Jarlaxle

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Jarlaxle Baenre
Game information
Homeland Menzoberranzan
Gender Male
Race Drow (Dark Elf)
Class Fighter 17 (2E)
Fighter 18 (3E)[1]
Rogue 6/Fighter 10/ Duelist 9 (3E)[citation needed]
Skirmisher 21 (4E)
Alignment Neutral Evil
Age 400-500 years
Setting Forgotten Realms

Jarlaxle is a fictional character in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting based on the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. He first appeared in the 1990 novel, Exile, by R. A. Salvatore as the charismatic and opportunistic drow leader of the mercenary band, Bregan D'aerthe. The character has appeared again in subsequent novels including Promise of the Witch-King, Road of the Patriarch, and The Pirate King, as well as "The Sellswords" and "Paths of Darkness" trilogies (by R.A. Salvatore). He also has a cameo in the CRPG Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, in which he tricks the PC into stealing gems for him from an undead lich.

Appearance[edit]

Slender and tightly muscled, Jarlaxle is the dandy of Menzoberranzan. He chooses the brightest colors for his clothes and wears a cape that shines in every color in both the visible and infrared spectrums. A mental command can transform this bright cloak into a concealing piwafwi (Drow cloak of invisibility). Jarlaxle commonly wears high boots, bracelets and other jewelry that typically makes loud noise upon his approach (the jewelry jangling and the boots loudly echoing upon the floor, even upon surfaces such as soft carpeting where such sounds should not be possible), but which, like the cloak, can be made to be loud or silent at his discretion. He also wears a magical eye patch that protects his mind from magical and psionic intrusions and allows him to see through walls and other solid objects. He often shifts the patch from eye to eye to keep others guessing as to its powers. He wears a magical bracer which supplies him with an infinite supply of throwing knives (each knife, after being thrown, returns to the bracer). These daggers can also elongate into fine swords with just a couple flicks of his wrist. Another staple item is his wide-brimmed hat, plumed with a diatryma feather and worn atop his clean-shaven scalp that is heavily implied to be enchanted to have many different properties, including ones activated by tipping it in different directions. One of Jarlaxle's practiced moves is to remove his hat and sweep into a bow, exposing his bald head. Jarlaxle's shaven head is a symbol of his place in Menzoberranzan. In a society where rank and position are indicated by hair style (e.g., male drow nobles all have haircuts specific to their houses), Jarlaxle has no hair to illustrate that he considers himself a houseless rogue.

Personality[edit]

More than anything, Jarlaxle is an opportunist. His wealth is considerable, but official station in drow society means nothing to him. Jarlaxle has learned that the best way for a male to survive and prosper in the matriarchal drow society is by being outside the system and too valuable to be eliminated. Jarlaxle was audacious enough to take his life in that direction, quickly gathering a mercenary band designed specifically to house outcast drow. Always calm and composed, although with an ever-ready quip, Jarlaxle enjoys flaunting his independence and is proud of the fact that the noble houses come to him for aid. In the city of Menzoberranzan, intrigue and double-dealing are a way of life, and no one plays them better than Jarlaxle does. Jarlaxle deliberately cultivates an air of mystery about himself, keeping his actions unpredictable so that even his closest advisors in Bregan D'aerthe are often kept off-balance and guessing as to his next move. Predictability allows individuals to study a potential opponent, note their apparent strengths and weaknesses, and plan accordingly; thus, unpredictability is a great asset to Jarlaxle, as others are forced to improvise, rather than plan ahead, when dealing with him.

As a male outsider in the city, Jarlaxle has much information few others beyond Lolth's priestesses are likely to have access to. He is one of the most powerful individuals in the city and the surrounding Underdark. Jarlaxle enjoys manipulating chaos and disorder—as well as causing it and then manipulating it. This is both because he can usually manipulate chaotic circumstances to his own advantage, and because he simply enjoys the spectacle. Jarlaxle seems to greatly enjoy learning new things and living through new and unique experiences, probably at least partly due to the boredom of having lived so very long (he is apparently centuries old.) He enjoys manipulating circumstances to generate chaos and see what happens, often viewing everything as a game (at times, he can be rather cold regarding the lives of those he manipulates as pawns in his games.)

Jarlaxle has worked hard to develop Bregan D'aerthe as a power in Menzoberranzan. He is always on the lookout for the opportunity to recruit talented individuals into Bregan D'aerthe. Because of the strict rules and customs regarding nobility and standing in drow society, drow (nearly all male) generally join the organization only if they have no choice. Also because of the strict rules and customs of Menzoberranzan, which can often leave an individual completely without support if he inadvertently breaks some law or rule, or even if he does nothing wrong but his house is destroyed, leaving him with nothing, there are plenty of opportunities to recruit. Jarlaxle is not above manipulating circumstances to ensure that an individual is forced to join the band.

Bregan D'aerthe is a formidable force. Jarlaxle has worked hard to recruit individuals with a wide variety of talents (such as fighters, psionicists, etc.) into the band. When necessary he will fight, and is deadly, but Jarlaxle prefers making a profit without fighting whenever possible. Bregan D'aerthe will do anything to make a profit, be it merchant operations, spying, assassinations, or brokering information—even to the deep gnomes, blood enemies of the drow, if it can be done without drawing the wrath of the ruling houses or Lolth's priestesses.

Jarlaxle seems to have educated himself extensively, as he appears to be knowledgeable about a vast variety of subjects. Unusual for a drow, who are typically xenophobic and view virtually all other races as inferior, he is knowledgeable about many other races and cultures, and seems able to speak a wide array of languages perfectly (it is thought that he has some magic item that grants him an effect similar to the "Tongues" spell, allowing one to speak all languages). Jarlaxle has no problem dealing with other races, even traditional enemies of the drow, if there is a profit in it (and if it can be done without provoking the greater powers of Menzoberranzan or the Spider Queen's clerics.) Although he is a formidable fighter, possesses many powerful magical items, and surrounds himself with skilled fighters and magic-users in Bregan D'aerthe, he always prefers to accomplish his goals without fighting whenever possible. Unlike many drow, Jarlaxle is always willing to engage in a deal that is beneficial to both sides (of course, he has been known to double-cross his partners, although that is often because they were planning to double-cross him first.) Jarlaxle understands that information is power, especially in a city like Menzoberranzan, where schemes, intrigue and secrecy are paramount, and Bregan D'aerthe is always well-informed about the events in Menzoberranzan. This information, and a wide variety of other goods, is usually made available to the highest bidder. Jarlaxle loves making profits, but he seems to enjoy irritating and unsettling personages in power even more (particularly the ruling priestesses of the Spider Queen, who generally view him with veiled contempt—because he is a male rogue without house—and frustration—because he always tends to be flippant and disrespectful, and killing him is simply not an option.) He greatly loves magical artifacts, and is always actively looking to enlarge his personal hoard of artifacts (even after his possession of Crenshinibon, a sentient artifact that manipulates its possessor, nearly resulted in disaster.) Jarlaxle loves luxury and fine living; he tends to always wear the best clothes and eat and drink the most expensive foods and wines. Although he enjoys adventuring, both for the potential profits and the entertainment value the excitement provides, and since adventuring typically means leaving the comforts of civilization behind, Jarlaxle typically brings luxury with him—usually in the form of a magical item that can produce any number of outrageous luxury items he desires. He has a very great and active libido, but does not try to force himself on women; he seems to enjoy propositioning and charming women almost as much as bedding them. Unlike most drow, who are so caught up in their own prejudices that they view all other races as inferior and would never think of sleeping with them, Jarlaxle often chases human women, and would probably bed women of most other races if the opportunity presented itself.

Jarlaxle has a very charismatic personality, always willing to talk his way out of situations rather than resort to force of arms. Moreover, talking is what Jarlaxle does best. He can be extremely charming and persuasive, an especially remarkable feat given that he is usually either addressing evil, paranoid creatures that trust few or no one else (drow and other monstrous inhabitants of the Underdark) or races that are automatically suspicious of him because of his drow heritage. His words easily work past the handicap of his race's evil reputation, able to turn potential enemies into allies. A common tactic among surface races is to be flamboyantly humorous, and then provide a generous and amusing demonstration of whatever magic items he feels like displaying, knowing a sure way to earn the tolerance of many surface dwellers (especially halflings) is to feed them and make them laugh. He tends to have a great natural insight into the instincts, thoughts and desires of potential partners and enemies, and whenever possible, tries to pursue mutually beneficial goals in order to avoid conflict. He appears also to be extremely intelligent and a brilliant tactician who almost never seems to be unprepared for any thinkable and unthinkable circumstances. Having survived in the unpredictability and chaos of Menzoberranzan, Jarlaxle is very skilled at thinking several steps ahead of allies, enemies, and potential enemies. He also prefers not to kill anyone as long as he can manipulate the person to serve his interests, no matter how small their role might be. Interestingly for a drow, Jarlaxle doesn't like to kill somebody he does not have to.

Combat tactics and equipment[edit]

In combat, Jarlaxle will throw an unlimited supply of magical daggers conferred to him by one of his bracers. About 4 in 10 of those daggers are illusions, but as he pointed out to the assassin Artemis Entreri, "an illusion can kill you if you believe it to be real". There are, of course, real daggers included among the illusory ones (prompting a comment from Entreri that "the real thing can kill you, whether you believe in it or not"), which magically disappear after a short period of time, returning themselves to his magic bracer. He is renowned for having a seemingly unlimited supply of magical tricks: an eye patch that prevents magical and psionic intrusion and enhances his vision; a hat with a large feather that can be used to summon a diatryma (a large flightless bird native to the Underdark), and is a nondimensional space to hide things (nondimensional means that he can put items which are many times the size of the hat in); a many-hued piwafwi that displaces projectiles, thus hindering ranged attacks and makes him invisible on his command; a varied array of magical wands; two artifacts (from a lich named Zhengyi), which have the power to raise humans from the dead and employ the help of a powerful dracolich, a ring which protects from fire or ice by choice,a dragon figurine that can summon the breath of chromatic dragons, a ring that tells when someone is lying, a necklace which gives him supernatural power and speed, a sword which can control the mind of weak people, another ring which basically makes a double of the user (once used by Dahlia to escape capture then again used by Jarlaxle to avoid being killed by a pit fiend), and many other unknown magical items.

Jarlaxle's belt is a snake, that will uncoil into a rope form for climbing when needed, extending to whatever length is needed. He also has a wide array of extra-dimensional devices, including a button on his vest that turns into a bag, and a black piece of cloth in the tip of his hat, a portable hole, that when pressed against a surface, will create a hole in it. Jarlaxle has trinkets that grant him immunities to many things. Jarlaxle also possesses a seemingly endless supply and variety of slender magical wands which are capable of releasing anything from a lightning bolt to a great blob of goo, powerful healing water, or illusionary and real fireballs. (He always seems to be prepared for any situation.)

Jarlaxle's endless supply of magical items is partially explained in one short story. It reveals that Jarlaxle regularly meets Kimmuriel and often receives an item procured by Bregan D'aerthe's considerable resources, even revealing that he will even change his trademark broad-brimmed purple hat, complete with enormous feather, out for one of identical appearance but different enchantment and in another short story it is revealed that Jarlaxle has a dragon with whom he makes regular deals for magical items.

In situations where his daggers are of no use, he can magically extend the blades, transforming them into long swords, not to mention the array of weapons (including a small iron maul, used in Servant of the Shard) that he keeps miniaturized in the sweat band of his outrageously large hat. He is extremely skilled in the two long-blade fighting style commonly used by the drow, though when mismatched with less skilled opponents he has been known to use the less effective but visually showy swashbuckling style to distract them—though his mastery and effectiveness of swashbuckling dispelled any doubts his companion Entreri had about the style.

History[edit]

Jarlaxle, who led the mercenary band Bregan D'aerthe, seems to hold a grudging loyalty to the ruling family of Baenre, which raises questions about his relationship to them. He eventually gave up his leadership of Bregan D'aerthe to the powerful drow psionicist Kimmuriel Oblodra and now travels the lands of Faerûn with his new companion, Artemis Entreri. It is revealed at the end of Servant of the Shard that his full name is Jarlaxle Baenre and that he is the third son of Yvonnel Baenre and was once sacrificed to Lolth. It is customary for the third sons of drow noble houses to be sacrificed to Lloth to reduce infighting; therefore, Jarlaxle was probably sacrificed for this reason.

The book Road of the Patriarch mentions that Jarlaxle's birth was an irony and chaos that Jarlaxle himself would appreciate. The psionicist Matron Mother of House Oblodra, the third house in Menzoberranzan, for reasons of her own, put a kinetic barrier on the infant Jarlaxle, a psionic trick that absorbs and stores energy encountered by it for a time, and then vents it all at once. Matron Baenre grew increasingly frantic, rapidly stabbing at her newborn son, and then the secondboy Doquiao tried to pick up Jarlaxle, and had his chest almost completely destroyed by the venting force. Matron Baenre assumed Jarlaxle was Lloth-blessed, and in fright, had him put out on a small island in Menzoberranzan's lake. Details are sketchy, and Jarlaxle's upbringing is unknown, but Jarlaxle did seem to attract Lloth's approval at one point. Lolth had apparently chosen him to be one of her Agents. It also is hinted that a few drow are beginning to suspect that Jarlaxle is no longer blessed by Lolth. Later, when it was revealed to Jarlaxle that he was indeed blessed by Lolth, the spider queen herself gave him his memories as an infant. Despite this, Jarlaxle claims he has never kneeled before the evil goddess Lolth. At some point, this refusal apparently resulted in Lolth revoking his status as one of her Agents. It should be noted, however, that, typically, losing the Spider Queen's favor almost always results in the individual or organization's destruction, as the Spider Queen ensures that all other interested parties in Menzoberranzan learn that she has placed this particular party in her disfavor (typically, an individual or house who has lost Lolth's favor is the last to know.) Losing Lolth's favor means either fleeing all Lolth-worshiping drow society (as Drizzt did) or being destroyed. Jarlaxle, however, has been able to keep the secret that he no longer enjoys favored status with Lolth, and even prosper, apparently for centuries, in Menzoberranzan. Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that he has not completely lost Lolth's favor, even if he is no longer one of her favored Agents.

Jarlaxle is an extremely cunning and devious drow, confident and unshakable no matter the situation. His true intentions are never fully revealed and he seems to thrive on causing chaos. The reason for him leaving behind his leadership of Bregan D'aerthe is truly unknown, though it seems he wishes to experience the same joys as Drizzt. Even though he takes no active part in the activities of Bregan D'aerthe, he still keeps in regular contact with the band's new ruler, Kimmuriel Oblodra.

He hopes to bring some meaning to the life of his traveling companion, Artemis Entreri. Jarlaxle has collected many mysterious magical items that once belonged to the Witch King Zhengyi, whose powers may prove to be more useful than expected.

As of the end of Road of the Patriarch Entreri had left Jarlaxle and his manipulations. Jarlaxle seems to have found a new companion in the emotionally disturbed and infinitely lived dwarf, Athrogate. The last line of text implies that Jarlaxle has given up his manipulating ways, though this is doubtful considering his nature.

Jarlaxle was also a good friend of Zaknafein Do'Urden, and often shows the dead elf a great deal of respect, although it is revealed in Road of the Patriarch that he betrayed Zaknafein in some way.

He is featured in The Pirate King where he manipulates pirates to help him control Luskan and leads to the eventual downfall of the City of Sails and the death of Captain Deudermont. Jarlaxle is further featured in the The Ghost King as one of the targets of the Ghost King's ire. When Catti-Brie's body is discovered missing a distraught Drizzt and Bruenor offer him a great sum of money to find her. Though he goes against type and refuses any payment.

He appears in the novel Gauntlgrym, along with his dwarf friend Athrogate.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bruce R. Cordell, Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel, Jeff Quick (October 2003). Underdark, p. 161. (Wizards of the Coast, 2008)

Additional reading[edit]