Like a dark Ulysses, Artemis Entreri has made a long
journey through R.A. Salvatore's books. Many readers of the Forgotten Realms
series are familiar with Salvatore's work, all of which is detailed in the R.A.
Salvatore node. His longest running series involves an intrepid band of heroes,
led by Drizzt Do'Urden, a Drow Elf. Unlike all his sinister brethren, Drizzt
fled his birthright, and became a ranger on the surface of the Forgotten
Realms, forever forsaking his evil origins. Over the course of his many adventures,
he encountered Artemis Entreri, his arch nemesis, and in many ways, his
In the Forgotten Realms, the Drow Elves are feared
by all. They are ruthless killers, completely lacking morals, and without any
redeeming virtue. They are a society run by matron mothers, unswayed in their
worship of Lilith, the Spider Queen, an evil deity that revels in chaos and
disorder. They are also the most feared fighters, as, due to their evil nature,
they have become the enemies of just about every other race on Faerun (the
world of Forgotten Realms). Their skill in battle is unmatched, and is held
in check by their chaotic nature; their constant infighting and lack of trust
prevent them from forming any lasting alliances. The reside in the fetid realms
of the Underdark, a world devoid of light; a hostile environment that has
played a crucial part in the creation of one of the most feared races on Faerun.
Drizzt Do'Urden was one of two exceptions. Like his
father before him, Drizzt was disgusted by the ways of his brethren. Unlike
his father, he found the courage to run away, and strike out on his own. After
spending some time alone in the Underdark, Drizzt finally made it to the
surface, and braved the hated rays of the sun, the antithesis to all his race
stood for. He established a life for himself, and eventually became a ranger,
finally expressing the good that he felt within. Forced to constantly battle
the prejudices of all races he met, Drizzt constantly sought balance, and
a strict adherence to morals. His perseverance payed off, and he became known
to many as a fighter of virtue and a person of character.
Drizzt and party first encountered Artemis Entreri
in The Halfling's Jem, the last book of the Icewind Dale Trilogy. Regis
the halfling, one of the members of Drizzt's party, was fleeing from Pasha
Pook of Calimport. Regis had stolen a precious and magical jem from Pook,
and the irate Pasha sent Artemis Entreri, the consummate assassin, to retrieve
his property. Up to now, Drizzt had faced many a fearsome adversary, many
of them drow, and had always bested them in combat. Artemis Entreri was the
one exception. A cold, ruthless killer, the product of the mean streets of Calimport
(think Arabian Nights), Artemis was Drizzt's equal in battle. His sword
and dagger met Drizzt's twin scimitars stroke for stroke, just as his personality
was an antithesis for all that Drizzt stood for. All their battles in this
book were unresolved, much to the frustration of both parties.
After their preliminary encounter, Artemis was compelled
to seek out Drizzt, and to finally eradicate this anomaly in his structure
of beliefs. Artemis was consumed with the desire to defeat Drizzt in single
combat, no matter what the cost to himself. And if anyone could best Drizzt,
that person was Artemis Entreri. For a time, Drizzt too was caught up in
the competition, and was filled with an indescribable urge to eradicate the
perversion that was Artemis Entreri.
After time, Drizzt realized the futility of his struggle.
To him, Artemis was but the hollow shell of a man. He was without morals,
driven only by his desire to excel in his gruesome trade; he was a dead man
walking. After Drizzit was able to reconcile himself to the fact that Artemis
was what he could have been, had he stayed in his ancestral home, he was able
to rise above the animosity that had developed between the two.
The Drizzt/Artemis saga was played out for a couple
of books. In an interview, Salvatore expressed the fact that he wanted to
kill Drizzt off, but his publishers wouldn't let him. The series had become
so popular, that they were unwilling to let Drizzt the moneymaker go. This
resulted in the prolonging of the great battle between Drizzt and Artemis.
Artemis began to lose his luster and became an almost shallow version of his
original self. He was still unparalleled in battle; he truly was Drizzt's
equal in battle. The two of them danced along lines that other failed to see;
their prowess was unmatched. But it became a cliché. Drizzt would
fight new enemies, only to encounter Artemis somewhere along the way. They
would fight, or sometimes temporarily join forces, so as to escape mutual capture,
only to engage in furious combat once more. Drizzt rose above this petty competition,
but Artemis was somehow cast into a new, shallow mold.
And then came Salvatore's latest addition to the saga,
Servant of the Shard. Salvatore had come full circle, and returned to the
source of his first trilogy; the evil crystal shard, an artifact of unparalleled
evil. After two books of silence, at least in terms of the Drizzt/Artemis
saga, Salvatore returned full force, and completely surprised many. I had
resigned myself to more of the publisher prolonged battle between Artemis
and Drizzt, only to find that the new book was almost all about Artemis.
Through the course of the book, Artemis became human. He felt. Like Ulysses,
he had journeyed far and long, only to return home to a lie. Artemis is back
in Calimport, the filthy city of his youth. And we come so tantalizingly close
to the singular event in his past that made him so callous. He is no longer
a villain, but a human, caught in between the lines of good and evil, of birth
and upbringing. He begins to feel; he matures into a character with more depth
that any had hoped to expect.
Up to now, Drizzt and Artemis had been equals, but
the whole battle was futile. Drizzt was a drow, fated to live many centuries.
Artemis had only the normal human lifetime to look forward to. After a while,
his skills would begin to fade; he would no longer be Drizzt's equal. When
Artemis was an old man, Drizzt would still be in his prime. And then, like
the Joyceian Ulysses, he had an epiphany. As the loyal reader, we are
not yet privy to what exactly has happened to Artemis, only that he has begun
the long journey out of night. While Eugene O'Neil followed the descent into
night, we will follow Artemis as he circumvents what he was before. So far,
it has not become a mushy reversal; the villain becomes the repentant hero.
So far, it has been a human journey into the self; a journey that entails a
denial of what was before, and an acceptance of a new future. It is a journey
that has not ended, but surely must end. In the accomplishment of this yet unreached
end, we will see the completion of a cycle. The villain will find a new perspective,
for life is nothing but a chosen perception.
The discerning reader may have noticed that my e2
handle bears the same name as the focus of this writeup, as do most of my
online personas. I can't help it; he's such an awesome villain, and his journey
into his own past elevates him above the petty interaction of stereotypical
hero/villain to the extent that I remain entranced. He was the consummate villain;
a nemesis to one of the most popular heroes in D&D spawned fiction, and
he has become what we all are. We all seek a meaning to our existence, just
as we all must face a reckoning, if only with ourselves, for all that we've