Chapter 21

The diamond edge held his gaze, its glaring image crystallizing his thoughts.

Drizzt sat in his small cave, Icingdeath laid out before him, Bruenor's lost helmet propped on a stick to the side. Outside, the morning shone bright and clear, with a brisk breeze blowing and small clusters of white clouds rushing across the blue sky.

There was a vibrancy in that wind, a sense of being alive.

To Drizzt Do'Urden, it shamed him and angered him all at the same time. For he had gone there to hide, to slide back into the comfort of secluded darkness - to put his feelings behind a wall that effectively denied them.

Tarathiel and Innovindil had assaulted that wall. Their forgiveness and apology, the beauty of their fighting dance, the effectiveness of their actions beside him, all showed Drizzt that he must accept their invitation, both for the sake of the cause against the invading orcs and for his own sake. Only through them, he knew, could he begin to sort out the darkness of Ellifain. Only through them might he come to find some closure on that horrible moment in the pirate hideout.

But seeking those answers and that closure meant moving out from behind the invulnerable wall that was the Hunter.

Drizzt's gaze slipped away from the diamond edge of Icingdeath to the one-homed helmet.

He tried to look away almost immediately, but it didn't matter, for he wasn't really looking at the helmet. He was watching the tower fall. He was watching Ellifain fall. He was watching Clacker fall. He was watching Zaknafein fall.

All that pain, buried within him for all those years, came flooding over Drizzt Do'Urden there, alone in the small cave. Only when the first line of moisture slid down his cheek did he even realize how few tears he had shed over the years. Only when the wetness crystallized his vision did Drizzt truly realize the depth of the pain within him.

He had hidden it away, time and again, beneath the veil of anger in those times when he became the Hunter, when the pain overwhelmed him. And more than that - more subtly but no less destructive, he only then realized -  he had hidden it all away beneath the veil of hope, in the logical and determined understanding that sacrifices were acceptable if the principles were upheld.

Dying well.

Drizzt had always hoped that he would die well, battling evil enemies or saving a friend. There was honor in that, and the truest legacy he could ever know. Had anyone died more nobly than Zaknafein?

But that didn't alleviate the pain for those left behind. Only then, sitting there, purposefully tearing down the wall he had built of anger and of hope, could Drizzt Do'Urden begin to realize that he had never really cried for Zaknafein or for any of the others.

And under the weight of that revelation, he felt a coward.

It started as the slightest of movements, a jerk of the drow's slender shoulders. It sounded as a small gasp at first, a mere chortle.

For the first time, Drizzt Do'Urden didn't let it end at that point. For the first time, he did not let the Hunter build a wall of stone around his heart, nor let the justifications of principle and purpose dull the keen edge of pain. For the first time, he did not shy from the emptiness and the helplessness; he did not embrace them, but neither did he run.

He cried for Zaknafein and for Clacker. He cried for Ellifain, the most tragic loss of all. He considered the course of his life - but not with lament, stubbornly throwing aside all the typical regrets that he should have turned his friends from the course into the mountains, that he should have ushered them straight to Mithral Hall. They had walked with eyes wide. All of them, knowing the dangers, expecting the inevitable. Circumstance and bad luck had guided Drizzt's journey to that fallen tower and to the helmet of his lost friend. His journey had taken him to the saddest day of his life, to a moment of the greatest loss he could possibly know. In an instant, he had lost almost everything dear to him: Bruenor, Wulfgar, Catti-brie, and Regis.

But he had not cried.

He had run away from the pain. He had built the wall of the Hunter, the justification being that he would continue the fight - heighten it - and pay back his enemies.

There was truth in that course. There was purpose and there was, undeniably, effectiveness.

But there was a price as well, Drizzt understood on a very basic level, as the wall fell down and the tears flowed. The price of his heart.

For to hide away behind the stone of anger was to deny, as well, the pleasures of being alive. All of that separated him from the orcs he killed. All of that gave true purpose to waging the war, the difference between good and evil, between right and wrong.

All of that had blurred with the fall of Ellifain.

All of that blended within the veil of the Hunter.

Drizzt thought of Artemis Entreri then. His arch-nemesis, his ... alter ego? Was that Hunter within Drizzt in truth who Entreri was, a man so full of pain and anguish that he denied his own heart? Was Drizzt destined to follow that uncaring road?

Drizzt let the tears flow. He cried for them all, and he cried for himself, for the profound loss that had so emptied the joy from his heart. Every time the anger welled, he threw it back down. Every time he visualized his blades taking the head from an orc, he instead forced forth the image of Catti-brie smiling, or of Bruenor tossing him a knowing wink, or of Wulfgar singing to Tempus as they trotted along the mountain trails, or of Regis lying back, fishing line tied to his toe, on the banks of Maer Dualdon. Drizzt forced the memories to come forth, despite the pain.

He was hardly conscious of the deepening shadows of nightfall, and he lay there, somewhere between sleep and memory throughout the night.

By the time morning dawned once more, Drizzt had at last found the strength to take the first steps along a necessary road to follow the elves, who had moved their encampment. To accept their invitation to join with them in common cause.

He put away his scimitars and took up his cloak, then paused and looked back.

With a bittersweet smile on his face, Drizzt reached in and lifted Bruenor's helmet from the supporting stick. He rolled it over in his hands and brought it close so that he could again catch Bruenor's scent. Then he put it in his pack and started away.

He paused only a couple of steps out from the entrance, though, and nearly laughed aloud when he looked down at his callused feet.

A moment later, the drow held his boots in his hand. He considered putting them on, but then just tied them together by the laces and slung them over one shoulder.

Perhaps there was a happy medium to be found.

* * *

At the same time Drizzt was rolling Bruenor's helmet over in his hands, another, not so far away, was likewise studying a different armored headpiece. That helm was white as bone and resembled a skull, though with grotesquely elongated eyes. The "chin" of the helmet would hang down well over Obould's own chin, offering protection for his throat. The elongated eye holes were the most unique part of the design, though, for they were not open. A glassy substance filled them, perfectly translucent.

"Glassteel," Arganth explained to the great orc. "No spear will pierce it. Not even a great dwarven crossbow could drive a bolt through it."

Obould growled softly in admiration as he rolled the helmet over in his hands. He slowly brought it up and fitted it over his head. It settled low, right to his collarbones.

Arganth held up a scarf, laced with metal.

"Wrap this around your neck and the helmet will settle upon it," the shaman explained. "There will be no opening."

Behind the glassteel, Obould narrowed his eyes. "You doubt my ability?" he demanded.

"There can be no opening," Arganth bravely replied. "Obould is the hope of Gruumsh! Obould is chosen."

"And Gruumsh will punish Arganth if Obould fails?" the orc king asked.

"Obould will not fail," the shaman replied, dodging the question.

Obould let it go at that and considered instead the seemingly endless line of precious gifts. Every time he clenched his fist, he could feel the added strength in his arms; every easy step he took across the broken ground reminded him of the additional balance and speed. Beneath his plate mail he wore a light shirt and breeches, enchanted, so said the shamans, to protect him from fire and ice.

The shamans were making him impregnable. The shamans were building around him a failsafe armor.

But he could not let that notion permeate his thoughts, Obould understood, or he would inevitably relax his guard.

"Does it please you?" Arganth asked, his excited voice nearly a squeal.

Still growling, Obould removed the helm and took the metal-laced scarf from the shaman.

"Obould is pleased," he said.

"Then Gruumsh is pleased!" Arganth declared.

He danced away, back to the waiting cluster of shamans, who all began talking excitedly. No doubt pooling their thoughts toward a new improvement for their god-king, Obould realized. The orc king gave a grating chuckle. Always before, he had demanded devotion and exacted it with fear and with muscle. But the growing fanaticism was something completely different.

Could any king hope for more?

But such fanaticism came with expectations, Obould understood, and he looked around at the dark mountains. They had forced marched north in short order, through the day and through the night, because a threat loomed before his grand design.

Obould meant to eliminate that threat.

* * *

A quick glance to the west told Tarathiel that he was pushing his luck, for the sun's lower rim was almost to the horizon and his and Innovindil's camp was some distance away. When the sun went down, he'd have to bring Sunrise to the ground, for flying around in the dark of night was no easy task, even with the elf and his keen eyesight guiding the pegasus.

Still, the elf's adrenaline was pumping with the thrill of the hunt - he had a dozen orcs running scared along the mountain trail below him - and even more so that day because he knew that Drizzt Do'Urden was about. After their joint efforts in turning the orc tribe back to the Spine of the World, the drow had gone off again, and Tarathiel and Innovindil hadn't seen him for a few days. Then Tarathiel, out hunting alone, had spotted Drizzt moving along a trail toward the cave he and Innovindil were using as their new base. Drizzt had offered a wave; not much of an assurance, of course, but Tarathiel had noticed a couple of hopeful signs. Drizzt was carrying the helmet of his lost friend -  Tarathiel had spotted its one remaining horn poking out of the drow's shoulder pack - and perhaps even more notably, Drizzt was carrying his boots.

Had his resistance to the advances of the two elves begun to break down?

Tarathiel meant to return to Innovindil, and hopefully Drizzt, with news of another victory, albeit a minor one. He meant to have at least four kills under his belt that day before going home. He already had two, and with a dozen targets still scrambling below him, it did not seem unlikely that he would get his wish.

The elf settled more comfortably in his saddle and leveled his bow for a shot, but the orcs cut down into a narrow stone channel, dropping from sight. Tarathiel brought Sunrise around, sweeping over that crevice, and saw that the creatures were still running. He circled his pegasus and came in over the channel, following the line, looking for a shot.

His bow twanged, but off the mark as both the channel and the targeted orc cut to the right. Again the elf had to circle, so that he didn't overfly the group.

He was back in sight shortly, and his arrow struck home, marking his third kill. Again, he then had to fly his mount in a wide circle. Tarathiel glanced west at the lowering sun as he did and realized that he didn't have too much time remaining.

Again he bore down on the fleeing orcs. The channel descended along the mountainside and cut sharply between two high juts of stone, where the ground opened up beyond. Tarathiel told himself that he'd catch them as they exited the crevice and seek out whichever one scattered in the general direction of his cave.

Smiling widely, eager for that last kill, Tarathiel brought Sunrise soaring through the gap.

And as he did, two long poles rose up before him, crossing diagonally and going upright to either side. It wasn't until Sunrise plowed right in that the elf even realized that a net had been strung to the poles.

The pegasus let out a shocked whinny and it and Tarathiel balled up, wings folding under the press. They continued forward for just a bit as the poles crossed again behind them, netting them fully, and the whole trap slid down to the ground.

Tarathiel twisted and slipped underneath Sunrise as soon as they touched down, using the free area beneath the pegasus to draw out his sword and begin cutting at the net. With a few links severed, the elf scrambled out. He looked around, expecting enemies to be fast closing.

He sucked in his breath, seeing that the netting poles had been held not by orcs, but by a pair of frost giants.

They weren't approaching, though, and so Tarathiel spun around and went to fast work on the net, trying desperately to free Sunrise.

He stopped when torches flared to life around him. He stopped and realized the completeness of this trap.

Slowly the elf moved away from the struggling pegasus, walking a defensive circle around Sunrise, sword out before him as he eyed the torchbearers, a complete circle of ugly orcs. They had set him up, and he had fallen for it. He had no idea how he could possibly get himself and Sunrise out of there. He glanced back at the pegasus to see that Sunrise was making some progress in extracting himself - but certainly not quickly enough. The elf had to get back and cut more of the netting, he knew, and he turned.

Or started to.

There before him, emerging from the line of orcs, came a creature of such stature and obvious power that Tarathiel found he could not turn away. Suited in beautifully crafted, ridged and spiked plate mail and a skull-shaped white helmet with elongated eyes and shining teeth, the large orc stepped out from the line. Tarathiel noted the carved hilt of a huge sword protruding up diagonally from behind the brute's right shoulder.

"Obould!" the other orcs began to chant. "Obould! Obould! Obould!"

It was a name that Tarathiel, like every other worldly creature across the Silver Marches surely knew, the name of an orc king who had brought a powerful dwarven citadel to its knees.

Tarathiel wanted to turn back for Sunrise and the net. He knew he had to, but he could not. He could not tear his eyes away from the spectacle of King Obould Many-Arrows.

The burly orc strode toward Tarathiel, reaching up his thick right arm to grasp the carved hilt. Slowly, the orc extended his arm, drawing up the great-sword. He lifted the weapon clear of its half-sheath, to a horizontal position above his head. Still stalking in, hardly slowing, not changing his expression one bit (as far as Tarathiel could see through the huge eye holes), the determined creature swept the weapon down to his side.

The blade flamed to life.

Tarathiel moved his free left hand to the small of his back, to the hilt of a throwing dagger. He had to finish the orc quickly, he understood, to stun the onlookers and buy himself time to get back to Sunrise. He forced aside his fears and studied the incoming orc, looking for an opening, any opening.

Only its bloodshot eyes appeared vulnerable - not an easy throw, but to Tarathiel, a necessary one.

He slid the dagger free of his belt and casually lowered his arm to his side, concealing the weapon behind his hand, with its blade running up behind his arm.

Obould was barely fifteen feet away by then and showed no sign of slowing, no sign of speaking. The orc took another long stride.

Tarathiel's arm snapped forward, the small dagger spinning out.

Obould didn't move fast to dodge or block, but he did stiffen suddenly, staring without a blink.

Tarathiel started to break to the side at once, back toward Sunrise, thinking that his missile would surely drop the brute. But even as he took the first step away, the elf noted the impact. The dagger's tip clipped against the translucent shield of glassteel and ricocheted harmlessly aside.

Beneath the skull teeth of that awful helmet, King Obould widened his grin and gave an eager growl.

Tarathiel stopped in his tracks and spun back to face the ore's sudden charge. He ducked the ore's surprisingly swift one-armed cut of the greatsword, feeling the heat of its flames as it passed above him. Ahead stepped the elf, his own sword stabbing hard for Obould's belly.

But the orc didn't jump back, again trusting in his armor, and instead caught up his own sword in both hands and came over and down diagonally back the other way.

Tarathiel's sword did connect, but before he could slip it around in search of an opening or drive it in harder to test the plate, he found himself leaping aside, spinning as he went, every muscle working to keep him away from the ore's mighty sword.

As he turned his back to Obould, before completing the spin, the elf quick-stepped straight away. He felt the pursuit, felt the hunger of his adversary, and suddenly completed the spin, reversing direction and ducking into a squat as he flashed past the lumbering Obould. The elf turned again and drove his sword hard into Obould's lower back. The orc howled as he spun to catch up, his great-sword splitting the air with a swoosh of flame and ferocity.

Tarathiel didn't leave his feet, didn't even move his feet, as he threw himself backward, arms flying out wide to either side. Down he tumbled, the deadly fiery sword passing above his chest and face as he fell nearly horizontal. And, with an amazing display of agility and leg strength, the elf popped right back up to the vertical, his sword stabbing ahead once and again.

Sparks flew from the orc king's black armor as the fine elven blade struck hard, but if either of the strikes had hurt Obould, the orc didn't show it.

Again, that greatsword came across, and again, Tarathiel fell back, coming out of the stiff movement with a wise backstep. Obould didn't overswing again and had his sword in stubborn pursuit.

But Tarathiel had one advantage, his quickness, and he knew that if he did not err, he could stay away from that terrible sword. He had to bide his time, to take his opportunities where he found them, and hope to wear down the great orc. He had to fight defensively, always one step ahead of his opponent, until the weight of that massive sword began to take a toll on Obould's strong arms, forcing them down so that Tarathiel could find some weakness in that suit of armor, find some place to score a mortal wound on the orc.

Tarathiel understood all of that immediately, but a glance to the side, where Sunrise was still struggling under the net, reminded him that time was a luxury he could not afford.

On came Obould, driving the elf. Then the elf went suddenly out to the side, spinning and turning around that stabbing greatsword. As he sensed that mighty weapon coming back in pursuit, the elf fell flat to the ground and scrambled suddenly at the ore's thick legs, driving in hard, thinking to trip him up.

He might as well have tried to knock over a pair of healthy oaks, for Obould didn't budge an inch, and the impact against the ore's legs left the elf's shoulders numb.

Tarathiel did well to emotionally dismiss the surprise, to continue moving around the orc king's legs, angling to ensure that he gave no opening for that pursuing sword. He came back to his feet, falling into a defensive stance as Obould came around to face him.

With a sudden roar, the orc came on, and again, Tarathiel was dancing and dodging, searching for some opening, searching for some sign that Obould was tiring.

Surprisingly, though, the orc only seemed to be gaining momentum.

* * *

Innovindil looked with some distress at the dipping sun, knowing that Tarathiel should have arrived by then. She had moved out to join him, guessing the general area where he would herd any potential enemies and figuring that she would find some way to assist in his hunt.

But there had been no sign.

And the sun was going down, which would likely ground the pegasus.

"Where are you, my love?" the female whispered to the night breeze.

She caught the movements of a dark figure off to the north of her position and smiled, somewhat comforted by the knowledge that Drizzt Do'Urden was flanking her hunt.

She told herself that Tarathiel had to be close and quickly reminded herself of all those times when her bold companion had run off into the night in pursuit of fleeing orcs. How Tarathiel loved to kill orcs! Innovindil gave a helpless and exasperated sigh, silently promising herself that she would scold him for worrying her so. She moved on, heading up the side of one ridge so that she could get a better view of the ground to the northwest.

She heard the chanting, like the low rumbling of a building thunderstorm. "Obould! Obould! Obould!" they said in the communal croaking voice, and even though she did not at first recognize the reference and the name, Innovindil understood that there were orcs around - too many orcs.

Normally, that notion would not have phased the elf. Normally, she would have then simply figured that Tarathiel was in hiding nearby, probably gaining a fair estimate of the nearby force, probably even finding some weaknesses among the orc ranks that they two could exploit. But for some reason, Innovindil had the distinct feeling that something was amiss, that Tarathiel was not safe and secure behind a wall of mountain stone.

Perhaps it was the insistent tone of the chanting, "Obould! Obould!" with an undercurrent that seemed hungry and elated all at the same time. Perhaps it was just the lengthening shadows of a dark night. Whatever the reason, Innovindil found herself moving once more, running as fast as she could manage across the broken and rocky slope, veering inevitably toward that distant chanting.

When she at last crested the ridge in the north, coming over and continuing down the other side across the craggy rocks, the elf's heart dropped. For there in the rocky vale before her flickered the torches of scores of orcs, all in a wide ring, all chanting.

Innovindil did recognize the name, and before she could even fully register the implications. Her eyes scanned across the lines, toward the center of the circle, and her heart fell away. For there was Tarathiel, dodging and diving, always a fraction of a step ahead of a fiery greatsword. And there behind him in the shadows was Sunrise, struggling, pinned by a net.

Gasping for breath, Innovindil fell back against the stone, mesmerized by the dance of the combatants and by the spectacle of the onlookers. Her love, her friend, dived and rolled, spun a beautiful turn, and rushed in hard, his sword flashing, sparks flying.

Then he was diving again, the greatsword slashing across just above him.

Innovindil looked around the orc ring, trying to find some way she could penetrate it, some way she could get down there beside Tarathiel. She silently cursed herself for leaving Sunset back at their new cave, and she considered rushing back to gather up the flying steed.

But could Tarathiel possibly hold out for that long?

Innovindil started back up to the south, then she paused and turned back to the north. She realized that she had no other option, and so she spun again to the south and her cave, looking back and praying to the elf gods to protect Tarathiel.

She stopped suddenly, mesmerized once more by the intensity of the fight, the dance. Tarathiel went by Obould and stabbed hard, and the greatsword flashed down across in front of the backing elf. Innovindil blinked - and she understood that Tarathiel had, too - when that sword-fire suddenly blinked out.

Innovindil's eyes bulged as her mouth widened in a silent scream, recognizing that the blackout had frozen Tarathiel's eye for just an instant, the last flash of fire holding his attention and making him think that the blade was still down low.

But it was not.

It was up high again and back the other way.

"Obould! Obould! Obould!" the orcs chanted for their mighty and cunning leader.

The burly orc leaped forward and brought his sword down and across in a great diagonal swipe.

Tarathiel leaped back as well, and when he didn't fly away, Innovindil believed for a moment that he must have somehow backed out of range. She knew that to be impossible, but he was still standing there before the orc king.

How had the strike missed?

It hadn't. It couldn't have.

Not breathing, not moving, Innovindil stared down at Tarathiel, who stood perfectly still, and even from a distance, she could tell that he wore a perplexed look.

The sword had not missed; the mighty cut had slashed through Tarathiel's collarbone and down and across, left to right, to come out just under his ribs on the other side. Still staring, he just fell apart, his torso sliding out to the left, his legs buckling under him.

"Obould! Obould! Obould!" the orcs screamed.

Innovindil screamed as well. She leaped away, charging down the rocky slope, drawing forth her slender sword.

Or trying to, for then she got tackled from the side, and before she hit the ground, before she could cry out in surprise, a slender but strong hand clamped hard across her mouth. She struggled futilely for a moment before finally recognizing the voice whispering into her ear.

Drizzt Do'Urden stayed tight against her on the ground, holding her, telling her that it would be all right, until at last her muscles relaxed.

"There's nothing to do," the drow said over and over again. "Nothing we can do."

He pulled Innovindil up into a sitting position against him and together they looked down on the rocky vale, where the orc king, his sword aflame once more, stalked around the halved body of Tarathiel, where more netting was being thrown over poor Sunrise, holding the pegasus down, where scores of orcs and more than a few giants cheered and danced in the torchlight.

The couple sat there for a long, long time, staring in disbelief, and despite Drizzt holding her as tightly as he could, Innovindil's shoulder bobbed with great sobs of despair and grief.

She couldn't see it, for her eyes were transfixed on the horrible scene before her, but behind her, Drizzt, too, was crying.

Part Four - When Darkness Falls

I watched the descent of Obould's sword. With my heart undefended, risking friends once more, I watched, and again my heart was severed.

All is a swirl of confusion again, punctuated by pinpricks of pain that find my most vulnerable and sensitive areas, stinging and burning, flashing images of falling friends. I can build the stone wall to block them, I know, in the form of anger. To hide my eyes and hide my heart-yet I am not sure if the relief is worth the price.

That is my dilemma.

The death of Tarathiel was about Tarathiel. That is obvious, I know, but I must often remind myself of that truth. The world is not my playground, not a performance for my pleasure and my pain, not an abstract thought in the mind of Drizzt Do'Urden.

Bruenor s fall was more poignant to Bruenor than it was to me. So was Zaknafein's to Zaknafein, and that of all the others. Aside from that truth, though, there is my own sensibility, my own perception of events, my own pain and confusion. We can only view the world through our own eyes, I think. There are empathy and sympathy; there is often a conscious effort to see as a friend or even an enemy might - this is an important element in the concept of truth and justice, of greater community than our own wants and needs. But in the end, it all, for each of us, comes back to each of us individually, and everything we witness rings more important to each of us than to others, even if what we witness is a critical moment for another.

There is an undeniable selfishness in that realization, but I do not run away from that truth because there is nothing I, or anyone, can do about that truth. When we lose a loved one, the agony is ours as well. A parent watching his or her child suffer is in as much pain, or even more, I am sure, than the suffering child.

And so, embracing that selfishness at this moment, I ask myself if Tarathiel's fall was a warning or a test. I dared to open my heart, and it was torn asunder. Do I fall back into that other being once more, encase my spirit in stone to make it impervious to such pain? Or is this sudden and unexpected loss a test of my spirit, to show that I can accept the cruelty of fate and press on, that I can hold fast to my beliefs and my principles and my hopes against the pain of those images?

I think that we all make this choice all the time, in varying degrees. Every day, every tenday, when we face some adversity, we find options that usually run along two roads. Either we hold our course - the one we determinedly set in better and more hopeful times, based on principle and faith-or we fall to the seemingly easier and more expedient road of defensive posture, both emotional and physical. People and often societies sometimes react to pain and fear by closing up, by sacrificing freedoms and placing practicality above principle.

Is that what I have been doing since the fall of Bruenor? Is this hunting creature I have become merely a tactic to forego the pain?

While in Silverymoon some years ago, I chanced to study the history of the region, to glance at perspectives on the many wars faced by the people of that wondrous community throughout the ages. At those times when the threatened Silverymoon closed up and put aside her enlightened principles-particularly the recognition that the actions of the individual are more important than the reputation of the individual's race - the historians were not kind and the legacy did not shine.

The same will be said of Drizzt Do'Urden, I think, by any who care to take notice.

There is a small pool in the cave where Tarathiel and Innovin-dil took up residence, where I am now staying with the grieving Innovindil. When I look at my reflection in that pool, I am reminded, strangely, of Artemis Entreri.

When I am the hunting creature, the reactionary, defensive and closed-hearted warrior, I am more akin to him. When I strike at enemies, not out of community or personal defense, not out of the guiding recognition of right and wrong or good and evil, but out of anger, I am more akin to that closed and unfeeling creature I first met in the tunnels of duergar-controlled Mithral Hall. On those occasions, my blades are not guided by conscience or powered by justice.

Nay, they are guided by pain and powered by anger.

I lose myself.

I see Innovindil across the way, crying still for the loss of her dear Tarathiel. She is not running away from the grief and the loss. She is embracing it and incorporating it into her being, to make it a part of herself, to own it so that it cannot own her.

Have I the strength to do the same?

I pray that I do, for I understand now that only in going through the pain can I be saved.

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