Jagged Rocks, Chapter 1 – by Ariella – narrated by Asclepius
Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with a wonderful story from Ariella, entitled
Music by Smartsound
Chapter One – Jagged Rocks
The onyx cut into Ariella’s feet. She knew these jagged rocks, how they smelled and how naturally they sliced into skin. They pierced like fangs into the Underdark, with no end in sight. The cold bit right through the rags she clutched around her and exposed the memory of this place. Her stomach rose to her throat and a shiver went down her spine. How? How did she get back here? She had escaped, she was free. How did this happen?
Ariella moved to steady herself as her shackles clanked, but new pain seared down her back. She fell to the ground, those familiar rocks gashing her knees. Catching her breath. Screaming. Blinding pain. Falling forward. Palms splitting open.
“Get on your feet,” someone barked. Tears stung her eyes, and the whip cracked again. It found bone. Everything exploded in agony, and she collapsed. So close to freedom, but there would be no escape this time…
Just before she passed out, a whisper reached into her pain. “Don’t be afraid, I am here to help you.”
Ariella’s eyes flew open. She panted, then jerked upright. A dream, but it wasn’t just a dream…
Standing shackled in the center of the town square, Ariella held her head high. Behind her, Temarin moved in closer. “Perhaps if you had killed that rivvil child, you wouldn’t be in this predicament. But no, in your arrogance and self-pride, you think you are above me. Soon, you will submit.” She ignored him. He was not her priority at the moment. One day, though, he would be.
Ariella studied the four elders assembled before her. Three females and one male, all far older and deadlier than any Drow she has ever known. She had known from the moment she decided to spare the child, she would be punished, if not put to death.
After what seemed like hours, Malkiira, the youngest of the female elders, finally spoke, “Explain your reasoning for sparing the rivvil child.” Ariella’s stomach twisted, this was a trap. Any wrong reason, or any reason for that matter, could mean her death. Drow are trained from a young age not to show compassion. If you did, it meant you had a soul and everyone knows Drow are born without them. Refusing to meet her stare, Ariella kept her features neutral. Her answer was slowly measured out, “If the child had been caught, I would have killed him.” Ariella could feel Temarin tense behind her. He knew the truth: she would not have killed the child.
Adinagh pulled his lips back from his teeth. “What do you mean ‘if’ the child had been caught. It was your duty to kill that rivvil child.” She could feel Temarin eying her from behind. He wanted vengeance. “It was your duty to kill that rivvil child,” spoke Vierithra, the second of the female elders, “you betrayed your race by not killing …” Ariella seethed. Her fists clenched and unclenched. “The place was swarming with guards and soldiers. If I had grabbed the child, it would have put the whole mission in jeopardy.” Zes’Aleanana rose from her chair. “Enough.” This was taking too long and they had other matters to attend to.
Ariella froze. Zes’Aleanana was her grandmother and the eldest. When she commanded you did not breathe, for any movement could mean instant death. She glided towards Ariella, grabbing her chin in one hand and forcing her to look up. Internally, Ariella remained defiant. Sensing this, Zes’Aleanana’s eyes flashed with contempt, then repulsion. Air escaped her mouth in a hiss. “You’re a fool for not killing the rivvil child. You will be controlled and you will do what you are told, no matter the consequences.”
Zes’Aleanana backed away and moved a finger to her lips. Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Now, for your disobedience, what punishment would be fitting? Ah, yes.” She smiled as she looked directly into Ariella’s eyes. “For failing in your duties, you will be taught a lesson in submission. Temarin will execute your punishment.” Temarin beamed with pride. He knew that Zes’Aleanana was fully aware that Ariella despised him. He sneered in triumph. “It will be my pleasure…”
Now this memory faded into blackness and pain amidst the jagged rocks.
The angelic voice returned, “Don’t be afraid, I can heal you. Permit me to do so.” Ariella didn’t say anything but turned her head to try to see who was speaking. The pain was unbearable. However, static from his magic began to grow and surround her. “I will not die,” she told herself. She closed her eyes and let herself become one with the rhythm of his power. The response was perfect calm, “No, you will not die…”
Ariella awoke before dawn in her rooms. Her sleep of dreams and memories made her unsure how long she had been sleeping or where she was. She was even more disoriented by being in the Underdark. All she knew of time was that others were up and active outside her room. Ariella examined herself; her back and arm were healed, but were grossly scarred.
There was a slight tap on the door and a slave girl came in with a bowl of broth. Ariella did not recognize her. She moved quickly to set the broth down, keeping her eyes averted.”Zes’Aleanana will be here within the hour.” Ariella sensed bitterness in her words. She turned quickly and left the room, closing the door. Ariella crawled out of bed, draped herself with her cloak and made her way to the table. She gulped down the broth and realized she was famished. She wished they would have brought something more than broth.
Ariella and her grandmother were evenly matched in terms of beauty. There was no mistaking their lineage. Both had moon-white hair, onyx skin, and eyes of the darkest jade. Their gaze would wither the fairest rose. But that is where their similarity ended. Zes’Aleanana was alluring and wicked. She had been born soulless and heartless as a drow ought to be. She did not show mercy, or make mistakes.
Instinctively Ariella rose when her grandmother walked into the room. She did not utter a word, lest her tongue be ripped clean from her mouth. The faint tang of fear drifted in the air. Zes’Aleanana was businesslike as always. “You are to be sent back down to training quarters until you can prove yourself worthy. You will leave now.” Ariella’s jaw feathered but one jerk of the chin from her grandmother was all it took for her to obey.