I remember the last time I was down in the Underdark, not actually all that long ago. Well, even though we had saved the Kingdom of Suncrest and gotten our Duchies to boot (Hael became a Duke-Pirate and took in orphaned human brats, can’t imagine why, silly Drow.) when Ryoko told me it was time to meet her Mum. It was another world, another life from the semi-peaceful one I led in Caer Tirith.
Ryoko’s mother, Rumiko, was a Drow who escaped from the Underdark, helping Hael out along the way when he was but a tiny boy. Upon reaching the surface, the story goes, she fell in love with the sun and an elven bard who was wandering near by. I’m not quite sure on the details, but apparently Ryoko’s elder brother was concieved right then and there. (Drow girls, you know.) At any rate, as an elf myself, I was quite nervous about meeting a full Drow. Ryoko was fine, being only of halfblood, but her mother? A woman who had actually been raised in that horrible culture? I had no illusions that if I put so much as one toe out of line, that would be it for me. For our whole journey north to the Sylvan Forest, I can honestly say I had nightmares about snake-headed whips and being sold into Drow slavery. Ryoko assured me her mother wasn’t like that, but I knew better.
Our first meeting went well. Her father, Crimson, seemed cheerful but suspicious that his only daughter had brought home a grown elven boy. He seemed very stately and kind, with the kind of warmth and honest mischief you can’t fake. Rumiko was out tending her little flower garden. Her ebony-skinned hands showing remarkable tenderness and care to the little daisies and bright strawberry flowers. She wore a wide-brimmed hat to shade her sensitive eyes from the sun, but she was lovely. It was easy to see where Ryoko got her good looks from.
Taking us inside, she explained she had sent for her daughter (and me, too, apparently) because she had decided it was time to return to the Underdark. I had always joked about going there during out quest to save Suncrest, frequently teasing Hael about his childhood there. I can see now why he was so frightened and refused to return, for the fear that ran through me was frigid and unforgiving. Rumiko explained that she had had several younger sisters who might not be too corrupted. She wished to save them from the life she had had to endure, but most especially from the Priestess’ final ceremony at Aracne Tilith. At these words, she glanced over to her daughter, a soft expression in her red eyes. Though I didn’t know about the ceremony at the time, I heartily agreed, saying that if it was important to Ryoko, it was important to me. I soon regretted it.
And so it was that we said our goodbyes to the sky, and the sun, and the peaceful surface world, and turned out feet towards the Underdark. We descended, Crimson and I staying close together, while Ryoko and her mother’s infrared vision burned in the blackness ahead.
To be continued…