“Axra? Where did you go?” Lilly sounded like she was on the verge of tears.
“I’m right here,” Axra said. “Wherever here is.”
“Thank goodness,” Lilly breathed a sigh of relief. “I was worried that the spider had cut you and you were bleeding somewhere, but I lost my torch and couldn’t find you and…”
“Lilly,” Axra interrupted “calm down.” She looked around. There was a hole above them, they’d probably fallen through that. It didn’t look possible to scale back up. At least not without proper equipment. Lilly was groping around in the dark, trying to get her bearings.
“The important thing is to get back to Twila,” Axra said. “We’re in a tunnel right now, but I don’t know which way to go.”
“We… well,” Lilly said. “When… when I’m not sure where to go… I look for clues, you know, if there’s something or someone I’m actually looking for… but I can’t see a thing.”
“We’ll just have to pick a direction,” Axra said. “Follow me.”
“B… bu… but I can’t see you,” Lilly protested.
Axra turned around and held Lilly’s hand. Lilly squealed very softly. Axra wouldn’t have been able to hear it if she wasn’t part elven. “This way.”
Lilly obediently followed behind Axra. The two moved quietly through the tunnel, Axra keeping alert for dangers. They moved along for nearly an hour, searching for a way to get back up to the level they’d come from, when they saw a strange silver glow ahead of them.
“Wh… what do you suppose it is?” Lilly asked.
“Don’t know,” Axra said. “Let’s find out.”
They moved towards the light. It was a dimly lit chambre with dilapidated bits of furniture and tattered scrolls scattered about. Axra noted that the light was perfect, for a person with dark vision.
“Co… could this be where the hermit lives?” Lilly asked.
“It’s possible,” Axra agreed.
“M… maybe we should go,” Lilly said. “Th… they say she’s crazy… and crazy could mean dangerous… and we are trespassing.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Axra said. “Maybe she knows the way out of here.”
The two found themselves trapped inside a barred cube. They turned to the sound of laughter behind them.
“You thought you could get me, kill me, but I outsmarted you!” A dark elf woman approached them. She was dressed in scraps and several large spiders trailed obediently behind her. “I knew that Elaine Silverstar would send someone eventually! I knew I was still a threat to her.” The woman rubbed her hand together gleefully and started laughing.
“Pri… Axra, she looks like you,” Lilly whispered. Lilly was right, Axra knew. The woman did look a lot like her, but without the softer humanoid features.
“Now, now, now,” she rambled. “What to do with you? Feed you to my pets? Let you die and resurrect your corpses to use against her? Oh, so many choices!”
“Ex… excuse me, Ma’am,” Lilly said. “We… we don’t mean to intrude. We got lost. I promise, we don’t mean you any harm at all. If you could just show us how to get back up to our friends… well, we promise to leave you completely alone.”
You, you think I’m a fool. You… hybrid girl,” the hermit said. “Airell Moonbeam is no fool. I almost ruled as the dark elf matriarch, you know! I would have, if not for that bitch and her hybrid lover.”
“Mother, stop it!” Axra cried. “Don’t you recognise me?”
Airell leaned towards the cage and studied Axra. “Yes… that bitch did find a girl who bears a striking resemblance to me. She thinks she can fool me. They all think they can fool me, but I have no such thing. I… I…” Airell turned away from the cage. “No,” she said, finally. “There was a child, wasn’t there? At first I was excited. It was the perfect weapon. I could send it to kill Elaine Silverstar without her being on guard. But it couldn’t hold its knife nor would it pay attention while I taught it about poisons. Eventually I couldn’t take its crying so I gave it to its father. Which one was he again?”
“Your mother?” Lilly asked. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah,” Axra said. “Axel Papa told me once, my mother had left them to live in the Wastes only to return with me in tow and vanish again.”
“You… you couldn’t be that child!” Airell declared. “It was small… so very small. I could carry it with one hand. But you… you’re almost as tall as me! You.. liar!”
“That was over twenty years ago,” Axra said. “I grew up.”
Airell pointed at Axra with one finger, got a confused look on her face and turned away, muttering to herself. “Small… it was so small… Twenty years ago? Was it that long? Is it possible? No… it’s a trick. It has to be. Even if its father, whichever one he was, kept it… it wouldn’t know how to find me… Besides, I’m not that old… I know I’m not. Stay strong, Airell! Fight on, Airell!”
The force cage dissipated around Axra and Lilly. Axra almost reached out to Airell, but she pulled her free hand back.
“Let’s go,” Axra whispered.
“Are… are you sure?” Lilly asked
Axra looked at her rambling mother. “Yeah. There’s nothing here for us to worry about. Let’s go back the way we came and keep searching for a way up.”