Inglorion emerges from a long, cold stillness.
His limbs are cramped like he’s been lying in the same position for too long. He’s limp, drained and aching, as if he’s suffered a long bout of fever. Instead of the melancholy of influenza, he feels calm, distant. He rolls onto his side, lies there for a moment, then sits up.
He notices the space around him. He’s underground. It’s damp and temperate. He smells wet earth, hears the steady flow and drip of a living cave. The cave is unfamiliar, but this doesn’t concern him unduly. Inglorion is a Drow elf. Unlike you or I, he can survive indefinitely underground, and his senses will reliably point him towards a cave opening he can use.
He feels a slow but steady current of air flowing towards the surface. Once he’s gathered his strength and oriented himself, he begins to move that way, crawling when he must, walking upright when he can, often sitting down to rest. After an hour or two, he knows he’s close to the surface. There’s still no sunlight, but he encounters bats and insects, pack rats and mice — creatures that depend on access to the sunlit world.
He finds himself in a long, straight passage that gradually slants upwards. He emerges at dusk, in a landscape unlike anything he’s ever seen.
Since elves don’t sleep or dream, it’s inaccurate to say that he’s in a dreamlike state as he makes his way downhill through strange beauty. He does feel preternaturally calm, and attuned to the world around him. He’s in no hurry, and stops often.
There are no trees, and few bushes. There are cacti, as harsh and angular as the low, limestone ridge behind him, and clumps of modest orange wildflowers. He admires a clear pool that reflects the crimson sky. Fruit bats swoop down to drink from it. They’re just a bit smaller than the palm of his outstretched hand.
The bird calls are unfamiliar. He hears several species of dove, mockingbirds, a cardinal. For long moments, a red-tailed hawk drifts overhead.
He reaches the valley below, crosses a stream lined with cottonwood trees. He’s never seen these before, and spends the last moments of daylight marveling at the silver flash of their leaves.
After nightfall, the temperature drops quickly. You and I might find the blaze of the Milky Way shocking, but Inglorion has lived his whole life in the absence of city lights. As he stands by the little stream, he notes the position of the constellations — this place is much closer to the Equator — but is unsurprised by the rich, spangled depth of the night sky.
Once he reaches the far bank, he senses a sentient presence. Without much thought, he sends out position and state data in the clicks and whistles of Drow operational language. He identifies himself as an intelligence agent from the Theates tribe, and gives his speed and heading. He’s unsurprised to receive a response from another Theates 100 yards away, closing the distance quickly. Soon he sees a white-hot smudge climbing the path towards him: His son, Lucius.
They meet and embrace, Lucius crying, “Father, you came — I missed you!” He nestles into Inglorion’s arms, and they hug wordlessly for a long moment. Inglorion kisses his son’s black curls, holds his slender frame tightly.
Lucius breaks away, looks up at his father’s face. “I can’t believe it — you’re here!”
“Of course, mon fils.”
Lucius peers up into his face, asks shyly, “What do you remember?”
“Very little. I —” Inglorion breaks off, uncertain. Lucius an emotional young man, but also shy and reserved. His fervor seems excessive, almost frightening.
“You needn’t say, or even think of it,” Lucius says hastily. He burrows up against his father’s side again. “I’m so glad. Forgive me, father. I’ve missed you terribly.”
Until now, Inglorion hasn’t questioned his condition. He knows who he is, he remembers — what? “Lucius,” he says, uncertain what to ask.
“Never mind,” says Lucius. “Don’t think of it for now. There will be time.” He wipes his eyes, beams up at Inglorion.
Part of the beauty of Lucius’s company is that they enjoy each other uncritically, without questioning why or how. They walk down the path hand-in-hand as evening settles into night.
“Where are you taking me?”
“I have a little camp. I came up here to meet you. We’ll stop there to rest and eat before going home. Are you hungry?”
“Why, yes. Do you have coffee?”
“I do. I will make you some, and roast the rabbit I shot earlier.”
The reach the camp, which is at the base of a looming concrete structure — a ramp perhaps two stories high. Inglorion finds that he’s terribly hungry. The food is simple and there’s no cream for the coffee, but it all tastes particularly good. It’s chilly, so Lucius builds up the campfire a bit. Inglorion notices that the wood is odd — it’s gnarled and compact, and puts off dark, resinous smoke.
“I brought you tobacco and rolling papers,” says Lucius. “I wasn’t sure if I should, but….”
“Oh, that’s excellent,” says Inglorion. He rolls a cigarette and smokes it with acute satisfaction, which tells him he hasn’t had a cigarette in months, perhaps longer. He rolls a second, drinks another cup of coffee. It’s a cold, clear night, so they keep the fire high, roasting themselves and huddling under a blanket that Lucius pulls out of his pack.
For a linked table of contents, listing all of the Shelawn family adventures, click here.