(1426 DR) The Year of the Blasphemous Tale.
Gromph Baenre, archimage of Menzoberranzan, was being lead by a mercenary through several passages inside one of Bregan D'aerthe's several bases. The powerful archmage had urgent business to discuss with their leader, the both famous and infamous, Jarlaxle.
Once they arrived at the leader's office, the low ranking mercenary invited the important guest to enter. Gromph did so without offering a world of thanks. Inside the room, he noted that Jarlaxle was already waiting for him, with his characteristic hat held in front of his head, covering his face. The archmage rolled his eyes in sign of annoyance and sighed.
"Would you like to guess on which eye I have the eye-patch today or are you going to get angry?" The drow asked.
"Left," answered Gromph, hoping to end quickly Jarlaxle's game.
"Don´t underestimate me. I suggest you think very carefully."
"Left," the archmage repeated.
The mercenary chuckled behind his hat, "this might come as a surprise to you, but today I'm not wearing the eye-patch," Jarlaxle put on the hat over his head, revealing that neither eye had the patch, and then drawing it from one of his pockets.
"Congratulations," lied Gromph, "now let´s get to business. Where in the nine hells have you been? I've been looking for you the past three days."
"I went to the fourth hell," Jarlaxle tipped his hat, "an interesting adventure happened there I assure you."
"I'm not in the mood for excuses."
"Ah! But I have reasonably good excuses for my absence, being the leader of the greatest band of mercenaries in Menzoberranzan is no easy task. But enough of that for now, tell me to what do I owe the honor of your visit, if I recall right you are not the type for home visits."
"I need your help." the archmage began.
"Ask and you shall receive," said Jarlaxle with a smile, prompting the archmage to continue and leaning over his desk.
Ignoring the comment Gromph continued, "I've discovered House Freth is going to attack House Vandree..."
"Do you have an idea of how many magical items I've got within me?" Interrupted Jarlaxle, his eyes rolling up as if trying to remember.
"Do not interrupt me and I don't care how many you got."
"Well... Dozens!" Jarlaxle concluded. "Someone should give me a medal in prize for the drow with more magical items on his person."
"I'm going to give you a prize in punches if you don't shut up and let me finish."
"It's not neccesary, both the beating and the explanation that is. I know everything about the attack, tomorrow at midday it will begin. It's obvius House Vandree has no chance to defend itself from House Freth because they have lost the favor of Lolth making themselves an easy target. House Vandree knows it is going to be under attack soon, but not from which house, and even less it will be tomorrow."
"I see you are well informed," noted the archmage.
"Such a beautiful compliment." Jarlaxle half-bowed.
"It wasn´t a compliment."
"Oh I bet it wasn´t." A smiling Jarlaxle said while shaking his head.
Gromph closed his eyes a couple of seconds in order to not to lose his patience.
"Whatever. Now, the plan is that you and I are going to infiltrate today into House Freth to sabotage their troops and prevent the assault against House Vandree."
"A simple plan," reasoned the mercenary, "but I have a question I´m interested to know the answer."
"It is not your business to know why I've decided to help House Vandree." Gromph was quick to say.
"No, is not that. Why I, the busy, good-looking and great leader," he emphasized these last couple of words, "of Bregan D'aerthe, have to risk my life to help you in your quest?"
"Because if you don't, I'll send you to the Green Fields, a halfling's heaven, and I assure you by experience you are not going to like it."
"Ah! That makes sense," Jarlaxle took his left hand to his chin. "I thought you were going to offer one of your magical items as payment for my assitance, that ring of regeneration would have been perfect, but I cannot reject your already generous offer," he said sarcastically and then continued in a cordial tone, "now that we understand each other, may I point a few observations to your plan?"
"Be my guest."
"Really? At your house?"
"Stop joking mercenary, my patience runs out easily."
Jarlaxle took a deep breath.
"If everything goes well, as I'm pretty sure it should be, it would be only a matter of time before another house decides to attack House Vandree, and even if we strike the same way you are planning, later, another house would attack, and then another, and then be attacked once again and..."
"Fine! I understand, what do you suggest we do then?"
Jarlaxle stared at Gromph and remained silent for several seconds as if studying him, then with a wave motion of his hands he added, "and another house would attack, and then another, and..."
"Enough Jarlaxle!" Ordered Gromph.
The leader of Bregan D'aerthe knew it was time to stop his jokes, though only for a little bit.
"Instead we infiltrate into the enemy troops and sabotage them, wouldn't be much better and easier if we get inside House Vandree and defend it?"
Gromph began to ponder the idea.
"Let House Freth attack," continued Jarlaxle, "fail miserably, and be an example to all others that House Vandree has an excellent defense and two mysterious heroes of great power. That's how I see it, wheter or not to follow my advice, is for you to decide." Jarlaxle finished the remark by pointing his two index fingers to his guest.
The archmage was truly surprised, in less than ten seconds, Jarlaxle had conceived a better plan than his. It was obvious he had more experience concerning the battles between Houses. Gromph concluded that the best option was to follow the mercenary's idea.
"Alright, we will change my plans for yours. I'll need you to obtain two insignias of House Vandree, because even I cannot make an exact replica, and we are going to need them for the disguises."
"That my friend is already arranged," said Jarlaxle, his tone showed pride.
"How did you get them?"
"Easilly. Some of it's soldiers already deserted and joined our family."
"You can't blame them, when our race sees their house lost, males usually choose to do this. I assure you that if one day House Baenre is about to be destroyed, we will gladly open our doors to you too."
"If one day House Baenre is about to be destroyed, it would be because I am the one causing it."
Jarlaxle laughed at the remark.
After a short pause, Gromph had an idea. He had already planned to disguise him and Jarlaxle magically taking a random drow identity. But if some soldiers deserted recently and they were careful to leave unnoticed, they could take their identities and go to House Vandree and invent an excuse about why they were outside.
"And those soldiers, how long has been since they deserted?" The archmage asked.
"Just a few hours ago."
"Good, perhaps Matron Troken'ther hasn't realized it yet."
"Maybe, let me check," Jarlaxle drew a wand and activated it, he remained silent for almost a minute and then said, "indeed, she doesn't suspect anything yet."
"How do you know that?"
"I shouldn´t be telling you this, but I have spies inside each house. I have contacted... him, the one who precisely convinced these soldiers to join us , and he has confirmed that neither mother nor daughter are aware of the situation."
"One spy on each house? Do you have one inside House Baenre too?"
"Flip a coin and take a guess. Odds are in my favour, though."
Gromph decided not to show importance, and did proceed to explain the plan he had just compiled.
"I don't think you'd like to take their identity," this time Jarlaxle said in all seriousness.
"Because the deserters were the 'Chefins' ."
Gromph's face revealed disgust, along with dissapointment. The Chefins are the sons of a long generation of a couple of drow and half-drow. Even though the following generations blended with pure drows, their sons still showed one or two traces of their human heritage. The two brothers, a warrior and a mage, "The Chefins" -as they were nicknamed- were well known because one of them had a white long mustache, the other, a well grown beard. In addition they both presented plenty of hair on their chests -white of course- which sometimes sticked out from their armor or robe.
Gromph was still thinking hard when Jarlaxle came from behind him saying, "See? Unless you don't mind having hair on those and perhaps other parts of the body that I don't want to mention, you can forget the idea."
Those "other parts" made the archmage wonder even more, but after a while he took a decision.
"I made a promise and I'll keep it, this might be the only chance we've got, so we will have to leave behind our pride and disguise us as the Chefins."
"Correction my friend, you will have to leave behind your pride, not me. I'd not feel discomfort at all, let me remind you that I spent quite a while on the surface and I got used to see a lot of people like that."
"Well, I'll be the older then," concluded Gromph, "because he is a wizard."
"And I'll be the cunning warrior, the younger," declared Jarlaxle while tracing imaginary figures in the air with his fingers.
"He is not cunning, neither is the other. They are the mockery of all others."
"True, but tomorrow they will realize how powerful they really are. Enemies and allies alike will be overwhelmed in awe at our display of tenacity and skill."
Gromph shook his head. Perhaps he could get help from someone else, but none other was more effective than Jarlaxle, and he did not want mistakes in the plan. He had to be patient with Jarlaxle´s behaviour.
"I have to wonder," suddenly commented the mercenary, "what favor Sosdrielle did to you to make you want to defend her house."
"I told you it was not your business Jarlaxle," Gromph scowled at him.
"Come on, it's no secret that you and her... well you know, the two of you in the bed..." the mercenary grinned.
"Knock it off..." Gromph warned.
"And then you had the audacity to kill her, do you know how humans call that?"
"Keep talking and I'm going to make sure everyone knows who you are, brother, and why you are on your feet, when you were the third son of Matron Yvvonel..."
"Ssshhh!" Immediately Jarlaxle silenced him. "Be quiet, there are ears all around here."
"Then shut up you too and let's continue with the plan."
Jarlaxle couldn't help but smile. Afterwards he called one of his mercenaries, who appeared from a hidden passage.
"You called Jarlaxle? Oh, greetings archmage" signaled the drow who only 'spoke' in the silent hand code of the drows.
"Jarin, I need you to bring the Chefins to my office, tell them to bring all their belongings; insignias, weapons, clothes, armor, piwafwies. Everything."
"Even the underwear?" Jarin wasn't sure why he asked that, but it was too late to take it back.
Jarlaxle looked from Jarin to Gromph, snickered, and then at Jarin again.
"Yes, especially the damn underwear."
"At once," signaled the drow while leaving the room in a hurry.
Gromph was about to make a comment, but prefered to remain silent.
While the Chefins were gathered, Gromph asked a question. "Why they don't just remove their hair?" To which Jarlaxle answered, "they used to do that, but one of the many punishments granted by Matron Troken'ther was a curse that makes their hair grow as soon as it's shaved, burned or whatever other means they try."
The talking continued until the Chefins arrived. Jarlaxle explained them their plan, they, of course, had no choice but to accept.
"If we want this to work, we must return as soon as posible to House Vandree, before they start to miss the Chefins," Jarlaxle warned.
"Certainly, I'll do the changes now."
Gromph took his time to change magically his and Jarlaxle's appearance to those of the Chefins. After that, they put on their clothes and equipment, except the underwear of course, because Gromph didn't want it.
"Come on archmage, a disguise is not complete without the damn underwear," the leader mercenary stated. Gromph's answer was short and to the point, "NO!" That had Jarlaxle laughing again.
After tha,t Jarlaxle studied the barely magical sword of the chefin that now he was forced to carry as his own. "Ah look at this!" Jarlaxle said to Gromph, "I have the feelings this sword conceals hidden power."
Gromph knew it was another joke from the mercenary and paid him no atention.
"This might be the legendary Stormbringer king Elric wielded in ancient times..."
"Shut up, and hurry!"
Jarlaxle only smiled.
They only keept a few magical items of their own as per Gromph´s order, because it would be very suspicious to see the Chefins with items that were hard to get in the Underdark, aside from too powerful for low-ranking drows..
"Can I take the eye-patch with me?" asked Jarlaxle, "I feel er... hum... ah... naked without it."
"What would you answer, when they ask how you got it?"
"Well, I would respond that I met the good-looking leader of Bregan D'aerthe, and that he gave it to me because he liked me."
"Yeah right. Now let's go, there is much to be done."
Jarlaxle did hide his patch in one of his pockets, and both drows went to House Vandree in their newly and furry appearances. During the travel, they were insulted and mocked by other drows who passed near them.
"This is irritating," complained Gromph.
"Don't you know? It's the drow's nature to tease and abuse on the weak, and enjoy it!" Jarlaxle said. "Ah, but those words are scant confort when you are on the wrong end of them, aren't they?
The archmage didn't have time to respond, because at that moment another drow, this time a low ranking soldier from a lesser house, insulted them in the worst way a drow could do to another.
"Your mother!..." Answered Jarlaxle along with a gesture of his middle finger that Gromph did not understand."Where did you learn that kind of remark?" The archmage asked.
"Oh! You learn a thing or two when you live around humans, believe me, they are professionals when it comes to insults and jokes, I still remember the first time one of them asked me to pull his finger. I was struck in awe for several minutes, it was so hilarious, I couldn´t help but to applaud."
"Why? What happened when you pulled his finger?"
"No my friend, I won't spoil the surprise. That is one of those things you have to experience by yourself."
Gromph did not know why he had to ask and made a dismissive wave with the hand.
"By the way, there's something bothering me," the mercenary went on.
"Yes, this hair chest is annoying and causes itch" said Gromph scratching his chest.
"No, is not that. The chefins were able to leave unnoticed, but at this point I doubt we can make it back the same way, what excuse are we going to say once we arrive at House Vandree? They will want to know the reason we misteriously leave."
"Don't worry, I have it foreseen, we will say we went to talk with Bregan D'aerthe to find out which house plans to attack us. You just leave the talking to me."
"As you wish, Chefin."
Gromph stared at Jarlaxle.
"We should get used to our nicknames, right?
"Just don't get used to it more than you have to."
Jarlaxle knew that advice was given to preserve his own safety.
"Changing this interesting topic for another no less important, it's well known that House Barrison del'Armgo has desired for many years the Vandree compound since it´s bigger than their own. Things would get ugly even for us if they form some sorth of alliance with House Freth." Jarlaxle put in.
"I know, but I already took care that House del'Armgo stays out of this."
"Did you convince Matron Quenthel to warn them that if they get involved in the war, so will House Baenre?"
"No, I would never ask anything to Quenthel. Let's just say that I went to talk with Matron Mez'Barris, and gave her my 'cold stare' ."
"Your 'cold stare'? Do you think that is enough to intimidate her?"
"It would intimidate me... and it would intimidate you too."
Jarlaxle laughed hard and said, "that's not true."
Gromph stared coldly at Jarlaxle. The mercenary set his mind on trying to hold the stare but only lasted a couple of seconds.
"Fine, fine. I give up." Jarlaxle said, turning his head and raising both hands in defense. "Yes, that cold stare combos really well with your new beard, your intimidation has raised to a whole new level. You should go and do that again to her, just to make sure ."
Gromph didn't take that as a compliment, and that made Jarlaxle grin.
They continued advancing until finally the new Chefins arrived at House Vandree, which of course was closed. They levitated to the nearest balcony, but just before they landed, dozens of crossbows were aimed at them.
"I love when they welcome you with open arms. Do you think they will offer us tea of our choice?." Whispered Jarlaxle.
Gromph, of course, ignored him.
A big and strong drow covered in an ornated chain mail and with an enormous two-handed axe that could easily cut in half a hook horror, walked toward them, his expression revealed anger.
"Imbecile Chefins! You know it's forbidden to leave the house in these times of... times of reflection." He said those last words looking from one side to another, just in case someone outside "the family" might be listening.
"It's good to be back at home again..." started to say Jarlaxle, but a poke granted by the archmage stopped him short.
"We are sorry weapons master," apologized Gromph. "It was not our intention to disobey orders."
"You damn well better be," Hazendazar accused boldly, "because I just told Matron Troken'ther of your sudden disappearance, and I bet she would like to see you now."
Gromph and Jarlaxle were taken to the throne room, where Matron Troken'ther and her daughter Demona were waiting in no good mood.
The three males bowed down and stood before her.
"Here are the two missing drows, Matron Mother," said the weapons master Hazendazar Vandree.
"Chefins..." The matron said almost spiting the nickname and with disdain. She glared at them, one at a time with all the malice she could muster, "I clearly ordered that no one, and that includes thrash like you, has to leave my house because of the current crisis, yet you have disobeyed me. Do you have an idea of what I'm going to do with you?"
"We beg your forgiveness Matron Mother," implored Gromph bowing again, "but we couldn't wait with our arms crossed and decided to investigate the rumors about the possible attack to our...your house."
Jarlaxle who was about to cross his arms, uncrossed them quickly.
The Matron Mother, spotting this, stared at the mustached-drow and asked him, "oh really? And what did you find out then? Oh and you'd better not lie to me or the consequences will go far beyond any bearable suffering."
Jarlaxle gulped and thought very carefully what he was about to say. "Well, we... talked with the handsome mercenary Jarlaxle from Bregan D'aerthe."
Gromph closed his eyes and cursed mentally.
"Handsome?" intervined Demona.
"Indeed. We found that House Freth plans to attack us soon, we have less than day to prepare a proper welcome to our invaders."
The Matron Mother, who was about to make a comment about the word 'handsome', remained silent after hearing this revelation, a moment later she addresed Gromph. "Is that true?"
"Yes Matron Mother, what my brother here stated is the truth, we should... you should organize the defenses for the upcoming invasion.
"Those bastards from House Freth, they think it is going to be easy to destroy my house. I'll finish them off and then use Matron Freth and her filthy daughters as sacrifices to restore the favor of our goddess Lolth!" exclaimed the Matron standing up, inspired by her own words.
"Shouldn't we ask for help from House Baenre? After all, we are supposed to be allies, aren't we?" suggested Demona.
"No," answered Matron Troken'ther. "When a house loses the favor of Lolth, they will not receive any kind of help from other houses, allies or not. It's up to us to take care of this problem, and we definitely will! Demona organize our priestess, I want them all here immediately."
"Yes Matron Mother," Demona left the room, not without a last glance to the Chefins, especially at Gromph.
"Weapons master, prepare the soldiers and slaves, childreen and commoners alike, for all of them will have to fight."
"At once matron mother," said Hazendazar bowing low and making a signal to the Chefins to follow him.
Just before they were about to leave the throne room, the matron called them, "Chefins."
"Yes Matron Mother?" Both Gromph and Jarlaxle asked.
"You did a good job, if everything goes well I'll remove that curse of you hair," she said calmly.
"Thank you Matron Mother, your generosity is comparable only with your beauty," Jarlaxle accompanied the compliment with another bow.
"But if you ever disobey me again, I'll hang your furry heads on top of Narbondel! Now get out of my sight!"
The drows did compel the order immediately.
During the following hours, House Vandree organized it´s defenses, the slave creatures, mostly orcs, would be in the first line as a retaining wall. Behind them, 150 soldiers of the house lead by Hazendazar. In the left tower the few wizards would support with their spells, whereas in the right, the commoners and children, armed with crossbows, would try to stop any aerial attack. The priestess would be in the main central tower using wands and scrolls.
In one moment of loneliness...
"Did you notice how Demona looked at me?" asked Gromph.
"I certainly did, perhaps she was admiring your beard since it looks marvelous on you," replied Jarlaxle.
Gromph ignored the comment and saw that Jarlaxle drew a wand as he stopped laughing.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm giving instructions to Kimmuriel," the mercenary answered.
"I see, you will send troops of Bregan D'aerthe to provide support."
"No, is not that. These are instructions about... certain subjects none of your business, moreover, remember that our deal only includes me and not my band."
The archmage recognized the truth in those words, besides, he and Jarlaxle were enough. He didn't believe House Freth had someone powerful enough to be wary of.
"What can you tell me about the strength of House Freth?"
"With the exception of their numbers which are similar to this house, there is nothing to fear about if the defense stands firm. Perhaps the only threat would be the twins."
"Yes, Honglath and Veldrin, not only they look obviusly alike, but they both use the same weapons, wear the same clothes, same hair style, the Nine Hells! They even have sex with the same female."
"Huh? How do you know that last part?"
It was Jarlaxle's turn to ignore the question and continued. "The situation with the twins is that Honglath, the older, is more focused in the arcane arts, leaving Veldrin the path of the warrior. They always fight together so they correspond each other's weaknesses. Our best advantage is to let them understimate us, being the chefins we are, and then finish them quickly, that is, if we happen to encounter them."
In that very moment, Demona found the pair of drows, and addressed Gromph with an accusing finger, "I want to talk to you, come alone to the third room in the west wing, and you'd better not keep me waiting," she said with an imperious voice. Before Gromph could reply, she turned and left both drows alone.
"What could she want with me?"
Jarlaxle offered a shrug. "Perhaps she saw through your spell, knows your identity, and wants to avenge her sister by killing you," opined the mercenary with a mischievous grin.
Gromph didn't find the commentary funny - not that he found any of the others funny actually. - He clenched his fist and began to slowly raise it, this time Jarlaxle had went too far with his jokes and he would pay for it.
But then the Weapons Master made his apparition.
"What in the Abyss you think you're doing? Return to your post or I'll put you in the first line with the slaves!"
"At your command Weapons Master," said Jarlaxle, happy that the bad humor of Gromph was interrupted.
"And you, what are you wating weakling beard-freak? Return to the left tower with the other next to useless wizards!"
Gromph made a mental note of this, he would show Hazendazar who is the weakling, not today though, for now he was forced to say "Right away."
The archmage already knew House Vandree from tip to toe, so he went right to the room mentioned by the high priestess, ignoring Hazendazar's orders. For a moment he thought about what Jarlaxle said, but then discarted it. It was impossible that she could have seen through his spell, however, he still felt a bit worried.
Gromph reached the room, he rubbed the back of his neck and fidgeted for a few seconds, then slowly knocked the door.
"Get in," the order was heard from inside.
The archmage opened the door and entered. The room was very illuminated with faerie fire, in its center beside a bed was Demona, who hadn't the five-headed whip on her waist, this calmed him considerably.
"Close the door!" Ordered Demona and Gromph obeyed.
"Come!" She commanded next. The archmage advanced only one step toward her.
"Close to me you piece of..." Demona felt her temper rise, but took a deep breath to calm down. "Come here, at my side."
Gromph's worry did return, however he was not going to show it. Gromph pretended to be a bit scared and curious, then he neared her.
"W-what can I do for you, high priestess?" he asked, followed by a slight bow not daring to look at her eyes.
She didn't answer and her hands looked for his beard. They found it fast.
The archmage, while amazed by this act, managed to restrain the desire of slapping her hands off.
"Look at me!" As always, she ordered.
It was then that Gromph could contemplate the beautiful female drow in front of him, she was almost as beautiful as her sister Sosdrielle, long well-groomed hair, her lips thin but sensual, her skin enlighted by the brightness of the faerie fire, and when Gromph discreetly looked down, he saw that pair of firm well-rounded breasts. "I wonder if down there..." a fast thought crossed Gromph's mind, but quickly regained his composure. Demona in turn, pulled gently the hair of his beard. "Stupid beard," thought Gromph, though he couldn't deny that the sensation felt somewhat interesting. She got closer to him.
"I've always feet attracted to you," she whispered to his left ear, then passing onto the other she added, "take me."
Gromph couldn't help but open fully his eyes in surprise and immediately stammered, "b-but high priestess, our house is about to be under attack, w-we must get ready."
"It doesn't matter," she said. "We are doomed, there is no way we can survive the attack, and if I'm to die, at least I want a last satisfaction."
"Huuuh, satisfaction!" Said an imaginary grinning Jarlaxle inside Gromph's mind.
"Please don't say that, we will hold, I a-assure you w-we will prevail."
"Quiet!" The female exploded in anger "I'm not asking, I'm ordering you to. If you refuse, I'll make my serpents rip out than beard of yours along with your face until you bleed to death."
"So this is how victims feel when they are between the sword and the wall," he thought, "with the slight difference that this victim happens to be the archmage of Menzoberranzan!"
With a rapid movement of his right hand and the evocation of few arcane words, Gromph did cast a spell that completely paralyzed the surprised female, he then closed her eyes and pushed her to the bed.
"I'm the one who chooses who to mate, not you," the archmage thought, he wanted to say it aloud but knew that, even though paralyzed, she could hear well.
Now Gromph gave himself a deep breath, he needed to decide what to do with Demona before the attack started, but "coincidence" struck again...
At than moment, coming from the outside, the first shouts of warning were heard, "The enemy is closing!" "House Freth is here!"
"Dammit!" That he said aloud. House Freth had come sooner than expected, he could heard dozens of crossbows shooting at the same time. The first lightning bolts and fireballs were exchanged by the wizards.
"What should I do?" He asked himself, leave the incapacited female drow and go to battle? Or dispel her and somehow explain how a simple mage was able to paralyze a high priestess?
"Or you can tell her you are the archmage that killed her sister," said again an imaginary Jarlaxle in Gromph's mind. The archmage shook his head, trying to put in order his thoughts, but then he said in a low voice, "Jarlaxle, that's it, I must find him."
Gromph went out of the room, leaving the paralyzed high pristess lying on the bed. He found soldiers running everywhere to take new positions to shoot, a quick gaze through one of the balconies revealed that House Freth had come with everything they got, from goblins who were falling like trash, to strong and fierce ogres who battled with the slaves orcs of House Vandree at the outskirts of this last.
In that moment an enemy drow who had levitated from afar headed towards Gromph, he quickly drew a wand that belonged to the true Chefin, he aimed and activated it. From it, two small magic missiles fast traveled the short distance to the enemy drow who only sneered at the moment his natural magical resistence absorbed the spell. Gromph watched the wand for short miliseconds and changed it for one of his own arsenal. This time a white ray sprang from the wand, finding its mark at the drow who didn't have the chance to scream at the moment the ray made contact with his body entirely disintegrating it.
"Where you got that Chefin?" Asked one passing ally soldier reloading his crossbow.
"Er... Jarlaxle gave it to me," he answered, unable to conceive a better excuse. Gromph was not good at giving excuses.
"Ah, you stole it from Jarlaxle, good Chefin, good!" The soldier continued his way.
The archmage sighed and then went to look for Jarlaxle.
In the battlefield, one of the weapon master's lieutenants came to him with bad news.
"Weapons master, the enemy is using confusion spells on our slaves, making some of them attack our own soldiers. Your orders?"
"And the wizards or the priestess aren't dispeling them?"
"No, they are concentrated in repeling the offensive spells."
"Then kill them, all those who oppose us voluntary or involuntary, shall be destroyed."
Jarlaxle, who was close enough, listened the situation. He moved without being noticed to the front lines. Discreetly, he drew a wand with the power to dispel magical effects on an area. "They might be trash, but they do their job," said the mercenary at the same time he activated the wand. A few moment later he received a message from Kimmuriel Oblodra the psionic. He chuckled when he finished to hear it and began to formulate a reply.
Gromph went to the exit of the main hall, which was on the third floor. Here, there was a big hole on the wall made by the impact of one of the enemy spells, from there the archmage saw in the distance, behind a magical barrier, that Matron Freth and her priestess had finished an incantation that opened a big portal.
"The mission gets complicated," he said with a serious tone. From the portal, he saw a big demon coming out with a flaming sword in one hand and a whip in the other.
"A Balor," roared in anger and surprise matron Troken'ther from the top of the main tower. "Where is Demona?" She asked to the rest of the priestess who in turn shook their heads, unable to find words that could calm the matron's wrath. "Find her, and bring her now!" She ordered to the few servants left.
The recently summoned Tanar'ri made his way through the battlefield, the monsters that didn't run from his presence were utterly massacred by the huge sword, or burned to ashes by the mighty whip.
Jarlaxle was close enough to attend the arrival of the Balor, "Oh!" He said, and deducted that it would be in vain to keep 'helping' the slaves. Choosing wisely, the leader mercenary backed away, not without leaving a little present first. He drew a small purple orb and activated it by pronouncing a few words and then he threw it to the middle of the path that connected to House Vandree. The orb buried itself under the stones, not leaving a trace.
Smiling, the mercenary hurried back, but was soon halted by a grotesque ogre who was followed by a squadron of orcs, they were slaves from House Freth. The mercenary did not want to waste time with them, especially not with a Balor behind his tail. Drawing yet another wand, he dischared an enchantment on the ogre.
"You don't want to fight me," Jarlaxle said.
"Uh-huh?" The ogre muttered, confused.
"Uh-uh," came Jarlaxle's retort, smiling, raising an eyebrow and nodding at the same time.
"U-uh-huh..." the ogre half nodded.
"UH-UH!" Jarlaxle insisted, sure that the enchantment had taken effect, "that's the target you and your boys want to fight head-on," he pointed at the Balor.
The ogre, named Ra the White, followed the direction pointed by his good drow friend, then almost jumping in surprise he said something in his glutural language that Jarlaxle didn't understand very well. Something about evasive special tactics and "gg", or so Jarlaxle thought. The ogre charged in the opposite direction of the balor, the orcs shrugged and followed their leader.
"Not as stupid as they draw them," recognized the mercenary and renewed his way back to the entrance of House Vandree.
Thanks to the shouts made by Hazendazar of:"What the hell were you doing in the front, stupid Chefin?" Gromph could located Jarlaxle who was giving an elaborate excuse.
Once the Weapon master switched his attention to some enemy soldiers that tried to slip past from the side, Gromph neared Jarlaxle.
"Is that you Chefin brother? Ah! I know, I know, you came looking for me because you missed me, huh?" Jarlaxle smiled.
Gromph fixed a gaze on the mercenary that made it clear this wasn't the time for such humor.
"You know, those continuos glares remind me of Artemis Entreri."
"Do you have one of those magical spheres that absorb a body, trapping it inside?" Asked Gromph ignoring Jarlaxle's previous commment.
"I never leave home without one of them."
"Good, then give it to me," the archmage ordered. He planned to use it on Demona, that way he could concentrate on the war with no worries. Afterwards he would find a way to deal with her.
"Except today." Said the mercenary, his right index finger lifted.
"It was the sphere or the eye patch, and the eye patch has always priority. Besides, it was your idea not to bring many magical items."
"But you aren't even using the eye patch, it's useless!"
"Well yes, but without it close to me I feel er...hum...ah... naked."
The archmage didn't have the time to unleash his fury on Jarlaxle, because the Balor was advancing with a horde of House Freth soldiers behind him, the first line of defense, the slaves of house Vandree, had been killed. Gromph thoughth he had no choice but to to cast one of his most powerful spells, even if that would mean being discovered. He raised his hands but Jarlaxle stopped him.
"Relax little Chefin, let the earth eat our problems."
In that instant, at the Balor's feet, just where the orb had buried itself, a long fissure opened and long tentacles erupted from within, entangling the Tanar'ri along with some enemy soldiers and slaves in range.
"Are you sure that's enough to stop it?" Asked a doubful archmage.
"It should work with no problems," Jarlaxle assured.
Gromph found those words hard to believe, and he was right.
All medium-size creaures couldn't do anything to free themselves and soon disappeared under the earth, pulled down by the tentacles. The demon, however, was big and strong enough to resist the grapple and seemed it would soon get free.
"Work with no problems, huh?" came Gromph's remark.
"My, my. Balors are sure powerful," observed Jarlaxle. "Now how are we going to stop it?"
"The easiest way to get rid of a Tanar'ri´s attention..." said Gromph remembering an old saying.
"...Is placing in front its worst enemy, a devil" Jarlaxle finished the sentence with a snap of his dexterious fingers.
Covering their faces with their piwafwies to avoid being recognized, and ignoring some questions from three soldiers of their own side, both drows ran toward the opposite end of the house that ended in a closed alley that was lonely enough to perform their plan.
"Tell me you are going to bring the Great Gray Wolf Sif," Jarlaxle said with a hint of excitement. "His double spin would be very useful back there."
"Sif is a demon too, you ignortant."
"I know, I was merely testing your knowledge."
Gromph was not able to discern wether the mercenary was lying or not.
"So, what will you summon?"
"A pit fiend".
A grin appeared on the mercenary´s face.
Without taking cautions for the summoning, Gromph called the only pit fiend whom he knew it's name.
"What kind of dreadful name for a pit fiend is Rufus?" Asked the mustached-drow.
Before them a portal from hell opened, and Rufus did come, the inmense devil immediately locked its sight on both dark elves.
"You dare to call it who is Rufus without any protection? You must be the dumbest...", he looked at their facial hair, "and strangest drows I have seen in my entire existence. Or could it be that you wish to experience death in the most painful and grotesque way any mortal has ever feel before?" The pit fiend asked.
Gromph knew he had about a second or so to come up with an answer that would satisfy the outsider's curiosity.
"Show more respect to us who are the Chefins, Rufus," Jarlaxle warned the devil. He even pointed is hand at it.
"Your majestuosity," interrumped Gromph. "We called you because here's a Balor, the bastard dared to insult the devil´s everlasting glory and we couldn't let that grave offense go overlooked."
Jarlaxle looked at Gromph with a glance of 'What kind of pathetic excuse to summon a devil is that?' The Baatezu did the same.
"And you think I'm going to believe that?" Asked Rufus, extending its wings and preparing to attack.
"Yes, not even an imp would have believed that," the mercenary concured with the Baatezu.
"So what do we do now?" Asked Gromp.
"There is no other choice but to stay and fight because of the foolishness you just did," answered Jarlaxle.
"Fine, we will show this devil who the Chefins are," said Gromph drawing a wand.
"I'd like to see you try," opined in kind the pit fiend.
"Oh now you´ve done it," Jalaxle said with an angry tone. He drew his weapon. "Do you recognize this sword?" He didn´t give Rufus time to respond. "It´s name is Langrisser, a sacred sword meant to vanquish evil, especially evil devils like you."
The Devil only narrowed its eyes.
Five seconds later the soldiers from House Vandree watched that from the opposite end of their house, a terrified pair of drows came out running, their hands raised, chased by an angry devil.
The fight between both sides paused a few moments because the two drows, followed by the devil, were heading right to the middle of the battlefield.
"What the hell?" Cursed the weapons master Hazendazar while removing his axe from the skull of an ogre.
"A Baatezu!" Someone yelled at the same time the Balor directed its sight on its eternal enemy.
All creatures, even the most stupid, gave each other worried glances and moved out of the way from both demon and devil, the later ignored the pursue of the two furry drows and focused all its attention to the balor whom also did the same.
Jarlaxle and Gromph, realizing the devil wasn't chasing them anymore, reagrouped with the troops of House Vandree, staying a little behind, though.
The Balor was the first to talk.
"Rufus, my most hated archenemy, it´s been a while."
"Mister Wayne," said Rufus, it´s always a pleasure to do battle with you.
"Mr. Wayne?" Is that the name of the Balor? A Balor?" Asked Jarlaxle.
"So it seems." Responded the archmage,
"Someone is running out of ideas for good names,"
This was one of the few things Gromph agreed with.
"Anyway, this is going to be an interesting battle, I wonder who will win?" True to his words, Jarlaxle wondered.
"There is no time to see the fight, we must return inside the house now," replied Gromph.
"But I want to see...," Jarlaxle sighed," you are going to do that cold stare again aren't you? Fine let's go to the house and miss the fun." The mercenary said, dissapointed.
The battle was already in front of House Vandree, even some enemy soldiers were already inside it, making the archmage and the mercenary stop on several ocassions to eliminate them without much trouble. Moments later they found themselves in front of the room were Gromph had left Demona.
"... and I had to paralyze her," Gromph was finishing explainig. "Did you bring the feather of your hat?"
"That I did."
"Good. You will order your birdlike monster to take Demona far away from here, the last thing we need is that she..." When he opened the door, Gromph didn't continue the explanation, his sudden stop was because Demona wasn´t on the bed where he had left her, not in the room at all.
"Shit!" Exclaimed Gromph.
"Humans? Where?" asked Jarlaxle trying too look over Gromph's shoulder.
Gromph saved the comment about that remark and said, "we must find her before she reaches matron Troken'ther."
"Do you think she knows who you really are?"
"No, but no doubt she suspects it´s me, and if she tells her mother, they will surely discover us." Gromph pondered for a few moments his options and concluded, "now I´m gonn have to kill her, lets go!"
The fake Chefins went to the central tower, where at its top the pristess were supposed to be.
Meanwhile, outside the house, the battle had reached its climax, the slaves were down and now drow bodies began to follow. The continous clashes of blades, screams of pain and death, explosions, not mention the roars of both outsiders, were heard from all the house and beyond.
Gromph and Jarlaxle headed to the living room, where the only stairs to the central tower were located. When they entered both let their insignias be seen, so they would not be taken as enemies, but they soon discovered it was not necessary.
Both drows remain stunned at the scene unfolded in front of them, all the soldiers who were supposed to be defending this place were dead. It was as if something had killed them in a blink, not leaving them a chance to defend or even see what was about to kill them.
"I have a feeling this might endanger our health," said Jarlaxle as they both entered slowly. Gromph didn't answer, he was looking for clues that could tell him what had happened here. Some wounds from the corpses still bleed freely, this confirmed they had been attacked recently, however, no screams or sounds of battle were heard from this place.
They reached the middle of the living room and Gromph said, "Nothing... I cannot find anything that could tell me what happened here. What do you think?"
"Mmh..." Reasoned Jarlaxle, "I think someone or something came in here and killed all these drows, yes I'm sure that happened."
"How perceptive!" Came Gromph's sarcastic reply, turning to look at Jarlaxle with a fake expression of awe.
"Thank you, it comes with the age and the experience in my field." The mercenary said proudly
"Can't you act serious for at least a moment?"
"It depends," was the answer.
Gromph was about to cast a spell that would make them invisible, in case danger still lurked near, but he noted his body began to glow with tiny flames, but that didn't harm him in any way.
"Faerie fire," he whispered and then turned to Jarlaxle, "if this is another of your jokes I..." he didn't finish the threat, Jarlaxle was also covered by the same flames.
"It wasn't me, but it has given me a great idea," Jarlaxle said while at the same time at his back Gromph noticed two figures appearing at short 15 paces from their position.
They were two good-looking drows, both with the same factions. Their hair was held in a pony tail and a sword and a flail hanged from their waists. Honglath and Veldrin, the twins from House Freth were in front of them, their broad smiles reflected they were overconfident. At least the plan of Jarlaxle would be on - let the twin underestimate us -.
"Well, well. Aren't they the famous Chefins?" asked Honglath, the older of the two. "Finally we meet face to face, or should I say face to hair?"
Jarlaxle made use of the comment to caress his fine long mustache and ask: "Feeling envious, aren´t we?"
Both twins laughed, "Sure, all drows in Toril envy your heritage," this time said the younger brother, Veldrin, continuing the joke.
Gromph interrupted the moment to declare: "So it was you who caused this massacre, how were you able to reach here without being detected?"
"The pathetic defenses of House Vandree are nothing in comparasion with our power. Our mission as you might already guessed, is to kill the matron and her priestess to put an end to this war and claim the victory."
"Oh! Such strategy!" said Jarlaxle with a hint of sarcasm.
The archmage noted the twins keep their posture and didn't get closer, or even prepare to attack them. What could they be waiting for? Why hesitate? After all the Chefins were not known for their good experience in combat.
"Well," said Veldrin, "are you going to show us who you really are, or is it that your preffer we find out once we finish you off."
Gromph feigned dementia. "What are you talking about?"
"Please, we know you are not the true Chefins. Admit who you really are and we promise a quick death."
The archmage had heard Honglath is a powerful master in Sorcere, no doubt he had a spell active that warned the twins they were magically disguised, if Gromph didn´t act fast, Honglath could cast a dispel spell and discover they real identity, but the situation was not that easy. Gromph also noted the twins were protected with several defensive spells. Before he could begin to speak in order to buy some time, Jarlaxle advanced a step and began to talk.
"Alright, we are not who we pretend to be, truth to tell we are mercenaries from Bregan D'aerthe. The good-looking Jarlaxle sent us to invite you to join our family, because let me warn you that House Vandree will win this war and House Freth will be no more."
"The bald Jarlaxle sent you?" Asked Honglath hardly believeing.
"No, the good-looking Jarlaxle did," repeated Jarlaxle.
Once again the twins burst out laughing, Gromph discretly drew one of his wands.
"If you don't believe me, watch this!" Jarlaxle took out from his pocket the eye patch and wore it on his left eye, "see? This is the one and only eye patch the good-looking Jarlaxle wears all the times, well except today obviously. He gave it to me to add veracity to my claim."
"Enough!" Roared Veldrin, "no more chatter, we will finish both of you whomever you are."
The twins shook hands and stood on guard, but Gromph already was aiming the wand he just drew at them and entonated the triggering word. A magical sparkle covered the twins removing all their magical protections. Shock and surprise flashed across the twin's faces, but it was quickly replaced with a look of defiance and determination. They immediately knew their opponents were not average soldiers, therefore they were going to take the fight seriously. Honglath began to cast a spell while Veldrin drew his flail and sword and advanced toward the fake Chefins.
"I'll take care of Honglath, you handle Veldrin," ordered Gromph.
"I was thinking to propose a free for all battle, you know, to make it more fun... Oh there it is the cold stare again, okay I´ll go play with Veldrin."
Gromph knew, by the manner in which Honglath began to cast, that he was preparing an invisivility spell. Not losing any second, he casted one of his own that would let him see invisible beings.
But such was his surprise when the master of Sorcere threw a thunderous bolt that resonated in all the room and hit the archmage, launching him through the air to smash against the chamber's distant wall.
"How could that be? I´m sure sure the spell was to turn himself invisible," thought Gromph feeling a flash of pain traveling his whole body.
Honglath did't stop to explain and prepared yet another spell while Gromph got up as fast as he could. This time the archmage recognized his opponent was preparing an evocation spell, so he immediately raised a wall of force in front of him - as a shield - but instead the foreseen spell, several images of Honglath appearead and mixed with the original.
It was then that Gromph remembered one of the low ranking wizards of House Baenre, Prath, saying that Honglath amazed his students by looking like casting an easy to dicern spell and the result being another one completely different. This way the twin made sure his spells were unpredictable to his opponents.
"This difficults the situation a bit," said Gromph in a low voice. A group of Honglaths drew their weapons and charged at the archmage.
Meanwhile Jarlaxle and Veldrin were six paces away from each other. The twin readied his weapons with a couple of spins, Jarlaxle did the same.
"Do you know the story of this sword?" the mercenary asked to his opponent.
Veldrin said nothing but did look at the sword, he saw nothing especial about it.
"Well, do you?" Jarlaxle inquired again.
"What? That it was your father´s sword?
"It did belong to papa, yes, papa owned it once." Jarlaxle answered, nodding effusively.
Veldrin raised an eyebrow at the word "Papa".
"But there is more. It´s still unclear, but experts believe it was forged by the Gods in the early days of creation." the mercenary continued
"Oh yeah? Which Gods?"
"All of them! Even the females. They took turns with the hammer.
Veldrin spat to floor, a clear sign of what he thought of Jarlaxle's story and lunged at him, weapons high. Out come an attack from the flail, followed by one of the sword, he advanced one step for every strike attempt. As for Jarlaxle, he backed away for every step advanced by the twin, deflecting the attacks with his "godly" sword.
"Come on, show me something interesting." Taunted a smiling Jarlaxle.
Veldrin's attacks become more fast and wild, this time combining a low attack with the flail followed by one high from his sword. Jarlaxle dodged every move.
"There is no action here. This level of skill is not what I expected from the famous warrior Veldrin of whom I highly heard. I'm gonna have to tell the handsome Jarlaxle that the twins are not worth to join our family."
In that moment Veldrin stopped, it could be noted from his scowl that he was not happy with his rival's continuous comments.
"Aw... don't tell me the twin his already tired." Said Jarlaxle, showing a fake concerned look and lowering his guard on purpose. Veldrin nodded at the mercenary's left shoulder.
Jarlaxle couldn't help but grin, his shoulder showed a small cut from which a bit of blood started to flow. "At what moment did you conect that hit? I don't remember feeling anything," he said.
Veldring of course ignored the question
"Ah! He has two weapons, while I only have one." Jarlaxle felt himself in disadvantage, fighting without a weapon in each hand was not of his liking. Strafing a little to the left, the mustached-drow trod hard on the tip of the hilt of a short sword that was leaned over a corpse. The weapon leaped into the air, spinning all the way up, Jarlaxle catched it fast with his left hand. He even gave himself a second to to test its weight and balance, the twin followed his every move. "Masterwork," Jarlaxle explained.
"Isn´t the sword forged by Gods enough?" Taunted this time Veldrin.
"It is, but I want to end this more quickly."
Their stares locked on each others, waiting for the first move.
"You know," Jarlaxle said a few moments later, "I can see both your eyes while you only can see one mine, this gives me the lead and soon enough the victory."
Veldrin renewed his dance of attacks.
Honglath was not only a powerful wizard, but he was also known to be fairly good in close quarters combat and Gromph didn't doubt that. Several Honglaths surrounded him in few moments from every angle, making very difficult to discern who was the real one.
"To the nine hells, let´s end this right now," thought Gromph. He began an incantation but his words never left his mouth.
The archmage clenched his teeth, Honglath had activated his magical ring that made the area around its owner fall in complete silence, no sound could be issued from, enter, or pass through it.
Since he could not cast of his most spells, the bearded drow levitated, at the same time he conceded himself a spell to detect whose images were illusions that did not require verbal component.. He spotted the true Honglath, who was also levitating to attack him in melee. Gromph didn't have time to prepare another spell, and unsheathed his dagger in time to parry the first thrust, but not the second or the third.
The robe he wore was pathetic, at least for drow standards, and didn't offer much protection, if he had his archmage's robes there wouldn't have been any problems, but since this was not the case, some wounds started to appear through Gromph's body, fortunately for him the twin was not that strong, because if he were, one of those wounds would have been fatal.
Because of the current situation, Gromph´s choices were few, he decided to take the most dangerous one. High risk, high reward.
In the next wound he received, he let go of his dagger and cancelled his levitation spell thus falling hard to the floor. He put a face of defeat and fear.
Honglath went down to examinate him, he noted the fake Chefin was badly injured, but still alive, he was about to change that. Taking his sword with both hands, the twin dealt a tremendous blow onto the archmage's chest. Gromph screamed in agony, blood poured along with it, his fingers twisted in pain. The archmage stayed unmoving, his eyes slowly closing. Honglath observed for a moment his defeated foe and thought the blow had killed him without doubt.
The older twin did free his sword and turned to see how the situation fared with his brother, who still was engaged with the other chefin imposter.
"Do you need help brother? I already finished my job," said Honglath.
Veldrin stopped, "it's not necessary brother. He defends well, I´ll give him that, but still is no match for me.
Jarlaxle took a quick look at Gromph condition, in a second he thought his course of action. "Gentlemen," he said, lowering his weapons in surrender. "Please spare me a few moments because I'm found in clear disadvantage, my partner is defeated and Veldrin's combat ability is higher than mine. If you let me live, I'll gladly answer your questions."
"Well," spoke Veldrin, "you can start by telling us who you really are and what you're doing here."
Jarlaxle noticed the younger brother didn't lower his guard and the older neared but keept his distance, probably he'd be ready to cast a spell if he tried something. "Not bad," he thought.
"As I said before, we are..." he looked at Gromph, "... I am from Bregan D'aerthe, and our mission was to invite any deserter soldier to join our group of refined mercenaries."
"Typical of Jarlaxle, always involving with houses's wars to increase the numbers of his band." Said Veldrin.
"True," intervined Honglath, "I've heard he commands more than a hundred soldiers, not to mention he has a group of priestess under his control, aside from the fact his territories reach every corner of the Underdark, even to the surface itself."
"Seriously? Oh my! I was not aware our reputation was that good." Jarlaxle declared.
"If you aren't the true Chefins, where are they now?"
"They are enlisted in this moment in our family, they weren´t sent to this mission because they are not suitable for this job, and the good-looking Jarlaxle ordered us to do the job."
"Yeah, don't you think?"
The twins eyed each other and shook their heads. They didn´t find it funny anymore.
"Now answer, why did you assure our house was going to lose the war? Is there something we don't about House Vandree's inner defenses?"
"That... It was just one of those bluffs to try to intimidate the opponent."
"Speaking of opponent, why you and your partner decided to attack us? Knowing you would lose and if your mission consisted only in recruiting?"
"Ah! Good question," conceded Jarlaxle, letting a smile come to view, "in fact, very good question. It's such a good question, that I have no idea what to respond."
"Stop fooling around or I'll kill you."
"Okay, okay. There is no need to behave with such hostility... If you want to know the truth then you shall have it."
"Truth is I am Jarlaxle. My partner, the well known archmage Gromph Baenre, decided for reasons that go beyond my understanding to help defend this house. I suggested him not to, but the archmage can be very stubborn, I eventually got so tired of listening to his request that I consented to help him on his mysterious quest. I warned him about you two, but our archmage is so confident in himself that he didn't care. And now here are the consequences, now you two will be killed and I'll be left without two good acquisitions to my band of mercenaries. Such a pity."
The twins scowled in sign of lack of understanding, "What the hell are you talking about?" Asked Veldrin.
"If you don't understand me, perhaps you would understand him," Jarlaxle pointed behind the twin's backs.
Honglath turned slowly fearing the worst, and he was right to be frightened. The bearded-drow was on his feet, his wounds though still open had stopped bleeding. He was finishing casting a spell Honglath knew too well, a bluish ray escaped from the archmage's hands to make its way to the older twin who was unable to dodge it. This time it was him who went flying across the living room, his scream was drown by the pain. He listened in the distance Veldrin shouting his name, an instant later, he felt how his body impacted into the wall. Hard. And then death's first cousin, unconsciousness, overtook him.
"Honglath!" Yelled again Veldrin, but received no answer in return, "damn you," he said to Gromph and advanced with determination towards him, however he was soon intercepted by Jarlaxle who drew a pair of daggers that grew until they reached the size of long swords.
"I'm your opponent, remember?" Jarlaxle grinned.
Veldrin recognized those swords, everyone in Menzoberranzan did. Their owner was no other than Jarlaxle. The younger twin stared at him, he saw that ey patch in his left eye, "the eye patch," he whispered, "then the other truly is..." he turned to look at the bearded-Chefin who stared him back with the cold look trademark of the archmage at the same time he raised his right hand, allowing to see the ring that was rumoured to regenerate its owner from any kind of wounds.
"Yes, you are in presence of greatness," Jarlaxle remarked at the unspoken thought. Veldrin understood the dire situation he was in, two of the most powerful drows in Menzoberranzan were against him. Dozens of question crossed his mind, but he could only ask aloud one. "Why?"
"Because we, grown ups, tend to do things, the way that should be," responded Jarlaxle, nearing the twin and waving his swords.
A moment later the attack Jarlaxle unleashed was tremendous. Now that he had his two favored weapons, he attacked with an almost impossible speed. Veldrin reacted too late and lost his flail, a few moments later, his sword. He was dragged close to his dying brother. In a matter of seconds Jarlaxle had both edges of his weapons aiming at the twin's neck.
"I'll do the proposal only one more time. Join me, or join your brother in death."
"I'm going to answer for him, the twins preffer to go to the Abyss together," said Gromph aiming a wand at them.
"I do believe you owe me a favor, so let the boy answer by himself."
The younger twin didn't take long to respond, "let me save my brother and even if he disagree, I'll join you," he promised.
"Fair enough, go ahead and save your brother." the mustached-drow retained his swords that turned into daggers again.
Veldrin kneeled in front of his brother, put a potion on his mouth and gently made him drink it. The wound started to close and his breathing became more stable.
Meanwhile, Jarlaxle opened a portal with help of a wand and indicated Veldrin, who carried his still unconscious brother, to go in.
"Go through here, and to whoever you find in the other side tell them that Jarlaxle sends his regards. With that you will be taken to a room where you willl be safe, unless you try to escape. Wait there until my return," the leader mercenary instructed.
Veldrin nodded and entered through the portal, leaving alone both mercenary and archmage. As soon as the portal closed, Gromph lowered and put a hand on his chest, gritting his teeth against his pains.
"Was he difficult?"
"I must admit he was, I never thought a weak house could generate a skilled wizard."
"I warned you, but you always underestimate your opponents. One of these days you..."
"It doesn't matter now," interrupted Gromph regaining his feet, "we must reach the top of the tower and find Demona."
"And what would happen if she already informed matron Troken'ther and they found out who we really are?"
"If that happens, then I'll personally decimate this house."
The leader mercenary put away again his eye patch and as soon as Gromph wounds healed considerably, they made their way up to the main tower, a few moments later a huge explosion was heard from the outside making the floor and walls alike to shake violently. This caused that Gromph lose his balance making him fall to his knees.
"Did you noticed?" Asked Jarlaxle when the quake passed.
"Yes, I guess Mr. Wayne or Rufus 'killed' the other causing a big explosion," answered Gromph getting up.
"No, is not that. I kept my balance and you didn't, which means not only I´m awesome, but that I'm better than the archmage of Menzoberranzan!" Said a happy Jarlaxle lifting both hands in sign of victory.
As always, Gromph ignored the comment. Both drows cotinued their way. Soon, the reached at middle where the path opened to the throne room. There, they stopped their march as they spotted a female drow in front of the throne. It was Demona, the high priestess who was supposed to be paralyzed. She glared at them, for his part, Gromph defiantly glared back, harder than her, but he did not advance. Jarlaxle hovered a slight distance behind him. There was no move until Demona spoke.
"Do come... archmage."
Gromph cursed, she knew who he was, the plan was now ruined. Slowly Gromph advanced, thinking what he should do.
"Yes," said Demona, "I know who you are, and I also know who are you too... Jarlaxle," she pointed an index finger at the fake mustached-Chefin.
Jarlaxle bowed, etiquette demanded that when a female called his name he would also tip his hat, but since he didn't have it, he held out his hands in a courtly gesture.
"I see he made you come," she continued addresing the mercenary.
"Oh no!" He corrected, "he only threatened to send me to the Green Fields... I come entirely on my own." He bowed again.
"You have discover us, now you must die!" Sentenced Gromph, his glare reflected the truth of those words.
"So you are going to kill me, just as you did with my sister."
"No," rectified Gromph, still walking towards her, "your sister was killed by my golem, you will die by my hand."
"This ain't looking good," Jarlaxle pointed out.
"Tell me archmage, why have you decided to help House Vandree?" Demona asked, trying to hide the fear that began to grow the more Gromph approached.
"Reasons are of no concern to those who are doomed."
"It's because of my sister, isn't it?" Demona inquired further.
"Silence!" Ordered Gromph, "is time for you to die," Gromph prepared himself to cast a powerful spell.
"Wait archmage! If you kill me, your secret aid to House Vandree in a war that doesn't involve House Baenre will be revealed, and you know that won't be good for Matron Quenthel."
"Your mother already knows then?" Asked Gromph.
"No, just me and the person who dispelled you spell, for now at least. But I've left instructions with this person to let know your secret if I die. It's your desicion archmage, kill me and you will be exposed or do me a little favor and we will pretend this never happened."
Gromph was not intimidated, though if this were to be known, Quenthel would get really angry, all his sisters as well. He considered it for a moment, to think he would have to listen for hours the scolds from his sisters, not to mention the punishent of Quenthel would be extra cruel. That was a worst torment than death itself.
"What do you want?" Asked Gromph, cancelling his spell.
Demona let out a breath of relief.
"Our troops are repeling the attack of House Freth. Thanks to your help, our house will be victorious. The only thing that remains is to restore the favor of Lolth, and for that I must sacrifice the culprit, who in this case it's my mother."
"So it was your mother's fault... interesting," said Jarlaxle.
"Let me guess, you want me to kill her, so you can claim the title of matron mother," Gromph stated.
"No. As I said, she must be sacrificed, and it must be me who does it, but the bitch has me under control with this cursed necklake," she said pointing the necklake that she always wore, "to remove it I need a wizard of great power, in all these years, I've tried to remove it with our own wizards because my mother didn't let me out the house. I've even paid for Wizards from House Xorlarrin to come and try, but none of them has been able to break the curse. Therefore, you archmage, I know you are capable enough to do so. Do me this simple favor and we will both accomplish our goals."
Gromph was silent for a moment.
"Oh come on arch-beard, that's not a bad proposal, besides is not that she is threatening to send you to the Green Fields if you refuse," said Jarlaxle with a smirk.
Luckily for him, Gromph was lost in thoughts and didn't hear the mercenary.
After re-think a few times, he finally answered:
"We will do what you say, on one condition."
"Anything," she said.
"After this all is over, you will send me in secret the corpse of Sosdrielle to my mansion, no questions asked. Only the tree of us well ever know about this and it will remain like this forever. Is that clear?
"Deal," accepted Demona.
"And what do I win from all this? My silence ain't cheap you know?" asked Jarlaxle. Gromph directed his cold stare at him.
"Ah, of course. Silly me, I already won the opportunity to help you like this, yes, yes, the joy of the experience is more than any amount of gemstones. Now if this topic is over, shall we move on and finish this once and for all?"
In a couple of minutes, Gromph dispelled the cursed item on Demona. Then, they headed to the top of the tower. While they advanced, the sounds of the battle outside had lost its euphoria, House Vandree had resisted the attack and now matron Freth and her daughters were forced to retreat to their own house, their soldiers, however, picked a different path. A path that clearly benefited Bregan D'aerthe. House Freth would be soon destroyed.
They finally arrived to the top, where matorn Troken'ther was laughing in triumph while saying:
"Yes! My house is victorious. This is the will of Lolth. Now I will summon the council and demand matron Freth as a live sacrifice in gratitude to our goddess, for restoring her favor on us.
The fake Chefins remained behind. Demona neared her mother, hiding a small but powerful dagger between her clothes.
Matorn Troken'ther looked at her smiling and forgetting her daughter was not present in the defense of the assault, she said: "We repelled the attack my daughter, we must prepare a ritual to Lolth immediately to..."
She didn't finish the sentence because Demona, with a sudden movement, was on her, putting an arm around her neck, and with the other burying the dagger into her right breast, perforing one lung. The matron's expression was one of pain and horror, her strength drained by the deep wound. With her sight she looked for help at the other priestess, all of them averted their eyes, she tried to speak, but only a spurt of blood came forth her mouth, finally, she looked for help at the only two present soldiers, the Chefins, the matron only saw one of them waving a hand at her in sign of 'farewell'.
Demona let go her mother, who little by little fell to the floor. With the few strength left, she tried to grab in vain the robe of her daughter.
"Take her to the sacrificial chamber, I won't let her die until she is on the altar with the dagger into her heart."
"Yes Matron Mother Demona," answered the priestess, hurring to carry out the order.
Few hours later, when the war was over, in one of Bregan D'aerthe's bases, two drows restored their true forms.
"Admit you are going to miss the beard," said Jarlaxle.
"Not as much as you the mustache," replied Gromph.
"True that. In fact I believe I'd look more handsome with it, but not always you can have all you desire, right?
Gromph could only nod in agreement.
"At the end, everything went fine and we all won something: You, with the topic you don't want me to talk about. I, the twins accepted to join my band of mercenaries. Matron mother Demona restored the favor of Lolth and House Baenre has openly declared to be her ally once again. The Chefins have returned as heroes to their house. Hazendazar became the patriarch, though that might not be too good for him, but oh! Well. There is only one question that remains in mystery..."
"Yes, who might had been the person who dispelled my paralisys spell on Demona, not many in Menzoberranzan are capable of such feat," intervined Gromph.
"No, is not that. I wonder who won the battle between mighty Rufus and Mr. Wayne? I wanted to see that fight."
For the first time Gromph smiled a little, "you are right, I´m curiuos too."
"Then why don't you call Rufus again, so we can ask it?"
Gromph's smile changed into a scowl.
"Okay. I'll find out later by my own."
Finally it was time to part ways, Gromph went out the base accompanied by Jarlaxle, he needed to go back to his duties on both House Baenre and Sorcere. He advanced no more than 20 paces from the base, when he suddenly found himself covered in faerie fire. Gromph turned to where he last saw Jarlaxle, he wasn't there anymore. "Damn you Jarlaxle," was the only thing the archmage said and resumed his way.
A few days later, when the flames of Narbondel checked five hours before the end of the day, in House Vandree, the newly matorn mother Demona ordered to be left alone, her mysterious guest had arrived.
She was seated on the throne clutching the dagger she had used to sacrifice her mother, silently cursing herself for the decision she was about to take.
"Well?" Asked the mysterius character, arriving stealthily from a hidden passage.
"Yes, I'll fulfill my part of the deal," answered the matron standing up.
"Excellent, then you will be on charge of House Vandree, but you will answer to me," the drow paused to look for a reaction from Demona. He found none and continued, "you will do what I order you to do and you'll never contradict my orders, is that clear?"
"But what if someone get suspicius? If the council finds this out it will cost us both our lives."
Her guest laughed.
"Nobody will suspect anything if you do what you are told."
Demona accepted the words with a nod and anger in her mind.
"One more thing," added the mysterious drow, "just to make sure you will do things right, I need you to swear loyalty to me."
"What!" The fires of indignation raged in Demona's eyes, "Kneel before a male? Never!"
"It's part of our deal, you know it was me who informed you that your mother was the responsable of the loss of Lolth's favor, I gave you the idea of how to overtake the throne of your house, and most of all, it was I who saved you from the archmage Gromph," his voice turned low and menacing, "you owe me more than your life, I have come to collect what now belongs to me."
Matron Demona thought about it, she recognized the truth and the threat in those words. Moving her pride aside, she kneeled in front of her guest and said: "I promise to be your loyal servant until death takes me away from this word."
"Good," the male drow smiled pleased," continue your duties as matron of this house, soon I´ll send you further intructions, and if you know what is best for you, you won't tell this to anyone."
"So be it."
With that, the mysterious character left the throne room from the same passage he had entered where two of his newest members awaited for him.
"This was an adventure full of adquisitions, and all thanks to our dear archmage. Certainly is convinient to me to do every favor he asks."
The twins looked at each other and without saying a word, they followed their pretentious leader.
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