Chapter 2: One Kiss

The horse Jarlaxle had bought was a magnificent black Calimshan breed - one of but a few wild horses that had been successfully caught and tamed of late. Still, "tame" was hardly the word Jarlaxle would have used to describe the beast. The veiled Calimshite desert-dweller who had sold him the mount had insisted that the horse's name was "Princess Moonbeam", but Jarlaxle wasn't sure if the olive-complexioned woman was teasing him or not. So much harder to read people when their faces were half covered!

Princess Moonbeam, as it turned out, was a foul-tempered girl indeed. Jarlaxle had paid his gold and mounted the fourteen-hand-high horse while the Calimshite woman held Moonbeam's reins and whispered reassurances to the horse in the strange desert tongue.

Jarlaxle was an experienced lizard rider, and some of the skills were transferrable; however, on his first independent attempt at mounting the horse, he had been thrown and landed unceremoniously on his rump in the street. The peasant observers had laughed, and laughed hard. Jarlaxle, furious for a moment, summoned a dagger from his magical gauntlet to hand. In Menzoberranzan many would kill for less. Then he remembered that he was wearing the enchanted mask - they thought him one of them, and nothing more. The dagger was concealed again before it could be noticed, and Jarlaxle got up from the dirt and bowed grandly, to wild applause. He even laughed with the peasants, imagining his mirth at witnessing Entreri so thrown. Jarlaxle was only glad the assassin hadn't been there to see it - Entreri would never have let him live it down.

Finally Princess Moonbeam and the drow had seemed to come to some sort of understanding, and Jarlaxle began his career as highway robber extraordinaire. Barely had he adopted this persona when he met Bess, the dark-eyed maid who had become his lover.

Moonbeam's hooves clattered and clashed over the cobbles as Jarlaxle left the heart of town and headed for the white road that circled the moor. Before he reached the inn-yard, the drow coaxed Princess Moonbeam to a walk, and approached the old inn as silently as a ghost. This was the midnight hour, and all was locked and barred. Approaching a certain second-story window, Jarlaxle reached up and tapped with his whip on the shutters. Silence - only the gossamer night sounds of crickets mingled with the mournful cry of the wind. Jarlaxle whistled a tune to the window, and no sooner had the notes died, then Bess was suddenly there, an exquisite picture of beauty framed by the casement. Her skin, fair and pale, glowed in the moonlight. She wore a shimmering silken nightgown of ethereal white. Her black hair was flawlessly woven into one thick rope of a braid, accentuated by a dark red love-knot.

"Jack," this vision of beauty whispered, and she smiled. Bess turned, intending to go down and unlatch the door, but her lover stopped her with an upraised hand.

"I fear I have no time but for one kiss, my bonnie sweetheart - tonight is the night!"

Her breath caught in her throat. "It's tonight?"

"Yes, dear Elizabeth, it's tonight. I dare not linger for too much longer. If I could but kiss your hand, that will be all the good luck I need."

"Oh, Jack!" Excited and nervous, Bess leaned over the windowsill and reached down. Jarlaxle stood upright in the stirrups, but he scare could reach her fair hand, let alone kiss it.

Suddenly inspired, Bess tugged free the ribbon that held her dark hair, unbound the braid, and let her locks fall down around her lover.

The sweetly-perfumed shimmering mass of waves cascaded down around Jarlaxle, and he gathered up Bess' night-black locks and kissed her hair in the moonlight. "Tomorrow night," he said breathlessly, "Tomorrow night when the moon is full."

"Tomorrow, Jack? Not tonight?"

"If I can, love, if I can. Perhaps I shall place gold in your hands before the morning light! But if not tonight, then tomorrow, when the moon is full."

"I'll be waiting."

Jarlaxle smiled. He pressed her soft hair to his cheek once more. Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the West.

A/N: The next chapter will be longer :)

In progress. Reviews welcome!