As usual, Faryn was going to kill Darius the Drow Death-Dealer. As Darius was the only person that she knew of in the Deep Chasm that paid out his contracts in coin, he always took advantage, giving her the hardest work. But she never complained. She needed the coin to get Above, to The Surface, to join those that live in the precious light that is nearly nonexistent down here. Which is where things brought Faryn now: The Noxium. The level of the Deep Chasm where even the very air was riddled with poison and only the toughest of aberrations could survive. She’d paid dearly for a Breather, a device that she could use to breathe down here for a limited amount of time. Her breath whooshed out of the ventilation unit, making far too much noise as Faryn made her way back to the Chain that would take her to the Whispers, the level of the Chasm where mind flayers roamed and was nearly completely silent. Where Darius lived, away from the rabble of the Shallow. A large, heavy, rusted metal chain hung from the ceiling that was difficult to see through the hazy green gas floating through. She grasped it with one hand and placed a foot in one of the links. She rose swiftly and jumped off the moment she cleared The Noxium and into The Whispers. She pulled off the Breather and just stood there a moment, breathing in the cloying, damp air she’d become accustomed to. She stuffed the breathing device into her burlap sack. Another hung from her hand, sopping wet from an indeterminable substance dripping at the bottom. She hated the assignments Darius gave her. But it didn’t matter now. She’d done what the Death Dealer had wanted, and she’d get her coin. She avoided the Beholders that floated menacingly along this level of the Deep Chasm and wound her way through the rocky, obsidian landscape to stop in front of the lavish, gold gates to Darius’ estate. It was the only spot of colour in this dark underworld. There was a drow guard and a displacer beast as sentries.
Shelling out bounties paid well, it seemed.
The guard recognised her and sent a toothy grin her way as his gaze landed on the burlap sack she held in one hand.
“Who was it this time, then?” the Drow asked as he crept toward Faryn. Faryn raised an eyebrow but dismissed his leering nature.
“It’s not my business to know, is it? Not yours, either, Brutus. Now call off your Displacer so I can get inside,” Faryn drawled as she tapped her foot, the picture of impatience.
“My, my… in a hurry, are we? Trixie, stand down.” At Brutus’ command the black Displacer Beast sat on her haunches and watched as Faryn pushed the gate open and mounted the steps to Darius’ vast estate. She opened the front door without knocking and the guards on the inside were instantly on alert. Faryn rolled her eyes.
“Oh calm down, all of you. I’m just here to see Darius,” Faryn breezed by the first guard but was stopped by the second before she got to the set of filigreed double doors leading to the drawing room. She looked up into the red eyes of the brawny Dragonborn that had gotten bodily in her way. Xilliar.
“Darius is currently in a meeting. Take a seat and we’ll have Sobysha bring you something for while you wait,” Xilliar gestured for her to move to the dining area but she stood her ground.
“I’m here for my money. And I’m not waiting for him to get out of his meeting,” Faryn said as she stomped on Xilliar’s foot and sidestepped him as he was distracted. She kicked open the drawing room doors to see Darius speaking with a heavily hooded figure. Faryn tossed the sack with precision onto his desk and it made contact with a splat; the head rolled out of the sack and only Darius placing an extended finger on its forehead stopped the head from rolling into the Death Dealer’s lap. Darius looked at it with distaste.
“What is the meaning of this?”
“I was told you were in a meeting and I decided that I wasn’t going to wait. Time to pay up, Darius,” Faryn huffed, holding out her hand. The hooded figure stood and turned to head to the door Faryn had just barged her way through. Though Faryn looked, she could not determine any sort of features under the hood; it seemed as though the figure absorbed any darkness in the room and made that darkness its clothing. As the figure passed Faryn, she could not repress the shiver that wracked her body.
Lich. Why would Darius be dealing with one of the Underlords of the Deep Chasm? Faryn glared at Darius, with his silvery beard and his gold ring, both standing out against his dark skin. He stood, using his adamantine staff to hoist himself into standing, and his rotund belly wobbled slightly as he came around the desk to stand before her. She towered over him but he was not deterred.
“The next time I am in a meeting, Faryn? I’d suggest doing what my guards tell you to do. You’re messing with things you don’t understand. I’d hate to lose my best Hunter,” Darius crooned. Faryn made a sound of disgust.
“Cut the crap, Darius, and give me my money,” Faryn huffed. Darius slid a hand into his pocket and withdrew a purple silk pouch that Faryn was now very familiar with and tossed it. Faryn caught it one handed and immediately turned away, walking out the door, past the disgruntled guards and deep into The Whispers. Faryn looked left and right just as Styx, her hawk companion, flew back to her and settled on her shoulder.
“Safe for now at least, huh boy?” Faryn murmured, stroking its beak. She needed to get to her home, such as it was, to get the rest of her things and move them to where she was currently hiding out. The closest she could get to a Chain that she knew about so she could get above, where all the light was. She needed to get out of here, and soon. She continued to avoid the Beholders that stood guard over this level and lifted a hatch underneath some brush, sliding inside. She climbed down the ladder in the total darkness until she hit bottom before lighting the sconce set into the wall of the old cistern that opened out into an unused part of the sewer system that had been blocked off years ago. Styx settled upon his perch and started adjusting his feathers with his beak while Faryn scrambled to get the last of her things together. Now that she was alone, her hands started to shake.
There were murmurs everywhere. That she’d killed someone important in cold blood. She’d wracked her brains of the faces of the people she’d killed for Darius, and had come up with no one particularly important. But now, the residents of the Deep Chasm were out for her blood. They wanted her dead. That’s why now more than ever she needed the coin, and needed to leave the Deep Chasm. She packed her burlap sack with the last and most important of her possessions, including the necklace from Falewen that her mother had given her years ago and the faded, worn maps of the forested land that she’d called her home before she’d been taken away. She snuffed out the sconce and climbed back up, opening the hatch and letting it close after Styx had flown out. She hurried to The Chain that would take her to The Shallow. Once in The Shallow, she would make her way all the way over to the other side to the heavily guarded Chain that take her to The Surface, where all the light-dwellers were. As she ascended, the warning cry of Styx scouting above her was too late; she was already too high up to jump off and remain in The Whsipers. She hopped off the moment she could smell the damp but fresher air of The Shallow.
The Drow were waiting.
“You killed him-”
“Our master is dead because of you-”
“You deserve to die-” The Drow swarmed her.
“I did no such thing – Styx, attack!” Styx dove toward the group of aggravated drow and they scattered, giving Faryn an opportunity to run. She dashed past them and through the winding, twisting paths that led to the Chain leading to the Surface. Arrows whizzed by her head, burying themselves into dead, gnarled trees that tried to reach for her with their warped branches. She climbed the rock ledge that led to the Chain with ease, but skidded to a halt a few feet away from her destination: there were drow clustered around the Chain. Holding bows, and swords. One of them even had a Mind Flayer leashed to them. Faryn looked behind her to see the hands gripping the ledge she’d pulled herself up upon.
“Wait! I didn’t do what you say I did!” Faryn shouted, real fear filling her voice now, raising the pitch. Styx cried out in response to her agitation.
“Come on, girl. You don’t belong here. Of course you’re going to kill the Underkin, those that thrive in the darkness. You killed our Master. And now we kill you,” a drow announced to a rousing sound of support from those gathered. Faryn grasped the necklace her mother had given her that always lay around her neck and sent a prayer up to whoever would listen.
I need to get out of here. Please.
There was suddenly a bright flash of light, the ground fell out from under her, and her vision went black.
Faryn awoke to the feeling of Styx preening her hair, trying to wake her up. She opened her eyes and shouted as the brightness burned. She let her eyes adjust slowly and realised that she was on The Surface. She stood and took a deep breath, appreciating the fresh air. It was early morning, judging by the mist that snaked through the forest she stood in. She could hear water off in the distance – a lot of it. Styx took flight, screeching, and Faryn followed. She touched a hand to her necklace and looked up at the brightening sky.