Thia tossed the cloth back into the bowl of water. They’d been able to bathe at Vizeran’s tower, but getting some of the dust off her face still felt wonderful. All she wanted was to have this over, behind her. Once she got back to the surface, there was no way she’d go back into the Underdark again. Not willingly, anyway.
If Jinnaari defeats Lolth, I won’t have to. She sighed, correcting the thought. Not if, when. He has to do this. Otherwise… Her mind shied away from the idea. If the paladin couldn’t take down the Goddess, she was defeated as well. She could resist for a while, would fight against whatever She threw at her. Eventually, though, that will would crumble. Especially if Lolth offered to spare her companions.
“Do you think Thia can go through that? Or should we come up with a way to help her?” Adam’s voice floated through the opening to the next level of the fortress.
Rising, she started to climb up the ladder. “I’ll come up with something,” Jinnaari said to Adam.
“Come up with what?” Thia asked as she reached the room where the two were. They both looked at her, surprised. A map was spread out on the floor between them, and Adam held an open book.
Moving closer, she watched the two men exchange a look. Adam handed Jinnaari the book, then smiled at her. “I’ll talk with Moon and Caelynn, get a watch set up.” Without another word, he descended the ladder.
“What’s going on, Jinnaari?”
The paladin leaned against one of the walls. “Helix gave some things he found in Vizeran’s study to Adam. They detail this tunnel we’re looking for.”
“Found?” she laughed. “Did he ask our host if he could have them?”
“Probably not,” a small smile crept across Jinnaari’s face. “I think the term Helix gave Adam was he ‘liberated’ them. Given the circumstances, I’m certain neither of our Gods will be upset with us for taking advantage of the information. However unlawfully obtained.”
“What did he mean by my needing help to go through something?” She knew he studied her, but she refused to back down this time. “Jinnaari, if it’s something bad and you know it’s coming, doesn’t it make more sense to tell me ahead of time? At least then I’m ready for it and it doesn’t surprise me.”
“Good point,” Opening the book to a marked page, he handed it to her. “This talks about where Lolth’s lair is. And how it was constructed.”
Taking the book, she started to read. Her heart began to race. “It’s one giant web,” she breathed.
“Yes. Calcified and hollowed out strands to make conduits to the center where She holds court.” He moved closer and turned a page. An image was drawn on the page. Thick, white strands reached out from a black void, attaching themselves to a wall. The center was stark white. A single piece stretched from the surrounding rock to the interior of the tunnel. “In order to get to Lolth, we have to enter Her web. Literally.”
She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “And he’s worried I won’t be able to go inside when I see it?”
The paladin nodded. “I’m not too certain, either.” She snapped her head up, looking at him. “This hasn’t been an easy trip for you. You’ve lost it a couple of times. We’re worried about you.” He paused, “How are things with you, Thia? Really?”
Turning her head, she stared out of the narrow arrow slit. The perpetual black of the Underdark was as cold and unwelcoming as ever. “I’m tired. Of running, hiding, being down here, all of it. I’m done with being hunted and living in a constant state of fear.” The words came out quickly, tumbling over each other. “I want this to be over. I want to be back at The Green Frog, laughing while Caelynn plays to a packed house, even for a little while before we go our separate ways. If Adam allows it, I may stay there for a while. I’m not sure the cloister is where I need to be, once we’re done. I think I’ve outgrown it.” She laughed a little, but there wasn’t any mirth in the sound. “I feel lost. But I’d much rather find a new place to set up on the surface than down here. This sounds trivial, but I’m likely to take my shoes off and run barefoot through the grass when we get back up there.” She looked at him, “How long?”
“How long what?”
“How long until we finish this?”
He held out the map, “Adam found a better route than what Vizeran told us. We should be at the entrance late tomorrow, be able to get to this area,” he pointed to what looked like a bubble in the webbing, “and rest. After that, it’s less than two hours until we reach the center.”
“And then it’s over?”
He nodded. “Yes.”