Ten years later...
"The end of your training at last little brother!" Je'zarra said with feigned excitement. "Another average drone to keep our house in favor." At that statement Valdrin dared to glare at her. "Maybe not quite average, but you are no Baenre, or Do'Urden, and certainly no Zaknafein" She said, and Valdrin looked at her as if he would put a blade through her heart right then. Je'zarra laughed wickedly as she walked past him to leave the room. Valdrin could hear her laughter through the next room.
She delighted in reminding Valdrin of his beloved trainer's death ten years ago. How he was killed and given to Lloth. All for that pitiful renegade drow, she thought to herself. Je'zarra's long silver hair stretched to her waist. Her well endowed, slender frame was accented by the robes she wore that draped across her body as she sat in her room, as if they were enchanted to accent her best features. Her smile could make the strongest male drow fall at her feet, if her whip didn't make them first.
She knew she had struck a nerve mentioning Zaknafein. It always did and she smiled. Valdrin always tried to measure up to the students who had become legends of their houses. One more than others. Everyone knew the story of the Do'Urdens and how Drizzt had almost brought their house down around them by his actions before fleeing to the underdark. It was the same year that Valdrin started his training at Melee Magthere.
For everything bad he had heard, Valdrin knew there was another side to that story, and more importantly that after ten years most names would have faded from memory. The name Drizzt Do'Urden remained fresh in the whispers of students who had heard of his feats, and even in the whispers of instructors who seemed to almost show respect for his abilities.
Left alone in his room he only became more enraged as he thought back on his training. Ranking only third in his class throughout his training, Je'zarra would often remind him that he was the second failure in his class, he wasn't even good enough to be the first failure. She found amusement in making life more difficult for him. As a priestess of Lloth she could do so with little effort. He had lost count how many times he was assaulted in a hallway after training hours and left to mend his own wounds, or had meals dumped on the floor at his feet and left to starve for the night, or several days if she saw fit. She made sure that she was his group's instructor for the six months he trained in basic magic at Arach-Tilinith. She would frequently use him for her demonstrations. His thoughts always drifted back to what was easily his worst day in all of his time training.
Je'zarra instructed another student, Fe'lyn De'Arth, to summon a globe of darkness over Valdrin and then press the attack. She insisted they use real swords as any wounds they might receive would serve as punishment. Fe'lyn was not a competent fighter compared to the noble's who had been trained and was only allowed to continue his training because he was more talented than most common soldiers and served as amusement for everyone else. He was the only one that showed any bit of friendship toward Valdrin. Something Je'zarra didn't like at all. She instructed Valdrin to fight back. Thinking it better to possibly wound Fe'lyn rather than face her wrath for disobedience, Valdrin did as he was told.
When Fe'lyn entered the globe of darkness, Valdrin was already out the other side. He circled around behind and pinned Fe'lyn to the ground in what would have been a blur if the onlookers could have seen it. Trying not to wound Fe'lyn, Je'zarra dispelled the darkness and Valdrin stood to leave. Je'zarra saw that Fe'lyn didn't have a scratch on him and it angered her. Before Valdrin could turn she ordered him to kill Fe'lyn as a punishment for being such a failure to Lloth.
"Lloth demands a sacrifice." She told him. When he refused she cast a spell on them both. Valdrin felt his entire body freeze. He couldn't move, he couldn't speak, he couldn't even close his eyes. All he could do was stand there. Je'zarra laughed wickedly as she approached Valdrin, softly running her fingers down his arm to grab his hand that still held his sword just inches from his friends neck, making his skin tingle and crawl at the same time. She caressed his cheek with her other hand and turned Valdrin's head so that he was looking at his friend.
"Look at your friend now." Je'zarra whispered in his ear with a slight chuckle. Valdrin could see the fear in Fe'lyn's eyes, he couldn't move either. She pushed his hand forward, slowly slicing through the flesh of Fe'lyn's neck, Valdrin could hear the sound of his last breaths escaping, gurgling from the blood filling his lungs as she pulled his sword back through his neck. Je'zarra breathed heavily and moaned softly laying her head on Valdrin's shoulder. Valdrin could see the pain in Fe'lyn's eyes through his tears as he bled slowly to death in front of him. When Fe'lyn was dead she caressed his cheek again and laughed as she dispelled her hold over Valdrin. He dropped to his knees but would not let her see his anger. It would only please her more. Then he felt the bite of her whip on his neck. Then there was darkness.
Valdrin shook his head and rubbed his neck. How many times had he been lost in that memory? He unclenched his fists and wiped the sweat from his forehead, he noticed he was bleeding from cuts that his nails dug into his palms. That was in his first year, but it felt as if it was only a day ago. He walked to his bed where his swords lay. He pulled one from its scabbard and looked at it in disgust. It only served to intensify his rage. His sister had enchanted it so that Fe'lyn's blood would remain on the blade indefinitely. In a fit of rage he slammed it into the wall, tip first, over and over again trying as hard as he could to break or even damage the blade, but as hard as he tried the blade was built too strong and enchanted too well. He threw it across his small room and sat on his bed with his head in his hands.
He despised his sister. He realized that he was beginning to despise every drow in the city. All of them so full of hate and ready to kill anyone at any time, usually for no reason other than they enjoy it. He felt cursed to be a part of it. Surely not all Drow could be as sick and twisted as the ones in Menzoberranzan, he thought to himself. It was his only thought that gave him hope. Maybe Drizzt had found another city where their people weren't poisoned by the Spider Queen. Maybe he was just fooling himself. With that thought he tried to get some sleep, tomorrow was his first day patrolling the underdark. Not as a student as he did in his ninth year at Melee Magthere, but as a soldier.
The next morning Je'zarra sat with Mizz'ree and their mother Matron Dristana.
"A rare visit these days Je'zarra." their mother said. "I assume you are here to tell me of your brother?"
"He has done well for himself." Je'zarra said with little enthusiasm. "After the grand melee he only managed to rank second in his class, still a failure if you ask me."
"He did better than his older brother Varus did, and he is the current weapon master." Mizz'ree said "He didn't finish first but he is certainly one of the most capable fighters among the nobles in this city."
"Maybe it is time for a new weapon master for house Orlyndar." Matron Dristana said. A laugh from the other side of the room grabbed their attention.
"He is lazy, and weak," Kilani said. Almost sounding jealous that they weren't speaking of him. "At least Varus has made a name for himself."
"Very true, Kilani." Dristana said with a smile that made Kilani square his shoulders and stand a little taller. "But we both know that Valdrin could kill you without a challenge if he wished." With that comment Kilani slumped a little. He knew it was true though he wouldn't admit it. He spun on his heel and stormed out of the room. Ten years away from him and he still despised Valdrin.
"Valdrin begins his patrols today." Je'zarra said. "I think we should give him a test." she said with a wicked grin. "Kilani is right, he is weak, at least as far as Lloth is concerned. He shows no devotion to our goddess."
"You are right, I think a test of his loyalties is in order. Either he proves himself or he dies trying." Matron Dristana said. "There is a group you should speak with that I think can help arrange something. Bregan D'aerthe."
Je'zarra visibly shuttered just thinking about talking to Jarlaxle's group of rogues. She did not trust him or his group, but her mother was right. Lloth would not be pleased with Valdrin's path and, as a priestess, it was her job to correct it.
"I will speak with him soon." Je'zarra said with a sigh. "We will plan for a week from today. then we will find out where Valdrin's loyalties lie."
Valdrin's patrol leader had him scouting ahead of the group today. He was nervous. It was his first day in a real patrol, and he had never been so far from the city. As he came around a bend he heard something. It was faint, but sounded close. He motioned for his group to stop. He waited and watched. He heard what sounded like a small creature skittering away from them. He couldn't see any sign of it so he dismissed it and his group continued on. He couldn't help but feel like they were being watched as they returned up until they entered the main chamber of the city. He looked back a few times but never saw anything that would have made the noises he heard. Without another thought he let it go and as the group disbanded he returned home for the night.
The next day Je'zarra had her meeting with Jarlaxle. She arranged for them to meet in house Orlyndar under the watch of the house guards. She was not very familiar with Jarlaxle, but she knew enough to know he was deadly. She sat in the main hall of their house waiting. Several minutes late, Jarlaxle finally arrived. He walked in and took his giant plumed hat off and gave a sweeping bow, then walked to the table where Je'zarra sat. She noticed that all the chains and bits of jewelry he wore didn't make a noise as he walked. She also noticed he was not escorted by her guards as they were instructed.
"I see you made it past my gatekeepers?" She said suspiciously.
"I am sure they are fine gatekeepers. Still waiting for my arrival no doubt." Jarlaxle said with a grin. "It has been many years Je'zarra. We really should see each other more often." He said smiling wider, he was aware of her feelings for him.
"We have business, that is the only reason we are speaking. You would do well to remember that." She considered asking him how he got into their house unnoticed but left it alone. He would likely lie to her anyways. "My mother thinks you know of a way my brother's loyalties can be tested. I fear he may be straying from the correct path, and I will not risk the favor of this house for him." She said getting right down to business. She wanted to end this meeting as quickly as she could.
"I may know of something." Jarlaxle said as he adjusted his hat. "It will require resources though, in addition to payment."
Je'zarra glared at him, but knew better than to expect him to stick to a deal. "What did you have in mind?" She said with irritation showing in her voice.
Jarlaxle threw a hefty bag of gems on the table. "These should work. After all I will need something to barter with if I'm to convince a group of renegades out of their holes. I know of a small group of drow from another city who have denounced the Spider Queen. I am sure it would bring your house favor if they were to be dealt with and would prove your brother's loyalties."
"How did you get these? I demand an answer now!" Je'zarra stood and yelled at him. "These were in my personal chambers! How dare you enter without permission." She called for the four guards that guarded both doors to this chamber. She was left in awe when four of Jarlaxle's guards stepped out from behind the doors. Her guards were nowhere to be seen.
"Sit down, and we will finish our arrangements. Like I said I need something to barter, they will surely need money once they hit the surface. Unless you have a better idea? I will return them when we are done. Well, most of them anyways. You know how business is. Everyone wants a profit." With that, Jarlaxle stood and gave another sweeping bow, He smiled and left with his guards in tow. Just as quiet as when he arrived.
Je'zarra went to her chambers to make sure nothing else was missing. On her desk where the bag of gems had been sitting she saw a dagger. It was stuck in the desk holding down a note that read:
Je'zarra, For your troubles. We really should see more of each other.
Under the paper lay a small pouch of gold coins, roughly the amount the gems would have been worth had she sold them. It didn't change the uneasy feeling she had about this whole situation though. Jarlaxle would do anything for a profit. Whoever paid the most would win his talents she knew. Je'zarra spent the next day in prayer to Lloth. She wanted to make absolutely sure that Jarlaxle had told her the truth about the renegades.
A few days later she received word that the plan had been put into motion. The group of renegades would be at a predetermined meeting place, ready for Valdrin's group to strike. Confident that Lloth was in favor of this plan Je'zarra informed her mother, who called for a meeting with Valdrin's patrol.
"Tomorrow your patrol will encounter a group of renegade drow from another city. You are to kill them. If even one survives you will incur the wrath of Lloth. They are to be sacrificed for denouncing our Goddess. Lloth demands blood."
Valdrin looked anxious when he heard this. He never enjoyed killing, and he wasn't even sure if he believed it was right in this instance. Denouncing the Lloth was a serious offense and could cause problems for an entire house. He knew how this was supposed to play out but he wasn't convinced it was right. His patrol leader agreed with the demands his mother made and assured her it would be done. The rest of his patrol looked and sounded excited. They were ready for a fight and would more than happily kill their own kind if it meant using their blades.
The next day Valdrin left his house. Heading towards the city entrance to meet up with his patrol. He wasn't sure what to think of what he was supposed to do today. He had never willingly killed another member of his race. He was lost in thought as he arrived where his group was meeting. He was told to take up one of the two scout positions. They wanted to get the jump on the group of renegades before they could form a defense.
"They are drow, so expect a fight. Some of you will die, but in glory to the Spider Queen and will be rewarded justly!" Their leader yelled above them as they checked their hand crossbows, weapons and armor. They left the city, it would take around an hour for them to reach the renegade group.
Jarlaxle and several of his personal guards followed behind Valdrin's group. Being masters of stealth, they were always within range to see and hear everything though they would never be spotted themselves.
Valdrin held a hand up to signal to the group behind him that they could see the renegades. There were twelve of them. Valdrin's patrol outnumbered them two to one. It would be a massacre. On the patrol leaders signal several crossbows clicked while a giant globe of darkness appeared over the group. Valdrin froze as his patrol moved past him. He couldn't do this. They had done nothing to him to deserve the massacre that was coming.
"Lloth be damned." He whispered. He started to move when he saw one of the renegades out of the darkness. This was his chance and he only had one shot nobody in the globe could see him. He couldn't just sit here or he would be punished severely for not participating but he couldn't kill. He wouldn't kill. Not for his mother and not for Lloth. He crept quietly behind the renegade and fired his hand crossbow into his neck. The sleeping poison took affect quickly and in seconds the drow dropped to the ground. Acting quickly Valdrin cut his own arm, followed by several cuts to the armor and back of the renegade. Not deep enough to kill, he would scar but he would live. He smeared the blood from his arm and the little blood from the renegade and tried to make it look convincing. He finished his work just as the globe of darkness dispelled. It only took a few minutes for his group to kill the other eleven renegades. Not a single one of the patrol was lost.
"It looks like he got you before you got him. Sloppy work Valdrin." His patrol leader scolded. Valdrin nodded and turned to walk away. "It's strange." His patrol leader said catching his attention. "There is no blood on your blades?" He asked as he knelt to check the body.
Thinking quickly Valdrin responded. "Do you not see the blood on his piwafwi?" he said. "Do you think his blood is worthy to stain my blades?"
"No, it is not worthy to stain the blade of any drow. Heed my warning Valdrin. Do not be so sloppy next time or you will find yourself unworthy as well." The leader said without hesitation.
Valdrin sheathed his swords and headed back towards the city. He was furious at what his mother had commanded him to do. He was not a cold hearted killer like the rest of his race seemed to be. He had played his cards well today and avoided having to murder someone who had never wronged him but it left a very sour taste in his mouth.
After the patrol had left the scene and were long gone Jarlaxle's group moved in to see what might be of value. A low moan caught his attention. He moved over to where he heard the sound. He could see the heat of a body moving on the ground behind a rock. Interesting, he thought.
"You should be dead my friend," he said as he walked over.
The drow nodded "You will kill me now then?"
"Unfortunately for you, try not to take it to personally. Duty calls but first, how did you survive?" He asked curiously.
He held out a small crossbow bolt and pointed out that the cuts on his back were minor. Whoever tried to kill him didn't try to kill him at all. Jarlaxle found this most interesting. "Perhaps I won't kill you today. you might be of some use to me." He told the renegade. He had his guards bind him and they left the area.
The next few days were relatively quiet for Valdrin. His patrols went without issue, and he kept to himself. He kept thinking over the events of that battle. He couldn't help but worry that someone would figure out his secret. He would surely be punished if his mother found out that he didn't participate. He thought of Zaknafein. He thought of him often. How could they murder him. He still couldn't believe it. He had hoped to challenge him again after finishing his training at Melee Magthere. That couldn't happen now. Everything he cared about was gone. Zak was dead. Fe'lyn, his only friend since Zak was dead. He started wondering why he stayed in Menzoberranzan.
Je'zarra arranged another meeting with Jarlaxle at house Orlyndar. She needed to make sure everything went as it was said during the ambush. Once again he entered the room with a sweeping bow. This time as he walked towards the table Je'zarra noticed that all of his jewelry chimed and rattled. "It is great to see you again so soon Je'zarra."
"Spare me the pleasantries Jarlaxle. Do you have a report for me or not?" She said with a nervous irritation in her voice. "Did my brother perform or do we have a problem?"
"Well, I wouldn't say no. He did put on quite a performance." Jarlaxle smiled again.
"Did he kill them?!" She yelled at him rising out of her seat.
Jarlaxle motioned to one of his guards at the door, and in walked a drow fighter. He hands were bound and he was not wearing any typical drow attire. "One of the renegades. This one was the only survivor. He was outside of the globe of darkness that descended on his group. He was apparently hit by a crossbow bolt and then cut to make it seem as if he had been killed. A rather good job too I might say. Had it not been for the heat of his body it would have fooled me as it did the rest of Valdrin's patrol. From what I have learned Valdrin was standing over this one when the darkness dispelled. There is no reason to think he killed anyone."
"Then our agreement is finished. I believe you have something of mine." Je'zarra said, ready to be done with this drow.
"Ah yes, here you are." Jarlaxle tossed her the bag of gems. "I didn't need them after all but they are a nice collection." He said with a wry grin. He stood to leave but Je'zarra tossed something in return.
"You left these on my desk. I hope you don't mind I took a small donation. For my troubles." Je'zarra said sarcastically. "You know how business is, everyone wants to make a profit." She said with a smile.
Jarlaxle gave a chuckle and left the room. Leaving Je'zarra to her thoughts. She had some work to do. She needed to find out what Lloth wanted from her. That meant visiting Arach-tilinith, and communicating with someone she hated more than jarlaxle. A handmaiden.