I came to consciousness slowly, almost reluctantly. I did not
particularly want to wake up, truth be told. When I finally managed to
opened my eyes, it was to complete darkness. I appeared to be on a floor,
and there were no walls within my reach, nor any sign of a breeze. No
open windows or doors, then. I enhanced my hearing and was able to detect
someone breathing raggedly nearby. My ring confirmed that it was Kaedric.
I carefully made my way over to him, feeling none too steady on my feet,
and knelt beside him. I took his hand in mine and touched his mind. I
quickly wished that I had not. He was caught up in a horrible nightmare,
of the Serpent, and him, and... I let go of his hand, breaking the
contact. Was it merely a dream? Much as I wanted to believe that it was,
deep in my heart, I doubted it. I took a deep breath and grasped
Kaedric's hand again, prodding him mentally to awaken, while trying not to
get caught up in his dream again. I felt him stir next to me and took him
in my arms. It was several minutes before he came fully awake and called
I squeezed his hand. "I am here."
We sat in silence for several minutes, simply holding each other.
I did not know what to say. What had happened, what might have happened,
was too horrible to contemplate. Where did one begin to talk about it?
I decided that one did not. Not yet. There were other more pressing
matters to deal with at the moment, anyway. Like where we were, and how
we would get out.
I cast a light spell, half-expecting it not to work. It did, but
the effort required to cast it was far greater than it should have been,
and the result far less powerful. The feeble light flickered for 30
seconds and then went out, but that brief time was long enough for me to
realize that we were in the same chamber in which I had awoken before.
And to note the location of the torches on the wall. I quickly felt my
way over to one, lit it, and took a longer look around the room. There
was only one doorway. I tried it, and to my surprise, found that it was
unlocked. There was nothing but an empty corridor beyond it. I lit
another torch for Kaedric and brought it over to him. In the torch light,
I was able to see that he was in bad shape, still as terribly bruised as
when I had last seen him. He seemed to be healing now, at least, but very
slowly. I asked him if he felt up to walking. He thought he might be
able to with another ten minutes of rest. His head was still paining him
quite a bit. I told him I would investigate the corridor and return for
I turned right upon entering the corridor, and began walking at a
steady pace. The hallway was long, with no doors or windows. After ten
minutes had passed, I found myself seemingly no closer to its end than
when I had begun. I brought Logrus to mind, hoping it could feel out the
end of the corridor, but it was strong and wild, beyond my ability to
control. I tried to Trump back to Kaedric, and suddenly felt as though I
was on fire. It was not a pleasant feeling. Fortunately, it ceased when
I desisted in my efforts. I returned to Kaedric by foot, it being the
only efficient way remaining. Kaedric did not look much improved. I told
him of my findings and he frowned. I had to admit that it did not look
especially promising. Kaedric mumbled something about needing a drink,
and I conjured him something strong. Conjuration, at least, seemed
unaffected by our location. Of course, it was also the least likely power
to provide us with a means of escape.
We decided to try the left passage, the right one having proved
relatively fruitless. I marked the walls as we went, not wanting to get
hopelessly lost. After about 200 feet or so, we found another passageway,
but the whistling noises we heard coming from the other end sounded much
like the demons who had attacked us at the beginning of this hellish
nightmare, and we opted to pass them by. We made slow progress, Kaedric's
condition necessitating frequent stops for him to rest. Kaedric mentioned
at one point that he thought we were somewhere underneath the world, close
to the Abyss. Naturally. Where else would the Serpent have its lair?
After what must have been hours, although I had no way of telling, we
finally found ourselves at the foot of a long set of stairs. We stopped
again to rest before attempting to climb them, and I conjured some food
for us. It seemed like a long time since I had sat down to breakfast in
Ascending the stairs was even worse than the passage had been, and
I made sure that Kaedric climbed ahead of me, just in case he slipped due
to his exhaustion. My whole world narrowed to putting one foot in front
of the other, over and over, watching Kaedric for some sign that he was
faltering. It felt like several hours later that we finally reached the
top and found ourselves standing in front of a rather oddly shaped door.
I risked the drain from another spell in order to scry beyond it. Kaedric
and I were in no shape to risk another fight. At least Kaedric was not,
and I was not certain of my own abilities to defend both him and myself,
at that moment. The spell showed nothing beyond the door but an empty
field and a tree in the distance. No other signs of life. Kaedric did
not recognize the place. I shifted to demon form and opened the door,
looking around cautiously. I appeared to have stepped out through a tree.
There was no one in the meadow, or the forest that lay beyond it. It was
late afternoon. When I turned back to tell Kaedric of this, I found that
he had fallen asleep. I decided against waking him right away. The
travel would be difficult, and he needed to heal.
When I finally shook Kaedric awake, the sun was beginning to set.
I tried Trump again, and felt as though I was on fire once more. I swore
silently. With sorcery still difficult, our best chance lay in the
Logrus, despite its current unreliability. After experimenting for a bit,
I realized that I was able to control the Logrus enough to advance a few
Shadows at a time. It was slow progress, but at least it was progress.
We stopped from time to time to rest, since I had to pull both Kaedric and
myself, and I was in danger of exhausting myself if I was not careful.
But we did not stop for long. I was consumed with an overwhelming desire
to get home and make sure that Alora and Ian were all right. And some of
the Shadows we stopped in were...less than appealing. There was one where
bats wheeled overhead in the dusk, and I was suddenly put in mind of Sand,
as she had been in the future. When she had been a vampire. I decided
not to remain in the area any longer.
It was many hours later, on the edge of exhaustion, that we came
within sight of the Ways, and spotted a large armed force moving out.
There was no sign of Alora or Ian. I quickly put Kaedric to bed, and then
inquired after my children. It was then that I learned that Swayvill had
gone missing along with Kaedric and I, so Alora had been appointed Regent
in our absence. She was leading the forces of Chaos against Finndo's
forces, who were still besieging Thelbane. Ian had been left in Amber,
with Archimedes. Apparently, Kaedric and I had been missing for a day. I
entertained a brief idea of joining the army, but realized that I lacked
the energy to be of any use. I longed to retrieve Ian, but with Trump
down, and Logrus erratic, it would take me days to reach Amber. Given the
condition Kaedric was in, I was not willing to leave him for such an
extended period of time. It was frustrating to realize that there was
nothing I could do. I could not help Kaedric, or Alora, and I could not
reach Ian. I lacked the energy to even contact Ian and let him know that
we were all right. So I did the next best thing. I removed my Jewel ring
and put it back on again. As I expected, I immediately got an image of
Archimedes. There was no sign of Ian, but I knew he would tell Ian I was
all right, at least. Any further communication would have to wait until I
had rested. And that was something I could not bring myself to do, not
yet. Not while the battle still raged unresolved. Instead, I paced by
Kaedric's bedside, and scried the battle. I am not sure what I would have
done if Alora had fallen while I was watching. But I had to know.
Fortunately, Alora appeared to be holding her own, and Claudio seemed to
be keeping an eye on her. I felt so proud of her. I stopped my pacing
and sank into a chair, determined to watch until the battle was over.
There was bound to be a lull in the fighting around Alora at some point.
I would let her know we were alive when that occurred. At least it would
be one less thing for her to worry about. I wished my own concerns could
be dealt with as easily.
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