountain," Huỳnh said, and led his cousins and Wulfgar out of the room.
It was a nice and sunny day. A perfect day for quietly lunching in the outdoors, settled beneath a tree, with the warm rays of sunshine falling gently on one's back. Such was the activity that Regis was enjoying. Or had been - his lunch was finished (perhaps the third he'd taken that day), reduced to crumbs in a neatly folded cloth wrap. Now he was leaning against the tree and, warm sunlight dappled upon his figure, took out a block of wood and a whittling knife to continue carving out what he had been previously working on.
"Ye're quite the artist, halfling."
Regis jolted and almost dropped the wood in his hands. In the scramble to catch it, he also nearly nicked himself with the whittling knife.
Catti-brie frowned. "Calm down! It's not like I'm gonna eat ye." Still standing above him, she cocked her head to the side. "Don't know if I'm right, but I'm hearin' that ye're the new halfling in town...Regis, was it?"
News sure travels fast around here, Regis thought. "Yes," he replied. "And sorry about that...I was rather focused on my work."
With a shrug of her shoulders, the auburn girl sat down next to him and eyed the nearly finished piece of wood. It was in the shape of a beautiful long-haired mermaid holding a harp. "But like I said. Ye're pretty handy with wood n' a knife there. Ever considered makin' trinkets t' sell?"
Regis blushed. "Do you really think anyone would buy something like this? It's just a hobby, after all."
"I'd buy it!" she protested. "And I'm not just sayin' that t' please you. I mean, look at it..." She reached out a delicate, fair-skinned finger and stroked the mermaid's wooden hair with her nail. "Looks so real I could almost swear she's alive." Catti-brie thought a moment, and then continued, "Out in the lakes the people fish a kind of fish called knucklehead trout. Its bones make the best ivory fer scrimshaw that ye've ever seen. It's harder than wood, aye, but with one as skilled as yerself, I don't doubt ye can make a good livin' off it. Fetches a fairer price than wood, at any rate."
The halfling felt immensely flattered. He'd never heard of knucklehead trout before, but what Catti-brie told him both boosted his ego and piqued his interest in the fish's celebrated ivory. "Truly? Do you know where I can find some, then?"
"Well..." She shrugged. "Here in this town? I don't know much, meself...I've only ever been on the mountain or the valley below it. I think ye'll have t' ask around."
"But not to worry. I'll ask fer ye now."
Before Regis could say anything, Catti-brie was already up and looking for the closest person to ask.
The halfling shot up, surprised by how quickly and nimbly the human girl was moving away from him. "Wait for me," he was about to say, but then he had to skid to a stop or risk running face-first into her bottom, for she had suddenly halted.
Regis peeked around her and saw two of the Quang girls. Namely, Valkyrie and Kirin. Then when the halfling craned his neck back even farther, he could see that their entourage included the burly Wulfgar.
"Ah, Catti-brie," Valkyrie said. "We were just looking for you."
The dwarf's daughter blinked and looked at Wulfgar, curious. "Whatever for?" she asked them.
"Grandpa's finished his meeting with Wulfgar," Kirin said, "and we wanted to tell you..." The little girl put on a smile that might be labeled as mischievous. "That...well..." She giggled.
"What?" Catti-brie asked. "Did he kick ye out, as he should've?" she asked Wulfgar.
The boy shook his head, smiling but saying nothing.
"Well?" she prompted.
"He gets to stay!" Kirin blurted out and high-fived Wulfgar.
Catti-brie bit down on her lower lip. She slowly took in a deep breath, and even more slowly, let it all out. Regis thought at first that she was mad. But then he looked closer and saw that she was fighting back tears. Happy ones, judging from the upturned corners of her mouth. "Ye should've just thrown him back when ye had the chance. Now it's too late," she playfully remarked to them in a controlled voice. Turning away, the auburn haired girl started walking in the opposite direction. "I'll go tell me dad," she said. When she was sure her back was turned to them, she wiped her eyes with a single hand.
"Oh, hi Regis!" Kirin greeted the halfling, only noticing him after Catti-brie left.
Regis smiled at her. "Hello, Kelly."
"My name's Kirin, silly," she chuckled.
"Oh, that's right, I'd forgotten. Sorry!"
Val smiled. "It's ok. How're you enjoying Sanctuary so far?"
"Very much, thank you. It certainly is a nice place. You don't have to hear any derogatory remarks about your height, and strangely enough, that makes all the difference."
"Of course," Valkyrie nodded. "It's never ok to discriminate those who look different. Humans can be so arrogant sometimes."
"The nerve of them!" Regis agreed. "If it's not teases, then it's looks of pity - because according to some, I'm simply a fellow human with a birth defect. A birth defect!" He shook his little head in fervent anger. Though Regis was not really in Sanctuary for those reasons, they still bothered him deeply. "They act as if they're the only race populating the planet right now! If it weren't for their 'developments', then perhaps they'd know more about us..." Actually, Regis rather enjoyed the technological advances that humans dreamed up. For the sake of it, though, he was willing to put on an act.
"Ah, yes, by the way," the halfling then remembered, "I was just talking to that girl - Catti-brie, was it? - about the ivory of a fish called knucklehead trout. Do you know where I can find some to practice carving into scrimshaw?"
Valkyrie blinked. "Scrimshaw, huh? And from the knucklehead trout, too. You certainly have expensive tastes."
Regis blushed. "Oh, it's...well, she saw what I was carving here, and she said that if I applied my skills to knucklehead ivory, I could sell off some pretty decent scrimshaw." The halfling gingerly held the nearly finished wooden mermaid out for her to see. He just needed to carve out the last bit of the tail, and he'd be done.
Kirin was the first to comment on it. "Wow!" the little girl breathed. "It's so pretty! You're amazing!"
Val's eyes went wide as well. "Holy...you are good."
"Oh, can I have this when you're done?" Kirin begged him, enclosing his little hands in her own. "Pretty please? I'll re-disburst you for it," she added.
"I think you mean to say 'reimburse'," Val corrected her.
Regis found himself hard put to deny the little girl. "Sure, if you'd like. But you don't have to pay me anything," he added. "I'm not officially in business yet, after all."
"Are you sure?" Kirin asked him. "This must've taken you a long time to make. I could at least give you something for your trouble."
The halfling felt warmed by Kirin's sense of equality, something not many of the human children whom he'd encountered seemed to possess. "That's very kind of you, Kirin. But I insist. You practice Buddhism, correct?"
"Well then, consider the good karma I will receive for giving you this trinket as my payment." Who knows, it'll probably boost the sales of my first successful scrimshaw batch, he added in his mind.
"Are you sure?" the little girl asked him skeptically.
"Positive," he affirmed.
Kirin squealed with delight before bringing the halfling into a cheerful hug. "Thank you!"
"But back on topic," Valkyrie began. "The closest place to get knucklehead ivory isn't too far from town. If you just head north a little ways up, you'll find Lake Arwen. There's a group of fishermen there who'd be glad to sell some to you. Oh, but the currency used here is a little different from what you're probably used to. If you have any money on you now, I'd suggest you get it converted at the bank. They can explain our currency to you while they're at it. If you happen to not have any or too little, you'll be eligible for a starter's fund, which should help some."
Regis nodded. Remembering the dollars and coins in his pocket, he recalled the amount he still had left over from his travels to be $75.38. That probably wasn't going to cover much, especially if he would be having living expenses soon. For the past few days, he'd been staying in the dorms where meals and a room were free of charge, so he didn't have to spend anything. Depending on the cost of living, his current wealth might or might not be enough to elicit a starter's fund.
But from what he'd heard, Sanctuary wasn't a harsh place to live; true, there was currency, but it didn't seem to be a demanding part of life, not like it was in the human world. Thus, everyone had what they needed and thrived in the manner that they wished. It was quite the complicating thought, but Regis believed he'd sort it out soon enough.
Ahnnie had quickly herded Simon and Mermaia out of Drizzt's room when Eld returned to tell her the others were done with Wulfgar's meeting, and that the boy himself was coming down. She'd heard his loud footsteps beforehand, though, and would've known even if Eld didn't warn her. So when the assembly came downstairs, they saw Ahnnie and the Harpell twins conversing casually in the living room, no one the wiser about their visit to Drizzt.
After Val and Kirin took Wulfgar outside, Ahnnie looked up at her brother and huffed. "What's the verdict?" she asked, although she could tell from the muscled blond's smiling face and the fact that he was led outside that Lông Hà had agreed for him to stay.
"He's staying," Huỳnh confirmed. "Oh, and he's going to go to our school."
"Ugh," she groaned, rolling back onto the couch. "Does he have to? I'll bet he's too dumb for it, anyways."
Her brother frowned. "Actually..." His voice trailed off in preparation for a lengthy explanation; while he was not going to refute the matter of Wulfgar's academic smarts (or lack of them), he was going to tell her of the boy's troubled past, which he soon did. And when he finished with his account, Ahnnie was quiet and Simon and Mermaia looked sympathetically towards the door Wulfgar had just exited through.
"That's rough," Simon agreed.
"Your grandfather made a good decision," Mermaia added.
Ahnnie did not say anything, but her face was pensive.
Eld cleared his throat. "Well, Ahnnie?"
She turned to him. "What?"
He gave her a pointed look. "I think you have something to say."
The girl bit down on her lower lip, furrowed her brows, then sighed in defeat. "Fine. I got him all wrong," she admitted. "And I didn't even get to know him that well. I was just upset because he made what sounded like a sexist remark and said hateful things about the dark elves." She watched her brother carefully when she finished, knowing that her mention of the drow race would not escape him.
"But now I can take a guess at why he would think that cooking is better left to girls," Ahnnie continued, releasing Huỳnh from her gaze. "Making a kid cook in addition to doing all the other housework, and using beatings to threaten him, was super wrong of his stepmother. She didn't act as a mother should have. He probably took that in the wrong way, and so maybe that's why he said what he said." She shrugged, leaving it at that. She didn't have to say anything about the dark elves; even Simon and Mermaia could understand why anyone would speak hatefully of them, as their silence showed her.
But Ahnnie did not miss the ironic twist in this confession of hers. I hope I'll get to hear the same thing from you tomorrow, she thought, looking at Huỳnh again, when Drizzt passes his test with flying colors.
And chapter 13 is done :).
Not much Drizzt action, I'll agree, but that'll be covered in the next chapter; plus, I wanted to center on Wulfgar's character a bit. I would also like to point out that there are only way too many children going through what Wulfgar has gone through. I would like this chapter to raise some awareness on the issue of child abuse and dedicate it to those who are going through with it, the survivors, and those who did not make it. Thank you for reading!