Dark. Cold. Wet.
Out of the frying pan and into the… what, exactly?
“Where are we?” Abelarde asked, and heard his voice echoing back at him. “Lucan, what do you see?”
The eladrin’s keen eyesight cut through the black. “I see rocks. Some moss. Looks like we’re in a cave.”
Whitby drew his sunblade and bathed the area in bright, radiant light. Lucan was right. They were in a cave of some kind, with columns of jagged black stones jutting out from the floor and ceiling like sharp teeth. There were very few smooth edges to be seen. It looked as if the cave had been created by pulling the walls apart rather than through the forces of nature.
Salissta shielded her eyes from the light and turned her head away. “Put that out!” she demanded. “Are you trying to get us killed?”
Abelarde sheathed his blade. The darkness returned. “Might I remind you that you were the one who brought us here. Maybe you are trying to get us killed?”
Toby grabbed a handhold on the nearest wall. “I can’t see a thing, but this rock feels very cold. Are we in the mountains?”
Lucan lowered himself on one knee and felt the rock and dirt beneath him. “I don’t think so. It doesn’t feel like the mountains. It feels different.”
Salissta retrieved a sack from a box tucked behind a small pile of stones. Inside the sack was a glowing blue stone. The light from the stone was dim, but it brightened the cave enough for people to make out faces and navigate around the treacheries of the cave. Even with the light, it was a bit startling when Saffrenia croaked “We’re in the Underdark, aren’t we?”
All eyes turned to Sallista. Despite the fact that the tortured eladrin was now conscious, it seemed more important to have her question answered.
Salissta put the sack down and walked between the shards of stone. “Yes. We are in the Underdark. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to make sure that beacon of light didn’t attract any unwanted visitors.”
Quiet as a whisper, Salissta moved through the cave and disappeared. Koyas knelt down beside the Councillor. “You’re awake,” he said. “I don’t know if you can see them, but your feet aren’t right for standing on. Sitting down is a thing you should keep doing.”
Saffrenia looked up at Koyas. “Who is this foul-smelling little man? And who are you people?”
“I am Abelarde Whitby, and these are the Scions of Legacy. We have rescued you.”
“Hmm.” Saffrenia looked around the cave. “Thanks for that.” Abelarde cocked an eyebrow while Lucan stood behind her. “So tell me, Abelarde Whitby. What is Salissta doing here? Did my husband summon her to suck the power from her?”
“Well no, not exactly but it appears that was the final result.” Abelarde knelt down at Saffrenia’s feet and examined the burned stumps beneath her ankles. Charred meat clung to shiny tendons and white bone. “I’ve seen worse,” he diagnosed. “But not by much.” He set his field pack down and dug through the contents. “So was this a plan you and your husband spoke about? Bringing her back?”
Saffrenia looked down at her charred limbs, knowing who was responsible for it. “It was something he had been planning. You see, my husband was quite… obsessed with the arcane arts. At first, like a fool I encouraged his devotion, but soon he started talking about becoming more powerful than Elminster, and using the ritual his sister had used to empower herself with the demon’s essence.”
Lucan stared at the back of Saffrenia’s head. “Who was he planning on using the ritual on? Elminster?”
Saffrenia looked down. “Everyone.”
The concept took some time to sink in. Toby leaned against the wall and shook his head. “I tried to make him see reason,” Saffrenia tried to explain. “When he felt I was standing in his way he had me replaced with a construct. He hired an assassin named Tewey to act as her assistant and thereby controlled the Council of Seven. If anyone stood against him, he could have Tewey eliminate them. That’s why I ended up in the Blackguard’s basement.”
“Such a shame,” Koyas cooed.
Abelarde produced a roll of bandages and began to gently wrap what remained of Saffrenia’s feet. “Your children didn’t try to stop him?”
“Garridel and Larah both followed in their father’s footsteps. They did everything he said without question.” She winced as Abelarde applied pressure. “Deremiis chose another path, and apparently Kalak is searching for him in some effort to contain him.”
Lucan turned his back to Saffrenia and walked across the cave.
Abelarde stood up and admired his wrapping job. “All done,” he announced with a great deal of pride.
Toby stood up and looked over Abelarde’s shoulder. “You sure? Seems a little loose.”
“No, that’s just the light.”
“Really think it’s a little loose.” Toby bent down and tugged on the bandages. Saffrenia shrieked. The barbarian straightened. “See? Loose.”
Salissta stormed back into the cave. “Quiet!” she hissed at her sister-in-law. “You’re not conducting a meeting here!”
Saffrenia stared at her with open malice. “You’re enjoying this.”
Sallista stared back and curled her upper lip. “Maybe a little. I’ve had a rough century.”
Koyas knelt down and adjusted the bandages on Saffrenia’s foot. “There. All better.”
The Councillor didn’t seem to appreciate the effort. “You smell like garbage and excrement. I’d rather you not touch me.”
Lucan spoke just loud enough to be heard. “If it wasn’t for him, you’d still be in your cell. I guess he is crazy after all.”
At first, it had been hard to place the voice. It had seemed familiar to her, but this time Saffrenia managed to place it. She craned her neck to try and see where the voice was coming from. “Omessan?” Saffrenia whispered, hands to her lips, eyes wide with disbelief.
Salissta looked down at the Councillor. “This is how it is. The crazy little man saved you from your cell. I saved you from your prison. We are going after my brother before he decides that reality isn’t quite worth his time and wipes us out of existence.”
That got Toby’s attention. “He can do that?”
“He’ll have the power to do what he wishes. I think we’d all rather that not happen.”
There wasn’t much left of her heels, so Saffrenia pulled herself along the ground with her hands. She reached one of the outcroppings and leaned against it. “I’m a prisoner?”
Salissta scoffed. “Please. You’re Saffrenia Stormrage. Who could ever imprison the likes of you? Other than your husband of course.”
Koyas patted Saffrenia on the head. “That wasn’t a very nice thing for him to do.”
Saffrenia slapped his hand away. “I told you not to touch me.” She looked up at him. “But thank you for saving my life.”
Koyas smiled and bowed. Something small and unrecognizable fell out of his hair and landed in Saffrenia’s lap. She cringed and swatted at it, bouncing away from him across the hard stones.
Salissta grabbed the glowing blue stone and held it up. “Okay, enough. Saffrenia, you know how to get home. I trust that you can get there safely. The rest of us will be carrying on to Apothica. After that, we will stop Kalak from unmaking reality.”
Abelarde pulled his sunblade once again. This time, he dimmed the blade enough to enlighten only the nearby area. “I’m glad you feel this sense of empowerment, but might I remind you that we really don’t trust you. You’ve brought us to the Underdark, and want us to wander around in the dark at your mercy. Also, you happen to be wearing a Scion’s body as a coat. As amazing as we are, there are limits to what we can tolerate.”
Salissta tossed the glowing stone to Toby. “I know you don’t trust me. I’m not asking you to. You want honesty? Fine. I can’t stop Kalak without you. Feel better?”
Nobody seemed much better.
For the moment, the Scions rested on long, thin sacks that acted as mattresses filled with moss. Small bowls of powdered rations were passed around to everyone. It was mixed with fresh cold water to form a fine paste that hinted at some kind of actual food. While Saffrenia cast her ritual that would send her home, the Scions sat in the near-dark eating their goop.