Drizzt stared up at the glaringly yellow sign, proclaiming its domination over the home decoration industry. IKEA, the sign screamed. Home Furnishings. “Once more into the depths,” he whispered, “once again into these terrible walls.”
At his side, his service cat Guenhwyvar purred and rubbed against his legs. She knew as well as he what lay within the damning bright blue walls—a maze of unspeakable horrors, lurking monsters, and the most terrible dangers of the realm. And, somewhere, deep within that labyrinth, Drizzt’s wicked kin waited, spinning dark webs in homage to their evil goddess.
He had to go back again, though he would rather tear out his own lavender eyes. He had to descend into the black pits of IKEA in order to retrieve Crenshinibon, the sentient vintage crystal chandelier, from those who would steal it and use it for their own ends. This was a place of nightmares, truly, of strangely modern furniture that was at home only in the most impersonal of dwellings. No sane interior decorator or carpenter set foot within these damned walls, and yet here Drizzt stood, ready to descend once again.
His friends—his dear friends!—could not know of this quest, for they would only perish in at the hands of the wicked things that dwelt below. They would wonder at his disappearance, but he could not subject them again to the perils of IKEA. Becoming lost in the tangled maze of furniture spelled certain death for all but the most prepared shoppers. If Drizzt did not return, then so be it.
The dark elf cast one last look over his shoulder, at the bright sun glinting over the traffic-congested parking lot. He gripped the handles of the screwdrivers hanging at his sides, comforted by their weight and steadiness. Twinkle and Icingdeath, they were named, tools that were an extension of his own hands. Nothing could prevent him returning again to the surface, not with such items as these in his possession. “Come, Guenhwyvar,” he said, with a great deal more heartiness than he felt. “We shall see the sun again ere long!”
The black cat meowed her assent, and trotted along at his heels as Drizzt strode boldly through the sliding doors into the frigid depths of IKEA.
A young redheaded woman burst through the door of the back office of Battlehammer Home Improvement, waving her phone in the air. “Dad!” she yelled. “Drizzt’s off again!”
Behind the desk, Bruenor Battlehammer, king of Mithril Hall Industries, looked up from his paperwork. “What’s that, Catti?” he asked, pushing his paperwork aside. “Ye’re sayin’ Drizzt went off on some adventure again?”
Catti-brie slammed the phone down on Bruenor’s desk, leaning over her father as she pointed at the texts the dark elf had sent her the night before. “Aye,” she said. “I’m thinkin’ he’s run off after Crenshinibon. Look, he’s bein’ all cryptic, talkin’ about some lost artifact.”
“Damn stupid elf,” Bruenor grumbled. He got up from his desk and rummaged in his toolbox.
Behind Catti-brie, the great barbaric taxidermist Wulfgar stooped to enter Bruenor’s dwarf-sized office. “Have you told him of Drizzt’s disappearance?” he asked the woman.
Catti-brie scooped up her phone and shoved it in her pocket, pausing only to fire off an angry text to her friend. “Aye,” she said. “I just don’t know where he could have gone. He’s runnin’ again, but sure enough he didn’t bother tellin’ me where.”
Just behind Wulfgar, crowding into the tiny office, came Regis. The halfling, pipe in hand and ruby pendant hung around his neck, nimbly hopped up to sit upon the desk. “I shouldn’t be surprised if our dear friend has gone back to IKEA,” he said.
“He swore to us that he would never return,” Wulfgar said, folding his arms and scowling sternly at Regis. “And Drizzt is no man to break a promise like that.”
“Still.” Regis shrugged. “Where else would he run off to without telling us about it?”
With a triumphant huff, Bruenor held up his many-notched hatchet, the legendary tool with which he built his furniture empire. He pulled on a jacket emblazoned on the back with the foaming mug symbol of Clan Battlehammer. He took his one-horned Minnesota Vikings hat from its peg on the wall, planting it firmly on his head. And then he turned to his companions. “If the durned elf’s gone back into IKEA, we’ll just go and get him,” Bruenor said firmly.
“I am prepared to depart,” Wulfgar said. “None shall dare to stand between Drizzt and I!” He held up his magical hammer, Aegis-fang, made from mithral and adamantite and coated in diamond. It was a tool like no other, crafted for Wulfgar’s hand by Bruenor himself.
“Ye’ll need more than clumsy hammers to make it through IKEA,” Catti-brie remarked dryly. “Of course I’ll be goin’ along.” She glanced at her toolbelt, where the nail gun Taulmaril—which never missed its mark—and the sentient bandsaw Khazid’hea hung.
“We’d not think of leavin’ ye behind, lass,” Bruenor said. “IKEA’s a hellish place, sure and certain, but together we’ll bring him back.”
Regis sighed. “I suppose I shall have to accompany you,” he said with a woeful expression. “Who else will talk monsters out of killing you all?”
“No more wastin’ time,” Bruenor said, cuffing Regis as he rolled out the door toward the garage. “The damned elf’s got too much of a head start already!”
Drizzt crouched behind a refrigerator and listened as a party of stroller-wielding mothers went past his hiding place. He was going the wrong direction—the better to confuse a pursuit—but had not anticipated the amount of activity in the kitchen section today. Perhaps it would be better to follow the flow of the crowd and make his way deeper into IKEA that way.
But no, there was his goal, just ahead: a shortcut leading into the dining room section, where the deep gnome city of Blingdenstone sat beneath the tables and chairs. Looking over his shoulder for pursuit, Drizzt cut across the aisle, avoiding a pair of ancient harpies with blue hair and overly floral perfume, and dived through the shortcut into the dining room section.
He was greeted at the gates by an old friend, Belwar Dissengulp. “Hail, Dark Elf!” the burrow-warden said cheerfully, embracing Drizzt.
Drizzt banged his forehead against the deep gnome’s. “It is good to see you, my friend,” he said sincerely. “I only wish that better business brought me to your fair city.”
“Ah, you’ve come about the business with Menzoberranzan, haven’t you?” Belwar asked, leading Drizzt to a secluded pillow fort where they could speak freely.
“Business with Menzoberranzan?” Drizzt frowned. “I have heard no news of that city…”
“After you and your companions dealt that last blow to them, things were quiet for a good while. We built in peace, speaking to the nuts and bolts of this place as we would. But suddenly…!” Belwar banged his hammer-hand and pickaxe-hand together with a violence that surprised the drow. “The drow drove our expeditions away from the rug and flooring sections in the marketplace and even killed some of our people. Aggression such as we have never seen before! Dark Elf, I fear for you should you go down to Menzoberranzan.”
“I have no choice,” Drizzt said soberly, staring out the fort into the peaceful city bustle. “My kin have taken a powerful and evil artifact from the surface. A vintage crystal chandelier with a will of its own, called Crenshinibon. Its light burns all it touches, and I fear that my kin will use it to carve out a new reign of terror in IKEA and beyond.”
Belwar shook his head. “It is worse than we feared,” he said, and sighed heavily. “Well, I shall go with you, my friend. There is little you can do on your own.”
“I cannot ask—” Drizzt began, but Belwar cut him off.
“You did not ask,” the deep gnome said slyly. He rapped his hands together again, sparks flying. “I recall our adventures when first you fled the city of your kin! A new adventure would do me good. Most Honored Burrow-Warden may be a great title, but there is little enough excitement. Of course I shall go along with you!”
Soon enough, Drizzt and Belwar—with Guenhwyvar at their side—headed off together into the depths of IKEA. They would have to descend into the Marketplace, where the textiles were, in hopes of discovering the trail of the drow. If they were able to pick up the scent there, they would be able to find Crenshinibon all the quicker.
Drizzt, for all his trepidation at going again to see his wicked kindred, could not help but feel heartened at the sight of Belwar Dissengulp marching stolidly along beside him.
“He’ll have made straight for that city,” Catti-brie said. She pointed at the map, where Home Organization was marked. “If we run, we can catch up. We’ll have to go through the Marketplace, all the way around. Drizzt’s the only one who knows the shortcuts in here.”
“I canna believe Drizzt would go back,” Bruenor grumbled, folding the map up and handing it to Regis. The old dwarf settled his hat more firmly on his head and started off into the store. “Fool of an elf.”
Wulfgar, Catti-brie, and Regis exchanged knowing glances. Bruenor Battlehammer would move mountains for that fool of an elf, and well they knew it.
“Best to keep pace with him, I think,” Wulfgar said, and followed Bruenor’s lead.
Catti-brie pulled Taulmaril from her toolbelt. “I hate IKEA,” she said grimly, and hurried to catch up with Wulfgar.
Regis sighed, and held the ruby pendant for comfort as he scurried along in their wake.
The Companions did not bother with stealth. Such maneuvers were for parties that did not include Bruenor Battlehammer and Wulfgar son of Beornegar. Catti-brie and Regis might have preferred to go slowly and secretly, but they had no choice. Shoppers and monsters alike got quickly out of their way, not daring to challenge the powerful group. Even hook horrors, the most immense of the creatures of IKEA, hid as the Companions went by.
Drizzt and Belwar made good time down to rugs and flooring, using the secret ways of the deep gnomes. They managed to avoid a patrol of illithid slavers, already engaged in shepherding a group of blank-eyed IKEA employees. Neither Drizzt nor Belwar wanted a fight, not when a fight was certainly waiting for them at the hands of the dark elves.
The department was just as crowded as the rest of the store. Drizzt warily scanned the room, searching the sea of pattern and color for any sign of Crenshinibon. “I see nothing,” he said after a moment. “This place is close to the domain of the drow, I fear, but they have not left sentries.”
“At least not physical sentries,” Belwar said. He rapped with his hammer-hand at a shelving unit piled high with samples of linoleum. Runes etched on the linoleum glowed faintly and briefly at the enchanted hammer’s touch. “See, they left spells—not of warding, I think, but of scrying! They are watching us even now!”
“You aren’t wrong,” a too-familiar voice drawled from behind Drizzt and Belwar. The duo spun around, Belwar raising his pickaxe-hand threateningly as Drizzt drew forth his screwdrivers. A drow, dressed in the most outlandish clothing that could possibly seen in this or any other store, lounged against a stack of rolled rugs. His cloak, scintillating in many colors, clashed with the modern Swedish rugs. His vest, sleeveless and cut high to display his well-muscled stomach, clashed magnificently with the cloak and with all of the bracelets and bangles around his arms. His hat seemed too large for his bald head, precariously perched at a rakish angle to best show off the diatryma feathers in its band.
“Ah. You,” Belwar grunted, lowering his hands.
Drizzt, a bit more cautious, relaxed but did not lower his screwdrivers. “Jarlaxle,” he said. “What are you doing here?”
“Waiting for you, of course,” the pawn-shop owner said. He sketched a bow. “Drizzt Do’Urden returns once again to Menzoberranzan. A great and profitable day awaits me!”
“What do you want?” Belwar asked bluntly. Drizzt was surprised at the fearlessness of his companion, but then again he had seen the burrow-warden challenge opponents a dozen times his own strength. No, Belwar would never fear Jarlaxle.
The pawn-shop owner smiled obscurely, shifting his eye patch from left eye to right. “What I always want, dear Belwar,” he said. “Excitement. Adventure. Profit. What more could I ask?”
“You wish to accompany us?” Drizzt asked cautiously. He had worked with the pawn-shop owner before, but did not trust the drow in the slightest.
“Perhaps,” Jarlaxle said, and shrugged. “Or perhaps I wished only to warn you of the ambush that awaits you around the corner in the lighting department. There is a better way into home organization, through a shortcut in home textiles.”
Belwar paused, and rapped at the ground with his hammer-hand. “The dark elf speaks the truth,” he announced after a moment. “There is indeed such a shortcut.”
Drizzt narrowed his eyes. “And what do you gain, Jarlaxle?” he asked.
Jarlaxle laughed. “Haven’t I answered that question already?” Without another word, he turned and plunged into the flow of shoppers in the main aisle, boots clicking on the tile as he headed around through lighting, toward Menzoberranzan.
“I do hate dark elves,” Belwar muttered. He paused, and glanced at Drizzt.
Drizzt merely laughed. “As do I, my friend,” he said, and patted the burrow-warden on top of the head. “Now come. The shortcut awaits!”
Jarlaxle passed quickly through lighting, unseen by any sentries or the ambushers. He had an appointment to keep and could not afford to be late. Events moved apace, and his spies told him that an unexpected group had entered IKEA. Those people could prove quite troublesome, if he did not act fast.
At the edge of home organization, perched atop a Sektion cabinet in a little-used and very dim corner, a man sat sharpening an emerald-studded chisel. He looked up at Jarlaxle’s approach, expressionless. “Well?”
“You enjoy playing with your tool too much, my dear Entreri,” Jarlaxle said.
The interior designer Artemis Entreri shook his head and held up a hand saw. “It is not play, but work,” he said softly. “I must stay ready for the coming fight.”
Jarlaxle leaned against the cabinet and grinned. “That fight comes sooner than you think,” he said. “I’ve pointed them toward the shortcut. It will only be a matter of time before they arrive, seeking Crenshinibon. Soon enough, you will confront Drizzt Do’Urden again, and in the distraction I shall lay claim to the crystal chandelier.”
“You will not interfere this time,” Entreri demanded, pointing the hand saw at Jarlaxle.
“Interfere?” Jarlaxle affected a wounded pose, enjoying Entreri’s anger. “When have I ever interfered with your legendary rivalry, my friend?”
Entreri snarled and leaped down from the cabinet. “Where is the chandelier held, that I may catch up with you in time to take our leave?”
“In wall decoration, oddly enough,” Jarlaxle said. He glanced back toward the door. “You’d think they’d hide a chandelier in lighting. But never have the drow been accused of common sense! I’ll get hold of the chandelier, and you must catch up to me quickly. All of Menzoberranzan will be on our tail!”
“As well as whichever friends Do’Urden drags along this time,” Entreri grumbled. “It amazes me that your plans have ever managed to work.”
Jarlaxle winked. “The amazement is part of the charm,” he said, and made his exit.
Drizzt, Belwar, and Guenhwyvar paused at the shortcut, well hidden behind a hanging rug. For a moment, the trio stood in silent awe, looking out across home organization, the home of the drow and the site of the city of Menzoberranzan. The drow were too powerful to be evicted, even by the greatest of IKEA security employees, and so they had truly laid claim to this blasted territory. In the dim light of IKEA, faerie-fire strings of Christmas lights hung from the tops of cabinet stacks, illuminating the mess of cobwebs and spiders’ nests that filled the roof of this section. Here lived the drow, the chosen of Lolth, and here had Drizzt been born. A city of evil, of corporate spies, of art thieves, where only the black of heart survived. And somewhere here was Crenshinibon, an artifact of even greater evil.
“Come, dark elf!” Belwar said after a long moment. “This place is not so terrible. See, the shoppers go without fear!”
Drizzt closed his eyes, remembering his tormented youth in Menzoberranzan. “Only because they do not understand the truth of the drow,” he said.
Guenhwyvar butted his leg with her head and meowed loudly. “The cat, as much as I hate to say it, is right,” Belwar said. “This is no time to dwell on the past! We must go forward!”
“Very well,” Drizzt said, and felt the darkness lift a little from his heart at Belwar’s determination.
They had not taken three steps before a cloaked figure emerged from behind a cabinet. As lithe and graceful as Drizzt, but with a predator’s eyes gleaming beneath his hood. “Welcome to the city of the drow,” Artemis Entreri said.
“Who is this?” Belwar demanded.
At the man’s appearance, Drizzt was suddenly shot through with fear for Belwar. “A cheap interior designer,” he said, keeping his voice level so that Entreri would not perceive his feelings. “One who’s crossed my path before.”
“Are we not more than that? Have you yourself not called me your nemesis?” Entreri asked, mocking. He drew forth his hand saw and jeweled chisel.
Belwar banged his hands together. “Bivrip!” he cried, and sparks flew from his hands. He set his stance. “Come and get it, designer!”
Drizzt held out a hand to stay his friend. “Get back, Belwar,” he said, and fires danced in his lavender eyes. “Entreri will not spare you. He is a foe far beyond your considerable abilities!”
Entreri bowed mockingly. “Quite an assessment, drow,” he said. “You respect me now, I see!”
“I give you no respect,” Drizzt said, with an unnatural calm that frightened Belwar. “I give you only the due I would give to a rat!”
With shocking speed, the designer launched himself at Drizzt. For an instant Belwar thought that Drizzt would surely be hacked to bits, but Drizzt’s screwdrivers were brought up to meet the flying saw and chisel. Guenhwyvar hissed, ears flat to her head, and bounded away from the combat. It was only prudent, Belwar thought, to follow the cat.
At long last, the Companions came around the corner into the lighting department. The lights were dimmer here, and the department was strangely quiet.
“Danger is near,” Regis said quietly, with a quiver in his voice.
Wulfgar stepped forward, beside Bruenor, and hefted his hammer. “Well, if any dare to face us, they should show themselves or be forever cowards!”
Catti-brie sighed heavily and held up Taulmaril, making sure that some of its enchanted silver nails were in the nail gun. “Ye could have gone a little more quietly,” she muttered, as dark shadows began to slip out from behind storage racks, swords in hand.
“Come an’ get some!” Bruenor spat, raising his hand axe.
The drow flashed hand signals amongst themselves, whispering in their spidery tongue as they crept closer. The drow in the lead leaped directly at Wulfgar, blade raised. Before the warrior could move more than a foot, Catti-brie had pulled the trigger of Taulmaril and fired a nail, a flash of silver that screamed through the air and drove straight through the drow. He fell with a cry, and in that instant battle was joined.
Bruenor laid about him with swings of his hand axe, shrugging off blows that would fell even another dwarf. Wulfgar roared his battle cry to Tempus, hurling drow left and right, undeterred by blood or pain. Catti-brie drew forth Khazid’hea, the sentient bandsaw practically singing its bloodlust. Regis scurried out of the way, using the ruby pendant to distract and charm their foes.
The fight was over as suddenly as it had begun, the remaining drow slinking away into the shadows again. Catti-brie wiped the sweat from her brow and checked Box of Anariel, which contained Taulmaril’s enchanted arrows. Yes, all twenty silver nails were present in the Box.
“Good fight,” Wulfgar remarked, resting Aegis-fang on his shoulder.
Bruenor spat in the direction of the retreating drow. “Cowards, the lot of ye!”
“We’ll have to face all of them if we stay here!” Regis piped up.
“Well, ye want to find Drizzt for us?” Bruenor asked.
Catti-brie, a bit ahead of the group, held up her hand. “I think I hear him!” The others hurried up to join her, listening. The clash of blades echoed through home organization, along with the sounds of shouts and verbal volleys.
“That’s Drizzt ahead, or I’m a bearded gnome!” Bruenor said.
Wulfgar raised Aegis-fang. “Tempus!” he roared, and charged forward around the corner.
“Oh, fer…” Catti-brie rolled her eyes. She sprinted after the huge man, Taulmaril in hand.
Drizzt saw his friends rush around the corner toward him. He leaped back from Entreri. “No!” he cried. “I’ll handle Entreri! Find Crenshinibon!”
“I was right!” Catti-brie cried.
“Ye can be right later, girl!” Bruenor said, and ran past the dueling men, deeper into home organization, where Crenshinibon would surely be.
Drizzt had a moment to be glad that the rest of his friends listened and went on, before Entreri was upon him again. The designer’s face was locked into a tense snarl as he brought the jeweled chisel down upon Drizzt. Drizzt knocked the blow aside with Icingdeath and brought a strike of his own around with Twinkle. Entreri contemptuously blocked the attack with his hand saw. Icingdeath screamed as it caught on the serrations of Entreri’s blade. For a moment they stood, arms outstretched, straining against each other in an impossible stalemate.
“Jarlaxle seeks Crenshinibon,” Drizzt said through gritted teeth. “You are only a distraction.”
“It’ll be enough when I cut you apart,” Entreri spat.
Drizzt pushed Entreri away, shoving the man across the aisle into a stack of shelves. Entreri staggered, and in that moment of pause Drizzt turned and bolted after the rest of his companions, toward Jarlaxle and Crenshinibon.
The whole of Menzoberranzan was in an uproar. Every drow was watching the fight or panicking over the chaos caused by the Companions of the Hall.
It was a perfect environment for a theft.
Jarlaxle had, of course, set up Bregan D’Aerthe operatives around Crenshinibon, making sure that he would have access to the chandelier when the time was right. Now he had the artifact loaded into a cart, all ready to be wheeled out through home decoration, into the self-serve furniture zone, and through the checkout counters to freedom.
“Ah, my dear chandelier,” Jarlaxle murmured, brushing the tinkling crystal drops delicately, “we shall do great things together, you and I.”
A commotion behind him drew his attention. Ah, the Companions were drawing very near. It was time to go. And there was Kimmuriel, brow furrowed irritably as usual. “Jarlaxle, it is time to leave,” he hissed. “If we don’t go now, those obnoxious louts will cause us a great deal of trouble.”
Jarlaxle grinned. “Let’s go, then, my dear.”
They began to wheel the chandelier out through home decoration. Shoppers got out of their way, seeming to instinctively know that this was something which would slow down their progress out of this hellish darkness. But they were not halfway across the section when behind them there came a great cry of “Bivrip!”
“Oh, dear Belwar, just let it go,” Jarlaxle said, turning to face the deep gnome.
He was mildly surprised to see that the burrow-warden was backed by a black cat, a seven-foot-tall blond barbarian, a furious red-haired dwarf, a redheaded woman wielding a nail gun, and Drizzt Do’Urden running up behind.
“So it’s to be a party, then,” Jarlaxle said cheerfully. He lifted a whistle to his lips and blew, the sound inaudible to any but the employees of Bregan D’Aerthe.
The barbarian—Wulfgar, if Jarlaxle was remembering correctly—raised his huge hammer. “At last, an honorable foe,” he said.
Jarlaxle shrugged. “Only to a point,” he said, and flung a miniature screwdriver that flipped in a perfect arc at the barbarian’s eye.
The fighting was a bit strong for Regis’ tastes. He stayed behind a cupboard, watching. Jarlaxle ran rings around Bruenor and Wulfgar, though they were holding their own. Catti-brie, Guenhwyvar, and that deep gnome Belwar were taking care of the rest of Bregan D’Aerthe. Entreri had caught up, and Drizzt was occupied dueling with the designer. Regis really had nothing to do.
Until he saw that psion, Kimmuriel Oblodra, skulking around behind a group of modular shelving units. Regis snuck up behind the drow, halfling feet making no more noise than the whisper of dust on the industrial carpeting. “Hello,” Regis said.
The psion spun around. “Die, stupid halfling!”
Before he could do more than raise a hand to blast Regis with some kind of power, the halfling held up the ruby pendant. “You don’t want to do that,” he said casually.
Fluorescent lights glinted off the facets of the ruby pendant, drawing the psion in. Regis saw the drow’s eyes lose focus, going glassy and blank as he fell under the spell of the pendant.
“Now,” Regis said, “why don’t you just go ahead and sit down right there…”
Drizzt was fully engaged with Entreri, screwdrivers flying faster than he had ever expected. He could hear the clamor of battle all around him, his friends fighting Bregan D’Aerthe, the sounds drawing him into an almost meditative state. The flow of battle was all-encompassing. For all that Entreri was an evil man, he was also truly Drizzt’s equal.
He was broken from his battle-calm by a cry from Catti-brie. “Drizzt! Jarlaxle’s got the chandelier!”
In a moment between blows, Drizzt chanced a look behind him. Jarlaxle was indeed pushing the cart containing Crenshinibon away from the battle, riding the cart like a scooter toward home decoration.
Drizzt had to break from Entreri. He allowed the designer to force his screwdrivers higher and higher, into a disadvantageous position. The only correct move when Entreri dived in for a low attack was, of course, to use the cross-down parry—a maneuver which Drizzt had never before used against Entreri—and also one with which Drizzt had found a way to take a superior position in the fight. As Drizzt’s screwdrivers locked, he kicked up and over his hands, driving his heel into Entreri’s face.
The designer howled, falling back with blood streaming down his face from a broken nose. In the moment before Entreri recovered, Drizzt sprinted past him, following Jarlaxle and Crenshinibon.
Jarlaxle laughed when he looked behind and saw Drizzt hot on his heels. Of course the young drow would not be so quick to let Jarlaxle get away without a fight. He did not, however, stop rolling the cart. A truck from the pawn shop was waiting out past the checkout counters; if Jarlaxle could reach the parking lot, he and Crenshinibon would be long gone before Drizzt and his companions even made it out of home decoration.
He had, perhaps, underestimated the young carpenter, for he heard only a shout and then Drizzt was soaring through the air over Jarlaxle’s head, alighting on the side of the cart, balanced on a surface no more than an inch wide.
“Give up the chase,” Drizzt said.
Jarlaxle smiled. “Where would be the fun in that?” he asked. He made sure to push the cart around the corner so that they wouldn’t crash into a wall and then leaped up onto the other side of the cart, facing Drizzt. “En guarde!”
The cart bearing Crenshinibon rattled along toward the self-serve furniture zone with Jarlaxle and Drizzt fighting balanced atop its sides as shoppers screamed and scattered before them. Jarlaxle was sure that they looked utterly ridiculous, but cared not one whit. He could hear Entreri and Drizzt’s companions running along behind, shouting at them. It was good fun, and should the heist be successful Jarlaxle would shortly be a very rich elf.
By leaning their weight about, they managed to get the cart to take the final corner as it hurtled toward the checkout counters. A few IKEA employees attempted to get the careening drow to stop, but neither Drizzt nor Jarlaxle, engaged in a difficult combat, paid them any heed. They were gaining on the checkout counters, and the light of the sun was visible beyond those doors.
“Give up!” Drizzt shouted, precariously leaning to strike out at Jarlaxle.
The bald drow smirked, flinging miniature screwdrivers at Drizzt with truly blinding speed. “Do you really think I will?”
Drizzt saw how close they were to the doors, and his keen eyes caught sight of a Bregan D’Aerthe truck waiting just beyond. If this cart passed beyond the walls of IKEA, they would never be able to retrieve Crenshinibon. “If you’ll not surrender,” Drizzt said, “then let the chandelier fall!”
And he threw his weight across the cart, plowing into Jarlaxle at full speed. As all the weight shifted, the cart tottered on the wheels of one side. Tipping, tipping, tipping—
Down it went, with a resounding crash followed by the tinkling splash of thousands of crystal drops falling as the chandelier exploded on impact with the concrete floor.
For a moment, there was total silence. Drizzt, stunned by the impact, managed to roll over and stagger to his feet. He’d maintained hold of both his screwdrivers in the crash, though Jarlaxle had lost his hat, and his cloak was in disarray. But the other drow was smiling, despite the fact that the vintage crystal chandelier lay in shattered pieces on the floor of IKEA.
“A good chase,” Jarlaxle said. He picked up the hat and dusted it off, shaking crystal shards out of the diatryma feather. “Unfortunate end, this.”
Drizzt eyed Jarlaxle warily. “You would let things end this way?”
Jarlaxle shrugged, donning the hat. “I desired excitement and adventure. There may be profit, though that remains to be seen.” He studied an intact crystal drop, holding it up before his face. “It shall be an adventure, I am sure.”
“I hope that it shall not involve me,” Drizzt muttered, shaking his head as Jarlaxle put the crystal drop in his pocket.
“Ah, but where would be the fun in that?” Jarlaxle asked, smiling. He bowed low. “Until next time, Drizzt Do’Urden!” With that, Jarlaxle walked away, breezing past the shocked IKEA employees and out the door to where the truck waited. He climbed up into the cab and the truck drove away.
“Drizzt!” Catti-brie cried, hurrying up. “Are ye all right?”
“I am whole,” Drizzt assured her with a smile, turning away from the doors. Guenhwyvar was winding around his ankles, purring her gladness to see him again. “And the rest?”
Catti-brie tossed her flaming hair. “All fine, if slow,” she said. She smiled widely. “I’m glad ye’re in one piece, Drizzt. Ye worried me, runnin’ off into IKEA like that.”
“I am sorry for that,” Drizzt said.
“Don’t bother bein’ sorry,” Catti-brie said, and threw her arms around him in a sudden hug. “Just don’t do it again, ye hear?” Drizzt smiled and was about to reply when the rest of his friends arrived.
Wulfgar seized him, lifting him off the ground in a rib-cracking embrace. “My friend!” he said joyfully. “I am glad to find you well!”
“I am glad to be well,” Drizzt said, when his feet again touched the ground. He was unable to conceal his smile. “It was brave of you, to come back to IKEA.”
Regis smiled. “Well, thank you,” the halfling said. Absently, he spun the ruby pendant. “I made a few friends along the way, so it was a touch less frightening.”
“No bravery is required when a friend is in danger!” Wulfgar said.
Bruenor grumbled. “Bah, don’t be stupid, boy,” he said, glaring halfheartedly at Drizzt and Wulfgar. “Ye need bravery just to think about comin’ back to this hellhole!”
Drizzt clapped Bruenor on the shoulder. “Then you certainly have enough bravery for an army of dwarves,” he said. “For this is your third time journeying in IKEA, and coming out again to see the sun.”
“Should you live here, you would not face it with such dread!” Belwar said.
“I do not know,” Drizzt said thoughtfully. “I certainly dreaded living in IKEA. At least, until I met the Most Honored Burrow-Warden…”
“So this is Belwar!” Catti-brie said, studying the deep gnome with new interest.
Belwar bowed. “I am at your service,” he said.
“Does that service extend all the way to the surface?” Drizzt asked teasingly.
“If you wish it!” Belwar shuddered. “I would face the sun at your side, but know that it would be only under great duress!”
Drizzt shook his head and laughed. “No, my friend,” he said, “I asked only in jest. The gnomes of Blingdenstone will be waiting for you to lead new expeditions, now that the drow are forced into retreat.”
“I will name a mine for you,” Belwar promised.
Drizzt dropped to his knees to embrace the deep gnome, knowing that it would be a long while before they saw each other again, if ever. “Thank you for your help, my friend,” he said.
“Think nothing of it, dark elf,” Belwar said. He patted Guenhwyvar gently on the head with the hammer hand, and she butted his leg with her head. He turned and began to walk away, back into the grim depths of the furniture store. He glanced over his shoulder, just before turning the corner. “And next time, please do not hesitate to send word in advance!”
“He is a good friend,” Wulfgar judged, as the deep gnome disappeared entirely. “I am glad that you knew him.”
“As am I,” Drizzt said. He made sure that Twinkle and Icingdeath were back in their loops on his tool belt. “Now, I think it is time that we made our exit.”
A trembling IKEA employee, yellow nametag askew, approached. “Um. Er. Were you…planning on buying anything?” she asked.
“Naw,” Bruenor said. “Just leavin’.”
“Deepest apologies for the mess,” Wulfgar said. He smiled sympathetically at the young woman.
Catti-brie tugged on Drizzt’s hand. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s get out of this store.”
Drizzt looked around at his friends, then out into the sunlit parking lot. The adventure in IKEA was over, and the only thing left to do was to go back to Mithril Hall, back to building furniture that mattered, furniture that was beautiful and non-modular and everything but Swedish.
“Yes,” he said. “Let’s go home.”