I walked the fields of gold.
Up to my ankles, what appeared to be molten metal swirled and pooled and rippled, like water, yet I felt no heat as I thought I would. Was not molten metal so scaldingly hot that once one touched it, one would burst aflame? With some trepidation, I reached down and cupped some of the liquid in my hands, and watched with childish wonder as it slowly trickled over my fingers and down my gloves, streaks of rich honey, to drip away at my elbows in miniature waterfalls.
It felt like water and not like water - it did not burn, nor cool my skin. It did not wet, nor pull hair down in the direction of its flow, nor did it slick hair down. It should not have existed, yet it did.
The world was a smorgasbord of color, coruscating, vivid, vibrant color. Trees that rose out of the gold were tinted in silver and blue, in sharp contrast with the opulence of the ground, out of season flowers from all over the world grew in haphazard beds, small, temperate blooms and garish tropical ones, all contributing to the riot of hues.
And around all flowed the gold, what looked like enough to ransom all the kings in the world and more, a wide field of affluence.
Slowly, disbelievingly, I turned around. It was the same in all directions, a disorderly pasture of sunny color, changing and swirling. Occasionally islands rose out of this land, and if I squinted I could see buildings of weird designs, some macabre, some ludicrous, some a demented mix of both that was both pleasing and trying on the eye.
I looked upwards.
The sky was basically blue; as most skies were, but here and there were splotches of pink, bright pink, and blotches of indigo, orange, violet and other unidentifiable colors. Clouds were fluffy white, but formed obvious designs, even with blurred edges, that changed as soon as they formed. I even saw an amazingly rendered likeness of myself before it blurred into a prancing unicorn, and thence on into a grinning bear, before my eyes began to water and I had to look away.
What land was this?
I began to walk, but I found that if I concentrated on reaching one location - like the tower shaped like a flamingo - it always seemed further away as I started to it, or suddenly much closer before jumping further away again. This was madness! How had I come to be here? Where was I?
I caught a movement on the edge of my eyes, the peripheral vision which assassins like I used frequently in our line of work, and I whirled. My hands went to my dagger and my sword, and gripped their reassuring hilts tightly.
It was a school of fish, swimming several feet above the field, floating in the air. And as I stared it swam closer, a school of yellow goldfish, their fins tipped in the colors of a rainbow, their fat bodies wriggling as they swam, large, disproportionate tails fluttering coyly, like a courtesan's fan.
They floated once in a slow circle around me, then stopped before me. Then the fish seemed to dive together, towards one another, and the central collision point distorted and contorted, then a girl stood in its place.
I took a step back.
She wore odd clothing - a dull pink baby doll dress, those sort with the puffy sleeves, with a flaring skirt that ended too high up to be considered decent for a young girl like her. I guessed her age to be about sixteen or so. She wore black fishnet stockings, a bizarre accessory that clashed with the dress, and in one hand she held a large lollipop with an uneven spiral of color like a wand.
Her short hair was bright orange, and stuck out at defiant angles, yet seemed perfectly natural. An electric blue ribbon was tied into a large bow over her left ear. As my bewildered scrutiny passed to her face, I noticed that she had two eyes of different color, which I could not place. One seemed greenish, and the other bluish, but the colors themselves seemed to change madly. She was freckled, and this gave her face a rather comfortable appearance, neither dazzlingly beautiful nor displeasingly ugly, but somewhere in between.
She smiled at me, lopsidedly, and spoke, her voice one voice, but with an uneven pronunciation, tone, quality and even timbre, as if many voices had been snipped up and pasted randomly to make hers. And as I heard her voice I was oddly put in mind of even more colors, cloudy ones.
"Oh hello. I don't get many visitors in this bit of my realm. Would you like some toffee? Or maybe tea? Some people like tea, with lots and lots of sugar or with milk and did you know how cheese is formed?"
I clutched at the only words that appeared to make any sense in this disjointed dialogue. "Your realm?"
"I'm Delirium. You can call me Del. My eldest sister calls me that. Do you like butterflies or fishies? I turn them, a small cloud of them, and fly and fly and fly..." She spread out her hands and twirled around. With a sound like a 'pop', the lollipop in her hand changed into a sunflower, each petal a different color.
"Delirium?" If what she claimed was true, then this realm truly did suit its mistress.
"Do call me Del," she insisted, and began to pluck the petals from the flower. Each time she would blow the petal into the air from the palm of her hand, and it would change into a dragonfly, each transparent wing a different tint. The insects buzzed around then headed away in a random direction.
What magic was this?
"How did I come here?" I asked.
She picked the last petal, watched the dragonfly buzz away, and the sunflower turned into a baton with ribbons tied to the tip. "You must of done something," she said, rather unhelpfully, then began to twirl the baton into the air, the ribbons forming tight swirling lines of velvet around it. "Could be you hit your head, or you did a drug, or maybe you even baked a cake and ate too much of it though I've never seen that happen before. Won't it be fun if it did? Maybe Black Forest cake, though why it's called Black Forest I don't know..."
"Hit my head..." I repeated slowly, and frowned. "No. And I do not take drugs."
"You done something, or someone did," Delirium replied, then impulsively reached forward and took my hand. "Walk with me? We can go see the fountain if it's still there, the fountain with the purple and yellow water. It tastes like peach and caramel, the water. Or we can go fishies and swim around, and around, and upwards and downwards and sideways and under..."
I did not pull away. Somehow it did not occur to me that it was possible to do so. Hence I allowed her to lead me, but I concentrated on remembering. Someone must have done something to me. The last I remembered was preparing for bed in the master chambers in the Basadoni guild. I had blown the candles and closed the windows, looking out over the city as the moon was beginning to give to the dawn, and feeling satisfied about the professional job I had done on the leader of the Remaili guild...
Climbing into the bed heated beforehand by warm bricks, and idly contemplating the pleasure the sycophant Sharlotta's death would bring me.
No, must have been something before that. Something which could have been drugged. I was sure enough of my abilities to know that no one could have entered my chambers, even if I slept, without my knowledge.
Closed the windows, and removed my boots, drank the spiced wine, felt with a niggling sense of disgust the heavy brocade of the veil of the four-poster bed, then sat down on the plush bed...
...drank the spiced wine...
Who had given me the wine?
...Sharlotta with a smile and a svelte voice, "You must be thirsty, my pasha... are you sure that you wish not my company while you rest?"
The girl tugged at my hand as realization stopped me in my footsteps. "Can't you walk no more? And did you know your mind's all glass and pointy edges and metal? You need more butterflies in it. And maybe feathers. Feathers are nice even if they fall apart but it's not nice to pull them off birdies and do you like playing ball?"
I let her prattle on for a while, then said, "I must go back." I felt asinine after I voiced that.
"You can't go back unless you do," Delirium said, with warped logic, then continued, "Don't you want to see the fountain? Or were we going to see Mister Fluffykins? He'd be happy to see us - he's pink you know, and I love pink. It's candy-floss and dresses and baby's skin."
"Can you send me back?" I asked. I was truly going to murder Sharlotta, very, very slowly.
"Don't you want to stay and play with me?" she asked. Most children would pout, or their lips would tremble, but this one smiled happily as if I'd already agreed.
"Perhaps another day, but I believe I may be busy in a moment," I said tactfully, "Can you send me back?"
"But...why? I don't think you'd like going back, there are bad people doing bad things to you Outside of here, and you don't like bad things do you? Here there's gold and...and clouds and nice things, good things, and you can talk about watches to me. Don't you like hearing the sound of them ticking? Like 'Tick...tock...tick...tock' though I know of a clock that goes 'Tick, click, bicky, tock, mock, sock, tick, click, bicky, tock...'" And on she went, imitating a clock.
"Bad things to me?" I repeated, but I had expected this, "All the more that I should go back, Lady Del...then I can stop them from doing it."
Delirium glanced at me, then her face scrunched up for a moment as if she was going to cry. "Oh, you mustn't! You can't anyway, you're tied up Outside here, and they're really not doing nice things to you. You're not really supposed to be here now, they're trying to wake you up, but you'd stay here and talk about clocks to me, won't you?"
As if I had a choice to stay. "These bad things...you are speaking of torture?" I asked calmly.
"Bad things!" she cried, a child's appalled cry, and then she smiled again, exuberantly, "Have you climbed a tree before? I catch my dress but then there's apples and peaches and pears and bananas, and everything's juicy and colorful and pretty, and there's sometimes antelope up the trees too, and they talk to me! Want to meet some?" She tugged hopefully on my hand, but I stood fast.
"Can you see me on the...Outside?" I persisted.
"I don't want to," She said, biting her lip, "Don't want to, don't want to, don't want to. Very bad, bad. Come on, come with me...we can go flying if you like. Please? Don't you like to fly?"
"Lady Del," I said firmly, "Listen to me. Can you describe these...people that are hurting me?" I'd need faces and names.
Her eyes changed color, then changed back. "One...one of them's a woman you know. Or your mind says you know. Can we talk about..."
"Her name is Sharlotta?" I interrupted.
"Yes, yes. Sounds like Lotte, which may or may not be a brand of chocolate. Do you like chocolate? Creamy, milk chocolate, not the white ones or the black ones or the ones with weird cream in it?" Delirium held out her hand, and over the slender wrists three bangles of chocolate formed, one white, one brown, one black. She peered at it as if their appearance surprised her, then she laughed out loud.
"And the others?" I said impatiently.
"Dirty, dirty minds," Delirium said, rubbing the hand that held mine with her other, as if trying to rub off filth. "Don't want to touch them! Come with me, come on now. Now, now, brown cow, hey, that's cool. Brown cow with brown eyes and a black tail..."
The gold around our feet swirled up, like a slow-motion geyser, and then formed into a cow shape, which shimmered until it changed into a small brown cow that contentedly munched on some grass, which was a bright cyan in color, and flicked its black tail about its flanks.
"Lift me up," Delirium said, and without thinking I did, seating her gently on the back of the cow.
"How long will I stay here?" I asked, trotting by the side of the creature as it began to lumber away.
"Don't know," Delirium said cheerfully, "I have to show you some more of my realm first before you go...do you like bubbles? We could see the bubble field...if it's still here of course."
Something happened to mind. "What if my...body dies?"
"Then my sis comes over here to take you to her realm," Delirium said promptly, as if she'd seen it happen before.
"Your sister being?"
"Death," Delirium said nonchalantly, "She's very, very nice. Not like Desire, who's rather mean. I think I will show you the bubble fields after all! It's more colorful than this one."
I gave up, and walked with her through the fields of gold.
I was aware, sluggishly, of sensations, as I gradually awoke from what must have been a stupor. My body ached, dully at parts, and fiercely at others, as if I was a single injury, but nothing seemed very serious, or everything seemed to be healing at a magical rate. Softness under my head and body, and sheets over light robes - I had been sleeping. My closed eyes saw a dingy redness - there was light somewhere.
With effort I managed to lift my eyelids, and vision was indistinct and bleary, but it quickly focused. Stone ceiling and a stone wall, with a very familiar smell or texture to the air, which I could not place.
Then I did.
It had the stillness that I would characterize as an Underdark atmosphere.
I tried to push myself into an upright position and roll off the bed, but I only managed to roll onto my side, then had to acknowledge the fiery aching complaints of my body by gasping with effort, in pain, like a fish out of water.
When the dancing black spots dissolved, I took stock of my position - bed against the wall, facing a door at the other end of the room. Carved dark metal. Make that very well carved, and slightly low for a human, but not too low to be dwarfishly so.
"Before you panic further and fall out of the bed, by which time I would have to lift you back on, I suggest you take a deep breath. Perhaps several of them."
A dry, sardonic voice, but with gentle overtones, and feminine. Musical, elven female, speaking perfect common. I turned my heard sharply to see the other occupant of the room.
She lounged on a cushioned stone chair next to a stone table set into the wall beside the foot of the bed, long legs crossed. On the table was a sword, a long sword with a blade of blue crystal, the hilt hidden by the bulk of her body. She was drow, a drow female, yet wearing uncharacteristic baby blue robes, cut well, to be provocatively demure, her slender hands in her lap, holding a thick book. She was beautiful more than most drow were, and although her face was unfamiliar and her voice as well, something, some figment of memory, seemed to surface within me.
She smiled a kindly smile, a peculiar expression for drow. "I thought that narcotic would take forever to wear off by itself. Thank Morikan you survived - the twins were in the better half of hysterical when they brought you here. They had to go after that - came here without Rael's permission. I doubt he'd be very happy with them."
"Twins? And where in the Underdark am I?" I dreaded the answers.
"You don't remember?" she frowned, a comely expression on her face, then comprehension shone. "Ah yes, the mind wipe. And as to where you are...I believe you've guessed it. You are in Menzoberranzan...one of Bregan D'aerthe's little strongholds."
The realization still hit hard, even though I had expected it. "Menzo...berranzan..." I whispered. "Why?"
"I have no idea why you turned into such a battered bloody mess, and in such apparent mortal peril that the twins had to disobey direct orders and save you, or any idea why they did so in the first place. Maybe they truly are affectionate towards their playmates. But as to why you are here...I happen to be on the best of terms with them, and they came to me first." The side of her mouth quirked with amusement. "Jarlaxle was not very happy."
She did not say whether Jarlaxle was not happy about my being in a 'battered bloody mess', or whether Jarlaxle was not happy about the 'twins' bringing me here, but I decided to pass. "And who are these...twins?"
"Veldrin and Ssussun? You do not recall?" She smiled. "DarkMage mindwipes must be more potent than I thought. No matter." She raised one slender hand, and the mage light illuminating the room swooped over to position itself over her head, apparently to light up her book.
Exhausted by speaking, I breathed heavily and stared at the ground while I assimilated this information. I still had no idea who these twins were, but some part of me instinctively put them under 'friends', so I stayed with that judgment. For now. And as to the sound of 'mindwipe'...
"Really sorry that you're still in such a state," the female continued mildly as she turned her eyes back to the book, "But Rai'gy and I did our best. You'd have to heal the rest until we next try again. You were hurt all over. Even in the strangest places." Her nose curled at the memory, but at disgust, mirth or something else I could not ascertain.
I decided I did not really want to know. "Do you know what happened to my...captors?"
"Oh, them," the female looked up and covered her mouth with her hand, a gesture of thinking, "The twins killed them. Rather violently."
"All of them?" I said savagely, feeling disappointed. No one for my vengeance, and no one to question.
"And burned down the building, which was apparently not your guild," she smiled suddenly, "I think some of Calimport's still burning."
I continued to watch her warily. Drow female, after all. And she was pleasing to look at. "These twins have great power?"
"I should think so," she nodded. "They are part balor and angel, after all."
I blinked. "I do not know them."
"Yes you do. You just don't remember, Entreri." she said with saucy ease.
"You have the advantage of me, Lady...?" I had found, among other realizations, that women enjoyed being called 'Lady'.
"You may call me Winter," she said, and turned back to her book. "Now you rest a little more, then when you are cured, Kimmuriel will send you back to Calimport. We have your equipment."
The door clicked open, and without even looking up Winter said, "Greetings, Jarlaxle. I thought you were supposed to be briefing your captains on your latest conquest?"
I looked up to see one of the beings on this earth whom I both disliked intensely and also respected just as intensely. Jarlaxle walked as softly as a cat, none of his jewelry or boots making a sound. He closed the door, and ignoring my presence, shot Winter an irritated glance. "Winter, I believe I told you to..."
Oddly, he was speaking in common as well.
"I am not obliged to listen to you," she said with infuriating equanimity.
Jarlaxle did not react with fury as I had expected, but rather with wry sufferance, as if he had been expecting such an answer. I wondered who this 'Winter' was to him. Certainly not insubordinate. Then she was not of Bregan D'aerthe? Strange. "Then I would not be 'obliged' to listen to you the next time something like this happens. If I recall, you were the one who accepted the twins'..."
"Even if I had not, you would have allowed him to be healed," Winter interrupted, "You want him alive, and the both of us know it."
Jarlaxle shook his head and sighed, then finally glanced at me. "Were you getting careless, Entreri?"
I shrugged the best I could in this position at him, not wanting to give him the pleasure of gloating.
"Don't tease him, Jarlaxle," Winter chided him, with a benevolent smile. "He's gone through enough already."
"Why are you here?" Jarlaxle asked her curiously. And I wondered if this was some sort of act put up for my benefit, or simply for their amusement? They could have easily spoken in the drow tongue. But then, I had never been able to understand drow elves very well.
"Because a lot of your soldiers do not like humans," Winter replied mildly. "I did not help to save his life just to let your mercenaries take it."
"They would have left him alone," Jarlaxle disagreed, "And you know it." The rest was spoken in drow so quick that I could not catch the words, but whatever it was, Winter apparently denied it, then began to chuckle, undercutting her own words. Jarlaxle turned his back on her in mock disgust.
"As to you..." he began, then stopped when Winter sidled over and pressed against his back, murmuring in drow, her hands sliding, a sly caress, over his bared stomach, and hooked her thumbs in his belt. He replied half-heartedly and tried to disengage, then apparently gave in to whatever she had wanted. The crystal - Crenshinibon - at his belt burned once, fitfully.
Winter winked at me, some sort of message, as if she had skillfully managed to prevent Jarlaxle from doing something, and was silently applauding herself, and also sharing her conspiracy with me. Whatever it was. "My sword will watch you. Mind - do not touch it, or it may get angry." Then she let go, and the both of them stepped forward and vanished, as if into some door.
Drow and their magic.
I glanced at her sword, and it began to glow on the table.
"She means it," A multi-harmony voice emanated from the blade, full of warning.
A sentient blade.
Drow elves, Bregan D'aerthe, and Jarlaxle...
I wondered if leaving Delirium made any difference.
"Thou art supposed to rest," the sword suggested hopefully. A sleeping assassin would be easier to watch than one who was awake, I knew, but I decided not to humor it. The sword muttered something, glowing in short, unrhythmic bursts, then fell silent and still.
Should I rest, or should I...
Although I knew deep down that doing so was idiotic, I pulled myself to the edge of the bed, meaning to try and get up to walk, even though my body screamed protest in every muscle and nerve.
What happened when I did try was ignominious - I fell off the bed as Winter had predicted earlier, landing hard on the ground in a swath of blankets. I bit out the first curse words I had used in two days. The last time being when I had soiled my cloak due to chasing Jale down the...but that did not matter now.
"I knew that would happen," the sword woke up smugly.
I had managed, after a few more false starts, to half-pull myself up by grasping the edge of the bed and supporting myself on the wall, before two elven females stepped out of nothing in front of me. The surprise was such that I lost purchase on the wall and fell down on my rump, and nearly twisted my other arm.
Why can these people not learn how to use doors?
Very strange colored females, as well - one with silvery-gold hair and bronzed skin, the other with dark onyx hair and deep chocolate colored skin. Both had identical, impossibly beautiful faces. Greenish-red eyes, two pairs of them, crinkled with amusement at the edges when they rested on me.
Their identically cut robes swirled around them and clung to them at places as they approached, scarlet and black with iridescent shades around the silver haired one, and a stark white for the black haired one. Irony indeed - if these were the twins that Winter had spoken of, then the one most resembling an angel in features wore robes most suited to a balor, and the one resembling a balor wore robes fitted for an angel.
The black haired one sat down gracefully next to me, and the other sat on the edge of the bed, also too close for my comfort. A part of my mind registered astonishment that I had backed into the corner of of the bed and the wall.
"Veldrin and Ssussun," the sword apparently took pity on me, "He is supposed to be resting."
The black haired one pouted. "But he's not sleeping."
"He is supposed to be trying to," the sword replied. "Thou had to choose the exact moment when Winter would be away?"
"We just managed to persuade Rael to let us visit," the silver haired one said defensively.
"Thou didst not sneak away again?" the sword sounded archly surprised.
"We didn't." The black haired one said quickly, then pressed against me. "Don't think you remember the two of us?"
I shook my head, and felt like a trapped animal, for some reason.
"Oh, not like that," the silver haired one said, as if having read my mind. "We used to have lots of fun. My name's Ssussun...my sister's Veldrin. We're who Winter calls the Terrible Twins." This last was chorused, and then they both giggled.
"You really don't remember us? Not even a little?" Veldrin pouted.
I shook my head. Did I?
"Well, we can change that," Ssussun smiled slowly, and put a hand on my leg. I froze.
"Veldrin? Ssussun?" the sword said significantly.
"Oh, all right," Ssussun pouted, getting off the bed and walking around me. Between the both of them they lifted me back onto the bed, then sat on either side of me - Veldrin on the edge, Ssussun against the wall.
Feeling helpless - a very uncommon sensation - I glanced at the sword.
"I should tell...bah, she would not be listening at this point of time," the sword muttered unhelpfully, and then was still again.
"No, Winter's having a lot of fun with Jarlaxle now," Veldrin grinned. "Tell you what, Artemis, we'd leave you alone for a while until you get a bit better." For some reason I could not bring myself to protest against the use of my first name.
I also found out very soon what their idea of 'leaving you alone' meant. It was a while before they did let me sleep.
Once I had closed my eyes, it seemed, I was back in the realm of Delirium.
Delirium sat on the brown cow, which somehow managed to pull grass out of the honey-colored ground, and clapped her hands when she saw me. "Oh, you're here again! That's nice. Everything ended nice too. Your friends saved you."
"I do not have friends," I said mildly, then corrected myself. "Except these." I patted the hilt of my sword.
"You have them, you just don't know. You should have more friends! Friends are like...scrumptious things, like the smell of pie and frying onions and, and pink. Pink is scrumptious, especially the color of pink that the sky paints in the evening when the moon's coming. I tried to paint before, and can you play the guitar? I can." She rattled on, and around her head formed a headband of transparent bubbles.
Forms sprang out of the gold, of strange shapes, some beautiful, some ugly, all bizarre. The sky was no longer pink, but green, a yellowed green, the sort you find only on artist palettes and not in nature. It was now splotched in dark blue and magenta.
The wind whispered in my ear, and instead of the sibilant howling of a natural wind, this one spoke like Delirium, a series of phrases like the babbling of a madman, or the prophecies of a seer, snips of rhymes, poems, and a song.
"See the children run,
As the sun goes down,
Upon the fields of gold..."
I thought of the twins, and unwillingly, smiled. I liked them, despite everything. And I did look forward to their promise to 'visit' a few more times...however they did not tell me what had happened to me, saying that it was better if I did not know. What did Winter mean to Jarlaxle? When would I be taken back to Calimport? And had anything happened to the Basadoni guild in my absense?
This place...why was I here again? So many questions, in such an unstable, riotous realm, and yet, conversely, for one of the few times in my life, I felt peace.
"When we walked in fields of gold..."
Perhaps it was simply because this place was unreal, and not under control of natural forces. I had lived many years, and had many illusions broken painfully in front of me. Places of calm or memories of such were often tainted in violence or tragedy; such pain has etched its way through my life. Even that Drizzt - did he truly think that I had chosen from the start to keep such a life, of killing? There were circumstances, always there were. But it did not matter any longer.
"When we walked in fields of gold..."
Delirium smiled, as if she understood the uncommon feeling now radiating calm from my heart, and mouthed the words of the song along with the wind, for remembrance, a souvenir to act as a retreat of soothing calm in days to come.
"When we walked in fields of gold..."
"Bregan D'aerthe again?" Zaknafein sighed.
"What don't you like about them?" the author said mildly.
"Jarlaxle annoys me," Zaknafein said bluntly.
"Lots of things annoy you, Zak," the author pointed out, "People stupider than you, people a lot smarter than you, yourself, people who talk too much..."
"And being called 'Zak'," Zaknafein added, meaningfully.
"Really? Well sorry, Zak," the author said sweetly.
"Do you like Entreri now too?" Zaknafein changed the subject smoothly. Actually, the author noticed. She just decided not to make an issue of it.
"No, I still think he's annoying in the books," the author said firmly. "He is more interesting when I write him."
"Because you twist his character."
"Well..." the author hedged.
"Well?" Zaknafein lounged elegantly against the computer table.
"Okay, so I do. But that's not necessarily bad. And anyway, I enjoy writing him like this, so there." The author said defensively.
"Do not tell me, tell your readers," Zaknafein said, then let out a soft exclamation when the author poked him in the side. "Ouch. That hurt."
"Good, because I know your next comment would be something snide about whether I have readers," the author told him with aplomb.
"You did?" Zaknafein attempted to look as harmless as possible. Obviously he failed in this category miserably. There is something about swords, chain mail, and muscles that tends to...
"Yes." The author said firmly, "Now. About the story."
"You are supposed to study for...Geography paper one." Zaknafein had managed to locate the white booklet mentioned before, which contained all the examination dates.
"Bah. That paper's easy. Don't even need to study. Even you can...wait, you can't." The author paused. "Because you live underground. Or lived underground."
"Pride comes before..."
"I know, I know." The author snapped. "And where did you learn that from?"
Zaknafein pretended not to listen.
"Well, whatever it is, the idea of an educated Zaknafein is frightening." The author said snidely. "Not to mention I cannot seem to grasp that idea in the first place."
Zaknafein raised an eyebrow.
"Before you say something depressing about my story, okay, we are on even footing now get on with it." The author said hurriedly. "God. You'd make a great lawyer. You'd just need to stare balefully at your opponent and he'd break down and say whatever you want to hear."
"Now that we understand each other," Zaknafein said graciously, "Very well. Your next story will obviously be the Despair one."
"Uh-huh. Unfortunately, I still cannot think of a plot that does not involve Wulfgar, so there'd be a bit of a delay for a while," the author pondered this, then brightened. "I can always kill him anyway, I suppose. Mitigating circumstances."
A loud rattling of the door on its hinges, and the author whirled on her revolving chair, nearly falling off it. "Yes?"
"Look! My toes are laughing again!" Her brother shouted from behind it, then burst into maniacal laughter.
"By Lloth," Zaknafein said slowly, "I think I may just kill that boy...to end his misery."
"Oh, will you?" the author said, with nearly frightening eagerness. Fortunately for her brother he moved away to destroy ants with a magnifying glass.
"Fratricide, my dear?"
"Hey, you know what 'fratricide' means..." the author looked amazed.
"There are several different words for different aspects of it in the drow tongue," Zaknafein explained, "Since it happens so often. We also have a word for death by mother, death by father, death by son, death by daughter..."
"Morbid, okay already," the author shuddered. "Don't suppose you have a word for chocolate."
"No," Zaknafein thought a little.
"Priorities," the author said with magnificent disdain. "Right. Back to the story, and stop backtracking."
"Fields of gold?" Zaknafein asked obligingly.
"Slow song from Sting and the Police. Nice song, even if I thought their best song is 'Every Breath you Take', but that is a stupid title for a story like this." The author said. "I'm not really sure if the lyrics are correct, but since Sting can't pronounce his words properly in the MP3 I'm not responsible." The author twiddled her thumbs and attempted to look so.
Zaknafein refrained from comment, since the author's revolving chair wheel was too close to his foot. "Very well. And is this the last we will see of the Jarlaxle-Winter tangent?"
"You are positively scintillating conversation today," the author said with exaggerated formality, "It could be. I am already getting bored with this Endless crossover anyway. The next story arc - not the Despair story - would have Nalfein as a main dark elf character, I think. Unless I come up with a story that's even more fun to write than my new idea."
"No more previews?"
"Are you Zaknafein? You don't talk like him," the author asked suspiciously, "By now Zaknafein should be asking for a drink. But no more previews...except that this could be the crossover with Buffy that I had spoken about."
"I am Zaknafein," Zaknafein said mildly.
"Right then - what did you do before you came up here? I seem to remember you being late," the author said skeptically. She leant forward. "Have you been taking drugs? Hit your head somewhere?"
"I did not do anything," Zaknafein said convincingly.
"Yeah, right." The author said, and poked him again. "Talk, you."
"I took the drink before I came up," Zaknafein refrained from pointing out that his swords were in reaching distance, as the author appeared to control most of the reality in her room except the part that got real work done.
"God. And how much did you take?" The author considered this. "Don't reply. I really don't want to know. Obviously enough to make you talk more. Later I'd tell myself this is good, but right now I'd just try not to give in to the impulse to roll over your foot."
"Thank you," Zaknafein said with dignity, and prudently removed said appendage from rolling range.
The author muttered something about maybe bribing Winter to come over wasn't such a bad idea after all.