“I did good.” Loic’s words came to Valdasar as if through a fog as his senses returned to the plane. He allowed Loic’s hand to remain on his own as he used his other hand to gently probe and inspect the stab wounds.
“It was reckless of you, to go off on your own,” he murmured dourly as he went about his work with practised ease. “It was fortunate the drow leader did not see me as a threat, or I would not have made it to you in time.”
He then slipped his hand from Loic’s limp grasp and took out a small package of herbs and bandages, as well as his alms bowl. He crushed the herbs by hand, adding a tiny dribble of water from his waterskin before working them into a paste. He smiled then, his eyes filled with a admiration. “And yet, you may very well have saved our lives.”
“You mispronounced brilliant,” the wizard weakly muttered. He slowly turned his head to stare at Valdasar while the priest busied himself with mixing what was safe to assume was a healing salve. There was a small, eight-legged reptile that began to nestle into the bend of the elbow of the disgusting, elongated arm of his left side. Stretched along his master’s length, Loic noted that his pet had grown quite a bit in the last week. It was possible he would not be able to carry him any longer, which also meant that his eyes would be obtaining their trademark abilities any day now. Presently, the basilisk kept his head down, resting his chin on the wizard’s bicep.
The Dragonborn smiled at him and acknowledged the potential importance of his actions over the course of the last battle. The half-elf only stared back at him, with an expression on his dirty face as though he were working through several thoughts at once. It was split suddenly by a wide, mischievous grin. “I only regret that there are no surviving witnesses to my performance. It was a highly entertaining show, if I do say so, myself.”
Loic didn’t care to explain himself unless he had to. Even he wasn’t completely sure what had come over him, but he imagined that it had been as complicated of a combination of things as anything else in the world tended to be. Things seemed to become exponentially more complicated in the Underdark, at that.
“Is everyone else alright? Vizeran?” A hand came to rub his face, trying to wake himself up more. Being put back into one’s body after what had felt like half a day’s time felt reminiscent of being woken from a very deep slumber. “And how long has passed since the battle? Do we still have the bodies of the priestesses? Did the Yochlol vanish?”
He was coming back now mentally, and as he did, he began to recall what sort of time limits they were all under. They didn’t really have any to spare. In that spirit, and with a stifled groan, he gradually began to sit up.
“The others are alive and well,” the priest responded. “The battle was drawing to an end as I brought you here, only a few minutes ago, but I have no idea as to the condition of the bodies.” He laid a steadying hand on Loic’s shoulder and pressed the cleansing herbs into his wounds. “The pain will subside in a matter of moments. Thankfully, the wound is clean and free of debris, so recovery should be swift. I must bind the healing mixture in place with bandages to avoid infection.”
He lifted Loic’s arms gingerly, winding a strip of cloth around his torso. “Almost there. You will be able to move, but not too quickly. The more you rest, the quicker your convalescence will be.” He paused, the grin still on his lips. “What ‘performance’ did you give our attackers exactly? It must have been convincing to keep them occupied for so long.”
“Ow,” he said flatly as Valdasar started smearing stuff onto him. It smelled alright, thankfully. He said it again, the same way, when the cleric helped him raise his arms enough to wrap his trunk in bandages. The wizard mused that he probably looked like a proper fighter right about now. That’s not what he was, though, so he snapped his fingers and magically shed himself of all the old blood and dirt. Besides that sort of easy trick, he could still feel that his store of magical energy was greatly depleted. Valdasar said it had only been minutes since he’d fallen, and this would reinforce his claim.
Loic smiled again at the inquisition of what, exactly, had happened outside of the tower, and he shook his head. “Next time we sit down over dinner, I’ll regale you all with how I single-handedly took on a priestess of Lolth and a Yochlol at the same time. For now, we need to leave this place, and I need to find those bodies. In a perfect world, I’d have time to recover, but we are a long way away from any semblance of perfection.”
When Valdasar had finished the bandaging, Loic unceremoniously plopped his grotesque left hand on the cleric’s shoulder and proceeded to use him as leverage to stand up. He was sluggish, and he was wobbly, but he was able to compose himself to some extent and shuffle forward.
“Peet. Come. Head down,” he commanded, and the little blue one obeyed, hopping off the bed to heel at Loic’s feet.
Before exiting the room, he paused and glanced over his shoulder. “We can walk and talk, if you like. You might be interested to know that I remember everything from my brief time in the afterlife. It’s quite fascinating that all that happens is we essentially get banished from the material plane. I went to The Fugue, myself. Seems you’d go elsewhere if you died.”
Eran walked back into tower with a quickened pace making sure Ilia was following. He was concerned for his elf friend, he was certainly playing down the pain he was feeling while welding the dagger and his defensiveness reminded him of orb he held at Mantol Derith. He thought back to when he’d first seen him with it? The battle at Loudwater perhaps? That would make Karse the likely ruins he was talking about. A place of very dark history. Nothing good can come from there he surmised.
Yet another great concern was Loic, was this yet another party member lost this day? He hoped the Cleric could do something for him. As he rushed up the stairs to the second floor he caught Lael’s eyes. " It’s Loic" . He expressed more in the glance than in the words. Warrior to warrior, expressing a loss of a comrade. For she was a warrior in his eyes now, regardless of his earlier out bursts, they had fought back to back through most of the siege, and she had slew her kin as ferociously as he.
He continued up the stairs gesturing her to follow. “Valdasar!” He called in concerned. “Valdasar!” He repeated as he neared the third floor.
Lael’essthrae Xund’lara Torviir
Eran had jumped through the hole through the stairs and rushed out to meet battle. Before Lael could even react the sounds of fighting had stopped. Removing her helmet she let out a relieved sigh.
It was over. She brushed the hair that clung to her face with sweat and took a moment, to internally check her aches and pains as the adrenaline subsided and calm returned.
Surprisingly she was fine, she would be sore in a few hours, nothing she could withstand but there were only minor scratches.
She looked about her at all the bodies they had slain. Her fallen kin, her mother and sisters would not approve. It was fine, she thought to herself, she would face penitence eventually.
She kneeled to the warrior at her feet, and covered up the garish gash on his face with her hand.
This would be a face someone would miss, his chiseled jaw and high cheekbones were quite pleasing. From what she could tell from his stained hair it was once snowy white. Turning her head to what remained of the Yachlol she had carved in half earlier.
Lolth was getting desperate, or was it the newly reformed Do’Urden’s coming to finish their originals did not finish? She moved to the stairway to retrieve the remains of the priestess.
Lael checked her long and nimble fingers for a ring identifying her house and found none.
There was only time for a frown to befall Lael’s face before Eran had rushed up the stairs. She met his gaze, it was filled with worry and urgency. The word’s “It’s Loic” made her heart skip a beat.
She didn’t even need the gesture to scramble to her feet and meet his speed.
The reason Loic hadn’t thanked the cleric yet was because it was within question just how much of the resurrection Valdasar had been a part of. As he stood in the doorway, he couldn’t get his mind off the echoes of what he had known to be the voice of Ghaunadaur, insisting Loic’s work on the material plane was not yet finished. His experience in the afterlife had been no less exciting than another day in the Underdark. Just before he’d awoken, he had been grappled by a massive tentacle that had come bursting forth from one of Kelemvor’s many dimensional doors, and though he had been unable to see beyond it after it had coiled around his head, he distinctly recalled the feeling of having been thrown a great distance by that long arm. How would it make Valdasar feel, he wondered, if he knew he’d had that kind of help? Would he be grateful or revolted? Would he begin to question his own abilities? There was no time for that.
Fortunately, the wizard didn’t have to say anything. Shouts came rolling up from the staircase, demanding Valdasar’s attention. He turned his head to see both Eran and Lael, side-by-side, dashing onto the third floor. Loic was immediately reminded that Lael had yet to see his transforming left appendage, and with the exception of the bandages, his top half was completely exposed. His cloak, armor, and even his undershirt had been removed in order for his wounds to be tended. So there it was, that long, gross thing, veined with green and over twice as long as it should be. His fingers could touch the ground if he stretched a little. Where it attached to his body around his upper shoulder and collarbone, the grotesque display gradually faded back into soft, pale, half-elf flesh. Instinctively, he shifted to where the majority of the limb was behind him (little good that did), and slowly faded back into the small guest room from which he’d come to retrieve his cloak and armor.
Eran reached the third floor to find Loic and Valdasar limping in the hallway. He sighed with relief as he met Loic’s gaze. One still filled with life. Thankful they had not lost another this day.
He then watch as Loic’s stare quickly moved to Lael and then to his… arm? Eran wasn’t sure what to call it anymore. A glimmer of shame or disgust washed over Loic’s face and he quickly obscured his limb from view. Lael had not seen it before, not even known about it from Loic’s reaction to her presence. In truth it had exacerbated beyond what Eran had seen only a few hours ago. Even he felt some revulsion to the sight, but he certainly couldn’t refute the wizards commitment to the mission.
" I see news of your demise have been somewhat exaggerated?" Eran said whimsically, attempting to break the tension, as the wizard fled back into Valdassar’s room.
Lael’essthrae Xund’lara Torviir
With the appearance of both Valdasar and Loic the tension dropped from Lael’s shoulders. “Thank the Goddess.” She muttered as she turned to return back downstairs or that was what she planned to do.
After all she was still mad at Loic, thinking it best to keep space between them, so the feeling to wring his neck did not completely consume her. Yet she caught sight of his arm. Completely pausing as her eyes followed it from his shoulder till the floor, which it nearly reached, her frown increasing as her scrutiny increased.
Was it an injury? Lael wondered, Valdasar did favor physical medicine instead of magical. Perhaps she would have convinced herself of that truth had Loic then not tried to hide it.
He retreated and she immediately gave pursuit. “Someone should check on Vizeran and ready the lizards. We should not stay here a moment longer.” Lael called back to Eran’s light hearted conversation starter before slipping into the room Loic had gone into and closing the door with her foot.
“Look at you.” She directed to Loic as soon as the door was closed. It was high pitched with stress. “What happened and what is wrong with your arm?”
Vizeran, yes the Drow wizard had not taken part in the fight. " Raddan wanted to check on him as well." He made a quick glance to see if the masked man had followed him but couldn’t see him at that moment. “I’ll go check.” He turned to leave but turned back " But we’re not leaving yet!" He said adamantly. " Not before we’ve figured out how they found us and others have regained their strength." He was talking about Loic but he was feeling the fatigue of battle himself now. “Loic” raising his voice. “Your shield guardian is standing outside like an idle child, can you have him guard what’s left of the door please.” He made it sound like firm request than an order.
He looked back down the stairs and shouted down to Alvin. “Alvin! Gather our supplies and whatever food and water you can source from the kitchen, we need to be able to leave at a moments notice!” He ordered. Then looking at the bodies of dead Drow. “Oh and gather the Drow weapons, I need materials?”. With that he shot up the staircase to the higher levels of the tower.
Raddan lingered as Eran darted inside the tower to search for Valdasar and his bloodied charge. He’d gotten a good look at the wizard once the demonic spider had been unceremoniously dumped back in its home plane and the mess the priestess had made of him didn’t fill him with much confidence in Loic’s ability to pull through. He remembered the dwarf in Mantol-Derith however, and Valdasar’s attempts to return his soul to the lifeless corpse. If the dragonborn could attempt the same spell again, it could only be hoped the results would be better this time. He stared down at the husk of the fallen drow priestess for a moment, eyes on the cloak she wore. It was clearly of drow design and given their eventual trip to Menzo-Berenzan, would doubtless come in handy. Raddan quickly stripped her of it, the actions quick, efficient and born of long practice. Once removed, he examined her a moment longer, searching for clues as to which of the drow houses had ordered the assault. While he didn’t know much of the dark elves’ ruling caste, a symbol could lead to a name and a name offered much. A thorough search turned up nothing. Evidently the drow had taken great care to remove all such traces to their origin before launching their assault.
With the priestess’ still warm body having been thoroughly examined, Raddan turned his gaze outward, eyes searching the darkness around the tower and beyond, down the tunnels into who knew where. He didn’t bother dulling the mask’s sheen this time, they knew he was there, if they were watching. The silent man studied it all with the experience of one who knew exactly what he was looking for. He’d spent enough time on the other side of this particular coin to know a thing or two about picking vantage points. As best as he could figure, they were clear for the time being. There was no telling if the drow had another force moving in though, they could have been sent in two groups for all he knew and those Raddan’s group had killed might have been impetuous.
With nothing further to accomplish standing out in the open, Raddan re-entered the tower and moved swiftly up, wincing slightly as Eran’s bellow to Alvin crashed against his ears from the floor above. He shared a look with the Emerald Enclave soldier, the mask showing a knowing expression. “He’s right, we’re not going to be staying here long. Gather as much as you can and prep the mounts, we’ll need every last drop of water and morsel of food that you can find. Set a sentry on the door too, I think we’re all getting a little tired of being caught by surprise.” Raddan knew the words would jar memories of the slaughter outside Mantol-Derith and felt no shame in doing so. With luck it would stir the man to be more vigilant. He did however, allow the mask to slip into a grim smile. “I’ll be down to give you a hand, once I get some answers from this craven drow magus.” The words were dripping with condescension, a sentiment he expected the three men to share. Few other soldiers he’d met had much love for those who deigned to lead and yet avoided the prospect of battle. He held up a hand as the trio began to separate and, taking hold of the most bloodied of the three, muttered a small healing spell. “It’s not pretty, but it’ll get you through the worst of it. Once I find the dragonborn, I’ll send him your way.” Raddan moved to head up the stairway after Eran, pausing on the first step to address them a last time. “You did good today lads, drinks are on me when we reach the next pub.”
At least Eran’s sudden reappearance confirmed one thing, Loic was alive. He hadn’t known the ranger long, but he knew people well enough. Raddan doubted the man would have returned his attention to the task at hand quite so rapidly if the magister lay dead at Valdasar’s side. The odds appeared to remain in their favour, for now. Taking the remaining steps two at a time, the sorcerer pursued Eran’s footsteps towards the summit.