Surfacing Ch. 38

byEtaski©

Jaunda was chuckling now, shaking her head. "So you're saying you took the virginity of every single Consort Priestess Wilsira had in that first batch?"

"They took mine," Qivni returned stubbornly. "But... yes. And I was punished severely for it."

"I can imagine. Surprised you weren't sacrificed to Lolth."

"Only because I didn't catch, and the Prime volunteered to take me."

The other Lead's eyes would have been twinkling in any light at all. "Amazing. All of them? You corrupting slut. Your crotch must've been drooling a puddle beneath you by the time they were done."

"Stop teasing me!" Qivni said, her face turning very hot. "I paid for that for years!"

"Anyone would." Jaunda shifted her weight. "So I see why this might make you act a little strange around Consorts, and now I get why you never had many Sanctuary missions, but tell me specifically what this has to do with Auslan."

"Just that!" she nearly barked. "He has *power* over me and Sirana will be able to tell! I...I can't...! Goddess, Jaunda, I can't trust my discipline around him! I really can't wait until both him and fucking Sirana are gone!"

The Dragon-touched allowed her smile to ease down and she nodded a bit more soberly. "I see where you're at, Qiv. So you're just gonna hide until then?"

"What else," she asked on a sneer of self-loathing, "except disgrace myself in front of all my Sisters and give Sirana more reason to laugh at me?"

Jaunda was quiet for a few moments, watching her. "You really haven't see her since she returned from the Surface, have you? There was that demonstration about her not bending our wills before the Illithids attacked, but...you haven't seen how much she's matured."

"It's only been a year. How much could the girl have possibly grown up?"

"About as much as anyone can to do what she's done. Sometimes it happens fast when needed. Something shifts inside you and you aren't the same Drow you were the cycle before. Auslan and Shyntre both had a lot to do with that, as I heard it."

Qivni had her eyes turned away, staring into the darkness with her mouth tight. "Auslan...is Goddess-touched, you know. I could hear it."

"Hm?" Jaunda inquired. "Hear it?"

"Soraveri," Qivni said aloud, her eyes snapping back to her with intensity. "His Life Goddess. I heard him speak her Name on my behalf. I...I could hear something when he brought me back. A song like I haven't heard since leaving the Sanctuary in shame."

"Song? Not sure I understand...."

"I'm sensitive to the divine like my Mother!" Qivni said, again exasperated. "It's hard to control because it comes from somewhere else, but the magic is drawn to me like the Visions were to our Queen. I-I'm not a Priestess, but..."

"You have the potential." Jaunda grinned once again. "You're just searching for someone other than Lolth."

Qivni's frustration and fear grew enough to the point her eyes watered up and she growled, aghast at herself. Jaunda didn't comment on the tears.

"My straight opinion, Qiv? Don't let Auslan leave the Underdark without confessing you're hearing that song. I know you don't want to hear it but you're not going to be a Red Sister forever, and something like this can drive a Drow crazy if she lets it fester."

A glare, a blink, and a wet trail flowing down one cheek. Qivni didn't blink this time. "You won't tell. You agreed."

"Yep. I agreed. I won't tell, Qiv. Just don't be an idiot when we still need you bad down here."

*******

~I grant you it is confusing, Xalli,~ the Great Drake murmured gently to her, ~but I disagree it is contradictory.~

The Mindflayer hybrid wore her armor again for the first time since the Great Battle that destroyed her conclave. She made no sound at all—either physical or mental—as her mask turned toward the tall, bipedal Guardian. She tilted her head in silent skepticism.

~Come now,~ he remarked with a grin. ~Your Elder Mind always wanted to push back against the Abyss, yes? One of the pillars of purpose in the Great Work since the Drow came down here.~

A slow, cautious nod.

~Your Mother never came to Understand the right Mind with which to approach the problem. Your Father has not only given you that missing quality, but has tipped the balance in favor of the Drow having the same goal—and this happened mere cycles before you two met ahead of the carnage. For once the Baenar and the Elder Minds want the same thing.~

*Not all Baenar,* Xalli signed with one hand.

~True. But you will never get a unanimous decision in any given population of individuals, Xalli. There are times when majority and dominance push the rest where they do not wish to go, at least in that Moment. If it was all unanimous, there would not be the Balance for which to strive.~

Lethrix was allowing Xalli'hoon to skim his surface thoughts for stealth and efficiency, given where they stood at the moment looking down from an unused sentry ledge into Vuthra'tern. The Dragon gave her the choice whether she wished to communicate with her voice or her hands—and now in her armor for the first time in weeks, she only had the one option since the mask clamped to her face prevented her from speaking. For now he consistently dissuaded her from unfolding her Thoughts for him. Most of the time he simply wouldn't answer and pretended they had shared no Thought. She understood that he wanted her to practice in the ways of individuals.

~Fifteen Houses at present,~ he hinted, and allowed her to count the largest dwellings she could see, each with land and structures surrounding them.

*See only seven. High up, too far back for others.*

~In places with lower ceilings, yes. But the vault above a House has had something to do with their general fortune. Location, location, location.~ Lethrix chuckled.

*Those seen are most influence.*

~Correct. The Council of Eight will be convening in the near future. They noticed Lolth's silence some time ago, but the Matrons have yet admit it to each other.~

Xalli paused, scanning the large cavern once again before looking back to her Guardian. *...you wish me enter this future 'convening' with you.*

Lethrix grinned. ~All the better to confuse them, my dear.~

*What will I be?*

~Ideally, the House cleaner. As my son might have been, had he stayed.~

A few of the pale tentacles arching down off her head moved on their own. *I will follow his path, because he did not?*

~Not at all. You were born outside of my care and placed into it. He had the reverse fortune, though he already feels kinship with you, not only through your Father and myself, but simply being what you are.~ Golden eyes watched her for a few moments in silence before his Thoughts continued. ~Alas, Morixxyleth is not suited to be here, perhaps he never was. Still, Vuthra'tern is long overdue for a good cleaning. We will begin now to nudge the Council to speak.~

*You could do this,* she signed bluntly.

~It is better that I do not.~ Lethrix began to walk down the steep climb leading from the sentry outlook. ~Follow me.~

Xalli had to wait until they had reached somewhat level ground and she could pull out slightly ahead of him so he could read her hands. *But you will allow to see you. They will know.*

He nodded, tail and wings waving calmly behind him in his long stride. ~It is best that those so long lost in chaos dreams and forced conclusions be given the same opportunity as those in the City, hm? What they do with it is up to them.~

*Best for whom?* Xalli questioned.

Lethrix smiled without showing teeth. ~As with all conflicts, my child. Best for those who are left.~

There were stone walls and gates aplenty in their way; most residents could never walk a straight line to the city center without trespassing multiple plantations. Lethrix and Xalli jumped over each wall, small bursts of magic dispersing Wards and alarms, though the timing of this entry would see any response come rather sluggishly. The Head Guards or next in-line of the first two plantations did not collect enough bodies nor feel the necessary urgency to locate the intruders before the two had passed over another wall into the next garden.

The To'vah and his charge did not make a significant turn in their overall direction until the third manor loomed ahead, when Lethrix's long tongue slithered out to taste the air. His gait slowed and he turned left, Xalli'hoon maintaining an easy jog to keep up with his walk. They approached a doorless structure decorated with signs and forms of the Abyss and from within came low, hoarse whines already exhausted. Xalli stopped short when she saw what was inside.

~No,~ Lethrix forbade her from either leaving or stopping. ~You will confront this.~

*Don't want,* she signed half-heartedly, even as her armored feet dragged her forward again. She was under no compulsion or psionic snare to move toward the altar, and she was aware of this.

The Dragon's force of command was as relentless as the Elder Mind's when it came to tapping that deep urge inside her to obey and please. The difference between them was that Xalli was aware she questioned why, even while deciding to obey, and the questioning was almost always for a different reason that had more to do with the circumstances than the command itself. It was another contradiction in being an individual as she worked to create a calm within herself.

The only Absolute that Lethrix had insisted upon—after she'd protested and struggled herself into exhaustion being away from the Drow camp—was that she accept his guardianship. Ultimately, she had accepted. So much of the Underdark appeared so different to her now, it seemed she was in a new world altogether after returning from the crystal plane, and Xalli remained with her Guardian by choice, knowing it was in her best interest.

It was just as well that she not be left wholly alone, especially after losing Mother and all the conclave, and after Father clearly did not know what to do with her. The psionic Drow had no "safe place" for them both, for which she'd asked.

~Sirana.~

Lethrix forgave Xalli that thought and at least nodded. They were headed in the right direction, not only in topic, but straight toward a Draegloth mourning the separation from his own Mother.

*What happen?* Xalli signed.

~I believe you called it the 'severing of the cord' once, didn't you? A Draegloth released from the stunting chains placed by his Mother.~

The hybrid struggled to remember; that had been a shared memory, not one of hers. Ullipmious, not Xalli'hoon. But seeing as Sirana had been present during that conversation as well, it sounded about right.

*Both son and Mother alive then,* Xalli protested. *Not same.*

~Hm. Yes, something did go wrong here, didn't it?~

It had been either a solo-ritual or one where the witnesses had run away before the Matron-Priestess had utterly failed in it. Something had killed her; her neck looked broken from the angle it hung as the demonblood clutched her with four arms, two of which were smaller and structured right beneath the primary pair. A partial set of leathery, bat-like wings had imperfectly erupted on either side of his white mane, which was now splattered with the blood and gore of the incomplete change.

The Draegloth trembled in agony on multiple levels as it was clear to Xalli the bones within the wings were shattered and would never mend on their own. Both the body of his Priestess and his own injuries were not fresh, but rot like this had never been allowed to sit and fester where she came from, so she did not know how long the demonblood had been crouched here like this.

~Kerse. Yet not Kerse,~ Xalli thought, and Lethrix waited.

Belatedly, the sole survivor of the ritual lifted his head and noticed them, snorting his nostrils clear once to take in their scent. The Draegloth had no pupils as his yellow eyes seemed to glow in the purple shimmer of the fading arcane runes, but those eyes did widen as his mane began to stand up on end. He snarled, but it was half an effort, as if he was fully aware he was too weak to fight off scavengers.

*What happen?* Xalli signed while he was looking at her, and the snarl stopped mid-way. He blinked slowly.

"Killll meee," he whispered. "Finnissshh quick..."

Abruptly, Xalli realized that the Draegloth's attention was fixed on her and never once seemed to acknowledge Lethrix. Could he not see him?

Slowly, the red-armored warrior called out one of her long blades from her forearms, showing it clearly as she crossed that arm across her chest and signed with the other. *Will do. Quick. But first, tell.*

The quaking Draegloth licked a parched mouth and kept it short. "Llollth not anssswer. Mothher try to make anssswer. Sson's Fifnal Fform. Grreat rissk. Dessperate."

~Few Priestesses allow their half-demon sons to reach their final form on this plane, as he can exceed her in power,~ Lethrix explained. ~Most Baenar instead stunt their growth, as she still enjoys the magical benefit of a demonic son's presence as long as he is under her control.~

*Tried to speed growth,* Xalli signed, *removed blocks.*

The Draegloth nodded, thinking she was signing to it, although it was meant both for him and her Guardian. "Trried to reach Llollth...ffailed."

Lethrix showed his teeth, a little more feral than a simple smile. ~I am quite happy to hear this.~

*Abyss gone?*

"Yessss....!" the Draegloth said on a cry of misery.

~No,~ Lethrix contradicted. ~There is far more to the Abyss than the Spider Queen. But some belonging to her are stranded, as she did not have the time to reclaim them before she lost both her anchor and her High Priestess at once.~

Xalli tilted her head slightly. ~Sirana returned with your son to cut anchor and Priestess?~

Another slip forgiven, possibly to agree to protect that information, because Lethrix answered.

~Yes. This is some of the fall-out, though we've yet to explore the full effects on Vuthra'tern. That is why we are here.~

"Have tollld," the Draegloth whined with reproach as the Drow-Flayer just stood there. "Quick!"

Xalli glanced at Lethrix, saw no protest, and approached with caution, drawing back her arm and preparing a defense in case he attacked. The Draegloth instead stiffly lifted his chin, exposing his neck. This would be the second bargain made with a half-demon. The first had wanted to escape this world Whole, and Ullipmious had approved, had pretended to Understand. This broken one wanted to dissolve into the world, in pieces like his wings, as he had nowhere to go.

~Not Whole,~ Xalli thought.

~No,~ Lethrix answered, ~But still True.~

As she struck, hard and swift with the power of her armor, as the blade went in and the Drow-beast bled out swiftly, Xalli'hoon knew she had yet to Understand anything about Truth.

********

My world had shrunk more than a bit as I could not really leave my Mother's plantation without a plan, or without someone knowing and coming with me...and therefore without disrupting the thin distribution of resources even more than it already had been over the last week.

All currently living and working at my childhood home were abuzz with the confirmation that Matron Aurenthin was born with mage potential. Speculation and possibility ran rampant although most stopped talking, signing, or whispering whenever I came into view. I was waiting for Jael's sisters or cousins to start hounding me as she said they would, but it hadn't happened quite yet. Perhaps they were still working up the nerve.

For the time being House Thalluen was without the Healer Headmistress as Elder D'Shea had transported Kennitha back to the Wizard's Tower a few cycles ago. Elder Rausery couldn't stay, either, but Ruk and the handful of shadows remaining, along with Commander Vian, her people, and of course Mourn provided the security and enforcement where needed in this small concentration of the City's strangest Drow.

My Mother was in charge of the practical delegation, to which she was well-suited and most of it was quite familiar even as she often carried Vekika on her back. Gaelan remained a partner with former Matron Thalluen and Ruk, taking turns with their Daughters' care and demonstrating that the unsolved conflict could still be put on the back shelf when there was work to be done. Apparently I came from a very industrious family where action had more weight than words at times. One would never know it looking at me.

Still, beneath Rohenvi's hand returned stability to this small pocket of industry and medicine following the void left by Jael's Mother and the known reason why.

"Can you get in contact with Lethrix?" Rausery's had asked Mourn last week.

The hybrid had slowly blinked his golden eyes, no doubt weighing the wisdom against the need. "I can try, Elder."

"Then do. Give me a heads up if it works."

At the time of that request, we had still been in the suite with a quivering Kennitha, and Mourn and Jael had moved to the side as Auslan continued to care for her and Shyntre volunteered not only as his assistant but a practiced read of auras alongside his own Sorceress Mother. I could have stayed to listen but I opted to sidle over to the Blade Singers as Rausery left, and they nodded in greeting. Then Jael had asked her question.

"You can try?" she whispered, low and concerned. "Thought you mostly talked with him in reverie."

She had kept her voice in that range where it did not really travel to distract the healer and mages in the corner. Mourn's tail flicked as he responded, however, and he encouraged us to step as far as we could manage to the other side of the suite from the activity with Kennitha before he murmured low and private.

"I do."

"Is it a risk? If you 'slept' to speak with him, you could fall into Sleep?"

"It is definitely a risk." He took a slow breath in, looking at me. "I would rather not."

"Then why did you tell Rausery you'd try?"

"I agreed to try to get in contact with my Sire. It does not have to be me directly." His eyes shifted over to Auslan. "The Life Priest may be able to find him. Or perhaps him and Shyntre together."

Jael looked at me. "Have they even done anything like that since the Drider Pit?"

I shrugged. "I don't know. They haven't said. And Auslan's been kind of busy."

Mourn rubbed his jaw. "And will continue to be with this new discovery. What about Lead Jaunda? The Lead still has a connection of her own to my Sire."

I cocked a brow, following his thought. "She's probably even more busy, but an interesting idea."

"She has likely never deliberately reached out to him."

True, I couldn't see any reason she would.

"What about Vik and Helena?" I asked. "Are they on the grounds?"

"I haven't scented them yet. They have each avoided me where they can. Compared to Jaunda, both of their marks are passive."

Jael was squinting. "Marks?"

"Magical marks. Something strong mages can do," he told her. "Jaunda and the shadows gained theirs during their bargain with Lethrix, though such marks are not solely linked to sex."

"Even if it is in this case," I told her with a small smile, remembering what Vic had once told me. "This is something you and I both have to a lesser extent, Jael. Vic and Halena could tell we bear a To'vah magic mark as well, and that it was not from Lethrix so Vic told me it made them wary of another Dragonblood being near."

Jael's eyes went wide looking up at Mourn. "You did? You marked us as 'yours' against other To'vah blood?"

"Not intentionally," he said with just the smallest but of amusement. "A natural side effect of growing very familiar with each other, Jael."

"Well. Okay, then." She tried to work that out. "But...I haven't been able to 'tell' they were touched by Lethrix, that's just what we've been told."

Report Story

byEtaski© 42 comments/ 22398 views/ 36 favorites

Share the love

Report a Bug

PreviousNext
24 Pages:1234

Forgot your password?

Please wait

Change picture

Your current user avatar, all sizes:

Default size User Picture  Medium size User Picture  Small size User Picture  Tiny size User Picture

You have a new user avatar waiting for moderation.

Select new user avatar:

   Cancel