e's a bit forthcoming for a prisoner, I'd say," Sheila Kree remarked to Bellany after an exhausting three hours of interrogation during which Morik the Rogue had volunteered all he knew of Wulfgar, Drizzt, and Catti-brie. Sheila had listened carefully to every word about the dark elf in particular.

"Morik's credo is self-preservation," Bellany explained. "Nothing more than that. He would put a dagger into Wulfgar's heart himself, if his own life demanded it. Morik will not be glad if Drizzt and Wulfgar come against us. He may even find ways to stay out of the fight and not aid us as we destroy his former companion, but he'll not risk his own life going against us. Nor will he jeopardize the promise of a better future he knows we can offer to him. That's just not his way."

Sheila could accept the idea of personal gain over communal loyalty readily enough. It was certainly the source of any loyalty her cutthroat band held for her. They were a crew she kept together only by threat and promise - only because they all knew their best personal gains could be found under the command of Sheila Kree. They likewise knew that if they tried to leave, they would face the wrath of the deadly pirate leader and her elite group of commanders.

Sitting at the side of the room, Jule Pepper was even more convinced of Morik's authenticity, mostly because of his actions since he'd arrived with Bellany in Golden Cove. Everything Morik had said had been in complete agreement with all she'd learned of Drizzt during her short stay in Ten-Towns.

"If the drow and Catti-brie intend to come after the warhammer, then we can expect the dwarf, Bruenor, and the halfling, Regis, to join with them," she said. "And do not dismiss that panther companion Drizzt carries along."

"Won't forget any of it," Sheila Kree assured her. "Makes me glad Le'lorinel came to us."

"Le'lorinel's appearance here might prove to be the most fortunate thing of all," Bellany agreed.

"Morik's going to fight the elf now?" the pirate leader asked, for Le'lorinel, so obsessed with Drizzt, had requested some private time with this newest addition to the hide-out, one who had just suffered firsthand experience against the hated dark elf.

Jule Pepper laughed aloud at the question. Soon after Jule had arrived at Golden Cove, Le'lorinel had spent hour after hour with her, making her mimic every movement she'd seen Drizzt make, even those unrelated to battle. Le'lorinel wanted to know the length of his stride, the tilt of his head when he spoke, anything at all about the hated drow. Jule knew Morik would likely show the elf nothing of any value, but knew, too, that Le'lorinel would make him repeat his actions and words again and again. Never had Jule seen anyone so perfectly obsessed.

"Morik is likely beside Le'lorinel even now, no doubt reenacting the sequence that got him caught by Drizzt and Catti-brie," Bellany answered with a glance at the amused Jule.

"Ye be watchin' them with yer magic," Sheila instructed the sorceress. "Ye pay attention to every word Le'lorinel utters, to every movement made toward Morik."

"You still fear that our enemies might have sent the elf as a diversion?" Bellany asked.

"Le'lorinel's arrival was a bit too convenient," Jule remarked.

"What I'm fearin' even more is that the fool elf'll go finding Drizzt and his friends afore they're finding us," Sheila explained. "That group might be spendin' tendays wandering the mountains without any sign o' Minster Gorge or Golden Cove, and I'm preferring that to having enemies that powerful walkin' right in."

"I'd like to raise a beacon to guide them in," Jule said quietly. "I owe that group and intend to see them paid back in full."

"To say nothing of the many magical treasures they carry," Bellany agreed. "I believe I could get used to such a companion as Guenhwyvar, and wouldn't you look fine, Sheila, wearing the dark elf's reportedly fabulous scimitars strapped about your waist?"

Sheila Kree nodded and smiled wickedly. "But we got to get that group on our own terms and not theirs," she explained. "We'll bring 'em in when we're ready for 'em, after the winter's softened them up a bit. We'll get Le'lorinel the fight that's been doggin' the stubborn fool elf for all these years and hope that Drizzt falls hard then and there. And if not, there'll be fewer of us left to split the treasure."

"Speaking of that," Jule put in, "I note that many of our ogre friends have gone out and about, hunting the countryside. We would do well, I think, to keep them close until this business with Drizzt Do'Urden is finished."

"Only a few out at a time," Sheila Kree replied. "I telled as much to Chogurugga already."

Bellany left the room soon after, and she couldn't help but smile at the way things were playing out. Normally, the winters had been dreadfully uneventful, but now this one promised a good fight, better treasure, and more companionship in the person of Morik the Rogue than the young sorceress had known since her days as an apprentice back in Luskan.

It was going to be a fine winter-But Bellany knew that Sheila Kree was right concerning Le'lorinel. If they weren't careful, the crazy elf's obsession with Drizzt could invite disaster.

Bellany went right to her chamber and gathered together the components she needed for some divination spells, tuning in to the wide and rocky chamber Sheila Kree had assigned to Le'lorinel, watching as the elf and Morik went at their weapon dance, Le'lorinel instructing Morik over and over again to tell everything he knew about this strange dark elf.

* * * * * * * * * * *

"How many times must I tell you that it was no fight?" Morik asked in exasperation, holding his arms out and down to the side, a dagger in each hand. "I had no desire to continue when I learned the prowess of the drow and his friend."

"No desire to continue," Le'lorinel pointedly echoed. "Which means that you began. And you just admitted that you learned of the dark elf's prowess. So show me, and now, else I will show you my prowess!"

Morik tilted his head and smirked at the elf, dismissing this upstart's threat. Or at least, appearing to. In truth, Le'lorinel had Morik quite unsettled. The rogue had survived many years on the tough streets by understanding his potential enemies and friends. He instinctively knew when to fight, when to bluff, and when to run away.

This encounter was fast shifting into the third category, for Morik could get no barometer on Le'lorinel. The elf's obsession was beyond readable, he recognized, drifting into something nearing insanity. He could see that clearly in the sheer intensity of the elf's blue and gold eyes, staring out at him through that ridiculous black mask. Would Le'lorinel really attack him if he didn't give the necessary information, and, apparently, in a manner that Le'lorinel could accept? He didn't doubt that for a moment, nor did he doubt that he might be overmatched. Drizzt Do'Urden had defeated his best attack routine with seeming ease, and had begun a counter that would have had Morik dead in seconds if the drow had so desired, and if Le'lorinel could pose an honest challenge to' Drizzt . . .

"You wish him dead, but why?" the rogue asked.

"That is my affair and not your own," Le'lorinel answered curtly.

"You speak to me in anger, as if I can not or would not help you," Morik said, forcing a distinct level of calm into his voice. "Perhaps there's a way - "

"This is my fight and not your own," came the response, as sharp as Morik's daggers.

"Ah, but you alone, against Drizzt and his friends?" the rogue reasoned. "You may begin a brilliant and winning attack against the drow only to be shot dead by Catti-brie, standing calmly off to the side. Her bow - "

"I know all of Taulmaril and of Guenhwyvar and all the others," the elf assured him. "I will find Drizzt on my own terms and defeat him face to face, as justice demands."

Morik gave a laugh. "He is not such a bad fellow," he started to say, but the feral expression growing in Le'lorinel's eyes advised him to alter that course of reasoning. "Perhaps you should go and find a woman," the rogue added. "Elf or human - there seem to be many attractive ones about. Make love, my friend. That is justice!"

The expression that came back at Morik, though he had never expected agreement, caught him by surprise, so doubtful and incredulous did it seem.

"How old are you?" Morik pressed on. "Seventy? Fifty? Even less? It is so hard to tell with you elves, and yes, I am jealous of you for that. But you are undeniably handsome, a delicate beauty the women will enjoy. So find a lover, my friend. Find two! And do not risk the centuries of life you have remaining in this battle with Drizzt Do'Urden."

Le'lorinel came forward a step. Morik fast retreated, subtly twisting his hands to prepare to launch a dagger into the masked face of his opponent, should Le'lorinel continue.

"I can not live!" the elf cried angrily. "I will see justice done! The mere notion of a dark elf walking the surface, feigning friendship and goodness offends everything I am and everything I believe. This dupe that is Drizzt Do'Urden is an insult to all of my ancestors, who drove the drow from the surface world and into the lightless depths where they belong."

"And if Drizzt retreated into the lightless depths, would you then pursue him?" Morik asked, thinking he might have found a break in the elf's wall of reasoning.

"I would kill every drow if that power was in my hands," Le'lorinel sneered in response. "I would obliterate the entire race and be proud of the action. I would kill their matrons and their murderous raiders. I would drive my dagger into the heart of every drow child!"

The elf was advancing with every sentence, and Morik was wisely backing, staying out of dangerous range, holding his hands up before him, daggers still ready, and patting the air in an effort to calm this brewing storm.

Finally Le'lorinel stopped the approach and stood glaring at him. "Now, Morik, are you going to show me the action that occurred between you and Drizzt Do'Urden, or am I to test your battle mettle personally and use it as a measure of the prowess of Drizzt Do'Urden, given what I already know about your encounter?"

Morik gave a sigh and nodded his compliance. Then he positioned Le'lorinel as Drizzt had been that night in the Luskan alley and took the elf through the attack and defense sequence.

Over and over and over and over, at Le'lorinel's predictable insistence.

* * * * * * * * *

Bellany watched the entire exchange with more than a bit of amusement. She enjoyed watching Morik's fluid motions, though she couldn't deny that Le'lorinel was even more beautiful in battle than he, with greater skill and grace. Bellany laughed aloud at that, given Morik's errant perceptions.

When the pair at last finished the multiple dances, Bellany heard Morik dare to argue, "You are a fine fighter, a wonderful warrior. I do not question your abilities, friend. But I warn you that Drizzt Do'Urden is good, very good. Perhaps as good as anyone in all the northland. I know that not only from my brief encounter with him, but from the tales that Wulfgar told me during our time together. I see that your rage is an honest one, but I implore you to reconsider this course. Drizzt Do'Urden is very good, and his friends are powerful indeed. If you follow through with this course, he will kill you. And what a waste of centuries that would be!"

Morik bowed, turned, and quickly headed away, moving, Bellany suspected, toward her room. She liked that thought, for watching the play between Morik and Le'lorinel had surely excited her, and she decided she would not correct the rogue. Not soon, at least.

This was too much fun.

* * * * * * * * *

Morik did indeed consider going to see Bellany as he departed Le'lorinel's sparring chamber. The elf had more amused him than shaken him - Morik saw him as a complete fool, wasting every potential enjoyment and experience in life in seeking this bloody vow of vengeance against a dark elf better left alone. Whether Drizzt was a good sort or a bad one wasn't really the issue, in Morik's view. The simple measure of the worth of Le'lorinel's quest was the question of whether or not Drizzt was seeking the elf. If he was, then Le'lorinel would do well to strike first, but if he was not, then the elf was surely a fool.

Drizzt was not looking for the elf. Morik knew that instinctively. Drizzt had come seeking information about Wulfgar and about Aegis-fang but had said nothing about any elf named Le'lorinel, or about any elf at all. Drizzt wasn't hunting Le'lorinel, and likely, he didn't even know that Le'lorinel was hunting him.

Morik turned down a side corridor, moving to an awkwardly set wooden door. With great effort, he managed to push it open and moved through it to an outside landing high up on the cliff face, perhaps two hundred feet from the crashing waves far below.

Morik considered the path that wound down around the rocky spur that would take him to the floor of the gorge on the other side of the mound and to the trails that would lead him far away from Sheila Kree. He could probably get by the sentries watching the gorge with relative ease, could probably get far, far away with little effort.

Of course, the storm clouds were gathering in the northwest, over the Sea of Moving Ice, and the wind was cold. He'd have a hard time making Luskan before the season overwhelmed him, and it wouldn't be a pleasant journey even if he did make it. And of course, Bellany had already shown that she could find him in Luskan.

Morik grinned as he considered other possible routes. He wasn't exactly sure where he was - Bellany had used magic to bounce them from place to place on the way there - but he suspected he wasn't very far from a potential shelter against the winter.

"Ah, Lord Feringal, are you expecting visitors?" the rogue whispered, but he was laughing with every word, hardly considering the possibility of fleeing to Auckney - if he could even figure out where Auckney was, relative to Golden Cove, Without the proper attire, it would not be easy for the rogue Morik to assume again the identity of Lord Brandeburg of Waterdeep, an alias he had once used to dupe Lord Feringal of Auckney.

Morik was laughing at the thought of wandering away into the wintry mountains, and the notion was far from serious. It was just comforting for Morik to know he could likely get away if he so desired.

With that in mind, Morik wasn't surprised that the pirates had given him fairly free reign. If they offered to put him back in Luskan and never bother him again, he wasn't sure he would take them up on it. Life there was tough, even for one of Morik's cunning and reputation, but life in the cove seemed easy enough, and certainly Bellany was going out of her way to make it pleasant.

But what about Wulfgar? What about Drizzt Do'Urden and Catti-brie?

Morik looked out over the cold waters and seriously considered the debts he might owe to his former traveling companion. Yes, he did care about Wulfgar, and he made up his mind then and there, that if the barbarian did come against Golden Cove in an effort to regain Aegis-fang, then he would do all that he could to convince Sheila Kree and particularly Bellany to try to capture the man and not to destroy him.

That would be a more difficult task concerning Drizzt, Morik knew, considering his recent encounter with the crazy Le'lorinel, but Morik was able to shrug that possibility away easily enough.

In truth, what in the world did Morik the Rogue owe to Drizzt Do'Urden? Or to Catti-brie?

The little dark-haired thief stretched and hugged his arms close to his chest to ward the cold wind. He thought of Bellany and her warm bed and started off for her immediately.

* * * * * * * * *

Le'lorinel stood sullenly in the sparring chamber after Morik had gone, considering his last words.

Morik was wrong, Le'lorinel knew. The elf didn't doubt his assessment of Drizzt's fighting prowess. Le'lorinel knew well the tales of Drizzt's exploits. But Morik did not understand the years of preparation for this one fight, the great extremes to which Le'lorinel had gone to be in a position to defeat Drizzt Do'Urden.

But Le'lorinel could not easily dismiss Morik's warning. This fight with Drizzt would indeed happen, the elf repeated silently, fingering the ring that contained the necessary spells. Even if it went exactly as Le'lorinel had prepared and planned, it would likely end in two deaths, not one.

So be it.

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