Into the Spider’s Web
Nilan gathered his gear and packed up a small bed-roll. Gazing around the dark cavern, the assassin could not tell the day nor the hour. As best he could figure it had been two moons since he left the surface outpost of Dobluth Kyor. But in the bowels of the Underdark, time meant very little. All was dark here, except for the soft iridescent glow coming off the lichen, the assassin’s eyes expertly made out the heat patterns of living beings. Nilan grumbled as he stuffed the last of his travel gear into his pack. He wondered how the weaponsmaster, Futaz was faring. He had not seen the drow since their meeting with Vhaeraun’s High Priest. The weaponsmaster had received his orders, and Nilan had received his.
Gazing up at the ceiling of the dark cavern, the drow thought back to the past night’s events. He had gone to the Ashstone Camp, in efforts to tie up the loose ends of a trade agreement. What he found was a lot more than he had ever expected. His recklessly chosen words had managed to ignite the ire of the Lady there. She demanded that he leave the camp at once. Nilan groaned as he recalled what happened next. A horrid ghost, in the form of a drider entered room. The assassin turned to the Lady but she was gone. The drider pursued him, casting spell after spell in an attempt to ensnare the assassin, but the drow was able to avoid it.
Nilan closed his eyes remembering his flight from the Ashstone Camp. His hand instinctively closed around ‘Shadow’s’ hilt as his thoughts loomed in his head as if it were playing out before him in the present time. He had escaped the drider long enough to reach the camp’s entrance. Thanking Vhaeraun for the cover of darkness, the assassin fled the camp, only to round the corner into the waiting arms of the Captain of the Guard and his vigilant watcher. Nilan ducked under the wicked slash of the watcher, as the two moved out to flank him in an expert show of swordsmanship. The drow kept his feet moving, never slowing his stride, but the two swordsmen pressed him further. Both coming in on him in a rush set the assassin back on his heels. The drow got his blade up to parry one of the slashes and managed to dodge the other, but the third blow had found its mark, expertly sliding under leather armor to bite deep into the assassin’s side. Only the dodge had saved him from a more serious cut that surely would have pierced a lung. Nilan spun out, groaning as the blade tore free of his flesh, dragging against a rib. Keeping his feet is what kept him alive, and the assassin did all he could to put as much distance between himself, the Ashstone Camp, the ghostly drider, and the lich.
Nilan had made his report to his temple. The mission had been a success, but many questions still remained unanswered. And any unanswered question was a breeding ground for dark plots and deception. That was the way of his people, the way of the drow. It was not long before the assassin had new orders. Vhaeraun had seen a new threat and had dispatched his Hand on a new mission, one in which Nilan was eager to serve. But this mission alone would test his very resolve, would put his very life, if not his soul at risk, … if he was not careful.
The assassin winced as he staggered to his feet. His gloved hand went instinctively to his wounded side. Catching his breath, the drow slowly removed his gloved hand, which came away free of any blood. He had since replaced the bandage the bardess, Lilira had made for him, and the assassin was grateful the stab wound had begun to heal. The Underdark was not a place to show any sign of weakness. That was one fact the Vhaeraunite knew well.
Nilan traversed the Underdark, for what he surmised to be the equivalent of a day. It had proved uneventful with little more than a scrag or two that dared challenge him. The assassin made short work of them, killing them both and leaving their corpses to rot on the wet cavern floor. Silently the drow crept forward, each step putting him closer and closer to what would no doubt be his ‘home’ until he had answers to those unanswered questions.
He was close now. He heard the occasional crack of a whip tearing flesh, and the scream of the unfortunate male or slave. Silently, Nilan removed his insignia tucking it away into a hidden pouch in his cloak. Next, the drow removed his black mask, a symbol of his service to Vhaeraun, Lord of Shadows. To be caught with such an item would earn him a not so quick death on a sacrificial altar. The Spider Queen loved male sacrifices, and nothing was more pleasing to her vileness than the eradication of one of her son’s faithful upon her sacred altars. Nilan shuddered at the thought as he whispered a final prayer of protection to Vhaeraun before hiding the mask away. Finally, the assassin took ‘Shadow’ in his right hand. The sentient blade seemed to come alive, vibrating eerily as if to protest being thrust in a secret sheath along his back and under his long cloak.
Weapons hidden and all signs of his god safely out of view from prying eyes, Nilan took his first steps along the Dark Dominion. He stopped briefly, sucking in his breath as the full splendor of the dark gates of the Spider Queen’s domain came into view. Eyes cast down as he passed a female gate guard, the Hand of Vhaeraun silently strode into the vile web known as…..Menzoberranzan.
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