It was dank and musky, the sound of water droplets echoed throughout the strange cavern. Laenaia knew she was underground but did not know where she was or how she had gotten there. Directly before her stood a sight that made her gasp, a large structure, an ancient dwelling, carved out of the rock that held the weight of the world above.
It was primitive yet complex, elephantine, but the designs delicate. The symbols carved into the structure were unmistakably illithid in origin. Her eyes absorbed the magnificent sight until she took notice of something else. There were illithids and tzakandi all around her and yet they did not seem aware of her presence.
A sudden cold sensation caused her to panic, an illithid had just walked right through her as if she wasn't there are all. She was a ghost, no, not a just any ghost, she was a ghost of conscience, an entity undead but with all the inherit powers of her psion abilities with no physical body to confine her. Her body was manifested of energy and nothing material, no bones, no organs, no beating heart.
She was very scared until something strange inside her stirred, calling her to step forward toward the entrance of the ancient dwelling. She acquiesced.
Once inside she took notice of the individual cavities, some dozen or so that dimpled the walls of the great structure. She figured them to be personal chambers belonging to the clan of illithids who were a part of this group. A sudden pulse sent waves of fuzzy energy through her body just then. Each wave grew with certain intensity.
The energy felt alive and held her in its grip. It didn't speak to her with a voice but sent impulses and ideas to her mind and she obliged them, she did as she was told. She followed its mental persuasion into an adjacent room where she found the elder brain. It was surrounded by younger illithids and some thralls who were tending to it, massaging its lobes, and carefully stirring the cerebral fluid it thrived in.
Anger and resentment consumed her just then. The hate she held for these despicable creatures turned her blood to ice. The memories of her past coursed through her veins, in her head she heard her own haunting screams from her terrible past, when she was one of their experiments. She remembered the ache of the knife they used to scribe qualith notes into her flesh on her back- the scars left in their wake burned with their memories still.
Always in her head their bubbly voices and their telepathic ones troubled her, a constant reminder of what she was. A distant memory of a female drow face flashed through her mind and that made all the bottled up rage deep within her explode. Without realizing she now held the Labrum Needle in her hands she stormed forward towards the Elder brain and stuck the needle deep into its frontal lobe.
The labrum Needle quivered in eager anticipation as it began to feed off the brain. The Elder Brain seemed to wail as if it had a physical voice, it was only then she realized it was the collective screams of all the illithids, their thralls and tzakandi all around her. They were frenzied as they felt their Elder Brain being consumed. They couldn't stop it, they couldn't save it, and none of them could see her.
She could hear the telepathic messages the Elder Brain was sending out to its community, commanding them to attack and kill the thing that was killing it. But when they couldn't, they began turning on each other, seeing each other as the possible aggressor. The Elder Brain kept sending confused signals of an outside attack as it believed it was being consumed by outcasts. It tried to locate the source of the attack but failed with each attempt.
Laenaie felt the rush of energy escape the needle and flow into her own body. When the powerful weapon fed upon its victim it sent the consumed energy to its wielder. The power of the Elder Brain was significant as it was older and farther developed than most, another few thousand years would have seen it developed into a God-Brain. The fact that she was destroying it made her mad with excitement.
She hated them, hated everything about the illithids, she wanted rid of them all. The gurgled sounds of the illithids attacking each other caused her to squeal in delight. All the while the Elder Brain was trying to attack the very needle that was sunk into its fleshy mass. Each wave of psionic energy it blasted towards the area it felt the attack coming from, the Labrum Needle reacted by hungrily absorbing it. The psionic attack only allowed the Labrum Needle to consume it faster.
The Elder Brain gave one last blast before the mass of the brain raised slightly and with a final thought sent a signal to its dependent community, instantly they all fell to the ground dead as the last bit of energy it contained was devoured by Laenaia and her weapon. The rush of energy that came into her body jolted her so intensely she fell back hard enough to render herself unconscious.
"Are you okay?" a voice of concern sounded from what seemed a very faraway place.
Laenaia opened her eyes, leaves and boughs laced the blue sky above her. Her fingers closed around stems of grass and patches of rough dirt. It took her a moment to realize she had fallen asleep by the creek at the end of the woods just on the outskirts of Luskan. It took her a while to realize she had been dreaming.
"Are you alright?" a young man, standing over her, asked her again.
The human shaded his eyes from the sun so he could see the young girl's face. A slight gasp of shock escaped him upon noticing her eyes and the paleness of her skin. He stared down at her for a few dashing moments longer then turned to catch his breath; his heart was beating, as if he had just stepped back from the edge of a cliff.
He had heard of her from the other locals in Luskan, he had heard about her strange eyes but he had never seen them for himself. She was beautiful in a very unique way even despite the dowdy outfit she wore. She also known as a loner and was never seen with anyone except for a drow elf.
Laenaia looked at the young man, confused, a moment of silence passed before a little upward movement of her head showed him she was okay. She half turned from him and began to stand up. He was quick to offer hand, which she did not take she only looked at it with distrust. It was her nature to not trust anyone; after all, she has been in the care of the drow for the last six years of her life. She was a creature belonging to the cruel and monstrous world below, where no one offered such displays of kindness.
"I have seen you around Luskan for a few years now, noticed you even went to school with the other kids for a little while. I was told your name is Laenaia and that you are a bit of a loner, you don't have many friends, but I have seen you in the company of a drow." He stated bluntly with a touch of coldness in his tone which froze that final word in his sentence.
Drow was a word that unnerved mostly everyone on the surface. Her eyes met his but she did not say a word. She brushed the dirt off her hands onto her dress and adjusted it some more before pulling her long dark hair around to drape down the left side of her body. Still, she did not answer the young man.
Laenaia was observing him, though not with her eyes, it was so easy, with the surface dwellers to get inside their heads. They were so naïve to mental threats most had never heard of illithids, aboleths, let alone psionics. Right away she sensed his innocence and could perceive no threat from him and when she was finally comfortable with him, she dropped her mental defenses.
She didn't like having to use her abilities and wanted to try and approach the humans on level ground, as one of them. She began to walk away from the human without even a backward glance. In all truth, she was terrified; she didn't know how to respond. Even in school she struggled with being social. They were so bubbly, outgoing, and didn't seem concerned for their welfare in general. Everything was so jovial and in the moment with surface dwellers, particularly the humans.
"Wait, I am sorry if I upset you, I am sorry if I caused you any alarm. I didn't mean to be obtrusive." He rushed around to face her, to keep her from walking away from him. "I heard you mumbling and saw you down on the ground, I wasn't sure if you were hurt, unconscious or…"
He didn't get to finish, she simply just side-stepped him and proceeded on her way. He wanted her to acknowledge him, to say something. He grabbed her arm as she walked by and she spun on him in a heartbeat and sent a fist into his jaw. Her mental defenses were up and he was lucky she chose only to use a fist.
He fell back hard onto the ground, turning to cradle his head, moaning in agony. Her mind began probing his again and she felt instantly guilty when she could find nothing that alluded to him wanting to hurt her. Laenaia carefully walked over to him, falling to her knees beside him, she studied him carefully, tilting her head from side to side. She was way out of her element.
"I am sorry." She said, though it sounded more like a question than a meaningful apology.
He rolled slightly to one side, his bottom lip was bloody and he was rubbing his jaw. The human used his elbow to push himself upright and for several moments they sat in awkward silence. Laenaia made an effort to make eye contact with him but was quick to lower her eyes again. She felt so ashamed of herself for what she had done to him.
"It's alright." The human stared solemnly at the young girl, not knowing what to think of her.
"Why are you watching me?" she questioned.
"Watching you?" he stammered, "I don't know what you mean?"
"You said you have seen me around Luskan for a few years now, you took notice of my attendance at the local school, and you obviously inquired around to find out my name. You admitted to noticing the company I keep with, and yet I have never seen you before. Why do you think I would not be frightened?"
He didn't know what to say, he didn't know how to explain why he took notice of her. He didn't know why he had an interest in her. He wanted to know her he wanted to see her up close and not from afar. He did not regret this chance encounter she was a mystery and he wanted to unravel her, piece the puzzle together. He wanted her to trust him and realize she didn't have to be so alone.
"My name is Kalderach." He extended his right hand towards hers.
She rocked back slightly from his extended hand staring at with a mixture of intrigue and curiosity.
"I'm extending you a handshake. You are supposed to take my hand in yours and shake it," he laughed softly upon realizing this was not a custom she was familiar with.
She slowly reached her left hand towards his and timidly took a hold of his. The human's hand was warm but the grip felt awkward, she cocked her head and studied the connection. A deep throated laugher erupted from him causing Laenaia to bolt upright.
"Wrong hand, you need to give me your right hand." He took her right hand in his and gently shook it and released.
"That's it? What does that mean?" she asked inquisitively.
"Well, it's a ritual of sorts. People introduce themselves to each other with a handshake, or they do it to say hi." Kalderach explained.
"A ritual, is it religious or ceremonious? And you just do it to say hello?" She pondered out loud.
"No it's not religious but it is often employed in ceremonies, but mostly it is just a kind gesture." Kalderach saw the curious look in those stunning eyes of hers.
She smiled cautiously as the guilt seeped into her core once again at the sight of his broken bloodied smile.
"I am truly sorry I hit you like that. I have never hit anyone before; actually I have never really spoken to anyone in Luskan, on any sort of personal level." A look of deep sadness crossed her face. "I went to school here in Luskan for a little bit, but I didn't really fit in and the other children didn't seem to want anything to do with me. I only went due to the encouragement of a friend who thought it would be a good social experience for me."
She moved her legs, crisscrossing them and proceeded to pluck a piece of grass from the ground nervously twisting it around her thumbs.
"Were the other kids mean to you?" he asked.
"No, they just were unsettled by my appearance."
"What's wrong with your appearance? I see nothing wrong. So you have two different colored eyes and you're a wee bit pale. Doesn't mean anything is wrong with you, you're just unique. My uncle was born with 8 fingers and 8 toes, wasn't anything wrong with him. He was just unique." He smiled warmly at her.
"Unique? Well whatever I am, no one wants a part of it." She bluntly replied.
"That's not entirely your looks doing that for you, might be the company you keep." He sneered.
"The drow you have seen me with is my appointed guardian. He watches over me, he has raised me since I was 8 years old he is no ordinary drow, if he was, he would have killed me ages ago. You do not judge me by my looks but you are judging him by his." She scolded.
"You are human and he is a drow, of course I will judge him by what he is." Kalderach argued.
"I am human?" she laughed at the characterization, she didn't feel human at all, in fact she didn't even feel like she could relate to them.
Laenaia got up quickly, "I have to go."
"Wait, it's not my place to judge someone I have never met, I apologize." Kalderach shouted after her. "Can we be friends?"
Laenaia stopped dead in her tracks no one had ever asked her for friendship before. She thought long and hard about the possibility.
"I'll think about it." She replied without turning around before dashing off in an instant leaving the human behind to contemplate their chance encounter.
Laenaia spent the remainder of her walk back to Valas's apartment dwelling on that dream. She had been having similar dreams more often than she cared to admit to. They felt so real, too real, and she was finding herself too afraid to sleep. Apparently she was so exhausted from her lack of sleep that she dozed off alone in the woods. The idea of this unnerved her, she had left herself vulnerable, something Kimmuriel warned her against.