Rush Of Blood To The Head, part 6.2.
“So, Nalia… let me first ask you how you ended up here in Esmeltaran,” Keldorn asks, reclining in the soft armchair and regarding the young woman sitting in the chair opposite him, slowly sipping her tea, “I remember that your family had a castle nearby Athkatla… and please accept my late condolences on behalf of your father’s death.”
“Thank you, Keldorn,” Nalia speaks, stretching out her legs and looking critically at her toenails, “that is where I met up with Theodur and his friends – they helped me to clear the keep from the troll invasion… but still I lost my father. I knew that with my father dead, there was no one capable of ruling the keep and our greedy neighbors, the Roenalls, would assume control of it sooner or later. So I decided to join Theodur’s group as they needed someone with knowledge of magic…”
“But you were not amongst his group when we joined to eliminate the beholder cult in the sewers of Athkatla,” Keldorn interferes, “what caused you to leave?”
“Isaea Roenall. That dirty scumbag, he used his influence to kidnap me and force me into a marriage!” Nalia’s voice takes on a undertone of anger that surprises even Keldorn, “and then he had a nerve to bring me here to hold me locked up for gods know how long… at least I have not seen his slimy face since that ridicule of the marriage ceremony that he set up…”
“And you shall never see his face again…” Keldorn remarks.
“What? What do you mean, Keldorn?” Nalia asks, surprised.
“Young Roenall is dead, Nalia. He was killed more than a month ago in Athkatla,” Keldorn explains patiently.
“Oh! Really? Well, that is a relief! Err… I mean… no I shall stick to my words – it is a relief…” conflicting emotions fight in her face until the expression of joy prevails, “perhaps it was Theodur’s work, he said he would help… and I guess he could not know to look for me here.”
“Ah, as much as I liked that young man, I fear that your gratitude should go to someone else in this case, dear Nalia,” Keldorn observes, “it did not appear that poisoned throwing daggers are Theodur’s specialty. It was rumored to be the work of the Shadow Thieves.”
“Oh… but… Yoshimo! It could have been him! He is a master rogue and a bounty hunter,” Nalia exclaims with joy.
“Who is this Yoshimo?” Keldorn asks, making Nalia look at him with incomprehension.
“You… you said that you have traveled with Theodur’s group – didn’t you meet Yoshimo? A handsome thief… err… from Kozakura?” Nalia asks with concern.
“I am sorry, but he was not amongst those in Theodur’s group. Not counting Theodur, there were in all three other persons in his group – Lady Jaheira, Theodur’s lover, one of those annoying Jansen-gnomes and a suspicious drow cleric by the name of… Viconia, I think.”
“A Drow? She wasn’t with us when I was taken… but that does not explain where is Yoshi…” Nalia sighs.
“Ah, Maria!” Keldorn’s face lights up as he sees his wife arriving downstairs, “come, and join us are the children asleep yet? Did Leona protest much about giving up her room?”
“She was understanding… eventually,” Lady Maria smiles mischievously, “Nalia, your room is prepared for the night. This experience must have been tiring for you, my dear – you should get some rest.”
“I… I have to return to Athkatla. I need to find out what has happened to Yoshi… and where is Theodur,” Nalia contemplates, placing her empty cup on the silver tray.
“Dear Nalia, you are not going anywhere without proper rest… and we shall talk more about your future plans in the morning when our heads are much clearer,” Maria cuts her off.
“Lady Maria is right, Nalia,” Keldorn adds, “what will you do in Athkatla if you fail to find Theodur or that… Yoshimo fellow? What are your options?”
“Umm… well, there aren’t many of them… my keep and all my possessions are lost to me, unless I can prove the treachery of the Roenalls. Aside from that, I have my own methods how to earn money… why are you looking at me like that? Did I say something wrong? I have no qualms about stealing from the rich… what were you thinking of?” Nalia is perplexed seeing Keldorn and Maria’s faces relaxing slightly after her explanation.
“Perhaps I should get some rest, though…” she quietly admits and allows herself to be lead upstairs by Lady Maria. Keldorn remains sitting in his chair, deep frown on his face as his fingers are nervously tapping on the edge of the table.
Our journey through the caverns leading out of the Underdark continues for what I estimate around three or four days. The journey is largely uninterrupted, except for rare parties of Drow either returning from the surface or groups of reinforcements arriving from the Underdark. We always manage to avoid them just in time, using the side-caverns to hide whilst the Drow passes by, without noticing us.
The question of provision has become a concern as of late – we have enough for a day or two, but after that… suffice to say that the poll of who of the party members would be eaten as first, has been held already. The winner of voting by unanimous result was Edwin – of course that he voted for himself too, as he couldn’t admit that someone else would be tastier…
I savor our occasional resting pauses and have little doubt that Jaheira does so as well… I have practically forgotten that encounter with Phaere and Jaheira seems to be coping relatively well with her own terrible experiences. Viconia and Imoen are spending a lot of time together as well and I wonder how comes that Jaheira has not noticed where it is heading… I presume that her initial reaction might be rather… strained, thus I think I should prepare her for the news in a possibly gentle manner.
We stumble upon the exit of the cave rather unexpectedly, there are no sounds of battle ahead of us that I had anticipated. Pale moonlight falls on the large rocks at the exit, I would have preferred to see the sun again, but I will settle for the moon, nevertheless. Imoen slips away silently to take a peek as to what awaits us outside. She is gone for a long while and I see that Viconia is displaying signs of concern, but I refrain from commenting about that. Luckily Imoen returns before Viconia has started to chew on her fingernails, which looked a rather likely option.
“Jeez… there are hundreds and hundreds of these drow… I guess it is some sort of a war camp, here…” Imoen explains, “the entrance is completely surrounded, we will not make it through without magic, Eddie… I guess that if the war is still going on then the elven camp should be nearby, right? And they could take us to Suld… that city, yes?”
“Good thinking, Im,” I smile, “Eddie, I trust you have mass invisibility spells, do you?”
“Of course I do, you ask as if you had a reason to question my undeniable competence,” Edwin retorts, preparing to cast the spell.
“Your memory is indeed short and selective, Edwin,” Jaheira inserts, “I think I have just the right herbal tea for curing that, Eddie.”
Edwin is already reciting the syllables of the incantation, thus his only reply to Jaheira is a wicked grimace on his face. Shortly afterwards I stand in the cave alone, my four companions gone, disappeared from my view due to Edwin’s magic. After a small confusion we join in hands not to lose each other and exit the cavern. There are countless tents of the resting Drow and we carefully pick our way around them, sometimes taking great care not to step on the dark elven toes.
Edwin quietly whispers for us to hurry on as the effects of the spell are not particularly long lasting and I am relieved as I finally see the huge wooden outposts indicating that we are almost out of the camp. We are forced to run the last stretch of our way and the invisibility effects wear off soon after we have reached the fringe of the thick forest that will protect us from the eyes of the Drow.
We wander around the forest for hours until Viconia is the first to spot a large pile of boulders, scattered around in a clearing – the ruins of the ancient elven temple. And sure enough, the elven war camp has taken position nearby it – at the sight of our approach, a small number of guards head towards us, their weapons at the ready.
“I speak the common tongue that you might hear and be warned! We will treat messengers with civility, but will be alert for any treachery… wait! You are no drow!” one of the guards speaks as they come closer to take a better look at us.
“How dare y-” Viconia’s yell of outrage is silenced and she yelps as Jaheira pinches her arm and Viconia glares at her venomously.
“But I see that you travel with one among you! Are you collaborators? Have you betrayed us all to the darkness below?” the elven guard puts on a stunning display of deduction.
“She is an outcast and has been with my group for more than a year… I can vouch for her,” I reply to the guard, “we need to find a wizard by the name of Irenicus. He is rumored to be-”
“You know of Irenicus?” the elf cuts me off less than politely, “You will speak with Elhan, immediately. He will determine what is your relationship with that fiend!”
“The mention of the name alone stirs up powerful emotion,” Viconia comments, “I suppose this Elhan is the one in command, maybe the wael can enlighten us on the wizards whereabouts.”
“Yes, lead us to this Elhan,” Jaheira addresses the group of elves, “and know that we are not aligned with that… that criminal.”
“Your fate will be decided shortly. You will remain under guard until Elhan sees you,” guards pay absolutely no heed to Jaheira’s words as they surround and lead us towards the center of the camp. The largest of the tents is likely to belong to this Elhan and one of the guards disappears inside, warning us before doing so “Make no move - you will be watched closely.”
Rush Of Blood To The Head, part 6.2.
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