Rush Of Blood To The Head, part 5.23.
The caverns grow wider and wider as we continue to press forward, the whole complex depressingly large. Most importantly we have not seen any Kua-Toan’s and not even the signs of their activity. Deep inside, I feel grateful that we have managed to avoid the battle so far, as I am still afraid whether Jaheira is fully fit – of course she has denied all the concerns I have voiced.
We have been wandering around the caves for many hours and I call for resting pauses more often than usual. Naturally, Jaheira understands why, but she doesn’t object loudly and with a relief I notice that these brief moments of respite are doing her good, her gait is as stable and confident as it was, her demeanor once again radiating strength and authority.
“We are completely lost, aren’t we?” as we have reached yet another crossroad, Imoen finally asks the question that has been lingering on everyone’s minds, “and if we do find that stupid prince, how will we find a way back?”
“Don’t worry yourself over that – I would be able to lead us back,” Viconia replies, “I am afraid that we have went past the parts of caves inhabited by the Kua-Toan’s. I suggest we return to the place where we fought them for the first time.”
“I guess you’re right, Vic,” I say, “but how about we check out one of these two corridors, before turning back… maybe we will get a lucky break…”
“As you wish, Theodur, though it is surely a waste of time,” Viconia sighs, “so, which one do we take?”
“We took the right turn last time, this time we will take the left,” Jaheira kindly decides for us all.
The tunnel is much the same as those that we passed through before and for a long period of time we walk silently and uninterrupted. I am starting to ponder about turning back, as suddenly, after taking a sharp turn I am faced with a most peculiar sight, one that slightly scares me and immediately I jump back around the corner and knock my friends down on the ground in a large pile of bodies.
“Ouch… please get off, that armor of yours is cracking my poor, poor spine…” Imoen is whimpering somewhere under Viconia, who struggles to rise as quickly as she possibly can and chides me more furiously than I would have expected…
“Insipid fool! What has gotten into you? Are you trying to kill someone?”
“What did you saw, Theo?” Jaheira asks, having picked her scimitar from the ground.
“He probably got scared by a gigantic lobworm,” Edwin speaks, wiping his robe clean, “a common sight in this neck of woods, so I have heard.”
“Lobworm, nothing,” I snap back, “there is… I mean, I could be wrong, but I thought I saw a huge set of doors and a bunch of drow ahead of us…”
“Ha, has the druid been feeding you with illusion-inducing herbs again?” Edwin laughs, but Viconia cuts him off.
“Shut up, Edwin… Theodur – it just so happens that we have stumbled upon a gateway to surface!” Viconia speaks with excitement, “I have no doubt that the tunnel behind those doors leads to the surface and what you saw was a drow patrol, guarding it.”
“Excellent, I am sick and tired of this damp and dark place where every foolish and pathetic creature is highly resistant to magic, it is annoying this wizard greatly,” Edwin expresses his sentiment loudly.
“Well, isn’t that a lucky break,” I cannot oppress a smile, “I can’t wait to see the sun once again, it has been too long…”
“So our promise to return Adalon her eggs means nothing?” Jaheira asks, expression on her face is unreadable.
“Jaheira… what are you proposing? Adalon pressed that deal upon us, since we had no one else to turn to for help. I almost lost you forever in these grim caverns… with return to Ust Natha we will only endanger ourselves even more – don’t ask me to do that,” I desperately try to convince her.
“Don’t be a fool, Jaheira, we don’t owe that Silver nothing,” Viconia snorts, “for all we know, Irenicus and Bodhi are not in the Underdark anymore… returning there would only delay fulfillment of our objectives or is returning Silver’s eggs more important to you than recovering the soul of your lover?”
“I… I just hate when I am forced to break my promises… I am not used to…” Jaheira counters, wearily.
“Jaheira… why is it always me, us, making the sacrifices, having to risk with our lives? She hides in her cave, while the Drow are slaughtering her charges on the surface and she will not help them or Goldander, because she will not risk the destruction of her eggs,” I speak vehemently, “What about us? We take these risks everyday… and yesterday it almost cost you your life. No. Don’t ask me that, Jaheira. We are not going back. I don’t mind breaking thousand promises if that means seeing you in safety… let her make her own sacrifices, I will not risk your life or any of ours, for her precious eggs again.”
Jaheira looks at me oddly, but does not respond… instead she turns to ask Viconia, “How do we get past these Drow?”
“Well, we still have our illusions active, but as Adalon said they will be dispelled once we have passed through the gate… but we can try to negotiate with those guards and maybe avoid a battle,” Viconia suggests, “but let us be ready for they might strike without a warning.”
“Jaheira? I’m glad that you agreed with Theo… y’know that he really, really needs you right now… besides it was the right thing to do…” Imoen finishes her insertion tentatively.
“The right thing… I am not sure what that is, anymore… the only thing I am sure of, is that I love your brother, Imoen. And in my heart, following him feels like the right thing to do,” Jaheira’s words, while spoken pensively, warm my heart like nothing else could.
“Awww… y’know, you’re actually not so stuck-up and rigid, as I once thought…” Imoen giggles.
“What? Oh, cut it out, ch… Imoen,” Jaheira laughs warily.
Their chatting stops as we approach the group of seven drow guards who look at us with slight incomprehension, Jaheira and I move to the front of the formation to flank Viconia who steps in front to address the guards.
“Hold! This area is closed to all, except for the raiding parties!” the leader of the Drow patrol speaks first, “You will return to the city proper immediately or you will be killed.”
“Raiding parties… so the war is raging on the surface and we will have to fight through the legions of Drow?” I whisper to Viconia, asking for confirmation, which I immediately receive.
“We will travel as we see fit,” Viconia speaks with disdain, “We have important business above and you shall not keep us waiting.”
“I will not repeat myself. No one without a just cause passes the gate,” the drow is unshakeable, “return to the city at once.”
“What now, Vic?” I ask her quietly.
“Well, we might either pay them or we can fight them…” Viconia replies, “I would prefer the latter myself.”
“We don’t have much gold left and I doubt that the gems we have would rate much here… why don’t we resort to trickery instead,” I reply, a plan forming in my head, “let us calmly head back as if we were retreating to the city…”
Of course, my friends understand my plan immediately and soon enough the drow see us rounding the bend to leave. Just as we are out of the sight, spells are immediately cast, creatures are summoned and quickly the first wave of the conjured monsters rushes towards the drow, growling menacingly. Even though the drow are skilled fighters, our prowess is superior and now we have an advantage in numbers as well. Edwin and Imoen have hardly managed an incantation, when the drow are routed and scattered, two of them attempting to flee back to the city, but we charge them down and kill them swiftly – better that the word of our escape does not reach Ust Natha.
“I hope that Adalon has not tailored a special ward to prevent us from leaving,” I speak, approaching the door with uneasy thoughts.
“I doubt it,” Jaheira replies, “after all, who would try to escape if they had to battle through legions of drow without being protected by the illusions. Additional countermeasures do not seem to be necessary.”
“You still think it’s suicidal? I mean, the drow will probably be busy slaughtering elves without paying much attention to whatever sneaks upon them from behind their backs… besides Immy and Eddie can protect us with some mass invisibility spells…”
“I was not criticizing your plan – I think that with little luck we will manage to flee unscathed,” Jaheira responds and leans against the door, trying to push it open. Viconia and I quickly aid her and slowly, but steadily the heavy door moves under our pressure, creaking and rattling loudly.
“Well… now crossing the doorstep should dispel those illusions and give us back our good, old bodies… well, to most of us anyways…” I smirk.
“Yes, revert back to the useless dirt that you are,” Viconia adds, watching as the four of us pass through the doors… clouds of white mist encircle us and I feel a slight tingling passing through my body, which can mean only one thing – Adalon has not lied to us… I am a half-elf once again.
Rush Of Blood To The Head, part 5.23.
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