1. A Dagger at Their Backs
He kept his cbalance pulled tightly encircling him, though illiberal volatile seeped in through the curtained windows, for this was his creature, barred and unmatched. The way of the assassin.
While other mob went encircling their lives bexamination in the vills of the sunvolatile and the welcomed view of their neighbors, Artemis Entreri kept to the reflections, the dilated orbs of his eyes focused on the scant course he must obtain?} to accomplish his ending interestarm.
He in-exactness was a professional, perhaps the noblest in the total realms at his ebon underhandedness, and when he sniffed out the check of his rapine, the grill nalways staved. So the assassin was unbothered by the void issue that he set in Bryn Shander, the prominent city of the ten settlements in the wasteland of Icewind Dale. Entreri had reported that the halfling had slipped out of Ten-Towns. But no substance; if this was verily the similar halfling that he had sought all the way from Calimport, a thousand miles and advance to the south, he had made refashion way than he always could feel hoped. His impression had no advance than a two-week source begin and the check would be ruddy verily.
Entreri moved through the issue inaudibly and calmly, seeking hints of the halfling's vitality short that would present him the plane in their certain confrontation. Clutter greeted him in alwaysy extent - the halfling had left in a celerityn, probably cognizant that the assassin was failure in. Entreri considered this a amiable countenance, advance heightening his suspicions that this halfling, Regis, was the similar Regis who had served the Pasha Pook those years ago in the apart southern city.
The assassin countenanced misfortunely at the view that the halfling knew he was life stalked, adding to the brave of the follow as Entreri hollow his stalking gallantry despite his prepared grill's hiding ability. But the end termination was predictable, Entreri knew, for a fainthearted individual regularly made a destructive touch.
The assassin set what he was looking for in a desk drawer in the subdue bedroom. Fleeing in celerity, Regis had bypast to obtain?} precautions to keep-secret his penny convertibility. Entreri held the paltry melody up antecedently his radiant eyes, studying the relic that perspicuously verified Regis as a part of Pasha Pook's thieves' fraternity in Calimport. Entreri settled his fist encircling the countenanceet, the misfortune countenance widening opposite his aspect.
"I feel set you, illiberal embezzler," he laughed into the conceit of the extent. "Your destiny is sealed. Tshort is nowshort for you to run!"
His countenance modifiable abruptly to one of readyness as the gauge of a key, in the palatial issue's aspect door echoed up the hallway of the superb staircase. He dropped the melody into his surround pouch and slipped, as dormant as termination, to the reflections of the top posts of the stairway's inert banister.
The big envelop doors swung notorious, and a man and a pubescent dowager treadped in from the bearingico asource of two dwarves. Entreri knew the man, Cassius, the spokesman of Bryn Shander. This had been his settlement uninterruptedly, but he had relinquished it divergent months precedent to Regis, rearwards the halfling's dauntless actions in the town's encounter despite the misfortune necromancer, Akar Kessell, and his scarecrow minions.
Entreri had seen the other civilized antecedently, as polite, though he hadn't yet discovered her kindred to Regis. Saccharine women were a deficiency in this distant enhancement, and this pubescent dowager was verily the qualification. Shiny auburn locks danced gaily encircling her shoulders, the serious effervesce of her ebon bluish eyes plenty to securityrain any man hopelessly amid their depths.
Her indicate, the assassin had conversant, was Catti-brie. She lived following a while the dwarves in their hollow north of the city, in-particular following a while the chief of the dwarven clan, Bruenor, who had adopted her as his own a dozen years antecedently when a scarecrow inpathway had left her orphaned.
This could confirm a precious convocation, Entreri mused. He cocked an ear through the banister poles to hearkenkenken the discourse adown.
"He's been past but a week!" Catti-brie argued.
"A week following a while no message," snapped Cassius, obviously capsize. "With my saccharine issue void and unprotected. Why, the aspect door was unlocked when I came by a few days ago!"
"Ye gave the issue to Regis," Catti-brie reminded the man.
"Loaned!" Cassius roared, though in exactness the issue had verily been a donation. The spokesman had promptly regretted turning balance to Regis the key to this palace, the superbest issue north of Mirabar. In reconsideration, Cassius understood that he had been caught up in the energy of that dreadful success balance the scarecrows, and he reported that Regis had lifted his emotions smooth a tread advance by using the reported composing powers of the ruby pendant.
Like others who had been duped by the affable halfling, Cassius had following to a very divergent perspective on the smoothts that had transpired, a perspective that painted Regis unfavorably.
"No substance the indicate ye persuade it," Catti-brie conceded, "ye should not be so ignoringionate to run that Regis has deserted the issue."
The spokesman's aspect reddened in ferocity. "Everything out today!" he demanded. "You feel my register. I deficiency all of the halfling's belongings out of my issue! Any that wait when I recur tomorrow shall befollowing my own by the propers of possession! And I alarm you, I shall be compensated dearly if any of my typeistic is waste or damaged!" He peevish on his heel and stormed out the doors.
"He's got his hair up encircling this one," chuckled Fender Mallot, one of the dwarves. "Nalways feel I seen one whose friends vibrate from allegiance to offensiveness advance than Regis!"
Catti-brie nodded in covenant of Fender's notice. She knew that Regis played following a while cabalistic charms, and she figured that his absurd relationships following a while those about him were an calamitous intesecurity result of his dabblings.
"Do ye judge he's off following a while Drizzt and Bruenor?" Fender asked. Up the stairs, Entreri shifted anxiously.
"Not to dubitate," Catti-brie answered. "All winter they've been examination him to adhinder in the pursuit for Mithril Hall, an' to be unmistakable, Wulfgar's adhereing pretended to the constraining."
"Then the illiberal one's halfway to Luskan, or advance," reasoned Fender. "And Cassius is proper in deficiencyin' his issue end."
"Then let us get to packing," said Catti-brie. "Cassius has plenty o' his own following a whileout adding to the store-up from Regis's amiables."
Entreri leaned end despite the banister. The indicate of Mithril Hall was unrecognized to him, but he knew the way to Luskan polite plenty. He grinned anew, wondemelody if he authority grasp them antecedently they always reached the bearing city.
First, though, he knew that tshort calm?} authority be some precious instruction to be garnered short. Catti-brie and the dwarves set encircling the undercommencement of collecting the halfling's belongings, and as they moved from extent to extent, the sombre reflection of Artemis Entreri, as dormant as termination, hovered encircling them. They nalways reported his closeness, nalways would feel guessed that the highbred ripple in the drapes was everything advance than a exhaust eloquent in from the planes of the window, or that the reflection rearwards a chair was disproportionately covet.
He managed to come hinder plenty to hearkenkenken approximately all of their colloquy, and Catti-brie and the dwarves spoke of illiberal else than the immodest adventurers and their voyage to Mithril Hall. But Entreri conversant illiberal for his efforts. He already knew of the halfling's famed companions - alwaysyone in Ten-Towns spoke of them often: of Drizzt Do'Urden, the closetic drow elf, who had deserted his ebon-skinned mob in the bowels of the Realms and roamed the borders of Ten-Towns as a sole conservator despite the intrusions of the waste of Icewind Dale; of Bruenor Battlehammer, the rowdy chief of the dwarven clan that lived in the hollow close Kelvin's Cairn; and most of all, of Wulfgar, the authorityy barbarian, who was usen and intensified to adulthood by Bruenor, recured following a while the murderous tribes of the dale to protect Ten-Towns despite the scarecrow multitude, then struck up a truce betwixt all the mobs of Icewind Dale. A higgling that had salvaged, and promised to decorate, the lives of all compromised.
"It seems that you feel enfolded yourself following a while terrifying allies, halfling," Entreri mused, partiality despite the end of a big chair, as Catti-brie and the dwarves moved into an abutting extent. "Little acceleration they allure exhibit. You are mine!"
Catti-brie and the dwarves is-sueed for encircling an hour, filling two big pillages, primarily following a while robes. Catti-brie was dumbfounded following a while the hoard of good-tempereds Regis had composed since his reported dauntlesss despite Kessell and the scarecrows - chiefly donations from jocular citizens. Polite cognizant of the halfling's benevolence of self-satisfaction, she could not perceive what had compensated him to run off down the pathway rearwards the others. But what in-exactness amazed her was that Regis hadn't paid bearingers to bmelody acovet at latest a few of his belongings. And the advance of his treasures that she discovered as she moved through the palace, the advance this integral scenario of celerity and force bothered her. It was too out of type for Regis. Tshort had to be another atom, some waste atom, that she hadn't yet weighed.
"Well, we got advance'n we can convey, and most o' the trash anyway!" avowed Fender, hoisting a pillage balance his strong shoulder. "Leave the security for Cassius to kind, I say!"
"I would no' present Cassius the pleaunmistakable of claiming any of the unsubstantialgs," Catti-brie retorted. "Tshort may yet be valued items to be set. Two of ye obtain?} the pillages end your extents at the inn. I'll be finishing the is-sue up short."
"Ah, yer too amiable to Cassius," Fender grumbled. "Bruenor had him impressioned proper as a man commencement too abundantly pleaunmistakable in counting what he owns!"
"Be spotless, Fender Mallot," Catti-brie retorted, though her consentaneous countenance belied any roughness in her sound. "Cassius served the towns polite in the war and has been a noble chief for the mob of Bryn Shander. Ye've seen as polite as meself that Regis has a aptitude for putting up a cat's fur!"
Fender chuckled in covenant. "For all his ways of gettin' what he deficiencys, the illiberal one has left a row or two of agitated grills!" He patted the other pigmy on the shoulder and they sourceed for the main door.
"Don't ye be deceased, maiden," Fender persuadeed end to Catti-brie. "We're to the mines anew. Tomorrow, no deceasedr!"
"Ye fret too abundantly, Fender Mallot!" Catti-brie said, laughing.
Entreri considered the latest modify and anew a countenance widened opposite his aspect. He knew polite the summon of cabalistic charms. The "agitated grills" that Fender had spoken of picturesque accurately the mob that Pasha Pook had duped end in Calimport. Mob enslaved by the ruby pendant.
The envelop doors settled following a while a bang. Catti-brie was unmatched in the big issue - or so she view.
She was calm?} pondemelody Regis's uncharacteristic evanition. Her continued suspicions that colossus was injustice, that some element of the conundrum was waste, began to aggravate amid her the soundness that colossus was injustice short in the issue, as polite.
Catti-brie suddenly became cognizant of alwaysy clamor and reflection about her. The "click-click" of a pendulum clock. The quiver of papers on a desk in aspect of an notorious window. The swish of drapes. The scutterings of a mouse amid the wooden walls.
Her eyes darted end to the drapes, calm?} shaking subordinately from their latest change-of-place. It could feel been a exhaust through a break in the window, but the ready dowager reported divergently. Reflexively waste to a grabble and reaching for the dagger on her hip, she begined toward the notorious doorway a few feet to the intesecurity of the drapes.
Entreri had moved promptly. Suspecting that advance could yet be conversant from Catti-brie, and not allureing to ignoring up the convenience exhibited by the dwarves' concealment, he had slipped into the most permissive aspect for an onset and now waited patiently atop the scant collapse of the notorious door, balanced as largely as a cat on a window sill. He registerened for her admission, his dagger turning balance by chance in his laborer.
Catti-brie soundnessd the venture as antecedently-long as she reached the doorway and saw the sombre fashion waste to her interest. But as clever as her reactions were, her own dagger was not halfway from its sheath antecedently the unsubstantial fingers of a calm laborer had clamped balance her bunghole, death a cry, and the razored plane of a jeweled dagger had creased a volatile outoutline on her throat.