Men arrived at the rail with long gaff hooks and began the gruesome task of hauling in the carcass. Guenhwyvar got back to the caravel easily enough, clambering over the rail and then giving a good shake, spraying water on all those nearby.

'Scrags don't heal if they're out o' the sea,' a man remarked to Drizzt. 'We'll haul this one up the yardarm to dry, then burn the damned thing.'

Drizzt nodded. The boarding party knew their duty well enough. They would organize and supervise the captured pirates,

freeing the rigging and getting the caravel as seaworthy as possible for the trip back to Waterdeep.

Drizzt looked to the southern horizon and saw the Sea Sprite returning. The damaged pirate ship limped alongside.

'Thirty-eight and thirty-nine,' the drow muttered.

Guenhwyvar gave a low growl in reply and shook vigorously again, soaking her dark elf companion.


Captain Deudermont seemed out of place indeed as he strolled down Dock Street, the infamous, rough and tumble avenue that lined Waterdeep Harbor. His clothes were fine and perfectly tailored to his tall and thin frame, his posture was perfect, and his hair and goatee meticulously groomed. All about him, the scurvy sea dogs who had put in for their weeks ashore staggered out of taverns, reeking of ale, or fell down unconscious in the dust. The only thing protecting them from the many robbers lurking in the area was the fact that they had no money or valuables to steal.

Deudermont ignored the sights, and didn't fancy himself any better than those sea dogs. In fact, there was an aspect of their way of life that intrigued the gentlemanly captain, an honesty that mocked the pretentious courts of nobles.

Deudermont pulled his layered cloak tighter about his neck, warding off the chill night breeze that blew in off the harbor. Normally one would not walk alone down Dock Street, not even in the light of noonday, but Deudermont felt secure. He carried his decorated cutlass at his side, and knew how to use it well. Even more than that, the word had been passed through every tavern and every pier in Waterdeep that the Sea Sprite's captain had been afforded the personal protection of the Lords of Waterdeep, including some very powerful wizards who would seek out and destroy anyone bothering the captain or his crew while they were in port. Waterdeep was the Sea Sprite's haven, and so Deudermont thought nothing of walking alone down Dock Street. He was more curious than fearful when a wrinkled old man, bone skinny and barely five feet tall, called to him from the edge of an alleyway.

Deudermont stopped and looked about. Dock Street was quiet, except for the overspill of sound from the many taverns and the groan of old wood against the incessant sea breeze.

'Ye's is Doo-dor-mont-ee, asin't yer?' the old seabones called softly, a whistle accompanying each syllable. He smiled widely, almost lewdly, showing but a couple of crooked teeth set in black gums.

Deudermont stopped and eyed the man patiently, silently. He felt no compulsion to answer the question.

'If ye be,' the man wheezed, 'then oi've got a bit o' news for yer. A warnin' from a man yer's is rightly fearin'.'

The captain stood tall and impassive. His face showed none of the questions that raced about in his mind. Who would he be afraid of? Was the old dog talking of Pinochet? That seemed likely, especially considering the two caravels the Sea Sprite had escorted into Waterdeep Harbor earlier that week. But few in Waterdeep had any contact with the pirate, whose domain was much farther to the south, south of Baldur's Gate even, in the straights near the Moonshae Isles.

But who else might the man be talking about?

Smiling still, the sea dog motioned for Deudermont to come to the alley. The captain didn't move as the old man turned and took a step in.

'Well, be yer fearin' old Scaramundi?' the sea dog whistled.

Deudermont realized it could be a disguise. Many of the greatest assassins in the Realms could look as helpless as this one, only to put a poisoned dagger into their victim's chest.

The sea dog came back to the entrance to the alley, then walked right out into the middle of the street toward Deudermont.

No disguise, the captain told himself, for it was too complete, too perfect. Besides, he recollected that he had seen this same old man before, usually sitting right near to this very same alleyway, which probably served as his home.

What then? Might there be an ambush set down that alley?

'Have it yer own way then,' the old man wheezed as he threw up one hand. He leaned heavily on his walking stick and started back to the alley, grumbling. 'Just a messenger, I be, and not fer carin' if yer hears the news or not!'

Deudermont cautiously looked all around again. Seeing nobody nearby, and no likely hiding spots for an ambush party, he moved to the mouth of the alleyway. The old sea dog was ten short paces in, at the edge of the slanting shadows cast by the building to the right, and barely visible in the dimness. He laughed and coughed and moved in yet another step.

One hand on the hilt of his cutlass, Deudermont cautiously approached, scanning carefully before each step. The alleyway seemed empty enough.

'Far enough!' Deudermont said suddenly, stopping the sea dog in his tracks. 'If you have news for me, then speak it, and speak it now.'

'Some things shouldn't be said too loudly,' the old man replied.

'Now,' Deudermont insisted.

The salty sea dog smiled widely and coughed, perhaps laughing. He ambled back a few steps, stopping barely three feet from Deudermont.

The smell of the man nearly overwhelmed the captain, who was accustomed to powerful body odors. There wasn't much opportunity to bathe on a ship at sea and the Sea Sprite was often out for weeks, even months, at a time. Still, the combination of cheap wine and old sweat gave this one a particularly nasty flavor that made Deudermont scrunch up his face, even put a hand over his nose to try to intercept some of the fumes.

The sea dog, of course, laughed hysterically at that.

'Now!' the captain insisted.

Even as the word left Deudermont's lips, the sea dog reached out and caught him by the wrist. Deudermont, not afraid, turned his arm, but the old man held on stubbornly.

'I want you to tell me of the dark one,' the sea dog said, and it took Deudermont a moment to realize that the man's dockside accent was gone.

'Who are you?' Deudermont insisted, and he tugged fiercely, to no avail. Only then did Deudermont realize the truth of the superhuman grip; he might as well have been pulling against one of the great fog giants that lived on the reef surrounding Delmarin Island, far to the south.

'The dark one,' the old man repeated. With hardly any effort, he yanked Deudermont deeper into the alleyway.

The captain went for his cutlass, and though the old man held Deudermont's right hand fast, he could fight fairly well with his left. It was somewhat awkward extracting the curving blade from its sheath with that hand, and before the cutlass came fully free, the old man's free hand shot forward, open-palmed, to slam Deudermont in the face. He flew backward, crashing against the wall. Keeping his wits about him, he drew out the blade, transferred it to his now-free right hand, and slashed hard at the ribs of the approaching sea dog.

The fine cutlass gashed deep into the sea dog's side, but he didn't even flinch. Deudermont tried to block the next slap, and the next after that, but his defenses simply were not strong enough. He tried to get his cutlass in line to parry, but the old man slapped it away, sent it spinning from his hand, then resumed the battering. Open

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