Surfacing Ch. 08byEtaski©
Author's Notes: This story is erotic fantasy written by Etaski. I reserve the right to be listed as the author of this story, wherever it is posted. If found posted anywhere except Literotica.com with this note attached, this story is posted without my permission. (c) Etaski 2013
Fair warning, dear readers, as this chapter is probably one of the more appropriate I could submit in time for All Hallow's Eve, and appropriately, it is 13 Lit pages long.
We meet some darkness from the Surface face-to-face in this chapter, only previously hinted at before. As always, I hope you enjoy.
The concept of poaching was straightforward among Drow females; I always thought this. It was the female's action, her choice to poach, and, to the insulted party, her fault and hers alone.
Poaching—that was coaxing or commanding a male to mate against the wishes of his mother, sister, or mistress— was one of the few times we could publicly choose to forgive a male his actions if it suited us and we would not be seen as weak, as we all knew a male could not say no if asked. The female selected her sire when she wanted to attempt to conceive, she selected her playmates when she was bored....
...she selected her insults when she seduced an otherwise claimed male.
At least, it was hard but to assume otherwise. The desires and intents of the male did not come up for intense discussion, most of the time, but instead the debate was how well a jealous female protected what was hers. What happened between the male and his matron or mistress behind closed doors later need not be a concern.
It was an excellent way to force a rivalry on quick, basic terms, although it was not a way to force blood connection between Houses, since the mother's line was forever and always the dominant blood and the only acknowledged name given to any offspring.
I had spent some small bit of time recently, after Sarilis had told me about Human bastards, considering that for this reason, pregnancy resulting from poaching was far less of a concern for the Drow when compared to Humans. It happened for us rarely enough as it was, it was welcome more often than not, and even better a pregnancy afforded protection from extreme retaliation when the insult was freshest.
No, bastards still did not really exist where I came from. Instead it was the seducer persuading the male to take some action against the insulted female, or whisper some of her secrets—be she mother, sister, Matron, or mate—that was a much more imminent consequence.
No one in their sane mind would try to poach from a queen, but... unknowingly, I had. And, true to the perceived dignity of my own culture, it did not occur to me to blame Cris-ri-phon despite his own trickery and select use of force. Such power games were normal, he'd played very well, and I had said yes.
My making excuses for it now would only make me look weak, which never impressed a potential rival.
The regal Drow still reclined on her couch had said it plainly: I was the Red Sister who had fucked her husband. I knew enough by now to know a "husband" was a claimed male even beyond what I might consider claimed back home...although he was also the survivor and had been living without his wife—and bearing children with other females, from the evidence that was Amelda—for a long time now. I did not know how seriously either would reasonably take those territorial urges.
I offered a small bow as a hot-cold sensation diffused from my heart down to my very toes. I tried to ignore the feeling as much as I simply had to ignore my confusion of where I was, what had happened as I'd been standing to Gavin in a disused cellar what seemed a moment before. For the time being, I couldn't ask. There was a more immediate concern.
"Is your husband Cris-ri-Phon, Matron?"
She nodded once, slowly. "Once. He was the Sorcerer General to my armies, and sire to all my children."
I lifted my brows in surprise. "All of them, your grace? No others?"
"If you knew Human Men, Red Sister, you would know the most ambitious of them focus best when they have pride and trust in their primary mate."
Trust? Tamuril had brought that up once...but between "friends," not mates.
She smiled at my expression, and it was beautiful. "You do not understand yet. That is well enough. I have answered most generously. Now you answer."
I bowed again, dropping my gaze briefly but not for long. "I am she, your grace. Your husband speaks of you highly, even while mounted on another." I smiled slightly, trying to portray wry admiration. "I daresay you leave an indelible impression spanning millennia."
The elegant, reclining Drow smirked without changing her position. "Millennia. Has it been that long? I grant you look very strange to me. Much about you is strange."
She stopped speaking as her deep, red eyes appraised me further, and I stood with deliberate patience. Her question about how long it had been did not seem to require an answer, and I did not know it for certain anyway beyond what the sorcerer had said, and he claimed there were times he had forgotten.
The former queen remained still and in thought for a long time, her eyes never leaving me though they moved about, and I found myself breathing with similar as if I prepared to drift into the meditation just prior to reverie. As when the Sisterhood had collected me, I could only wait, as questioning where and why would not help the answers come any faster.
Cris's queen sat up smoothly, her grace extraordinary even among Drow, and came to her bare feet to step down the one step that separated us. I noticed a single, golden toe ring on the first foot forward, and that her hair was loose and reached down to her backside. Her aura throbbed in a manner similar to both Cris and the Valsharess as she approached.
She lifted her arm, her hand outstretched as if to take my bare arm while I concentrated on taking in enough air.
Her hand hovered, stopped just short of touching me, and I imagined for an irrational moment that my skin would begin to crisp if she did. I was already tense, and I forced a single step back so we wouldn't be standing so close, though I could not look away from the classic beauty of her face.
The more I studied, the more I could see a resemblance between her and the Valsharess. The age lines and golden hair of the latter obscured it somewhat, but the forehead, nose, and the regal way her jaw, chin, and mouth all came together were the same. The eyes were different in color and shape, but the ears were the more similar between the two queens than either of them was to mine—a little shorter and broader than my narrower and more pointed ones.
She appeared so much younger compared to the queen in the Underdark, I would be tempted in other circumstances to wonder of her being a great-granddaughter somewhere along the line. I would wonder, that is, if it not for the sheer, alien depth of her gaze.
A much older consciousness stared out at me from the eyes of a striking visage in its prime. Unlike Cris-ri-phon, I hazarded to guess, but like the Valsharess, she had not had periods of forgetfulness or the distraction of setting up and reliving a new life many, many times, something that may lessen the weight of immense, aged memory.
She frowned as her hand lowered back to her side; she was displeased about something... perhaps at my stepping back? Again several thoughts seemed to cross her eyes, faster than I could read them, as she stepped to the side to look over my body appraisingly. She did not try to touch me again.
Just as quickly as she seemed displeased, her face softened and she smiled, her voice matching the odd tenderness on her lips.
"Ah, I see the new aura. Truly this is fate. You are with child."
My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth for a moment; I nodded once and said, "Yes, your grace."
"And it is too far along to be his, yes?"
The calculated, thoughtful way she said the name now, I could suppose she was not very jealous in that moment—if at all—that I had coupled with him.
"Correct, your grace. I caught this child well before I fell into his company."
"Excellent. My Cris will not be able to stud himself on you and track you that way, yet it may be early enough to fool him into thinking it so he does not try something else. We may yet be able to leave his realm."
Something cold prickled down my back.
"We, your grace?"
She frowned a bit at me. "You are here because you commune with my judgment, my dagger. You plan to keep such an illustrious gift, do you not? Both Cris and I approve you to be the carrier."
I hadn't planned much beyond using it against the Warpstone Cult, to be honest, but... Could I then not say "no" to either husband or wife? I wanted to be able to weigh the admittedly limited options, not to have them decided for me.
Against my preferences, I felt my age once again. Curious that it was four times the age of Gavin or Kurn and yet felt so inadequate by those who had changed the world well before my birth. Perhaps in some way, my birth and my life ultimately came from the choices of these two and of this...what had Sarilis said? Marriage?
It made me wonder, if I survived long enough, might I do the same with my own choices? Or would they be too small for any to notice?
"You imply," I began through a damnably annoying, fear-constricted throat, "that leaving his 'realm' will be difficult, your grace, though he has said he will allow me to leave."
The queen smiled widely, and it was disturbing. "Young one...his desires will consume you if you stay. You may have been born with the will, but you have not had the time among Humans to know how to stand for long before such a Man. He will not truly let you go, not without a way to find you again. He is possessive...a trait that served me well so long as I mated only him.
"As a queen, it was a restriction that made me goddess-like among all others, untouchable, and I could use that to our people's advantage far beyond what one like you could possibly do. All you would be is a prized possession, though he may call it something else for a time."
A perfect breeze, not warm yet not too cool, moved past us and the soul within the dagger closed her eyes for a moment before opening them again.
"I want us to leave his power without his being able to interfere in our journey," she said firmly. "I will help you do it. You only must keep the Soul Drinker with you."
"Are not you and the Soul Drinker one and the same?" I asked.
"No, child. I am merely the strongest of the souls that the dagger has trapped here. Strong enough to mold the image of the land you see, strong enough to rule the other souls here, but I am not the dagger."
"Then where is here, your grace?"
"Who, what, and where, I see," she commented with a charming, playful lilt to her voice. Then she seemed to consider, looking out at the blue horizon. "One of the many 'elsewhere' that focused essence can go. I am not sure you would understand much beyond that."
My eyes flicked briefly away from hers to think of Gavin before returning. "Are we anywhere near the Greylands?"
The former queen narrowed her red eyes at me; she looked surprised, which hinted of some limits somewhere. "No, we are not...if we were, I would have attempted the crossing long ago, the same that Cris did. Unfortunately the power of Soul Drinker, the fear of it in its time, was that there was no way to return."
She saw the fear on my face and laughed musically. "Peace, daughter, you are not really here. I have learned to touch the mind of the carrier. Goddess knows I have had the time to practice." She considered me curiously again. "You are easier to reach than most. I do not understand why, but I have received more images of the world through your brief possession of my blade than I have in the last score of carriers."
The queen had spoken as she'd been appraising my flat belly through the white silk, but now she looked up at my face.
"Show me the sire you chose for your child."
I blinked, and only the fact that I had not actually *chosen* the sire led my mind to go blank at that moment. It gave me that sliver of time needed to think better of it.
She received "images" of the world and had known of my title and of my coupling with her husband; what else did she know? While I'd been holding the blade, all moments or just some? I was not ready to have another powerful female flip through my thoughts as if they were her personal book of secrets.
"Come. I am curious," she said, a thread of impatience entering her voice as she watched me intently. "Do not become stubborn."
"Your grace," I said, deliberately blacking my mind of all but her face, "he is of no importance."
She frowned at me. "He is just a breeder? No status?"
"Correct, your grace."
"And your status?"
"You called me Red Sister."
"Because that is how you identified yourself," she replied.
"When, Your grace?"
"While you carried the Soul Drinker. I can hear the loudest thoughts of the carrier at times, more so when the blade is drawn."
"You do not know what a Red Sister is?"
"Something my sister created, I must assume." Cris's queen's gaze became sharp as shards of glass. "You hold yourself as one of the upper crust and as a warrior. You were able to stand against my husband and not be overwhelmed immediately. He is impressed by you. You are no sorceress, but also no foot soldier, yet you claim a sire of no importance for your unborn? What is your place in my sister's domain?"
"My place is as a Red Sister, Matron."
The quip was certainly a cheeky one, coming full circle, a truthful answer without answering the question, and for a moment I saw the temptation to strike me on her face. She discarded the thought a moment later. It was very telling; I would not have been shocked at all if she'd struck me.
I already knew she wouldn't kill me, unless she wanted to become exactly what her sister had become, and be trapped here for another two thousand years until another Drow picked up Soul Drinker.
"You are evading," she stated flatly.
"I am, your grace."
"You are in my domain, child."
I bowed without breaking eye contact. "I am, your grace. Your dagger is in my hands. You wish my help, but a Red Sister is trained not to make deals against the Valsharess."
The royal headband, somewhat more ornate than mine with several, tiny, polished amethysts set within it, seemed to flash in Moonlight as the long-dead queen's face actually darkened in rage. I had to step back from her aura again as it swelled, being the closest I'd been to the edge of the step leading down to the next.
"Valsharess?" she hissed at me. "She takes and twists my title that way?"
"I know not, your grace, but you assume much. How useful is a servant who is persuaded to treason so easily?"
"You acknowledge me as your queen."
"I acknowledge a past queen who died as a queen, your grace. I still serve the one I was trained to serve."
"Even knowing now my sister is on the throne only for having broken the sanctions of the unborn in the most reprehensible way!"
"And yet Lolth sees her fit to remain on the throne for millennia, your grace."
There was such a reaction to that, such a flare of her power that I did step down to the next step of the pyramid, looking up at her in terrible awe. Her long hair seemed to float as energy buoyed her form and I half expected her to levitate off the ground.
"Lolth," she repeated with such acid, I thought her spit might dissolve the stone we stood upon. "I see. Your ignorance is the only thing that forgives you your disrespect. Otherwise I would see you never able to touch my dagger again and left with such nightmares as to never forget what you could have possessed!"
I frowned; a worthwhile threat but like my dropping the black vial in the inn, not something this queen would do lightly, given how long she had waited for a Drow to come into possession of it again.
"Again, your grace, how useful is a servant who trades sides in a mere conversation? Would you truly want me that way?"
Her aura tightened down as if she was trying to regain control of it; her blazing, scarlet eyes narrowed and she considered me longer, her gaze at least once lingering on my lower belly.
She sneered. "We will talk another time, Red Sister. Get out of my realm."
Soul Drinker clattered to the floor in its sheath, and I stumbled backward, my body suddenly heavy and my skull seemingly ready to crack and split open like a nut.
I felt a cool hand grasp my upper arm, and only for that reason did I remain upright on my feet. At first I thought only Kurn or Brom could have strong enough to hold me up like that and I tensed, but I blinked and recognized Gavin's face with his stare of ink and ice. He released my arm as soon as I regained my feet.
"Your aura is unbalanced again," he said. "What happened just now?"
"H-how long...?" I asked, needing to catch my breath.
"Only a few moments, but long enough for me to see your mind was elsewhere."
The accuracy of that statement could not have been intentional...could it? I swallowed and he spoke again.
"You triggered the magic of the dagger?"
"Perhaps," I managed, feeling some delayed tremors begin to come over me. My voice shook a little. "I... met the sentience of the blade."
"Without fully drawing it?" he asked, both curious and skeptical. "Am I to take that it is...coherent?"
I nodded, swallowing hard against a lump in my throat. "And...Drow."
"Interesting. Part of the sorcerer's intent, I must think."
Was it? The queen had said she wanted to leave, did not want him to interfere. Surely if he knew of her presence, that would be impossible. Would she really have never reached out to Brom in all this time? She could have sought his aid, they could have worked together to seek vengeance. Why hadn't they?
What did it say about him, or her, that the late queen would remain silent and waiting this long...for someone else other than her husband to take the blade?
"Or possibly..." I said, "he is not aware of that aspect of it."
"Indeed? Unaware? Oh my." Gavin considered. "And what of your intent?"
I shook my head, an odd nausea roiling my stomach and moisture coming too quickly to my eyes as my throat constricted. "I...I do not know yet."
"Would you leave it here?"
It struck me that all of Gavin's questions thus far did not have a suggestion behind them, though they could have. He did not sound to have an opinion; he was simply asking, perhaps so that he knew better what to expect or how to adapt. Perhaps.
All the same, his guidance helped me focus when too many possibilities were surging up in my head to see them all.
"She does not wish to be left behind," I murmured.
"And? What else?"
"To be taken away from Brom, for one," I said. "What else beyond...I hesitate to guess."
To be returned to the Drow in the Underdark? Did she wish me to take action against her sister on the throne? What kind? I did not even know. I could not imagine she did not want revenge against the Valsharess...but how would she try to get it through me, as the wielder of the dagger? What would it cost me? Was Cris-ri-phon really ignorant of his wife's presence, or was he just as good at scheming and misdirection as any Drow?
Were they working together to possess me?
I felt the moisture in my eyes begin to slide down my cheeks and my throat hurt more as I trembled. I did not want to pick up the sheathed dagger at my feet. I had to suck in a breath as I tried desperately to withhold a sob.
"Overwhelming," Gavin said, observing me. "To meet such elder beings face-to-face."
It prompted me to wipe the tears away and take a deeper breath, to still the shakes as much as I could. "You sound like you know."