Apr. 12th, 2014 05:40 pm
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Dinin Do'Urden, also anxious and excited, moved about the crowd, settling dark
elves into the rows of seats encircling the raised central dais. Being only a male,
Dinin would not partake of the ceremony at the altar and Matron Malice had told
him nothing of her plans. From the instructions she had given him, though, Dinin
knew that the results of this day's events would prove critical to the future of his
family. He was the chant leader, he would continually move throughout the
assembly, leading the commoners in the appropriate verses to the Spider Queen.

Dinin had played this role often before, but this time Matron Malice had warned
him that if a single voice called out incorrectly, Dinin's life would be forfeit. Still
another fact disturbed the elderboy of House Do'Urden. He was normally
accompanied in his chapel duties by the other male noble of the house, Malice's
present mate. Rizzen had not been seen since that day when the whole family
had gathered in the anteroom. Dinin suspected that Rizzen's reign as patron
soon would come to a crashing end. It was no secret that Matron Malice had
given previous mates to Lloth.

When all of the commoners were seated, magical red lights began to glow softly
all about the room. The illumination increased gradually, allowing the gathered
dark elves to comfortably shift their dual-purpose eyes from the infrared spectrum
into the realm of light.

Misty vapors rolled out from under the seats, hugged the floor, and rose in curling
wisps. Dinin led the crowd in a low hum, the calling of Matron Malice.

Malice appeared at the top of the room's domed ceiling, her arms outstretched
and the folds of her spider-emblazoned black robes whipping about in an
enchanted breeze. She descended slowly, turning complete circuits to survey the
gathering-and to let them look upon the splendor that was their matron mother.

When Malice alighted on the central dais, Briza and Shi'nayne appeared on the
ceiling, floating down in similar fashion. They landed and took their places, Briza
at the cloth-covered case off to the side of the spider-shaped sacrificial table and
Shi'nayne behind Matron Malice.

Malice clapped her hands and the humming stopped abruptly. Eight braziers
lining the central dais roared to life, their flames' brightness less painful to the
sensitive drow eyes in the red, mist-enshrouded glow.

"Enter, my daughters!,' Malice cried, and all heads turned to the chapel's main
doors. Vierna and Maya came in, with Rizzen, sluggish and apparently drugged,
supported between them and a casket floating in the air behind them.

Dinin, among others, thought this an odd arrangement. He could assume, he
supposed, that Rizzen was to be sacrificed, but he had never heard of a coffin
being brought in to the ceremony.

The younger Do'Urden daughters moved up to the central dais and quickly
strapped Rizzen down to the sacrificial table. Shi'nayne intercepted the floating
casket and guided it to a position off to the side opposite Briza.

"Call to the handmaiden!" Malice cried, and Dinin immediately sent the gathering
into the desired chant. The braziers roared higher, Malice and the other high
priestesses prodded the crowd on with magically enhanced shouts of key words
in the summoning. A sudden wind came up from nowhere, it seemed, and
whipped the mist into a frenzied dance.

The flames of all eight braziers shot out in high lines over Malice and the others,
joining in a furious burst above the center of the circular platform. The braziers
puffed once in a unified explosion, throwing the last of their flames into the
summoning, then burned low as the lines of fire rolled together in a gathered ball
and became a singular pillar of flame.

The commoners gasped but continued their chanting as the pillar rolled through
the colors of the spectrum, gradually cooling until the flames were no more. In
their place stood a tentacled creature, taller than a drow elf and resembling a
half-melted candle with elongated, drooping facial features. All the crowd
recognized the being, though few commoners had ever actually seen one before,
except perhaps in illustrations in the clerical books. All in attendance knew well
enough the importance of this gathering at that moment, for no drow could
possibly miss the significance of the presence of a yochlol, a personal
handmaiden of Lloth.

"Greetings, Handmaiden,' Malice said loudly. "Blessed is Daermon
N'a'shezbaernon for your presence:'

The yochlol surveyed the gathering for a long while, surprised that House
Do'Urden had issued such a summons. Matron Malice was not in the favor of

Only the high priestesses felt the telepathic question. Why dare you call to me?

"To right our wrongs!" Malice cried out aloud, drawing the whole of the gathering
into the tense moment. "To regain the favor of your Mistress, the favor that is the
only purpose of our existence!" Malice looked pointedly at Dinin, and he began
the correct song, the highest song of praise to the Spider Queen.

I am pleased by your display, Matron Malice, came the yochlol's thoughts, this
time directed solely at Malice. But you know that this gathering does nothing to
aid in your

This is but the beginning, Malice answered mentally, confident that the
handmaiden could read her every thought. The matron took comfort in that
knowledge, for she held faith that her desires to regain the favor of Lloth were
sincere. My youngest son has wronged the Spider Queen. He must pay for his

The other high priestesses, excluded from the telepathic conversation, joined in
the song to Lloth.

Drizzt Do'Urden lives, the yochlol reminded Malice. And he is not in your custody.

That shall soon be corrected, Malice promised.

What do you desire of me?

"Zin-carla!" Malice cried aloud.

The yochlol swayed backward, momentarily stunned by the boldness of the
request. Malice held her ground, determined that her plan would not fail. Around
her, the other priestesses held their breath, fully realizing that the moment of
triumph or disaster was upon them all.

It is our highest gift, came the yochlol's thoughts, given rarely even to matrons in
the favor of the Spider Queen. And you, who have not pleased Lloth, dare to ask
for Zin-carla?

It is right and fitting, Malice replied. Then aloud, needing the support of her
family, she cried, "Let my youngest son learn the folly of his ways and the power
of the enemies he has made. Let my son witness the horrible glory of Lloth
revealed, so that he will fall to his knees and beg forgiveness!" Malice reverted to
telepathic communication. Only then shall the spirit-wraith drive a sword into his

The yochlol's eyes went blank as the creature fell into itself, seeking guidance
from its home plane of existence. Many minutes-agonizing minutes to Matron
Malice and all of the hushed gathering-passed before the yochlol's thoughts
came back. Have you the corpse?

Malice signaled to Maya and Vierna, and they rushed over to the casket and
removed the stone lid. Dinin understood then that the box was not brought for
Rizzen, but was already occupied. An animated corpse crawled out of it and
staggered over to Malice's side. It was badly decomposed and many of its
features had rotted away altogether, but Dinin and most of the others in the great
chapel recognized it immediately: Zaknafein Do'Urden, the legendary weapon

Zin-carla, the yochlol asked, so that the weapon master you gave to the Spider
Queen might correct the wrongs of your youngest son?

It is appropriate, Malice replied. She sensed that the yochlol was pleased, as she
had expected. Zaknafein, Drizzt's tutor, had helped to inspire the blasphemous
attitudes that had ruined Drizzt. Lloth, the queen of chaos, enjoyed ironies, and to
have this same Zaknafein serve as executioner would inevitably please her.

Zin-carla requires great sacrifice, came the yochlol's demand. The creature
looked over to the spider-shaped table, where Rizzen lay oblivious to his
surroundings. The yochlol seemed to frown, if such creatures could frown, at the
sight of such a pitiful sacrifice. The creature then turned back to Matron Malice
and read her thoughts.

Do continue, the yochlol prompted, suddenly very interested.

Malice lifted her arms, beginning yet another song to Lloth. She motioned to
Shi'nayne, who walked to the case beside Briza and took out the ceremonial
dagger, the most precious possession of House Do'Urden. Briza flinched when
she saw her newest "sister" handle the item, its hilt the body of a spider with
eight blade like legs reaching down under it. For centuries it had been Briza's
place to drive the ceremonial dagger into the hearts of gifts to the Spider Queen.

Shi'nayne smirked at the eldest daughter as she walked away, sensing Briza's
anger. She joined Malice at the table beside Rizzen and moved the dagger out
over the doomed patron's heart.

Malice grabbed her hands to stop her. "This time I must do it,' Malice explained,
to Shi'nayne's dismay. Shi'nayne looked back over her shoulder to see Briza
returning her smirk tenfold.

Malice waited until the song had ended, and the gathering remained absolutely
silent as Malice alone began the proper chant. "Thkken bres duis bres,' she
began, both her hands wringing over the hilt of the deadly instrument.

A moment later, Malice's chant neared completion and the dagger went up high.
All the house tensed, awaiting the moment of ecstacy, the savage giving to the
foul Spider Queen.

The dagger came down, but Malice turned it abruptly to the side and drove it
instead into the heart of Shi'nayne, Matron SiNafay Hun'ett, her most hated rival.

"No!" gasped SiNafay, but the deed was done. Eight blade-legs grasped at her
heart. SiNafay tried to speak, to cast a spell of healing on herself or a curse upon
Malice, but only blood came out of her mouth. Gasping her last breaths, she fell
forward over Rizzen.

All the house erupted in screams of shock and joy as Malice tore the dagger out
from under SiNafay Hun'ett, and her enemy's heart along with it. "Devious!" Briza
screamed above the tumult, for even she had not known Malice's plans. Once
again, Briza was the eldest daughter of House Do'Urden, back in the position of
honor that she so dearly craved.

Devious! the yochlol echoed in Malice's mind. Know that we are pleased!

Behind the gruesome scene, the animated corpse fell limply to the floor. Malice
looked at the handmaiden and understood. "Put Zaknafein on the table! Quickly!"
she instructed her younger daughters. They scrambled about, roughly displacing
Rizzen and SiNafay and getting Zaknafein's body in place.

Briza, too, went into motion, carefully lining up the many jars of unguents that
had been painstakingly prepared for this moment. Matron Malice's reputation as
the finest salve maker in the city would be put to the test in this effort.

Malice looked at the yochlol. "Zin-carla?" she asked aloud.

You have not regained the favor of Lloth! came the telepathic reply, so powerfully
that Malice was driven to her knees. Malice clutched at her head, thinking it
would explode from the building pressure. Gradually the pain eased away. But
you have pleased the Spider Queen this day, Malice Do'Urden, the yochlol
explained.. And it is agreed that your plans for your sacrilegious son are
appropriate. Zin-carla is granted, but know it as your final chance, Matron Malice
Do'Urden! Your greatest fears cannot begin to approach the truth of the
consequences of failure!

The yochlol disappeared in an explosive fireball that rocked the chapel of House
Do'Urden. Those gathered only rose to a higher frenzy at the bared power of the
evil deity, and Dinin led them again in a song of praise to Lloth.

"Ten weeks!" came the final cry of the handmaiden, a voice so mighty that the
lesser drow covered their ears and cowered on the floor.

And so for ten weeks, for seventy cycles of Narbondel, the daily time clock of
Menzoberranzan, all of House Do'Urden gathered in the great chapel, Dinin and
Rizzen leading the commoners in songs to the Spider Queen, while Malice and
her daughters worked over Zaknafein's corpse with magical salves and
combinations of powerful spells.

The animation of a corpse was a simple spell for a priestess, but Zin-carla went
far beyond that feat. Spirit-wraith, the undead result would be called, a zombie
imbued with the skills of its former life and controlled by the matron mother
appointed by Lloth. It was the most precious of Lloth's gifts, rarely asked for and
even more rarely granted, for Zin-carla-returning the spirit to the body-was a risky
practice indeed. Only through the sheer willpower of the enchanting priestess
were the undead being's desired skills kept separate from the unwanted
memories and emotions. The edge of consciousness and control was a fine line
to walk, even considering the mental discipline required of a high priestess.
Furthermore, Lloth only granted Zin-carla for the completion of specific tasks, and
stumbling from that fine line of discipline inevitably would result in failure.

Lloth was not merciful in the face of failure.


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