After sleeping for several hours (I don’t know how many – we’re underground and I didn't bring enough candles to waste one while we sleep simply for timekeeping), we ate a quick meal and prepared to exit our little hiding hole. While Fadeyka said her morning prayers, using the links of her chain sickle as prayer beads, I opened Aurelius’s journal to the section describing this complex of underground ruins, my own journal to the notes I had taken about the ruins while looking for Fadeyka, and the hand-drawn map I put together from various sources. I started updating my map with the new information using a charcoal pencil.
By the time I was done updating my map, Fadeyka was completing her morning prayers. Her eyes glowed a pale green as she finished, as they always did after she communed with the goddess. The glow would subside in a bit and it unnerved many people, but I liked the look. “You’re starring again,” Fadeyka said.
I quickly looked back to my map. “Sorry.” I could feel the blush on my face and was hoping that Fadeyka could not see it in the candle light.
She coiled her chain sickle and hung it on the hook on her belt. She then stood up and walked over next to me at the table where the two journals and the map were laid out. I was still pretending to look over the map, avoiding looking at her until I was more confident my blush was under control. “You’re not bothered by the Light of the Goddess, are you,” she asked. She was clearly talking about her eyes glowing.
I thought about pretending I hadn't noticed, but I obviously had, so I decided truth would be a better idea. “No,” I said, and then quickly added, “I think it looks…” I waved my hand a bit before lamely ending, “…Good.” I looked up to see how she was responding to that.
She was looking at me with a contemplative face, the glow in her eyes slowly fading. I think she was trying to determine if I meant what I was saying. After a couple of seconds she nodded her head and looked at the map. “Do you have a good path back to the Laboratory?”
I cleared my throat and said, “Almost. These upper passages we’re in seem to be maintenance or servant passages. They’re all full of dust, so the dwerro don’t seem to be using them.”
“But they might if they decide that is how I escaped,” Fadeyka added.
“Right,” I agreed. “So we should be able to follow these passages along what Aurelius calls the Great Hall in his journal.” I indicated the passages on my map. “The problem is that I didn’t have time to go down there and look, so I don’t know what’s down there or if they connect to similar passages near the Laboratory.”
“There is only one way to find out and it’s better than going down to the main level where the dwerro are,” Fadeyka replied.
“My thinking as well,” I agreed. “Shall we?”
“Yes.” She started to pick up her backpack and then suddenly stopped. “Wait! How am I going to see once we leave here?”
“My goggles,” I said, handing them over to her. “I only have one set, but I can see just as well by candlelight, so we’ll have to chance a little light.”
Fadeyka took the googles from me, looking at them and then at me with some concern on her face. “Is that going to be safe? Won’t it slow us down?”
“We should be able to move just as well as when we had the torch – it’s one of the few gifts my father gave me.” Elves can see just as well in low light as in bright daylight and my father, whoever he was, was an elf and I inherited that ability. I started packing away the journals and the map.
That seemed to satisfy Fadeyka’s concerns. “I keep forgetting you’re half-elven – you tend hide it.”
“It helps people underestimate me, which gives me an advantage when I want it.” I finished putting away my things and latched my haversack closed. “Plus, strangers are less wary around a kid than someone with enough years to be an adult. It’s gotten me the occasional hot soup and shelter from the rain that I might not have received otherwise.”
“You are entirely too young to be that cynical,” Fadeyka replied. She was shouldering her backpack and putting on the darkvision goggles.
“I’m not being cynical, just practical,” I said, shouldering my haversack. “I've spent a lot of time traveling alone and appreciate the kindnesses I receive. I usually help out to return the favor, but try to get out before anyone decides I’d be the perfect husband for their daughter or niece or anything.” Fadeyka snorted at that. “No, really! That was one of the first things I learned on the road. Every farm is looking for another hand to work the farm and they think marriage is the best way to get one that you don’t have to pay too much because now they’re family.”
Fadeyka looked at me with a mix of curiosity and humor, mostly humor. “Are you saying you’re secretly married somewhere and ran off from your new bride?”
“No, thank the gods,” I replied, “But I did once overhear secret wedding plans being made for me. They were just waiting for the justice of the peace to arrive the next day before confronting me about ‘courting’ their ugly niece. I left that night, hiking as fast and as far as I could.”
Fadeyka chuckled at that and then said, “Well on that uplifting note, shall we start?”
“Yes, let’s,” I answered.
Copyright Patrick J. Walsh 2014. All rights reserved.