Portal to Arandor Ch. 17bymistress_diana©
The winter sun had dropped almost to the horizon as Drahden assessed the small town that surrounded a menacing castle on the hill. He had trailed the drow party to this town, but never actually saw them as he was afraid their sharp senses would pick up his scent. Once he came upon the town, he lay in wait in the surrounding forest to rest and plan his next moves. Now the sky was darkening and it was time.
Drahden had learned many uses for the herbs that grew in Arandor. But the herbs that were found in Maludara had even more interesting uses. Fortunately he had a wide variety of them harvested and sold to him before the snows covered the ground. It was deep in his pouch that he found the correct combination that would give him the stealth he needed. He left Brego in the wood, checked his weapons for the thousandth time and swallowed the tea he made with the special herbs.
After a few minutes a strange sensation washed over him and then he was completely invisible. Not only his body, but anything that was touching him -- clothes, weapons, boots. It was only the third time he had used this herb and he was still in awe of it. It did come with a price though. He would have a severe headache after it wore off. And he had to work fast as it did not last forever.
Drahden walked confidently towards several carts heading into the town. As no one could see him, he merely walked along side being careful not to touch any of the drow that plodded along. The horses sensed him but the drow did not pay attention as they were eager to finish their work and get to a tavern. Soon they were into the town where Drahden broke off from the group and headed towards the castle. He heard the big gate go rumbling and down and tried not to think of how he would actually get out if and when he found Rebecca.
Getting into the castle was easy enough when invisible. He merely walked in the front gate. Trying to find Rebecca was another thing entirely. The place was massive. He knew he had to move quickly before the potion wore off. Once it did, he would be a ghostly apparition before returning to his normal self. And then the headache would take over.
Drahden moved stealthily through the large hallways watching for clues. He figured all prisoners would be in a dungeon somewhere so he shrunk against a wall and watched for a while. Many fierce drow, most of them armed, went back on forth on business. He shuddered to think of what would happen to him if they saw him. He only hoped they were too busy to smell him. Eventually his vigilance paid off and he saw a group of drow herding frightened human women towards a large metal door. Drahden took a deep breath and got in line with them and they entered a long stairway that brought them down into the dungeons.
He had been in dungeons before, but the enormity of these was mind boggling. As he followed the party, he kept mental notes about his location as he would need to get out at some point. There were many cells, and thankfully they were open in the front. As he walked, he peered into the gloom in each one looking for Rebecca. It was a pitiful sight -- most cells that were occupied were human women. They were in all stages of disarray. Many were beaten and bruised. Some were staring off into space. Others were weeping. His stomach turned as he tried not to imagine Rebecca's condition, that is, if she was still here.
Drahden moved as quickly as he could without missing a cell. It would do no good to miss Rebecca and have to start over. Hallway after hallway, he searched with increasing alarm. He could feel the headache beginning to pulse in the back of his head.
Finally he turned a corner in a particularly dark hallway and saw two women in a cell. One of them was awake and alert, but the other...
He looked closely at the woman. She was very badly bruised and beaten and appeared to be unconscious or asleep. Her hair was recent cut off and she was dressed in a thin white robe, similar to other women he saw. But despite the changed appearance, he saw that face which he studied day after day on the trek north. The face that he had fallen for so hard belonged to only one person and it was Rebecca. He gasped and the other woman looked up and tried to figure out where the sound had come from.
Drahden drew his dagger, which was as invisible as he was, and began to pick the crude lock to the cell. He thanked his luck not only to find Rebecca but that no drow guards were around. Based on the conditions of these women, he could see why they weren't heavily guarded. The woman with Rebecca watched with wide eyes as the lock rattled and the gate mysteriously opened. Then the headache hit him harder and he knew the potion was wearing off.
"What are you?" whispered the woman as she backed away from him. "A ghost?"
Drahden ignored the question and knelt down next to Rebecca. He fought the tears that were stinging his eyes, she looked so bad.
"What happened to her?" he asked.
"She was abused at the hands of the king and his men. She is to be a pleasure slave."
Drahden whipped his head around to stare at her.
"I am to be one as well, my lord," she said and lowered her eyes.
He cursed under his breath and tried to assess the situation. He would have to carry Rebecca out of there and he was turning visible and his headache was clouding his head.
"What is your name?" he asked.
"Chadra, my lord."
"Chadra, I need to get her out of here. I am willing to take you if you can help me find my way out. Can you do that?"
She nodded her head vigorously. "Yes, yes...I can help you. I have been through these hallways enough during my training to know my way around."
"Good, good. I will carry Rebecca but I need you to lead us."
Chadra grabbed his hand and looked up into his eyes. "Thank you, my lord. I will not fail you."
"Good, because I need all the help I can get."
Drahden crouched down and carefully lifted Rebecca. She was out but moaned softly as her body shifted in his arms. He fought the tears again as he saw the bruises on her face and only imagined what else had been done to her. He only wished he wasn't too late.
"Very well, let us go, Chadra."
They crept out of the cell and moved along the hallway. It was quiet except for the occasional moan from one of the cells. Otherwise, no one paid much attention to them. As they moved along, Drahden noticed that Chadra was taking them in a different direction.
"Are you sure you know the way out?" he whispered.
"Yes, my lord. This is a lesser travelled way. The drow should be entering the great hall for the evening meal so we should be able to get out of the castle without much difficultly."
Drahden nodded and they crept along in the gloom. After a while they reached a large door embedded into the wall. Chadra stopped and pulled him into the shadows.
"This door brings us into the servant's area. It is where they come in and out to tend us during meal time. Once we go through this door, we will need to hurry."
"Alright, just stay with me and we will get through this," he said through gritted teeth.
Rebecca was growing heavy in his arms and his head was pounding unmercifully.
"Open the door."
Chadra tugged on the door and it opened with a loud groan. On the other side was a large room filled with servants and cooks running back and forth. As the evening meal was approaching, no one gave them much notice. Most of the servants were humans pressed into service by their drow masters. Three more humans meant little to them. As Drahden looked around, it was the drow guards near the main exit that worried him. He motioned to Chadra to stay in the shadows as he edged around the room. There was yet another exit that he hoped they could use as he was in no mood to fight the drow.
When they reached the door, Chadra opened it and he peered into what was an alley. It was a way out.
"Human! Stop!" came a loud drow voice from the other side of the room.
Drahden turned quickly to spot one of the guards trying to make his way across the busy room. His sword was out and the servants scurried away, not wanting to get in his path.
Drahden cursed under his breath and ordered Chadra through the door. Once they were in the alley, he placed Rebecca on the ground and drew his bastard sword.
"Stay with her, I will draw him away," he said through clenched teeth.
Drahden moved the opposite way through the alley as the guard came crashing through the door, sword in hand.
"Over here, you big oaf," Drahden shouted as the guard looked up and down the alley.
The guard saw him and advanced on him, growling and cursing. Drahden stood with his legs apart, two hands gripping his sword and prepared to do battle with the fearsome drow. Anger coursed through him as he thought about what had been done to Rebecca but held his ground until the last possible moment.
The drow swung hard but Drahden was ready and parried his thrust expertly. The long hours of training kicked in and he went into his zone. The drow was big and strong but clumsy and Drahden expertly side stopped each swing. Fighting with the bastard sword was slower than the drow's one-handed one, but he was smaller and quicker and only needed one good blow to fell his opponent.
The drow cursed and Drahden taunted as they danced around in the alley. Drahden's head felt like it was going to explode from the crippling headache and he just wanted this to end so he could get Rebecca out of this forsaken town. In his impatience, he slipped and the drow was able to get a cut to his bicep which caused Drahden to cry out in pain.
"Damn you," he growled.
And with renewed energy he jumped on an over turned box and delivered such a sweeping blow, the drow's head was severed cleanly from his body. It rolled to a stop by the box as the body collapsed in a pool of blood.
Drahden jumped down and wiped the blade before holstering his sword. He had no time to waste, but at least now it was dark and they could slip out of the town without much notice. He hoped.
"Quickly, let us go," he whispered.
He lifted Rebecca, grimacing at the pain in his head and the soreness in his arms and shoulders. But it was no time to worry about that, he needed to move.
They kept to the shadows and he was relieved that most sensible people were indoors taking shelter from the night and cold. After a time, they made their way to the south gate, which was smaller and less guarded than the west gate. Drahden lay Rebecca down again, thankful she was still out of it and quickly took in the situation.
There were two drow guarding the gate, but neither of them looked to be heavily armed or nearly as powerful as the ones in the castle. He could either talk their way out or just kill them. As he crept along the shadows, he decided killing was quicker and easier. Drahden drew his dagger and although he was not invisible any longer, he was trained in the art of stealth. He approached the first guard and sliced his throat before he knew Drahden was there.
The second guard had been working on a tankard of ale opposite from where Drahden stood. Drahden appeared out of the shadows, dagger drawn and still dripping with blood. When the guard opened his mouth to cry out in alarm, Drahden's dagger sailed effortlessly through the air and caught him in his windpipe. The drow sunk to the ground with a gurgle and Drahden pulled the dagger out and drove it into his heart swiftly.
Wiping the blade on the drow's clothing, he opened the gate as wide as he dared and signaled to Chadra. The resourceful girl had found a small hand cart where she was able to hide Rebecca under some straw. It was crude and not too stealthy, but it sufficed and soon they were out of the gate and into the night where it swallowed them up.
An hour later, they were deep in a cave that Drahden had found in his scouting earlier that day. He tried to ignore his headache the best he could as he started a fire. Neither woman was clothed for the winter. In fact, the robes were so thin, he could see right through them. He removed his cloak and wrapped the unconscious Rebecca in it and gave Chadra his blanket.
But before he covered Rebecca, he inspected her body the best he could. Both her eyes were swollen shut, her mouth and lips were bloody, her arms and legs were covered with scratches and what appeared to be bite marks and worst of all, her back and arse had large welts from an apparent whipping. When he held his breath and looked at her thighs, there was dried blood and semen. He excused himself and went outside where he vomited repeatedly until his stomach was empty and his mouth was sour.
He wanted to castrate every last one of those drow and burn the castle to the ground, but he was one man against many. And he was a rogue with no hopes of raising an army. Instead, he needed to focus his energy on saving Rebecca and getting her safely back to Arandor.
When he returned to the cave, Chadra was looking at him with fearful eyes.
"My lord, will she be alright?"
"I hope so, Chadra. She has been very badly beaten and abused by the hands of those bastards," he said. The anger in the voice cut through the smoky dank air like a knife. "I need to get away and get another horse and some clothes for you and Rebecca, and then we can leave."
Drahden retrieved his herb pouch and mixed a strong potion to keep Rebecca out of pain by rendering her unconscious. It would have to do for now until he could get her to relative safety.
"Chadra, now listen to me carefully. Give Rebecca a few drops of this potion in water every few hours until it is gone. Do you understand?"
"It will ease her pain and make her sleep. Make sure to keep her warm as well. I will be back in two days time." He gave Chadra a pouch with food. "Eat sparingly, as this is all I have. And stay in the cave. There should be enough wood here to keep a small fire going, but at least you are out of the blowing winds."
"Yes my lord, thank you my lord," Chadra said as the tears started to stream down her cheeks. "If you hadn't come..."
Drahden wrapped his arms around Chadra in a firm and comforting embrace. "It will be alright, Chadra. Now I need you to be strong and vigilant. Can you do that for me?"
Chadra nodded and sniffed.
Drahden left the cave and tried not to think about his aching head and his bleeding arm. The woman he was leaving behind was in a lot worse shape and he needed to hurry.