Streams of Silver 9. There is No Honor

“Why do you approach the city before the light of dawn?” the Nightkeeper of the North Gate asked the emissary for the merchant caravan that had pulled up outside Luskan’s wall. Jierdan, in his post beside the Nightkeeper, watched with special interest, certain that this troupe had come from Ten-Towns.
“We would not impose upon the regulations of the city if our business were not urgent,” answered the spokesman. “We have not rested for two days.” Another man emerged from the cluster of wagons, a body limp across his shoulders.
“Murdered on the road,” explained the spokesman. “And another of the party taken. Catti-brie, daughter of Bruenor Battlehammer himself!”

“A dwarf-maid?” Jierdan blurted out, suspecting otherwise, but masking his excitement for fear that it might implicate him.
“Nay, no dwarf. A woman,” lamented the spokeman. “Fairest in all the dale, maybe in all the north. The dwarf took her in as an orphaned child and claimed her as his own.”
“Orcs?” asked the Nightkeeper, more concerned with potential hazards on the road than with the fate of a single woman.
“This was not the work of orcs,” replied the spokesman. “Stealth and cunning took Catti-brie from us and killed the driver. We did not even discover the foul deed until the next morn.”
Jierdan needed no further information, not even a more complete description of Catti-brie, to put the pieces together. Her connection to Bruenor explained Entreri’s interest in her. Jierdan looked to the eastern horizon and the first rays of the coming dawn, anxious to be cleared of his duties on the wall so that he could go report his findings to Dendybar. This little piece of news should help to alleviate the mottled wizard’s anger at him for losing the drow’s trail on the docks.
* * *
“He has not found them?” Dendybar hissed at Sydney.
“He has found nothing but a cold trail,” the younger mage replied. “If they are on the docks yet, they are well disguised.”
Dendybar paused to consider his apprentice’s report. Something was out of place with this scenario. Four distinctive characters simply could not have vanished. “Have you learned anything of the assassin, then, or of his companion?”
“The vagabonds in the alleys fear him. Even the ruffians give him a respectfully wide berth.”
“So our friend is known among the bowel-dwellers,” Dendybar mused.
“A hired killer, I would guess,” reasoned Sydney. “Probably from the south – Waterdeep, perhaps, though we should have heard more of him if that were the case. Perhaps even farther south, from the lands beyond our vision.”
“Interesting,” replied Dendybar, trying to formulate some theory to satisfy all the variables. “And the girl?”
Sydney shrugged. “I do not believe that she follows him willingly, though she has made no move to be free of him. And when you saw him in Morkai’s vision, he was riding alone.”
“He acquired her,” came an unexpected reply from the doorway. Jierdan entered the room.
“What? Unannounced?” sneered Dendybar.
“I have news – it could not wait,” Jierdan replied boldly.
“Have they left the city?” Sydney prompted, voicing her suspicions to heighten the anger she read on the mottled wizard’s pallid face. Sydney well understood the dangers and the difficulties of the docks, and almost pitied Jierdan for incurring the wrath of the merciless Dendybar in a situation beyond his control. But Jierdan remained her competition for the mottled wizard’s favor, and she wouldn’t let sympathy stand in the way of her ambitions.
“No,” Jierdan snapped at her. “My news does not concern the drow’s party.” He looked back to Dendybar. “A caravan arrived in Luskan today – in search of the woman.”
“Who is she?” asked Dendybar, suddenly very interested and forgetting his anger at the intrusion.
“The adopted daughter of Bruenor Battlehamer,” Jierdan replied. “Cat – ”
“Catti-brie! Of course!” hissed Dendybar, himself familiar with most of the prominent people in Ten-Towns. “I should have guessed!” He turned to Sydney. “My respect for our mysterious rider grows each day. Find him and bring him back to me!”
Sydney nodded, though she feared that Dendybar’s request would prove more difficult than the mottled wizard believed, probably even beyond her skills altogether.
She spent that night, until the early hours of the following morning, searching the alleyways and meeting places of the dockside area. But even using her contacts on the docks and all the magical tricks at her disposal, she found no sign of Entreri and Catti-brie, and no one willing or able to pass along any information that might help her in her search.
Tired and frustrated, she returned to the Hosttower the next day, passing the corridor to Dendybar’s room, even though he had ordered her to report to him directly upon her return. Sydney was in no mood to listen to the mottled wizard’s ranting about her failure.
She entered her small room, just off the main trunk of the Hosttower on the northern branch, below the rooms of the Master of the North Spire, and bolted the doors, further sealing them against unwelcomed intrusion with a magical spell.
She had barely fallen into her bed when the surface of her coveted scrying mirror began to swirl and glow. “Damn you, Dendybar,” she growled, assuming that the disturbance was her master’s doing. Dragging her weary body to the mirror, she stared deeply into it, attuning her mind to the swirl to bring the image clearer. It was not Dendybar that she faced, to her relief, but a wizard from a distant town, a would-be suitor that the passionless Sydney kept dangling by a thread of hope so that she could manipulate him as she needed.
“Greetings, fair Sydney,” the mage said. “I pray I did not disturb your sleep, but I have exciting news!”
Normally, Sydney would have tactfully listened to the mage, feigned interest in the story, and politely excused herself from the encounter. But now, with Dendybar’s pressing demands lying squarely across her shoulders, she had no patience for distractions. “This is not the time!” she snapped.
The mage, so caught up in his own news, seemed not to notice her definitive tone. “The most marvelous thing has happened in our town,” he rambled.
“Harkle!” Sydney cried to break his babbling momentum.
The mage halted, crestfallen. “But, Sydney,” he said.
“Another time,” she insisted.
“But how often in this day does one actually see and speak with a drow elf?” Harkle persisted.
“I cannot – ” Sydney stopped short, digesting Harkle’s last words. “A drow elf?” she stammered.
“Yes,” Harkle beamed proudly, thrilled that his news had apparently impressed his beloved Sydney. “Drizzt Do’Urden, by name. He left Longsaddle just two days ago. I would have told you earlier, but the mansion has just been astir about the whole thing!”
“Tell me more, dear Harkle,” Sydney purred enticingly. “Do tell me everything.”
* * *
“I am in need of information.”
Whisper froze at the sound of the unexpected voice, guessing the speaker immediately. She knew that he was in town, and knew, too, that he was the only one who could have slipped through her defenses to get into her secret chambers.
“Information,” Entreri said again, moving out from the shadows behind a dressing screen.
Whisper slid the jar of healing unguent into her pocket and took a good measure of the man. Rumors spoke of him as the deadliest of assassins, and she, all too familiar with killers, knew at once that the rumors rang with truth. She sensed Entreri’s power, and the easy coordination of his movements. “Men do not come to my room uninvited,” she warned bravely.
Entreri moved to a better vantage point to study the bold woman. He had heard of her as well, a survivor of the rough streets, beautiful and deadly. But apparently Whisper had lost an encounter. Her nose was broken and disjointed, splayed across her cheek.
Whisper understood the scrutiny. She squared her shoulders and threw her head back proudly. “An unfortunate accident,” she hissed.
“It is not my concern,” Entreri came back. “I have come for information.”
Whisper turned away to go about her routine, trying to appear unbothered. “My price is high,” she said coolly.
She turned back to Entreri, the intense but frighteningly calm look on his face telling her beyond doubt that her life would be the only reward for cooperation.
“I seek four companions,” said Entreri. “A dwarf, a drow, a young man, and a halfling.”
Whisper was unused to such situations. No crossbows supported her now, no bodyguards waited for her signal behind a nearby secret door. She tried to remain calm, but Entreri knew the depth of her fear. She chuckled and pointed to her broken nose. “I have met your dwarf, and your drow, Artemis Entreri.” She emphasized his name as she spoke it, hoping that her recognition would put him back on the defensive.
“Where are they?” Entreri asked, still in control. “And what did they request of you?”
Whisper shrugged. “If they remain in Luskan, I do not know where. Most probably they are gone; the dwarf has a map of the northland.”
Entreri considered the words. “Your reputation speaks more highly of you,” he said sarcastically. “You accept such a wound and let them slip through your grasp?”
Whisper’s eyes narrowed in anger. “I choose my fights carefully,” she hissed. “The four are too dangerous for actions of frivolous vengeance. Let them go where they will. I want no business with them again.”
Entreri’s calm visage sagged a bit. He had already been to the Cutlass and heard of Wulfgar’s exploits. And now this. A woman like Whisper was not easily cowed. Perhaps he should indeed re-evaluate the strength of his opponents.
“Fearless is the dwarf,” Whisper offered, sensing his dismay and taking pleasure in furthering his discomfort. “And ware the drow, Artemis Entreri,” she hissed pointedly, attempting to relegate him to a similar level of respect for the companions with the grimness of her tone. “He walks in shadows that we cannot see, and strikes from the darkness. He conjures a demon in the form of a great cat and – ”
Entreri turned and started away, having no intention of allowing Whisper to gain any more of an advantage.
Reveling in her victory, Whisper couldn’t resist the temptation to throw one final dart. “Men do not come to my room uninvited,” she said again. Entreri passed into an adjoining room and Whisper heard the door to the alley close.


Medal of Honor

When President Ronald Reagan presented Roy Perez Benavidez with his Medal of Honor in 1981, the President told the media that if someone had written a fictional story with a hero like Benavidez, nobody would have believed it. And, in fact, in his autobiography Medal of Honor: One Man’s Journey from Poverty and Prejudice, the story Benavidez tells is the stuff that movies are made of. Benavidez was an orphan in south Texas, a half-breed Indian and Hipic in an era when neither was acceptable.

He dropped out of school before even making it to high school, but as a staff sergeant in the Army during the conflict in Vietnam; he saved eight other men and prevented classified documents from falling into the hands of the enemy. (“Vietnam War Medal of Honor Recipient”) In essence, Benavidez is a true American success story. He was born to migrant farm workers and received the highest commendation that the United States offers for bravery in conflict. However, it may have been Benavidez never say die attitude that did more to establish his positive contributions to American society than his war record.

As the medevac chopper landed the wounded were examined one by one. Staff Sergeant Benavidez could only hear what was going on around him. He had over thirty seven puncture wounds. His intestines were exposed. He could not see as his eyes were caked in blood and unable to open. Neither could he speak, his jaw broken, clubbed by a North Vietnamese rifle. But he knew what was happening, and it was the scariest moment of his life, even more so than the earlier events of the day. He lay in a body bag, bathed in his own blood. Jerry Cottingham, a friend screamed “That’s Benavidez. Get a doc”.
When the doctor arrived he placed his hand on Roy’s chest to feel for a heartbeat. He pronounced him dead. The physician shook his head. “There’s nothing I can do for him. ” As the doctor bent over to zip up the body bag. Benavidez did the only thing he could think of to let the doctor know that he was alive. He spit in the doctor’s face. The surprised doctor reversed Roy’s condition from dead to “He won’t make it, but we’ll try”. (Rouse) These were the wounds that Benavidez received the day he save eight men and won a Medal of Honor, but the reality is this was not the first time he had been gravely wounded in Vietnam.
Four years earlier, in 1964, Benavidez was hit with shrapnel from a land mind and doctors said he would not recover. They said he would never walk again. They were wrong. In an exerpt from his book, Benavidez explains, Night after night, I bailed out of bed, crawled for the wall at the head of my bed and pulled myself up. I pushed the nightstands ahead with my arms, pressed my feet against the cold tile floor, and dragged my dead body along until my arms were under me again. Then I’d start all over again. Finally, I was moving about two tiles at a time. . .
I had learned that if I got knocked down, I had to get up and keep fighting until I knocked my opponent down, and he didn’t get up. Every night I got knocked down. Every night I got back up again. . . The pain was like nothing I could have ever dreamed about. Every night it would suck the sweat and tears from my body and my soul. Every day I would go back to that little chapel and sit alone and restore my soul. I went through all the stages of blaming God, accusing, doubting, and arguing, but he never deserted me. He’d never let me leave that chapel until I was ready to try again.
After chapel, I went to physical therapy to try to restore the rest of my body for my nightly battle. In therapy I’d sit with the guys with no legs, or the true paraplegics, and learn how to live in the chair. I was not a good student. I wouldn’t give in to the chair. At night I was beginning to win my battle, and I wasn’t going to let the therapists convince me that it was a lost cause. (“Vietnam Medal of Honor”) That strength of spirit is perhaps the most lasting contribution Benavidez made to his country. Years later, as he lay dying, Benavidez had the same attitude.
With two pieces of shrapnel still in his heart and a collapsed lung and diabetes, he reportedly said “quitters never win and winners never quit,” in his last interview, saying that he wanted to recover so he could continue working as a motivational speaker. (Mishalov) Another of Benavidez’s lasting contributions to the country came in the form of his activism after winning the Medal of Honor. During the Reagan Administration, Social Security attempted to cut his disability benefits, saying that the disabled war hero should find work.
Though he regretted using his Medal for political purposes, he wore it as he testified to a Congressional committee regarding the unfairness of their Social Security budget cuts (Mishalov). Benavidez’s contribution are numerous, based mostly around his attitude of try, try again. He has an elementary school named for him and the U. S. Navy named a ship in his honor, a rare occurrence for the Navy to honor a member of another branch of the service. But Benavidez set all the honors and praise aside, saying that he did not consider himself a hero for his actions the day he won the Medal of Honor.
The heroes, he said, were the men who lost their lives for their country. His actions were simply “his duty. ” (Mishalov). Benavidez died of diabetes-related complications in November, 1998. Works Cited Mishalov, Neil. “Medal of Honor: Roy P. Benavidez” <http://www. mishalov. com/Benavidez. html> June 14, 2007. Rouse, Ed. “Roy P. Benavidez” <http://www. psywarrior. com/benavidez. html>, June 14, 2007. “Vietnam War Medal of Honor Recipient” http://www. medalofhonor. com/RoyBenavidez. htm>, June 14, 2007.