Autumn Writing Contest Submission

The crackle of fire filled the quiet dark of that dank environs.

The orange light from the campfire slid like oil across the damp stones of the walls and floor nearby, illuminating a droll and lonely sort of place. It was tiered above the rest of the room, though the light from the flames did not advance far into the shadows, somehow more solid than the grey smoke that rose in a twisting column up to the mossy iron grates above. Only a little bit of light filtered through those bars, reflecting from the torchlight of the above world. And lit up within that light was the slender form of a man, black-skinned as the corners untouched by illumination.

His hair was a shock of snow-white, currently pulled into a short loop of a tail to prevent those gossamer tendrils from becoming any more dirtied. His expression was one that matched his surroundings; bleak, hollow, morose. There was not a lot of energy gleaming in those crimson eyes, gleaming like a pair of dark garnets that glinted and flashed with the dancing lights he was so delicately cultivating. Perched upon a raggy canvas stretched across a tumble of rocks, a shield rested face-down nearby, propping up the honed edge of a blade and a bag to keep both from touching the ground. He held a waterskin, taking the occasional drink. A line of crimson was torn across the face; from brow across the bridge of the nose, broken before it reappeared again upon a cheek. A single drop slid down across his brow, more than a hint that the injury was fresh.

But Ruathrym did not seem to care. He was depressed. Ears no longer twitched with curiosity to the sound of voices above, his efforts to join them spurned after multiple attempts. His pockets were light, from attempts to trade and receiving much smaller amounts than considered generally acceptable. Even the meals he had purchased were of subpar quality. What issues those people had with drow, he had faced the brunt of it for the past few weeks, as the townspeople had a target to focus their hatred upon. Such things wheedled at the mind, slowly degenerated mood and confidence, rendering him feeling quite out of place. But no effort was made to descend further down into the deep earth.

"They didn’t make it, you know."

The voice had uttered from behind him, but there was no real reaction from the swordsman staring at the pulsing coals. He knew the fellow was there. A brief foray up from the depths to speak with the exile.

"All that effort you made, and they were still caught in the tunnels and put down. You could have made it easy and just done it yourself. You’d still be with us."

Crimson eyes gleamed out of the shadows behind Ruathrym, whom lifted his own gaze partially from the flames, crackling over various scraps of wood pulled from the sewers themselves. Broken bits of chair, furniture… scraps of cloth and old wood. Silence reigned for several moments, in which one man watched the shadows, and one watched the fellow sitting silently by his own gear. It was a while before the quieter drow finally spoke, his voice a low baritone that barely made it over the sound of the soft crackling.

"There was no reason. They had done nothing. What a useless waste of life… And it didn’t even affect that foul creature much, did it? Are you still hunting him?" He finally turned his head, a low smolder in his eyes depicting a moment of cold fury. But the mood died out quick, as though he simply didn’t have the energy for it, watching the eyes that narrowed behind him. "I do not need your judgement, or your updates. Return home, brother. Tend to your own life, and I will repair mine."

After a long moment, the sound of boots upon stone began to scuffle off, crunching over pebbles and detritus of the outside world. Ruathrym’s eyes turned back to the campfire, watching coals shifting to glowing ashes, as the reminder of his family began to descend back into the dark recesses of the deep parts in the world. Silence began to reclaim its hold in the dungeons beneath the township of man, and the dead expression began to work its way back over the man’s face. In the morning, he would return to his work, grasping at straws, fighting to claim some sort of livelihood for himself. But for now… the sound of falling droplets and hiss of steaming, wet firewood was his only companion.

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