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Blade in the Dark

Patrick McDonald
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The forest of Cormanthor was host to many different and often dangerous creatures. Theris did not know that the drow inhabited the haunted wood as well.

He almost didn't see it coming. The glint of a drawn weapon, however, alerted him to the danger he and his party were in. He immediately turned to his allies, Zartek and Djarunen, and cocked his head to his left where he saw the approaching encounter. The others nodded their heads and they readied for a fight.

"They're more than likely just bandits," Theris whispered. Many bandits, despite the dangers of the Cormanthor forest, still plagued the Moonsea Ride. Theris knew, however, that once they reached the Standing Stone and beyond, they would be safe from any ambushes. Unfortunately, bandits weren't going to be their only problem.

Theris drew out his two blades, a long and short sword, and held them at the ready. He could see the bandits quite clearly, now. His eyes grew wide as he suddenly realized what they were facing. They appeared to be elves, but they were ebony-skinned and their hair was a ghostly white. The young warrior immediately knew the real threat as the drow, a nefarious underground race of evil elves that made frequent raids against the surface dwellers.

"Be on your guard," Theris quietly alerted his companions, "we're facing dark-elves this day." It then hit him. The drow hated the light. Why would they be out in the middle of the day? They were creatures of the Underdark; a place that knows no light. He only heard of them raiding at night.

A sudden shot from a crossbow bolt flew past Theris' face ending his puzzlement for the time being. "They're upon us!" He cried. He spotted the drow with the crossbow and charged.

Another drow wielding two scimitars jumped out from hiding and set against the warrior's charge with his deadly blades. Theris was a very good swordsman back home in Phlan and batted down both scimitar blades with his own long sword and nicked the drow's arm with the other. The young warrior looked for the crossbowman but he was standing in the middle of a green mist that seemed to be choking the life out of him. Obviously the drow wasn't too aware of Zartek, Theris' wizard friend. Almost catching Theris by surprise, the blades of the drow swordsman met Theris' for the second time. Theris easily parried a downward thrust but barely moved his head back to dodge an upward slash from the drow's other blade.

Theris slashed downward with his longsword and cut a huge gash in the drow's sword arm.

The dark elf dropped his blade and just got his other blade up in time to parry a deadly thrust from Theris' short sword. He then jumped backwards and pointed a finger at Theris. Suddenly, a large globe of pure darkness surrounded the warrior.

Theris could not see a thing. It seemed the lights in the entire world had all gone out around him. He couldn't even see the scimitar blade that stabbed through his leg. He cried out in pain and fell to the ground. The same blade came up to his throat and he could feel it draw a small line of blood. He closed his eyes and awaited the same fate his father suffered so many years ago...

It all flashed by in an instant. He remembered the caravan traveling through the forest, his father smiling all the way through the trip despite the obvious dangers of the abandoned elven forest. Young Theris, still a wide-eyed child with raven black hair and deep brown eyes, was quite scared because of all the horror stories he had heard from his friends. It was his father's smile that made the trip a little easier. Theris' father, Pernin Theodris, insisted that his son face his fears so that he would know how to overcome them when he became an adult.

Then it happened. Soon after the sun set, Theris heard a noise in the deep forest not more than thirty feet from him and apparently so did his father. The rest of the caravan guard was caught unaware and did not see their fate coming as a barrage of bolts flew in from the trees. More than half of the guard were cut down where they stood. The rest were hard pressed to come up with a defense. With his father's help, they managed to hold off the drow for a short time. The merciless drow eventually broke the defense. Pernin, in desperation, ordered his trusted friend, a warrior monk of Tyr named Aldnon and father of Djarunen, to take Theris back North to Hillsfar and then back to Phlan as quickly as he could. The monk picked up the very resistant Theris and ran like the wind back to Hillsfar. Theris watched as he saw his father cut down by several drow and then butchered where he lay.

Theris winced at the thought of that day and he now was suffering the same fate his father did. He braced for the killing blow.

But then he heard a snap, as if a small tree branch broke in half, and a body fell on top of him. He easily threw it off himself and rolled out of the globe of darkness into the light of day again. He stood up, his blades still in front of him and saw Djarunen, his lifelong monk friend, standing in front of the globe. He looked at Theris and smiled, "Good timing?"

"Indeed," Theris laughed but cursed his own stupidity when a bolt stabbed through his already wounded leg. He collapsed to the ground again. This time the wound burned. He could feel his eyelids drooping down and then he saw only darkness.


* * * * *

Djarunen noticed the drow wielding the crossbow had somehow got out of the mist and took advantage of Theris with his back turned.

The monk charged toward the drow but not before he could fire another bolt from his crossbow. The bolt would have hit him right in the heart, but the monk easily caught the deadly missile before it could hit home. He snapped the bolt in half and easily caught the now fleeing dark-elf.

The drow saw stars as Djarunen planted a deadly fist in his face. The dark-elf could feel the blood gush out of his broken nose before darkness overcame him.

The monk looked around for Zartek, and found the wizard barely holding off another swordsman. The monk charged to help his friend but his eyes spotted something else. Another figure stood in the shadows and he noticed a ball of white string fly toward him. He tried to bat it away but that proved to be a mistake. The ball of string immediately exploded and Djarunen found himself stuck inside a mass network of webbing. He tried to break free, but his strength couldn't get him out of the sticky trap. "Great," Djarunen grumbled, "they have a wizard, too."

The figure in the shadows began to wave its arms again. Djarunen looked toward his wizard friend. Zartek was in dire need of help, but with Djarunen stuck in the webbing and Theris out for the count, things were looking grim for the young wizard.


* * * * *


The elf wizard, Zartek, didn't like the position he was in. He knew an enemy spellcaster was behind him. He was able to focus his energy on countering the opposing wizard, but now that another drow swordsman was on him, he didn't know what to do.

He looked to his left to check on his friends and felt his heart sink down to his knees. Theris was lying on the ground, still as a rock, and Djarunen was struggling inside a mass of webs. No doubt the enemy wizard took advantage of his inability to cast spells for the moment.

The drow swordsman in front of him took a deadly swipe with his bastard sword at Zartek's knees. Apparently the confident dark-elf didn't think his wizard opponent knew how to counter such wild swings.

The desperate wizard, seeing an opportunity, lunged forward and jumped over the low swipe. He tackled his opponent and barely dodged a summoned acid arrow as it sailed just over his head. He could hear the dark-elf wizard cursing to herself. Zartek couldn't help but crack a smile.

Zartek, always the dirty fighter, spit in the prone drow's eyes. The drow warrior, now blind, tried futilely to stab the wizard but missed completely. The desperate wizard answered with a stab into the drow's throat, ending his life quickly.

Zartek whirled around to see a huge ball of flame coming his way and fell to the ground again. The ball blasted into a raging inferno over his head. The heat was tremendous but the wizard found himself lucky that he could still live and breathe.

Once the flame dissipated, the wizard ran to his trapped friend in the webbing and quickly cut him free. With Djarunen free, Zartek knew, it would be much harder for the wizard to hold both of them off. The elven wizard of Phlan marveled at his own handiwork.


* * * * *


The situation was dire. If Nyisa didn't run now she would die with the rest of her party and she wouldn't be able to accomplish her mission in Ahabenford. She thought the bumbling group of surface dwellers would be easy kills and easy food for the dagger. She was sorely mistaken.

She cursed at herself. Why did she ask to do this? The surface dwellers were becoming more and more aware of the drow inhabiting the Forest of Cormanthor and now the filthy elf and his human friends would know of her ilk's presence firsthand. Despite the dagger's need for blood and life energy, she turned and ran. Perhaps she could find a more helpless target in the future.

Jezz would have her head for this. She just knew it.


* * * * *


"Oh, she's running away!" Zartek cried, very disappointed that he couldn't enact his own justice.

"Something's wrong," Djarunen whispered. He turned toward the wizard, "I'm going after her."

Zartek gave Djarunen a queer look and scanned into the thick forest. "Well, you won't be able to catch her now! She's probably already grabbed reinforcements. We should just get out of here!" Zartek turned back around to see the monk gone. The wizard merely shook his head, "I save him, but does he listen? No, sir!"

Zartek went to go make sure Theris was okay, who was groaning at the moment, when he heard the scream of a female in the distance. In merely a few seconds, Djarunen was back with the drow wizard held in his grasp. She was struggling with all her might to get out, but it would be all in vain against Djarunen's strength.

Eventually, the female drow realized she couldn't get out of her predicament and the monk eased her to the ground. Zartek immediately tied her with rope and took away all items and containers she possessed except for the dagger she had hidden in a small pouch, which she crafted herself through magical means to blend in with her robe.

"What do you want with me? Why haven't you killed me?" The drow wizard asked. Though it was plainly obvious to the two conscious companions she didn't really want to die.

"We have a couple of questions to ask you," Djarunen answered calmly. It annoyed Zartek to no end how the monk could be so collective and controlled everyday and every moment of his life. It bothered the wizard to no end.

"First off," Zartek barked, "What's your name?" The wizard didn't really know what to ask because the monk was the only one who seemed to think there was more going on than just a simple ambush.

The wizard simply glared at the wizard.

And then complete silence.

"Is this what you caught me for? To get my name?" The drow woman asked acidly.

"Hold your tongue, drow!" Zartek fired back. He specifically accentuated drow with much disdain.

Djarunen gave Zartek a troubled look and the wizard shot a glance back at the monk. Eventually Zartek just grumbled and went to aid his other companion who was awake but groggy.

Djarunen looked at Theris and saw the wound on his leg as well as the bolt still stuck to it. "What was on the bolt?" He asked the drow.

"Standard poison we use on all our bolts," the drow wizard spat back haughtily, "it simply puts you to sleep, nothing more. Tell me what you plan to do with me and get it over with!" The evil wizard's blue orbs narrowed piercing the monk with an angry chill.

"You are a denizen of the Underdark, correct?" The monk asked. This was his biggest puzzlement considering it was the middle of the afternoon.

Nyisa cackled knowingly, "So, that's why you stopped me? You must not be from around here!" The wizard stood up and spat on the ground at Djarunen's feet. "If you think we are the same underground, spider worshiping, dark-elves of the Underdark, you are sorely mistaken, Iblith!"

Djarunen shuddered at the word. Iblith was a hateful expression used by the drow for the humans.

"I spit on the drow of the Underdark and the Spider Queen they worship!" Again, Nyisa spat on the ground, but this time her spittle splashed on the monk's feet instead. It took much for Djarunen to keep his anger from boiling forth.

"Then whom do you serve?" The monk asked through gritting teeth. He doubted she would mention anyone or any god that would be much better than Lolth, but, in truth, anything WAS better than Lolth.

"That is none of your concern!" Nyisa replied angrily.

Djarunen forced her down into the ground and grimly asked, "You do realize how much you are treading on thin ice, don't you?" His eyes narrowed; the most emotion Djarunen ever showed when he was angry.

Nyisa still glared at the monk, but after a short pause she said quietly, "All I can tell you is he works in the shadows."

"Why were you out in the middle of the day? If you say you work in the shadows..." Djarunen began.

"You think you know all about us, don't you?" Nyisa's scowl turned into an evil smile but she still held her vengeful gaze on the monk, "You have no idea what the drow are capable of, short-lived one."

Djarunen was truly perplexed. He had no idea what was transpiring here, but he knew that whatever it was, threatened the Dalelands considerably. He did his best to hold back his urge to snap the egotistical wench's neck but held back. No honor in killing helpless opponents.

Nearby, the monk noticed Theris finally rise to his feet. He swayed a bit, but finally gathered his bearings. His leg wound looked rather serious, though, and the monk surmised that the young warrior would need a cleric very soon.

"I'm going to let you go," Djarunen announced. He heard a gasp come from his friends and then Zartek whimpered about giving the dark-elf her medicine. Theris seemed completely outraged even in his drugged state but kept quiet.

"But be warned," the monk continued, "If you try anything, I, nor my friends, won't hesitate to kill you." The monk kept a calm demeanor the entire time. In truth, he was very tense about the whole situation. However, his teachings and beliefs helped him to overcome those unnecessary emotions, or at least hide them.

The monk bent over to untie the woman. Once her hands were free she hunched over on all fours and looked up at the monk, "You are most generous, dear human," she said sarcastically. At the same time she said this, she crept her hand over to her pouch to grab her weapon so cleverly hidden inside her pouch.

Zartek and Theris did not notice the subtle movement, but the monk's keen eyes spotted it just as the drow quickly drew it out and stabbed forward.

Had Djarunen not noticed it he would have been gutted right where he stood, but just as quickly as she thrust forward, he simply stepped aside, grabbed her weapon arm and with blinding speed, smashed his palm up into her nose. The other two friends heard a resounding crack and she was out instantly, her nose crushed into her face.

The monk sat down to check if she was breathing.

She wasn't.

Djarunen sighed, upset that he had to end the life of yet another living being. He looked over to where the globe of darkness used to be that almost killed Theris and saw that the drow swordsman wasn't moving either. He knew the crossbowman and the warrior Zartek fought were dead beyond a doubt. This saddened the monk greatly.

Theris limped over to the monk and put a reassuring hand on his lifelong friend's shoulder, "Look at it this way," the warrior explained, "they didn't think twice about wanting to kill us."

Theris was right, Djarunen knew. The drow party was there to kill all three of them regardless of the reasons. It was more than likely for their own pleasure, but the monk still thought there was more to the whole encounter. The band of drow were out to accomplish a task of some magnitude or at least that's what his gut was telling him.

Theris continued, "Once again, dear brother, you have saved my life."

The two gave each other a warm look and then the warrior set off on searching the bodies along with his wizard friend.

Before Djarunen could contemplate more, he noticed Zartek holding the dagger Nyisa used. The elf seemed absolutely mesmerized with the thing. That was Zartek, though. He was always getting his hands on the loot before everyone else.

It was very strange how they met Zartek. Theris had found Zartek left for dead on a road nearby Phlan. Zartek lived with his elven brethren in the the Quivering Forest. Their village was very small but they made frequent trips to Phlan to sell their herbal medicines or magical goods. On one of those trips, Zartek was with his family and some other merchants when they were ambushed by bandits more than likely hired on by the Zhentarim to hinder Phlan's trading empire. Theris was with the search party looking for that caravan and, unfortunately, Zartek was the only survivor. The elf, for the longest time, boasted his praise to Theris for finding him at the right time. He became quite an annoyance, at first, to the impatient warrior but Theris eventually warmed up to the wily elf. Since then, he had been a very valuable friend and ally during their travels. His dripping sarcasm always seemed to annoy even the calm monk, though, and Djarunen sometimes had to hold back a barrage of insults.

Djarunen finally let out a small chuckle and decided to keep watch for other dangers while the others got their hands dirty.


* * * * *


The small dagger was absolutely beautiful to Zartek. The way the design of the black roses flowed around the flat part of the blade. The handle was made of an almost opal type of gemstone that seemed to absorb the light around it. He almost became hypnotized by the thing. He could feel his hand tingling just from the mere touch of the blade. It was certainly magical in some nature, though Zartek could not discern what enchantments were bestowed on it. It seemed to be quite the well made dagger.

The wizard of Mystra would have stared at it all day had his trance not been broken by Theris slapping him on the back abruptly.

"The drow certainly like to carry their wealth with them!" Theris exclaimed.

"That's wonderful, Theris," Zartek said dryly, "but did you not notice me studying this?" The wizard held up the blade to Theris.

Theris wrinkled his nose in contempt and snorted, "Bah! It's just a small wizard's dagger! They are only used as last resorts by those in your profession."

Theris' eyes lit up again, "You wouldn't believe how much I found!" The warrior was almost about to explode.

Zartek rolled his eyes, "Fine!" He relented, "Just tell me and then leave me to my business."

"Five-hundred gold and thirty silver!" Theris proclaimed, "We should hunt drow more often!" Theris grabbed the large sack he was carrying around and opened it to reveal the vast wealth inside. He didn't exaggerate his findings one bit.

Zartek became very excited at first. Why, with that kind of money he could buy a new robe! The one he was wearing had become badly damaged during the fight, especially after Nyisa had shot that fireball at him. Several burn marks adorned his now tattered looking robe. Perhaps he could even get a robe imbued with a minor enchantment or two? He almost became lost in these thoughts before he finally realized one important thing about currency.

"The money wouldn't do us any good," Zartek said with a groan, "I am quite sure they don't accept drow currency in the Dales."

"But it is Dalelands currency," Theris noted.

Sure enough, as Zartek picked up one of the gold coins he noticed it had a symbol of a crescent moon: The sign of Elminster, the Sage of Shadowdale. Shadowdale was very proud to issue this type of coinage. Everyone, even the drow or the evil Zhents, knew about Elminster. If someone asked who Elminster was they were a damn fool for asking.

"By Mystra's good grace...we're rich!" Zartek exclaimed.

"Djarunen, come take a look at this!" Theris yelled to monk.

"Look at this, Dalelands gold pieces," Theris said once Djarunen walked back to the greedy pair. Theris was already starting to divide the wealth amongst the three. Zartek immediately intervened and started jabbering on about how he saved the day and should get a majority of the share. All this time, the monk stared hard at the gold and then at the dead drow bodies.

"Hold on a minute," The monk said, breaking the argument between the two. "Why would the drow have Dalelands currency? What need do they have for it in the forest?"

The monk's question left the other two adventurers dumbfounded. It seemed he had ruined their fun.

Zartek sighed in resignation, "Once again, the monk ruins the happiness of a big break." The wizard plopped his butt on the ground and put his head into his arms which were propped up by his knees.

"We should really think about this for a second," Djarunen insisted. It was all very puzzling to the monk. Why would the drow have Dalelands currency? Unless they were going to use it in one of the towns, they really had no use for it. Djarunen scratched his chin in thought. Something strange was going on.

"Look, they probably found it off a poor traveling merchant anyway," Theris pointed out, "We should probably bring this back to Ashabenford and find out about any missing merchant's families and just give the money back."

Djarunen nodded in agreement. It was more than likely stolen off a hapless merchant.

"But what would the Drow want with the merchant's riches?" The monk queried the warrior. "They, in all actuality, have no use for our money. They usually only kill for the joy of it."

Theris thought on the monk's words for a second and grumbled to himself, a sign that he agreed with the monk's reasoning. He then took a seat next to the moping wizard.

"Do you think they were actually going to use this money?" Djarunen asked.

Both the warrior's and the wizard's faces looked up at the monk in complete puzzlement. Zartek eyed the monk curiously

"So you think they're just going to waltz right into, lets say, Ashabenford?" Zartek laughed at the very absurd thought. "The council wouldn't hesistate to ready the gallows, if not just outright kill them where they stood!" The wizard shook his head. Zartek was always a little rash in his thinking.

"But they had a wizard," Djarunen added.

Zartek pondered the monk's reasoning for a few moments then nodded his head in realization. Djarunen raised a good point. Even Zartek knew how to cast polymorph spells, which could change a person or thing into whatever the wizard desired, depending on the potency of the spell. There were even some minor spells that could do the same thing to a lesser extent.

The group of adventurers immediately went onward to Ashabenford. It would be there that they would get their answers.


* * * * *


The entity that was the dagger probed into it's new wielder's thoughts. While the dagger could tell that the one who possessed him was powerful to some degree, it knew that its host would not be the perfect host for it to complete its mission. It had to find the one the other drow were talking about, Gouki. It would be him that would carry out the mission. The dagger decided that masking its own power would have to suffice until it found Gouki. While the recent turn of events put a hindrance on its plans it would not be long before it could carry on its mission.

"Gouki will be found," the dagger thought to itself, "and then Vhaeraun would reign supreme."


Blade in the Dark © Patrick McDonald

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