Night Crawlers

Night Crawlers

A Chapter by Eddie Davis
"

Having escaped the Airship with the Emperor as a hostage, Eleazar tries to find shelter for his group.

"

 

5.

Night Crawlers

 

 

 

Fortunately, Fendoris was as cold and wet as they were, and so didn't offer them any resistance as they hurried east on the road toward King's Reach in the sleet.   Eleazar knew that the women were getting dangerously frozen walking around in their bare feet on the ice.   So it was only a few minutes later when his sensitive eyes made out a barn sitting alone in the middle of a large field, far away from the owner's farmhouse, that caused him to make a decision to seek shelter there.

"We should seek permission from the owner."  Zeatt suggested, but the look she received at the suggestion from the other three in her party caused her to amend her words with, "In the morning."

Thankfully the barn was not locked and Aurei pulled the old door open, the wood scraping loudly on the icy ground as it swung open.   They hurried inside, relieved to find an abundance of hay and, aside from a few mice, no animals present.  

"It should be warm enough."  Eleazar said as he helped Fendoris sit down on a small bale of hay.   He tied the man's hands to a hitching post next to the hay bale.

"It’s not exactly the palace, Your Excellency, but better than freezing to death."

The Emperor nodded, and then looked up at the half-Drow, "Sir Eleazar?"

The Knight was surprised by the man's pleasant tone, "Yes, Your Excellency?"

"I am a forgiving man, Sir Knight, and I am willing to forgive your assault on my person and this kidnapping, if you will free me now."

Eleazar squatted so he could look the Emperor in the eyes, "Sir, I honestly would love to do just that.   It was not my intention to kidnap you or assault you.   I had planned to go to you in secret and encourage you to end this stalemate with Haroldris and with Duchess Bugley and instead enlist their aid.   But that has all changed, and you will excuse me if I doubt that you will just wipe all of what has happened under the rug if I was to cut you free.   Instead, I imagine you would have your guards in the airship to hunt us down and kill us.   Am I mistaken?"

The Emperor actually smiled, "You can't blame me for trying, Drow."

Eleazar smiled back, "No, I would have tried the same thing.   We'll camp here for the night and -- if your Imperial Guards don't locate us before then-- we'll resume our walk to King's Reach tomorrow morning."

"You know this will end poorly for you, Drow."

"Honestly, Your Excellency, I don't see any positive outcome to this situation at all.   I'll try to find something to cover you up with -- please don't start yelling for help or I'll have to gag you and that will not be pleasant sleeping with that in your mouth."

"Oh, I won't give you any more trouble tonight, Drow; in fact I am rather interested in seeing how your actions will be received by Haroldris."

"That makes two of us, Your Excellency."  Eleazar turned and began rummaging through the barn for any scrap of cloth to use as a blanket, wondering if any of them would have their heads once they reached King's Reach.

 

***

 

He found a table with a pile of rather old, yet clean, saddle blankets upon it and a few minutes later he had wrapped two around Fendoris and handed the rest to Aurei and Zeatt, who were making a type of nest to keep them warm.

"Sir Eleazar?"  Zeatt called to him as he had turned to walk away.

"Yes ma'am?"

"I want to thank you for rescuing us.   I know in the past that the two of us have butted heads several times, but I have noticed a definite change about you, and I am greatly encouraged by what I see.  To what do you attribute this change?"

The Drow/Elf gestured at Aurei, who was busy spreading saddle blankets over the hay in order to make a place to lie, "I overcame one of my demons, and the Duchess there was greatly responsible for helping me clear my head after that.   You have quite a niece." 

Feeling suddenly awkward after giving the compliment, he spun on his heels and retreated to a position directly in front of the barn door where he secured a bale of hay as a pillow, then stretched out on the floor of the barn in his plate armor with a relieved sigh.

 

***

 

Eleazar had nearly fallen asleep, thanks to the soothing tempo of the sleet beating down on the roof of the barn, when suddenly he felt movement and then someone plopped down beside him.

"What's wrong?!"  He asked, opening his eyes to find Aurei now reclining next to him, wrapped up tightly in her cloak.

"Shh!  Nothing is wrong, keep you voice down; Zeatt and Fendoris are asleep."

"Well what's going on then?"  He asked in a whisper, feeling somewhat uneasy having her lying less than a foot away.

"I wanted to talk to you." She smiled sweetly and that didn't dispel his unease.  

"Okay… about what?"

"Well, I'm homesick Laz, and I wanted to know how things were back at Westmark."

"Duchess-"

"You mean 'Aurei'." She corrected.

"Aurei, I left Westmark five days ago to try to locate the Emperor's Airship, so I really don't have much information that is recent."

"Well, you still were there a few days before you left; tell me what was going on then."  She laid back against the hay bale with her cloak tightly wound around her so that only her eyes showed.

"Before we received that magical message from you, the mood was horribly somber.   We thought you'd died.   That scroll that you used really got everyone's attention.   It scared a few of the women when they saw a giant red eye appear out of thin air in the middle of the Inn."

"Could everyone hear me?"

"We heard you and everyone hung on your every word.   When the spell dissipated, we all sprang into action.   Pectros sent messengers to King's Reach, but we hesitated sending news to St. Kinnis in Aeropolis because with the civil war going on, we didn't know where he could be found.   He definitely needs to be notified about Sir Alvis.   We had a memorial service for Brother Darv just before I headed off in search of the Airship.   It was very touching and they are working on creating a memorial plaque for the church.   The Muddy Boot is in good hands, the barmaids are holding their own keeping it going in your absence.   Sir Aeric has been leading large patrols about 10 miles out from Westmark each day to watch for any Guild activity, but there hasn't been any to report."

"What about that Sorceress we captured?"

"We have her locked up in the Keep dungeon, with my silence stone just outside the door of her cell so she can't cast any spells.   She refuses to tell us anything, not even her name, though Pectros is determined to get information out of her."  

"So you set off by yourself to try to see the Emperor?"

"Something like that -- actually I didn't know quite what to do, but I had to do something.   So Dorthellus and I rode off to see if we could at least locate the Emperor's Airship."

"Dorthellus?"  Aurei quizzed.

"He arrived along with a handful of knights-in-training and several Paladins on the afternoon of the day when we were battling the undead in Thurgood.  They were sent by the Blood Knights a few days before the Civil War broke out in Aeropolis.   Dorthellus is a young lad, son of a noble of Aeropolis, and so I took him on as my squire."

"Well, where is he, then?"

"When we found the Airship, we shadowed it a day and then I got the crazy idea to sneak aboard and try to speak to Fendoris to reason with him to set you and Matron Zeatt free.   When they lowered the ship during the bad weather, I climbed aboard and sent Dorthellus into King's Reach to the master of our Guild there to report my actions."

"You climbed a rope to get on board?" Aurei asked in amazement.

"It was a mooring rope, one of the thick ones that they use to hold the ship in place -- like the anchor and chain of a sailing ship."

"Yes, but you climbed it -- in plate armor?"

"It wasn't very high off the ground when I did it, or I wouldn't have had the strength to do it."

"Still, climbing in plate armor, my goodness, you ARE strong!"

"Ah… just years of swinging my great sword around, it builds up the strength in your arms." 

“What about that Feather Fall Ring - where did you get such a ring?”

“It is the only possession I have that was my mother’s.”

“Really?  How did she manage to keep it after the Drow took her?”

“She wore it on a toe of her foot and I guess they didn’t check her, or think it was valuable, as it certainly looks plain.   She gave it to me the night before she died, and told me that it was very valuable and to guard it with my life.  She told me to wear it on my toe and hide it well.”

He was feeling very uncomfortable at her wonderment over his strength, especially with her lying so close to him.  He had to change the subject.  "So Matron Zeatt is indeed your aunt?"

"Yes!"  She responded with excitement, "I couldn't believe it when I first saw her.  She's the first full-blooded Drow I've ever met."

"What do you think of her?"

"It's crazy, Laz!   I've only known her this short time but I feel so close to her… I don't know why."

Eleazar nodded with a knowing smile, "It's the bond of blood."

"She's wonderful, Laz.   Not at all like Drow that I've heard about."

"Well, I'm sure she's a different person then when she lived in the Underdark.   Her conversion to following Yesh had much to do with it."

"We seem to think so much alike -- it's amazing, since I never grew up in the Underdark."

"You resemble her in many ways, Duch- …I mean, Aurei."

"She said she has a daughter and an adopted son, too."

"That would be Sophia and Khord, I know of both of them."

"What are they like?"

"Well, Sophia is extremely beautiful, but that is not surprising as it seems to run in the family."  Eleazar suddenly realized he had inadvertently given Aurei a compliment, which, while it was certainly true, he didn't want her to misunderstand.  "As for Khord, he is an extremely tall young Drow -- he's tall even by normal human standards, probably standing 4 inches over six feet."

"Zeatt said they both work for the Bitter Dregs; what do they do?"

"I didn't know that they did, but I'm pleased to hear that.   Sophia is a Sorceress -- she has a rather tainted reputation for moral choices and much of it may be just gossip."

"What is she said to do?"

"I shouldn't spread gossip about her, Duchess."

"Aurei." She corrected.

"Sorry."

"She's my cousin, Laz; I'd really like to know."

"Well, the stories I've heard say that she is so hungry for arcane knowledge that she… promises favors… to the various Wizards and Mages of Aeropolis in return for access to spells and their wisdom."

"She sleeps with them to gain power?"

"That is what the rumors say.   I've also heard that your Aunt is at her wits end with her."

"She never mentioned that to me.   What about Khord?"

"He is your Aunt's adopted son.   I've not heard that much about him, only that is he said to be one of the best trackers in Aeropolis and extremely skilled with swords."

"Is he a Ranger?"

"I don't know; it would make sense if he were, or else some sort of rouge or thief, though from what I've heard, he is a respectful, honest man."

Aurei pulled back her hood, revealing her face, "Laz, have you ever heard of Dart'loxinchu?"

"Dart'loxinchu? You mean ‘Harlot's Veil’? It's a very expensive Drow drug, used only by females in the Underdark.   It supposedly makes women who use it appear more beautiful as well as increases a man's desire for a woman using it, though it is mildly poisonous to men.   They say it is a stimulant as well, much like pipeweed but more powerful.   The Drow women smoke it like pipeweed -- in pipes mostly, though I've heard some make long tubes of the drug they call ‘wands’ and smoke large amounts that way.   In form, it looks like long strips of paper or cinnamon, but stark white in color.   They grind it down to inhale it.   Very, very addictive, I'm told.   The W***e masters get their prostitutes addicted to it in the Underdark as a way to control them, since the drug is so expensive.   They have no way to get any more except through their masters, and the drug helps enhance the older prostitutes so they appear younger.   It is a horrid drug -- thankfully it is rare on the surface, though it is somewhat common in Aeropolis thanks to the Drow community there.  Why do you ask about it?  Did Zeatt mention it?"

"She mentioned it."  Aurei did not feel it proper to mention her Aunt's addiction to the drug.

"I know that her daughter, Sophia, smokes the drug.   She was nearly thrown out of the Academy of Sorcery for using it during classes.   In fact, it created a bit of a scandal as apparently a good number of her fellow sorceresses began using it too.   The last time I was in Aeropolis, there was a strong call upon the Emperor to outlaw the drug altogether, though its effects are really no worse then the toxic clouds of pipeweed that most the wizards poison the air with in their schools of magic."

"Laz, how does a Sorceress practice their magic?   From what I've heard, they are different than Sorcerers."

"They are different.   I don't really understand all the details, Aurei, but Sorcerers usually form some sort of tie to some supernatural, and usually demonic, creature to aid them in their magic.   Sorceress, however, somehow utilize something else.   I don't really know how it works, but if you've noticed, they always dress very suggestively and I'm told there is some sort of sexual energy that they tap into that gives them the power to cast spells.   The Sorceress we caught, for example, was dressed far from sensibly for the weather, but she somehow pulled off power from the lust or arousal of any males viewing her.   At least this is what I've been told.   I suspect it is similar to the reason that Drow noble women use their beauty to enslave males."

A smile slowly crossed Aurei's face, "Is it ALL Drow noble women who can use this magic?"

"Only those who learn how, I'd say, so present company is excluded."   Eleazar was not nearly as certain of the truth of his statement, diverting his eyes from hers.

"I'll bet Matron Zeatt could show me…" she teased.

"Aurei, that is not something to joke about.   Matron Zeatt has hopefully given up that 'power' when she became a follower of Yesh."

"But didn't you say that she tried to persuade you to train young Drow males as Knights, but that you, as you said, resisted her."

"You make it sound as if she tried to seduce me.   She didn't do that, Aurei; she was merely using her charm as a very charismatic lady to persuade me to do something for the people under her authority.   It was completely respectful, she met with me in the office of her church and we talked, I refused and left."

"Yet she was hard to say no to, I gather?"

"Oh yes, she made a very good case -- training knights for the service of Yesh is always a noble cause, but at the time I wasn't completely of the right state of mind to agree to it.   Plus, she reminds me of my Drow grandmother, Dar’thellia -- she was also very beautiful-- and she did use her beauty to pull me away from my Elven mother, then she had her murdered before my very eyes."

"Well, you seemed alright around Zeatt tonight."

"I'm seeing things a bit differently now, but it is still somewhat difficult.  However, I feel I owe her respect not only as a priestess of Yesh, but as your Aunt."

"Thank you for doing that, Laz; she really is a wonderful lady."
         "I'm sure she is.  Are you cold?"

"I’m freezing, and my head hurts where that guard hit me."

Eleazar reached over and gently touched her forehead, his eyes closed.  "In Yesh's name, be healed."

Aurei felt a passage of warmth roll across her skull, taking the dull throb of her injury away immediately.

"Thanks, Laz."  Her eyes sparkled as she smiled at him.

"Why didn't you heal yourself?"  He asked, knowing she too possessed the Paladin's power of Laying of Hands once a day.

"Oh, I started feeling somewhat guilty about how I was treating our idiot Emperor over there, so I waited until I saw he was asleep so he wouldn't know who it was who did it, and laid hands on him."

Eleazar was pleased, for she had seemed very belligerent toward the man.   But that was understandable considering how he had treated both her and her aunt.

"Laz?" She asked after a moment of silence.

"Yes?"

"You didn't just come to try to talk some sense into the Emperor, did you?"

"What do you mean?"  He was puzzled at what she was meaning.

Aurei's eyes continued to sparkle.  "You came to rescue me."

"Of course I did."  Eleazar again was feeling very awkward and shifted nervously.   "I'm a Paladin; that is what we are supposed to do -- rescue damsels in distress… and their aunts."

"Oh, so it was all just part of your duty?"   She whispered, leaning in close, her glowing red eyes locked on his own.

"Uh… yeah."

Before he could back away or move, she'd leaned in and gently took his chin, then kissed him for the second time that evening.   The kiss again made his lips tingle and he felt himself kissing her back, though common sense told him that was not a wise thing to do.   The kiss was short, but very sweet, and she pulled away with the same sparkle remaining in her red eyes.

"Well, that is to say 'thank you' for doing your duty, then.   Goodnight."  She got to her feet, and with just a quick backwards glance, quietly slipped across the barn to rejoin her aunt.

Eleazar laid there, touching his lip with a silly smile on his face, not wanting to face the consequences of what he was now most certainly feeling for the lovely girl. Instead he allowed himself to fantasize for a bit longer before the sound of the icy rain falling on the barn brought the harsh reality of his world back to him.  With a deep sigh he pushed thoughts of her out of his mind and forced himself to go to sleep.   He was a Blood Knight, and his vows to his order came first.   Hopefully she was just relieved to be free of her captivity and would feel differently in the morning.  With that thought in his mind, Eleazar drifted off to sleep.

 



© 2014 Eddie Davis


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Added on October 31, 2013
Last Updated on May 29, 2014
Tags: Drow, Paladin, Knights, Magic, Fantasy, Adventure, romance, Undead

The Chronicles of Aurei Book 2: The Knights of Northmarch


Author

Eddie Davis
Eddie Davis

Springfield, MO



About
I'm a fantasy and science-fiction writer that enjoys sharing my tales with everyone. Three trilogies are offered here, all taking place in the same fantasy world of Synomenia. Other books and stor.. more..

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A Chapter by Eddie Davis


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A Chapter by Eddie Davis