Home Sweet Home, said Pharaun, closing
and locking the door. Is that not what you surface dwellers
say? He lit a series of candles with a sweep of his hand.
Put her in the choh... He switched to his
own language and repeated the instruction.
Gently, Drizzt set Wilawen down and took up position beside her,
standing, like a bodyguard, with his hands upon his swords.
Whatever did you do to inspire such loyalty in the brute?
asked Pharaun. I assure you, his manly protection is not
requiredI need you, and in good condition.
What do you think? Side-stepping past Drizzt, the
Mage walked to the far side of the roomwhich was covered,
Wilawen could just see in the candlelight, with bookshelvesand
selected a book. He began leafing through the pages.
But I can control you, she said.
In small things, yesin small things you seem to have
total control. He looked up from the book, keeping his
place with his forefinger. It is an interesting sensation.
With larger tasks, however, I find that I can question your orders,
though you still have the upper hand. When you try anything too
ambitious, I can refuse.
Why did it happen?
I have no idea. And neither, it seems,he closed
the book and waved it at herdoes our esteemed author.
He replaced the volume and selected another.
All I have to do, said Wilawen, is keep each
step very small.
So I have noticed. And at that you are proving quite adept...
He looked up at her. You really are the strangest combination
of mental strength and physical docility. Are all surface women
I will have nothing more to do with the demon, said
Wilawen, ignoring his question, nor with thathole
you have made. She stood upDrizzt shifted to let her
pass, but followed close behind her as she approached the Mage.
You are going to help me and my friends get back
home, she said. And we will start by rescuing the
others. She drew herself up to her full height and commanded
him, firmly, Take me to The Silken Rack.
Too far, said Pharaun. And,he
put his book downbefore you start showering me with
little tasks and set us off on a course that we will both regret,
for Lloths sake, sit down and let us make a sensible plan.
I will not help you summon the demon again.
Perhaps we can come to some arrangement
Drizzt, seeing Wilawens agitation, stepped between her
and Pharaun, using his greater bulk to intimidate the taller drow.
All right! Call him off, said the Mage. And
then, at least, listen to what I propose.
For a long moment Wilawen considered her options. ThenDrizzt...she
laid her hand upon the warriors arm. Let him go.
Drizzt stepped back.
Thank you, said Pharaun, brushing, with great dignity,
several imaginary creases from his embroidered robes. Now,
sitboth of you. He repeated the words in drow. I,
for one, he added, am in need of a stiff drink.
He crossed to the dresser and, from one of its richly carved
shelves, selected a bottle, pulling out the cork and smelling
its contents appreciatively. Yesa drop of surface
Brandymost appropriate, under the circumstances, he
These are your chambers, said Wilawen, suddenly.
Those other rooms belonged to someone else...
Unfortunately, yes. He handed her a glass of spirits.
To the Archmage of Menzoberranzan, to be precise. One might
have thought, he added, offering another glass to Drizzt,
that it would have been better protected. I now suspect
that the figures on his study floor are merely decorative. He
must have some other space, properly prepared, that he uses for
professional purposes. It is a pity. With adequate warding, the
summoning might have worked... He sat down opposite Wilawen
and took a long draught of brandy. Mmmthat is better.
Make Drizzt understand me, said Wilawen.
If we are going to discuss a plan, she persisted,
he must be able to join in. Make him understand Westron.
Pharaun shrugged. I feel no compulsion to do soso
it must be too ambitious.
Then make me understand your language.
Without any further argument, the drow reached inside his robes
and drew out a goose feather. From the surface, he
explained. I bought twothey cost a Matron Mothers
ransom. And, holding it like a quill pen, he wrote a few
words upon the air, pronouncing each syllable as he formed it.
There, he said, speak to him.
I did not feel anything
OWilawen! You can speak drow!
Wilawen turned to Drizzt. Can you understand what I am
Yes! He beamed.
She reached out to him. Thank you, Drizzt, she said.
Thank you for rescuing me in the caves, and for leaving
Guenhwyvar to protect me; thank you for bringing Valandil
Yes, yes; very touching, interrupted Pharaun. But
shall we get down to business?
Drizzt and Wilawen exchanged smiles. I want to rescue my
friends, she continued. Will you help me?
Do we need him? She jerked her head towards
A skilled wizard is always useful, Drizzt admitted.
Are you skilled? asked Wilawen, turning back
You have seen the evidence.
I have seen a hole in the floor.
Summoning that demon would have taxed even the most senior
Masters of Sorcere, said Pharaun, re-arranging the front
of his robes and smoothing the fabric over his knees. On
reflectionyesperhaps it was a little ambitious of
me to attempt it at this stage. But I have given you ample evidence
Wilawen sighed. What is your plan, then?
You will help me close the portal, then we will rescue
your friends and I will send you and them back to the surface.
No. We will rescue my friends first, and you will send
them to the surface, then I will help you with the hole.
Pharaun shook his head. Time is of the essence hereyou
said yourself that the portal is growing. Happily, I was able
to seal the outer door, so thatat presentit is confined. At
present. But I must close it before the Archmage returns and
discovers that half his chambers is missing. Besides, he
picked an imaginary thread from his sleeve, you can
force me to do whatever you like, whenever you likeit is
I who must do the trusting...
For how long?
The drow shrugged.
Or is it that... Wilawen drew herself up, straight-backed,
and said, commandingly, Answer me truthfully: will sealing
the hole break my hold over you?
Pharauns handsome face contorted in pain. Yes...
he hissed, through clenched teeth. I believe so.
Wilawen heard Drizzt suppress a laugh.
Answer me truthfully: can you really send us safely to
Good. Then, as I said, we will rescue my friends first
andwell, you will just have to trust that I will help you
once they are safe. She rose to her feet and began to pace,
back and forth. What is this place, The Silken Rack?
She turned to Drizzt.
Aa brothel, he answered, shyly.
Have you ever been there?
He shook his head, averting his eyes with embarrassment.
The Silken Rack, said Pharaun, his voice sounding
smooth and cultured once more, caters for Matron Mothers,
and for the elder daughters of the great houses, who have an illicit
taste for... certain types of mate.
Women go there?
Of course. Women are obsessed with sexis it not so
on the surface?
You are saying that Valandil will be expected to...?
Service...? Wilawen wrung her hands in anguish.
We must hurry! We must She looked down at her
clenched fists. You healed my skin, she said. Can
you change its colour? Can you make me look like one of you? If
I looked like a drow I could simply walk into this place, take
you and Drizzt in as my servants, and...
She stepped before Pharaun holding out her hands as though she
expected him to paint her skin black. Make me look
like a drow, she commanded.
Pharaun raised his hands, touching his fingertips to hers. Then,
closing his eyes in concentration, he murmured a long, musical
Wilawen stared at her fingers. The ebony hue seemed to be flowing
from Pharauns body into her own, and she felt her skin tingle
as the colour spread along her arms, across her shoulders, up
her neck, and over her face to the roots of her hair (which seemed
to be growing), down to her bosom (which was certainly
growing), spreading to her waist (which was shrinking), over her
belly and down her thighs, then (all in a rush) to the tips of
her toes. Her leather gown, meanwhile, was altering itself into
a low-cut bodice and knee-length breeches, closely moulded to
the contours of her ample new curves.
That is better, said Pharaun.
If you are going to visit a brothel, he said, you
must look like one of those sex-obsessed strumpets... It is not
my fault if it also makes you a little easier on the eye.
How long will it last?
A day at most.
You are not sure?
How could I be? I have had no chance to practice on humans,
andaside from a few torturesthe books are silent on
Could I change back into myself whilst we are in The
Pharaun shrugged. For your information, that spell does
not fall into the category of small tasks. It is actually
quite difficult. I cast it because it was a surprisingly good
idea. However, we will also need money. Any suggestions?
He looked from Wilawen to Drizzt and back again. I
have none, he added. A noble does not carry coin.
Can you not use a spell to make some? asked Wilawen,
trying to pull the neckline of her bodice higher.
Pharaun slapped her hands away. Leave it! No, he
said, not without a focus. So, unless you happen to have
a coin that I can use...
I do, said Drizzt, suddenly. The one you gave
me, OWilawen. He opened the pouch at his waistthe
pouch in which he kept Guenhwyvars statuetteand pulled
out the silver ten-piece that Wilawen had given him in the starlit
cave. I shall want it back, he said to Pharaun. It
is a keepsake. He dropped it into the other drows
I will do what I can.
What about weapons? said Wilawen, remembering the
Bazaar with its stalls of elven bows and swords. If we can
arm Valandil and the others we will all stand a better chance
of getting away. We will need two lots of money.
The next person who calls me indolent,
said Pharaun, will quickly wish that he had never been born.
He carried the coin to a small table and set it down on the velvety
cloth. Then he fished two fragments of leather from one of his
many pockets, and placed them either side of the coin. Talk
amongst yourselves, he said, this may make some time.
Naturally, Wilawen and Drizzt watched his every move, in silence.
Pharaun took two long, deep breaths, stretched out his hands,
and muttering the same strange phrase over and over (which Wilawen,
despite her new ability to speak his language, could not decipher),
slowly built, it seemed, out of thin air, two leather pouches
bulging with coins.
There, he gasped, picking up the original ten-piece
and tossing it back to Drizzt with a triumphant (though weak)
smile. I shall need to rest before we go to the brothelat
least six hours of reverie. But first, he added, breathlessly,
whilst I am on such form, one last spell. And he produced
a slender wooden baton from inside his robes.
Hold this, he said, handing the rod to Wilawen. No
mistress would be complete without her deadly snake whip. I am
afraid that my snakes will not be properly animate, but if you
use them sparingly, they should suffice.
The Silken Rack
Here, said Orophins burly keeper. She handed
him a small block of dried fungus, then turned to unlock his cell
What is it? asked the elf.
Eat it later. It will keep your strength up. She
Orophin handed it back. I have no need.
The drow laughed. No. At least, not yetor so I have
heard. She looked him up and down, her eyes travelling slowly
over his bare chest and lingering on the bulge in his leggings.
Then she nodded towards the cell door. Go on...
It was perfectly clear what she intended to do.
Orophin swallowed hard. Play along, he thought. For
He stepped past her into his cell, bracing himself to deal with
her demands but, to his surprise (and relief), she did not follow
and he realised that something must be happening, further down
the corridorand, suddenly, some elven instinct told him
that it involved Valandil.
Quietly, he stepped back to the door and peered out. The passageway
was dark, but Orophin was still able to make out the shapes of
two drow females, carrying between them Valandils limp body.