Thia took a sharp breath as the black veil fell away from her brain. She was being carried. No. She was in a box that was moving.
She took a few deep breaths, trying to calm the panic that rose within her. What had Adam and Jinnaari told her? Stay calm, learn your surroundings, observe. Evaluate everything so you’re ready to act if opportunity comes. Focus on what happened before to find clues on what’s happening now.
They’d made camp for the night. She remembered taking off her armor and, using her cloak as a blanket, laying down on her bedroll. The Underdark wasn’t the warmest place, but it wasn’t like a blizzard raged just outside. Between her clothing and the cloak, she should’ve been warm enough.
Her breath was warm as it bounced off the lid and back onto her face. There was barely any space around her. Was she in a coffin, already dead?
Focus! She took a deep breath, gathering her thoughts. What happened next?
She’d gone to sleep. Adam, Moon, Caelynn and Jinnaari were all taking watches. They wouldn’t let her take one, insisted she slept. For a change, she didn’t argue. The day had been a hard one, between travel and skirmishes, and she was exhausted both physically and mentally. The closer they got to Lolth’s lair, the harder it was to take that next step.
And now she was in a box of some kind. Her teeth bit into cloth. They’d gagged her. Great.
She went to move her hands. Nope. They were tied with something. She could feel the thin, sticky rope as it cut into her wrists when she moved. No, not rope. It was strong, but thin.
Like spider silk. Damn it!
Breathe, Thia…. just breathe.
She shifted, trying to gauge how much room she had in the box, and felt her bare back scrape against the rough wood.
Okay. So, you’re tied up, naked, and in a coffin. This is not good!
She clenched her teeth. What had Ishacte said about the assassin who’d taken Jinnaari? She had a signature way of delivering her prey. The box she was in, everything, seemed to match what had happened to the paladin. Diak was the best Yathtallar ever trained, if her half-sister was to be believed. If she was here, where was everyone else? Kelemvor, let them be safe!
The crate shifted, tilting her forward. She winced as her body slid slightly, the skin cutting against the abrasive surface. The board beneath her feet vibrated as it landed on something solid. Wherever they were taking her, they’d arrived.
Fear rose in her, but she forced it down. Whatever she saw when the lid opened, she’d face it head on.
The lid to her prison opened, and she blinked against the dim light. Ten or more Drow, all armed, surrounded the crate. Two of them reached out and grabbed her upper arms. Thia tried to pull free, but they held on. Without a word, they forced her forward.
One woman stood in front of her, lilac eyes evaluating her. Thia felt her heart race. It wasn’t Ishacte, but there was no denying the relationship. Grasping onto the last thread of courage she had, Thia stared at her. She wore a dress that barely covered her body. The center of the fabric was cut away, framing the red hourglass that was tattooed on her abdomen.
“Leave us, Herasta. I wish to get acquainted with your daughter.” a voice behind her ordered. Obediently, the Drow began to fade into the shadows. Kelemvor, I need you. Thia prayed, her mouth working the phrase around the gag, and slammed her eyes shut. She didn’t want to see what was coming. Adrenaline coursed through her veins. Screw staying calm! All she wanted to do was run. This wasn’t fear or panic any more. This was pure terror.
“Welcome, Thia. Do you not wish to see me? I’ve waited so long to meet you.” The voice was seductive, calm, yet carried a note of command.
Kelemvor, I need you.
“You’re in my realm, child. My Brother cannot hear your pleas.” Thia cringed as she felt something stoke the skin on her back. It wasn’t a human finger. “I can feel your body tremble. But I wonder. Is it me you fear? Or the darkness within yourself? Shall we find out?”
Thia felt the tears as they fell from her eyes, but kept them closed. This is just a dream, she told herself. I’ll wake up, and everyone will be nearby. We’ll go down the passage, find the temple, and execute Jinnaari’s plan. I’ll be close enough to keep him alive, but far enough away to stay out of Lolth’s reach. That’s what’s going to happen. This is a dream, nothing more.
Pain stabbed into her arm. Something ice cold began to flow through her veins. A sticky, wet fiber began to spool around her legs. A single whimper escaped her throat as any hope that she was dreaming left her. “There, there, Thia,” Lolth crooned in her ear. The sound was anything but soothing. “It’s time for you to choose which side you will embrace. Time to find out what life in my service can be like. I give you one final gift, to help you when you make your decision.”
Thia felt something slide into her hands, but terror refused to loosen its grip enough for her to know what it was. As the webbing wound up her body, something pulled the gag from her mouth. Unable to control herself, a single wail of desperation tore from her throat. The last strands covered her head, silencing her cries, as the drugs took over her mind.