Stories Hub / Sci-Fi & Fantasy / Surfacing Ch. 31

Surfacing Ch. 31

by Etaski 01/19/16

Author's Notes: This story is erotic fantasy written by Etaski. I reserve the right to be listed as the author of this story, wherever it is posted. If found posted anywhere except with this note attached, this story is posted without my permission. (c) Etaski 2016.

This chapter sets the stage for the final big arch. And a few characters need to work about a little bit of their shit. ;) Enjoy!


Surfacing Chapter 31

The rest of the day after Sarilis's demise wasn't quite as grey or as wet. I saw a little blue Sky and golden Sun peeking through heavy clouds as if the weather patterns already wanted to change from their previous stagnation, though that splash of color barely helped the blackened land surrounding the Tower.

We had to bring in more food from our caches—Mourn and Jael could do that in a fraction of the time it would take any one of us—though we were informed we all had to stay outside regardless and leave Gavin alone for several hours while he "cleansed" the structure itself.

"Couldn't Tamuril help with that?" I had asked.

Gavin's blue irises vanished for a moment just before he blinked and shook his head. "This Tower is to be consecrated in my Lady's name. The Druid could help with reviving some of the damaged forest. You and anyone else willing can help with disposing of the less useful dead."

I looked around significantly at the huge mass of dead. "I take it you've already selected your 'useful' ones?"

"I have. They've been moved into storage for now."

"Not the golem, I hope."

"No, it's too crude and sloppy. I've a better design in mind if I wanted such a servant."

I wrinkled my nose. In other words, that field of hacked up bodies and charred giblets was a good idea only now that the lich was gone. The place was not going to smell like a fresh summer field... which got me again to thinking about Tamuril's hovel just earlier this year in these very mountains.

Well, I supposed, part of the point in doing the work now was so this valley would have wildflowers again, one day.

"Fine," I sighed, making eye contact with Gaelan and Tamuril, who nodded, and signing to Vesram. *Come.*

The four of us made an efficient team. The Draegloth was undoubtedly used to manual labor; he didn't complain about dragging or carrying most bodies around by their foot, whether it had walked, crawled, or flown in life.

Tamuril "put to rest" anything still moving even slightly before it went into the pyre. Each of those were found for her by Pilla's sharp eye. I could roll bodies along the ground with my psionic focus rather than touch them—it wasn't as though I had a lot of spare gloves to replace any soaked in zombie mucus—and I would add them to a cluster together which the Draegloth then set on fire with a word and a gesture. Gaelan could maintain her concentration and assure the pyre burned hot—abnormally hot.

By the time Mourn and Jael returned and joined the work after a short meal break, I was surprised how quickly it went. The mages had no trouble keeping the smoke wafting in one direction rather than forcing me to outrun its smelly, greasy cloud at every breeze. It was later in the afternoon when Gavin came out on Night-mare to tell us his Tower was "ready."

"Ready, how?" Jael asked.

"Sanctified and warded," he clarified.

"Does that mean we can sit down somewhere other than mud or a twisted log?"

Gavin shrugged slightly and nodded. "Some of the furniture is still serviceable."

We'd have shelter again tonight, maybe this time with a fire. The Sun was already behind clouds and headed behind plenty of mountains; the temperature would be dropping again. It reminded me that I hadn't yet seen "winter" in this place. It grew much cooler at night, but there was no snow.

Had I really wrangled an invitation from Gavin to stay here at the Tower if I needed a safe place to give birth? It was just because of something Nyx had said to me, wasn't it? Certainly not the beckoning luxuries of good food, healers, and warmth as among the Wilder. Not to mention the charm of its new master...bah. I wondered whether I was going to get any pushback from the others if I went this way. If I got the opportunity to decide.

Probably. And Gavin and Nyx both probably wouldn't care. "Her idea, not mine," he would say. "I told her she would be miserably cold."

I had to think about this. If it came to it.

The first change struck me as I crossed again over the Tower's threshold, through the main gate which now needed repair, and into the courtyard. I wasn't the only one to pause and blink at the difference. Not in how it looked—nothing had changed in appearance. It was in how it touched our senses. All of them.

In spite of Gavin keeping dead bodies and skeletons around, none of which were visible right now except for Night-mare—who was in much better shape after having eaten— I smelled no putrid rot and overwhelming sickness as I had just the previous day. That high pitch of the tremoring Ley Lines wasn't as desperate or grating; it was calmer.

The air I breathed reminded me of Gavin's garden when he'd been a Man who bled red, though lacking the living plants. I wasn't sure how that worked...maybe it was the soil itself, freshly tilled and fertilized with natural decay, now ready to receive seeds?

There was no doubt Death magic was still here, wasn't the same. It had changed from a contagious, aggressive festering to...something cleaner. Decay existing alongside everything else rather than suppressing any life trying to come back. It was long-existing and at peace; not unlike the Tilabil, actually, just in a less colorful sense. It wrapped us up in a grey cloak and hid us from easy view in just about the same way as the Wilder's sacred grove, I was willing to wager this. It would be harder to be found, either in the dreamscape or in the material.

So this was where my gut instinct proved correct. This was still a Surface sanctuary if I wanted it, cold season and all. There was a dwarven-built stronghold belowground, not unlike home, and it was not as if the snow would last forever; sooner or later the flowers and birds would return. That was the difference—that certainty of spring even as the land fell asleep for winter—which made stepping into the newly sanctified Tower so stunning from how it had been before.

I could never compare this feeling to anything in the Underdark. We didn't have such change down there. I could only hope this feeling eventually extended out to the rest of the area around us. It needed it.

I wasn't the only one ruminating on this. Mourn's tail glided in constant S-curves as he looked around, his tongue flicking out and his spines flexing unconsciously, rising slightly. Tamuril and Jael were gawking, and Vesram seemed confused—this wasn't a feeling he was used to despite living among necromancers for a century—and Gaelan merely sighed long and with visible relaxation to communicate what she felt.

"Come inside, then," Gavin invited in the exact fashion of a put-upon tutor trying to get unruly children to sit down and read the stupid scrolls for their own good.

"This place feels entirely different," Jael murmured as we walked inside, glancing at Mourn, who nodded.

"Would even Lord Indrath require an invitation now, Deathwalker?" the hybrid asked.

"He would," the grey mage agreed. "Over time I hope to expand the wards to include more of the forest, but not before it is healed."

Tamuril's green eyes scanned all around as Pilla cocked her head this way and that. The Druid still looked so sad, I thought, about too many things, but this Tower was no longer one of them.

"Would you help with that?" I asked her and she started out of whatever she was thinking to blink at me.

Then she nodded urgently. "Y-yes. I couldn't leave it like this..." She glanced warily at Gavin's back. "It would take time, I would need to stay nearby."

The grey mage grunted, glancing over his shoulder. "We can discuss it, Druid. I certainly have no talent for all the intricacies of the bloom."

"You kept a garden for food," I pointed out.

"I could plant a seed in the soil with my fingers and keep it moist," he groused. "If the ground itself cannot sustain the transition of a sprout, nothing happens."

I grinned at his cranky answer. I knew that, I just liked the mental image of the Deathwalker tending small plants as a reminder. I wasn't the only one who smiled about it, either. *What self-respecting necromancer has a green-thumb?* Sarilis had taunted.

One that even an Ice Lord would acquiesce to his being the caretaker of this place. When Indrath had the perfect opportunity to overwhelm each of us with Elfblood and retain his lich puppet on the other side of the continent...he hadn't taken it. Was it solely because of Gavin? Likely, but not because of intimidation.

*She has been sorely missed,* Indrath had said of Nyx.

The Ice Lord had accepted a peace offering: Sarilis's soul trapped in a polished gem of real pneuma flint, pulled right out of Gavin's body. Proof Nyx had influence here again, and Indrath stepped out of our way without any apparent pride protesting his loss.

None I could see or sense, anyway. Somehow that made the Ice Lord that much more frightening to me. The way Lethrix had teased Rennyn about the other... of his methods being "different but no less effective" for being in love for his children...

*A pity he reached you first,* Indrath had said to me. *But I believe I like that he finally found a daughter with your kind of potential. It took him long enough...*

I pursed my lips. It took him long enough? What did that mean? That Indrath already had an Elf "daughter" with psionics, and Rennyn and the Tilabil were merely catching up?

My eyes slid to Tamuril as well, as we entered the dining hall and got a fire going and a pot to put a group meal's ration within it, adding some purified water for a welcome, hot meal. In spite of what I'd said to calm her down before—about just being glad it had worked out, and Indrath hadn't taken her—I knew that she still had something to fear there.

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