Drizzt, Wulfgar, and Catti-brie came into Longsaddle a few days later, road weary and still wrapped in a shroud of grief. Harkle and his kin greeted them warmly and invited them to stay at the Ivy Mansion for as long as they desired. But though all three of them would have welcomed the opportunity to relax and recover from their trials, other roads summoned them.
Drizzt arid Wulfgar stood at the exit of Longsaddle the very next morning, with fresh horses provided by the Harpells. Catti-brie walked down to them slowly, Harkle holding back a few steps behind her.
“Will you come?” Drizzt asked, but guessed by her expression that she would not.
“Would that I could,” Catti-brie replied. “Ye’ll get to the halfling, I don’t fear. I’ve another vow to fulfill.”
“When?” Wulfgar asked.
“In the spring, by me guess,” said Catti-brie. “The magic of the Harpells has set the thing to going; already they’ve called out to the clan in the dale, and to Harbromm in Citadel Adbar. Bruenor’s kin’ll be marchin’ out afore the week’s end, with many allies from Ten-Towns. Harbromm promises eight thousand, and some of the Harpells have pledged their help.”
Drizzt thought of the undercity he had viewed in his passage of the lower levels, and of the bustle of thousands of gray dwarves, all outfitted in shining mithril. Even with all of Clan Battlehammer and their friends from the dale, eight thousand battle-seasoned dwarves from Adbar, and the magical powers of the Harpells, the victory would be hard won if won at all.
Wulfgar also understood the enormity of the task that Catti-brie would face, and doubt came to him about his decision to set out with Drizzt. Regis needed him, but he could not turn away from Catti-brie in her need.
Catti-brie sensed his torment. She walked up to him and kissed him suddenly, passionately, then jumped back. “Get yer business done and over, Wulfgar, son of Beornegar,” she said. “And get ye back to me!”
“I, too, was Bruenor’s friend,” Wulfgar argued. “I, too, shared in his vision of Mithril Hall. I should be beside you when you go to honor him.”
“Ye’ve a friend alive that needs ye now,” Catti-brie snapped at him. “I can set the plans to going. Ye get yerself after Regis! Pay Entreri all he’s got coming, and be quick. Mighten be that ye’ll get back in time to march to the halls.”
She turned to Drizzt, a most-trusted hero. “Keep him safe for me,” she pleaded. “Show him a straight road, and show him the way back!”
On Drizzt’s nod, she spun and ran back up to Harkle and toward the Ivy Mansion. Wulfgar did not follow. He trusted in Catti-brie.
“For the halfling and the cat,” he said to Drizzt, clasping Aegis-fang and surveying the road before them.
Sudden fires glowed in the drow’s lavender eyes, and Wulfgar took an involuntary step back. “And for other reasons,” Drizzt said grimly, looking out over the wide southland that held the monster he might have become. It was his destiny to meet Entreri in battle again, he knew, the test of his own worth to defeat the killer.
“For other reasons.”
* * *
Dendybar’s breath came hard to him as he viewed the scene, Sydney’s corpse stuffed into a corner of a dark room.
The specter, Morkai, waved his arm and the image was replaced by a view of the bottom of Garumn’s Gorge.
“No!” Dendybar screamed when he saw the remains of the golem, headless and lying among the rubble. The mottled wizard shook visibly. “Where is the drow?” he demanded of the specter.
Morkai waved the image away and stood silent, pleased at Dendybar’s distress.
“Where is the drow?” Dendybar repeated, more loudly.
Morkai laughed at him. “Find your own answers, foolish mage. My service to you is ended!” The apparition puffed into fire and was gone.
Dendybar leaped wildly from his magic circle and kicked the burning brazier over. “I shall torment you a thousand times for your insolence!” he yelled into the emptiness of the room. His mind spun with the possibilities. Sydney dead. Bok dead. Entreri? The drow and his friends? Dendybar needed answers. He could not forsake his search for the Crystal Shard, could not be denied the power he sought.
Deep breaths steadied him as he concentrated on the beginnings of a spell. He saw the bottom of the gorge again, brought the image into sharp focus within his mind. As he chanted through the ritual, the scene became more real, more tangible. Dendybar experienced it fully; the darkness, the hollow emptiness of the shadowy walls and the almost imperceptible swish of air running through the ravine, the jagged hardness of the broken stone under his feet.
He stepped out of his thoughts and into Garumn’s Gorge.
“Bok,” he whispered as he stared down at the twisted and broken form of his creation, his greatest achievement.
The thing stirred. A rock rolled away from it as it shifted and struggled to rise before its creator. Dendybar watched in disbelief, amazed that the magical strength he had imbued upon the golem was so resilient as to survive such a drop, and such mutilation.
Bok stood in front of him, waiting.
Dendybar studied the thing for a long moment, pondering how he might begin to restore it. “Bok!” he greeted it emphatically, a hopeful grin coming to him. “Come, my pet. I shall take you back home and mend your wounds.”
Bok took a step forward, crowding Dendybar against the wall. The wizard, still not understanding, started to order the golem away.
But Bok’s remaining arm shot up and grasped Dendybar by the throat, lifting him into the air and choking off any further commands. Dendybar grabbed and flailed at the arm, helpless and confused.
A familiar laugh came to his ears. A ball of fire appeared above the torn stump of the golem’s neck, transforming into a familiar face.
Dendybar’s eyes bulged in terror. He realized that he had overstepped his limits, had summoned the specter too many times. He had never truly dismissed Morkai from this last encounter, and suspected rightly that he probably wouldn’t have been strong enough to push the specter from the material plane even if he had tried. Now, outside of his magic circle of protection, he was at the mercy of his nemesis.
“Come, Dendybar,” Morkai grinned, his dominating will twisting the golem’s arm. “Join me in the realm of death where we might discuss your treachery!”
A snap of bone echoed across the stones, the ball of fire puffed away, and wizard and golem tumbled down, lifeless.
* * *
Farther down the gorge, half buried in a pile of debris, the fires of the burning dragon had died to a smoky smolder.
Another rock shifted and rolled away.