Reads: 22

13.

 

‘Naturally, there are times when every woman likes to be flattered... to feel she is the most important thing in someone's world. Only a man can paint this picture.’

--Marilyn Monroe

 

 

Gevin could hear Troem running behind him, yelling questions and advising caution, but he didn’t pause or even acknowledge the man, for he recognized the two female figures in the pool.

They both were floating on their backs, breathing but looking as if they were contently asleep.Both were naked and glorious in their beauty, one with glossy jet black skin and long silvery white hair sprayed out behind her on the surface of the water, the other one, slightly smaller but more wonderful in her loveliness, pale skinned with a thick flowing mane of fiery red hair surrounding her like copper on the water.

He had no idea how or why they were here, but floating peacefully and regally in the blue water of the pool was Applemint and Lady Zaeya.

“Gevin, do you know them?”  Troem was repeating the question as Gevin stepped unhesitantly into the pool, thankful when he found it only knee deep.

“Yes, both of them!Help me get them out of here!” He called back as he scooped up Applemint in his arms.He tried not to look at how perfectly mature her form was, but he was amazed that she seemed slightly older.Though she was quite tall for a Taphelo Halfling, in the small pool, she looked somewhat taller than he remembered.

As he lifted her sleeping form out of the water, she felt a bit heavier as well, though perhaps it was the water in her extremely long hair.Had it been that long before, flowing down well past her knees?He shook off the questions and waded out of the pool to gently lay her down on a large smooth rock near the water.

Troem had started into the pool, but was paused in front of Zaeya, looking very unsure.

“Yes, she is a Drow,” Gevin told him, suspecting his hesitation was due to her appearance.

“They are just fables,” he said to Gevin, moving a bit gingerly to scoop her up in his arms, his eyes scanning her as if he’d found a mermaid.

“Apparently she wasn’t informed of that,” the Half-Elf replied, himself a bit amazed that she was actually here as well, for he’d wondered if everything in the jousting world had just been some sort of magical illusion.The Elven hermit’s eyes kept wandering across her shapely body, though Troem seemed to not be conscious that he was looking.

“Who are they, Gevin?That redheaded woman is not a Drow, though she almost looks like an Elf, but the hair on top of her feet would indicate a Halfling.She’s too tall for that…isn’t she?”

“Her name is Applemint and she’s a Taphelo Halfling.Her family has served me for years.”

“She’s an exceptionally pretty one, and exceptionally tall too!”  As Troem spoke, he was staring down at Lady Zaeya, still in his arms with a pleased smile on his lips.

“You’re holding Lady Zaeya.”

“The Drow lady in your tale?Really?”

“I wasn’t sure she was real at all or part of the vision of the forest.I guess she was real after all.She’d been trapped there the longest.”

“What’s she like?”  Troem asked with a gleam in his eyes.

“She’s very confident and self-assured.She also is a skilled manipulator, so be carful.  I don’t trust her; she was supposed to lead the group of women prisoners back to Whiteberry, along with Applemint, but here she is, with the Halfling girl.There were no other women in the pool.”

“How’d they get here, Gevin?  Magic?”

Gevin shrugged, “I’d guess they walked through a portal and it took them here just like the Nihility Gate brought me here.”

“But why?”

Gevin shrugged, “Maybe we’ll learn when they wake up.They are  deeply sleeping.We need to get some clothes on them; do you have someplace you live near by?”

Troem nodded, so enthralled with the Drow lady that he was carrying that Gevin doubted whether he heard anything he was saying.

“Troem?”

“hmmm?”  The Elf replied.

“Troem!”  Gevin said more urgently and the Elf jumped, blinking a few times before turning to Gevin, his face flushed.

“Sorry, Gevin; I’ve never seen a Dark Elf before and I had no image in my mind how they looked.Her skin is so perfectly black; it’s really quite becoming.She’s quite lovely.”  He gently placed her next to Applemint, but kept staring at her.

“And dangerous – don’t forget that, be on your guard.You should be extremely susceptible to her charms.”

“Me?  Why?”

“The way you are looking at her speaks of a starving man who is presented a great feast.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”  Troem asked, offended.

“It means, we need to get clothes for these women,” Gevin said pointedly, so Troem nodded, still bristling from Gevin’s mild reprimand and mumbled something about seeing what he could find, then hurried off, apparently looking for clothing for the two.

 

Gevin sat next to Applemint, wondering what in the world had brought them here and how.Her flame red hair was drying quickly.He’d never seen her hair loose before, as she always wore it in very neatly done long braids.So as he waited for Troem and to keep his eyes from seeing much more of the girl than he should, he began braiding her hair, using the techniques he’d learned as a page for making braided rope at Shellington.  

He was surprised how quickly he remembered the procedure and he was pleased that it seemed to transfer over well to the Halfling’s thick, strong hair.

As he worked, he couldn’t help but wonder if the story of his mother’s long braided hair was true.He also remembered the last time he’d seen Lyssa, with her long blonde braids; she’d been about the same age as Applemint and both girls looked far more mature than they were emotionally.  Something seemed different about Applemint too – he couldn’t quite figure it out, but hoped that when she awoke from her sleep (and he would not allow himself to think ‘IF’ she awoke), perhaps she could explain the difference.

He heard Troem returning and was just finishing braiding Applemint’s hair when he happened to catch a glimpse at one of her ears.Taphelo Halflings had slightly pointed ears – even less pointed than Gevin’s Half-Elven points, but he was surprised to see that her ear seemed to have a much more prominent point to it.It was about the same as his, and he knew without a doubt that her ears had not been that pointed before.

“What happened to you?” he mumbled as Troem approached carrying a couple of folded blankets.

“I thought we’d cover the two women with these and take them to my dwelling.My chest of clothing is full and it would be easier to find them appropriate attire there.

“Okay,”  Gevin responded, still distracted with Applemint’s pointed ears.

“What are you looking at…hey, her hair is braided!Did you do that?”

He nodded.

“How’d you learn to do that?”

“Braiding rope for my lord while at Shellington; it transfers over fairly well to hair, it seems.”

“It looks well done.Her hair is certainly colorful,” he glanced over at Lady Zaeya, “Her hair is like silver though – lovely as well.Here’s a blanket; cover up the Halfling and I’ll cover the Dark Elf.We’ll have to carry them to where I live.”

“Is it far?”

“No; there was a small shrine carved into the rock a little distance from this spring.It is big enough and was easily adapted into a comfortable house.I can endure winters there.” 

Gevin covered Applemint’s body with the blanket, and then scooped her up in his arms, waiting while Troem did the same with Lady Zaeya.The Elf hermit had a bit more trouble lifting the Drow lady, for she was slightly larger than Applemint and Troem was just slightly larger than her.Yet he surprised Gevin, for once he had picked her up, he carried her with ease.The altitude made excursion much more exhausting and by the time Troem had led him to his dwelling, both men were rather winded.

His ‘house’ was somewhat larger than Gevin had imagined from Troem’s description.It was actually a fairly good sized shrine that went about twenty feet back into the rock of the mountain.The resourceful Elf had fashioned a thick wooden door to keep out the drafts.Whoever had carved out the temple had thought of ventilation, for there were narrow finger sized tunnels carved through the rock in the ceiling at five foot  intervals to bring in fresh air.A large burnt offering altar carved into the back wall had been turned into a fireplace by Troem, to take advantage of the chimney so the smoke could escape.

His home was meticulously tidy and neat; simple but not severe and well lit by oil lanterns and candles.It seemed very comfortable and secure.

Troem had acquired (and somehow moved) a simple, but comfortable fainting couch, or perhaps he’d crafted it himself.He very gently placed Lady Zaeya on the couch and tucked the blanket around her while gesturing toward his bed across the room.

“Put her down on the bed; I’m afraid if we put her in one of my chairs she’d slide off.”

“Where’d you get all your furniture?”  Gevin asked him as he carefully placed Applemint on the bed and covered her up with the blanket.

“I made it…sort of.”

“Sort of?”

“There were a lot of destroyed and partially destroyed Elven homes down in Shelterhaven.I took what I could carry and crafted…or maybe the correct term is ‘re-crafted’ them into most everything in here.”

“You carried all the material on your back?”

“Yes, there were no horses or pack animals left in these parts.They were taken by…well, by your king’s men.”

Gevin nodded with a frown, “Yes, he is very fond of ‘spoils of war’.Well, your craftsmanship seems very good, they look well done.”

“Thanks, Gevin, I used to be a furniture maker back in Shelterhaven…it seems like an eon ago.”

Gevin sat on the edge of the bed as Troem slid into a chair next to the fainting couch.

“Troem, do you really think I am your…great grand nephew?”

“Oh, I’m certain, Gevin, I can see a strong hint of your mother in you.I mean that in a good way; the woman who tried to kill you along with herself was not the Ileveil that I knew.”

“I understand,” Gevin glanced down at the sleeping Halfling girl, “I’ve never really known any family…except for Lyssa, and that was long ago.”

“Lyssa?Was she a sister?”

“She was in a sense…she was King Corston’s bastard by a Nymph that died baring her.She was cast off to Shellington while I was there and as I was her cousin, she needed me for support in that awful place.She was just a little girl…”

“What happened to her?”

Gevin sighed, still glancing at Applemint, “She grew up after I had been forced to leave her behind when I became a squire.She…changed…in terrible ways.She was murdered by her jealous husband while she was having an affair on him.Just like your niece, that woman was not the scared little girl I once knew.”

“The Halfling girl reminds you of her, doesn’t she?”

Gevin nodded somberly, “Yeah, and I’m afraid history will repeat itself.”

 

Before Troem could question what he meant, Gevin stood up and suggested that they try to find some clothing for the women.The Elf hermit had his clothing in a chest that he’d made of pieces of wood from Shelterhaven’s ruins and it did not hold many items.

“There is little need for variety or fashion when you are living by yourself,” he explained, “I don’t think I have anything that would fit you, by the way.”

“This armor is enchanted and so it isn’t uncomfortable.In fact, I could just wear the arming doublet.” 

As Troem watched in amazement, Gevin simply ordered the metal armor to detach and stack in a neat pile in one corner of the room and it immediately complied.

“That’s amazing – there isn’t much magic left in this world anymore.”

“Well, this magic came from the great forest.There was certainly magic still there.”

“It was one of the old places, where magic always ran deep and even now it still lingers there.Gevin, tell me; will your king wonder what has happened to you?”

“Eventually, I guess.It isn’t unusual for knights to disappear for a few days – whether attending to their private business or perhaps engaged in what is called at the royal court, ‘A romantic adventure’.There are a lot of them,” he said that with such disgust in his voice that Troem looked over at him in alarm but didn’t say anything as Gevin continued speaking.

“So to answer your question, no I probably won’t be missed for a few days.The problem is, I don’t actually know how long Apple and I have been gone.Time flowed differently in the forest and I was told in the jousting place that Apple, Lady Zaeya and the other women prisoners would be restored to the ‘real’ world at the exact point in time that I entered the forest.But now Apple and Zaeya are here and I don’t know how much time has passed.”

“Well, I don’t keep track of the exact days here, but I do know that summer has just begun.”

“That’s good to hear – it could be only a few days since we left.What worries me more is Apple’s family – her parents and brothers will be worried sick about her.I had planned to get her back to them, but now it would take a while and there is no way that I know of to contact them quickly.”

“I have a way,” Came a deep female voice from across the room and the two men spun around to see Zaeya sitting up on the fainting couch, clutching the blanket around her.Before they could say anything, she went on to explain, “It’s a spell called teachtaire láithreach and I can cast it if you will just answer a few questions first.”

There was movement on the bed and a moment later the sound of a gasp of alarm told Gevin that Applemint had also awakened.He rushed over to her and when she saw him, her gorgeous green eyes sparkled and she sprang into his arms, laughing and crying at the same time as she tightly hugged him, her blanket falling away without her knowing or caring at that moment.

“You’re alive!” she said over and over.He was surprised to feel her soft lips kissing his cheek in her joy.He fought the instinct to return the kiss, but did affectionately pat her back.

Troem just glanced back and forth between the reunion scene and the Drow lady watching it nearby.

“Um…I’m Troem; I assume you’re Lady Zaeya?” he said to her, awkwardly turning away from Gevin and Applemint.

The Dark Elf smiled beautifully and nodded, “That’s me.Tell me, Troem – where are we?”

“This is my home; you’re in the mountains north of the former Elven kingdom of Albsidhe.We found you and the Halfling girl floating in a pool for some mysterious reason.Do you have any idea how you got there?”

Lady Zaeya shook her head, and smiled weakly, glancing over toward Gevin and Applemint briefly before she spoke, “The last thing I remember was diving down into the Restoration Pool after Sir Gevin defeated Lord Savel, which opened up some sort of dimensional gate to give us access to the pool.Then I … just awoke here.What happened to my armor?”

Troem’s face flushed slightly, “When we found you, both you and Applemint were naked.”

“Naked?Do you realize how costly my armor was?” she exclaimed, shooting Applemint a quick glance, but the Halfling was not looking at her and didn’t notice it.

“I have no idea, Lady Zaeya; I never saw it.”

“No, I guess you wouldn’t know, would you?You’re a Sylvan Elf, aren’t you?”

“Yes, and you seem to be a Drow.”

She grinned prettily, arching her eyebrows somewhat provocatively, “In the flesh!”

“I never thought your kind were anything but fables.”

“Well, we probably are just fables now; I was in that damned jousting world for a very long time, Troem.But when I entered, there were plenty of us in the Underdark.”

“How long were you there?”

“In that strange place, about 20 years or so, but I’ve calculated that about 2,000 years passed out here.There is a temporal distortion, that is for certain.”

“Two thousand years…”  Troem shook his head, “If that is so, Lady Zaeya, then I’d imagine things in your home in the Underdark would be greatly different.”

“Probably so, if my people aren’t extinct.The fact that I am having a civil conversation with a surface Elf is disconcerting to me, as it means that we are in fact simply fairy tales in your mind.Tell me, Troem, don’t you find me threatening and menacing?”  The seductive look she gave him dried up his answer for a few moments.

“Uh…no, not threatening…you really don’t have any reason to threaten since you clearly are in a situation that is alien to you.”

Zaeya smiled slightly, sliding to the edge of the fainting couch, “So you’re saying that I need you.”

“You have no idea where you are or where you should go.I believe you’ve befriended Gevin and the Halfling girl, and you can trust me as well.”

Zaeya glanced at the Half-Elf and Applemint and a slightly uneasy expression briefly crossed her face before she masked it with another bedroom look at the Elf.

“Thank you, I certainly need friends.”

 

Applemint looked up from her tears, her muscles tightened, and for a very long moment she stared icily at the Drow woman, who smiled weakly at her glaring look.Gevin noticed the silent exchange and asked, “Apple, what’s wrong?”

The girl didn’t respond for several heartbeats and it almost seemed as if Zaeya’s black face turned grey as she waited for her response.

“Nothing, lord,” She finally said, a bit flatly, but her eyes locked with the Dark Elf’s red orbs, “Is there, Zaeya?”

“Everything’s fine,” She agreed smoothly, then turned her attention back to Troem, asking something frivolous about his home, which the Elf happily chatted about, leaving Applemint and Gevin to speak privately.

“What’d she do to you?” he whispered in the girl’s ear, for she still had her arms wrapped tightly around his neck.

“A misunderstanding,” she whispered back, turning to look at him, which brought back the twinkle in her lovely green eyes.  Gevin noticed again how much more pointed her ears looked.

“How’d you get here, Apple?” he asked in a soft voice so she could answer freely while Troem and Zaeya chatted.

“I had to get away from her first,” she nodded toward the Dark Elf, “She kept her word to you…at least at first.”

Applemint quickly (and quietly) summarized how she’d found the horses and had tricked Zaeya to let her get on Dart and head back to the forest.She told him about locating the pool and after a bit of hesitation, of Zaeya’s assault.She moved quickly to telling about her leaping into the pool and feeling compelled to dive into it, though it was only a few feet deep.She spoke of Zaeya’s attempt to stop her and how the water acted as acid against her, at least at first, for she also told about how the same water had covered both of them in a pink glow and seemed to pull them underwater. 

“After that, I just woke up here,” She ended her story.

“We found you in a pool that looks very ancient.You both were naked, but neither one of you seem injured any more.But, something is different.”

“What, lord?”  Applemint’s gorgeous green eyes were wide in wonder.

“Feel the top of your ears, Apple,” he told her, and her brow furrowed at the command.But she complied, and a look of alarm told him that what he’d thought was true – her ears were much more pointed.

“Lord, what happened to my ears?”  She said loud enough for Zaeya and Troem to glance over, though they returned to their conversation.

“They’re as pointed as mine, but not as much as Zaeya’s or Troem’s ears,” Gevin replied, giving the Drow lady a cold look, though she didn’t notice it.

“They were always a bit pointy, but that’s normal for Taphelo Halflings.”

“Do you feel any different?”

“I don’t know…maybe.I think I feel…larger?”

“I thought you looked a bit taller when I scooped you out of the water.”

Applemint glanced down at herself and only then realized that she was sitting there bare breasted in front of him.With a little squeak of dismay she quickly pulled the blanket around her, turning beet red.

“Oh, lord, I’m so sorry!  I was just so happy to see that you were still alive, I didn’t pay any attention to…hey, wait a moment – how are you here?You went through the Nihility gate, didn’t you?”

“Yes, after a long conversation with…” he glanced upward and Applemint gulped in surprise.

“Really?”

“I’m sure the conversation was real.He let me know it was alright to go through the portal.”

“He did?”

“At least because of the situation.But I think He intervened when I walked through it.I came out through what looks like the ruins of a gate portal near the summit of this mountain.That is where I encountered Troem.”

“He’s an actual Elf, isn’t he?”

“Yes, and he claims to be my great grand uncle.”

“An uncle?!  Really?”

“Great grand uncle; so he’d be…my great grandmother’s brother, I suppose.”

“Wow, lord; you do have some family left!”

“I guess so.He lives up here as a hermit, and it’s still early summer, around the same time that we first entered the Great Forest.Time looped around on itself or something.Even still, I am worried that your disappearance will distress your parents.We were talking about that when Zaeya, who apparently was awake and listening to us, said that she has a way to contact your parents.”

“I do have a way,” Zaeya interrupted from across the room.

“You’ve been eavesdropping,”  Gevin accused with a glare.

“With the two of you talking so loud, who could help it?”

“We were whispering!”  Applemint protested.

“Whispering?” she sneered, “you surely could do better than that.”

“It was none of your business,” Gevin told her.

“It is when she’s telling you something about me and fails to mention how I nearly killed myself chasing her on horseback.I damned near died on that blasted animal and I could hardly see in that horrid bright sun.So I was a bit angry when I caught up with her.”

“A bit angry?!You were about to slit my throat!  You bloodied my nose!”

“You’re still alive, aren’t you?Don’t forget what happened to me!I was burned alive when I set foot in that fairy pool!”

“Yes, but if I hadn’t put you back in it the second time, you’d be dead.”

Zaeya’s brows arched, “Well, I suppose that is true enough.So I forgive you.”

“Forgive ME?I didn’t do anything to warrant your forgiveness!”

“You ran away from me!”

“Who could blame me?You showed your true colors at the pool!You were going to slit my throat!If the pool hadn’t bubbled up when it did, you would have killed me!”

“You’re still alive,” Zaeya repeated, “It was just a misunderstanding.”

“Misunderstanding?!”

“That’s what you told Gevin at first.  Look, I’m sorry I got mad at you, but you are like a spoiled little redheaded brat when you don’t get your way and you needed to be taken down a few notches.”

“By killing me?”

“I didn’t go through with it, did I?You only had a bloody nose, and the pool healed your injuries too.You feel as good as I do.”

Applemint turned to Gevin, “She’s unbelievable!”

Gevin glanced at the Drow woman, “You have to learn to control your anger, Zaeya; I imagine that is why the pool burned you at first; it knew your intentions.”

The Drow lady frowned, hating being reprimanded, “All I want to do is to go home and get away from you surface dwellers.”

“Perhaps cooperation would help you achieve that goal – for all of us.”

“Well, I offered to help,  but now…”

Troem sat down next to the Dark Elf, “Lady Zaeya, I’m sure our culture and customs are vastly different than those from your homeland.”

Zaeya snorted in disgust, “That is an understatement.”

“But surely after a long time trapped in a magic world, you have grown to understand a bit about our ways.”

“Oh, I understand them quite well!” she snapped, still sulking.

“Then you must know that cooperation works best up here.”

“Only when everyone cooperates equally,”  She glanced at Applemint, who glared back at her.

“You also need to understand that we value loyalty.  Applemint’s sense of duty to her lord meant that she felt it was proper for her to save him when she felt he made a foolish decision.”

Zaeya snorted again, “Oh please!Noble words for something far more foolishly simple – she loves him, that’s all.”

“What do you know about love?”  Applemint snapped furious but embarrassed, her face blushing red.

“Not much, it makes usually rational people do stupid things.But I do have a way to help you contact your parents – if that is so important to you—  and to hopefully make peace.”

“Is peace what you truly hope for, Zaeya?” Gevin asked her softly.

“Well, I don’t want the three of you mulling over any thoughts of slitting my neck when I’m not looking.”

“We don’t do things like that,” Applemint answered.

“Maybe not to each other, but to one of my kind you would.”

“With you so charming and friendly?” Applemint snapped.

“Do you want to contact your parents or not?”

“Zaeya, how would you achieve this?” Gevin asked with no apathy in his tone.

“Well, it works through transference via magic.In the Underdark, we could find a bat or a rat, cast the spell on it and the same species of animal nearest to the one we were trying to contact would find that person and speak a brief message from a distance.”

“So you are saying that if we had, say, a bird up here and cast the spell on it, and there was, back in Whiteberry, another type of the same bird near Applemint’s parents, that this bird would go to them and we could speak a message that would come through the bird’s mouth?” Gevin asked.

“A very brief one – Perhaps two dozen sentences at most and once cast, the animals used could not be used again.”

“Would it harm the animals?”  Applemint asked and Zaeya sighed, rolling her eyes, but shaking her head.

“They are confused for a few moments; that is all, it does no harm to them.”

“Well, there are quite a few species of birds here in the mountains.”  Troem said, “I have a pair of Mountain Bluebirds nesting in some of the stone ruins near the house.”

“My father has a bluebird in a little birdhouse near his bedroom window; he likes to hear them sing every morning!”  Applemint exclaimed excitedly.

“Don’t get too excited; there are several different species of bluebirds; some live in the mountains, others in the lowlands – would the spell work across different types?”  Troem asked the Drow lady.

Zaeya shrugged, “We can try at least – the spell will enable us to hear and see what the animal on the receiver’s end hears, though it is not a two-way communication.  If those on the other end say something while the animal is giving the message, you will probably hear it, but when it’s done, the spell ends immediately.”

“So we’d know if her parents heard the message?” Gevin asked.

“Yes, by their reactions if nothing else.But the message has to be decided before the spell is cast, and spoken aloud by the one sending it, before I can open up the connection.”

“And the message will transfer from one bird to the other instantly?”  Gevin verified.

“Instantly; that’s why it’s called ‘teachtaire láithreach’; it translates to ‘Instant Messenger’ in the common tongue.”

“And you would cast this spell for us?”  Gevin asked her.

“Well, since I failed to get your little girlfriend back home, I figure this would be a fair substitute.If she wants to be the one giving the message,  she’s going to have to trust me.Because for this to work, she has to assist; I have to get her message at a specific point in the casting process.”

Gevin glanced at Applemint, who nodded.

“Good; now, Troem, show us the birds nesting nearby…actually, why don’t you find me and the Halfling some clothes first, then we’ll look at the birds.”

“Oh, certainly!” Troem rushed over to the chest, rummaged around a few minutes and then returned with tunics and pants, “I don’t have much need for a lot of clothes and they are rather plain.I wasn’t planning on clothing naked women.”

“You’d probably be happier with one for company,” Zaeya commented, taking one set from him and without any embarrassment, simply dropping her blanket in front of everyone and leisurely dressing.

Troem turned away from the nude Drow in surprise at her casual attitude toward her nakedness and handed the other set of clothes to Applemint.

“They may be a bit baggy on you,” he said, then turning to Gevin, nodded toward the front door to give them some privacy.

Applemint looked a bit alarmed, glancing over at Zaeya, who was already slipping into the trousers.

“We’ll be right outside,”  Gevin reassured her and she relaxed somewhat, but watched them exit nervously.

As soon as the door closed, she glanced back at Zaeya, who was standing there tying a cord around the pants waist.

“At least the clothes are clean, if not very flattering,” She said to the Halfling without turning to her.

Applemint chose to dress underneath the blanket, wiggling into the pants while Zaeya fussed with the tunic.

“Why is it that all surface folk’s clothing is so coarse?Surely soft fabrics would be more comfortable.” 

“These are common people’s clothes; people who work hard each day and don’t have any money for better quality clothing,” Applemint replied as she slipped the tunic over her head.It was indeed baggy, but fit far better than she’d feared.

“The spell has a better chance of working if we cast it when your parents are most likely to be near where the birds have built their nest.  You will be part of the spell, because you’ll have to visualize the nest for the spell to connect.If you get scared and break the concentration, the spell will fail.”

“I won’t be scared.”

“Even of me?”

“You don’t seem ready to kill me right now.”

“Maybe later,” she joked, and Applemint realized that was her attempt at humor.

“Zaeya, are we ‘surface folk’ really so repulsive to you?”

“Repulsive?No, not repulsive; you are all just so…I don’t know…you all are just so different from my people.”

“Yes, but you said that you lived about 20 years with Lord Savel and the women captives; wouldn’t you get used to us by then?”

“Twenty years isn’t that long when it comes to surface folk, and Lord Savel’s view on life was very much like many Drow.”

“So what about the women?”

Zaeya sneered, “All of you are so weak and self-effacing around men, you rely on them for everything and they treat you as either inferior or else they put you on some pedestal like you were a trophy.But few surface men really see women as individuals and their equals.”

“So in your world there is perfect equality?”

Zaeya laughed, “In my world, the women are superior and the men grovel to them.”

“And that is better?To me it just sounds different, not an improvement.”

“It depends on who you are – the women like it down there, just like most men like their dominant status up here.”

“So you want to return to where women have the upper hand?”

“Who wouldn’t?” She replied, but there was little passion in her voice.  She glanced down at her feet, “If you’re dressed, I’m going to see if Troem has any sort of shoes that we can wear.”

“I’m dressed,” Applemint replied, sliding out of the blanket.She’d rolled up the pants legs and tightened the cord around her waist as tight as she could and it kept her trousers in place.Her tunic was only too long in the sleeves, but she’d rolled them up as well.

Zaeya called the men back in and Troem found her a pair of shoes that she was able to ware, though they were a bit big for her.Applemint told the Elf that she didn’t need any shoes due to the thick soles of her feet.

“Well then,” the Dark Elf said a few minutes later, “Let’s go look at those birds.”

 


Submitted: November 21, 2020

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