Surfacing Ch. 01byEtaski©
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. © Etaski 2013
This chapter begins a new book and a new storyline for established characters with a lot of history. It is not recommended as a starting point for the casual reader.
The story begins with "Sisterhood" and "Subterrane" on my author page, and follows through "Sufferance."
"Surfacing" picks up right where "Sufferance" left off.
For those who've been following the story so far, welcome back. :) I hope you enjoy.
"Knowing ourselves is the weakest of walls. It breaks often and we rebuild often. The blind pretend it was never broken."
"So how does one know what may cross over to stay, before the wall is rebuilt?"
"Only when we face it on the other side..."
---Conversation between an Illithid and a Drow in reverie
Jael's scent about drove me crazy as I waited tensely for that first sunrise on the Surface, the one I knew would happen behind the clouds.
Our Elder had just forced her to take the Feldeu against the cave wall, and Jael even in her anxiety—or perhaps because of it—had climaxed from the rough sex. I could grant that Rausery had indeed managed to calm our youngest Red Sister—she was now too tired and sore to continue pacing and fidgeting as she had been. She sat next to me to my right, and Gaelan sat next to her. To choose between witnessing what I'd heard so much about and taking Rausery's lesson and work out incredible tension and anxiety with my Sisters...well, it was too late to do both at this point.
We had already planted our heavy packs on a formed rock shelf farther back in the tunnel and high above our heads; it kept them out of reach from most creatures that would steal or do unwitting damage to the supplies.
I had placed my burden last then slipped the three guardian spiders given to me by D'Shea from my belt and into a loose pocket on the pack. I had focused hard on them as I'd practiced, giving them the simple command to "stay," and deemed it successful when they settled down and went utterly still.
The three other Red Sisters had all seen the spiders attack Wilsira in the throne room almost two weeks ago, and I'd told Rausery about them being gifted to me by D'Shea on our journey upward. Only Jael was surprised to see them in my possession, but they all agreed that the creatures had no other use now than to serve me, perhaps through the next year if they did not get crushed.
We also agreed that I would get my pack first before the others, just in case. I did have two emergency anti-venoms in reserve, though I had seen no aggressive behavior from them toward a Red Sister so far. Nonetheless, I wished them tucked and secured while I contemplated the outside.
I sat closest to the exit, to this portal where soft grey light lay in a confined spotlight and slowly gathered strength as the stone and pebbles grew stark in their contrast. My first day on the Surface would have the Sky covered in a thick layer of grey cloud; the rain had stopped and started heavy and loud again, lightened, then paused, quieted, as the grey light gradually became more intense.
My own excitement at the constant change remained high and Jael's perspiration and well-fucked scent didn't help, especially as I had to close my eyes more and more often against the heightening dawn.
Even being told that I would not see the Sun that morning, I soon had to rely on my other senses; on sound and scent, touch and taste. Tears welled and escaped to roll down my cheeks despite my attempt at endurance, and the stabbing pain of punished and overloaded nerves began to torture me behind my eyes. I'd long since closed them by the time the grey light spread far beyond the intensity of the candle chamber, but still it seeped through my eyelids and my head throbbed in regular pulses.
"Just wait, my virgins," Elder Rausery murmured from nearby with a definite smirk to her tone. "You haven't felt anything yet."
Until then we had maintained silence through the night, signing if we needed to speak as we could still see in the dark. It was obvious that we would be required to speak to communicate now, however, and Rausery had spoken in the Surface Trade tongue—an obvious sign that we were to do the same.
"What this first day?" I murmured, forgetting half my lessons then.
"'What will we do this first day, Elder,'" she corrected sternly, and I repeated the complete sentence with a nod.
"Mostly you sit and contemplate this brightness until you become tired. If you are smart, you will retreat into darkness enough to sleep until sunset. Then at night we will go out to hunt for food. I will teach you this land's resources."
Jael and Gaelan made some sound as they shifted next to me so I knew they were listening, too. I could look forward to nighttime, though I would have to wear myself out further to sleep.
I brushed Jael as I quietly gained my feet and followed the wall by feel the very short way to the open portal; I could smell when the moisture coated the rocks and felt when moving air, or rather, when a breeze moved and lifted my cloak briefly as I came out from behind that shield of stone. I paused, eyes still closed and dripping tears, and pulled up my hood to block more of the light. It helped a bit, though I had to keep my face pointed down and still failed to open my eyes for longer than an instant.
In that instant I saw only grey, damp stone at my feet.
I heard Rausery stepping out with me, keeping pace and maybe listening for more than I knew to be aware, and Jael and Gaelan shifted behind as well. I still tasted water in the air, though not in heavy drops like before but more as if suspended in mist.
Even as I was not familiar with what had to be the spicy scent of the trees, I did not dislike it, and with another whiff I could detect the scent of decomposition underneath it—that scent of organic things breaking down and mushrooms and molds overtaking and creating a new resource, something all in the Underdark could recognize. I could even say it was more so here than down there, since the organic growth here had to be so far beyond our plantations as to seem limitless. From what Shyntre had said, the growth was mostly not tended; it was self-perpetuating and sustainable.
Someone touched my arm and I tensed, but then Jael murmured in the trade language, "Here are you."
Rausery must have decided it was safe, because she chuckled. "That is 'There you are,' Jael. Repeat it."
"Anyone wish to go farther?"
"Can you see, Elder?" Gaelan asked, and I could hear the physical discomfort thick in her voice.
"Not yet. But I know this place well. I don't need to see."
I took another step, and Rausery accepted that as volunteering; she took firm hold of my braids and pushed me forward. My heart began pounding immediately and it seemed I had lost connection with anything familiar somewhere behind me, that I had been set adrift. The ground dropped at a steep decline—something I could expect from the view I had last night, but it was still startling to take it blindly at this rate. I realized that sound did not bounce back to me or work quite the same with no ceiling over my head. I felt more than a little disoriented.
At the first stone to slip beneath my boot, I swallowed the panic and paid much more attention to my sense of balance and what my other senses were trying to tell me. I winced at the way the stones continued to fall, turning end over end and clacking against other rocks until I heard a few thumps before they came to rest.
"Noisy," Rausery commented, and kept pushing me forward.
Yes, well, we were going much faster than I would have thought wise for being sightless on this slope. She was doing it on purpose.
I evened out only as I used at least three points of contact to find my way, and I managed to keep pace with Rausery as she dragged me down that rock slide. My cloak snagged on things I couldn't see and damp rocks and pebbles slipped and bounced away from my feet. We continued to make an incredible amount of noise and I wondered that Rausery would even tolerate it—until I realized we weren't the only ones making a racket.
"What is crying?" I asked, eyes still tightly closed.
"Birds," she answered aloud. "A good sign. The storm is passing. They reclaim their territory with song every day of fair weather."
*What short memories,* I thought first.
Then thought again.
Our sentries did the same every cycle and perhaps it would not do to let one's guard be lax here as well. If a bird left and territory came open, surely another would grab it, as happened in the Underdark all the time. Alien as this place may be, Shyntre had taught me that there were many parallels following the same rules of survival if one only kept her mind open to it.
"Birds make bursts of noise in sudden attacks, but also know if the birds fall silent you may take it as a sign they sense a storm, a quake, or are hiding from a predator," Rausery said as we skidded farther down. "Including some two-footed creatures."
"Yes, Elder," I said, feeling cool moisture begin to pass through my gloves from how often I needed to touch the stones. "They do not hide from us?"
"We make too much noise or are too visible to be a threat. They are above us and know where we are at all times."
I could sense when the ground leveled off at last and I stayed in a partial crouch as Rausery stood up straight. She still had hold of my braids and pulled me to standing and toward something; I could sense an obstruction somehow and put out my hands out to prevent running into it face first.
As soon as I touched it, Rausery let me go and stepped back. I felt something hard, rough, and...almost round like stone but it was not. I smelled a thick, pungent life-sent coming from it, an individual source for what I had known was the smell of the wet forest as a whole.
"Tree," I identified, still speaking the Surface tongue.
"Correct. Long pine, if you note the scent. It is unique. Open your eyes."
My Elder gave me a generous amount of time to do so, but my eyes continued to water and I was gritting my teeth against the strain. I could not hold out for long, but I was able to at least to see a blurred layer of browned needles and flat, mulch leaves on a rocky outcrop partway down the mountain from our cave.
At first Rausery seemed to be gone, though I could still sense her somehow, and I tried looking up the rockslide but didn't see her immediately, not seeing very far before the light forced me to close my eyes again.
Still no noise on her part; she was waiting for something. Again I recognized how the stone did not envelope me to help recycle the sound or the heat; all that information was quickly swept away by the endless open air. In addition, the birds made it impossible to hear my Elder's breathing. I truly did not know where she was, yet there was the certainty, the gut-instinct that she was nearby watching me. I would have to use my eyes to find her; there was no other way.
Gathering my strength, I forced open my eyes again. I finally made out her shape crouched down a few trees over from me. My sight remained blurred and my head pounded but I kept looking where I knew she was. Eventually I realized the grey light and foliage made a slightly dappled pattern beneath the forest canopy, very like the mottled pattern of her cloak and hood. The pattern broke the visual outline of her form far better than my pure black cloak did. I stared a moment but then, feeling my tears thickening again, closed my eyes tight.
If it was like this now, what would it be like when the clouds left to leave the Sun bare and gold in the Sky?
I heard Rausery stand up and approach me with a light step. "What did you see, Sirana?"
I hesitated only in that I was not sure of the word I wanted to use. "Hide in daylight, Elder."
"Yes. It is called camouflage. That, combined with stillness, does far more here than in the Underdark. Surface creatures use it the same way we use Darkness or bending energy to obscure our outline, but requires no magic. Camouflage."
I nodded my understanding. "Cam...ouflage."
"Good. One task later will be to mottle your cloak. Now, make it back to the cave on your own."
She started moving quickly above me, my ears telling me plainly which direction she had gone—but I hadn't thought that was the direction I'd come down. How could I be sure, though? I didn't sense the deep pulse of the earth here and I couldn't be certain of my direction with the Sun hidden behind clouds, never mind that I could not open my eyes.
I wasn't too far away, though, and all I had to do was climb up the incline by feel. If I was climbing down, I could be sure it was the wrong way. Rausery would remain quiet but Jael and Gaelan might move to lure me their way.
I made less noise climbing back up, trying to separate out the soft step of a Red Sister from the flap and chirp and whistle of the morning birds. Eventually I made it back to the ledge and the cave mouth, and Rausery next dragged Gaelan down the mountain as soon as I was near Jael.
The youngest Sister touched my face, startling me as she next found my mouth with her lips the moment after that. The kiss was pleasant, and it did provide a focus for the tension and sensory bombardment of standing aboveground. I responded, pressing my lips back, though I never stopped hearing the birds even as we lingered and calmed each other a bit.
"Familiar," she murmured with a smile in her voice.
She used the Surface tongue even when Rausery wasn't present to hear it. Good self-discipline, plus I knew what she meant: at least a kiss was the same both under the Sky and beneath the ground. How did that strike me....?
"Poet," I teased, and she turned to shoulder me in the chest to show her irritation.
She thought of all "scribblers" the same way: if they couldn't stand up to her in a fight, she had no patience for finding their other strengths. If I hadn't been there studying with her, eventually she would have pushed Shyntre hard enough that he no doubt would have knocked her on her ass with a force spell.
Maybe I should have let that happen. That same talent of his had certainly gotten my attention.
"I taste tears," she said, and it sounded like she licked her lips.
"Am... in pain."
"Yes. How long will pain...?"
"I know not."
Elder Rausery had returned about then and spoke fairly loud in answer, startling both of us more from the suddenness of it. "It will always hurt, virgins. Some twenty or thirty sunrises to learn to tolerate it, unless you are weak, then it will be months. But the pain never fades. You adapt and accept new pain."
She took Jael into the forest next, and Gaelan eventually found her way back to me. My Sister breathed quickly having finished her climb back up, though it was not due to pure physical tiredness, I thought. She felt as disoriented as Jael and I. I took Jael's idea and gave Gaelan a kiss with our eyes still closed; as it had been for me, there was a focusing effect and relief of some anxiety. It was better than nothing.
The Elder was right; it never stopped hurting that morning and we had to retreat much farther back into the cave well before midday, exhausted from enduring the light even that long. My Sisters and I had no trouble falling into reverie for the rest of the time the Sun travelled across the Sky.
That first morning I had forgotten for a few marks...or rather, a few hours...that I was pregnant. Neither of my Sisters knew, and Elder Rausery didn't know, so there was no underlying reminder in their own behavior as there had been with my Elder and my Lead before I'd left on this mission. Meanwhile, I had been so overwhelmed with everything else surrounding me upon finally reaching the Surface that...I'd forgotten.
Likewise, I'd forgotten my three beasties until it was time to capture a few insects from deeper within the cave with which to feed them. They remained on guard above my head, above my Sisters' heads, as we lay down.
The moment I slipped into an exhausted rest between Jael and Gaelan, however, my dreams kindly recalled or warped certain recent events for me, should I dare attempt to let my pregnancy slip from my thoughts for an entire day. For all the trouble I'd been, for all I'd cost my allies and my enemies alike, the least I could do was be ever aware of the perpetual growth inside me.
On the nature of the a dream-terror I had...it was one where I'd taken Curgia's place, not only to be bred by a fully mature and demonic Kerse on an altar, but next held in the Valsharess's dungeon to await the birthing, the results expected to be many times worse than what my late sister had done. I waited in doomed dread, knowing ahead of time that the baby was to be given as a grandson to Wilsira, and I would be given to Auranka the Drider Mistress, if I was still breathing after the birth.
I lunged out of the terror just before I saw that birth. I considered the horrifying and bloody images to be the equivalent of being struck repeatedly with a giant club carved with a message on the side: "LUCKY PAWN. BEST REGARDS, LOLTH."
Yes, it could have been a lot worse, and I'd been lucky in many ways. As many who had been using me in their plans, none had worked out quite how they wanted...except perhaps the Valsharess? How long before I could act upon others instead of always being acted upon?
I supposed, unless I wanted only to provide another piece to the big game, I must find a way to manage it within two years, though it would get harder the longer it took. If I somehow remained lucky for that bit longer, maybe it would take about the same amount of time to get in better position as it had to get so deeply into the game in the first place.
I didn't have high hopes, though; D'Shea herself had taken two years to fall in pretty deep....and more than two hundred to climb back out, even as her position and power changed.
My breathing still seemed loud in my ears as I felt bare, dry fingers reach over to brush the sweat on my brow. I hadn't made any vocal sounds, but no doubt my breath had become very irregular prior to coming awake, my racing heart audible in the dark. Gaelan was awake and aware of me. I could see the outline of her hands and the calm energy about her.
She signed, *Bad dreams still?*
I signed an affirmative.
*Rituals, like before?*
I sighed softly and signed the affirmative again.
Kerse's ritual this time, not Lelinahdara's like before. However, like Lolth's Threshold, I knew this would be a long time fading, if it ever did. My recollection of the agony and pleasure and power trapped in that psychic loop—mindless and surging in an endless spell—would see to it that I never underestimated rituals of any sort. Not if I was smart.
The two rituals had a lot in common with each other except that, unlike the first one, Kerse's hadn't been only magic affecting me. A large part of it had also been the psionic, stubborn, dwarven side inside of me, trying so desperately to stay sane in the maelstrom of chaos.
What had the Illithid called me? A "thrall fully aware"? That felt right now that I thought about it, well after the fact. Maybe Kain was the only reason my sense of self hadn't splintered into countless shards or dissolved entirely into Kerse, as close as we had been bound. Maybe Auslan had helped put me back together with his sacred healing. I felt different in some ways even if I couldn't define how or judge which events had caused the changes, but I was also willing to consider the many ways by which I could have been lost and never come back at all.