Drow Relationships

~I asked my DM where this came from as he sent it in email to me. I am waiting for his reply if I have to credit it to someone~

DROW RELATIONSHIPS - The Lolthian point of View

In the drow matriarchial society dominated by priestesses of Lolth, relationships carry with them a strong “who’s in charge” element. Needless to say, it’s always the females, and usually the priestesses. There’s a few exceptions* of drow in other societies, but in the typical Underdark Lolth-run society, women are always in charge.
The drow relationship is symbolized by the person who obtains and keeps the item of another. Drow put great emotional significance on the possession of another’s item, it is the way they “symbolize” a relationship.
The drow female who owns one or more males is referred to as “zigh quarval”, or “image of the goddess”. This makes reference to the belief that the males who are owned by and serve a female priestess are also (indirectly) serving the goddess of drow, Lolth. Through time this term has come to apply to all females, not just priestesses of Lolth.
The drow male owned by a woman is referred to as “wiu ste’kol”, or “boy-toy”. This reflects the drow female’s cultural attitude of disrespect and disregard for males by never referring to them as “men”, always referring to them as “boys”. This pervasive attitude is also represented in the way women rank the noble males in their houses : elderboy, secondboy, etc. “Toy” refers to the women never taking relationships seriously … sexual pleasure and a good looking companion on your arm are fine, but a drow priestess would never consider a male her equal.
Even though males are not treated as equals, being owned by a woman is still a desirable state for many. To have a owned male dressed in rags, going hungry or always working to near exhaustion reflects poorly on his owner. The woman who has her male dressed well, fed well, and perhaps even gives him a slave of his own is regarded well by her peers.
Monogamy by choice is mostly unknown in Drow society. The chaotic nature of drow combined with the females lack of respect for males makes it unlikely at best. While a man may have only one owner, a woman may have the items of more then one man. It is a mark of status to females to have more then one well cared for male in her personal “stable”.
Homosexuality is rare in drow society, but not unheard of. The main reason for this is that the teachings of Lolth make it a woman’s holy duty to have as many children as possable in her lifetime. While drow are the most fertile of all the elven races, a birthrate of 10 children over a 500 years lifespan is still low compaired to other races. Homosexuality is usually discreet, and rarely flaunted. Some drow turn to homosexuality as a way to express their sexual preferences that they could not express with the opposite gender. If you’re a submissive woman, you’ed better be a lesbian as no preistess of Lolth will stand by while a woman is submissive to a man. Dominant men usually are homosexual or very discreet.

OBTAINING THE ITEM

Methods of Acquiring the itemIf both parties are noble and if both houses are on good terms, one may consider approaching the Matron Mother or Merchant House Leader directly and offering a donation to obtain the item of the intended party. This is the safest method, as if the item is obtained then it is with the Matron Mother’s blessing.
Often the intended ‘item to be’ is stolen by the new owner. Since not everyone is a thief, this usually involves making some new friends and spreading around a few bribes.
There are also professional “love thieves” – those who use their skills at picking pockets, etc. to obtain items for future intended relationships. It’s a dangerous profession, make no mistake. A love thief caught had better not ever reveal whom has hired him, or not working again will be the least of his worries. However, most times if someone is caught stealing your possessions and you KNOW they are a love thief, it’s a bit easier to discuss the situation with them; as you know they are performing the theft for reasons of a pairing. Some men refuse to let their item be stolen, others accept it and are even a bit flattered at the effort that’s being put out for them. Some professional well-renowned love thieves are on good terms with several houses, and don’t even need to resort to actual item theft, a few words in the right ear and the clink of some coins works just as well for them. Love Thieves are generally used by merchant houses and independants, as nobles most always negotiate for items.

What item should you take?As a rule the more personal the item, the better a choice it is. Monetary value of the item is not important, but the emotional significance is. The more personal and cherished the item is, the more it shows that the female has put forth effort to establish this relationship. For example, it’s much more flattering to have your personal diary stolen and presented to you then it is to have a more valuable but much less meaningful piece of your jewelry.
Taking items of great monetary value is frowned on and rarely done. It’s usually only by the overly dominant, sadistic types who really need to show that they are in charge. After all, if you’re flat broke you may be inclined to ask for the return of your 12,000 gp diamond necklace, no matter how you feel about the relationship.

PRESENTING THE ITEM TO THE MALE

Public vs. Private Presentation
Finally, you have the item of the male you intend to own. Now, the female in possession of the item must choose whether she wishes to present the item to the male publicly or privately.
Public presentations are usually done in the presence of family members. Among the drow noblity, it is also common to have the presentation at a “party” held for such an occassion. Usually the female has already negotiated with the Matron Mother of the house for the male in question and was approved. Payment for the male is common but usually not significant, as drow men are not valued highly (with noteable rare exceptions like Gromph Banere). In some cases the Matron Mother may arrange the securement of the item for an additional fee. The male is usually made aware of the situation by the Matron Mother well before hand, so the actual party and presentation is a formality. Public presentations where no prior negotiantions are made are also done, but usually by those drow females who are very confident of themselves, or feel sure the male will respond positively.
Private presentations are for situations where the female is unsure of how the male will respond, or where the Matron Mother of the house was not consulted first, or for commoners who have no house to make arrangements with. It’s the more respectful way to approach the male, as it gives him the chance to bow out gracefully if he so desires.

Male Accepts His Item Was Taken
If the male accepts his item being taken, he usually performs a submissive gesture to the female. A drow gesture of submission is dropping to one knee with head inclined at the floor, hands weaponless and held out to the sides. The female signals her acceptance by placing her hand(s) on one or both of his shoulders, bidding him to rise.
At this point, the parties then usually have a talk where many things about the relationship are decided. This may or may not be written down into a formal contract, although drow male wizards seem to prefer written guidelines. (Memories do fail and fade with time). Where the couple will live, house duties, financial considerations, future childrearing duties, if the item will be loaned out (ie. the male will be “pimped”), what each brings to the relationship (and for the smart or noble, what each will leave the relationship with) are all detailed.
Although most drow males continue on with their employment or are given jobs in their new house, occassionaly the male may be given a life of relative leasure. It is a symbol of high status to have a male who does not actively work or provide income for the relationship, and one a male wizards hope for. A male wizard in a relationship where he is allowed to pursue as much research and studying as he chooses, as long as he serves his house loyally and keeps his partner happy, is the height of what most drow wizards strive for.

Male Protests His Item Was Taken
If a male politely asks for his item back it is usually returned without fuss, and both parties walk away. Most of the time it simply ends there and is forgotten.
Occassionally the drow female may harbor feelings ranging from mild annoyance to outright rage at her rejection, and may try more political means of achieving her goal. Underhanded dealings, purchasing the male from his Matron Mother without his knowledge or consent, and in extremis the kidnapping of the male in to slavery so the female can “rescue” him with her purchase or laugh at his fate and walk away are all possible reactions of chaotic evil drow priestesses.
Remember again, what happens is also based on the social status of both parties and the status of their respective houses. Someone from a low-ranked house or merchant family would have to be insane to pursue vengance over the rejection of a male from a high ranked council house, esp. if there is reason to believe the Matron Mother of the male’s house would not have approved of the pairing.

“Er, that’s not mine.”
There is a chance that the item in question does not belong to the drow male to whom it is presented. Perhaps the wrong item was stolen by mistake? Perhaps there are many similar items belonging to house members (ie: all houseboys having a house symbol on a standard design ring or other jewelry item), and you may have obtained the item of a brother or other relation in the house. Or perhaps the drow female was just set up.
Note if a Love Thief was responsable for the object procurement then that individual will at best never work again, and will usually be the subject of a priestesses’ unending rage. Hasty relocation may be the best option, as death become a very real possability.
The drow male in question will typically tell the drow female that the item does not belong to him, and may tell her who it does belong to if he knows. “That’s not my ring” he says, removing a glove and holding out his left hand on which he wears an identical ring to the one the drow female is presenting him with, “but I believe my younger brother lost his ring earlier this ride. Our Matron Mother will be most appreciative of you finding his lost property and will wish to thank you.”
In a case like this, it’s embarrassing to the drow woman, as it’s akin to admitting her failure. She will suffer some jeers from her peers, but nothing too serious will come of it. The drow woman should then return the item to the Matron Mother of the house of the true owner. Depending on who she is and who the male is in drow society, and the relations of their two houses many things can happen. Typically she may recieve a small “thank you” token equal to 1/4 the items value for it’s return. If the Matron Mother is insulted or the houses are at odds, the highest insult is to offer a single copper piece as the “finder’s fee”, showing the Matron Mothers disrespect of the female even considering joining her house. If the Matron Mother is pleased or intrigued with the drow female, she may offer to arrange a relationship with another male in the house, or perhaps even with the male that was originally desired. “I regret my son Alton is promised to a priestess from another house already, and is unavailable. Perhaps you may like to meet my son Mourn? He’s studying at Sorcere and becoming quite an accomplished mage.”
Rarely, there is another outcome. Sometimes the drow male may wish to be with the female in question, and perhaps is even dissappointed that she failed to get his item. In this case he has the option to say “That’s not my item, … but I wish it was.”, showing the male wishes to belong to the female in question. 99.9% of drow females will simply return the item and hope for a good finder’s fee and that not too many jokes will be made about them. Rarely, a drow female who wants a man badly enough or who actually cares for him may say “I wish so as well.” Relationships started like this give the man much control, as he can leave at any time by simply saying the item was never his to begin with. However, relationships formed this way are the most likely to be equatable and fair to the drow male, as the woman is literally admitting from the start that she has no power of him and he is there of his free will. A relationship like this is the closest a drow male will get to being considered an equal, and it’s as rare as an unguarded faerzress.

TAKING THE MALE ALREADY OWNED BY ANOTHER

“I’ll take your male!”Sometimes a drow woman finds a male she is interested in who is already owned. It’s common practice to offer to buy the item (and thus the male) from the owner. The item changes hands and the new owner presents the item to her new boy toy, usually with no problems.
Sometimes the owner refuses to sell. If the refusal to sell did not come from a personal hatred/dislike between the two women (or their houses), then it usually has the effect of making the male all the more desirable to the second woman. “Why won’t she sell him? He must be something pretty special!” The second woman still wants to own him, but he is already owned and unavalable for sale/trade.

You can still get your male. This can be done two ways …
The first is to steal or acquire a different item of the male in question. Once presented with the item, he will inform the presenter that he is already owned by someone else, and then go to his original owner to tell her about it. This pretty much results in the two women fighting for the item(s) until the surrender of death of one. This rather violent method is usually only used when there was a problem between the women to begin with, and one was perhaps looking for a way to start a fight. It’s a good way to challenge a woman to a public duel. Some males have even got their items back from their new owner after such a fight. “Nothing personal, it wasn’t really you I was after, I just wanted to (fight/humiliate/kill) Dannyal. Here’s your locket back, you’re free to go now.” This can be either a blessing or a curse, depending on how the male was treated in the former relationship.
The second way is harder to accomplish, but actually has many more options depending on the desired outcome. First you need to steal/obtain the item she holds over him, either personally or through a love thief. Once you have the item, you have the male. From there your options are many …
You could keep the item, present it to the male in question, and demand the former owner bugger off. That results in a dual about as often as it results in the former owner just walking away. Remember again, who is doing this has a huge impact on the old owner’s reaction. After all, if the high priestess wants an acolyte’s man, sometimes it’s better just to let her have him.
You could ransom it back to the owner, threatening to show the boy toy that you now own it if your price is not met. Remember – price isen’t always money, it can be information, council votes, spells, items, anything.
You could destroy the item, either privately or publicly. How much fanfair you put on about the destruction is directly proportional to the emotional pain and humiliation you will cause the couple. This is a source of huge emotional pain to the both members in the couple, but also a humiliation of the woman. “What’s wrong with you that you couldn’t even keep my ring/diary/item safe?” Needless to say, no matron mother will be very eager to hear of the woman having an interest in her family member after she had let an item of her male’s be destroyed, and no male will be eager to be owned by a woman who has that happen to an item in her possession. When the item is destroyed the male is free to leave.
Though rarely done, there is another option available as well. You could also return the item to the male in question. This is mostly done by family members who are dissatisfied or unhappy with the way the male is being treated by his new owner, and want to give him a chance to leave gracefully. This also shows the male a great deal of respect from the returning party. Once in possession of his item again, the male then has the power to choose what happens to the relationship. He could show his old owner the item and leave the relationship, and his former owner would be humiliated. He could also choose to stay with her and re-negotiate their deal for better terms for himself, perhaps getting less or no work, more of an allowance, etc. Either way, once a situation like that happens it shifts the balance of power in the relationship to the male’s favor.

ENDING THE RELATIONSHIP

Moving OnA woman can end the relationship at any time by simply returning the item to the male. This is the kindest and most polite way to end a relationship, and thus it’s usually not done in the sadistic matriarchial society of the drow.
More commonly, she can also sell/trade/gift the item to another, in which case the male is now presented with the item from it’s new owner.
Males who wish to end the relationship have it tougher. They can ask for the item back directly, which rarely works. More typically they could offer to buy the item back, which is subject to the whims of the owner at the moment. They could hire a love thief to steal it back, and once in possession of their item again they are free to leave.
There is also the last ditch resort of desperate males who feel they must get out of the relationship at any cost. There is always the option of giving up their claim to the item and walking away … simply by saying “Fine, it’s yours, I don’t want it anymore.” and walk away. This is where the item chosen to symbolize the relationship becomes of extreme significance. When an item of great monetary value is chosen, it has the unfortunate side effect of putting a “price” on leaving the relationship. When an item of emotional significance is chosen, it’s harder to walk away from. After all, it may be easier to leave behind a 5000 gp gem then it is to leave behind your personal diary. It’s a cheezy way to end a relationship, and not often used, but for the males in abusive or physically threatening relationships it may be the only way out.

Posted in Dance of the Dancer | Leave a comment

The Curse, The Test, The Past and the Present 6

In Arvandor Lady Paladin Elle Kenders was wroth, to say the least. The summons from her patron diety had been quite true yet was something she knew would come, “Be my representative at the coming trial, say and vote as you see fit. Guard the Ro Daariv and her servants as you always have.”

Yet the timing, this she knew to be contrived or at least misdone. The Lord of the Northwind was known to be most preemptive in all the years she and her family had served him.

She felt machinations behind this and it made her angry. A game was being played and she had to find out who and what was involved and quickly.

She walked on her mind working through the possibilities as her tail flicked from side to side showing her consternation as she walked. All manner of elves and others stepped from her path as she was too deep in thought to bother watching.

It was as she made to go to the apartments where they kept her charge she saw her and the young acolyte, Helyanwë, leaving.

She watched them go and did not approach as something made her stay he place. She watched for a moment and then saw to her great surprise her charge heading back into the apartments from the opposite direction.

The great snort of anger escaped her nostrils and faint wisp of smoke rose from the delicate human looking features.

Music for here

She strode quickly her long legs giving her stride an even faster gait. Others moved from her path as they could feel her ire. Yet even as she reached the low living walls and the gate a loud crashing came to her ears. She reached for the gate even as Alissa’s body smacked against it. She snarled and yanked the gate open and caught her charge.

The young woman shook and tried to stand. Elle laid her down her voice full of concern, “Do not worry I will handle this.” she spoke as she stepped over her charge her body seeming to rejoice in the coming fight.

Music for here

As her head turned around the familiar voice spoke to her. “Step away from her Elle.”

Elle’s head snapped quickly around. The snarl came from her lips as her body began to change. “You…” her voice dripped with venom as her eyes alight on HIM. His clothing of black, his grey eyes, his hair of grey and black.

Music for here

She shot forward sinuously, her body changing and her roar shook the temple. Her claws smashed the ground and splintered the rocks and she turned after him quickly for he was also as fast as she was.

Music

However she kept herself between HIM and Lissa. She would die first and she roared again and her claws swept out and the battle was on.

Deladios sighed yet knew some fear from this dragon. She was probably one or two of all her people he could not control. She was trained and given some immunity by her charge. As her roar echoed in his ear and his body moved impossibly fast to avoid her rush, he tried anyway, reaching out with his mind to hit nothing.

He grunted in disgust. “If I could only calm her down.” came his thought as he stood from his roll away from her.

All about inhabitants and visitors ran for their lives as the aura of an angry dragon seemed to flash across the area.

Wonderful. Bloody hells fecking wonderful. She is going to kill me for blowing this bit.” he thought as again he dodged Elle’s rush but just barely as her claws ripped through his clothing and the scream and ping of even his adamantine chain links popping gave him pause.

By the hells…” he stepped back a few steps and his hand went to the rift in his armor that was under his clothes. “She should not be able to do that.”

He looked at her and the great eyes seemed more then any he had faced before and controlled then beaten. The depths in them. He watched as she lifted a claw to her eyes and saw the bits of the blue tinged chain in her eyes then looked at him as her claws shook and it tinkled and tingled then hit the ground.

She rushed at him and he gauged his next dodge and tried to yell to her. “Elle! Calm down please! I…” he did not get to finish as she rushed she changed her form back to a human type though still with her scales and tail and as he dodged for the huge dragon he was caught off guard and the tail caught him and slammed him to the ground.

Yet even as her claws came down her grabbed her foot and with a great heave tossed her away and as they flew he unwrapped himself from her tail and landed in time to dodge the blows from her impossible recovery.

Elle…” her claw caught him across the face ripping a great gouge in his flesh and his fist came up and struck her below her ribs knocking her back.

She snarled and went to come at him again. Her face contorted and her arm went back grasping. Her eyes rolled and she flopped to the ground with a sickening thud and all around rumbled.

His eyes widened. “By the Nine…no!” He saw Alissa there the small inconsequential looking dagger in her hand the discolored blade the small distorted grin of triumph on her face.

The young Alissa looked at him as he rushed forward and smiled. She shook her head and an evil tinkling laugh escaped her lips. “Tch! Tch! Seems she would not listen to reason, eh?” she waved at him and turned to go even as he stopped at Elle’s fallen form.

She lived but for how long? His eyes seemed to darken and a low growl escaped his lips. The young woman turned back. “Now dear, dear Deladios, you use deception all the time. You should be proud of this achieve….”

Music

The young woman’s face contorted as a fist smashed into her mouth blood and teeth flying from it even as she went several meters away.

The growling voice he had heard so many times before spat. “Worthless cunt. I think I will have to come visit you again.” The crunch of boots so heavy and the stone quivering so as not to crack sounded.

Get my guardian to the Healers.” It was her voice. He looked back to her and the brilliant green eyes looked at him briefly. “If she dies you are responsible.” With that she turned and walked toward her daughter. He knew she meant it and would hunt him until the universe ended.

As he hefted Elle upon his shoulder he saw the twin go by the long blonde hair flowing. Her aura making him wince. She turned quickly and made some motions. “I have slowed it but you must hurry.” she turned away quickly chasing after her sister.

Alissa cracked her knuckles and her neck as she advanced on her daughter. “You should be dead. I take it your grandmother helped in your escape to use you yet again.”

The young woman set back on her hands then brought one up and wiped her mouth and stared at the blood. She grinned as she pushed herself up and stood and for a second wavered. The look in her green eyes just as feral as those approaching her.

Why hello mother. We did not expect this.” she curtsied. “The Crown Princess accedes to the Empress.”

As her head came up from the curtsey the foot caught the side of her face and she spun about as she felt her body seem to float then she smacked into the stone hearing a crunch as everything went black.

Alissa stood, dropping her daughter’s head from her hand like she would drop a sack of refuse. Her foot came and with a small grunt, flipped her daughter’s form over. She looked down at the mask of blood on the face she once loved more then her own life. The look on her face a mask of anguish and anger.

She turned and spat then looked back with contempt on her daughter. “You should have stayed dead Rhianna.” Alissa turned and shoved past her sister, her hand coming out and grabbing her arm roughly. “Come along Nartia, leave the trash to the guards.”

Nartia looked back at the young woman who she never met, her niece, and pulled free from her sister. Alissa spun around and looked at her. “She is your daughter!” Nartia screamed at her in their mother tongue which none here knew, her arm motioning toward the inert form. “You can feel it she is dying!”

Alissa stepped to her sister her eyes full of fire and her voice dripping venom answering in the same tongue her arm pointing to her daughter. “That maybe her body yet my daughter is dead.” Alissa’s hands came up and pushed against her sister’s chest pushing her back a step.

Alissa held her hands up to Nartia. “You saw it! So did grandmother!” she screamed at her golden twin tears rolling down her face. “With these hands I killed her! With these hands I refused to heal her because she was mother’s tool!”

She turned her head slowly back and forth with anger. “I owe you my life many times over sister. However you heal her, by Sif’s golden braids I will fight you, I will kill you and I will cry for eternity.”

Her body heaved in rage and pain looking at Nartia. “Let the guards have her. Let them try to save her. Yet I want her body in peace as her soul should be soon.” her body seemed to sag as she turned and looked away. “Please sister, I beg you.”

With those words soft and heart broken, she began to walk away back to the gardens.

Posted in How to Dance | Leave a comment

The Curse, The Test, The Past, The Present part 5

Cartel’s blue eyes smiled as she stood and walked past Helyanwë her hand reaching out and patting her shoulder gently.

 I go to the baths now my dear. You may come along or you may wait here.” came Cartel’s words as she grabbed a simple robe and wrapped it about her body.

 Helyanwë was stunned. “Tarien you mean the public baths?” At Cartel’s nod her face went white and her lip quivered. “T..Tarien…I have never bathed in public. It is not permitted for a priestess.”

 Cartel looked over her shoulder as she threw her hair over her back. “You say I am a priestess and I am going so come along.” Mischief was in her eye as she added. “Besides it will be your first adventure.”

 Music for below

Inside the bathhouse was a tropical forest, lush and verdant green, compared to the landscape outdoors of temperate forests.

 The noises of waterfalls and the talk of patrons almost drowned out the raucous noise of the birds singing and calling about the many tiered canopy above.

 As they came to a small clearing inside with smaller paths off of it they heard from behind a small table a man’s voice. “One moment I am refreshing the towels.” As they stood there waiting Helyanwë turned to Cartel, “Tarien..”and Cartel put her finger to Helyanwë’s lips. “I am not Tarien, I am not An’ar…I am simply…”

 Her reply was drowned out as the man had stood back up and his exclamation was loud as he came around and fell to his knee before Cartel. His long black hair, warrior knots and beads tinkling, his bronzed skin showing his moon elf heritage. “Forgive me Tarien Ar’Cartel d’Hune.”came his words. “It is an honor to meet one who fought truly for all our people.”

 He stood and his green eyes locked with Cartel’s his words coming in the ancient words of the people,

Faerl Meril! Pain galu am lin faer!” The words came and with them ancient habit and ritual as she embraced his shoulders with her hands and placed her forehead upon his. “Faerl glenn! Pain galu am lin faer.”

 Cartel released him and his broad smile returned and widened. “All are with you my Lady of Hune.” He turned and spoke over his shoulder. “We will set a bath for you and your sister and…”

 Cartel stepped after him her hand resting on his shoulder. “No brother. Just some towels a jug, some brushes and direct us to the warmest bath.”

 His smile not fading he nodded. “So it will be Lady of Hune. May I tell others you are here?”

 Cartel’s face seemed to agonize for a moment and then her head nodded slowly. The bath servant-warrior made a happy gesture and then stepped to the table and proffered a jug. “The brushes are inside My Ladies.” He turned and grabbed towels from below. “And here are the finest towels we have.”

 My thanks and may she Dance and sing for you always.” her hands came up and made the shape of a sword and moon in front of the man, who smiled all the while.

 As he disappeared amongst the trees, Cartel led Helyanwë along the path until they came to a huge pond or mayhap a small lake with many rocks and small well crafted log resting places anchored below. The water was steaming softly and all about Helyanwë saw men and women talking either in the water or out, all were naked.

 Helyanwë felt her cheeks and ears redden as she was used to the separate baths of the temple and seeing women naked was familiar though no less embarrassing, yet seeing men.

 She bumped into Cartel who had stopped and was looking at her with a bemused smile on her face. She took the jug from Helyanwë gently. “Well time to take your bath. Put your clothes over there they will be washed also.” She pointed to a small table with baskets and tags on each basket.

 She went to say something but her mouth clamped shut as Cartel raised an eyebrow and her eyes seeming to get a stern look. Hanging her head Helyanwë went to the baskets and slowly began to disrobe.

 By this time the talking had ceased for all were staring at Cartel. No other here was of such dark skin her brown almost seeming a dot of darkness in a world of light.

 Helyanwë turned about trying to cover herself with the small towel and shuffled toward the water. Before her the Tarien sat her hair let down, long it was and floated about her in the water. As Helyanwë watched she reached back with her hands and flipped it up and bent over as her hands went forward and laved water over her hair.

 The gasp escaping Helyanwë’s lips was audible and for but a moment the Tarien’s hands stopped then continued. For the Tarien’s back, while expertly tattooed to try and hide them, was a literal maze of scars, as if she was whipped yet none could survive what Helyanwë was looking at.

 She stepped forward her hand out and gently her hand touched the tarien’s back and she felt her body stiffen beneath her touch. “Cartel…..” she whispered as her fingers traced along the scars. “None have ever spoken of this.”

 And as she finished her words the Tarien pushed away and slid under the water to rise a few feet away.

It is because mortals do not know of it. Even our people do not know, even the dragons do not know.”

 As Helyanwë looked at her, blue tears began to fall from Cartel’s eyes and her hand went to her chest.

When Cartel held her hand up to her eyes she twisted her lips and then bit her lower lip. Helyanwë went to ask her what was wrong and she disappeared the only thing to show her passing were the ripples upon the water where she had been standing.

 Music for Below

The darkness inside the temple was broken only by the many candles all about. Incense burners wafted the scent of holy offerings. The chorus of the adherents rung softly through the high vaulted living trees that made up the temple.

 The wet foot prints that traced inward from the entrance annoyed the Abbess who was passing by. Motioning to her assistant they followed them. To their surprise they entered into the great hall and they heard the soft chorus of the adherents stop as they also stepped past the entry.

 There before the fane of the moon knelt sobbing a softly glowing figure. Her dark skin contrasting starkly with her silvery hair. Around her the puddle of water stretched out and seemed to sparkle with the same soft glow.

 The adherents looked to where the Abbess was and as her assistant went to move forward his mouth open to speak her arm crossed his chest. “No. Let her be this is her temple as well as ours and she is in pain.”

 She turned to her assistant. “Get the adherents out quietly and quickly. Then fetch me the High Priest I think he and I maybe needed.”

 Yes abbess.” came the man’s reply as he moved off to do her bidding.

 The Abbess watched as the adherents silently left and she heard the doors ways softly click shut and she watched and counted as they came down the stairs to either side. Motioning for silence as they filed out the doors behind her.

 She turned back to look then stepped and closed the doors and latched them from the inside. She felt a large amount of trepidation for she knew this woman. She remembered her from her youth when she was but new to everything in this world and the others.

 Even then, she could sense within this woman the grace and power she had, yet she was never to old to play or teach or have fun. She thought back to those years fondly as she stepped forward even as the sobs began again and tinkling she heard the tear drops becoming solid before they hit the floor of polished stone.

 Why?!” she heard come from the woman sobbing as her fist hit the floor and made the entire place shake. “Why must I love then have it taken away each and everytime?”

 She stepped softly forward again as a hand slapped the floor and the nails drew across the stone with an unholy screech. “Is it not enough I have lived interminably? That I have served one and all that entire life?” Her head snapped up and hissed skyward through the open roof. “Is it not enough that I am now here to answer for things done by those long dead and forgotten except by petty minds?”

 The Abbess stopped for she was closer then she thought she should be, within three sword lengths at least, and softly whispered. “Holy one, I am sad to see you like this. Never before had I seen the one who taught us so in pain.”

 The head snapped around and the Abbess felt the full weight of the stare of the solid white eyes and the anger and hurt behind them.

 She felt herself blanch and step backward for she had never seen the eyes of blue gone to be replaced with what she saw.

 She saw the fingers dig into the stone as the eyes turned away and the head dropped. The woman’s body heaved with a great breath and the great scars that made up her back became visible.

 Sehanine’s grace.” the abbess whispered as she made the moonsign before her. Realizing too late it would not help.

 She heard laughter after she whispered. “Sehanine’s grace is part of what has made me, little flame.”

Oh aye. I remember the bright eyed little elf of the Jertomiir quite well.”

 I remember the day I found you in the ash and flamed filled woods that were once the home of your people. The bright smile and arms reaching up when you heard the words, “Come little one lets get you someplace safe.” The dark woman spoke as the tears dropped from her face to tinkle and skitter across the floor stones.

 Yet even now The Silver Haired Maiden is gone to all but a few and Sehanine has been shown to who she truly is.” the dark woman sat up on her knees her hands flopped to her sides her body shivered again. “Yet I am still here I am still the same.”

 The abbess stepped closer still afraid of this woman who was one of the eldest teachers they knew of. “Holy One what hurts you so? Why do you seem so lost? It is disconcerting to see such from you of all our people.”

 The woman’s head turned slowly to the abbess and it seemed now as if her skin began to heat or cool she was not sure yet thin tendrils seemed to snake into the air from her body, whether smoke or vapor she could not tell and the white eyes focused on her.

 I cry and scream at one who is sometimes greater, lesser or equal then me. One who helped make me what I am now Little Flame.”

 The dark woman though stopped and doubled over. Her arms and hands going about her body. She looked up from under her silvery hair that was being traced with red as she spoke through gritted teeth. “I do however have a gift Little Flame. One I trust to you and no other, do you understand?”

 The abbess nodded dumbfounded. “Yes Holy One I understand. No other but me.” And with that the temple became black. Even the eyes of the abbess could not pierce it nor could those who were watching in the temple and from without. And when the darkness lifted no water, no abbess, no tears and no Cartel were to be found in the temple.

 Damn her how can she do such!?” the man whose black hair was streaked with grey. He watched amused as the constables and priests from Corelleon’s temple came to the temple of Sehanine.

 He knew she was gone yet he did not know where and would not try any means other then physically looking in this place.

 Music for below

The Abbess panicked slightly yet it did not show outwordly. She could see nothing and she could feel nothing but solid ground beneath her feet. The air though was warm even as she could feel small wisps of intense cold. And those wisps of cold….frigid as if that air never knew warmth.

 Little Flame.” she heard the holy one speak softly. “I am keeping your vision clouded and your hearing to my voice for your safety.” She felt the touch of a hand grasping her firmly. “You may hear one other voice, for I can not block that now as I used to do so.”

 They took several more steps and the hand grasping her left her. She felt alone and vulnerable and felt fear creep in until the hand grasped hers again. “Little Flame do as you would in temple. Clear your mind, protect it. If you let the fear and doubt creep in you may leave my protection to your detriment.”

 As she did and her feet slowly moved with the gentle pull of the hand she could feel them all around. The baleful gazes and feel the weight of the absolute maleficent thoughts all about her. She felt something get too close and the hand shifted and she was blinded in her mind.

 All about she felt the many presences move away to the very edges of where she could sense them. “Worry not Little Flame, I will not let them get near. I know too well their minds.”

 Yes holy one I know you will protect me.” And she felt her words seem to echo to quickly be swallowed in a vast emptiness.

 They soon stopped. And she felt something dark, immense, brooding and its thoughts far beyond anything she could fathom. Then she heard it the voice. Soft baritone, melodious full of all one could wish to hear in a voice. It made her seem to swoon even though the words she did not understand. If she just did as the voice asked, let go of the Holy Ones hand all her dreams and desires would be true.

 She felt the tug of the hand holding hers and she quickly snapped back to reality. “Little Flame concentrate.”

 She heard the Holy one’s voice and it was clear, loud precise and she detected a slight tone of warning even though the words were strange to her.

 E lyviely hozzory, E ozn sa xy hadesy. E qedd wojy es yeswyl qou. Uai nfaq E pof ka swez.” the Holy Ones words ended and the echo of the words played in her mind sharp and evil as they reverberated away and for the first time she trembled. Where had she let the Holy One take her? Were the rumors really true she was but a temptress, completely and thoroughly evil after all her time away?

 The words of the baritone voice came, the same language and they seemed amused and annoyed at the same time. She heard, no she felt objects moving and something immense moving about them yet staying a proper distance from them as it circled.

 Dessdy zezsyl E kyfu fas uai pof ka zipw swefrz, wojy qy fas xyyf kaqf swez hosw xybaly? Uai wojy toky raak yopw sety E wojy lyvielyk. Za uai nfaq swez sety E zsedd fyyk sa lypyejy zatyswefr xu dyssefr uai hozz hyopybiddu.”

 She felt the Holy One’s grasp tighten around her hand and her voice in the strange language answered the tone resigned to something. It brought fear to her mind and she began to shake.

 In her mind Cartel looked upon this visage of virility and fought even against her own thoughts. Her eyes going always back to the horns and hooves to jolt her to her purpose. Their minds touched and felt for safety for both before they spoke after their exchange of words.

 His thoughts came swiftly and powerfully. Almost overwhelming as she sneered at his obvious discomfort.

 Damn you Hunter. You have played an excellent game and I have been amused watching. I was wise enough not to play it and you were wise enough not to involve me beyond asking passage.” She felt his laughter even as his body smiled. So disarmingly, so cute and heartwarming.

 She shook her head even as she responded and felt his surprise at the long forgotten depth of her ability his body reflexively stepping backward and hand coming up swiftly as if to ward off a blow.

I am not here to bandy words with you. I am in a rush and this is simpler then taking your countless minions and getting them to a countable number for you. Out with what you require and we shall bargain.” came her thoughts.

 He could feel it…she was stretched. Her power thin yet, he also knew if he tried something she was not against abandoning other places to be whole. He knew she could feel his new found status and smiled some letting the aura flow outward. Surely it was just to feed his ego for such meant nothing to her but it ebbed and flowed around the one she had a grasp of. His eyes darted to her and looked he frowned and his eyes darted to the Hunter. Her face hardened and she shook her head in a quite definitive negative and he sighed.

 It was but a thought and a hope that just maybe, you had slipped again. My requirement is this and it is simple. Move your place from beneath my domains so I no longer have to deal with you and the eternal spies who report and cause me endless problems with your appearances.”

  The Holy One laughed it was bright music in this place where she felt horror would be if she opened her eyes. “You know I can not do that.” she laughed again. “You have even tried after your slight attempt to end the Blood War, it seems to have ended it is just postponed.”

The Abbess felt the snarl of rage and anger sweep over them both. It was powerful and she felt as if the presence they were before was as if Corelleon himself had turned evil and uncaring.

 His hand reached out to grasp her and he knew it was a mistake as he did it. She reached out with hers and caught his hand in hers and the light and heat began betwixt them. He could not move as she sneered and he felt her grow stronger. “After all these countless ages..” came her voice purring seeming to change to the one from his ancient dreams, the pleasure in her voice at this pain he was granted. As she continued, “Truly do you really desire your end now?”

 He shook his head vigorously then his agonized voice came. “No….no…noooo. Stop. Stop.” He felt his hand thrown away and his arm was numb and his body still would not respond. Yet her voice came again. “For this affront to my servant there will be no bargaining. Is this agreed?”

 She watched as the great head nodded even as his eyes looked balefully up at her. 

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The Curse, The Test, The Past, The Present part 4

Music for this part

The Judgment

and

The Choice

Helyanwë walked into the Garden of Life and stopped as she looked her hands reflexively going to her pendant.

For she saw before her much of legend. Besides the dragon whom guarded the Tarien d’Hune there was one she could only assume was a legendary beast if not some god as it shimmered as the gemstones it was, the Ruby Dragon.

Her eyes though saw but those two and the Tarien d’Hune yet heard many voices, all women and in tongues she was not familiar with.

The dim morning before the dawn was coming and she stepped past the entry and the voices disappeared and she felt as if she was swooning as if she was falling from a great height. Yet she did not hit the ground as the dragon woman had caught her and her eyes looked full of concern.

She heard the concerned voice of the Tarien as she looked over the beautiful dragon’s shoulder. “Is she alright Elle?”

Elle nodded and stood holding the young woman. “She is fine just disoriented as any would be after feeling the temporal shifts and them closing.”

She felt the Tarien’s hand on her cheek turning her head. “I see. Helyanwë, your name is my feisty acolyte of Corelleon.” She smiled at the young woman. “Though I do not understand why you cast your fate with mine.” The Tarien turned and began the walk back toward the temple complex with Elle carrying the young woman. “I may not last a fortnight, if that.”

Helyanwë’s voice came softly her head still spinning. “Because Tarien d’Hune, you have done what had to be done to keep some grace for your people as has your goddess. You have your friends. Your adopted family. Yet you have none to be loyal, to be your servant and treat you as your rank deserves.”

She watched as the Tarien stopped and looked over her shoulder. She felt Elle’s head shake above her as the Tarien turned her head away and kept walking making mutters under her breath.

She watched as Elle carrying her stopped and let the Tarien continue some distance before she continued to walk. Helyanwë looked up her eyes full of question and she felt a strange tingling in her head as the golden orbs looked down into her eyes.

You will not convince her little Helyanwë, that she has rank and title that deserves such admiration or honor.” came Elle’s matter of fact statement.

Yet you Lady Elle, you give her such and guard her with your life and soul. She accepts this why?” came the quite honest response from the young cleric.

Because she knows it to be true. She may not remember much of her past, yet she remembers the oaths the forebears gave to her as she stood in awe as my people arrived in this world.” Elle shifted a moment and stopped letting the young woman down. “Can you stand?” her hand held the shoulder and arm of the young cleric.

Unsteady at first then feeling well she nodded. “My thanks Lady Elle.” even as her words escaped her lips her eyes had looked around the square. All about she saw people of all stations staring and whispering. Only the children seemed not to mind and some came running over tugging on Elle’s cape and tail gently and asking shyly was she really a dragon and why she was here. And after some soft words and showing her scales to the children they ran away giggling Elle’s arm went to the young cleric’s back. “We must hurry she is quick.” Helyanwë saw the Tarien was almost small amongst the great life trees so far she had walked. “How does she do this?” came her thought as Elle and she hurried after her.

Now young one, as I was saying. When my people came we gave oaths to her we knew as the Ro Daariv. Afterwords we set to claiming this world. Yet never did we go to the lands of she we had given oath to. For centuries it was said it was magic. Some foul curse that we slew others of your kind yet left her lands be.” Elle all but purred. “Yet we know better then to wake the sleeping one. Even amongst us now after so long she was but legend. And when she came to my home my father and others upon the council knew her. And when she stood before the gates in her true form and my people tried to assail her she woke. Right terrible is her strength and power and even many of my people could not harm her more then to make her skin get warm.”

My people now fear her for she is awake and knows and has always had one of my people since our race can trace back as her guardian.”

We do not just get replaced. Somehow we are called to her when the other has passed on. She has had dragons of all types as her sargt. Not all good not all evil, yet all are changed when they are her sargt.”

Helyanwë stopped as they passed the beautifully decorated trees of the temple complex. The look on her face incredulous. “Lady Elle, you would have me believe, the Tarien d’Hune is ageless like the gods?”

Elle smiled, “Look at me young one. Do my type lie? Even moreso I am a paladin of law and good, I can not lie. Ageless she is yet she can be hurt badly. She has been trapped and tortured and some thought slain yet she is still here.”

Helyanwë nodded. “I must attend the Tarien, Lady Elle. It is time to break fast.” Elle nodded. “If you wish to serve her just do so little one. Not because she is the stuff of legend, because you wish to will be enough for her.” Elle waved as the young cleric walked off then turned at the messenger who tugged at her cloak and handed her an ornate scroll, then quickly turned about and left. The celestial’s wings fluttering and shivering as it hurried away.

Elle looked at the ornate scroll case and the seal upon it matching the emblem of her pendant, a silvery dragons head upon an azure field.

Gently breaking the seal she extended the scroll and as she read it the words disappeared as if they never had been and tears rolled from her eyes as she looked toward the temple where now her friend was. She fought with herself for a moment and cursed as she turned and walked off to where she had been bidden. Her tail twitching and hacking the air in her frustration.

Helyanwë quickly went through the maze of the temple to where the Tarien was housed. At her coming the two guards rose and blocked her way. “None may enter the prisoner’s area. Such are the directions of his most pious lord.”

Helyanwë’s face looked shocked. “The Tarien d’Hune is no prisoner! She is a guest of the Great One himself! I am her servant now let me pass.”

The tallest of the guard came forward and pushed her back. “Yonder slut is no Tarien of any family. She is naught but a female loving drow who has finally come to the noose.” he made this gesture across his neck as the other smiled. “If you are her servant then perhaps you have yet to know the pleasure a man can give to you.” He stepped forward as Helyanwë stepped back. “You can not mean such as I think. I am a priestess of the church.”

Oh I mean it. And you are young and comely yet why do you not just come to that room over there annnnnnnnn…!” The guard’s words were cut off by pain as he was lifted off the ground a hand from behind betwixt his legs and crushing the metal codpiece of his armor. The other guard and Helyanwë were shocked as the Tarien had him and was lifting him from the ground as the sound of the metal popping in her grasp filled the small hall. “Tarien I may not be any longer, nor Dancer or mother or lover to any.”her words hissed angrily in the guards ear, her faced stained with dried tears. “Yet I will not stand while the likes of you dishonor yourselves and this young woman’s honor.”

She crushed the armor cruelly, the popping and screaming of the mithril trying to hold the pressure rose high then the man passed out even as his friend made to move forward and cudgel the Tarien, it was as if he never moved and Helyanwë screamed for even as the other was falling to his knees the Tarien had the other against the wall, her hand on the arm with the weapon and the other about his neck.

She bashed him once against the wall, which was actually the trunk of the temple tree, “Forget you the rules in Arvandor? You may carry a weapon but not use it unless the Gods instruct you to do so?” She bashed him against the wall again. “I see none here in this hallway. Unless you think yourself to be one?” Her blue eyes went cold. “Any of you treat my friend shabbily again. I will forget that rule myself is this understood?”

The red face of the guard, his ears already scarlet, nodded quickly as she let him drop to the floor.

Come Helyanwë, I am always willing to entertain my friends.” with that the Tarien stepped over the prostrate guard and pushed the other over and walked into her room Helyanwë trailing quietly behind.

As soon as the door was shut Helyanwë saw the Tarien was packing a small backpack. Her eyes flitted about and saw a long silk covered bundle on the bed tied about it were the strings of a leather bag stitched with mithril.

She noticed the Tarien was clothed but in a simple dress, two pieces of cloth held together with straps at either side. Her feet were bare and all her jewelry was gone.

My Lady d’Hune, what means this and your words outside the door?”she moved next to the woman and made to reach for the clothes she was folding.

A hand came and quickly slapped hers the sound loud as Helyanwë recoiled her hand and rubbed it. “It is unseemly for a priestess to do things for a common woman.” came the words from the mouth that Helyanwë just noticed was surrounded by tears falling.

She shook her head, did Helyanwë. She could not believe what she was seeing nor hearing. “Ar’Cartel why do you grieve?” Her hand went to the sobbing woman’s shoulder. “Why say they you are a prisoner?”

Cartel’s fingers and hands stopped, wringing the item of clothing she was folding in her hands. “Because I am. Because when I bested his Chosen, with no aid, and his father’s weapon ensuring I did not die. Surely, I used some drow magic…” she twisted the clothing in her hands more the tears falling down her face unashamedly.

And since those watching knew I had won, yet could not heal myself, they brought me here. And out of their kindness rendered me nothing.” She stood as tall as her stature allowed, her hair now no longer drow white its edges red with her victories. It was once again its natural color. A shimmering coppery hue in the light. “In doing their good deed, and I fault them not for it, they rendered my vows to Eilistraee void. And my vows to others were rendered void. And for my trial to come I may have nothing.”

Helyanwë could not believe her ears even as the starkest warrior tales told of was here before her crying.

An’ar I can not be, my vows rendered void. I can not have title, I can not rule. I can own nothing…” she began to stutter at this point and Helyanwë went to hold her and she stepped back from her. “I…I can have no friends, no f..f..family, no…no.. one to love. Nothing until this is done.” Cartel clasped her hands to her eyes and dropped to her knees.

They are all gone. I could not tell them why, I could but tell them they may see me soon.” she looked up to Helyanwë and asked her, “How can I comfort myself priestess when I have nothing to love and I am to stand alone before them who tossed my people away? How can we after ten thousand years still seek to hurt each other?”

Helyanwë was awe struck…being asked by a high priestess how to keep faith and be comforted in this dark time.

Helyanwë knelt beside this woman who she knew from talk and legend her entire life. Here in arvandor amongst the priests, priestess’, alcolytes and Knights she was known. Some saw the good most saw the bad. The Bladesingers and knights admired the tales of her skill, bravery and cunning even though many saw her as representing evil. One to be overcome to prove their worth.

She had heard the priests and priestess’ use her devotion to her goddess, her faith and her people as examples of devotion. Not in mixed company but in private in admiration and glowing praise.

Yet here where all the Tel’quessir should be able to come for peace and be restored before again venturing forth, she had naught but pain.

She put put her hands outward on her bowed shoulders and looked at the bowed head the hair all around her body and touching the floor.

I have no words to inspire comfort for you. Yet to myself and others you are and always will be Tarien Ar’Cartel d’Hune. Dancer of the Silver Lady, Darksong, Bladesinger, Harper, protector and guide of all you have come across.” she breathed heavily before she continued. “You have done and shown the best of what our people can be, you have fallen and you have returned to what you were. If in this time you are finally to fall, you have done such grace and honor to the Tel’Quessir, how can our gods let you pass on with such dishonor?”

Helyanwë pulled her hands away and moved back on her knees and supplicated herself before the bowed Cartel. “Liltaya Tarien Ar’Cartel d’Hune, how may this one serve thy family.”

The words came to her from behind the veil of coppery hair, through the sniffled tears. “You know not what you do Helyanwë, I am but Cartel a common woman.”

Helyanwë felt her anger rise then and her voice reflected it even as her head touched the floor she did not look up yet repeated her question, Liltaya Tarien Ar’Cartel d’Hune, how may this one serve thy family!”

Cartel looked through her hair at this young woman who prostrated herself before her. And the memory of those so long ago doing such made her anger rise. She was no better then they just a happenstance of birth. She pushed herself up to her feet and snarled. “If you believe me to be what you say then never again act like that now and bow and scrape before me.”

Cartel stepped over Helyanwë her hand on the handle of the door, “If I am what you say, then never again bow to anyone or anything. Never.” with that she was out the door quickly, its shutting silent and outside the door the slithering sound of armor sliding down the bark of the temple tree was heard and Helyanwë smiled.

Part 2

What would you have me do? It is not as if I am capable of ensuring that she stands with none to speak for her.” came the voice of the of the High Priest of Corelleon.

She must be found guilty. You must ensure this or your parts in what has transpired for all these years will be known.” the voice raspy and echoing, almost hissing as steam from the rocks.

How can I accomplish this? As it is there are none that are standing by her the rolls are empty.” came the priest’s pleading voice.

We care not how you do it, it is to be done. None are to stand with her.” came a definite baritone voice of a man.

Suddenly a rap upon the door came and the voice of an acolyte. “Honored one your midday meal. May I enter?”

The priest turned and those who were in his chambers were gone. No magic noting left of them. “C..come in my dear.” came his voice.

He was surprised to see the young Helyanwë, who had volunteered to be the caretaker of the preening Tarien of Hune. He was shaken a bit though to see that she had dyed her hair, once a beautiful gold, to the silvery color most often used by drow.

She carried the tray before him and placed it upon his desk and from her the scent of roses flowed. It was a strong heady scent and he inhaled even as she stood back and clasped her hands before her plain vestments. “The cook says the soup was particularly ordered by you eminence so please while it is warm.” her hand reached forward and moved the soup before the plate of wondrous meats and gravy and lifted the lid and stirred it with a spoon from the tray. Finished that task she moved back to the front of the desk and bowed.

A she turned to leave his voice came, “Helyanwë, how goes the Tarien?”

She stood straight for a few moments as if framing an answer. “My Lady Hune is most hurt and lost now that she is a prisoner and on trial eminence. She is truly one of the old ones and carries herself so.”

He smiled as his spoon clinked on the bowl as he thought for a moment as Helyanwë turned about to face him. “Where is she now Helyanwë?” He wanted to know she was in her chamber wracked with sorrow and fear of the unknown.

My Lady Hune bade me to do as I wish this day. She said she was going to be quite busy today, as she had to find a place to dance.” the smirk on her face was most unseemly for one of her station.

Helyanwë, my dear such a look on your face almost seems as if you truly are wishing to be one of hers.” he gestured with the spoon in his hand, “And your hair. Child it was beautiful before why have you done such to it? Surely you do not think she will actually live to accept you as a servant?”

Helyanwë smiled and bowed her head slightly as her eyes kept contact with those of the High priest. “Eminence, my lady says that now she is a common woman since she is on trial. She has already readied her effects and sent them to places for safe keeping or disposition. She trusts no one here excepting the dragon woman Lady Paladin Elle Kenders.”

The old priest smiled for he knew that she was no longer in Arvandor, her deity calling her to his presence. And the words slipped from his mouth before he could stop them, as soft as they were Helyanwë heard them. “She is now alone.” and the slight smile on his lips caused the young woman to stiffen.

Eminence if you are done with me, I have to ensure the Lady Hune has her food and is ready for her audience later.” came Helyanwë’s soft words.

No dear. Go with the grace of Corelleon.” She bowed and turned silently not returning his blessing though it escaped the old priests notice as he began to eat his mood greatly improved from earlier.

As the young woman hurried from the chambers and through the halls of the temple holding the front of her vestment so as to not trip a smile was on her face and as she turned a corner toward the training halls of the knights and singers she stopped and leaned up against a shadowed pillar. A broad smile on her lips and the words from her lips were assuredly not elvish and not heard ever in these halls before.

Wh’li uriu dosnin.” and she turned then after a few small laughs and went toward the training grounds and as she did the likeness of Helyanwë disappeared to be replaced with the simply dressed Cartel and she pushed open the doors to the training ground and slammed them behind her.

Walking inward she finally leaned on the rail looking out into the training grounds the sun shining downward through the trees onto the perfectly kept sward. Her eyes wandered over the training singers and paladins of the order.

Her eyes watching and learning. She listened closely filtering out the sounds of Arvandor, nature was gone except for those she watched and listened to. She did not even notice the breeze that would occasionally open the simple garment she wore.

Others however did not miss it. Soon after some complaints as the knights male and female began to be distracted the instructors gathered then after a few words one walked toward Cartel.

His silver eyes looked up at her from his place on the sward. The disdain in his eyes obvious and made clearer with the tone of his voice and the choice of his words.

We do not allow your kind in here.”, came his words edged with venom. “You and your ilk are nothing but dhaerow and you,” he gestured imperiously, “are in a holy place dressed like a whore.”

Behind him she heard the other instructors and some of the others chuckle. “So if you are one of the holy sisters come to take care of needs, get thee down here and spread your legs.”

Music for this portion

The elf fell over backwards as if he was bludgeoned with a maul. Yet none saw the drow woman do anything, as if she stood still. The smile on her face told differently and she turned toward the stair and stretched her arms upward and rocked her head as she began to descend the steps. Her bones and joints cracking as she did so.

Her cold blue eyes alighted on all there as one bare foot nudged the downed instructor. “Tch!” came the disdainful click of her tongue. “One must always always be ready to fight. Otherwise you lose.” She knelt down and tapped his armor her fingers going to his neck. “Oh good you are alive. You will be regretting it on the morrow I am sure.”

Those of the moon and silver elves, please leave. My business is with the knights and singers of the sun elves.” her arm gestured toward the stair and after a few moments none moved.

She shook her head the silvery tresses reflecting in the sun as her blue eyes alit on the instructors. “You have taught them well of loyalty. I commend you.”

Cartel’s hands went to her hips and she cocked those as she stood before them. “For those who know not, I am Tarien Ar’Cartel d’Hune. Sword Dancer of the Dark Maiden, Bladesinger of the Imperial family of Ilythiir.” She felt and saw the eyes and the look on some faces before her.

Some of you here I taught your many times grandparents.” she dropped her arms and stepped forward. “Others I slew you parents and grandparents with abandon.”

She pointed stiff armed at them her arm sweeping across them all, three score and 15 she counted, “Even now, with no weapon and no spells or songs I can defeat you all.” She tossed her hair and head back and looked down her nose at them defiant and challenging.

A female sun elf instructor came forward her sword a glittering circle and arc all saw the drow woman flip backwards, then slide forward it seemed upon her chest, then her legs spun around knocking the armored woman into the air. Then the drow woman seemed to spring up into the air with a push of her hands and flipped over, her clenched fist smashed into the instructor’s chest driving her to the ground. The force of the blow making her bounce off the ground to be smashed back down by the drow woman’s knee. The instructors blessed weapon flying from her unconscious hand to fall uselessly to the grass.

The look of shock on the faces of all made her grin widely. “Tin soldiers. Never fought a real warrior.” she spat on the ground. The instructor moaned underneath her knee and Cartel’s fist smacked the side of her head silencing her. She heard the growls of anger and smirked, as her action fed their idea of honor and right.

Beyond the doors of the training hall none heard but what they thought was one of those free for all bouts. And the servants stood outside the doors waiting to go in and tend their noble charges.

Suddenly the noises stopped. And after several minutes the doors were flung open, instead of the usual orders to enter. They stepped back as a drow woman emerged some making the sign of the sun as she passed them, her blue eyes sweeping over them with disdain.

From one she snatched a towel in passing and wiped her face and dropped it to the ground as if it was trash. The smirk on her face quite evident as she turned toward the quarters complex of the temple.

Helyanwë went down the hall toward the room the Tarien was assigned and when she reached the door she was surprised no guards were posted. Then she heard the notes of strange music behind the door and listened.

Drums and flutes she heard as well as shakers and clapping. Her eyes grew wide as she could not fathom how so many could fit into the Tarien’s room. Her hand went to the door handle and as it touched it the music stopped.

The voice of the Tarien came, though there was a somber note to it. “Enter Helyanwë!” She pushed the door open the latch making a wooden clicking sound as she let go.

A stifled gasp came from Helyanwë’s mouth as the surprised scream was more of an Eeep.

Before her was not the Tarien’s room, but a forest glade. Sitting about it were many women and men of the Ilithiir and Moon elves. Many were naked and now idle hands worked in instruments of held horns or mugs of refreshment.

The Tarien herself was nude the slight sheen of perspiration over her entire body. As she walked from the glade she waved and all there waved back as they slowly shimmered away and the Tarien was standing by the door to her balcony.

The smile on her face quite evident as she came and took the tray from the hands of the young priestess who was in shock. “B…Bu…but magics are not aboe to work in the temple except those given to us by Corelleon!” she finally stuttered as Cartel had sat at the table and took a roll from the tray.

Cartel smiled at her. Her coppery hair shining with the sun filtering through the branches of the temple tree. She sat in the chair and crossed her leg making a sound of satisfaction at the taste of the roll as she looked on the young priestess. Helyanwë just began to babble. “It is impossible. How can you do such? Why would you be able to do such here in this place?” On and on she went as Cartel quietly ate letting the young woman get over her shock.

Those people! Those were…were your people! Before…before…How in Corelleon’s name could you do that Tarien?”

Cartel looked up from the plate a slice of meat still hanging between her lips, the look upon her face a bit surprised. A slender finger came up and pushed the slice of meat into her mouth and the same hand was held up to let Helyanwë know to be quiet.

Cartel chewed the meat savoring the flavor even though it was cold and looked at the young priestess who was trembling. Her hand then motioned her to sit as Cartel reached over and grabbed the mug of..milk! Her eyes looked at Helyanwë over the mug as she drank it. Then put the mug down wiping her lips with her fingers. “It is a simple matter. However I need not discuss it with you my dear.”

Cartel’s blue eyes smiled as she stood and walked past Helyanwë her hand reaching out and patting her shoulder gently.

I go to the baths now my dear. You may come along or you may wait here.” came Cartel’s words as she grabbed a simple robe and wrapped it about her body.

Helyanwë was stunned. “Tarien you mean the public baths?” At Cartel’s nod her face went white and her lip quivered. “T..Tarien…I have never bathed in public. It is not permitted for a priestess.”

Cartel looked over her shoulder as she threw her hair over her back. “You say I am a priestess and I am going so come along.” Mischief was in her eye as she added. “Besides it will be your first adventure.”

 

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The Curse, The Test, The Past, The Present…part 3

Elle’s eyes took in everything as she walked beside me. For this place was new to her. The wondrous trees scraping the vaults of the skies and the gardens and paths all lit with soft glows.

Before I smelled the garden I had begun to speak softly. “She has not thought it through. Such a young one can not know what she has done, Elle.”

I heard Elle’s rumble of dissent before her words. “She knows full well a princess of an elvish kingdom has no servants, not one to believe in her here amongst her people. She has become that one’s servant even if she must leave the blessed lands as she sees it.” We stopped as Elle grabbed my shoulder and turned me to look at her, my eyes turning up to hers. “Of all things that you do, the most miraculous you do is inspire others.”

I smiled shyly at those words and nodded and turned to continue walking as the scent from the garden came upon the wind.

I walked into it reveling in it, as it was the smell I carried, my scent. This place and its scents and solitude were my favorites from before the gods had taken us to the new worlds. It was here the first time I had met she who I was named after.

The Rose of Life, the one who even the gods give respect though I never have known why. Whom even the dragons, bow to and sometimes even fear. They have named her Ro daariv, Eternal Queen.

As we walked into the garden of roses and the tiers and slopes of roses of all hues and sizes met us. Elle stopped as I continued onward my hands going out to touch a flower as I passed or stop to smell them.

I watched her walk into this place, her home from home, and was astounded. For it seemed as though the very things she was named for, rejoiced at this visit. Bending to see an old friend and blooming and scenting more then they would have. She acted as a child though with her hands touching the flowers and the smile on her face as she would stop and speak to a bloom and after a moment close her eyes and inhale deeply.

This woman who became my fast friend and whom I guard as my people have always done out of respect. All the names she carried, all the titles, all the pasts were but the same to bring her to this place again.

When I called her name, Lissa, she answered not from in front of me but from behind. And when I turned to look, it was Lissa yet as I first ever saw her. A young human woman her deep green eyes filled with things one should not know. Her strawberry blonde hair reflecting the moonlight. “What is it Elle?” I looked back to where she was before and it was there her drow self was amongst the roses.

How is this possible?” I heard myself whisper and from the first direction I heard the voice I always considered evil and even felt evil from it. “Dragonsssss you have not figured this out yetssss?”

My eyes focused on the dark within the darkness and it was again my friend, yet as I had never seen her. Great wings sprung from her back. Black they were fading to white at the tips and the great muscles rippled as this one also seemed to enjoy the roses, fangs showing and the eyes full of baleful fire and across her body I recognized the same whip markings and tattoos that Lissa had and always kept covered. Yet these shone orange against her dark skin. It was then I saw there were more then two arms and legs, what I had thought was some armor were other arms tucked close against her body and then realized the truth of the human Lissa’s tale.

And then it seemed as though a haze was before my eyes as I saw the others. Lissa’s human twin Nartia as like to her as a copy but for her pale golden hair. I watched them embrace and walk into the garden further. And as they did I swear that it seemed they grew younger as they went. I knew from Lissa’s tales that they never knew each other as children and were once enemies. Yet now it was as if time had…

Time, she always had it she said, back and forth. Going back is harder then forward Elle. Yet I can do it and now you can, you are my athi, my guardian. You will need to do this for I am not always where but when

I looked about and counted. Seven there were, one drow, one divine being, two humans, three elves. Yet something still seemed amiss.

I was not sure until almost beside me I heard a soft voice. It sent chills down my spine and I slowly turned to face the voice that asked me. “Servant of my brother have you not divined this all yet?”

And when my eyes looked into the deep ruby eyes and the ruby skin I know not what compelled me to kneel yet I did so. I heard the soft chuckle and felt the clawed hand upon my shoulder. There is no need for such sargt of the Ro Daariv it is I who should bow to you.” Saridor’s voice came as his claw lifted me to my feet.

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The Curse, The Test, The Past, The Present Part 2

The damn birds were singing as if they were in my ears and I flung my arms about to chase them away. It did nothing, that futile gesture, as they were no where near me and my eyes opened to daylight and the brilliant green leaves of a home tree.

I went to rise and the pain doubled me over sending a torrent if invectives from my lips. Almost as sudden they escaped I stopped, for the drow tongue came and in this place it seemed not right and the birds singing and voices I faintly heard had stopped at my invectives.

I looked about for my sword and it was by the bed, carefully cleaned and polished the hilts and scabbards looked as if the day they were blessed. And my hair, was again white the ends of red reflecting in the sheen of my scabbards.

I reached for it slowly and the familiar hilt felt warm as I touched it. I pulled it to me and sat it across my lap as I rose to sit in the bed. Cleaned it was yet something was strange. I looked about and still saw no one yet I heard the faint voices.

My side hurt and I shrugged off the coverlet and raised my arm to look at the wound. Artfully bandaged it was. It was then I heard a soft gasp and dropped my arm as I turned toward the sound.

There was young maiden of the church of Corelleon, her mouth agape as the bowl seemed to fall slowly from her hand. Behind her was a priest whose eyes went wide even as she turned to block his view as the bowl hit the floor.

I wondered then looked down and noticed I was topless as I sat in the bed. My breasts enjoying the sun and fresh air as my hair did.

“Patriarch do not look! Tarien Hune is not clothed!”

I laughed loudly hearing her words and seeing her try to push the older man out the door. His voice and hands raised as he backed out and I could see the mirth upon his face. The door shut quickly and silently as the young woman turned about, that scolding look all us healer’s had for one who is misbehaving instead of healing.

“Tarien Hune! You must call if you need to rise.” She was by the bed before I stopped laughing pulling the light cover over my chest. “Clothing is required for one of your station my lady I will fetch you some.” She did not leave until I brought a hand up to hold the cover over my breasts.

I watched her go out the door wondering how her body looked under the chaste clothing of her order. And as the door closed hearing the muffled words of her invective to the priest about seeing a noble woman naked and to knock before he followed anyone in a door.

I pushed myself back against the headboard my fingers still caressing my weapon even as a knock came upon the door. Before I could answer the old priest had opened it and shut it behind him.

He was tall, moreso then any of his people, the sun elves, normally were.

The hooded robe kept his face slightly shrouded yet his golden hair flowed out from under it. I could see the fine chiseled chin and then the scars that ran down both sides of his face, the one from the right continuing down his neck to disappear under his clothes.

“Long has it been since one of your people was here Tarien Ar’Cartel d’Hune.” he gestured toward a chair and as I nodded he grabbed it and brought it next to the bed sitting in it with a rustle of his vestments. “And from what I understand, it was also you who was the last of your people to be in this place.” I saw the smile on his face as his hands folded up on his lap.

My eyes looked about and I saw nothing familiar of this place. Even amongst the people, a decision to move a planting or painting for aesthetics could take centuries of thought, so it was common to see something if one had been in a place before.

A small laugh came from the priest. “No not this room or hospital Tarien. This land.”

Out of reflex my fingers stopped and hovered on the hilt of my sword and my hand closest to the priest stayed there as my mind focused.

The sound of his disapproval and his body slouching in the chair brought me to calm reason again. “From my understanding the last time you were in this place you walked out in disgust and pain and..” he reached out cautiously and softly tapped my hand, “your skin turned to this color.”

I know my eyes widened as I felt my body tremble and shake. I moved to the side of the bed opposite the priest and stood pulling the cover about me and tying it tightly to cover me. “If this is a trick I will kill you.” came my trembling voice the fear belying the bravado I tried to show.

He stood and spread his arms wide the sleeves falling away so I could see no weapons then put together before him his palms showing to me as he walked around the bed.

His voice though had changed and it struck a memory as the sound of it came. “Come Tarien Hune in this place there is no deception.”

And it was as if the air flowed together around me and I saw this elf before me again. Older then me he was at the time yet we stood not as friends but enemies. Around us the dead and dying, the temple burning. I could hear it, taste it and feel it all again. The sword in my hand as it was then screeched a most inhuman sound as the vision disappeared.

The priest had backed away when the sword screamed its displeasure. “It would seem it has not forgotten me either.” He laughed and reached up slowly to push the hood back from his head. The face in the vision matching the one before, but for the scars.

I cocked my head to look up at him trying to dig the name and memory from so long ago. There was a pounding on the door and voices yelling if all was alright. “We are fine!” I shouted. “Leave us be.” where had that tone of imperious command come from in my voice? Another memory slipping in?

The priest shook his head. “I healed you as a penance Tarien d’Hune. The last we saw each other you gave me these scars. Do you remember the Temple of the Sunrise in what was once the lands of the Keltomir?”

My eyes closed and my heart skipped then sank. It was that temple, where both sides had learned a piece of a relic was they needed for their own ends was. It was where the last of my loyal soldiers fell and where my age old guardian finally made herself known again.

The Vyshaan troops and the advance troops of the Illithyr had decimated each other. It was at that time, we arrived. We had by this time adopted the symbol of the Huntress as ours to distinguish ourselves from any others. In a vain hope it would show we fought for neither side, but would fight both if they continued their madness.

In reality all it did was make us targets for all, yet it mattered not to us. For we succored wounded from both sides, buried the dead from both sides. For they were our brothers and sisters. Struck with some madness, yes, but still our brothers and sisters.

And as we came upon the place before the temple the great forests and trees about it burning where it was not already knocked flat. The Vyshaan troops who were closer to their reinforcements, were amongst the field, killing wounded in the most evil ways. We watched as they hewed them repeatedly or placed them upon spears and shafts, to wriggle like bugs until they died.

The growling amongst my people was heard. I sent our messenger forward to ask if we may assist in burying the dead and healing the wounded from both sides, as this was the way of the Huntress.

We watched as our messenger was pierced with over a hundred arrows as he approached. And the tall figure in gold and red robes and armor stood at the top of the temple steps with many archers.

And his voice boomed I’quelin dhaerow naa ba dhaerow!” And with those words spells and arrows leaped towards us, as did the foot soldiers.

There was no order to this battle. No commands. It was bloody slaughter to the last. And as I gained the steps and looked upward toward this priest and his archers who loosed at me and were amazed they could not hit me, for I was not where they aimed, he commanded them to stop and his hands came up slowly to remove his helm and I did the same and dropped mine to the ground. My last link besides my blood with my family.

“I see you dhaerow. Do you see me?” his voice boomed his fiery hair began to flow with the heated wind from the blazes all about.

“I see you priest of a mad god. Shall we begin?” he nodded and the arrows flew and he began his spells and I was amongst his archers. They fell swiftly but not without some fight as I felt a spell directed toward me strong and pernicious yet it faded as I turned about to the caster.

His mouth was open and the confusion was in his eye even as the great morning star and sword he carried came out. It was then the dance began for Glenn awoke with a song and pounding rhythm all could hear and the priest’s eyes narrowed as he now knew why his spells failed.

I do not remember the long story of our fight. For this priest was also a singer. And he dropped the great morning star as we fought.

In the end, I slashed him thrice, once across his belly and once up to the right then down on the left and he fell. My wounds were grievous. I stumbled and turned to look back down the steps and I beheld the entire ground full of unmoving bodies, none moved not even twitched. Some locked in their final embraces of combat. I felt the tears run down my face even as movement from the corner of my eye warned me I could not move fast enough and I was on the ground pinned by a weight greater then any I remembered.

I heard the deafening roar of a dragon and closed my eyes laughing.

I was dragonbait!

My eyes looked upon this one and narrowed for a moment. For during our entire battle we never spoke except songs and spells.

My fingers grasped Glenn’s hilt tighter and the blade awoke and began to hum. I pointed the sheathed sword at him and he moved back toward the door. “You helped cast part of our people into darkness. You and yours were beaten and have now slowly returned in disgrace. But what of MY people, no chance for redemption because of the likes of you?!”

My free hand let go of the bedclothes as I stepped forward my voice rising. “YOU branded me dhaerow and slaughtered MY soldiers!”

He backed away as I felt the full flush of that past pain come over me. My rage was great and he bowed his head even as I brought the blade up to crack his head like a ripe melon.

The door burst open and I was caught in a grip almost as strong as mine and pressed against the wall the overwhelming scent of saffron about me.

“Fool! Get out she is angered and not thinking and will kill you!” I heard Elle’s perfect yet accented elvish scream at the priest as she fought me with all her strength to keep me against the wall. Her mind touching mine trying desperately to calm me. “Lissa stop this. Do not do this here. Not here. Not now.”

And I screamed at the retreating priest. “You want penance!? You go bring our people back one by one! You go sing to those graves that are now unmarked with the winds of centuries! I will send you where that foulness in your soul deems you belong and it is not here in Arvandor!” I went to shove past my kyorli.

The next thump of Elle pounding me against the wall made me stop. I looked up into the eyes of my oldest friend and her huge eyes looked down at mine and I collapsed against her sobbing, the holy weapon falling to the floor with a clatter and my world full of saffron and darkness.

I awoke to the dark and the incessant swishing of scales against the wood floor. Opening my eyes slowly I saw the form of Elle in a chair. Beside her from the chair her tail fell and the end swept back and forth. Just from that I knew she was not asleep and I sat up and looked at her. Her golden eyes turned from the window toward me. Both of us seeing the night time glow in each others eyes.

I went to leave the bed and stopped at the weight upon my stomach. I looked down and it was the young novice who volunteered to attend me draped across my body asleep.

“What in the Pit is she doing sleeping on me?” came my whispered question. Elle’s smile was disconcerting that in this humanoid form her fangs and maw showed through. “To keep you here as I must also.”

I cursed in my mind and I saw Elle shake her head and tap it. Damnable link! I have had a sargt, kyorli, athi or guardian since I could remember. And always a dragon. They always seemed to find me or I them, most unwittingly.

“I have bollocks everything up quite well.” I muttered outloud yet softly, as my hand went out and gently touched the young priestess’s golden hair. “Do you even know what you have done by volunteering to aid and care for me young one?”

I heard the creaking of the chair as Elle stood and walked toward the bed. I felt her hand strangely warm and heavy upon my shoulder. “She does my friend. I was there when she stepped forward. When all there gasped in astonishment.” The rumbling chuckle Elle made was strangely comforting in its familiarity. “I think I was the last remaining bit to sway her and others and I have questions of you also.”

I nodded as I looked down at the young woman, she could not be much over a century in age. In my eyes she had just thrown her life away and cast her lot with those who may never fully come again to Arvandor.

“Elle why did she do it?” I turned my head and looked above my shoulder to Elle. “Her words were hauntingly familiar my friend. I choose to aid she who we can all see now is truly the Tarien Cartel d’Hune, heir of one of the missing Houses. She has always strove for the people, light or dark, for are we not all of the Tel’Quessir?”

I felt the smile creep across my face slowly. “Just what have they been teaching the children these past centuries?”

“Apparently everything.” came Elle’s voice as I felt her hand squeeze my shoulder. “Now dress let us go to what for some reason I know is your favorite spot here upon Arvandor. The Rose garden.”

I stiffened and I know she felt it even as I slipped carefully out from beneath the young priestess and pulled soft leathers and boots on. I grabbed Glenn and hooked it to my belt and I felt it almost purr.

“Just where are we Elle?” I asked softly closing the door behind us with a soft click. The guards stood and as they did Elle growled at them and they stood against the wall as we strode past. One looked amazed and the other had the scathing look of hatred.

“We are in the priests quarters of the temple of Corelleon. Where else does one put a high priestess who is being honored by the church?”

Elle chuckled as she said that because she could feel my boiling silence of where I was housed with honor.

Slowly we walked in silence. Past priests and layman alike. Guard and civilian and head would turn and look upon us. Not often in Arvandor did one see a drow walking, let alone side by side with a gold dragon in her bipedal form, her tail and eyes twitching about.

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The Curse, the test, the past and the present Part 1

Music for this part

 

 

“You!” came the accusation. “Your the one who let my family die!”

I heard this as I walked silently into the opening of the ancient temple of the Maiden, just outside Myth Drannor.

There at the top of the crumbled steps stood an elf, not just any kind though, a pure bred sun elf. I felt the growl in my throat rise almost imperceptibly and forced it back down. He pushed himself from the fallen statue he was leaning against, its massive size making him seem smaller.

His golden eyes seemed almost cat like and his hair, almost as red as mine was trimmed neatly and tied back.

I eyed him with caution as I let my pack slip from my shoulders with a dull thump. I could not recognize this one though he reeked of power. “Who addresses me with such an accusation, I have not seen you before or if I have you are forgotten.”

His lips curled back into a cruel sneer. “I would expect no less from the heiress of a fallen house and crown.” His hand went to his sword as the sun broke through the trees and seemed to grace him with its light and it was then I knew my test was upon me.

“Look on me well. Do you not remember? It has been long yet I have lived with this day in my heart for millennia.” He stood still and put his arms out. “Look upon me Valsharen Cartel Val’Hune, and remember.”

The last I could remember of seeing any of his kin, with any violence around was during the Crown Wars. Yet those memories so chaotic, so bloody I had repressed since the Descent.

As I looked upon him and his features, I could see nothing to recognize except upon his sword and there the sigils of Corellon.

It was then my eyes alighted on the mithril ring upon his finger, The large ruby and the carven sigil of his House.

Their name, once feared is now the most foul of curses amongst all tel’quessir, even drow. The disgust in my voice, however can not hide my surprise. “Vyshaan….” and my mind races through all of its past quickly until I can place this face.

The family was stricken, destroyed later, yet here and now in this thought I see it all.

This was a young child, who was thrust into my arms and then one of my soldiers, as we stood between the opposed armies of my family and that of the Keltormir. This child and his minor family of the Vyshaan were found in the wreckage of the baggage train behind the lines that was raided. It was why we arrived. It was where I earned my father’s hatred and lost my sister’s and brother. Where I met HER for the first time.

For I followed what would later become the Dogma of the Dark Maiden, she who was then the Huntress, which then was only a calling, common sense, why are we slaughtering each other stop. And stop it quickly.

Yet we had arrived late. For the corrupted magics of the Weaver were new and it took time to circumvent them.

And seeing my family, killing and rending the helpless, those who could not fight or would not fight, those who were healers or others who had no military value I lost my sanity for a bit.

For I had constantly been at odds with my family over their use of wide destruction. I had even been sent forcibly back to the Huntress’s Temples several times, which of course they would let me leave.

And when I charged, when I struck out at both sides my troops behind me doing the same to quell the fighting between the two, it was a futile gesture as my family’s armies and their allies were numerous.

And it was fallen to me to fight the fallen and summoned beings my family had succored for their use.

Dragons left as I came forward and lessor demons fled wailing. Only the greater ones would stay and they fell.

And as the fighting stopped after that for its precious minutes of peace. And I used magic so all could here my questions, “Why? What madness drives us to slay each other? Come and collect your dead and wounded in peace.”

It was then I learned my brother, father’s treasure, was dead on the field. For my father and others came forward under truce while his soldiers claimed their dead.

His cold eyes looked on me then. Once those beautiful eyes of grey I remember since my first memories always smiled, yet now, all such love was lost. His voice cold and tempered with all the foul magics and power he had gotten from the Weaver and her servants.

“Heiress is all you shall ever be while I live or any of your sisters. You have become dhaerow to our family. How can you fight me, my Cartel?” his words were angry yet I could also feel sadness there.

“You were the best and the brightest of all my children and you have been since we arrived from beyond the veil.” Then his temper changed and his voice just as quickly. “Foul bitch of a child! Nothing but a fucking vyshaanti tool you are I should slay you here and now for fouling the very air we are breathing.”

And those around who I had known for centuries, corrupted as thoroughly as my father muttered in agreement. And behind them I saw two of my sisters, their ornate dragon helms, showing they were of the royal house. I called to them and asked if they too felt as our father did. My sisters were always outspoken no matter to whom. For they were the true spoiled ones, the youngest of the family.

Their foul curses and descriptions of what would be done to me if I returned home made my status quite clear. “You are eldest and by custom and law you are to be Coronet when father dies. Yet we will ensure we live to keep you from your throne.”

I watched as the summoned ones gathered about and my mind kept them at bay. It was a struggle to do such for they were many and doing so much at once. My eyes never closed but all seemed to be distant and almost as if I was under water until.

The hand touching my shoulder, the voice whispering in my ear, brought me back. And it was as if a cord snapped and I did realize what was happening as the summoned ones faded back and my father’s eyes burned angrily.

“My Lady we have found a woman and child.” came my captain’s whisper. “They seem to be the Lady and child of Keltormir.”

I nodded and whispered back. “And their people?” “None my Lady.” “Succor them with our people and pull back quickly before the moon fades.”

My captain ran off with her orders as I turned to my father and sisters. I looked at them from under my helmet and then took it from my head and shook my hair loose.

“Coronal Hune.” I began formally as my hands tied my helm to my belt. “Please give your eldest her chance to speak.”

I watched as my sisters looked to our father then I saw a hand come upon his shoulder and a dark and beautiful woman whisper to his helm and then her eyes turned and looked at me as my sisters gave way.

In those dark eyes I saw flame. I felt the darkness in her and took a step back then regained my composure and took that step to where I was. Her eyes watching my movement and a smiled crossed her face.

Her voice was sweet. It was compelling and it conveyed with finality all I needed to know who and what was before me.

“I think not. Ar’Cartel you are his eldest, yet you do not know what has been done to our people and what we must do to claim what is ours.” She stepped out from behind father and I saw my sisters heads nod in a bow as did others about them.

“Come and let us speak of this Tarien of Hune.” She stepped forward and it was as if I could feel and see her power about me. As it snaked out and seemed as a spiders web all about my family there as it reached for me and in these threads of darkness one silver thread that came from me as the others seemed to try and bend and twist it.

With a cry I loosed myself and the silvery thread as well as the dark ones about me were severed and fell and she recoiled in shock. Which showed on her face as she instantly recovered.

Her eyes narrowed on me as I spoke. “My fate is mine Weaver. I have cut my tie. I am my own and not even you can make me do other then what I wish.”

She grew darker and taller and her eyes flared her voice hurt my very mind as she spoke. I gritted my teeth as it felt as if the very air was splitting at her anger.

“You are strong Tarien Ar’Cartel of Hune. You are going to be a worthy foe. Yet until that time I do curse you. No sons shall you have. All you shall ever bear is daughters. And all those shall be mine. My shells and I shall come unto them and I will claim whatever world they are upon.” she strode forward and it was as if the entire world shook with her steps and she stopped short of me for I had begun to be ready for combat and my aura grew and was let loose as it was beyond the veil to the Feywild.

The brightness of my aura, once as stunning as the thousand fold sun, was just as bright as her darkness and where the light and darkness touched fire and lightning came. We both stepped back from one another sensing what could happen.

Her hissing sounded unlike the hiss of the great spiders of the forest as she cursed me. “Until the day you defeat the sword of the sun, this will be.” And even with my protections as full as I could I felt the curse land. Weakened yes it was. But still it landed upon me.

She turned and cackled and laughed at me. Then her voice came low and hissing as she seemed to appear within arm’s reach yet no closer as flickering lights of our aura’s meeting flashed, “You will be the last living of your bloodline. After this coming battle you shall be the last.”

The Weaver turned with a flourish and hissing of herself and her silks even as I imagined the chittering of a million insects, angry and wanting my blood. She raised her arms and they all turned away.

Away my family turned from me, leaving their dead and dying. I watched as the last of them, my youngest sister looked on me. Her golden eyes once beautiful, red and angry. Yet upon her face seemed a look of pain of need. My hand came up and my voice came as a whisper calling to her.

She looked upon me one last time and I could hear her inner-self crying out in confusion even as she turned her face from me and trod away.

And finally turn away I did, diminishing and returning to my people my heart heavy with what I had seen heard and felt. I turned back to look one last time and at my ear I heard the familiar whisper of the Huntress, “Come cousin leave this place.” and felt her hand on my back.

Lifting my helm over my head fingers buckling it mechanically, I moved silently and quickly to our rendezvous, my heart and mind heavy with what was to come.

When I arrived they were breaking camp quickly as they were taught and I looked upon the Lady of Keltormir.

Her beauty apparent even in the midst of all her injuries. She was proud and it showed in her movements even in her infirmity.

I knelt beside her and she reached out and touched my head. “Daughter of Hune. What have you done for us?” I looked up to her eyes tired and worn and her body broken from within from magics and spiritual combat. “I have done what I must Coronet Keltormir.” Her eyes already sad and knowing there was nothing we could do for her, seemed to sadden more. “I felt and heard Tarien Ar’Cartel d’Hune, try not to hide such from me.” She coughed and blood came frothy from her injuries and dropping my helm I dabbed her lips with my own hair. “You can not return beyond the veil. What madness is upon you to step between them?” I smiled as I felt her cold hand touch my cheek. “Cornet Keltomir we have lost our way as a people, what else can I do?”

She coughed more, deep and body wracking they were and her end was near. Her voice came soft almost a whisper.

“My son, Del’tomin, is heir to Keltormir. Take care of him please Tarien Ar’Cartel of Hune. I can no longer do such. Perhaps it will mend our people again.”

I turned my head to look at the boy, his red hair bright like shining copper and his gold eyes like a lion’s eyes. I gestured to him. “Del’tomin. Come here and bid your mother farewell, there is nothing I can do for her.”

He came close and hugged and cried against her broken form. She told him I would look out for him and see him to safety.

Hours later we stopped our march and found a hill to make her cairn, its top bare from the weather and kissed by the sun. We danced and sang to her passing asking for The Father and the Huntress to watch over her and guide her.

And it was strange when we finished and had to leave to feel the young boys hand grasp mine as if life itself could only be maintained by his doing such.

“Del’tomin…Del’tomin Keltormir d’Vyshaan?” I whispered as he stretched and pointed at me. I looked down at my hand and flexed it at my side still feeling his brave yet trembling grip upon mine so far back into the mists.

“Ahhh see you do not forget it just takes moments to remember things from so long ago.”

I stood my ground as he began to descend the steps, stupidly giving away his advantage. “What do you have against me Del?” came my question. “Did I not succor you and your mother? Did I not give her a proper and honorable burial? Did I not do as I was asked and care for you and take you to safety?”

He snarled at each item and question until I asked the last. “Why would you dishonor your mother so?”

“Bitch!” and he swung his empty hand and arm at me in anger as he stopped several steps above. “What would you know of honor? You wallow in dishonor as did your entire family and all of your dark misbegotten people.”

“The priests of Corellon raised me after you left. They always gave me tales of your people and you specifically.” the sneer upon his face making him look not proud and beautiful but ugly and evil.

“The bladesinger you left as my body guard, he taught me well and sadly when he had heard enough, a century or so later, of my deriding you and your name and your abilities, well he fell in a duel. Properly given and properly witnessed.”

I shook with rage for the duel was a sham. I knew it, just from his words and his actions. And Bertholn’s body was left to rot somewhere in the forests and I could see where, I KNEW where.

My body began to quiver yet I regained my control. I calmed myself the words of the Huntress in my mind. “Always be calm, always wait. Patience. Watch, listen, learn and when you have all to know strike.”

“Come now you have been my surrogate mother for centuries. All you sent to raise me and protect me what I did not need I gave to the church.” he took a step down and sneered as he raised his hands upward as if suggesting I should have known all along. “The church of Corellon has always praised and thanked you for your generous donations.”

I nodded and reached to my belt and retrieved a leather cord and began to tie up my hair. “Let us do this. At sunrise, when your god rises and mine goes to sleep. I will give you the advantage of such assistance and you may also have the steps.”

He smiled. “So generous are your terms. Are there others you wish to add?”

I shook my head as I let my pack and cloak fall away. Before this boy, I stood as I had when I came from beyond the veil, as I did when I knelt before the Huntress/Maiden begging for forgiveness and acceptance. As I danced every night. Skyclad.

I heard his intake of breath even as I spoke. “None that one such as you would agree to.” And I sat then in the lotus with my sword across my knees and waited.

Del’tomin looked upon the body of one of the eldest, most beautiful and powerful of all the Tel’Quessir. Upon her body scars of weapons and magic and betwixt them all silvery tattoos caressed and joined all of them together. Her brilliant blue eyes began to shine in the waning daylight, as she sat down before him at the base of the stair. His lust rose but his anger washed it quickly away.

“He is high now whore. It is time to for you to die.” and I watched as he sword danced the graceful moves not of his family style, but of mine. The Death of the Nine, a powerful song and strike, yet.

His eyes widened and his jaw tightened in anger as he screamed at me, accusing me of trickery and dishonor when the hard air stopped his sword and grasped it.

I chuckled then and it felt good a release of tension. “You accepted my terms in a holy place. As the Chosen of your god from a Chosen of another god. Neither will let the terms be broken. I advise you to meditate and rest Del. We have until dawn tomorrow.”

He pulled his sword from the hard air and with a snick the long sword went home in its scabbard. He turned his back and went to the top of the ancient stairs and sat as I did and waited as I did.

As the day began to turn to twilight, I felt them arriving. The eyes slowly appearing before the shadowy outlines of their forms. I felt the corner of my mouth turn up in a slight smile. Not soon after the first ones arrived, Del’tomin finally sensed their presence.

“What trickery is this?” came his voice full of anger. “Called for allies to help you defeat me?” I felt and heard him stand. “Ever deceitful was your family and your people!” I heard the sharp sweep of his sword being drawn and I raised my hand quickly and spoke rapidly without opening my eyes.

“Del’tomin Keltormir d’Vyshaan! Hold your ground and place. None arriving shall interfere with our meeting in the dawn. These are but the watchers and witnesses of our meeting arriving.”

I could feel him hesitate and the light shuffle of his feet as he looked about as more and more arrived.

Many were just summoned others must have known from dreams or visions. Druids, animals, dwarves, humans, orcs, angel, demon and devil. All knew or felt the reason to be here. Even slithering from the shadows came one of the Weaver’s handmaids.

Yet here none of them held any power, such was the Law set down and even obeyed by those we call gods.

Del’tomin’s voice hissed at me again. “What do you mean witnesses and watchers? All manner of fell and lowly races are here!” Murmurs came from all those circled around us, his temper and arrogance a true Vyshann trait, only served to anger all those about.

“Del, for once listen with a clear mind. You are the chosen of the father. He will either be with you or not. I am the chosen of his daughter. She will either be with me or not. However in the law and eyes of the gods, we shall be them. So there will be witnesses to carry out the news of what happens from this holy place so all will know.

Del’tomin snorted, “Why must there be such? It will be easy to declare when I take your sword and your head back to Evermeet and show it along the way.”

Shaking her head Cartel let her eyes open and the tinge of silvery light made them shine like gimlets in the encroaching darkness. They looked upon the young one who she rescued so many centuries ago and truly looked upon him. For but a brief moment she saw something then her mind snapped away.

However this ended quickly as she felt the presence in the area. Her eyes closed and in her mind she had come. Her long hair flowing just above her feet as she walked silently to stand before her oldest priestess and faithful friend.

Her skin was as dark as the night and the stars seemed to be part of her body, its every curve and space a delight for the eyes. Cartel gulped as she ever was taken with desire for her goddess her eyes however in true drow fashion met those of her goddess and they both took full measure of one another. Each smiled as if practiced at the other.

“Cousin I can not stand with you. This is your task alone. It will be for you, your honor and yours alone.” She stood to her full height and made this pronouncement to all. Yet she added, “My father and I require though that all here witness according to the Law. And if you doubt my words…” her arms raised above her head and her mouth moved noiselessly as the moon became as the sun shining as if it was daylight and there by his daughter was he, who I despised, the father of the maiden, Corelleon Larethian, god of the Tel’quessir.

I saw from the corner of my eye Del’tomin bend to his knee at this sight and he spoke to Del’tomin as his daughter had spoken to me. Del’tomin’s eyes grew wide and his body shook hearing these words. All assembled agreed to his request and that of the Maiden. And as I felt his gaze fall upon me I stood before him and looked into his eyes.

Long it seemed we stared into each other before I felt his words to me. “Ever have you been Ar’Cartel d’Hune. Coronal of your family and your people. Even I have never lost faith in you.” And with that they were gone.

It was as I stood there in wonder at his words to my mind that I did not notice the sun peek above the hills. And at the last moment I moved, feeling the air and the song coming toward me. I had rolled and then jumped away yet behind was most of my hair as it was cut as it stayed as my body moved.

Del’tomin breathed hard and then immediately came toward me his sword and movements flashing. Beautiful and graceful they were and traces of not only my family in his moves but that of Vyshaan. These I knew and I blocked with my blade still sheathed as the song and spell with it faded away as wisps of smoke before me.

Pirouetting lightly back I came to rest my sheathed sword tapping my shoulder in time to my feet and body swaying.

“How in the Nine Hells did you see and block that?!” came his angry cry as he came in sweeping low to high then mid in a graceful arc and diagonal. The song struck the rocks behind me and burst them to dust.

Yet the smile left his face when he saw my form still dancing in the dust as it settled, leaving my body grey with dark streaks from beneath my arms.

I broke the rule I had always taught then and rested. My sword across my shoulders and my other hand upon my cocked hip. I strode forward my hips moving suggestively and I heard some laughter from those gathered.

I stopped when the lowered point of his sword touched my knee. “Del’tomin, is your Ai’Naneth to nimble for you?”

He moved as the wind silently and swiftly yet he still was too slow as my hilt came under his sword arm and lifted him into the air as I did a flip and kicked him back up to the top of the stair to smash against the stones.

Slowly I walked up the stairs and along the way picked up his sword. I twirled it in my hand and looked upon it. It was his father’s and I looked upon it with awe for it seemed to cry as I held it. I could hear it pleading voicelessly with me. Then my eyes lit upon Del as I crested the stair.

I slid his father’s sword to him as he stood and struggled to rise from the impact and the crumbled masonry around him.

“Witch. Sor…sorceress.” he spat and I saw a few teeth come from his mouth as well as blood. Grabbing his side he stepped warily to his father’s sword. “No one moves that fast. Not even amongst our people.”

He stood his sword moving in great flourish as my eyebrow raised at his words. “You will fall ValsharenCartel d’Hune and our people will have some peace.”

It was then the words of he who I despised rang again in my head. “Even I have never lost faith in you.”

My sword arm went limp and fell to my side and the sheathed weapon clattered to the stone from my fingers. “As you have said Del’tomin. I am of the people. The Tel’Quessir, I will fight you no longer.”

His eyes gleamed at those words and he came forward rushing his sword low. I braced for it, I have known the death pains before yet this was not such.

At the last moment it seemed as though his arm jerked aside and the blade went through me. I grabbed him and tumbled over backward. My hands grabbed his garb by his chest and over we rolled. And his eyes grew wide as he found himself below me and I astraddle him.

My blood ran down over his fingers and he gazed at it and the look in his eye was of wonder. “Your…your…its not red.”

“I will not fight you Del’tomin d’Keltomir.” I raised my hand as a knife, my mind focused and the energy from it crackling about that raised hand. “However I will save you!” and I thrust my hand downward into his body. His scream rent the air as his right hand beat against my leg which blocked his dagger from him.

“Forgive me, the pain.” I whispered as the images of the boy flashed through my mind even as my hand grasped the darkness about his soul and began to rip it from him. The taint was here. Small but ancient from so long ago. I had never thought to look, never dreamed to look and I realized my failure so long ago.

I felt the hissing and screams of anger from far away as they sounded in my head many times before. I remembered the gloating face and silent chuckles of evil that sent me to destroy my people when I had pitched myself supposedly to my death.

And I smiled back at her and laughed at her as I ripped the darkness she wove into his soul from him.

I pulled it from him with a cry of agony from us both and held it up to the sun and watched as it smoked and writhed and blew away under the light.

His hands fell limp to his side as I pushed up and away from him. I heard myself scream in pain as the sword’s movements grated against my lowest ribs, yet I did not look down as my hand reached for the sword.

I grabbed the hilt and the sword began to sing…happy, joyful it sounded as I pulled it from my body. And in that moment before my world went black, I saw the elf I once knew as Coronal Keltomir bow to me as if to thank me.

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