Disclaimer: I do not own any familiar characters/settings/plot featured in this story. They all belong to Bioware and Atari. All mods mentioned belong to their respected owners.
Chapter 10: A Little Drop of Poison
"This disease… it is not mortal made."
Alasse knew something was wrong the moment she stepped through the gates into Lith My'athar.
"What's with all the guards?" she asked Nathyrra as they took in the many soldiers stationed about. There were a great deal more than when they had left, and they all seemed grimmer than usual.
Nathyrra slowly shook her head, her brows furrowed as she regarded the soldiers. "I don't know. They only increase the security when something happens within the city."
"We need to get to the Seer's Temple," Valen demanded, his tail twitching behind him. "If something has happened to her…"
"If something happened to her then they would have told us the moment we entered," Nathyrra pointed out logically. "But I agree. We should see her at once. She will probably know what is going on here."
The Seer did indeed know what was going on and it was nothing good.
"There has been an outbreak. An incurable disease is spreading among the troops at an alarmingly fast rate," she told them, her once serene face now marred with anguish and concern. She sat at a table covered with reports from her people as she struggled to find a way to save them.
"What type of disease is it, Mother Seer?" Nathyrra questioned from her right side as she examined one of the many reports.
"A vile one," the Seer replied, shaking her head. "It begins with a rash and progresses into a fever and then vomiting until the body in thin and weak. Then the rash begins to turn into boils and blisters and spreads very quickly over the body. The skin not touched by the rash becomes yellow and the hair falls out in clumps. Finally the boils and blisters begin to ooze a black liquid that is foul in smell and sight."
"That's disgusting," Valen commented, shaking his head from his perch on the other side of the Seer.
The Seer nodded in agreement, her face still severe. "And it gets worse. As the sickness progresses, the victim begins to lose their mind. They lose their memories and their thoughts become paranoid, and they begin to ramble about nonsense. Eventually they become nothing but beasts that rage against all who try to help them; mindless and aching with pain they cannot cure. At that point we have no choice but to put them out of their misery lest they infect and hurt innocents in their madness."
"Eilistraee save us," Nathyrra breathed, lavender eyes wide and her face lightening in color.
"Have you found a cure yet?" Valen questioned, shoulders tense.
"No. This disease… it is not mortal made. It is one from the Gods," the Seer revealed. "Until we know which deity, I cannot stop it."
"How many die?" Deekin asked, speaking up for his place next to Alasse in the corner of the room.
The Seer released a heavy sigh. "Twenty-three souls have been lost, and the number of sick continues to grow each day. We had to close off a district in an attempt to contain the outbreak."
Valen cursed violently and Nathyrra closed her eyes and steadied herself against the table. Even Deekin looked sympathetic as he stared at the three figures around the table.
But Alasse found she couldn't care less. The anger that had burned so strongly in her the days before seemed to have also burned away whatever feelings she thought she had left. Now all she felt was a quiet emptiness that nothing—not even an incurable plague—could break through.
"What do you want us to do about it?" she asked quietly since it was obvious Nathyrra and Valen were too emotional to ask.
The Seer's silver eyes tracked their way to the corner of the room where Alasse stood hidden among the shadows. They took in her injuries with a small rise of her eyebrows but she did not comment on them. Instead she answered her question.
"I need you four to find the source of this sickness," she explained. "Find the ones who started it and bring them to me alive. Only then will I be able to find a cure."
"We can do that," Alasse acknowledged. "Where did the outbreak first start?"
"The Housing in the far south. It is the district that we had to close in order to contain it. Go there and speak with the guards and priestesses. They will help you," the Seer answered, rising to her feet and moving towards Alasse.
"But, before you go, there is something I would like to give you," she said, stopping a mere few inches before the elf.
Alasse wanted to take a step back and tell her that she didn't want any gifts but, before she could open her mouth, the Seer had already taken hold her injured hand, and was examining the burns carefully.
"These are such vicious wounds for you to bear," she said quietly, her silver eyes soft and hooded. "The pain that you inflict on yourself… it is heartbreaking to see."
"I can endure them. I've endured a lot worse than a few burns," Alasse told her calmly because she was pretty certain that nothing hurt worse than getting your soul sucked out of you while you were still alive.
If possible, the Seer looked even sadder.
"Yes, I do believe you have. You've endured a great deal and I believe you will continue to endure much more before we see the end of this war," she murmured, raising her other hand to wrap around Alasse's. "But I can at least heal these for you so that they do not leave such heavy scars to remind you of the burdens you have endured."
A white glow enveloped Alasse's hand and slowly made its way up her arm and shoulder and then to her neck and face. Every part it touched felt warm like she was standing underneath the morning sun. Alasse could feel the steady ache of her wounds melt away under the touch of the Seer's healing.
When the light died down, the red and pink burns had faded into rough scars that she could barely see. Only when she touched her flesh was she reminded that they were even there.
"I… thank you," she said, not sure what she should feel at the unexpected assistance. Life was so much easier when she didn't have to pretend to have emotions.
The Seer simply smiled; as serene and beautiful as a moon reflected on a lake. "You're welcome. Know that I am always here to help if you need me, Alasse."
"I'll keep that in mind," she replied, stepping back and straightening up. She looked to Nathyrra and Valen, who were both watching the scene without an ounce of shame, and jerked her head towards the door.
"Let's get to work," she ordered, and then marched out the door.
The South District was located in the very back of the city up against the mountains of stone that protected Lith My'athar from the rest of the Underdark. Along the way Nathyrra explained to Alasse and Deekin that it was currently used as housing for the civilian drow that followed the Seer but could not participate in battle. Since it was the least important, it was also given less care and attention.
"It is a place of ruin and poverty. Even worse than what you've seen of the city," Nathyrra admitted bleakly. "The Seer tries her best to offer support and care but our resources are already stretched so very thin that she cannot help as much as she wishes too."
"And now they have to deal with a plague along with living in filth," Valen added bluntly, leading the small group towards their destination. "By the Abyss, what will be next? Perhaps the complete destruction of our food supplies?"
"Or, you know, the Valsharess could win and kill us all," Nathyrra said cattily, scowling up at the tiefling. "Stop brooding, Valen, and focus on the mission. We have enough to worry about without you bringing us down with your predictions of death."
Valen turned and glared down at the drow. "And how would you like me to react, Nathyrra? Would you like me to pretend that nothing is wrong and go on and on about how we will win this war with everyone alive? Would you like me to tell you such pretty lies, Nathyrra?"
"How about you both shut the fuck up already?"
The arguing couple stopped and turned around to stare at the expressionless elf watching them. Alasse met both their heated gazes evenly and didn't flinch at the storm of emotions in their eyes. Instead of meeting those emotions head on, she nudged her head towards the collection of buildings in the far distance that could only be their destination.
"Is that the district?" she questioned.
Nathyrra glanced over her shoulder and gave a sharp nod. "Yes, that's it."
"Then let's get going," she ordered, already moving.
"The longer you two stand their bickering, the more of your people get sick and die," Alasse pointed out, not bothering to stop or wait for them. They would follow soon enough.
As soon as they got close to the South District, a pair of guards stepped forward to stop them.
"This district has been closed," one said to her, his thick accent making his words difficult to understand.
"We have clearance from the Seer," Alasse replied, sidestepping the guard. "We're here to find a cure."
A hand grabbed her arm and stopped her progress.
"We don't need help from your kind," the guard who grabbed her sneered, his blood red eyes saying all the unspoken words for him.
Alasse stared at the drow and wondered if the Seer would mind terribly if she blinded one of her soldiers.
Valen took the choice out of her hands.
"Sut ilta, glenn," he growled in drow, looming over them like a brewing storm. (1)
The guard dropped her arm and stepped back.
"Ush'akal!" he said, saluting the tiefling.
"Zhah nindel lu'oh dos jous bel'lain whol l'Daxunyrr d'udossta Jallil Seer?" Valen asked, crossing his arms behind his back and adapting a military stance.
"Nau, ush'akal! Evagna ussta hawressae, A'ni!"
Alasse ignored the dressing down of the soldier and made her way into the South District with Deekin trailing behind her. As with the rest of Lith My'athar, the district was in ruins but in a way that was worse off than the rest of the city. The buildings were crumbling into rubble, there was garbage and feces's littering the ground, and the air was thick with smoke and rotting flesh. Alasse could feel her eyes beginning to water from the foulness of the air, and she held up a hand to cover her mouth to avoid gagging.
"Smell bad here," Deekin commented, pinching his nose closed. "Boss, how we find priestesses?"
She shrugged. "Don't know. Maybe Valen will find out for us."
Deekin didn't look convinced.
Nathyrra caught up to them then; her face still pinched in anger and frustration. Alasse ignored the look and gestured to the area.
"Where do you think the priestesses are?" she asked.
"Most likely in the center of the district. It's the only place with fresh water," Nathyrra replied as Valen finally joined them. The tiefling also still looked agitated but held his tongue even as he and Nathyrra exchanged glares.
Alasse ignored them both; already moving towards what seemed to be the source of the foul smell in the air.
Nathyrra turned out to be correct; the priestesses had set up a shelter for the sick in the middle of the district. Makeshift tents covered the circular area like a brown sea; drow moving in and out of them all in haste. The smell of death and decay was even stronger among the tents, and the only thing that seemed to overpower the horrible smell were the groans and yells that echoed through the district.
"Silver Lady, this is worse off than I thought," Nathyrra whispered, violet eyes large and unblinking.
Valen simply growled and shook his head; tenser than he usually was.
Alasse had to admit that it did look bleak, and she couldn't even feel anything at the moment.
"Boss, look," Deekin said, tugging on her cloak and pointing to a nearby male drow that was making his way towards them.
She stared at him for a moment before she recognized him as sergeant Osyyr from the Gates. He was dressed in his black armor and two blades, and looked even more severe than when she first met him.
"Greetings, General. Mistress Nathyrra. Mistress Alasse. Bard Deekin," he greeted, saluting each of them in order. He stopped before them and adopted a military stance that greatly resembled Valen's.
Valen nodded back to him. "Sergeant. What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be at the Gates? Solaufein probably needs your help."
Osyyr shook his head. "No, Imloth has taken over control of the Gates for the time being. I asked for leave in order to help out here."
"Why? What can a soldier do for the sick? You can't heal them," Nathyrra pointed out.
"I'm trying to find the source of the infection."
Nathyrra still didn't look convinced. "Again: why?"
Osyyr's blank expression never wavered but his shoulders locked up and his jaw clenched in unspoken emotions. "Because commander Solaufein is one of the infected."
And for the first time in days, Alasse felt her emotions wash over her like a great wave of ice.
"He said it was nothing at first. Just a chill from being on watch for hours. We never thought that he would be infected," Osyyr explained as he led them through the camp of the sick and dying.
"How long has he been ill?" Alasse questioned, taking in the sight of the patients they passed. Some still looked normal albeit flushed with fever and chill. Others tossed and turned in their beds; their skin covered in a gray rash and yellowing with sores dripping pus and blood.
"Three days. He has a fever and the rash is spreading from his arm to the rest of him. Soon he will begin to vomit until he is nothing but skin and bones," Osyyr answered bluntly.
Alasse bit her lip and tried to fight to down the hysterical fear that was only growing stronger with each step.
"Has it been infecting many soldiers?" Valen interrogated.
Osyyr shook his head. "No. The outbreak among the troops has been sporadic and random. From what we can tell, no single squad has been singularly targeted."
Valen and Nathyrra exchanged a grim look.
"Then the point of the sickness is not to hinder, but to simply cause chaos," Nathyrra summarized.
Osyyr nodded, shoulders still tense. "That is the conclusion that we have drawn as well, ma'am."
When they finally got to Solaufein, Alasse almost didn't recognize him. Flushed and pale with fever, he lay in a cot with nothing but a loose pair of trousers on. He had obviously started to lose weight and she could see blotches of the gray rash spreading up his left arm to his shoulder and chest.
"Damn," Valen muttered, crossing his arms over his chest and taking in the drow's state with steely blue eyes. Nathyrra joined his side with Deekin; both wearing mirror looks of sympathy and horror.
Alasse ignored them and dropped to her knees next to her bedridden friend. Without a care, she reached out and pushed back the white hair that clung to his sweaty face.
"Solaufein? Can you hear me? It's Alasse," she said quietly.
"Alasse, maybe you shouldn't get so close to him? We don't know how the disease is spread," Nathyrra cautioned, taking a step forward.
The elf ignored her. "Solaufein, please, talk to me. Let me know you're still there."
Solaufein groaned and slowly, so very slowly, opened his eyes. They were hazy from fever but still gleamed with sanity as they focused on her.
"Veldrin? You pick an odd time to be sweet to me," he rasped.
Alasse gave a mirthless smile. "Well, I always wanted to get you down to you skivvies and sweaty. But I gotta say, I always thought it would be a lot more enjoyable than this."
Solaufein chuckled and then broke out into a lung-hacking cough that had Osyyr moving to his other side in quick strides.
"I'm alright," the drow reassured once he could breathe again, and then casted a squinty glare at his second in command.
"I thought I told you to go back to the Gates before you end up in the bed next to me," he scolded.
Osyyr's blank expression never wavered. "And I said I would not rest until you were back to scolding me for not watching my lower left guard."
"Stubborn brat," Solaufein muttered but his red eyes were soft as he gazed at his student.
"How do you feel?" Nathyrra asked softly.
"I've been better," Solaufein admitted, blinking his eyes slowly. "It is a strange sickness. It makes me believe that I am somewhere else at times."
"Madness. It is already beginning to affect him," Valen muttered to himself but they all heard him.
Solaufein scowled. "I'm not that far gone, Valen. I still have some of my wits about me. And what are you all doing here anyway?"
"We're here to find a cure for this sickness, Solaufein," Alasse answered quietly.
"A foolish thing to attempt but not one I believe I can persuade you from." The drow stared at her knowingly. "You will be careful, yes? And try not to get sick yourself if you can help it."
"I'll try my best," Alasse promised, grasping the hand not yet infected. "For now, you should rest. You need your strength to fight this."
Solaufein smirked, burgundy eyes lighting up with purpose. "Oh do not fear for me, Veldrin. I will not meet my end in this bed thanks to some rash. When I die, it will be in glorious battle against the spider bitch and her spawn."
"So… where we start search, Boss?" Deekin asked after they had left Solaufein behind to rest.
"We question the priestesses first. Then, if possible, the first victims of this plague," Alasse answered, already pulling out her journal and a quill to take notes.
"I have already spoken with the priestesses. They are as lost as we are over the possible cause of the sickness," Osyyr reported, arms crossed behind his back and red eyes studying the camps with a detached speculation.
Alasse glanced at him from under her eyelashes before returning her attention to compiling her supplies. "I would still like to speak with them. I need to get as much information as possible."
Osyyr finally looked away from the camps to give her a narrow-eyed glare. "That would be a waste of time. I already got what we need from the priestesses. We should be moving on to the patients."
"We aren't moving anywhere until I speak to those priestesses myself," Alasse retorted, finally ready. She got to her feet and raised her head to meet the glare of the taller drow before her.
"Why do you not take my word for this? Do you not trust me?" Osyyr demanded, actually raising his voice for the first time since she had met him.
"Osyyr," Valen growled, the warning clear in his tone.
Alasse ignored the glare and continued speaking. "This isn't about trust, sergeant, but about diligence. You could have missed something important when questioning them. That's why we need to do it again."
"No, we don't!" Osyyr snapped, taking a step toward the elf. Valen took a step forward and Nathyrra shifted but they did not interrupt yet.
"You are wasting time with this! Valuable time that the commander does not have! We must move with haste as every minute we delay, the stronger this disease grows in him. And while you may hold him with less regard than he clearly holds you, I will not stand by and see him succumb to madness!"
Alasse stared at the enraged drow silently. He was breathing hard, color flushed across his high cheek bones, and his eyes blazed a red as bright as fresh blood across a sword. The serious and composed warrior mask that he constantly donned was broken, and beneath it she found a very frustrated and very scared young man.
"You don't trust me to save him," she realized, not feeling very surprised by this.
Osyyr sneered. "Why should I trust you? You've been nothing but disrespectful to the commander since the moment you got here."
Alasse cocked her head to the side. "Then why are you here trying to help me instead of trying to save him yourself?"
Osyyr scowled and looked away; refusing to meet her eyes. She stared back at him blatantly as the silence stretched on until the answer finally came to her.
Once, long ago, she had told Angelo that she was sick as fuck of people coming up to her with their sob stories. Alasse could not afford kindness at that point in her life, and she certainly couldn't help anyone for free. By then she did not—could not—give a shit about anyone but a selected few in her life.
Her husband had just looked at her and laughed, just a little, in that empty and fake way he used to do when he worked for Sarevok.
"Where else are they going to go, Chief?" he had asked with his practical wisdom.
Osyyr doesn't particularly like her—he may in fact have been plotting her death at that very moment—but Alasse thinks the same principle applies: where else is he going to go?
"Osyyr. I understand why you're upset—" she began.
"I'm not upset," Osyyr denied, scowl deepening.
"—and I don't blame you for being so," she continued on, ignoring the interruption. "But what you don't seem to realize is that I want to save Solaufein just as bad as you do."
Osyyr openly scoffed and rolled his eyes; showing without words exactly what he thought of her promise.
Alasse did not allow that to deter her. "Kid, I've seen him when he got drunk, shirtless and began reciting bad poetry. I once had to hold his hair back when he spent an entire morning throwing up because he tried to out drink a dwarf. I was even there when he had to go undercover as a woman to infiltrate a warlord's harem. The fact that I still look him in the eye should tell you how much I respect him."
Osyyr blinked a few times while Valen snorted and Nathyrra erupted into one of her coughing trips. Deekin was dutifully writing everything down in his own notes from the sideline.
Alasse ignored them and continued on. "Look, you don't have to believe me, but I am going to find the cure and save Solaufein before this day is over. Now, you can come along and help me, or you can stand here and worry and fret about how much time is left to save Solaufein. I don't care what you decide to do, but don't try to stop me from doing everything I can to save one of the few friends that I still have."
Osyyr remained stubbornly silent.
"Osyyr, you have to trust Alasse on this. She wants what's best for Solaufein just as you do," Nathyrra pointed out, her voice soft and soothing.
"I can only hope that is true," the drow returned tartly, straightening up and beginning to walk to the north of the camp. "Come along then. The priestesses in charge are this way."
It wasn't exactly an admission of trust but Alasse counted it as a step forward in any case.
The Seer's priestesses were easy to find among the sick and dying. They all wore soft pearl-gray robes the hung loosely on their slim forms; no adornments but a pendent that represented their Silver Lady; and they all looked as weary and exhausted as their patients.
"I already told your friend everything I know," the leader of the women told Alasse as she wiped the forehead of a fevered drow woman. "I don't know why you're insisting on wasting my time now."
"You haven't told me anything yet," Alasse pointed out. "I have questions I need to ask you and your priestesses."
The priestess gave her a withering glare. "Do you not see that I am trying to attend to the sick and dying here?"
"Do you not see that I am trying to find a cure to save these sick and dying?" Alasse retorted, raising both brows. "Look, the sooner you answer my questions, the quicker I'll leave you alone."
The priestess narrowed her red eyes before turning back to her patient. "Hurry up then and ask your questions."
"Who was the first person to be infected?" Alasse asked, settling herself against an empty cot with her journal ready. Her comrades were spread out around the small tent; Osyyr in a corner scowling; Valen and Nathyrra near Alasse and the priestess with their full attention on the two; and finally Deekin stood observing one of the sick males as he muttered to himself and tossed and turned in his bound bed.
"Driscice Kilafin. She died a week after she was infected," the priestess answered, her attention still on her patient even as she spoke.
"And what did she do?"
"She was a merchant. She helped smuggle supplies from the Valsharess's troops to ours. She was very skilled." The priestess's lips thinned. "We suffered a great loss with her death."
Alasse continued her questioning. "Do you know what she was doing the day she got sick?"
"Helping organize the rations of food she recently collected."
"Did any of the people she was around that day end up getting sick?"
The priestess paused and seemed to think about it before shaking her head. "No. I don't believe any of them ended up infected. She was the only one."
"I see." Alasse tapped her quill against her pursed lips in thought. "Do you know someone who could give me a detailed description of what she did that day?"
"You could ask the group she was helping organize the food stocks," the priestess answered. "They're probably in the market. The leader is named Zesafay. Now are we done here?"
"Yes. Thanks for your time." Alasse nodded to the priestess and turned her attention back to her companions as they left the tent.
"I told you this was a waste of time," Osyyr muttered, face once again a blank mask.
Alasse shook her head. "No, it wasn't. We got some good information. In fact, I now can send you all out to do your jobs."
Valen titled his head to the side and considered her with cool blue eyes. "What do you want us to do?"
"I need everyone to seek out and speak to the sanest patients here," the elf explained. "I want you to get them to tell you everything they did the day they got sick. Don't leave any details out."
"And why are we doing this?" Osyyr questioned.
"To find a common element between them all," Nathyrra answered, rubbing her lower lip in thought. "Alasse is trying to narrow down what exactly infected everyone."
Alasse nodded. "Exactly. This plague isn't spreading through the air or by touch. So we need to find out if it's being passed by the water, food, or something else."
Osyyr still didn't seem convinced. "And then what? What happens when we find the cause?"
"Then we can find whoever did this and drag their sorry asses back to the Seer."
In the end, it was decided that Valen and Osyyr would question the soldiers first for any addition information before moving on to question the patients. Nathyrra volunteered to search out and interrogate the drow Zesafay and anyone else who was with Driscice Kilafin the day she got sick. Deekin and Alasse decided to tackle speaking to both priestesses and any sane patient they could.
It was not an easy task. Alasse found that most of the priestesses were tired and frustrated and had little patience for a babbling elf. The patients were even worse; in pain and scared for their lives, most ignored her or wailed at her to help them or leave them be.
Finally, after a few hours of badgering and being a general pest, Alasse decided that she had collected enough information. After seeking out Deekin, the two decided to compare notes as they waited for the others to return from their own missions.
"So, Deekin, what did you find out?" she asked as they sat upon a broken staircase close to the district entrance.
"Deekin learn that most drow sick are soldiers. Some Seer's troops and some work for drow daughter we help," Deekin revealed, showing her his notes. "Rest help Seer and camp. Oh, and more males sick than females."
Alasse nodded as she browsed through the collection of scribbles. "Yes, I noticed the same thing. There really does seem to be no real theme here. This plague simply attacks anyone."
"Deekin think plague meant to hurt Seer," Deekin commented, scratching his nose. "Not defeat, just hurt really bads."
Alasse glanced at him from beneath her lashes. "You think so?"
"Yeah. Deekin think, if plague meant to stop Seer, then would be worse," the bard explained. "Like plague in that famous city. The winter one…"
"Neverwinter," Alasse filled in.
Deekin nodded. "Yeah, that one! Plague there was really bad. Killed most of the city, yes? But this plague is slow and only make drow crazy. Doesn't kill anyone. It makes drow have to kill each other, and feel bad for it."
Alasse nodded as she listened, not surprised that Deekin had figured out such a meaning. He was a lot smarter than he let on.
"I think you're probably right. This plague is most likely to weaken the Seer, not destroy her," she mused out loud, stretching out her legs and crossing one ankle over the other.
She could feel Deekin watching her; dark eyes studying her every move. She waited silently; knowing that he had something he wanted to say to her.
"Is Boss okay?"
And there it is.
"No, I'm not okay," she told him honestly because she could never lie to Deekin.
The kobold nodded slowly. "Deekin not see Boss cry since…"
'Since Master Drogan died,' went unspoken but they both knew what he meant.
"Did it scare you? To see me cry so pitifully and easily like that?" she wondered.
"Yes," Deekin admitted, still staring at her with dark, dark eyes. "Deekin forget that Boss is not a God. Boss is mortal like Deekin. Boss can hurt like Deekin. Does Boss forget like Deekin forgets?"
—she becomes one with the Slayer and the world around her shifts into colors of gold and silver. She feels her senses being heightened, her body shifting into the perfect weapon. The power she always struggled to control, that she always feared, she now understands—
Alasse shuddered and shook her head. "No, Deekin. I never forget that I am a mortal."
Nathyrra was the first to return with news.
"Zesafay is alive but some of the people she worked with are dead. They were mostly males and worked closely with Driscice Kilafin," she reported, arms crossed over her chest as she stood before Alasse and Deekin.
Alasse nodded as she wrote down every detail dutifully. "Anything else? Do you know what they did that day or before?"
"The day before they were scouting out some possible hits in the Wilds when they were attacked by a group of umber hulks," Nathyrra explained. "They got off with some minor and major injuries that they tied over with some potions before making their way back to the city to be looked over by some healers. The next day Driscice noticed she had some weird rash."
"Hmm. Do you think the healers had anything to do with it?" Alasse wondered, recalling the stories of the Neverwinter plague that had been spread by false healers.
Nathyrra shook her head; her short white hair billowing around her face. "No. The healers were the first to be checked. None of their spells caused this."
"Damn. There goes one lead," Alasse muttered, scratching out some possible ideas.
Nathyrra nodded as she moved to take a seat next to the elf. "You can also cross out any weird infection theories. The wounds the group gained were healed normally and do not seem to be causing them any troubles."
Alasse sighed and snapped her book shut. "Well, guess we have to hope the others dig something up."
Nathyrra hummed thoughtfully under her breath, staring at the elf next to her with narrowed eyes. Alasse stared back for a moment before slowly raising her brows.
"Can I help you?" she asked.
"Are you… well?" Nathyrra asked slowly, tilting her head to the side.
Alasse just stared. "What?"
"Back at the beholder cave… You seemed—"
"Annnd stop right there," Alasse quickly intercepted, knowing exactly which road their conversation was taking. "We are not doing this, okay? We're just not."
Nathyrra looked mildly affronted. "Why not? The Seer says it is good to speak of our pasts. It helps lift the weight of guilt and regrets on our soul."
"Really? Then you want to tell me a story about your time as a Red Sister?" Alasse retorted.
To her growing horror, Nathyrra looked like she was actually considering it.
"Look, Nathyrra, I don't do these kinds of talks," she said before the drow could actually launch into her life story. "I'm not an emotional person. My own husband didn't even realize I was in love with him for the first seven months we worked together."
"It's true. Boss once jumped out window when Baby Paladin started crying about her sire," Deekin supported from her other side. He was still nose deep in his own notes but didn't seem to have a problem following their conversation while working.
Alasse nodded. "See, even Deekin understands that I hate emotional shit, and he knows me better than you."
Nathyrra stared at her; looking torn between gaping and laughing. Finally she settled on a smirk and a headshake.
"You are a strange elf, Alasse," she commented. "So very different from your kin. I hope one day you will feel… close enough to share the more intimate details of your life with me."
Alasse bit her tongue in order to stop herself from telling the drow that was unlikely. There was something almost hopeful in Nathyrra's expression when she spoke. Something told her that it was the drow who was hoping that she was the one who could open up about her past.
And while Alasse knew that she was a lot of things—a killer, a snazzy dresser, and a bitch in general—she was not someone who went around crushing the spirits of others. Even she had to draw the line somewhere.
So instead she nodded and allowed Nathyrra to hold onto her hopes for a future both of them were not sure they would even have.
"The soldiers knew nothing," Valen declared as he marched up to her with Osyyr trailing behind.
Alasse arched one brow at the tiefling's comment. "Are you sure about that? They didn't have anything to report?"
"Only that it was mostly males getting sick," Valen said, crossing his arms over his chest.
"That's nothing new to us. Anything else?" Nathyrra questioned.
Valen tilted his head to the side in thought before slowly adding, "They said that some of the soldiers they knew had been injured before they got sick. But those injuries were healed normally with potions and they were fine until they caught the plague."
Alasse hummed thoughtfully as she glanced through her notes and reread what Nathyrra had reported. She paused for a moment when she noticed something similar.
"Nathyrra, didn't you say that Driscice Kilafin and her group had been hurt scouting and used potions to heal themselves until they got back to the city?" she questioned.
Nathyrra nodded. "Yes, that's right. Why? What are you thinking?"
"And Valen here says the soldiers who got sick were wounded before and also used potions to heal themselves, yes?" Alasse commented, still looking through her notes.
Nathyrra's eyes grew wide as she finally made the connection. "Wait, you think that potions are spreading the plague?"
Alasse shrugged. "Maybe. Problem is that I don't know how a potion could heal someone and infect them at the same time."
"I know how it is done."
Alasse looked up at the young drow standing behind Valen. "Oh? And how is it done, Osyyr?"
Osyyr stepped forward; his face still resembling a rock but his eyes burned like fire. "My mother… before she died, she had a way of infecting a healing potion with poison. It could still heal a drow but it also poisoned them. She used to have my brothers and I slip it in with other male's potions in order to kill her enemies' sons."
Alasse stared at the drow as Nathyrra took in a sharp breath at her side and Deekin finally looked up from his work.
"Then it must be the potions. That is the cause of the infection," Nathyrra murmured to herself.
"That also explains why most males here have been infected too," Valen realized, eyes growing wide. "Males rely on potions because females are either clerics or have at least the basic art of healing."
Alasse nodded, feeling a grim certainty falling over her. "We need to find the ones who are selling these potions. Do we have a list of merchants in the city?"
"There are many merchants in the city but only one stands out in my mind," Nathyrra said, getting to her feet.
Alasse raised a brow but also got to her feet. "Oh? Why does it stand out?"
Nathyrra smirked grimly. "Because they sell their potions at cheap prices. Real merchants would never do such a thing."
The merchant stand that Nathyrra led them to was located in a nondescript spot in the city. It sat between two crumbling buildings under a brown tent. There was only a single female drow standing at an old and battered stand that was covered in a faded purple cloth.
"Vedui," she said at their approach, bowing her head in respect. Her long white hair fell over her shoulders at the movement, and the bells and jewels braided into her hair tinkled together. (2)
"Lu'oh xal Usstan kla'ath dos?" she asked, lifting her head finally to stare at them with the biggest pair of red eyes Alasse had ever seen on a drow.
"Do you sell potions here?" Nathyrra asked in common, staring at the unusual drow with a hard look.
The female blinked her wide eyes twice before a slow and large smile stretched across her face. Alasse felt unease wind down her spine. The last time she had seen such a smile had been on her insane and dead brother Gavid. It didn't bode well to see such a look again.
"We sell an assortment of potions here," the drow tittered, gesturing with one arm to the bottles set up on her stand.
"Did you sell any to some soldiers recently?" Valen growled.
The female's eyes flickered with alarm for just a second before returning to a blank look. "We sell many potions to many types. We cannot keep track of every customer."
"I think you'll remember these ones. They ended up infected with a plague after they took your potions," Alasse said dryly.
The drow paused for a moment and then chaos erupted.
Alasse instinctively dropped to her knees and covered her face with her arms as all the potions around them shattered at once. The explosion rained liquid and glass down on all of them. She heard Nathyrra curse, Deekin squeal, and the chant of a spell beginning before it was finally safe for her to open her eyes again.
When she did, she found the female drow had cut open her hand and was using her blood in some sort of spell. Alasse didn't know what the hell she was doing, but she didn't need to know the details to recognize that it was only going to end badly for them all.
At the corner of her eye she saw something move, and when she turned to look she found Osyyr had recovered and was rushing their enemy. Before she could blink, he did something she never imagined he could do.
Osyyr twisted his body and disappeared.
Alasse gaped at the spot that the drow had stood and turned to look back at the female drow. As she expected, Osyyr now stood behind her; his sword held up against the female's slender throat and her bleeding hand removed from the rest of her. The female began to scream and held her now useless stump against her chest in an effort to the stop the bleeding.
Osyyr leaned down and whispered something low and quick into the female's ear. Alasse watched as she bit her lower lip and softened her cries into whimpers. She then slowly raised her eyes from the drow to meet Osyyr's burgundy gaze.
"Solaufein taught you how to teleport," she said simply, feeling like she was seeing Osyyr for the first time.
Osyyr gave a jerky nod. "He did."
"You know, he has never taught that spell to anyone before," she continued, still staring at the drow. "It was his trademark move, what he became known for among our group. His own powerful and modified version of the dimension door spell. No one but him knew how to use it because it was a technique that could only be taught to blood relations. His blood relations."
Osyyr said nothing; simply continued to stare at her with his familiar eyes.
Alasse took in a deep breath and slowly released it. She understood now. It was shocking and unexpected and never in a million years did she think it would ever happen. But she understood now why Osyyr was so desperate to save Solaufein. She understood exactly how much Osyyr truly meant to Solaufein.
The young drow wasn't just his student; he was Solaufein's legacy.
He was his son.
"Okay," she said, taking in another calming breath. "Okay. Let's take her back to the Seer and bring an end to this plague."
Alasse had never seen the Seer look so expressionless before.
The Seer stood in her main chamber that the elf recognized as the one she first appeared in. Around her stood Imloth, Valen and Nathyrra and a few acolytes. Before her, chained up and furious, was the female drow who had caused the plague.
Alasse stood further off to the side with Osyyr and Deekin; studying the Seer carefully. Her face was so very still and smooth that Alasse swore it could have been carved from stone. Even her silver eyes seemed different; as blank and still as a mirror.
The Seer's soprano voice was quiet but it still echoed through the silent chamber. Her question was met with a long silence that was finally broken by the captured drow.
"Because the Elder Eye demanded it," she replied, shifting in her bonds slightly.
The Seer blinked once. "Elder Eye? You speak of Ghaunadaur, the God of Abominations. Is that who you serve?"
"Yes. It is His will that I unleash the plague on Her followers. I am but a vessel to His greater purposes," the other answered, her wide red eyes holding a fanatic gleam as she spoke of her god.
The Seer nodded, looking as if she actually understood where the drow was coming from. "I understand. I too am simply a pawn to Her plans. In the long run that is all we can be to them."
The drow sneered. "That may be true for you but He will not forsake me. I am too important to Him."
"Oh, child." The Seer shook her head in obvious pity. "That Which Lurks cares for none but Himself. Not even His most loyal followers."
"Liar!" the female shrieked, her wide eyes growing wild. "He will never forsake me! I am His most loyal—"
The drow was cut off by the Seer. She had moved to kneel before the younger woman, and had placed a slender finger against her lips.
"Hush," she said, her face softening as she gazed upon the other. "I believe in your loyalty and devotion to Him. I believe that it is just as strong as my own for my Silver Lady and Her cause."
The Seer gave a gentle smile and leaned down further towards the drow. Her own long white hair tumbled over her shoulders and meshed with the other drow's ivory locks. So close they were in color that Alasse could not tell whose hair began and whose ended.
The Seer lifted her hand that had kept the drow quiet and tenderly touched her cheek. She pushed back the mass of white hair until her entire face was revealed, and then cupped the lovely face with both hands.
"But that very loyalty is exactly why I cannot allow you to live any longer," the Seer whispered, and then twisted the female's head around until her neck snapped in half.
Alasse stared into the wide and surprised eyes of the now dead drow as the Seer allowed her body to fall. Her neck was twisted in such a way that the bone had pierced through the flesh of her neck, and now stuck out clearly through her pale locks. The elf could already see the blood beginning to pool beneath the dead woman.
"V'dre wun l'Erl'elee d'l'Olath Uss," the Seer recited as she slowly got to her feet. Her face was once again smooth and serene even as the blood of her victim began to pool around her feet; staining her pure white dress with crimson. She seemed unbothered by it and instead simply settled her gaze on one of her acolytes. (3)
"Bring me the healers. I now know the cure and will instruct them on how to make it," she ordered, and the acolyte calmly bowed and swiftly left the chamber.
"Mother Seer, how did you learn the cure?" Nathyrra asked, stepping forward.
The Seer glanced at the dead drow at her feet before returning her mirror eyes to the assassin. "I read her mind before she died. It was chaotic and disordered but the details of the plague were still there. Including the cure."
Imloth and Valen released a sigh of relief that was shared by many but Alasse. The elf was still focused on the brutal and unexpected death of the drow at the hands of a woman she had thought was the embodiment of compassion and mercy.
"Wait, am I the only one alarmed by the very grotesque death that just happened here a minute ago?" she asked the group aloud, finally tearing her eyes away from the dead woman's blank gaze.
Some of the acolytes shifted but the rest remained unfazed by her question. The Seer simply turned and gave her a serious look.
"Alasse, I exist to serve my Silver Lady and save my people," she explained calmly. "Sometimes that means by healing them. Other times that means killing those who would cause them harm."
Alasse held up her hands to show that she meant no harm. "Hey, I'm not knocking your reasons or asking for justification here. I just always thought that the followers of Eilistraee believed in compassion and mercy and shit."
The Seer closed her eyes and released a deep sigh. For the first time since she arrived, Alasse realized how tired she really was.
"I do not have the luxury of mercy," she said simply, her shoulders drooping. "The Valsharess has made sure of that."
In the end, the cure was remarkably easy to create. In a matter of hours the healers had finished making the first batch, and the priestesses were soon dispersing it to the more critically ill drow. By the end of the day most of the sick had been given the cure and were on their way to recovery.
Alasse herself had watched carefully as Solaufein was cured by one the priestesses. As soon as he was given the cure, his breathing began to level out and his tense body relaxed. Even his coloring seemed to be darkening back to its normal shade.
The elf glanced at Osyyr, who stood by her side watching the same drow. Deekin stood on her other side while Nathyrra and Valen had left them to attend to their own duties. The three stood away from most of the tents and were simply monitoring the recovery for the moment at the request of the Seer.
Osyyr was watching Solaufein like a hawk. With his attention diverted, she took a moment to study his face. The well defined jaw, the arch of his cheekbones, and even the slope of his eyes were all Solaufein. She marveled over how she could have ever missed such an obvious resemblance between the two drow.
"You really do look like him," she commented, catching the drow's attention.
Osyyr turned away from staring at Solaufein to give her a suspicious look. "Who?"
"Don't play dumb. You know who," she answered, rolling her eyes. "I know he's your father, kid."
Osyyr flinched but didn't look away. "And? What are you going to do about it?"
"Nothing. What do I care if you're related or not?" she scoffed, jerking her chin towards Solaufein's tent. "Now go check on him. I know you want to."
The drow blinked. "You're not coming?"
She shook her head. "I spent decades at his side. I know who he needs to see right now, and it's not me. Go to him."
Osyyr hesitated for a fraction of a moment before he was striding off to Solaufein's tent. Alasse watched him until he entered the tent and moved to Solaufein's side. The last thing she saw before the flap was closed was Solaufein's smile.
"C'mon, Deekin. No reason for us to stay here anymore," she said, pushing herself off the wall she had been leaning against with one foot.
Deekin dutifully followed her as they made their way to the exit of the district. He glanced up at her with his dark eyes and tilted his head to the side carefully.
"Boss okay now?" he asked.
Alasse glanced down at him and gave him her special smile.
"Yes, Deekin. Boss is okay now."
1) "Release her, soldier."
"Is that how you show respect for the Savior of our Lady Seer?"
"No, sir! Forgive my insolence, General!"
"How may I serve you?"
3) "Rest in the Embrace of the Dark One."