I'm actually back and this story shall be finished! Why was i away for like two whole years? Not really sure, I guess just writers block and lack on inspiration, and then finally just having forgotten about fanfics and gotten busy in life. With renewed interest however I have returned to this type of writing.
Why, some may wonder, are the some of the Drow so much nicer than they typically should be? That is actually a coming plot development and there is somewhat of a reason for it. All shall be explained in the final chapters.
Chapter nine. On the Move
Ellie and her daughter ran from the house. There were guards at the doors of course but house guards did not generally stop anyone from leaving a house. They mearly kept outsiders from entering without reason. Ellie muttered a quick excuse to the guard nearest to the gate, about a late night errand for the house kitchens; but the young man was almost sleeping at his post anyway, sitting on the ground, his back against the outside of the gate, and his weapon barely within arms reach on the ground. Ellie decided, she would not bother to wake him up and shout at him for his idiotic decision to doze off while on guard duty, and to let go of his weapon. She simply pulled her young daughter closer to her, and hurried faster.
"Mother," Veesha said, "How do we even know the way up? No on ever goes up. Only forwards and back again."
"People go up," Ellie answered, still hurrying on. "Armies out on surface raids, a handful of successful runaways, and the odd lost traveler. I got down here of course so surely I can get back up there again."
"But which way do we go?" Veesha was lost and confused already and they had only just started out. Ellie had thought before, while she planned her greatest and most daring move ever, of leaving her there in the drow city. It was the place she had been born, and knew as home, but Ellie knew she could not just leave her behind. She could not just abandon her own child, and besides there were already a growing number of people, based on talk overheard in the house, that wanted to kill her for nothing other than for being half human.
She reached into the left hand pocket of her traveling cloak, and pulled out a well worn sheet of securely rolled paper, tied with a piece of string. She carefully unrolled it after untying the string and give it a quick look over. Veesha stood, peeking over her mother's shoulder.
"A map," the child observed, "showing a route all the way to the surface somewhere?"
"Yes," Ellie said. "I got it from a man in the market place months ago. Overheard folks talking about how he knew the way anywhere and I decided to ask him to direct me upwards. He laughed immensely at the thought of some human female even trying it, but he provided me with a map anyway. I think, he was most confused over how I got here in the first place than anything else."
"Did you love my father?" Veesha asked as Ellie re-rolled the map and pointed to a corridor to the left. The question was right out of nowhere. Veesha had stopped asking about her father very early in her life, after being told that he was dead and that was that. Ellie, startled by the question, nearly lost her footing as she stumbled over some loose rocks at the base of a tunnel. She grabbed hold of the wall ahead of her to avoid falling and quite possibly hurting herself.
"I didn't really know him," she answered, stopping and turning to talk to her child face to face. "Our marriage was arranged and I had no say in it all. I have no really idea even how and why it came to be that he was given me, a human, to be his wife. I've heard it said he wanted a human wife and his mother had found a way to get one for him, but I will never understand why he would have wanted one in the first place."
"Yes, but did you love him?" Veesha asked again. She was only ten years old. Still young, innocent and determined to know exactly what she has set out to find out.
"No," Ellie answered honestly. "We didn't have long enough and I don't think I ever could have anyway."
"Did he love you?" Veesha asked next, as Ellie gently pushed her into the tunnel ahead of her, and then took hold of her pack to hint at the need for them to stay very close together.
"Drow cannot love anyone," Ellie said in matter of fact tones. "No, he didn't love me. I was simply a mate for him. I suppose I was valued somewhat as something unique and different that none of the other males had."
"I think I understand now," Veesha said, smiling as they walked.
"We had respect for each other though. Well as much as possible in this backward and confused society. He had his sense of already well taught respect for me as a female that had to be thought of as part of his house. I respected him as a person because anyone deserves respect until they show reason not to be respected."
"Mother, where are we now?"
"Still in the city. Not even anywhere close to the center. if we keep going down this tunnel for a short while we should come out again near the market place, and just east of the seventeenth house."
"Why can't we just walk on the main streets? The ground would not be such a tripping hazard out of the road."
"We can't walk the streets along at night out here. This is such a deadly and dangerous city. There might be some creature or another in here, but anything that could fit in this narrow space would likely be something I could kill." Ellie kept one hand on the sword she carried under her cloak just to be certain.
The pair reached the end of the tunnel without incident and stepped out onto the paved street at the edge of the part of the city devoted to the marketplace. There was no one around. Neither had ever seen the place at night before, when the city was for the most part asleep. It was at this time, Ellie knew that the place was most dangerous. Without the crowds and the noise, muggers and assassins hid, lurking in the shadows cast by glowing lights over the city. They were well known to hide, just waiting for a chance for a gain of a slightly higher position in society by killing the holder of one above their own, or just for a chance at some coins, and often just ready to kill for the fun of it. Ellie glanced around in fright. She knew full well that anyone could be hiding anywhere, and that she lacked the skill that so often meant life or death down there. She could not see in the heat spectrum, and she was fully aware that anyone wishing to do so, could be hiding behind a rock, confidant in her inability to sense the heat of a living body not even two feet from her.
She put her light out. Veesha had some ability to see in the dark, and the lights above gave off a faint glow. She did not want to attract attention by carrying a light though the area. As soon as she put it out though, Ellie wondered if perhaps she ought to put it back on again. If one of them were to trip and fall they would certainly be more likely to be attacked and carrying a light and waking with their heads up would show more confidence. She decided it was best to leave the light out, and she stayed close to the outer wall that framed the marketplace, as she started her route over to the other side of the huge area, over to the place where an entrance to a second tunnel awaited them.
Ellie kept her daughter in front of her where she could at least try to protect her, and they continued along the wall, inching sideways with their backs to it as best they could with their packs on. From a street nearby, three females hurried into the marketplace area. They were whispering amongst themselves and rushing through. All three past the two standing against the wall, but none of them took any real notice of them. Ellie decided they were just three young females on their way home from some late night gathering, paying more attention to the possibility of dangerous creatures or someone waiting to kill them, than to a human and a little child lurking in the corner. Ellie waited for them to pass and then led her daughter by the hand the rest of the way to the tunnel. She gently pushed her into the narrow opening, and they stepped forward once again. This passageway was narrower than the last one. She put her light back on in there, because of the total and complete darkness, and saw that it was for the most part, only a couple of feet wide with a ceiling at least a hundred feet above them. The ground was more uneven here than it had been in the previous tunnel, and both of them stumbled many times over large rocks that had no firm hold in the ground at all. Ellie's greatest fear when they started out had been for Veesha's safety on this incredible and near impossible journey. She knew that of all those who had ever tried, few according to the stories that were constantly spoken of, ever made it to the surface alive. And of these that did make it and were thought to be wandering somewhere up there, there had never been, as far she she could learn, an account of any traveling with a child. She of course did not speak these greatest of concerns to her daughter. She did not tell her that they were both just as likely to die than to make it out. She tried the best she could as they walked along to make it seem more like an adventure than a dangerous escape. She had decided to make the journey in spite of all the failures she had heard about and the lack of any accounts of children making it, because she was aware of one factor she was sure could give them a far better chance. Most of the people that had run for the surface, had never been there before, or had gone before only briefly, before returning to the darkness once again. They were people with no real idea of how to meet their needs up there. No idea how to stay warm in the cold, or how to find food well enough to survive. Ellie had been born and raised up there and knew full well how to survive while traveling. All the while though as they walked through the darkness and mostly in silence constantly listening for the sounds of any motion nearby, she was fearful of their very possible failure. She may have known well enough how to survive in the surface world, but she had to get herself and her daughter up there first. The tunnels were far more than half the battle.
She had decided when she first made up her mind to go, that if something should happen to her she would tell Veesha to go on alone and could only hope that she would make it by herself. She knew however that that was very doubtful. Also, she wondered, would her child, at such a young age, even dare to go on alone if her mother was dead. Would she, Ellie wondered, filled with sudden dread, be found in many days to come sitting in some dark tunnel somewhere down there far from the city, on the brink of death herself, shivering from cold and hunger, unable to continue and ready to give up. They had to keep going, Ellie reminded herself with determination. Her fear of what might happen to her daughter without her only gave her a greater driver to try harder to move faster and to not get herself killed.
They came to a place where the tunnel grew wider, and the map confirmed that they were still going the right way. Veesha stepped forward into a small open cavern where the walls gave way to openness and promptly she let out a scream of shock. Ellie, of course still walking right behind her, froze in horror at hearing her child's shriek and then quickly she snapped to her senses and dove forward, sword in hard.
"Bats," Veesha said. She was over her sudden fright quickly and waved her arms about in annoyance. A swarm of small bats flew every which way, after the disturbance the child's footsteps had caused to their home. Ellie recognized their kind. She had been shown one before years ago when Naphalee, still a child then, had brought one into the house and caused a stir among the kitchen staff . They were not overly dangerous creatures, not poisonous or capable of any great harm, but they did have very sharp teeth and could bit very hard. Though their mouths were very small, their bites could certainly inflict pain. They were also however relatively fearful thing and would more than likely be more afraid of the two people then elle and Veesha were of them. Ellie swung her sword in the air wildly and shouted, trying to intimidate the winged critters. Veesha, understanding immediately what the idea was, began to jump up and down while waving her arms and yelling loudly. Some of the bats flew from the tunnel, while others went high up to the ceiling and out of arms reach. Veesha and Ellie continued on their way.
"Are you alright?" Ellie signaled in hand-signs , as the pair walked on.
"Yes, of course," Veesha signaled back.
"Did any bite you?"
"No. I was just startled by them in here. I was not expecting to run into bats so I screamed. Are you alright, Mother?"
"Yes. I wasn't hurt either."
They walked in silence and without communicating for a while longer. Each was thinking her own thoughts as they walked on. The darkness of the tunnel, which had narrowed again, and the dim light of Ellie's lamp just went on and on. They were lucky really. The upper tunnels, that would led them to the surface were not so far from them as they were from some other cities, and these one would be simple to reach. The part of the country they would emerge in, should, she was sure from both the map and a conversation years ago with her adoptive mother, be near the place she had grown up with her father. It was only likely to be a few weeks travel to her home in a village whose name she could barely recall now. What would her father say when he saw Veesha, she wondered with worry. She could only hope he and the the rest of the village for that matter would accept her. Was her father still alive? The thought that he might be died by then was not one she had ever really considered before. How old would he be now? She tried to add up his age in relation to hers in her head. He would be an old man now, she realized with sadness. It was hard to imagine him as any older or different than he had been nearly twelve years before, the last time she had seen him. Yet, of course he would be different. The whole village would have changed, and she herself would be nearly forgotten, and considered likely to be long dead.
The two stopped to rest for a few moments in a place that felt safe enough to do so and she tried to rid her mind of such terrible thoughts. Of course she was not forgotten and of course her father would accept them both. He had to, she knew. If he sent them both out of his life, they would stand little chance of making a life for themselves. Veesha might never be accepted anywhere and her mother would not abandon her.
The feeling of a hand firmly grabbing her arm, snapped her once more from her thoughts. Elle screamed and prepared to fight back with force, as she spun around to find her attacker. A pair of red eyes glowing in the darkness of the entrance to a side passageway not marked on her map, and nearly hidden, caught her attention. She was about to tell her daughter to run and hide, but she knew it would do little good. The drow in the tunnel was likely, she knew, part of a returning raiding party. There would be many others all around very quickly, as raiders most often if not always, stayed in groups. They had not been out to look for the human and her daughter, of course and had probably just finished making some trouble for another house outside of their own. Any of the others that would no doubt be very close behind, a short ways into that passage, would find the child and kill her right away. Ellie was certain that although the run-in had been purely by accident a raiding party would not care. Already in a mood for killing and trouble and instilling fear, they would do away with the pair only because saw the chance and they felt like it.
"Foolish girl, " said a female voice, as the firmly gripping hand pulled her into the side passage. "Get in here and out of site before you get both of you killed. Bring the little one as well of course."