The Crystal Shard Epilogue part one

The Crystal Shard Epilogue part one

The people of Ten-Towns and their barbarian allies found the winter following the battle a difficult one, but by pooling their talents and resources, they managed to survive. Many councils were held throughout those long months with Cassius, Jensin Brent, and Kemp representing the people of Ten-Towns, and Wulfgar and Revjak speaking for the barbarian tribes. The first order of business was to officially recognize and condone the alliance of the two peoples, though many on both sides were strongly opposed.

Those cities left untouched by Akar Kessell’s army were packed full of refugees during the brutal winter. Reconstruction began with the first signs of spring. When the region was well on its way to recovery, and after the barbarian expedition following Wulfgar’s directions returned with the dragon treasure, councils were held to divide the towns among the surviving people. Relations between the two peoples almost broke down several times and were held together only by the commanding presence of Wulfgar and the continued calm of Cassius.

When all was finally settled, the barbarians were given the cities of Bremen and Caer-Konig to rebuild, the homeless of Caer-Konig were moved into the reconstructed city of Caer-Dineval, and the refugees of Bremen who did not wish to live among the tribesmen were offered homes in the newly built city of Targos.

It was a difficult situation, where traditional enemies were forced to put aside their differences and live in close quarters. Though victorious in the battle, the people of the towns could not call themselves winners. Everyone had suffered tragic losses; no one had come out better for the fight.

Except Regis.

The opportunistic halfling was awarded the title of First Citizen and the finest house in all of Ten-Towns for his part in the battle. Cassius readily surrendered his palace to the “tower-breaker.” Regis accepted the spokesman’s offer and all of the other numerous gifts that rolled in from every city, for though he hadn’t truly earned the accolades awarded him, he justified his good fortune by considering himself a partner of the unassuming drow. And since Drizzt Do’Urden wasn’t about to come to Bryn Shander and collect the rewards, Regis figured that it was his duty to do so.

This was the pampered lifestyle that the halfling had always desired. He truly enjoyed the excessive wealth and luxuries, though he would later learn that there was indeed a hefty price to be paid for fame.

* * *

Drizzt and Bruenor had spent the winter in preparation for their search for Mithril Hall. The drow intended to honor his word, though he had been tricked, because life hadn’t changed much for him after the battle. Although he was in truth the hero of the fight, he still found himself barely tolerated among the people of Ten-Towns. And the barbarians, other than Wulfgar and Revjak, openly avoided him, mumbling warding prayers to their gods whenever they inadvertently crossed his path.

But the drow accepted the shunning with his characteristic stoicism.

* * *

“The whispers in town say that you have given your voice at council to Revjak,” Catti-brie said to Wulfgar on one of her many visits to Bryn Shander.

Wulfgar nodded. “He is older and wiser in many ways.”

Catti-brie drew Wulfgar under the uncomfortable scrutiny of her dark eyes. She knew that there were other reasons for Wulfgar stepping down as king. “You mean to go with them,” she stated flatly.

“I owe it to the drow,” was Wulfgar’s only explanation as he turned away, in no mood to argue with the fiery girl.

“Again you parry the question,” Catti-brie laughed. “You go to pay no debt! You go because you choose the road!”

“What could you know of the road?” Wulfgar growled, pulled in by the girl’s painfully accurate observation. “What could you know of adventure?”

Catti-brie’s eyes sparkled disarmingly. “I know,” she stated flatly. “Every day in every place is an adventure. This you have not yet learned. And so you chase down the distant roads, hoping to satisfy the hunger for excitement that burns in your heart. So go, Wulfgar of Icewind Dale. Follow your heart’s trail and be happy!

“Perhaps when you return you will understand the excitement of simply being alive.” She kissed him on the cheek and skipped to the door.

Wulfgar called after her, pleasantly surprised by her kiss. “Perhaps then our discussions will be more agreeable!”

“But not as interesting!” was her parting response.

* * *

One fine morning in early spring, the time finally came for Drizzt and Bruenor to leave. Catti-brie helped them pack their overstuffed sacks.

“When we’ve cleared the place, I’ll take ye there!” Bruenor told the girl one more time. “Sure yer eyes’ll shine when ye see the rivers runnin’ silver in Mithril Hall!”

Catti-brie smiled indulgently.

“Ye’re sure ye’ll be all right, then?” Bruenor asked more seriously. He knew that she would, but his heart flooded with fatherly concern.

Catti-brie’s smile widened. They had been through this discussion a hundred times over the winter. Catti-brie was glad that the dwarf was going, though she knew that she would miss him dearly, for it was clear that Bruenor would never truly be contented until he had at least tried to find his ancestral home.

And she knew, better than anyone, that the dwarf would be in fine company.

Bruenor was satisfied. The time had come to go.

The companions said their goodbyes to the dwarves and started off for Bryn Shander to bid farewell to their two closest friends.

They arrived at Regis’s house later in the morning, and found Wulfgar sitting on the steps waiting for them, Aegis-fang and his pack by his side.

Drizzt eyed the barbarian’s belongings suspiciously as they approached, half-guessing Wulfgar’s intentions. “Well met, King Wulfgar,” he said. “Are you off to Bremen, or perhaps Caer-Konig, to oversee the work of your people?”

Wulfgar shook his head. “I am no king,” he replied. “Councils and speeches are better left to older men; I have had more of them than I can tolerate. Revjak speaks for the men of the tundra now.”

“Then what o’ yerself?” asked Bruenor.

“I go with you,” Wulfgar replied. “To repay my last debt.”

“Ye owe me nothin’!” Bruenor declared.

“To you I am paid,” Wulfgar agreed. “And I have paid all that I owe to Ten-Towns, and to my own people as well. But there is one debt I am not yet free of.” He turned to face Drizzt squarely. “To you, friend elf.”

Drizzt didn’t know how to reply. He clapped the huge man on the shoulder and smiled warmly.

* * *

“Come with us, Rumblebelly,” Bruenor said after they had finished an excellent lunch in the palace. “Four adventurers, out on the open plain. It’ll do ye some good an’ take a bit o’ that belly o’ yers away!”

Regis grasped his ample stomach in both hands and jiggled it. “I like my belly and intend to keep it, thank you. I may even add some more to it!”

“I cannot begin to understand why you all insist on going on this quest, anyway,” he said more seriously. He had spent many hours during the winter trying to talk Bruenor and Drizzt out of their chosen path. “We have an easy life here; why would you want to leave?”

“There is more to living than fine food and soft pillows, little friend,” said Wulfgar. “The lust of adventure burns our blood. With peace in the region, Ten-Towns cannot offer the thrill of danger or the satisfaction of victory.” Drizzt and Bruenor nodded their assent, though Regis shook his head.

“An’ ye call this pitiful place wealth?” Bruenor chuckled, snapping his stubby fingers. “When I return from Mithril Hall, I’ll build ye a home twice this size an’ edged in gems like ye never seen afore!”

But Regis was determined that he had witnessed his last adventure. After the meal was finished, he accompanied his friends to the door. “If you make it back…”

“Your house shall be our first stop,” Drizzt assured him.

They met Kemp of Targos when they walked outside. He was standing across the road from Regis’s front step, apparently looking for them.

“He is waiting for me,” Wulfgar explained, smiling at the notion that Kemp would go out of his way to be rid of him.

“Farewell, good spokesman,” Wulfgar called, bowing low. “Prayne de crabug ahm rinedere be-yogt iglo kes gron.”

Kemp flashed an obscene gesture at the barbarian and stalked away. Regis nearly doubled over with laughter.

Drizzt recognized the words, but was puzzled as to why Wulfgar had spoken them to Kemp. “You once told me that those words were an old tundra battle cry,” he remarked to the barbarian. “Why would you offer them to the man you most despite?”

Wulfgar stammered over an explanation that would get him out of this jam, but Regis answered for him.

“Battle cry?” the halfling exclaimed. “That is an old barbarian housemother’s curse, usually reserved for adulturous old barbarian housefathers.” The drow’s lavender eyes narrowed on the barbarian as Regis continued. “It means: May the fleas of a thousand reindeer nest in your genitals.”

Bruenor broke down into laughter, Wulfgar soon joining. Drizzt couldn’t help but go along.

“Come, the day is long,” the drow said. “Let, us begin this adventure – it should prove interesting!”

“Where will you go?” Regis asked somberly. A small part of the halfling actually envied his friends; he had to admit that he would miss them.

“To Bremen, first,” replied Drizzt. “We shall complete our provisions there and strike out to the southwest.”

“Luskan?”

“Perhaps, if the fates deem it.”

“Good speed,” Regis offered as the three companions started out without further delay.

Regis watched them disappear, wondering how he had ever picked such foolish friends. He shrugged it away and turned back to his palace – there was plenty of food left over from lunch.

He was stopped before he got through the door.

“First Citizen!” came a call from the street. The voice belonged to a warehouseman from the southern section of the city, where the merchant caravans loaded and unloaded. Regis waited for his approach.

“A man, First Citizen,” the warehouseman said, bowing apologetically for disturbing so important a person. “Asking about you. He claims to be a representative from the Heroes Society in Luskan, sent to request your presence at their next meeting. He said that he would pay you well.”

“His name?”

“He gave none, just this!” The warehouseman opened a small pouch of gold.

It was all that Regis needed to see. He left at once for the rendezvous with the man from Luskan.

Once again, sheer luck saved the halfling’s life, for he saw the stranger before the stranger saw him. He recognized the man at once, though he hadn’t seen him in years, by the emerald-encrusted dagger hilt protruding from the sheath on his hip. Regis had often contemplated stealing that beautiful weapon, but even he had a limit to his foolhardiness. The dagger belonged to Artemis Entreri.

Pasha Pook’s prime assassin.

* * *

The three companions left Bremen before dawn the next day. Anxious to begin the adventure, they made good time and were far out into the tundra when the first rays of the sun peeked over the eastern horizon behind them.

Still, Bruenor was not surprised when he noticed Regis scrambling across the empty plain to catch up with them.

“Got ‘imself into trouble again, or I’m a bearded gnome,” the dwarf snickered to Wulfgar and Drizzt.

“Well met,” said Drizzt. “But haven’t we already said our farewells?”

“I decided that I could not let Bruenor run off into trouble without me being there to pull him out,” Regis puffed, trying to catch his breath.

“Yer cumin’?” groaned Bruenor. “Ye’ve brought no supplies, fool halfling!”

“I don’t eat much,” Regis pleaded, an edge of desperation creeping into his voice.

“Bah! Ye eat more’n the three of us together! But no mind, we’ll let ye tag along anyway.”

The halfling’s face brightened visibly, and Drizzt suspected that the dwarf’s guess about trouble wasn’t far off the mark.

“The four of us, then!” proclaimed Wulfgar. “One to represent each of the four common races: Bruenor for the dwarves, Regis for the halflings, Drizzt Do’Urden for the elves, and myself for the humans. A fitting troupe!”

“I hardly think the elves would choose a drow to represent them,” Drizzt remarked.

Bruenor snorted. “Ye think the halflings’d choose Rumblebelly for their champion?”

“You’re crazy, dwarf,” retorted Regis.

Bruenor dropped his shield to the ground, leaped around Wulfgar, and squared off before Regis. His face contorted in mock rage as he grasped Regis by the shoulders and hoisted him into the air.

“That’s right, Rumblebelly!” Bruenor cried wildly. “Crazy I am! An’ never cross one what’s crazier than yerself!”

Drizzt and Wulfgar looked at each other with knowing smiles.

It was indeed going to be an interesting adventure.

And with the rising sun at their back, their shadows standing long before them, they started off on their way.

To find Mithril Hall.