tagSci-Fi & FantasySurfacing Ch. 36

Surfacing Ch. 36

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 is both one of the most contemplative, character-focused chapters, and one of those that in some ways brings us back around again to the beginning of the story. It ended up being only 12 pages shorter than last chapter. Some of the erotic/explicit scenes in this chapter harken back to Sufferance in tone. Take your time, thank you, and enjoy.


Surfacing Chapter 36

"Ruk? Have you a moment?"

"Of course, Matron. What do you need?"

"First that you look up from those maps, if you please."

Rohenvi had asked this before, and he'd complied. He would do so again, yet it would make no difference to the feeling he'd get. Every time he looked at her in those practical, travel-worthy garments—much different than the gowns she normally wore around her plantation, and almost like his except better quality—and sitting on the tiny, lightweight cross chair with her new Daughter, he was struck by the heightened hope and all-too-real danger at the same time. Then he would look for Natia, his heartrate speeding up until he spied her—usually either eating, sleeping, or staring wide-eyed and silent at him or his Matron, listening to and watching everything.

They were inside a tent just tall enough to stand and which muffled soft voices by the quality of its make. It was tucked between two rocks and the entrance small and camouflaged, with a rear exit equally so. It was private and quiet, and as safe as he could make it. The shadow from outside the City had rarely dared to dream of this exact scenario, though now that it had come to be he wished it was not in these exact, dire circumstances.

He was still glad it was so, even if he and Rohenvi had barely had a handful of words to trade that weren't centered on preparation, crisis control, and survival. Among Matron Thalluen's first words to him this time around, understandably, had been the incredulous, "You belong to the Sisterhood?!"

Yes. Having provided sufficient proof of connection with Elder Rausery through Lead Qivni, the simplest answer at the time had been yes. It was close enough. He had to get them moving, all of them.

Ruk looked at her eyes again now in the low candlelight. "Yes, Matron."

Her eyes flicked down at the maps she'd just told him to ignore. "Planning alternate escape routes?"

He nodded. "Yes, Matron."

She made a face. "Ruk. I may never reclaim any land or House, and I don't care. Please address me somehow else."

She made no suggestions what to call her.

"Rohenvi," he said, and she nodded. It was good enough. "One route in response to each direction of threat. The Head Guards will know as well."

She nodded. "We've traveled far, but perhaps not far enough?"

"We're close enough to hear word from a scout or courier when needed," he said. "We respond with the next phase depending on the news they bear."

Rohenvi adjusted Vekika dozing in her arms. "Any cycle now?"

Another nod. "Any cycle, any moment."

"And if we hear nothing?"

"Three cycles with no news, or any scout seeing threat, we move deeper."

His Matron did not demand more detail at this time, and she was quiet as she thought over going deeper into the Underdark.

Matron Aurenthin had talked far more than either of them as they escaped the City; she was excited and more than ready for this. Her assistance thus far helping to command the soldiers and servants they had taken with him had been invaluable; her fearlessness was contagious. Matron Aurenthin was older and had no young children of her own, with three grown Daughters supporting both her and any grandchildren. Low House status or not, as a "clan" of sorts, they were strong and eager for any breaking of the mold, and they worked together more than most Houses. They had to in order to exist.

Matron Thalluen, by contrast, had made her decision to leave the City last moment and followed through with it, but she still reeled from the abrupt changes in what she thought she understood about her "traveling trader" who had kept coming back for centuries. She had also been having children steadily for over three hundred years when she wasn't ill or poisoned. Three of the five children were dead, each of them having been murdered by a sibling, and she had no support apart from him, with two very young children depending on her protection. In the end, any connection to the other Houses she'd made being of middle status meant nothing now.

Ruk could also tell Roh still missed her brother, Azed, even with the Noble Son being dead for a century now. He wished he could know that all would be well with her decision, so he could tell her that.

"You were not born in the Valsharess's City," Rohenvi murmured now, quiet but a sure statement.

He offered an amused grimace. "Did I slip?"

"Not really." She smiled a little, pleased with the simple confirmation. "My own fantasy for years, more than anything. You speak differently when we are grieving. Just a little."

Ruk nodded soberly, able to pinpoint those moments all too quickly. They also warmed his gut in that arousing and comforting way. "Both our Daughters were conceived in times of grieving."

"Almost like a trade," Rohenvi agreed, rubbing Vekika's forehead to soothe her as she grimaced herself and squirmed in reverie. "Vekika for Treyl."

"Sirana for Azed," Ruk said, completing the thought as his Matron nodded her head.

"You were the only one who understood my grieving, Ruk," she whispered, hugging her baby a little tighter.

He pursed his lips. "Because I had grieved once already, alone in the wilderness. Before I came here."

"Who?" she asked immediately, looking up with clear hunger for anything about his past.

Ruk was aware Natia was listening; it was just as well he confess quite a few things at once, just so when the time came...if the time came...

"My own brother, Jakrel," he answered. "We were exiled from our birth home, hunted by others. He was injured. He died slowly and I was the only one there to see him pass. No one else knew, or cared."

Roh watched him with those eyes of hers; he saw genuine sympathy. She exhaled slowly, her shoulders slumping. She didn't have anything to say, so he offered a bit more.

"He was unusual," Ruk added. "He had blue eyes."

Roh blinked, her shoulders coming back up and she smiled just a little, finally having that question answered. "I see. And...is it true, then? What I read among your fellow 'shadows.' The reason for all this is because Sirana returned to the City."

Ruk's chest felt tight and hot as his heart beat harder again. "Partly. Partly who she brought back with her. Matron Aurenthin's youngest Daughter returned as well, and they brought the son of the Underdark Dragon to fight for them."

"Attacking the Valsharess," Roh coaxed.

He nodded. "And threatening the Illithids. Why we are out here."

His Matron was hesitant. "Did you...see her?"

Ruk smoothed his fingers over his map, breathing slow for two long draws. He would start with this before confessing the rest of what his lover needed to know. "I did. She did not know who I was, as far as I could tell, although she can read minds now. Why she didn't read mine, I can only go with what they said, they didn't want to draw the Illithids too soon."

"She was...never a mage," Rohenvi said, confused.

Ruk nodded. "Why she's a threat. She's not using magic. She's psionic, like the Duergar and the mindflayers. Something happened to her in the Sisterhood. I don't know what."

His Matron stared at him with her mouth open. "Oh, Lolth..."

Ruk snorted softly. "If it was, it was an accident." He waited a moment, but didn't figure it was going to get any easier with time. "She was also pregnant. About half way."

Another hit.

"But...the Sisterhood doesn't—"

"No, they don't. But I understand the sire is the last remaining Consort of the Priestesses."

"WHAT?!" Rohenvi cried in horror, making both him and Natia wince as Vekika jerked in surprise and whimpered. Their Matron took the distraction of soothing the infant as she absorbed that, but Ruk noticed her hand was trembling.

"No..." she whispered finally. "No! Why?! What did the Priesthood do to her? None of their offspring is worthwhile! Why didn't the Sisterhood execute him like the rest before he could infect our Daughter!"

Ruk hadn't guessed this would be her reaction concerning the sire, but he could follow her thought remembering Juarinia and Kaltra. Many of their private "unspoken" thoughts lingering over the years were coming out in force now. Should he try to reassure her? He wasn't sure he wouldn't just be lying to her.

"I understand he is a natural healer," he said with caution. "Of a kind we rarely see, and the Sisterhood kept him away from the Priestesses after he impregnated one of their own. Sirana was... nearly killed by a Draegloth, Roh. She survived only because this Consort can heal by touch and his strength of will."

"Why did they allow her to catch from him?!" Rohenvi demanded. "Why has she kept it?!"

"I don't know, Matron," he answered honestly. "But she went to the Surface pregnant and came back still so. That took effort on her part. She is much like you that way."

"I've never been out of the City," his Matron said, not taking her flashing gaze from him. "Sirana is far too much like *you* that way. Especially if she has your brother's eyes."

Ruk smiled, and it seemed to help as Roh lifted Vekika to settle her against one shoulder, rubbing her back. He said, "For what it's worth, the last Consort is extraordinarily kind for a Drow. I've met him, Rausery hid him among my shadows for weeks. From what I observed, he can feel as you can, and he only wants to help heal what hurts. I do not think Sirana will give birth to another Juarinia because of him." He gently cleared his throat as she watched him, pondering. "In any case, she seemed to know the baby was male."

Rohenvi grunted with a nod; that didn't surprise her, as she'd sought the same answer for her first child at about the halfway point in her pregnancy. Ruk didn't think it would have made a difference in Treyl's ultimate fate; his Mother just wanted to know.

"So," she said, "Kennitha's youngest came back with her?"

Ruk nodded. "Sirana and Jael were the youngest Red Sisters. They became allies. Jael was there when Sirana was nearly killed. So was...ahm..."

"Yes, Ruk?" Rohenvi prodded.

"Do you remember Gaelan?"

Rohenvi looked at Natia, who had straightened up in her corner. The Matron nodded. "Of course."

"Sirana became allies with Gaelan as well."

Now his Matron looked a little more nervous. "Of course they would be. They would have known each other from before when the girl was just the potion courier serving us."

"I am not sure they did."

"Then they would have talked in the Sisterhood and realized it."

Ruk nodded. "You're probably right. Sirana is aware of Natia, and Gaelan returned from the Surface as well. She spoke with me. She made it very clear she wants her Daughter back. If she survives the battle, she will find us, and she's more than a 'girl' now."

Roh stared at him, swallowing subtly before looking in the corner. She gestured gently, and Natia got to her feet and came readily to her Grand Matron, seeming relieved when the adult female allowed her to collapse her small, upper body onto her lap. Rohenvi started rubbing the older child's back with her free hand and Natia closed her eyes.

"The Sisterhood is no place for children," his Matron said softly.

"I agree," Ruk said. "But Gaelan does not consider herself part of the Sisterhood anymore. She said she had some place else to go."

Rohenvi shook her head in denial again. "Elder D'Shea would not let her go so easily."

Rausery's shadow paused for a moment before asking steadily, "What do you know of Elder D'Shea's motives when she gave you Natia?"

"She knew about Treyl," Rohenvi said abruptly. "She knew about our son, that I was 'hiding him in plain sight.' She was watching the potion maker's daughter as much as I was when she started sniffing around him, and especially when she caught from him!"

The Matron huffed a bittersweet laugh, looking down at Natia, who sensed the gaze and looked up. They stared at each other for a few moments, and Roh murmured to her, "You have your sire's eyes, you know that? He was my only boy, and my favorite. Both you and your sire were blessed with your grandsire's intelligence as well."

Natia glanced over at Ruk and couldn't decide whether to smile or not, but she did rub her cheek against Rohenvi's trousers to acknowledge what was said. The child shared very few of her own thoughts but observed everything—kind of like Ruk had been himself as a child. Some in their traveling group had even assumed Natia was mute, and Rohenvi did not care to correct the misconception.

"Do you remember your Mother?" Ruk asked her directly.

Natia nodded. Both grandparents hesitated, but Roh found the strength to ask.

"Would it be good to see her again?"

The child trembled, looking torn as she tried to decide on a right answer. "Don't want to leave..."

Ruk could hear enough of the tone to understand the "Yes, but..." in it. A shared look with his Matron, and he could see Roh knew as well.

"We won't let her take you," Matron Thalluen said, trying to sound reassuring.

A shadow jumper would make it hard to defend the statement, of course, but Ruk decided more bad news could wait a little. Maybe after the children were both asleep.

Natia might remember her Mother, but perhaps wouldn't recognize her now.

********

"Mmph, ugh," Shyntre groaned, slowly lifting his head up from where it draped off Gaelan's shoulders. It took him a few moments to realize where he was. "Gah...p-put me down. I can walk."

"Can you?" she asked him seriously.

"Won't know until he tries," Lethrix commented blithely, his own large feet stepping along the rocks much more quietly than they should have for a reptile his size. He carried the hybrid mindflayer in his arms rather than across his shoulders like Gaelan and seemed to be feeling no strain even as the long-limbed creature in her armor had to weigh twice what Shyntre did.

Mourn was similar, cradling Sirana close and not complaining about the extra weight. Jael was constantly on edge as she was prepared to be the first line of defense ahead of the Dragonblood since his arms were full. Assuming something came from the front and got past Lethrix somehow. Jael could probably relax, but Gaelan knew she wouldn't.

They all stopped so that Gaelan could crouch and let Shyntre off her shoulders. She was relieved for the break, as her back was starting to complain. The mage stumbled but swiftly picked himself back up and everyone waited patiently for him to focus on Lethrix.

"You," the Dark Priest said without pleasure.

The Dragon grinned. "You made it out. Well done."

"Not out yet," Shyntre grumbled, looking at the head flopped against the muscular shoulder of the To'vah. He seemed able to determine she wasn't dead. "What have you done?"

"Poor thing is exhausted," Lethrix replied. "She needs a nap."

Shyntre stared at him without any of the typical worry about the massive magic Mourn's sire contained, or perhaps he was hiding it behind his irritation. Nonetheless, it was evident that the two had spoken before in casual terms. For whatever reason, Shyntre decided to look to Mourn for answers; maybe only because he was the one who carried Sirana.

"What happened?" he asked.

"Jael put you to sleep, but the Ulitharid could still control your body," the half-blood answered before next nodding toward his sire's burden. "The Illithid warrior rebelled and killed her master, and surrendered."

Shyntre nodded once, appreciating the efficiency of the explanation. "Sirana and...?"

"Both alive for now. She is in a psionic coma. We seek House Thalluen and House Aurenthin for refuge and rest."

For the moment that was enough and the group continued on their way. After a while, though, Shyntre had to ask more.

"Why did she rebel?"

Those awake, except Lethrix who looked straight ahead, shook their heads.

"We don't know," Jael said. "From where I stood, I thought it was because she didn't want the Ulitharid to kill Sirana. I heard her shout a denial...I think."

"I heard it as well," Mourn added, and Gaelan nodded. "Not exactly a shout, though."

"An open thought," Lethrix provided. "It doesn't require a specific mindlink, as I understand it. The major way Illithids 'hear' each other and sense proximity even in complete darkness. Fascinating ability. The conclave seems quiet to outsiders, and yet to them there is enough chatter to make it busy as a bee hive."

"A what?" Jael answered before she gave it much thought.

"Surface insects," Shyntre murmured, almost like he was reciting a passage. "Live in a colony."

"Yeah, I got stung by one," Gaelan muttered, looking at her left palm. "Put my hand on a flower without realizing it was there."

"A fair parallel between the two," Lethrix chuckled. "All workers obeying a single queen."

"That a jab at us, too?" Jael asked.

"Actually, no. You Elves are social but far too willing to fracture and reorder your ranks, your present circumstances proving my point. In terms of obeying a queen? Your Valsharess might've only wished you were as cohesive as Illithids."

"They're fractured now," she replied, again looking at Xalli'hoon.

"A first that I have ever borne witness to," Lethrix agreed with a touch more seriousness. "She is unique as Morixxyleth and your blue-eyed mother-to-be. My recommendation would be not to kill her for her strangeness, as it is no sin of hers any more than it is my son being born, or a Drow becoming psionic in her own right."

"As if we have a choice with you carrying her?"

Lethrix chuckled. "You had a choice. You will have a choice again. I merely asked you to stop and think, because you will not get another chance at something like this."

Jael looked at Mourn expectantly, who said nothing and kept at least part of his focus on Sirana's life signs and the strange, glowing shards of gems beneath her skin.

"What do you think?" she asked him directly.

"We make sure Sirana is safe," he said. "We discover if there is a way to feed her, for Ionne's sake. We wait for Xalli'hoon to awaken and we bargain with her."

"Why?" Shyntre asked.

"Because this problem requires psionics to best aid our squadmate," Mourn answered bluntly, "and we do not have access to the Godblood, who would help with no bargain at all. It is too far of a journey to take Sirana to him. Even with speed or preservation magic, shadow jumping, multiple teleport spells... she would miscarry from the stress and her mind would be further damaged with no defense in place."

Gaelan frowned. "You were thinking of alternatives to using the mindflayer."

Mourn pursed his lips and nodded once.

"Well, yeah, we can't trust her not to twist Sirana's memories or personality or something," Jael said, looking back. "She might permanently change her mind."

"That's already permanently changed," Lethrix commented, the only one who sounded utterly relaxed. "None of you should be afraid of that. You've been there yourselves."

Gaelan caught Shyntre studying her Sisters in front of them. "House Thalluen and House Aurenthin," he murmured thoughtfully, as if this detail had finally returned to him and its importance had ballooned in his mind.

"Back to the bosom of the family," Lethrix agreed with a chuckle.

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