A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 08byTaLtos6©
***The small and unnoticed exodus as they leave for Rachel and Sariel's new home. It should be obvious how Vadren and Cha'Khah feel about Sariel by now, Cha'Khah especially. She's got a big heart - something which makes her a little defective from a typical Drow viewpoint. She loves the boy fiercely. In this chapter, she reveals a little glimpse of why that might be so. 0_o
Book of the Mountain Clan Part 4
"Have you given any thought to finally leaving?" Cha'Khah asked Azrael and Rachel as she sat on the floor in front of the fire with Sariel sitting between her legs while she hugged him and leaned her head over his shoulder to quiz him in tactics again.
He was having trouble with his responses in the scenario which she'd painted for him where it was him alone against a small group. He sat considering the magical lines and symbols which she'd drawn on the floor with her fingertip. When his responses pleased her, she nodded and they disappeared to be replaced with her next scenario.
"I know that we are higher up here and so the coldness begins here much sooner," she said, "but I have already seen frost on the grass in the morning for a week now, and I remind you both that the fall rains will come very soon. My hated brethren can abide the cold easily, but I was raised underground where it is never cold. I can stand it, but I am miserable then."
"Your hated brethren?" Rachel asked.
"Yes," she nodded, "Our lighter cousins," she said, her face showing her disgust plainly, "The ones which you call the Elves. Since we left our old home, I have seen them a few times. Before I can tell them that I wish them no harm, they often attack, depending on which breed they are. I have no problem in my heart over killing them, but they are not easy to kill and I resent the work of it over nothing – something which a few words could prevent."
She looked down at Sariel's first choice. "No, Sariel," she smiled over his shoulder, "You have forgotten this one," she said pointing at a symbol in front of them. "This one is a mage, remember? If the fight cannot be avoided, then you must remove the mage first. THEN you deal with the fighters. As far as the order of dealing with the fighters goes, you have it rightly." She leaned forward a little more to kiss Sariel's cheek.
"Always remember, if they know each other well, the fighters will always seek to protect the mage every time because it takes a little time to cast and he or she has value to them. You will have limited time to act, but this is why Vadren teaches you combat casting for the quickness of it. Once they see that you have ability, all of them will try to kill you."
"But I don't want to kill anybody," Sariel said.
Cha'Khah sighed. "You say the wisest things sometimes for one so young," she said, "I will tell you a little secret. I once never wanted to kill anybody either." She pointed to the lines on the floor again, "Sad to say, it changes nothing for this. If it cannot be avoided, "she repeated, "they will try to kill you – once they know what you are. And out there in the world, my young love, there are those who can feel what you are from two hundred paces away."
"We'll leave within the week," Rachel said, "After all these years here, I can't wait to go."
Dinner was a little quieter that evening and a couple of them wondered about it a little. Rachel and Azrael said that they'd take care of the washing up. A little while later, Cha'Khah and Vadren heard their names and turned from their thoughts of packing to see Sariel standing before them holding what looked like a stack of folded wool and looking a little hopeful.
"What is this?" Vadren asked.
"You've both helped me and taught me so many things," the boy said a little uncomfortably, "It didn't feel right to me and, ... Dad helped me with these. I hope that they'll fit. You never say anything, Vadren, but I know that the cold bothers Cha'Khah, so, ... I made these, after Dad taught me how and helped me make sure they were the right size. I just hope they ended up so they fit."
He handed each of them a vest and a heavy cloak, all of them made out of mountain sheep hides. He looked relieved when they took them from him, firstly that they accepted them, and mostly because the things were heavy in a pile like that.
"These are wondrous," Vadren smiled, as he bowed deeply in gratitude, "I have never owned anything finer," he said sincerely. He helped Cha'Khah into hers, "You look like a fine and powerful mountain queen, Cha'Khah, a mighty queen of the hills."
She smiled and nodded, looking at herself. She had no words for a moment, she only took Sariel in her arms and held him to her tightly enough to interfere with his breathing. "Thank you, Sariel," she whispered as she sobbed.
Azrael stared and then looked at Rachel, "I've never seen a Drow shed tears of happiness before."
"Look well, drowling," Cha'Khah said as they were about to leave the dark glade early on the morning of their departure, "One cannot see what lies ahead of him or her, and you may never come here to see this again."
Sariel nodded and took a last look, before turning away to trot over to Azrael and Vadren as they began to walk.
Cha'Khah chuckled, "I do not think that my words had any effect."
Rachel smiled, "His world is about to grow much larger and I guess that he can't wait to see it."
"And what of you, my friend?" Cha'Khah asked, "I do not see any longing look in your eyes. Will you not miss this place?"
"No," Rachel said, "I know every log in the place, every nail. It's all that I've seen for most of my life. I can't wait to leave it behind. In some ways, it was like a womb to me. In many others, it's been a prison. We – I was born here."
Cha'Khah leaned in close, "You were about to say that you and Azrael were born here. We are friends, Rachel. You are the closest and dearest friend that I have ever had. Between us as we stand here, I wish to say that I have long held the thought that you and Azrael are not a pair who found each other in the world and came here to breed your drowling. You may not have noticed it, but Vadren and I have never asked either of you how it was that you met.
Knowing you both as we do, it became clear to us early on that you are much closer than that. He is your brother, is he not? We do not look on you harshly for this, we only see it."
Rachel looked down and nodded. "It wasn't supposed to happen, Cha'Khah, but, ..."
Cha'Khah hugged Rachel and whispered in her ear, "Shh, stop. But it did, Rachel. We know this. We have long known this, so do not hang your head to me. You are too high in my eyes for that. If it had not happened, I would never have the high honor of having you as my friend, and you know how much Vadren and I love your son. We would not have the love of that boy-child if you both had not made him between you. I did not say this to make you feel badly. I only wished that you understand that we know, that is all. It changes nothing.
I fuck with my cousin, Rachel. We are not related closely, but he and I began while we were still in the city. There were other choices for us then, but still we began together there. It was part of our bargaining to teach each other, since we liked each other so strongly. If we found that we were all alone somewhere with no others and I was his sister, who is to say that I would still not fuck with him? I have no answer here in the early dawn, but alone in the dark, with no other for me when the want was on us, who is to say?
From what I have learned of your kind, well, the other kind which you are as well, there can be many partners. But there is always one who is best for each of you. It may have caused you both pain and shame once, but it is my belief that this pairing is what it right for you both, not in a human way, and even as demons, but what you have is what you have. That you treasure each other counts for much more, I think."
She drew her head back and kissed Rachel softly, "I owe you much, Rachel, and I understand you. Thanks to you, I have the friend that I long desired – more, I know the love of a walking wonder in your son. I show him a little thing, something to make his movement easier or quicker and he has it in only a few tries – something which might have taken me months. And then he flies to thank me, throwing his boyish arms around my neck to squeeze me, and my heart leaps, Rachel. It flies then.
It was completely unlooked for by me, but because of him, I am someone who is loved. Such a thing means much to me. I love my friend Rachel more than my life. Consider how profound this is coming from the lips of a Drow.
There are none who know but you both and us. I think that the time has come to leave this secret where it began.
Come, let us begin this journey." She let go of her friend and turned to begin. Rachel fell into step and Cha'Khah looked up as she felt Rachel take her hand as they walked. "Thank you," she said, "I feel as though a weight has dropped off my shoulders."
"As I wished it to," the Drowess smiled, "We all carry enough of our lives on our backs. We need no more to burden us."
By the morning of the third day, they were near a village. Rachel tried to stir some life back into the coals of the fire for a little warmth and to make a small meal while Vadren and Azrael went toward the town. The night frost on the grass crunched softly underfoot.
Cha'Khah's teeth were chattering as she lay huddled in her bedroll trying to regain some warmth after Vadren had gone. She looked over and saw that Sariel was awake, but not out of his bedroll yet.
"I am happy for the gift of the singlet to sleep in, but it does not keep me as warm as I would want today. Please, Sariel," she moaned as pathetically as one so proud could manage, "if you love me at all, please come here and keep me warm. You are so close by and you look so comfortable."
Sariel looked at his mother, who grinned, "Go and warm her up, Sariel. Cha'Khah wants to play the princess today."
He got up and Cha'Khah was waiting for him, ready to hold the blankets open as he arrived. He lay down beside her facing away and the Drowess hugged him tightly, wrapping him in her arms with a contented groan. "I am too cold even to curse your mother for her remark, Sariel, but I bless you for this. You are a good boy," she said, as she held herself against his warm back and laid her chin on the top of his head.
"My good fortune to know the warmest drowling and be close enough to his heart that he would come to warm me when I ask." She kissed his head, "Thanks to you, I am finally getting warm again," she smiled with closed eyes, "I cannot wait to get lower down the mountain and back to my warm home."
Sariel smiled for a moment and then he closed his eyes. Rachel smiled at the two of them and felt lucky that the Drow had come to search for Azrael those months ago. In that time, she'd made a pair of friends, and Cha'Khah felt closer to her than any sister that she could imagine.
"Don't do too good a job, Sariel," she chuckled, "We do actually want to travel today. The way that your aunt Cha'Khah looks right now, we won't go anywhere if you keep her too warm."
"Oh, shut up, Rachel," Cha'Khah sighed happily, "or I might not ever give him back to you."
"You enjoy it while you can," her friend smirked, "He might be a boy who adores you, but I'm his mother and he's just like his father. I can break that little spell and get him out of your arms in a heartbeat, my friend. I only need to say my own incantation when this is ready and it's just one word. He'll be over here like one of your arrows with his face in a bowl before you can blink."
Sariel opened his eyes hopefully. "Is it ready?"
Cha'Khah groaned, knowing that she'd lost. "The love of one who cares so much and teaches so well means nothing when held in the balance against a bowl of food? I feel betrayed, young one, but I forgive you this - so long as you do not move for another few minutes."
"This is a lesson that I can teach you, Cha'Khah. It has nothing to do with loyalty or love. He'd do anything for you. You mean a lot to him," Rachel smiled, "and you'll mean a lot once more – right after he eats. "
Vadren stayed outside the village and Azrael went alone and returned with four horses and a pony. Once they were back and everyone was loaded up, it took Sariel a little while, but it wasn't long before he was able to hold the reins of the pony in a bit of a death grip and ride a little wide-eyed with the rest.
"I wonder who leads between that pair," Vadren smiled as he looked back.
"The pony, of course – for now," Azrael grinned, "I asked for one who would know that he is to follow, and I see that the trader was genuine."
"Well you may shout at me for my ingratitude," Cha'Khah said, "but I would prefer to walk. The trouble is that I cannot walk as slow as you will all ride while you plod, and so I must ride as well. The trouble there is that if I ride, I will not be as warm as when I walk. It has been so long since I rode one of the lizards back home, and these beasts make my thighs and backside hurt in ever new ways. There is no solution."
"There is a small one, my friend," Azrael smiled, "You can try to hold your lips together, and less of your warmth will escape through your mouth. Walk then, if you wish. We'd be happy to lighten the burden of our own mounts by having yours carry more."
"You are right," she grumbled, "I complain too much, and it is not like me at all. I only wish to be home again before the first of the winter storms. I would not even mind being in them so much, but I have been away from the underground too long now. I cannot even float anymore. Lead on, Azrael. I will hold my tongue."
Two days after that, they were a lot closer, only another day out, and as they rode through the next to last town in the evening gloom, Cha'Khah was a bit startled to see one of her kind standing down a side street, looking very uncomfortable to even be there. She signed Vadren to tell the others that she'd meet them at the outskirts, and then she turned her horse back. The meeting and conversation was a strange one indeed.
She waited impatiently as the introductions were passed back and forth between them, remaining purposefully vague about the house that she worked for – as did the other, who turned out to be a trader of sorts, "to those with discriminating tastes," he'd said. Cha'Khah was a little perplexed to find a Drow on the surface here, and not all that far from where she and Vadren lived. She still had her naturally suspicious nature.
But a lot of that was allayed as she began to look at what he had to sell, and that, coupled with the way that he showed her no wariness or signs that he deferred to her since she was a female, and that he didn't know what sort of Drowess that he was speaking to, told her a lot. He was a surface Drow from one of the coastal ports, a long way from home, and he'd obviously never been flayed for his insolence. That was the first thing.
The next was that he was either very good at some form of martial weaponry, or he relied on the three humans who now drifted over and didn't look interested in his wares at all for his protection. A much more likely possibility, she thought to herself. Then her eye caught one detail and she knew that her first thought had been correct - this was no trader at all and he was making a large and very incorrect assumption about her.
"What are these goods which you have to sell?" she asked.
He made no reply, but only lifted the corner of a rough tarpaulin in the back of his wagon a little more. Among the jumble of things that she saw there, her gaze fell on a small crossbow and a few bolts for it. Not far from that lay a bladed weapon with carvings on the haft and intricate patterns engraved on the blade. The rest was just junk to her.
"Say how much for these two," she said, in a barely interested tone.
"One hundred gold for the pair, Drowess," the trader said with a tiny bow, "They are well-crafted and well worth the price."
She turned slightly, wanting to wave Sariel off. She couldn't believe that he was here and not with his parents. His presence here would change how she dealt – if she even dealt with the trader at all now. But Vadren was there, just beside and behind the boy, both of them with the hoods of their cloaks pulled low over their eyes.
"In the first place," she said, as she regarded the back-up muscle, "I will not deal with you if these hairy things take another step, and I will kill them all myself if they move more than their eyelashes now.
In the second place, you are not so much a trader as you are a grave robber. I recognize the markings on these, and it marks them as from Tortabramnen, a fallen city from the last war with its neighbor not twenty years ago. You ask much for things looted from a tomb, though I would pay you twenty-three gold at most." She pulled her cloak a little higher and turned to walk away.
The thugs looked as though they were not above a little robbery themselves as they moved to stand shoulder to shoulder so that she was blocked. But her expression only showed that she was looking forward to whatever they had in mind as her hands slipped into her cloak. "You do not know who you deal with," she smiled as her hands came into view again, her shorter sword in her right hand and her dagger in her left. It was already spinning.
The thugs backed away and would have bumped into Vadren's horse had it not been for the snort of Sariel's pony.
As they turned, they saw Vadren's smile. His hands were moving, passing instructions to the boy. Sariel nodded and his own hands carved quick patterns through the air in front of him. As the quiet words for The Power of the Bane began, the patterns glowed faintly, and the trio were seized with the certain knowledge that they'd perish in another few moments. Their limbs felt weak and useless, their knees already feeling as though they were water.
"You will stand still," the mage said quietly, "or I allow him to finish the next one. He requires the practice."
The men nodded, their faces covered in cold sweat.
Cha'Khah spun back and the trader found himself looking at one of her crossbows just as he was reaching to pick up and cock the one in his wagon. He froze, wondering where she'd put the dagger.
"I understand how hard it must be to find good help here in your business," she smiled," but that is no excuse for assuming that all females are as the ones in the slack city where you come from and I said nothing to insult you – if you had ever lived underground.
If we were there, I'd flay you myself for your lack of respect. "
She was play-acting now, feigning the very attitude that was one of her reasons for leaving the underground in the first place.
"Now, my offer of twenty-three golds stands. The crossbow is old and looks to need repair. The other weapon is enchanted to its dead owner's hand. They are both little more than useless. Try hard to move your price before I feel insult."
"Twenty-three sounds fair," the trader said.
Cha'Khah placed thirty on the bed of the wagon. "For your trouble," she said, "and to buy yourself and your helpers enough drink and warm thighs to forget what you have seen here. Ask or say one thing about us to anyone, and I will find you to take what I wish, and leave you here dead."
"This is more than fair, honored Mistress," he nodded. "I have seen nothing and no one."
"I do not believe you – in my heart, of course," she said, knowing that to leave out the last part was to insult him badly. "See to it that you do not remember at a later time to tell anyone. If my suspicious heart has cause to force itself into my deeds, I will hunt you down."