tagSci-Fi & FantasySurfacing Ch. 31

Surfacing Ch. 31

byEtaski©

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 2016.

This chapter sets the stage for the final big arch. And a few characters need to work about a little bit of their shit. ;) Enjoy!


*****

Surfacing Chapter 31

The rest of the day after Sarilis's demise wasn't quite as grey or as wet. I saw a little blue Sky and golden Sun peeking through heavy clouds as if the weather patterns already wanted to change from their previous stagnation, though that splash of color barely helped the blackened land surrounding the Tower.

We had to bring in more food from our caches—Mourn and Jael could do that in a fraction of the time it would take any one of us—though we were informed we all had to stay outside regardless and leave Gavin alone for several hours while he "cleansed" the structure itself.

"Couldn't Tamuril help with that?" I had asked.

Gavin's blue irises vanished for a moment just before he blinked and shook his head. "This Tower is to be consecrated in my Lady's name. The Druid could help with reviving some of the damaged forest. You and anyone else willing can help with disposing of the less useful dead."

I looked around significantly at the huge mass of dead. "I take it you've already selected your 'useful' ones?"

"I have. They've been moved into storage for now."

"Not the golem, I hope."

"No, it's too crude and sloppy. I've a better design in mind if I wanted such a servant."

I wrinkled my nose. In other words, that field of hacked up bodies and charred giblets was a good idea only now that the lich was gone. The place was not going to smell like a fresh summer field... which got me again to thinking about Tamuril's hovel just earlier this year in these very mountains.

Well, I supposed, part of the point in doing the work now was so this valley would have wildflowers again, one day.

"Fine," I sighed, making eye contact with Gaelan and Tamuril, who nodded, and signing to Vesram. *Come.*

The four of us made an efficient team. The Draegloth was undoubtedly used to manual labor; he didn't complain about dragging or carrying most bodies around by their foot, whether it had walked, crawled, or flown in life.

Tamuril "put to rest" anything still moving even slightly before it went into the pyre. Each of those were found for her by Pilla's sharp eye. I could roll bodies along the ground with my psionic focus rather than touch them—it wasn't as though I had a lot of spare gloves to replace any soaked in zombie mucus—and I would add them to a cluster together which the Draegloth then set on fire with a word and a gesture. Gaelan could maintain her concentration and assure the pyre burned hot—abnormally hot.

By the time Mourn and Jael returned and joined the work after a short meal break, I was surprised how quickly it went. The mages had no trouble keeping the smoke wafting in one direction rather than forcing me to outrun its smelly, greasy cloud at every breeze. It was later in the afternoon when Gavin came out on Night-mare to tell us his Tower was "ready."

"Ready, how?" Jael asked.

"Sanctified and warded," he clarified.

"Does that mean we can sit down somewhere other than mud or a twisted log?"

Gavin shrugged slightly and nodded. "Some of the furniture is still serviceable."

We'd have shelter again tonight, maybe this time with a fire. The Sun was already behind clouds and headed behind plenty of mountains; the temperature would be dropping again. It reminded me that I hadn't yet seen "winter" in this place. It grew much cooler at night, but there was no snow.

Had I really wrangled an invitation from Gavin to stay here at the Tower if I needed a safe place to give birth? It was just because of something Nyx had said to me, wasn't it? Certainly not the beckoning luxuries of good food, healers, and warmth as among the Wilder. Not to mention the charm of its new master...bah. I wondered whether I was going to get any pushback from the others if I went this way. If I got the opportunity to decide.

Probably. And Gavin and Nyx both probably wouldn't care. "Her idea, not mine," he would say. "I told her she would be miserably cold."

I had to think about this. If it came to it.

The first change struck me as I crossed again over the Tower's threshold, through the main gate which now needed repair, and into the courtyard. I wasn't the only one to pause and blink at the difference. Not in how it looked—nothing had changed in appearance. It was in how it touched our senses. All of them.

In spite of Gavin keeping dead bodies and skeletons around, none of which were visible right now except for Night-mare—who was in much better shape after having eaten— I smelled no putrid rot and overwhelming sickness as I had just the previous day. That high pitch of the tremoring Ley Lines wasn't as desperate or grating; it was calmer.

The air I breathed reminded me of Gavin's garden when he'd been a Man who bled red, though lacking the living plants. I wasn't sure how that worked...maybe it was the soil itself, freshly tilled and fertilized with natural decay, now ready to receive seeds?

There was no doubt Death magic was still here, but...it wasn't the same. It had changed from a contagious, aggressive festering to...something cleaner. Decay existing alongside everything else rather than suppressing any life trying to come back. It was long-existing and at peace; not unlike the Tilabil, actually, just in a less colorful sense. It wrapped us up in a grey cloak and hid us from easy view in just about the same way as the Wilder's sacred grove, I was willing to wager this. It would be harder to be found, either in the dreamscape or in the material.

So this was where my gut instinct proved correct. This was still a Surface sanctuary if I wanted it, cold season and all. There was a dwarven-built stronghold belowground, not unlike home, and it was not as if the snow would last forever; sooner or later the flowers and birds would return. That was the difference—that certainty of spring even as the land fell asleep for winter—which made stepping into the newly sanctified Tower so stunning from how it had been before.

I could never compare this feeling to anything in the Underdark. We didn't have such change down there. I could only hope this feeling eventually extended out to the rest of the area around us. It needed it.

I wasn't the only one ruminating on this. Mourn's tail glided in constant S-curves as he looked around, his tongue flicking out and his spines flexing unconsciously, rising slightly. Tamuril and Jael were gawking, and Vesram seemed confused—this wasn't a feeling he was used to despite living among necromancers for a century—and Gaelan merely sighed long and with visible relaxation to communicate what she felt.

"Come inside, then," Gavin invited in the exact fashion of a put-upon tutor trying to get unruly children to sit down and read the stupid scrolls for their own good.

"This place feels entirely different," Jael murmured as we walked inside, glancing at Mourn, who nodded.

"Would even Lord Indrath require an invitation now, Deathwalker?" the hybrid asked.

"He would," the grey mage agreed. "Over time I hope to expand the wards to include more of the forest, but not before it is healed."

Tamuril's green eyes scanned all around as Pilla cocked her head this way and that. The Druid still looked so sad, I thought, about too many things, but this Tower was no longer one of them.

"Would you help with that?" I asked her and she started out of whatever she was thinking to blink at me.

Then she nodded urgently. "Y-yes. I couldn't leave it like this..." She glanced warily at Gavin's back. "It would take time, I would need to stay nearby."

The grey mage grunted, glancing over his shoulder. "We can discuss it, Druid. I certainly have no talent for all the intricacies of the bloom."

"You kept a garden for food," I pointed out.

"I could plant a seed in the soil with my fingers and keep it moist," he groused. "If the ground itself cannot sustain the transition of a sprout, nothing happens."

I grinned at his cranky answer. I knew that, I just liked the mental image of the Deathwalker tending small plants as a reminder. I wasn't the only one who smiled about it, either. *What self-respecting necromancer has a green-thumb?* Sarilis had taunted.

One that even an Ice Lord would acquiesce to his being the caretaker of this place. When Indrath had the perfect opportunity to overwhelm each of us with Elfblood and retain his lich puppet on the other side of the continent...he hadn't taken it. Was it solely because of Gavin? Likely, but not because of intimidation.

*She has been sorely missed,* Indrath had said of Nyx.

The Ice Lord had accepted a peace offering: Sarilis's soul trapped in a polished gem of real pneuma flint, pulled right out of Gavin's body. Proof Nyx had influence here again, and Indrath stepped out of our way without any apparent pride protesting his loss.

None I could see or sense, anyway. Somehow that made the Ice Lord that much more frightening to me. The way Lethrix had teased Rennyn about the other... of his methods being "different but no less effective" for being in love for his children...

*A pity he reached you first,* Indrath had said to me. *But I believe I like that he finally found a daughter with your kind of potential. It took him long enough...*

I pursed my lips. It took him long enough? What did that mean? That Indrath already had an Elf "daughter" with psionics, and Rennyn and the Tilabil were merely catching up?

My eyes slid to Tamuril as well, as we entered the dining hall and got a fire going and a pot to put a group meal's ration within it, adding some purified water for a welcome, hot meal. In spite of what I'd said to calm her down before—about just being glad it had worked out, and Indrath hadn't taken her—I knew that she still had something to fear there.

*I know who you are, beloved. I'd rather you remain here and not be taken away just now. Not when events have suddenly gotten so interesting at the crossroads.*

To call her "beloved," and to give her an instruction: remain here. It implied a certain possession or authority over her...or at the very least, a revisit of this ill-made bargain later on, even if he had claimed it "null and void." Perhaps Rennyn could show mercy and not ask for a specific show of gratitude at a later time; perhaps Indrath could. Maybe that was one difference between them.

I thought we all knew the Noldor was compromised in a way but there was nothing much we could do about it now. It might even be decades...centuries...before Indrath showed himself to her again, but I couldn't shake the feeling in my gut that he would.

Maybe Isboern could help her? Maybe this was more a compromise to the Noldor queen than it was us in particular? Or maybe more immediately, Indrath still had a way to keep an eye on the new Herald of Nyx. And maybe Gavin even knew that, and he didn't care right now.

How much like home it suddenly became with the arrival of that one ancient, diabolic Elf...

As we waited for the food to heat up—and Gavin had no qualms with stirring it now and then, even as Gaelan, Tamuril and myself also took turns—Mourn looked to be in very deep thought, though more like a Guild Leader would be rather than my own musings of personal interactions.

"How much assistance will you need from us before we leave, Deathwalker?" he asked bluntly.

"How much preparation and time will you need for yourselves is my question," Gavin replied, leaning back in the same heavy, wooden chair Sarilis had chosen back in the spring, interlacing his long fingers.

Mourn shook his head slightly. "We have perhaps a week of food cached, if rationed. We'll bring that all in tomorrow. I could fly to good hunting grounds and carry something back, but only if I go alone. Meanwhile, there is little to forage for the rest of you. It will get harder as the season changes further, but right now many animals will be fat. We could only stay two or three weeks if the hunting is good."

"And do what in the meantime?" Gaelan asked.

"Plan," Mourn responded, looking at her but then setting his eyes on me. "There is a lot of information we must know before we leave here."

I sighed and nodded. "I'll answer all your questions. Anything I know."

So the Dragonblood Guild Leader would finally get what he had been asking me for since helping us against the Chaos cult. I wasn't really complaining; it was the only way I could get to Auslan and Shyntre.

Mourn nodded in thanks, then looked at Vesram. "And you? If I have questions, will you lie or omit?"

The Draegloth hadn't selected a chair; he was crouched behind me and Gavin, closer to the wall because he seemed to prefer it and I hadn't told him to do anything else. I waited for a second without looking at him but heard an indecisive snort of air and turned to look over my shoulder, making eye contact. He calmed down, watching me rather than Mourn.

"Do we still free your Drae-goet?" I prompted simply, and Vesram hesitated but then nodded slowly. "Answer Mourn's question, then."

"Sssss," he breathed before looking in the half-Drgaon's direction, chin down. "Will ansswer. No lie, no ommit."

Mourn nodded, looking next at Gaelan, asking her the same question.

"Will I still be given the chance to find Natia?" she asked in return with an arch of her white eyebrow.

"Yes, you will be given the chance to find your daughter."

Gaelan nodded. "Then I'll answer anything I know."

Mourn didn't ask the same question of Jael and she didn't look surprised, which was enormously telling. I had the feeling she'd already talked some; they'd had a lot of time together lately.

Lastly, Mourn looked at Tamuril and Gavin. "It probably will do neither of you any good to hear all details excepting that we may return here, exact timing unknown."

Tamuril nodded in agreement and Gavin shrugged.

"We will be busy anyway, I think," my grey mage said. "I may even be able to work on a useful item or two that you can bring with you."

Mourn blinked but smiled a bit. "That would be welcome, Deathwalker."

I felt the same pull at the corners of my mouth. No shit. I didn't think anyone back home had anything specific to counteract necromancy, not even the Illithids. It really was a pity we couldn't bring him with us. Gavin could see in the dark, and his "thralls" were equally mindless and thus immune to the squidheads' command of will. They could probably walk right up to the psiomancers and punch them in their tentacle faces, so long as Gavin himself stayed out of range.

But Nyx's Herald had to stay here, that was no debate. We had to keep this place, and I needed a haven nearby where we could retreat with Soraveri's chosen, to hide him from anyone awake or asleep, if we made it back to the Surface.

*When,* I chanted to myself. *When we made it back.*

Because really...if we didn't, Isboern and Gavin both would not see their quests through. The new ruler of Manalar especially. Some powerful entities seemed to care about that, not just a deity and a Greylord but some damned old Elves and quite possibly a randy Deep Dragon keeping tabs on a determined half-blood son training a new To'vah mage for the first time in who knew how long? And all of them were aware of V'Gedra, the source of the infection killing the world before its time.

My son quickened again, shifting low in my gut while I was sitting there looking at everyone and just as quickly my attention turned inward. That was only the second time I felt him move and...

I felt afraid, and queasy. This was a lot on my shoulders. I had to bring back the sire of my son alive, and I couldn't wait until I was in shape again. I had to do it like this, hungry and heavy and vulnerable. While I was at it, I had to grab Shyntre, too, who seemed to be getting more powerful than he wanted to be in becoming more like a Consort, taking on some of Auslan's dream travel ability...

Not to mention that frightening orange gel that seeped from his hands and could burn through hardened bracers even well after he let go. Where had that even come from? He couldn't do that while awake, could he...?

Then again, he had killed a Red Sister before, hadn't he? Or that's what I'd heard, and for some reason the Valsharess hadn't seen him executed. I'd always thought it was linked somehow to what Shyntre had told me once in his bed at the Wizard's Tower: that he had faced a trial like the one which had sent me to the Surface before, and that he was far more frightened of the Valsharess than he'd ever been of the Red Sisters, no matter how we'd abused him.

We. I had been one of them. I remembered how it had been fun for me, hunting and stalking him. I had been fully justified in thinking he'd started it; he'd raped my mouth and ass first, letting me know in no uncertain terms his disdain for me. I had never actually raped him back, I'd never gotten that far but I probably would have sooner or later if I'd ever had control of my own Feldeu. Operative word being, "control."

No, I'd started by annoying the fucking Abyss out of the young wizard, stressing him out with intent and delight, putting him at risk of losing his temper in a way unforgivable for males in the City. Eventually, at last, I got him to give in and just fuck me, hard and angry and rough in the library like I knew he wanted to, and release what was pent up inside him. As if I was doing him a favor.

Of course I had believed so at the time. He couldn't honestly expect anything else in return from me, could he...?

Well. Now he could. If for one moment he could think I was being genuine in feeling any regret at all for how we'd treated each other. Never mind that neither of us could have known anything else then. I knew something else now. He probably didn't.

Although there was something strange going on back home. Shyntre had reached out to me first this last time. He had tried to scare me into not coming back at all...

I still hadn't told anyone.

"Sirana!"

Jael jabbed my upper arm with two knuckles. Hard.

"Owww," I complained, looking at her with a glare. "What?"

"You're not paying attention. Again. This time you don't even have Soul Drinker as an excuse for staring into space."

I rolled my eyes, rubbing my bruise. "I was thinking."

"And so were we. Mourn asked you a question."

"Fine. What was it?" I looked at him expectantly, but he watched me back considering.

"What were you thinking about just now?" he asked.

"That wasn't your question, Mourn."

"It is now."

"Pfft." I looked around. "One of those things that takes too much explanation to have any context."

"We must get started on those things sooner or later," the hybrid countered. "Say it out of context. Forget the explanation."

I looked at him askew, smirking. "You don't say that often."

He exhaled, holding his tail still as to be patient with me. "Talk to us, Sirana. Please. We won a battle but we must try and remain unified even afterward. Selective intelligence will not aid us."

Jael and Gaelan nodded firmly, staring at me. Tamuril looked down with a touch of embarrassment, pursing her pink lips. Gavin watched, as always, silent and observant until he had something to say. About being unified...I supposed I was most concerned about Vesram and Tamuril in what Mourn wanted me to say, but asking them to leave was the opposite of "unified," wasn't it?

Fuck. Don't lie or omit, wasn't what the request? Vesram had even agreed, just after I had. He would follow my lead. But Tamuril would tell Krithannia, wouldn't she? And if either of them were ever captured again by their own people...

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