The Halfling's Gem


11. Hot Winds


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The Sea Sprite cruised easily under clear blue skies and the lazy warmth of the southern Realms. A strong trade wind kept its sails filled, and only six days after their departure from Baldur's Gate, the western tip of the Tethyr Peninsula was already in sight - a journey that normally took more than a week.

But a wizard's call traveled faster still.

Captain Deudermont took the Sea Sprite down the center of Asavir's Channel, trying to keep a safe distance from the peninsula's sheltered bays - bays that often held pirates poised for passing merchant vessels - and also cautious to keep a healthy gap of water between his ship and the islands on his west: the Nelanther, the infamous Pirate Isles. The captain felt safe enough in the crowded sea lane, with the banner of Calimport flying above his craft and the sails of several other merchant ships dotting the horizon every so often both in front of and behind the Sea Sprite.

Using a common merchant's trick, Deudermont closed in on a vessel and shadowed its course, keeping the Sea Sprite in its wake. Less maneuverable and slower than the Sea Sprite and flying the flag of Murann, a lesser city on the Sword Coast, this second ship would provide a much easier target to any pirates in the area.

Eighty feet above the water, taking a turn in the crow's nest, Wulfgar had the clearest view of the deck of the ship ahead. With his strength and agility, the barbarian was fast becoming quite a sailor, eagerly taking his turn at every job alongside the rest of the crew. His favorite duty was the crow's nest, though it was a tight fit for a man of his size. He was at peace in the warm breeze and solitude. He rested against the mast, using one hand to block out the daytime glare, and studied the crew's activities on the ship ahead.

He heard the front ship's lookout call something down, though he couldn't make out the words, then saw the crew rushing about frantically, most heading for the prow to watch the horizon. Wulfgar jolted upright and leaned over the nest, straining his eyes to the south.

* * *

"How do they feel, having us in tow?" Drizzt, standing beside Deudermont on the bridge, asked the captain. While Wulfgar had been building a rapport working beside the crew, Drizzt had struck a solid friendship with the captain. And realizing the value of the elf's opinions, Deudermont gladly shared his knowledge of his station, and of the sea, with Drizzt. "Do they understand their role as fodder?"

"They know our purpose in shadowing them, and their captain - if he is an experienced sailor - would do the same if our positions were reversed," Deudermont replied. "Yet we bring them an extra measure of safety as well. Just having a ship from Calimport in sight will deter many of the pirates."

"And perhaps they feel that we would come to their aid in the face of such an attack?" Drizzt was quick to ask.

Deudermont knew that Drizzt was interested in discovering if the Sea Sprite would indeed go to the other ship's aid. Drizzt had a strong streak of honor in him, Deudermont understood, and the captain, of similar morals, admired him for it. But Deudermont's responsibilities as the captain of a vessel were too involved for such a hypothetical situation. "Perhaps," he replied.

Drizzt let the line of questioning end, satisfied that Deudermont kept the scales of duty and morality in proper balance.

"Sails to the south!" came Wulfgar's call from above, bringing many of the Sea Sprite's crew to the forward rail.

Deudermont's eyes went to the horizon, then to Wulfgar. "How many?"

"Two ships!" Wulfgar called back. "Running north and even, and wide apart!"

"Port and starboard?" Deudermont asked.

Wulfgar took a close measure of the intercepting course then affirmed the captain's suspicions. "We will pass between them!"

"Pirates?" Drizzt asked, knowing the answer.

"So it would seem," the captain replied. The distant sails came into view to the men on the deck.

"I see no flag," one of the sailors near the bridge called to the captain.

Drizzt pointed to the merchant ship ahead. "Are they the target?"

Deudermont nodded grimly. "So it would seem," he said again.

"Then let us close up with them," the drow said. "Two against two seems a fairer fight."

Deudermont stared into Drizzt's lavender eyes and was almost stunned by their sudden gleam. How could the captain hope to make this honorable warrior understand their place in the scenario? The Sea Sprite flew Calimport's flag, the other ship, Murann's. The two were hardly allies.

"The encounter may not come to blows," he told Drizzt. "The Murann vessel would be wise to surrender peacefully."

Drizzt began to see the reasoning. "So flying Calimport's flag holds responsibilities as well as benefits?"

Deudermont shrugged helplessly. "Think of the thieves' guilds in the cities you have known," he explained. "Pirates are much the same an unavoidable nuisance. If we sail in to fight, we would dispel any self-restraint the pirates hold upon themselves, most probably bringing more trouble than need be."

"And we would mark every ship under Calimport's flag sailing the Channel," Drizzt added, no longer looking at the captain, but watching the spectacle unfold before him. The light dropped from his eyes.

Deudermont, inspired by Drizzt's grasp of principles - a grip that would not allow such acceptance of rogues - put a hand on the elf's shoulder. "If the encounter comes to blows," the captain said, drawing Drizzt's gaze back to his own, "the Sea Sprite will join the battle."

Drizzt turned back to the horizon and clapped Deudermont's hand with his own. The eager fire returned to his eyes as Deudermont ordered the crew to stand ready.

The captain really didn't expect a fight. He had seen dozens of engagements such as this, and normally when the pirates outnumbered their intended victim, the looting was accomplished without bloodshed. But Deudermont, with so many years of experience on the sea, soon realized that something was strange this time. The pirate ships kept their course wide, passing too far abreast of the Murann ship to board it. At first, Deudermont thought the pirates meant to launch a distance strike - one of the pirate vessels had a catapult mounted to its afterdeck - to cripple their victim, though the act seemed unnecessary.

Then the captain understood the truth. The pirates had no interest in the Murann ship. The Sea Sprite was their target.

From his high perch, Wulfgar, too, realized that the pirates were sailing right by the lead ship. "Take up arms!" he cried to the crew. "They aim for us!"

"You may indeed get your fight," Deudermont said to Drizzt. "It seems that Calimport's flag will not protect us this time."

To Drizzt's night-attuned eyes, the distant ships appeared as no more than tiny black dots in the glare of the shining water, but the drow could make out what was happening well enough. He couldn't understand the logic of the pirates' choice, though, and he had a strange feeling that he and Wulfgar might be somehow connected to the unfolding events. "Why us?" he asked Deudermont.

The captain shrugged. "Perhaps they have heard a rumor that one of Calimport's ships will be laden with a valuable cargo."

The image of the fireballs exploding in the night sky over Baldur's Gate flashed in Drizzt's mind. A signal? he wondered again. He couldn't yet put all of the pieces together, but his suspicions led him invariably to the theory that he and Wulfgar were somehow involved in the pirates' choice of ships.

"Do we fight?" he started to ask Deudermont, but he saw that the captain was already laying the plans.

"Starboard!" Deudermont told the helmsman. "Put us west to the Pirate Isles. Let us see if these dogs have a belly for the reefs!" He motioned another man to the crow's nest, wanting Wulfgar's strength for the more important duties on the deck.

The Sea Sprite bit into the waves and bowed low in a sharp right turn. The pirate vessel on the east, now the farthest away, cut its angle to pursue directly while the other, the bulkier of the two, kept its course straight, each second bringing the Sea Sprite closer for a shot of its catapult.

Deudermont pointed to the largest of the few islands visible in the west. "Skim her close," he told the helmsman, "but ware the single reef. Tide's low, and she should be visible."

Wulfgar dropped to the deck beside the captain.

"On that line," Deudermont ordered him. "You've the mainmast. If I bid you to pull, then heave for all your strength! We shan't get a second chance."

Wulfgar took up the heavy rope with a grunt of determination, wrapping it tightly around his wrists and hands.

"Fire in the sky!" one of the crewmen yelled, pointing back to the south, toward the bulky pirate ship. A ball of flaming pitch soared through the air, splashing harmlessly into the ocean with a hiss of protest, many yards short of the Sea Sprite.

"A tracing shot," Deudermont explained, "to give them our range."

Deudermont estimated the distance and figured how much closer the pirates would get before the Sea Sprite put the island between them.

"We'll slip them if we make the channel between the reef and the island," he told Drizzt, nodding to indicate that he thought the prospects promising.

But even as the drow and the captain began to comfort themselves with thoughts of escape, the masts of a third vessel loomed before them in the west, slipping out of the very channel that Deudermont had hoped to enter. This ship had its sails furled and was prepared for boarding.

Deudermont's jaw dropped open. "They were lying for us," he said to Drizzt. He turned to the elf helplessly. "They were lying for us.

"But we've no cargo of particular value," the captain continued, trying to reason through the unusual turn of events. "Why would pirates run three vessels in a strike against a single ship?"

Drizzt knew the answer.

* * *

The ride was easier for Bruenor and Catti-brie now. The dwarf had settled comfortably at the reins of the fiery chariot, and the morning haze had burned away. They cruised down the Sword Coast, amused by the ships they passed over and the astonished expressions of every sailor who turned his eyes heavenward.

Soon after, they crossed the entrance to the River Chionthar, the gateway to Baldur's Gate. Bruenor paused a moment to consider a sudden impulse, then veered the chariot away from the coast.

"The lady bid us to stay to the coast," said Catti-brie as soon as she realized the shift in course.

Bruenor grabbed Alustriel's magical locket, which he had strung around his neck, and shrugged his shoulders. "It's tellin' me different," he replied.

* * *

A second load of burning pitch hit the water, this time dangerously close to the Sea Sprite.

"We can run by her," Drizzt said to Deudermont, for the third ship still had not raised its sails.

The experienced captain recognized the flaw in the reasoning. The primary purpose of the ship coming out from the island was to block the channel's entrance. The Sea Sprite could indeed sail past that ship, but Deudermont would have to take his ship outside the dangerous reef and back into open water. And by then, they would be well within the catapult's range.

Deudermont looked over his shoulder. The remaining pirate ship, the one farthest to the east, had its sails full of wind and was cutting the water even more swiftly than the Sea Sprite. If a ball of pitch came in on the mark and the Sea Sprite took any damage at all to its sails, it would be quickly overtaken.

And then a second problem dramatically grabbed the captain's attention. A bolt of lightning blasted across the Sea Sprite's deck, severing some lines and splintering off pieces of the mainmast. The structure leaned and groaned against the strain of the full sails. Wulfgar found a foothold and tugged against the pull with all his strength.

"Hold her!" Deudermont cheered him. "Keep us straight and strong!"

"They've a wizard," Drizzt remarked, realizing that the blast had come from the ship ahead of them.

"I feared as much," Deudermont replied grimly.

The seething fire in Drizzt's eyes told Deudermont that the elf had already decided upon his first task in the fight. Even in their obvious disadvantage, the captain felt a tug of pity for the wizard.

A sly expression came over Deudermont's face as the sight of Drizzt inspired a desperate plan of action. "Take us right up on her port," he told the helmsman. "Close enough to spit on them!"

"But, Captain," the sailor protested, "that'd put us in line for the reef!"

"Just what the dogs had hoped," Deudermont came back. "Let them think that we do not know these waters; let them think that the rocks will do their business for them!"

Drizzt felt comfortable with the security in the captain's tone. The wily old sailor had something in mind.

"Steady?" Deudermont called to Wulfgar.

The barbarian nodded.

"When I call for you, pull, man, as if your life depends on it!" Deudermont told him.

Next to the captain, Drizzt made a quiet observation. "It does."

* * *

From the bridge of his flagship, the fast-flying vessel on the east, Pinochet the pirate watched the maneuvering of the Sea Sprite with concern. He knew Deudermont's reputation well enough to know that the captain would not be so foolish as to put his ship onto a reef under a bright midday sun at low tide. Deudermont meant to fight.

Pinochet looked to the bulky ship and measured the angle to the Sea Sprite. The catapult would get two more shots, maybe three, before their target ran alongside the blocking ship in the channel. Pinochet's own ship was still many minutes behind the action, and the pirate captain wondered how much damage Deudermont would inflict before he could aid his allies.

But Pinochet quickly put thoughts of the cost of this mission out of his mind. He was doing a personal favor for the guildmaster of the largest gang of thieves in all of Calimport. Whatever the price, Pasha Pook's payment would surely outweigh it!

* * *

Catti-brie watched eagerly as each new ship came into view, but Bruenor, confident that the magical locket was leading him to the drow, paid them no heed. The dwarf snapped the reins, trying to urge the flaming horses on faster. Somehow - perhaps it was another property of the locket - Bruenor felt that Drizzt was in trouble and that speed was essential.

The dwarf then snapped a stubby finger in front of him. "There!" he cried as soon as the Sea Sprite came into view.

Catti-brie did not question his observation. She quickly surveyed the dramatic situation unfolding below her.

Another ball of pitch soared though the air, slapping into the tail of the Sea Sprite at water level but catching too little of the ship to do any real damage.

Catti-brie and Bruenor watched the catapult being pulled back for another shot; they watched the brutish crew of the ship in the channel, their swords in hand, awaiting the approach of the Sea Sprite; and they watched the third pirate ship, rushing in from behind to close the trap.

Bruenor veered the chariot to the south, toward the bulkiest of the ships. "First for the catapult!" the dwarf cried in rage.

* * *

Pinochet, as well as most of the crewmen on the back two pirate ships, watched the fiery craft cutting a streak down from the northern sky, but the captain and crew of the Sea Sprite and the other ship were too enmeshed in the desperation of their own situation to worry about events behind them. Drizzt did give the chariot a second look, though, noticing a glistening reflection that might have been a single horn of a broken helmet peeking above the flames, and a form in back of that with flowing hair that seemed more than vaguely familiar.

But perhaps it was just a trick of the light and Drizzt's own undying hopes. The chariot moved away into a fiery blur and Drizzt let it go, having no time now to give it further thought.

The Sea Sprite's crew lined the foredeck, firing crossbows at the pirate ship, hoping, more than anything else, to keep the wizard too engaged to hit them again.

A second lightning bolt did roar in, but the Sea Sprite was rocking wildly in the breakers rolling off the reef, and the wizard's blast cut only a minor hole in the mainsail.

Deudermont looked hopefully to Wulfgar, tensed and ready for the command.

And then they were crossing beside the pirates, barely fifteen yards from the other ship, and apparently heading on a deadly course into the reef.

"Pull!" Deudermont cried, and Wulfgar heaved, every muscle in his huge body reddening with a sudden influx of blood and adrenaline.

The mainmast groaned in protest, beams creaked and cracked, and the wind-filled sails fought back as Wulfgar looped the rope over his shoulder and drove himself forward. The Sea Sprite verily pivoted in the water, its front end lifting over the roll of a wave and lurching at the pirate vessel. Deudermont's crew, though they had witnessed Wulfgar's power in the River Chionthar, grabbed desperately at the rail and held on, awestruck.

And the stunned pirates, never suspecting that a ship under full sail could possibly cut so tight a turn, reacted not at all. They watched in blank amazement as the prow of the Sea Sprite smashed into their port flank, entangling the two ships in a deadly embrace.

"Take it to them!" Deudermont cried. Grapples soared through the air, further securing the Sea Sprite's hold, and boarding planks were thrown down and fastened into place.

Wulfgar scrambled to his feet and pulled Aegis-fang off his back. Drizzt drew his scimitars but made no immediate move, instead scanning the deck of the enemy ship. He quickly focused on one man, not dressed like a wizard, but unarmed as far as Drizzt could tell.

The man went through some motions, as if in spellcasting, and the telltale magical sprinkles dusted the air around him.

But Drizzt was quicker. Calling on the innate abilities of his heritage, the drow limned the wizard's form in harmless purplish flames. The wizard's corporeal body faded from sight as his invisibility spell took effect.

But the purple outline remained.

"Wizard, Wulfgar!" Drizzt called.

The barbarian rushed to the rail and surveyed the pirate ship, easily spotting the magical outline.

The wizard, realizing his predicament, dove behind some casks.

Wulfgar didn't hesitate. He sent Aegis-fang hurtling end over end. The mighty war hammer drove through the casks, sending wood and water exploding into the air, and then found its mark on the other side.

The hammer blasted the wizard's broken body - still visible only by the outline of the drow's faerie fire - into the air and over the far rail of the pirate ship.

Drizzt and Wulfgar nodded to each other, grimly satisfied.

Deudermont slapped a hand across his unbelieving eyes.

Perhaps they did have a chance.

* * *

The pirates on the two back ships paused in their duties to consider the flying chariot. As Bruenor swung around the back of the bulky catapult ship and came in from behind, Catti-brie pulled the Taulmaril's bowstring tight.

"Think o' yer friends," Bruenor comforted her, seeing her hesitation. Only a few weeks earlier, Catti-brie had killed a human out of necessity, and the act had not set well with her. Now, as they closed on the ship from above, she could rain death among the exposed sailors.

She huffed a deep breath to steady herself and took a bead on a sailor, standing mouth agape, not even realizing that he was about to die.

There was another way.

Out of the corner of her eye, Catti-brie spotted a better target. She swung the bow toward the back of the ship and sent a silver arrow streaking down. It blasted into the arm of the catapult, cracking the wood, the arrow's magical energy scorching a black hole as the silver shaft ripped through.

"Taste me flames!" Bruenor cried, steering the chariot downward. The wild dwarf drove his flaming horses straight through the mainsail, leaving a tattered rag in his wake.

And Catti-brie's aim was perfect; again and again the silver arrows whistled into the catapult. As the chariot rushed past a second time, the ships gunners tried to respond with a ball of burning pitch, but the catapult's wooden arm had taken too much damage to retain any strength, and the ball of pitch lobbed weakly, a few feet up and a few feet out.

And dropped onto the deck of its own ship!

"One more pass!" Bruenor growled, looking back over his shoulder at the fires now roaring on the mast and the deck.

But Catti-brie's eyes were forward, to where the Sea Sprite had just crashed onto one vessel, and where the second pirate ship would soon join the fray. "No time!" she yelled. "They be needin' us up ahead!"

* * *

Steel rang against steel as the crew of the Sea Sprite locked against the pirates. One rogue, seeing Wulfgar launch the war hammer, crossed over to the Sea Sprite and made for the unarmed barbarian, thinking him easy prey. He rushed in, thrusting his sword ahead.

Wulfgar easily sidestepped the blow, caught the pirate by the wrist, and slapped his other hand into the man's crotch. Changing the pirate's direction slightly but not breaking his momentum, Wulfgar hoisted him into the air and heaved him over the back rail of the Sea Sprite. Two other pirates, having the same initial response to the unarmed barbarian as their unfortunate comrade, stopped in their tracks and sought out better armed, but less dangerous, opponents.

Then Aegis-fang magically returned to Wulfgar's waiting grasp, and it was his turn to charge.

Three of Deudermont's crew, trying to cross over, were cut down on the central boarding plank, and now the pirates came rushing back across the opening to flood the Sea Sprite's deck.

Drizzt Do'Urden stemmed the tide. Scimitars in hand - Twinkle glowing an angry blue light - the elf sprang lightly onto the wide boarding plank.

The group of pirates, seeing only a single, slender enemy barring the way, expected to bowl right through.

Their momentum slowed considerably when the first rank of three stumbled down in a whirring blur of blades, grasping at slit throats and bellies.

Deudermont and the helmsman, rushing to support Drizzt, slowed and watched the display. Twinkle and its companion scimitar rose and dipped with blinding speed and deadly accuracy. Another pirate went down, and yet another had his sword struck from his hand, so he dove into the water to escape the terrible elven warrior.

The remaining five pirates froze as if paralyzed, their mouths hanging open in silent screams of terror.

Deudermont and the helmsman also jumped back in surprise and confusion, for with Drizzt absorbed in the concentration of battle, the magical mask had played a trick of its own. It had slipped from the drow's face, revealing his dark heritage to all around.

* * *

"Even if ye flame the sails, the ship'll get in," Catti-brie observed, noting the short distance between the remaining pirate ship and the tangled ships at the entrance to the channel.

"The sails?" Bruenor laughed. "Suren I mean to get more than that!"

Catti-brie stood back from the dwarf, digesting his meaning. "Ye're daft!" She gawked as Bruenor brought the chariot down to deck level.

"Bah! I'll stop the dogs! Hang on, girl!"

"The demons, I will!" Catti-brie shouted back. She patted Bruenor on the head and went with an alternate plan, dropping from the back of the chariot and into the water.

"Smart girl," Bruenor chuckled, watching her splash safely. Then his eyes went back to the pirates. The crew at the rear of the ship had seen him coming and were diving every which way to get clear.

Pinochet, at the front of the ship, looked back at the unexpected commotion just as Bruenor crashed in.

"Moradin!"

* * *

The dwarf's war cry resounded to the decks of the Sea Sprite and the third pirate vessel, above all the din of battle. Pirates and sailors alike on the embattled ships glanced back at the explosion on Pinochet's flagship, and Pinochet's crew answered Bruenor's cry with one of terror.

Wulfgar paused at the plea to the dwarven god, remembering a dear friend who used to shout such names at his enemies.

Drizzt only smiled.

* * *

As the chariot crashed to the deck, Bruenor rolled off the back and Alustriel's dweomer came apart, transforming the chariot into a rolling ball of destruction. Flames swept across the deck, licked at the masts, and caught the bottoms of the sails.

Bruenor regained his feet, his mithril axe poised in one hand and shining golden shield strapped across his other. But no one cared to challenge him at that moment. Those pirates who had escaped the initial devastation were concerned only with escape.

Bruenor spat at them and shrugged. And then, to the amazement of those few who saw him, the crazy dwarf walked straight into the flames, heading forward to see if any of the pirates up front wanted to play.

Pinochet knew at once that his ship was lost. Not the first time, and probably not the last, he consoled himself as he calmly motioned his closest officer to help him loose a small rowboat. Two of his other crewmen had the same idea and were already untying the little boat when Pinochet got there.

But in this disaster, it was every man for himself, and Pinochet stabbed one of them in the back and chased the other away.

Bruenor emerged, unbothered by the flames, to find the front of the ship nearly deserted. He grinned happily when he saw the little boat, and the pirate captain, touch down in the water. The other pirate was bent over the rail, untying the last of the lines.

And as the pirate hoisted one leg over the rail, Bruenor helped him along, putting a booted foot into his rear and launching him clear of the rail, and of the little rowboat.

"Turn yer back, will ye?" Bruenor grunted at the pirate captain as the dwarf dropped heavily into the rowboat. "I've a girl to pick out of the water!"

Pinochet gingerly slid his sword out of its sheath and peeked back over his shoulder.

"Will ye?" Bruenor asked again.

Pinochet swung about, chopping down viciously at the dwarf.

"Ye could've just said no," Bruenor taunted, blocking the blow with his shield and launching a counter at the man's knees.

* * *

Of all the disasters that had befallen the pirates that day, none horrified them more than when Wulfgar went on the attack. He had no need for a boarding plank; the mighty barbarian leaped the gap between the ships. He drove into the pirate ranks, scattering rogues with powerful sweeps of his war hammer.

From the central plank, Drizzt watched the spectacle. The drow had not noticed that his mask had slipped, and he wouldn't have had time to do anything about it anyway. Meaning to join his friend, he rushed the five remaining pirates on the plank. They parted willingly, preferring the water below to the killing blades of a drow elf.

Then the two heroes, the two friends, were together, cutting a swath of destruction across the deck of the pirate ship. Deudermont and his crew, trained fighters themselves, soon cleared the Sea Sprite of pirates and had won over every boarding plank. Now knowing victory to be at hand, they waited at the rail of the pirate ship, escorting the growing wave of willing prisoners back to the Sea Sprite's hold while Drizzt and Wulfgar finished their task.

* * *

"You will die, bearded dog!" Pinochet roared, slashing with his sword.

Bruenor, trying to settle his feet on the rocking boat, let the man keep the offensive, holding his own strikes for the best moments.

One came unexpectedly as the pirate Bruenor had booted from the burning ship caught up to the drifting rowboat. Bruenor watched his approach out of the corner of his eye.

The man grabbed the side of the little boat and hoisted himself up - only to be met with a blow to the top of the head by Bruenor's mithril axe.

The pirate dropped back down beside the rowboat, turning the water crimson.

"Friend o' yers?" Bruenor taunted.

Pinochet came on even more furiously, as Bruenor had hoped. The man missed a wild swing, overbalancing to Bruenor's right. The dwarf helped Pinochet along, shifting his weight to heighten the list of the boat and slamming his shield into the pirate captain's back.

"On yer life," Bruenor called as Pinochet bobbed back above the water a few feet away, "lose the sword!" The dwarf recognized the importance of the man, and he preferred to let someone else row.

With no options open to him, Pinochet complied and swam back to the little boat. Bruenor dragged him over the side and plopped him down between the oars. "Turn 'er back!" the dwarf roared. "And be pullin' hard!"

* * *

"The mask is down," Wulfgar whispered to Drizzt when their business was finished. The drow slipped behind a mast and replaced the magical disguise.

"Do you think they saw?" Drizzt asked when he returned to Wulfgar's side. Even as he spoke, he noticed the Sea Sprite's crew lining the deck of the pirate ship and eyeing him suspiciously, their weapons in hand.

"They saw," Wulfgar remarked. "Come," he bade Drizzt, heading back toward the boarding plank. "They will accept this!"

Drizzt wasn't so certain. He remembered other times when he had rescued men, only to have them turn on him when they saw under the cowl of his cloak and learned the true color of his skin.

But this was the price of his choice to forsake his own people and come to the surface world.

Drizzt grabbed Wulfgar by the shoulder and stepped by him, resolutely leading the way back to the Sea Sprite. Looking back at his young friend, he winked and pulled the mask off his face. He sheathed his scimitars and turned to confront the crew.

"Let them know Drizzt Do'Urden," Wulfgar growled softly behind him, lending Drizzt all the strength he would ever need.


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