Witch Queen of Perrenland

Kirk and Aaron were just two travelers hoping to find adventure in Greyhawk’s most notorious drinking establishment. Little could they have known that adventure would find them just a few feet from the Green Dragon. Joined by the mysterious and tight-lipped merchant Rarsirrien, a female thief, and a disgraced Paladin, they become caught up in a plot to thwart the infamous and evil Iggwilv from obtaining the secret to immortality. To do so, they must breach the magically protected borders of the secretive Valley of the Mage. If they succeed, they will have to find Iggwilv’s agents while avoiding detection by the most powerful spell caster on the continent. Discovery will mean capture and death, and failure will mean the loss of countless lives to Iggwilv’s cruel experiments. But in the Valley of the Mage, not everything, nor everyone, is as it appears. Along the way, our heroes will have to confront the demons of their past and a few in the present. If they succeed, their reward will be freedom, fame, and the riches that come from it.

Desprae

Friend or Foe?

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There were bruises on her face, arms, and legs. Rarsirrien could see where she had been whipped from the lash marks on her exposed back. Her captors had not been kind. Why? Rarsirrien had some experiences with Drow long ago, enough to know this situation was very unusual.

He turned to Kirk, “Help me get her out of here.” Kirk climbed into the wagon, his large frame cramped in the small space with the Drow. She struggled at first, but she was too malnourished and too exhausted to put up much of a fight. He managed to move her to the back, where Rarsirrien could grasp her bound legs, and they lifted her out and onto the ground. Rarsirrien removed the gag from the Drow’s mouth, silencing Gilam’s objection with a wave of his hand before he could even speak.

“Kirk, give her a small sip of water.” He figured she might be more likely to trust a human than either elf or half-elf. Kirk took his own water and put it to the Drow’s lips. He could see the fear and hate in her eyes, but her thirst was greater, and she took a sip. Once she tasted it and decided it was safe, she took a large gulp. Kirk took a step back. Too much food or water in her famished state could harm or kill her.

Rarsirrien knelt down in front of her. As she looked at him, he could see fear in her eyes.

“Will you talk?”

She cocked her head slightly.

“What is your name?”

She looked at him and swallowed hard, “Drider.” She whispered, her voice raspy.

Aleyn stepped towards her, sword in hand. “Drider is no name, and you are no Drider. Answer his question.”

“What’s a Drider?” Kirk asked.

“Drow failures. Outcasts. Those that fail their loyalty test to Lolth are cursed, turned into creatures called Driders, and driven out of the community. Most are hunted and killed. Others who escape their Drow tormenters often fall prey to other creatures in the dark places under the earth. Few survive,” Rarsirrien explained. He turned back to the Drow. “What is your name?”

She took another sip of water and swallowed. “Desprae.”

“You’re obviously not a Drider. Not yet.”

“Escaped. Hunted.” She tried to speak a few more words, but nothing came out.

Rarsirrien held out his hand to Kirk, motioning for the skin of water. Kirk handed it to him, and he knelt and handed it to Desprae. “Drink slowly. Small sips, otherwise it may be a shock to your system.” He stood, “Kirk, you and Aaron watch over her. Stay alert. She may appear weak, but she is not helpless.”

He walked over to Gilam and Aleyn and pulled them out of earshot of Desprae. Kirk and Aaron watched them and then turned their attention to Desprae. She sat now with her eyes closed, occasionally lifting the skin to her lips and taking small sips as Rarsirrien had instructed. After a few minutes, Rarsirrien walked back over to them. They could see Gilam and Aleyn turn and lead their horses back and begin preparing to depart.

“They have helped us all they can. They will depart now while they can still make it to a Ranger encampment before it is too dark. They will take the other survivors with them to Camp Adalorn. They don’t think it wise to stay here with the survivors if the one who escaped returns with reinforcements. They won’t take theDrow. She’ll have to remain here with us.” He turned to Desprae. “I hope you understand that with just the three of us, we must leave you tied for now. However, if you do not try and harm us, we will not harm you and will do our best to see no harm comes to you.” He returned to his horse, opened his saddlebag, and removed a small piece of bread.

“It’s not much, but I fear too much will make you ill.”

Desprae took the bread from him, “More than I have had in weeks.” She took it in her mouth and left it there momentarily, trying to remember the taste, then chewed slowly and swallowed. She felt a rumble in her stomach and knew the tall human was right not to give her too much. She closed her eyes and tried to sleep. She had no idea who these three were, but she felt safer with them than she had in months.

The three watched Desprae as her breathing became softer, and they could tell she had drifted off to sleep. Rarsirrien drew the other two a short distance away, where he felt they could speak without being overheard. “We will have to take turns watching tonight. No fires. I don’t think from the number here that there is a larger force out scouting. I think they were all back when we encountered them. I don’t think Desprae will try anything, but she is still a Drow, and they cannot be trusted. But I believe what she has told us so far may be true - it would explain the size and composition of the force and why they had spell casters.”

The three took turns through the night, keeping watch. They ate bits of bread and a few bites from the packed jerky. They checked on Desprae frequently, but the Drow appeared sound asleep throughout the night. Rarsirrien suspected it was her first peaceful sleep in some time.

Kirk had located a cellar in an abandoned building, and they moved the dead in there. They scavenged the horses of the slain for anything that might be of use. They found a few pieces of gold, silver, and a few gems of minimal value. Most of the food was inedible by their standards but might be suitable for their guest, so they gathered it just in case. Kirk and Rarsirrien pushed the prisoner wagon into the forest as far as they could and covered it with branches to hide it as best they could. It wouldn’t stay hidden from anyone searching for it for long, but it wasn’t visible from above or just a cursory glance around. Aaron did his best to cover the cart’s tracks into the wood, so there would be no way to know where it had gone.

When Desprae woke, they were nearly finished and ready to break camp. The Drow looked around, and if she hadn’t known what to look for, she might not have known that a fight had even occurred here. Her new captors had done a good job of covering their tracks. She guessed that Kirk was the fighter in the group. Aaron was still a bit of a mystery, and something about Rarsirrien bothered her, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. That streak of gray in his beard struck her, but she had no idea why.

“We should get moving. No telling what or who else may come wandering through here.” Kirk was already mounting his horse. Aaron gathered up the few remaining signs of their camp and scattered them, carefully erasing their footsteps while Rarsirrien unshackled Desprae’s feet so she could at least ride. Then he and Aaron got their horses and began heading west through the empty alleys and streets of Canryell. When they reached the edge of the old town, they re-entered the Gnarley.

Rarsirrien looked back over his shoulder out of habit, then moved forward and caught up with the other three. Aaron had ridden up alongside Desprae. The silence was awkward. Finally, he said,” I’ve never seen or met a Drow before.”

“I’ve never heard of or seen a half-valley-elf before.”

Kirk snorted, trying to hold back his laugh. Aaron shot him a glance that said shut up.

Rarsirrien just smiled, but he hoped she would see Aaron as less threatening considering his lineage and might say more than she would to Kirk or himself. She had already revealed to him something about herself when she said Drider. Only a high-level Drow is summoned to be tested by Lolth. That she failed, survived, and escaped said something about her abilities, so they must be extremely cautious with her.

“So why were you captive? I thought Drow were generally evil?”

“Drow generally are. I thought Valley Elves kept to themselves and disdained all other elves?”

“Half-elf,” Kirk shot back over his shoulder.

“I stand corrected,” said Desprae, slightly amused. Her facial muscles formed a wry, half-smile. She couldn’t remember the last time she had smiled or even been amused.

Aaron ignored the pair. “It’s a long ride; we may as well get to know one another.”

“I doubt we’ll be together that long. Where are you taking me, and what are your intentions?”

“That depends mostly on you.” Rarsirrien now entered the conversation. “We will be turning back south soon, heading into Celene.”

“Oh, I don’t expect a warm welcome there.” Desprae wondered if she had gone from near-certain to certain death. Kirk chuckled. He appreciated her sense of humor. It matched his own.”No, I suppose none of us will. Two men with a Drow and a Valley Elf.”

“Half-elf,” Desprae reminded him.

“Okay, we’ve established that I’m a half-elf. Can we let it go now?” Aaron huffed in his saddle.

“No,” came the reply from Desprae and Kirk simultaneously.

“I don’t suppose there is much harm in telling you my story if I may be about to die. I grew up in a typical Drow family. I did well. Everything that I was expected to do, I did, and more. That became the problem. I became curious about my race, and I wanted to know myself, so I could better prepare for my enemies. That’s when I learned of the Diaspora.”

“The Dia… what?” asked Aaron.

“The Elven Diaspora,” interjected Rarsirrien. “I’ve heard of it but don’t know much about it. It has to do with a time when the elves existed on various planes and before the battle between Corellon and Lolth and the casting of Lolth’s followers into the Underdark, where they would become what we now know as Drow. I’m sure your interest in that did not go well.”

“No. I was summoned. My loyalty was tested. Obviously, I failed, or more precisely, others conspired to ensure my failure. I was sentenced to become a Drider and be cast out. Before my sentence could be carried out, I managed to escape. I’ve…survived. So far. Always hunted, though. There is a bounty on me by my own family, who I’ve disgraced. No telling how my actions have impacted their standing in the hierarchy.”

Rarsirrien thought in silence about Desprae’s story as they rode. What she had told them was plausible, but was it the truth? Either way, one thing was true, she was being held prisoner, and they had used spells to keep her. Resorting to that level implied that she did possess skills enough to escape the Drow Underdark potentially. Could he take the risk of releasing her shackles? She could kill Kirk and Aaron, though she had no idea who they were. She also knew they had somehow managed to take out the entire group who had captured her, so she couldn’t be sure of their abilities. Most likely, if she were free, she would try and escape rather than harm them. If she escaped, it was no harm to them, and he doubted that she posed a threat to anyone who was not a threat to her. For a Drow, she was not at all what he expected.

Desprae coughed, and Aaron handed her the skin of water tied to the back of her saddle. She took a drink, passed it back, and Aaron secured it again. Rarsirrien had ridden up to Desprae opposite Aaron and gave her a small piece of jerky. “You didn’t eat breakfast. Try this and see how you can handle it.”

Not really what she would have preferred to eat, but it was better than what she had received the past few days, which was nothing. Just enough water to keep her alive. She took it and ate it. “Thank you.”

“My mother was also a prisoner. Caught by orcs probing the borders of the Vale. They were looking for Valley Elves for some reason. Maybe to experiment on. My father and his party happened upon them as they were cutting through the Gnarley on their way south toward the Welkwood. That’s how they met.”

“Interesting. The ones who captured me were also heading south to the Welkwood. I’m pretty sure they were taking me to the Pomarj. I know I heard them mention Highport.”

Kirk slowed, then stopped. He turned back and rode up to Desprae, Aaron, and Rarsirrien. “I think we are near the road running south. Do we stay in the wood or chance the road?”

Rarsirrien looked at them. “We need to make up time, and staying in the wood, while safer now that we have a Drow and a valley half-elf, will only slow us down. Kirk, ride up ahead of us, I’ll drop back and keep an eye on the rear, and Aaron and Desprae ride together. If anything comes up ahead or from behind, Kirk or I can signal, and you two can try and get into the wood and undercover.”

With that, they rode out of the forest. Kirk started out first, and they gave him a good two-minute lead; then Aaron and Desprae rode out without Rarsirrien, who stayed and waited as the two elves rode on. He turned his horse and took the road north for about a half-mile, and when he didn’t encounter anyone or anything, he turned and rode back after the other three. Kirk rode on. Not having to duck and watch for low branches was a welcome change, and his horse also seemed happier for being on a more stable track. She had picked up the pace, and he had to pull her back slightly to avoid getting too far ahead of Aaron and Desprae to ensure nothing slipped out of the forest between them and cut them off.

Meanwhile, Desprae and Aaron continued to ride on. Desprae had decided she would try and find out who she was dealing with, and she already figured Aaron to be the least experienced in the group and most likely to talk. She needed to know if she was safe or not.

“So, what was it like growing up as an outcast?” She asked.

“What makes you think I grew up as an outcast?”

“Not pure elf, not pure human, and those green eyes would be a dead giveaway to other elves what your other race was. Humans may have green eyes, but it’s never a dominant trait among half-breeds.”

The word half breed stung. “At least I have a better chance of blending in with my green eyes than you with that black skin. In fact, Kirk never even noticed my eyes, and if Rarsirrien hadn’t said anything….”

“So it was Rarsirrien who noticed?” She cut him off. “Curious. What do you know about him?”

“Not a lot. He got Kirk and me out of a jam, then into another one. Which is why we’re on our way with him now.”

“And what jam was that?”

Aaron realized he was talking too much. He had never met anyone like her and had no idea what she could do. He decided to try and switch the conversation around and see what he could find out about her. “It was nothing serious, just a pub disagreement. How did you end up finally being captured?”

Desprae realized she had pushed a little far too fast. She had more information than she had at the start, and Aaron’s openness told her that they weren’t criminals, bandits, or otherwise engaged in some untoward enterprise. Otherwise, he would be more cautious about discussing anything about themselves or where they were going. The other elf and human that had left with the other captives were heading back into the Gnarley; could they have been Rangers? If so, she knew they would not have been willing to help anyone with evil intent. She felt confident that she was safe with these three but wasn’t out of the woods yet. She glanced at the trees around her. No, not out of the woods by a long shot.

“Carelessness,” she said.

Half a mile back, Rarsirrien was riding alone. Having picked up a Drow was going to complicate their lives. At a glance, Aaron was just another half-elf, but a dark elf was near impossible to hide. If she had the skills he suspected, she might, because she had not only managed to escape the Underdark but also survive, she might be able to see what he was. He wasn’t ready to reveal himself just yet. She might also have talents to help them accomplish their tasks if she joined them. He took the piece of parchment from its container and held it open. After a moment, the map began to reveal itself, and a small dot on the road indicated his position. Then a rune appeared, marking the approximate location of the Oakvein. He could see they were perhaps a half day’s ride from it. He had thought to travel the roads to Enstad. Now that was out of the question. There was no way to travel openly with a dark elf. They would have to go through the forest. Being caught anywhere in Celene with a dark elf would not end well, but he could see no other alternative. He didn’t want to pass too near Oakvein with a Drow in tow. Even though she was bound, he thought that might not make much difference to the Enlanefel.

He put the parchment back in its case and secured it. He took one more look back over his shoulder and then began to ride ahead to close the distance between him and Aaron and Desprae. He had let a little more distance open up between them than he had intended. He wondered if Aaron had managed to find anything out from the Drow, then after a moment of thought, he hoped he hadn’t revealed too much about them to her. They knew precious little about her, but considering the resources they had used to capture her and the fact that she had managed to survive and escape the Drow Underground told him that she had some special skills or some powerful help. Either way, she was dangerous, and Aaron was no match for her. He wanted to stay close, but this would be a good test to see her true character.

It took him almost fifteen minutes to catch up to where he could see the two elves on the road ahead. He slowed to match their pace and checked to see if anything or anyone was coming up the road behind them. He estimated that Kirk should be near the crossroad just north of Oakvein. They had managed to scavenge enough edible supplies from the raider’s caravan to last until Humming’s End, but now his plan was questionable. Where to resupply? He hadn’t been in this part of the world for some time. He would have to find a way to get away from the rest, reconnoiter, and look for paths through the wood. He hoped to find someway more direct and less noticeable than the main roads. While that would shield them from the average folk and traders, it wouldn’t protect them from Celene’s defenses, as they would be watching those routes for spies or other mischievous creatures. He hoped having this Drow with them would turn out to be a good idea because right now, it seemed like she was going to be nothing but trouble.

Kirk had arrived at the crossroads. The ride had been uneventful, making it seem like it had taken him twice as long as it had. He could see the track continued south but was less traveled, becoming more of a path than an actual road. The east-west road, on the other hand, was considerably more well-traveled. He now had mixed feelings about that. He had been looking forward to being able to move quickly and get to Enstad sooner, but even he realized that was not likely to happen now. He didn’t know much about Drow but knew they were universally disliked. Though bound as she was, they could try and pass her off as their prisoner, but then if they encountered any of Celene’s military or other forces, they might be forced to hand her over to them. Why did he care? Would it be so bad if they handed her over to some authority? Then she wouldn’t be their problem anymore.

He was about to turn and ride back towards Aaron and Desprae when he noticed a small dust cloud in the air along the road to the east. At first, he thought it might be moving away from him, but the sound of horses soon reached him. He backed his horse slowly away from the road, then turned and urged him into an easy gallop. He didn’t want to create much noise or dust to attract any attention. He guessed that at the speed those horses were approaching, they would miss any sign of him, but he didn’t want to bet his life on it. After several minutes he caught sight of the two elves and waved them off the road.

Aaron and Desprae saw Kirk riding back towards them, and when he saw them, he waved them off. They moved off the road and into the trees and dismounted the horses. Kirk led his horse in a tight circle for a moment, trying to obscure the tracks where Aaron and Desprae had left the road, then he continued back up the road in the direction Rarsirrien should be coming from.

As he continued to ride south, Rarsirrien considered the same thing as Kirk. He had also ruled out the idea of having Desprae appear as their prisoner. He was certain that some official would make them hand her over to them. He wasn’t prepared to do that just yet. There was something very unusual about this Drow, and he wanted to know what. She wasn’t at all like the others of her kind that he had met. Drow were evil and treacherous creatures who took pleasure in enslaving and torturing others. Desprae had not displayed any of those qualities so far, which puzzled him. If she had been selected for the trials of Lolth, she may have had some skills that could prove very helpful to them, especially if they had to move through mountain passages. Drow have an innate sense of direction underground and an excellent sense of traps and ambushes. She could help them a great deal.

He was still considering ways she might be useful when he heard a horse galloping towards him. He rode off into the wood and waited to see who it was that was approaching. He could tell it was a single horseman, which could be Kirk or Aaron. He moved to where he could see and not be easily seen. After a moment, he saw Kirk riding back up the road from where he had come. Rarsirrien rode out of the wood, half-startling the man.

“Looks like a good size group heading west on the main road. I don’t know how many for certain, but from the cloud of dust and the noise, I’d guess at least ten on horseback riding fast.”

Rarsirrien thought for a moment. “If Gilam and Aleyn had returned to Adalorn with the prisoners, they may have dispatched some patrols or sent word to Celene. They could be scouting, looking to see if more raiders are out, or looking for survivors who escaped our attack.”

“If they told them about Desprae, they could also be looking for us.” Kirk looked back over his shoulder.

Rarsirrien stood up in the saddle and tried to see a little further in the direction Kirk was looking. “I doubt they would have told them about her since I had asked them not to, but we can’t be certain that none of the other prisoners had mentioned her or that there was a special captive under guard. Let’s get under some cover ourselves for a bit to be certain.”

The two moved to the edge of the road. Rarsirrien reached up, broke off a medium-sized, leafy branch, and used it to obscure the tracks from the two leading off the road so that only the sets heading south were left. Then he joined Kirk in the wood. They moved until the forest was thick enough to cover them and their horses and where they could barely see the road. It wasn’t long before two men on horseback came riding up from the south. One stopped where Rarsirrien had erased their tracks and looked closely at the ground. The other man stopped and rejoined the first. Rarsirrien strained to hear what they might be saying. After a brief discussion, they turned and rode back the way that had come.

Rarsirrien chuckled. “What?” Kirk asked.

“The one who stopped and examined our tracks fancies himself an expert tracker. He told his partner that the tracks heading south were at least a day old and not what they were looking for. Oh well, not everyone can be an expert; lucky for us. If they couldn’t locate you and me, Aaron and Desprae are safe. Come one, let’s go and find our two elves.” With that, they started slowly out of the wood and back onto the road, riding slowly to give the two scouts time to return to the leading group and report they had found nothing.

Aaron and Desprae remained undercover until they saw the two scouts ride back in the direction Kirk had come. Aaron guessed they had not found anything since they weren’t riding with any real sense of urgency. He patted his horse, took a sip of water, and offered it to Desprae. She was unaccustomed to such consideration, and the sudden move put her on guard. As soon as she realized the gesture for what it was, she relaxed and took the skin and a long drink. She could feel her strength returning now that she was getting food and water. Something she had been denied for weeks. She leaned back and rested against a tall oak. They would remain here and wait for Kirk and Rarsirrien to pass before moving out of their woodland cover. They did not have to wait long when they heard horses approaching from the north. Two of them guessed it would likely be Rarsirrien and Kirk. They got back on their horses, a bit of s struggle for Desprae as her wrists were still bound, and she didn’t have much experience with horses. They remained under cover of the forest until they saw Kirk riding slowly along the road, then Rarsirrien a few paces behind, scanning the woods for signs of them. As soon as they could see the two were alone, Aaron and Desprae began to ride out of the brush.

Once they were all back on the road, Rarsirrien led them south to the crossroad. They paused and could tell from the tracks that Kirk had made a good estimate on the number of horsemen. Aaron could count at least eleven, figuring one captain and ten soldiers. They turned and headed west along the road. As much as he wanted to continue, Rarsirrien felt they should perhaps head off the road and look for a place to set up camp for the night. Plus, he wanted to try and take advantage of a quiet evening to try and get out and see if there were some alternatives to the main road. Besides, the soldiers were likely to reach a point not too far down the road where they would turn and head back from where they had come.

“Let’s find a place to lay low for now. Give those soldiers a chance to head back while we think about our next move now that our circumstances have changed somewhat.” They rode off the road’s south side and carefully picked their way through the wood. Once they were at least a mile from the road, Rarsirrien stopped in a small circle of oaks. Kirk, Aaron, and Rarsirrien dismounted. Desprae sighed audibly. She hated horses so far. Rarsirrien began to make his way over to her as she tried to dismount, but her binding snagged on the saddle, throwing her off balance, and she fell backward. Rarsirrien caught and steadied her as she fell into him.

“That was embarrassing,” she said.

“Not much need of horses underground, I suppose. Don’t worry; you’ll get the hang of it.” He turned and walked back to the others, and she turned to follow him, slipping the iron key into her pocket as she did so.

Kirk and Aaron knew the drill. The two gathered up some dead wood and twigs to build a fire. They returned and found that Rarsirrien had set their bed rolls out for them and had already cleared a small area where they could start the fire. While Kirk set about building a fire, Aaron took his bow and several arrows and walked into the wood.

“I wouldn’t travel too far,” Rarsirrien called after him. “We are very near Oakvein, and the elves here might not take too kindly to us hunting without their leave.”

“If you all stay quiet, I won’t have to go far. I saw some wild hens while Kirk and I were gathering the wood. With luck and a little silence, we may have something fresh for dinner for a change.” With that, he turned and walked into the wood and out of sight. Rarsirrien and Kirk finished setting up camp while Desprae sat quietly out of their way, unable to help with her hands still bound. They weren’t too worried about her trying to escape considering where they were; she was safer with them than out alone.

Half an hour had passed when Aaron returned to the camp with three decent-sized hens. He and Rarsirrien moved far enough away from Desprae that Aaron could pass on what he had found out about her while they skinned and cleaned the birds. He was disappointed that she had discovered more about them than the other way around. When they finished, they saw Kirk had built a nice, hot, small fire giving off little smoke.

By the time they had finished eating, Desprae was already nodding off. Kirk volunteered to take the first watch, followed by Rarsirrien, who would take over around midnight, leaving Aaron with the last watch, meaning he would have a long day tomorrow. Rarsirrien threw a blanket over the sleeping Drow, settled between the roots of one of the large oaks, and closed his eyes. Aaron looked at Kirk, wished him a quiet night, then tried to get some rest before his watch in the morning.

Kirk’s watch passed uneventfully. He let the fire burn down so his eyes could adjust to the darkness and see better. The only thing he saw before Rarsirrien woke just after midnight was a lone fox, who seemed more curious than concerned about them. Rarsirrien took a few sips of water from one of the skins while Kirk climbed under his blanket. He waited until he heard Kirk’s breathing change and knew the man was asleep. He decided now was the best chance he would have to look around and see if there was an alternate route other than the main roads. A short distance from their encampment, he found an opening large enough. He changed back into his natural form, crouched down, spread his wings, and leaped into the night sky. It was a cloudy night, so the moon was hidden, and he was able to get some altitude and have a good look around. He could see the road heading west towards Humming’s End, but he wanted to find something to bypass that, so he flew more south. He picked up signs of a trail in the wood and followed it south until he came to a large stream which he guessed flowed down from the Iron Hills and into the Jewel River to the east.

He had been scouting for several hours. The clouds began to lift, and the half-moon was coming out, making his silhouette visible in the night sky. He would have to fly lower and faster to return now, which would take longer. He turned and headed back in the direction of Oakvein. The increased moonlight made it easier for him to find the clearing near their campsite, and he changed into his human form and headed back to the others. He would have to wake Aaron soon.

When he returned, all that remained of the fire were embers, and he could see Kirk and Aaron, both motionless and asleep. He looked where Desprae was sleeping. The blanket was there, but no sign of the Drow. He spun around and stepped back, as the Drow had come up from behind and was now standing directly behind him. He hadn’t heard a sound. She held out her right hand, and in it, she was holding the unlocked manacles.

“I don’t think we will need these any longer. Do you?”

Rarsirrien took the irons from her. Still surprised. He thought back to her falling while getting off the horse. He had been so stupid. He should have checked for the key right then, but she had managed to lull him into trusting her, if only a little. He looked back to the two bodies in blankets.

“They’re alive.” She read the expression on his face. “Though I’m curious, do they know what you are?”

He turned back to her, his nose inches from hers. “No, and if you know, then you know,” his voice suddenly changing into a low growl, “you’d do well not to say anything.”

D A STEMPNAKOWSKI

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