Dalathan put up his hand halting the line; Covafac and Marius stopped, the half elf and the Pech said nothing as the wizard peered around the bend his face tightened. He cast a quick spell causing a tunnel to appear above them, signalling to his two companions they levitated up, the tunnel closing behind them. The found themselves in a new cavern. There were no entrances or exits, taking this as a good sign Covafac finally questioned the wizard.
“We stopped following the intellect over an hour ago, what did you see in that cave?” Dalathan smiled at the half elf. It was a fair question, and his companions had followed him quietly this far, it was time to tell them their fate or at least soon it would be. He sat down on the stone floor ushering his companions to do the same.
“They won’t find us for a few hours yet..” he said, causing small looks of surprise from his two stout companions. Dalathan reached into his satchel pulling out a bottle and a rose, he carefully placed the rose in front of him, and with a wave of his hand he conjured three glasses. The cork popped from the bottle and a thick red merlot poured. “Drink with me, my friends” he said the slightest grin on his face. His companions took the glasses and sat, more worried about their general than ever before, this was not like him.
“You know what? I hate armies…” the half drow began after a long pull from his glass “… armies, councils, knights and spies… I hate them all” he took another sip, this time smaller; he leaned back against the stone wall looking up savouring the complicated bouquet of the rare treat. This was the only salvageable bottle from the winery of the Mage Knight Keep, it had happened to be his favorite, made from the grapes near Palanthalas. ‘An uninspired concoction’ his father had dubbed it, perhaps that was why he had so gravitated towards it “and yet…” he continued “…I have spent my entire life doing just that, waging war and subterfuge… I wanted to be an artist… or a father at least heh… I think I might have done well at those” it was Covafac who took a sip first ushering to his friend to do the same.
“No Sir, noble Covafac, Marius, for this moment in time, for the duration of this bottle, we are but friends, battle weary companions sharing something that after this will be gone for all eternity… for this time I am but simple Dalathan”
“Dalathan…” the half elf tried the word on; it felt wrong on his tongue “Dalathan, what is wrong? Why have we stopped?”
“Marius, stop pacing, rest, Drink with me…” the pech stopped for a moment and took a tentative sip of the wine… the half drow continued “What is wrong? What a truly perfect question… What is wrong… perhaps that life is futile and fleeting and I have wasted it traveling amongst the darkest evilest and most vile creatures… I had a chance at love once… true love…” he trailed off from his sentence lost in visions of the past
“Lady Trugar is a beautiful and lucky women sir…” Marius piped in trying to help, or at least encourage his commander to keep talking; he was met with a sarcastic stare and promptly quieted
“I care deeply for her, as a brother may for a sister… ours is a relationship of duty and honour” he drank again, the bottle jumping and refilling his glass, he looked at the bottle and then to his two companions, both held up their glasses showing them as still full shaking their heads. “No… I had a chance at true love and happiness and I wasted that chance for duty, I wasted it again to run among evil and corruption, to crawl through dark tunnels and spy… he was a wonderful man, I miss him so” the two no longer new what to say or do, they sat awkwardly sure that their officer had cracked. The Half Drow took another long pull from his glass
“I met a fortune teller when I was young; she told me I would die alone in the dark surrounded by monsters, fears and filled with regret… I called her a racist before I fled… I fled so far, and vowed to make friendships, to settle, to have family, and to live well… and now it is too late” he took one last long drink. The bottle hovered upside down allowing the last few drops to pour into his glass; he drank and savoured them in reflective silence.
Finally he rose to his feet, remorse and worry vanished from his features. Banished back to whatever corner of his soul that they had dared attempt escape from, the grinning confident half drow was back. “Gentlemen, I hope you are rested… as I suppose it is now time for business. In a moment a series of passwalls will go off in a very specific order; you will need to run, Covafac, help Marius, he is not as fast as you and you will not have much time. The tunnels will wind and turn but will ultimatly take you to the surface. From there you must make it to the fallback point and get yourself to… well anywhere, find any of the generals, or really anyone of rank. Tell them that I have found a gate, this is so important so please listen well; the very fate of the world now hinges on your success in delivering this message. This gate does not lead to any plane I have heard of, it leads to nothing, to vacuum, and the test I witnessed showed the air, the life and those around sucked into this gate… this is critical.” He paused assuring his companions understood what he’d spoken thus far… when they nodded he continued. “I don’t think I can destroy the gate, or kill all of its guardians, but I will try, and I am reasonably sure I can delay its activation and/or their ability to transport it” the two stood a little straighter understanding now what was being done.
“Sir,” Marius said “as you said I am slow, Covafac can deliver the message, I would be proud to offer my blade to you” Dalathan’s smile was genuine the offer was touching
“No my friends, both of you must go, as if one falls the other must get out, my sending’s have not escaped these tunnels nor can my teleports, we must assure that the message arrives. You have both been loyal and true, go now with my thanks for this final request. He embraced them both and managed a grin through the tears welling in his eyes. “Good speed noble warriors of Argyle, good speed”
To Be Continued