Chapter 13

Madison had been dreading the knock that sounded at the door to their inn room. It meant that things were about to go into an uncontrollable downward spiral that would most likely kill everyone (or at least everyone Madison cared about). She had hoped that maybe it wouldn't come and that they could just spend a few more days relaxing in their room. Admittedly, sharing a room with drow males was uncomfortable, but Madison also secretly enjoyed it. These people were legends.

Still, the knock came. Considering it practically, maybe it was not so bad that things were about to get started. If Madison and her sisters died on this journey they would never have to experience the life of a domestic slave for the drow.

Madison watched as Pharaun approached the door; obviously by his lack of surprise, he thought that the knocker would be Quenthel of one of the people she took with her. Madison knew it would be Zammzt, a patron father of the Jaezred Chaulssin. Pharaun slowly opened the door, keeping his body wedged between the partially open door and the frame to block Zammzt's view of the room.

"Pardon the intrusion," the male said in a much more aloof way than Madison had expected. Hadn't the books described him as charismatic? He continued, "I'm looking for the wizard Pharaun Mizzrym and the warriors Ryld Argith and Valas Hune."

Madison watched Ryld and Hune not so stealthily and stealthily, respectively, draw their weapons. Melanie sent her a confused worried look and moved her hand to her new sword. Madison shook her head to reassure her. Afterall, Zammzt wouldn't attack them yet. He had plans to lure them to their deaths later. Still, even knowing that, Madison felt a little bit safer with the warriors on guard.

"And who might you be?" Pharaun asked in what might have been intended to be a polite manner, but honestly his haughty arrogance rang through quite clearly. Madison supposed he couldn't help that.

"Zammzt. I am here at the behest of Matron Mother Ssipriina Zauvirr of House Zauvirr, Matron Mother Melarn of House Melarn, and Quenthel Baenre of House Baenre. Are you the wizard?" Madison couldn't see him, but she thought she heard just the slightest bit of sarcasm roll of his tongue when he said the titles of the priestesses. Undoubtedly, Pharaun would just think this was because he was a male not because he was part of a secret Lolth-hating cult.

"That depends on why you want them," Pharaun answered cryptically but maybe not so subtly, shifting slightly to prepare himself for any kind of oncoming attack.

"Mistress Quenthel is a guest of Mistress Drisinil Melarn of House Melarn. I am here to extend an invitation to you to join them for a banquet in your honor." Zammzt sounded less than thrilled about all of this.

"Doesn't that sound excellent?" Pharaun asked rhetorically. "You will escort us there, I assume."

The second bit wasn't a question but Zammzt answered anyway, "Indeed, Master Mizzrym. I will lead you to House Melarn." To give him credit, Zammzt kept most of the venom out of his voice for the sake of civility, but the drawling hate from being demeaned was still audible.

"Excellent. If you would just give us a moment to clean up. We can't show up to a dinner honoring us in clothes like this." Pharaun motioned to his travel piwafwi.

"Of course, Master Mizzrym," Zammzt drawled, "I am at your convenience. After all, dinner cannot start without you."

"We'll be out in a moment. Wait for us down in the common room, would you?" Pharaun responded as he closed the door on Zammzt's face.

Hune frowned deeply. Maybe he hated social eating as much as Madison did.

The scout shared his concern, "They were apprehended or Quenthel wanted better accommodations."

"It's bad news regardless," Ryld grumbled.

"She was set up and betrayed by Faeryl," Morgan clarified.

Madison shifted uncomfortably. She knew that these drow males couldn't care less about Quenthel on a personal level, but the situation did seem to prove that Madison and her sisters weren't exactly loyal to keeping all of the drow in the party happy and healthy. Even more than that, it pointed out what Quenthel would probably see as a betrayal before she torturously kills the human sisters.

Madison caught Morgan's gaze, driving Morgan to speak. "Quenthel's capture was necessary for the quest. She'll understand that if we tell her of the reward Lolth intends to give her."

The meaning of her words became clear to Madison instantly. Morgan wanted to tell Quenthel that she would be Lolth's chosen one. It was a lie, but if anything was going to save them from her wrath, this would be it. Madison took a deep breath and was comforted the slightest bit.

"Lolth plans on rewarding our high priestess? Do tell us how," Pharaun implored in a curious but yet threatening way.

Morgan was quick to answer. "Don't concern yourself with it. It's more a religious honor that only a priestess would ever want than an actual reward. I can assure you that you don't want it."

"Well, then. Shall we make our discreet exit out our window or go be entertained at a dinner party?" Madison was relieved when Pharaun let the previous matter go at that. Surely he was curious, but there was a task at hand.

"If Quenthel was betrayed, I doubt it will be a dinner party at all," Melanie said obviously becoming nervous.

"Indeed?" Pharaun asked as if shocked. "Perhaps it would be if they knew just how much we suffered under her tedious reign as leader."

Madison almost laughed, which would have been wildly inappropriate, when she saw Melanie's face slowly become offended. Instead, Madison looked at the ground, trying to regain her cool. It wasn't hard once she remembered she was in a city that was about to be demolished.

Pharaun continued, "Before we meet this Zammzt in the lobby, I want to look over my spellbooks. If Melanie here is correct, we will need my magical fortitude before the night is over."

Hune nodded his agreement. "A wise plan. Ryld and I could use healing magic."

Pharaun smiled at Melanie. "It seems you are wise, according to our qualified scout."

Melanie was still pouting a little, and Madison could see that this didn't help her spoiling mood. Pharaun seemed to be enjoying himself, however. Madison looked at the cuts and bruises on herself and Morgan.

"Search Quenthel's room for something. I'm sure she's been stockpiling. Take the young humans with you. I need quiet," the mage suggested, refocusing on his tasks.

Ryld looked at Madison and Morgan critically. Madison felt uncomfortable under his pragmatic examination. "We'll take them but we can't waste healing supplies on them."

Pharaun nodded in agreement as he opened his spellbook. "Certainly not with the current state of things."

Melanie shifted uneasily. "Shouldn't I go too?"

"I'd rather you were here," Pharaun responded without betraying any kind of emotion that Madison could see.

Then again, Madison didn't expect to be able to read a drow. They looked angry and dark and manipulative all the time. Except maybe Hune. He looked dark, angry, and just done with everything.

Madison smiled and glanced at Hune. He was waiting by the door for Ryld. He looked somewhat bored but not as so far removed as he acted with the priestesses present, and yet Madison knew that he was completely alert. After only a brief second of examination, Hune's amber eyes met Madison's, casing her to look hastily at the floor once again. Hopefully he thought it was just a glance. Madison felt him shift where he stood more than she heard or saw it.

Then suddenly Ryld was corralling both Madison and Morgan out the door. Madison gave Melanie a farewell look that was meant to be encouraging.

-o-o-o-o-

Valas had no trouble whatsoever picking the lock on the priestesses' room door. It was far from a fine inn and offered only modest protection. Opening the door revealed a largely undisturbed room. It was larger and more outfitted than the one the priestesses had left for him and his male companions. A quick scan of the area revealed that Quenthel had stored her pack and other supplies near the bed, undoubtedly to offer them some kind of cover from any prying eyes.

The scout moved fully into the room once he was certain that it was completely unoccupied. Ryld lead the two human females that seemingly were delegated to warriors by Pharaun before entering the room himself and closing the door, locking it once again behind him just in case.

Morgan appeared characteristically upset. It was a combination of anger and irritation that Valas recognized in her features, and it would probably end up getting her killed eventually. She had her arms crossed and her hip cocked as she waited impatiently for their business here to be concluded.

Madison on the other hand looked anxious. Certainly it wasn't a new look for her either, but it created some concern for Valas. The scout was sceptical of anyone who claimed to know the future, and the claim was particularly doubtful coming from three humans who were not even remotely capable of taking care of themselves here or on the surface. Pharaun, however, believed the claim to some degree, and Valas wasn't going to completely discount the opinion of a powerful wizard.

Valas watched Ryld rummage through Quenthel's pack to find any kind of healing magic. Eventually the Weapons Master pulled out two small, delicate glass potion bottles. Valas could see the label from where he stood. Quenthel had been stockpiling healing potions this whole time. Undoubtedly she intended to only use them on herself, but she was gone and the plan needed them.

Ryld resealed the priestess's pack carefully and tossed one of the potions at the scout. Valas caught it easily, popped it open, and downed enough of the smooth fluid to seal his wounds. He left a little bit in the bottom of the bottle; he was healed and didn't need it. The humans, however, were somewhat battered.

Although they had told the mage that they would not heal the humans, there was not enough healing left to save for later. Valas extended his remaining potion towards the young human. She was most likely to slow them down because of her minor injuries.

She took it from him hesitantly. "Thank you."

It was uncommon for drow to hear thanks. Valas just nodded in response and watched her. She was holding the potion but didn't drink it. Did she not trust him? He had just used the rest of it right in front of her eyes. Whether that was the reason or not, Madison decided to finish off the potion after the moment of hesitation.

Valas then followed Ryld's example and sat on the floor to rest. A short reverie would restore both of them, assuming that the humans stayed quiet enough for that to be accomplished.

Valas's quiet meditation was interrupted by the humans speaking. He could not help himself but to listen in or to try to. They were speaking in quiet tones, which was not a problem, but to Valas's confusion, they were speaking in a language he had never even heard of before. Clearly they were not fluent; their speech was incredibly broken.

The situation put Valas on edge. It had not escaped his notice that the younger human had been acting strangely to him. Considering the concept that she knew the group's future was more intimidating. Was something going to happen to him soon? Certainly he was always careful and vigilant, but he would have to be more alert than ever.

The scout opened his eyes to look at the two human women. Before he could, however, he noticed Ryld staring at him. The Weapons Master began to sign to him discreetly, making sure the women would not see his movements.

Do you know what they are saying?

Valas kept his face and body language neutral as he responded. No.

Should we quiet them? Ryld obviously didn't care much either way. He was trained to be able to enter reverie under far more drastic circumstances than a few humans chattering.

What do you think they are talking about? Valas avoided Ryld's question.

Tree? The sun? Probably human things.

They are purposely hiding it from us or else they would be using common. It was an obvious statement that they were both aware of, but Valas wanted to prompt Ryld to comment.

Pharaun thinks that they know the future.

They might. I do not think they are lying, at least. Valas considered. He could tell that Ryld was in agreement with him. Valas was also aware that they were both uncomfortable with the idea.

You are nervous. Ryld did not ask. He stated.

No. Valas replied. I am cautious. The young one keeps acts strangely towards me.

Ryld looked amused. Of course.

Valas just blinked in confusion.

Humans are easily emotionally attached. Ryld continued.

Valas knew instantly what he was talking about. Humans were famous for their emotional infatuations. The scout could not ignore the possibility; after all, the evidence fit, but that evidence fit with a lot of other explanations. If he were someone like Pharaun he might try to test the idea or use it to his advantage. Valas didn't care that much however, as long as it didn't become some kind of problem.

When Ryld saw that he had no intention of responding, the Weapons Master closed his eyes to return to his resting. Valas checked over the room one last time, making sure it was secure. His eyes settled back on the humans.

They had stopped trying to talk in whatever language they had been struggling with before. Now Morgan was laying on the floor, obviously trying to sleep. Madison was just sitting beside her anxiously. The young human looked up, meeting Valas's eyes for a second and then looked away awkwardly once more.

Valas just closed his eyes once more so that he could rest without distraction.

-0-0-0-0-

Melanie was once again left to awkwardly watch Pharaun study. He took his time getting his spell books out of his bag and opening them. After only a few moments of his quiet studying he turned to her.

"So this is a trap, then?"

Melanie nodded, already afraid of where this conversation was going. She couldn't tell him much of anything because she didn't really know what was going to happen. Not like the other two did.

"And what spells might be most useful to me?"

Once again Melanie was at a loss. Was he even asking her for her input? Or was he musing to himself. Both seemed likely given who he was. She shrugged, hoping to look as clueless as she felt. "I don't know. I don't know any magic."

Pharaun smiled in a self-satisfied kind of way. "No, I suppose you don't. But you can still assist me a little. What am I going to encounter?"

Melanie hesitated and even she knew that it was for too long. She said the only thing she knew, and she didn't know how accurate it was. "It's going to be a large battle. The entire city is going to be fighting because of the slaves." Why did she always feel so stupid around Pharaun?

"Another slave uprising? How unfortunate." And with that, the wizard began to study silently.

Melanie tried to stay as quiet as possible, conscious that even her breathing was probably distracting.

And then she decided to relax, if only just a little. The thought had occurred to her that Pharaun had chosen to keep her here. We was proving himself to be a friend, even if everything else was, including him, intimidating. Besides that, even, Pharaun wasn't like Quenthel. Pharaun didn't seem as status concerned; after all, he had real friends among his own party. Quenthel didn't.

Melanie took a few normal breaths, deciding to stop strangling herself, and she could have sworn that she saw Pharaun smile. It was so slight that she couldn't be sure it had happened at all, and even if it had, he was reading. There was a chance that something in his spellbook brought him a small amount of humor.

Looking around the room while she waited for… something, Melanie couldn't help but think about her sisters. They had come back injured. It wasn't bad, and they had been in good hands, but the thought still bothered her. She had been safe, wasting most of the day, with Pharaun. She would have to do better to make sure they were safe too. But how could she? They were all helpless here. Melanie curled in defeat on the bed she was sitting on, running the fingers of her right hand across her eyes until they met, pinching the bridge of her nose.

She didn't care if Pharaun saw her despairing.

-0-0-0-0-

A/N: Finally, here's another one. Sorry for any mistakes; I don't really edit these since I take so long to write them in the first place. If there are any big mistakes, let me know so I can fix them for you guys!