The Year of the Reborn Hero (1463 DR)

DAHLIA’S LIPS CURLED INTO A SMILE AS SHE WATCHED THE DARK elf dance. Stripped to the waist, Drizzt Do’Urden moved through his attack and defense routines, sometimes slowly and sometimes with blinding speed. His scimitars spun gracefully, deceptively delicate, then darted with sudden, straightforward power. They could strike from any tangent, stabbing often at unexpected angles, and more than once, Dahlia found herself startled and blinking at a clever twist or turn.

She had fought beside Drizzt on the road to Gauntlgrym and inside the dwarven complex, so she thought she had come to understand the extent of his martial prowess. But now, on this moonlit night, she could truly appreciate the grace and coordination of his movements and reminded herself that such perfection in battle didn’t come easily.

She marveled at the drow at work, at his slim form, his tight muscles so apparent, and so appealing.

He was always on the balls of his feet, never on his heels, she noted, and his every turn ended in alignment and balance. She noted, too, that Drizzt’s neck did not strain with his sudden stabs and swings. So many lumbering human warriors kept all their power up high, above their shoulders, and so their strength seemed to increase in proportion to the decrease of their balance and swiftness.

But not Drizzt.

His neck was loose, his shoulders nimble. His strength came from his belly and the muscles lining the sides of his ribs. How many opponents, Dahlia wondered, had been comforted by the drow’s slim neck and flat shoulders, by his apparent lack of strength, only to have their weapons smacked from their hands or cut in half by the power of his blows? His blades hummed with amazing speed as he fell deeper into his dance, but weight, balance, and strength hid behind every cut and thrust.

Dahlia’s hand instinctively went up to her right ear, empty now of diamond studs, and her smile widened further. Had she at last found the lover who would end her pain?

Drizzt was sweating, his dark skin glistening in the moonlight. He stabbed out to the right with both blades in a parallel thrust, but deftly turned his feet opposite the attack and flashed away to the left, using his upper body turn to gain momentum for a somersault, one that landed him back on his feet. A mere heartbeat later, he slid down to his knees as if forced low by some imaginary blade coming in from the right. A blue-glowing scimitar stabbed up that way, then Drizzt was moving again, back on his feet so smoothly Dahlia hadn’t even noticed the transition.

The elf woman licked her smiling lips.

“I can ride him,” Dahlia insisted. “I’m a skilled horseman.”

“Andahar isn’t a horse,” Drizzt replied from his seat on the unicorn’s back. The drow reached down to offer his hand to Dahlia once more. Still she resisted.

“Or are you afraid that Andahar will come to prefer me?” she replied.

“It wouldn’t matter. I have the whistle.”

“I could take that whistle.”

“You could try.” With that, Drizzt retracted his hand, shrugged, and clucked softly, starting Andahar into a slow trot. They had only gone a single stride, though, before Dahlia planted the end of her eight-foot staff and vaulted up onto the unicorn’s back behind the drow.

“Why do you think I need your hand, drow?” she asked. “Why do you believe I need anything from you?”

Drizzt kicked the mighty steed into a faster canter, tugging Andahar’s flowing white mane around to steer the unicorn through the brush.

“We’ll break early for a midday meal, and make the road