Anthony broke in to the conversation. “I thought it was just a personal vendetta.”
Cayden smiled grimly. “You were wrong. That wasn’t even the first time the Order acted against our family.”
Anthony and Marianne stared at him.
“What?” he said.
“You said ‘our family’,” said Anthony.
“Oh, well,” said Cayden, brushing it away. “I meant your family, of course.”
Marianne wasn’t sure about that excuse, but Anthony seemed to accept it. “So what’s in this?” he said, holding up his almost-finished glass.
Cayden savored another sip and smiled. “Whiskey, and the blood of a cave-fish.”
Anthony gagged and spit out the last mouthful behind his stalagmite seat.
"Why, in the name of all that's holy," Anthony dragged his sleeve across his mouth, obviously preferring the taste of wool coat to cave-fish blood. "would anyone drink this swill?" he finished, still coughing and spitting.
Cayden looked at him benignly. "You'll want one before you are done with all this. The Underworlders discovered early on, and quite by accident, that cave-fish blood does wonders for the eyesight." Cayden's eyes flickered dangerously and suddenly Marianne could believe anything about him. He went from the courteous friendly aristocrat to something quite different and back again so quickly she could barely keep track. "Drink enough of this," he continued, sipping his whiskey, "and you can see in the dark."
Anthony looked sceptical, but Marianne believed Cayden. How Anthony had the gaul to look sceptical after everything they had seen, she didn't understand. She had always been under the impression that their was something seriously wrong with her brother, but this confirmed it.
Cayden saw her widened eyes and mistook her irritation with her brother and her surprise at the fact that she believed all the fantastical things Cayden was telling them for some other emotion. He smiled and took another sip of his whisky. "Don't worry," he told her. "Yours has a touch of the blood as well, but Larrish Necter has other benefits."
He set his empty glass down on the counter top and got to his feet. "Now, I think we should--"
"Elaistro," a rustling, hissing voice interrupted him.
All three of them turned--Cayden with a smile and Anthony and Marianne with varying degrees of alarm and horror on their faces--to confront the speaker.
One of the Underworlders stood before them. He was as tall as Cayden and thinner than both the other men. His skin, now that Marianne could see it up close was nearly translucent. She could see blue veins curling and flickering just under the surface of his skin. He fish scales that fluttered around him in such a way that Marianne could not tell whether it was cloth that he wore or part of his anatomy. The Underworlder blinked at them with round luminous pale eyes.
Cayden grinned. "Sahrin," he said and stepped forward to shake the strange man's hand. Cayden clapped him on the back then recoiled and laughed. Cayden shook himself sending drops of some liquid flying. "Been looking at the digs, I see," he said.
The man turned slightly and Marianne saw that there was indeed a dark substance smeared on the the man's shoulders and across the bridge of his nose.
"It is good to see you bottom side again, my friend," the Underworlder hissed. "It is near complete I think." He blinked slowly and turned his eyes on Anthony and Marianne where they stood gauping. "And who are these? I've not seen them in the shadows before." He smiled a strange wide smile and bowed to them. "Though any friend of Elaistro is welcome here, especially those who support the cause."
"This is the girl I told you about," Cayden said to the man.
"Is she now?" the man said and fastened his eyes onto Marianne.
Cayden turned to Anthony and Marianne. "I'm sorry, I should have introduced you. This is Sahrin," the creature nodded, not taking his eyes off of Marianne. "He is one of the leaders of our little rebellion. He is responsible for much of the clearing of the main cavern and is now overseeing the digs, which,"Cayden looked at Sahrin for confirmation, "are near finished. When that is done our final preparations for the overthrow of the Order will be in place." Cayden turned away from them to look into the dark. "By this time tomorrow this should all be over."
He turned back to them, his mouth set in a grim line. "I have a feeling we are going to need whatever it is you know before we before much longer." They stood in silence for a moment. Marianne felt that she could practically hear the Underworlder blinking at her.
In a moment Cayden shrugged off some of his gravity."But that is many hours away yet. Come, let Sahrin show you the digs." He turned and put his arm around the Underworlder's shoulders. They began to walk off into the dark, muttering together in some tongue Marianne had never heard before.
Anthony shrugged and started to follow, but Marianne didn't move a step. There were questions that needed answers before she followed anyone into the dark. "Stop!" she called.
Cayden and the Underworld halted and Cayden dropped his arm from around his friend's shoulders. "Yes?" he said.
"You said 'our family'. I want to know what you meant. You keep dodging questions. It's time you give us a few solid answers. Why 'our family'? Who are you, Cayden? Who are you really?"
Cayden swept them an elegant bow. "My name is Cayden Lirra, Lord Elaistro of Remington. A pleasure to meet you at last."
Anthony and Marianne stood aghast. Lirra was their own family name.
"You--" Marianne said.
Cayden smiled. "That's right," he said. "I've the family title. We're some sort of cousins, I think, but not by blood." he turned away from them and threw his arm over the Underworlder's shoulder again. "Our family tree is a map of odd second marriages as you of course know. Now do you want to come and see the digs?"