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Webs: The Spider or the Fly?
Posted: Thu Feb 09, 2006 12:38 pm
The mischievous female-child slipped from shadow to shadow around the gates of the House Srune'Lett compound, watching the comings and goings of the normal house activity. A large hairy spider scuttled over next the child, its many eyes gazing at her. “What need have you here beloved of Lloth?” the girl asked, watching the spider curiously. A shiver ran down her spine and her heart was filled with awe as she felt the eyes of Lloth stare at her through the spider. Preoccupied with watching the spider, Itasha didn't sense the presence of another come up behind her until she was roughly grabbed by a glove-clad hand and sent sprawling at the base of a floating disc.
Groveling before the short, stocky priestess who stood on the disc, Itasha shivered in anticipation of a beating or death. Commoners existed at the whims of the nobles and even at eleven years of age, the child realized her precarious predicament. The spider who had studied Itasha in the shadows, skittered to her side, its gaze weighing the Matron Srune'Lett, who stood with her arm raised, snake-headed whip writhing in her grasp. Srune'Lyris'Lett studied the spider, and sensing the presence of her goddess, dropped her arm.
“Bring the child. She is of Srune'Lett now. Find those that birthed her and inform them,” Matron Lyris commanded one of the soldiers in her entourage. The male scrambled to comply, pulling off the token worn around the child's neck. Another pair of hands scooped Itasha up and set her on her feet, whispering at her to keep her gaze to the ground. The soldiers reformed around their Matron's disc and continued their path into the compound, Itasha leaving her previous life behind her.
***A little over a century later.***
The drow patrol moved as silently as the shadows themselves, their forms a mere shimmer in the priestess's sight as she crept with them, their piwafwis camouflaging them in the darkness. She was assigned to this patrol unit as part of her indenture time after graduating from Arach-Tinilith.
There had been reports from other scout groups that the scrags, water trolls, were venturing far too close to the city, so their patrol had been dispatched to dispose of any of the creatures foolish enough to be out of their lairs. Normally, Itasha would be the only one assigned to the patrol, but given the sheer number of the creatures, a second priestess had been sent with them along with a wizard and additional soldiers. By some twist of fate, the other priestess was her elder sister and third daughter of the house, Ryliza. The blood of the creatures would cool on the stone cavern floors before the light of the Narbondel would fade.
Seek you greater power my young priestess? came an icy whisper into Itasha's mind as the patrol turned a corner in the tunnels. The priestess stumbled in surprise, earning a hot glare from Ryliza. Itasha's gaze met her sister's, a flash of hatred turning her face crimson to darkvision and bitterness flooding her mouth like bile. Look at her, the insidious whisper continued, surrounded by the song that was Lloth's blessing, You are nothing to her. She took your lover just because she could. She was the ringleader of your torments as you grew. Itasha felt a momentary pang for the male who had been so skilled. After discovering him in her sister's arms, she had given him to Lloth for his betrayal. Immediately after was another flicker of hatred at the reminder of childhood torments. She does not serve me, she serves herself. Think of my favor, youngest daughter, if you were to dispose of her for me. I will grant you the power you seek with her death, and you will have your revenge.
Itasha's hand rested momentarily on the adamantine handle of her whip, its single sinuous head restlessly mirroring her thoughts, before shifting to the amulet she wore. Her fingers lovingly stroked the spider shaped symbol of Lloth, while her mind plotted how best to follow the command of her goddess. Itasha knew well the penalty of failure would mean her death at either the hands of her sister, or the tortures of Matron Lyris. She must act carefully. Then do not get caught, came the amused voice within her mind. So too, the priestess knew the capricious nature of Lloth, but Itasha had little to lose: As the youngest of the daughters, and adopted besides, she had no chance of succession within the family. Her best path lie with the direct favor of her goddess, something every true priestess desired above all else.
If, as it seemed, Ryliza had lost favor with the goddess, the problem that disfavor represented must be dealt with swiftly before it transferred to House Srune'lett, even if it meant weakening the house. An icy chuckle echoed in her mind, before the music faded. Knowing the possibility existed that her sister might pick up on direction of her thoughts; Itasha cleared her mind and returned her focus to the task at hand. The time for plots would arise soon enough.
The battle had been a series of many fierce skirmishes culminating in a larger fight at the edge of the Darklake, where several of the scrags had ambushed the warriors. Itasha had found herself in melee combat with a lone scrag who had lay in wait and ambushed the rear of the scouting party. Her weapons training served her well as she fended the creature off with mace and clerical spells until two warriors were able to aid her, giving her a respite to back away. When it was over, the scrag carcasses were tossed into a pile and the patrol moved back into the tunnels, leaving Itasha standing next to the writhing pile of body parts. The young priestess pulled a scarf out of her bag, covered her face, then began chanting, calling down a blinding tower of flame to scour the cavern floor of the scrag remains. Through closed eyelids and the added protection of the scarf she had pulled up to shield her eyes at the last second, the flare of light was blinding. Even after Itasha turned her back to the burning pile, painful after-images danced before her eyes.
Several minutes later, the images faded, leaving only the shimmer of heat from around the rest of her patrol as she rejoined them. The warriors formed up around the priestesses and wizard, headed back towards the city. The gore-spattered patrols were exhausted with many injuries, but pleased with the days events. The healing given by the two priestesses had saved the lives of all who had been injured, as well as rendering them mobile. Itasha headed directly for one of the massage parlors/bathing rooms that were abundant around the city.
Soaking in one of the copper tubs, Itasha leaned her head back, her knee-length alabaster hair haphazardly piled on top of her head while she plotted. Killing her sister during a patrol simply would not be possible. The warriors were instructed to defend the priestesses at all cost during a scouting foray, and the chance of Ryliza being assigned to patrol with them once more was small. Ideas circled around and around, each one being dismissed. Then it occurred to her, and a blood-thirsty grin slowly spread across her face, frightening the young male attending to her bath into dropping the bottle of fragrance he was adding. The sharp sound of breaking glass was covered by Itasha's laughter, a vicious purr of humor that rolled from her stomach and into the now silent series of bath chambers as the other clients stopped their conversations at the unusual sound.
Fourteen cycles of the Narbondel later, Itasha waited quietly in the shadows of The Spider's Kiss tavern watching the male walk past her sister during one of her common trips to the bazaar. Predictably, as was her habit, Ryliza pounced on the beautifully formed male, taking absolutely no note of the terror that came over the commoner's face. Itasha smirked as Ryliza practically dragged him away in the direction of the house she had procured for times she wanted privacy. Itasha shadowed from a distance, already knowing the destination, and watched them enter, a feral grin widening on her fey face.
By the time a hooded Itasha had entered the house, after gifting each warrior guarding the entrance with a sultry look, groans could be heard coming from Ryliza's chamber. Itasha's eyes flashed with eagerness as she strode through the doors, catching her sister unaware with a glancing blow to the head. The nude Ryliza was flung from the bed to the floor where her training took over. Using the blow's momentum, she forced herself into a controlled roll and sprang to her feet, eyes blazing angrily.
“Matron Lyris will have your heart for this, if I don't kill you first,” spat Ryliza. Not wanting to give her hated sibling the chance to recover from the surprise attack, Itasha charged, a spell forming on her lips as she swung her mace. Ryliza sprang for the bed, grabbing for the whip lying on her robes. A quick flick of her wrist and the three snake heads at the end hissed through the air towards Itasha's arm. Two of them wrapped around the mace and the third caught Itasha's wrist. She cried out as pain radiated up her arm from the fangs burrowing into her skin and the burn as poison was injected. Stomach clenching, she dropped to her knees, breaking into a cold sweat as the fast-acting toxin flowed through her bloodstream sped along by adrenaline. Her mace fell from numb fingers, and the words of the spell were lost.
Gritting her teeth against the pain, Itasha flicked the small adamantine blade she normally carried up her sleeve into her hand and used its magically enhanced edge to sever the snakehead from the whip. With a flick of her wrist, Ryliza pulled the captured mace towards her deftly snatching it out of the air, and attacked. Startled, Itasha dropped a globe of darkness over her sister's face who paused in her charge. Unexpectedly, instead of retreating, Itasha rolled toward her and chanting quickly hooked the older drow's ankle with her injured arm, completing the spell and sending streaks of pain through Ryliza's body. The resulting shriek was a melody to Itasha's ears as she followed up the spell with a deep slash to the heel she was holding, severing the tendons.
Ryliza dropped, twisted and kicked Itasha's face, clipping her nose and sending stars to dance before her eyes. Blinking furiously to clear the involuntary tears of pain, Itasha backpedaled and listened intently for movement. An icy laugh swept through the chamber to warn the priestesses their goddess was watching.
“What have I done to offend you My Queen that you would send this stripling against me? I have always been faithful!” Ryliza cried, giving Itasha's vision time to clear.
“Foolish slave, this is a test. Kill her and pass, fail me and pay the consequence,” came the cold voice from no discernable source. Itasha blinked in momentary shock. Ryliza's lips parted in a grimace of pain as she stood up, favoring her savaged foot. A moment's concentration had her standing just off the ground, blood creating a crimson pool of heat, while she glared at her impudent sister. Itasha began another spell, scrambling to maintain the upper-hand, the poison in her veins beginning to cloud her thoughts and make her tongue heavy.
Ryliza heard the chant and swung her mace, slamming it into Itasha's shoulder with a crack as the end of the spell left the younger cleric's lips. Itasha screamed in pain, her already injured arm going numb and falling useless to her side. Ryliza's hand flew to her face, chanting furiously to remove the blindness from her eyes. Her words fell silent as Itasha, filled with pain and rage, kicked Ryliza in the stomach, sending her sprawling to the floor. A second kick took Ryliza in the face; the younger drow's booted foot doing more damage than her sister's bare one. Again the booted foot struck, flattening Ryliza's nose with a sickening crunch. One final time it landed, shattering her jaw.
Itasha stood gasping for breath, her vision graying as the effects of the snake whip's poison and the pain from her broken collarbone threatened to overwhelm her. To the accompaniment of Ryliza's gurgling fight for air, Itasha quaffed a potion pulled from a pouch to cleanse her body of toxins and numb the pain. A chill from the icy liquid ran through her body, clearing the fog, and soothing the agony in her battered limb to a bearable ache. Carefully, she pulled the now unmoving snake head from her arm, blood oozing from the puncture marks. Feeling steadier, Itasha focused upon her fallen sister, reaching out and pulling the ruined face up to meet her own.
“How does it feel Sister?” she spat, “To be helpless. Unable to do anything against the one you hate? I do this for the glory of Lloth, but I take greater pleasure in my task because it is you I send to her.” With that, Itasha took her blade and opened Ryliza's throat, the priestess's blood exiting her body in a fountain and spreading in a hot pool across the cold floor, quickly growing dark as the heat left it. A whisper of movement behind her had the priestess looking over at the bed where the male sat, his expression filled with bloodthirsty anticipation, body shivering with excitement. He looked at her lustfully, licking his lips in his eagerness, a mistake he realized when Itasha pointed and surrounded him with heatless purple flames. Seeing his death in her eyes, he squeaked like a cornered rodent, grabbing for the dagger Ryliza had kept under her pillow, and lunged.
Movement slowed to a crawl for Itasha as she dodged from her kneeling position and dropped her dagger, reaching for the whip at her side. Hissing furiously in an echo of its wielder's anger, the snake head lunged through the air towards the impudent male, fastening itself around his throat, and biting deep. He clawed at the whip with his free hand, severing the head with a flick of his wrist, and staggering backward in pain. Itasha, screaming with rage, grabbed up her mace which had fallen from Ryliza's hand.
Fury had her charging the male, slamming her mace into the side of his head while he fought the poison's embrace, crushing his skull and dropping him like a stone. Itasha took the blade from the male's limp fingers, lifted him to place his body in front of her, and slit his throat before dropping him and the dagger back to the floor.
Irritation seethed as she stepped out of the chamber, and yelled for the two warriors guarding the entrance to the house. They saw her disheveled and blood-soaked appearance, and charged into the bedchamber, halting when they saw the bodies, the male with the dagger next to his hand.
The music of Lloth's presence entered her mind, and Itasha watched detached as her lips formed the explanation. “When I entered, she was dead. He attacked me and I killed him. It must have been an assassin sent by another house to weaken us.” One of the soldiers stayed with Itasha as the other ran out the door to the House Srune'Lett compound.
You have done well my slave, my servant, and my child. My favor will become apparent soon enough, though not immediately. You have shown your loyalty to me by placing my whims above that of family. Your adopted sister was the tested one, and she failed proving she is not worthy of my blessings. Her soul is mine. Remember only what I wish you to. The music left with a crescendo of sound, leaving Itasha blinking in momentary disorientation. The warrior watched her closely.
“Are you alright Priestess,” he dared to ask.
“Perfect. Sister dead, whip destroyed, all the makings of a wonderful day,” Itasha spat in response, glaring at the warrior, as several slaves scurried in carrying a stretcher and small dull lights. They wrapped Ryliza's body and placed her on the stretcher, leaving the corpse of the male where it lay to be dealt with later. Carefully, one of the slaves picked up the abandoned clothes, and hesitantly approached the whip, two of its former three heads still writhing. Itasha grinned as the foolish slave reached down to pick up the weapon, thinking to place it with the priestess's body. The goblin howled as the two heads attacked, turning on the creature and sinking their fangs deep into its flesh.
Itasha's cruel laugh accompanied the twitching creature as it died, the other slaves making a wide berth around it and the whip which had caused its demise. Content, the snakes released the corpse, and coiled around each other, tongues flickering slightly. The priestess strode over to the bed and stripped the coverlet off, tossing it over the whip.
“Don't touch the weapon, roll it in the blanket for the Matron to deal with,” Itasha commanded. When they were done, Itasha led the way, flanked by several house soldiers who had arrived with the slaves, back to the House Srune'Lett compound. Her brother Dargathan stood at the gates, waiting with the soldiers who normally guarded them.
“Matron Srune'Lyris'Lett is waiting for you in the temple,” he cautioned, his cool tone telling Itasha all she needed about the Matron's temperament. Oddly enough, she got along best with her brother, his position in the family, while lower than her own, was as yet unchallenged by the youngest of his sisters. Part of Itasha meant to keep it that way, perhaps finding a use for it later.
This would be a difficult audience and Itasha would be fortunate to walk out mostly unscathed. Still wearing her blood-soaked robes, she forced her face into an expressionless mask, fighting off the shiver of apprehension that ran down her back, and made her way to the temple. Four of the Matron's blood daughters, High Priestesses in rank, stood at the entrance to the temple, sneers on their faces as they watched Itasha approach. Without a word, they separated, allowing her entrance and filing in behind her.
The altar was central to the echoing chamber, a large, smooth, slab of black stone ornately decorated with spider symbols complete with a bowl-like depression at the head. It stood on a raised dais built to easily accommodate all of the High Priestesses of the house during holy days. A gigantic statue of a beautiful nude drow female, Lloth in her drow form, stood watching over the altar. The balconies were placed for the rest of the house to occupy during important ceremonies. The whole room had been built to echo the slightest intonation into a shout, amplifying the songs and chants to Lloth into a roar of pleasing sound during ceremonies. The walls were decorated with symbols of the spider queen, and kept illuminated with faerie fire. The exotic smell of incense wafted around the temple, mixed with the fragrance of blessed oils and the faint underlying tang of blood.
Matron Srune'Lyris'Lett sat on a smaller dais in her throne-like chair which was carved in the stylized design of a spider, its eight sharpened adamantine legs extending from the center with the body forming a seat. Set into a niche built to counter the echoing qualities of the temple proper, it allowed some privacy during audiences. Rich tapestries lined the area, and lush pillows were carelessly tossed on the floor next to the Matron's chair. The current Patron, Durriz, sat on one of the pillows at the Matron's feet watching Itasha closely as she approached to stand at the bottom of the steps leading up the dais. The slaves had carried the body into the temple while Itasha conversed with her brother, and it lay at the base of the dais, no longer covered. The two soldiers who had guarded the only entrance to the house knelt, eyes on the floor. The other priestesses of the house, as well as the weapon master flanked the dais, closing the circle once Itasha stepped through.
“Come.” the Matron summoned, her voice deathly calm. Itasha deliberately walked up the steps until she stood before the Matron. Bowing in deference, she straightened and met the Matron's icy cold gaze. “Explain.”
Itasha found herself repeating the story she had told the guards, and though the memory itself was strangely detached, it was as she remembered it. “Ryliza had commanded me to meet her at the house, to speak with her about something, what exactly, she would not say. It was a private matter she assured me, and had no wish for anyone to overhear. I reached the house, passed the guards, and heard groaning from her chamber. I entered just as the male slit her throat. He attacked me and I killed him, Matron.”
Matron Srune'Lyris'Lett captured Itasha's gaze holding it. Itasha felt the pressure of her adopted mother's mind searching for lies. The young priestess calmly met her eyes, not fighting, for there was no deception. The Matron frowned, blinking to release Itasha from her scrutiny.
“She was a high priestess. The house has been weakened by her death. Certainly that was the intention of the ones responsible for this,” the Matron stated clearly for all present to hear. “We know not who hired the assassin. Stay watchful. We will pray to Lloth for some indication of who wishes to harm us.” To Itasha alone, she added, “Your time with the patrols will be over in three years. You will begin to focus on your studies to become a High Priestess in your spare time now, to complete the test soon after.” Itasha nodded, submitting to the command of her Matron, surprised for the preparation normally took decades. “I have confidence you will pass. I sense Lloth's favor surrounding you... for now.”
Turning to begin preparations for the funeral rites of her third daughter, the Matron dismissed Itasha, who left to begin her rigorous new training.
*edit is to repost as the BBS keeps eating stories. Also a few tweaks to smooth some consistency issues.
Posted: Thu Feb 09, 2006 12:39 pm
***Three years have passed…***
Itasha sat in the main chamber of the house that had been the scene of her sister’s death, engrossed in the tome before her detailing some of the rituals she would command upon acceptance as a High Priestess. Recently she had finished her indenture period with the city patrols, and was now free to pursue her studies full-time, though the Matron was dissatisfied with her progress. Every time she punished Itasha for her lack, the young priestess was forced to bite back the retort that it typically took half a century to gain the status, and she had barely been studying for three years. Instead, Itasha took the beatings in silence, and left the compound to study.
The servant she had acquired while visiting the bazaar one day paced silently into the room. The brush of his cloak on the wall was the only warning Itasha had that she was not alone. The priestess looked up at the interruption, pinning the rogue with an icy glare. Nilan bowed slowly, standing straight with a look of temper that was quickly masked. The female was fully aware of his hatred of her, but permitted it as long as he gave the appearance of being subservient. He was good at acquiring things, and pleasant to look at.
“My lady, I come on the behalf of one who would speak with you. I had told you of the one I had observed in Illitree's Inn, and I decided to gain more information. They noticed who it was I served and contacted me to ask me to set up an interview with you,” Nilan spoke quickly, before Itasha’s hand could reach for the whip at her hip. He had felt its bite when he acquired it for her initially
, and had no wish to repeat the experience.
Itasha raised an elegantly arched brow, emerald gaze smoldering at the male’s assumption. “What makes you think I would sully my hands with trade?”
“Hear me out My Lady. If, after speaking with my contact in the Darklake Consortium you are unsatisfied, then I will gladly give you my back for the punishment deserved,” the drow stated with a bow.
Itasha pondered his words for a moment. “There is no amusement in accepted punishment. I will come up with something other than a beating, you may be certain.” She paused to let her words sink in before continuing. “I will listen to this representative.”
Itasha carefully marked the page in the tome she had been reading from, and tossed the lit stone she had been reading by into a thick rothe leather pouch, wrapping it carefully to keep the light from shining through. Itasha closed her eyes and relaxed into her chair, trying to relieve the throbbing headache that always accompanied the light she read by.
Nilan reached down to the table and picked up the tea she drank with her studies, and held it out. “My Lady, he awaits us.” Itasha cracked open one eye, relieved at the darkness and shot him a dirty look before taking the mug from his grasp and downing the contents in several swallows. The mild pain-killer worked swiftly, the pounding in her head receding to a mild twinge.
“Lets go,” Itasha said, rising to her feet. Nilan bowed, and led the way. Walking a circuitous route to their final destination to throw off any ‘shadows’, Nilan finally stopped before the Three Lamps Massage House.
Arrogantly, Itasha strode through the door, entering the massage parlor. Wooden tables, draped with soft silken sheets and a small pillow at the end, filled the room. Next to each table were shelves, filled with vials of oils and perfumes. In the back of the shop were large copper tubs, normally filled with steaming water to soak the sore muscles of those who patronized the shop. The mixture of fragrances made Itasha’s nose twitch.
Oddly, the shop was empty, save for the shopkeeper and a male drow with long and flowing white hair. His fine aristocratic features swept upwards to his sculpted ears, with thin lips and a slightly crooked nose. He was slight of build, but stood easily with the scimitar he wore on his hip.
“Is this it then? You led me around the city enough.” Itasha complained. The male drow bowed deeply before the priestess.
Nilan bowed to the male in greeting. “May I present My Lady, Itasha?”
“Welcome Priestess, I am Yezhes,” he introduced himself. Itasha’s eyebrow raised, and she looked at him appraisingly. “Thank you for agreeing to meet with me. May I offer you a small bite to eat?” Nilan stepped back, leaving the discussion to the merchant and priestess.
Itasha eyed the merchant, pondering, a string of paranoid thoughts running through her mind. Would he be the type to add poison to the meal? What would he gain? Nilan had said he needed her, so it would be foolish to poison the priestess he had worked to meet with. However if it were an assassination attempt… Itasha decided to take a chance, pulling a spell to remove poison to the forefront of her mind. “I have not eaten as of yet,” she announced, nodding at Yezhes.
“It is somewhat foreign, but serves as a focal point to my presentation to you,” the slight drow told her, reaching into a small pouch and carefully withdrawing a wrapped package, much larger than the pouch itself.
Accepting it gingerly, Itasha cautiously opened the package, smelling the contents for any traces of poison. Detecting nothing unusual but the food itself, the priestess broke off a small piece and tasted it. There wasn’t an odd aftertaste or tingle to warn her of treachery, and Itasha enjoyed the odd meat.
“It was originally a stirge, a creature native to mountainous regions upon the surface. Something of a vicious predator I am told,” Yezhes informed her.
“Interesting,” the intrigued priestess commented.
“I have never tasted one, Lady, what does it taste like,” Nilan asked.
Itasha ignored the insult of his interruption, broke off a small piece and handed it to Nilan, “Since you were instrumental in bringing me here,” before returning her attention to the merchant. “So this comes from the world above.”
Nilan nodded his acknowledgement to the priestess, tasted the stirge and smiled slightly.
“Priestess, I represent a group of merchants under the name of the Darklake Consortium. We have carried out our business with the Houses here within Menzoberranzan, but there is a great wealth of opportunity outside of the borders, waiting to be tapped,” Yezhes began.
“And this concerns me, a priestess of Lloth, how exactly?” Itasha interrupted.
Saeshalee, a soldier who had been assigned to Itasha, entered the shop. Itasha raised an eyebrow angrily, while Nilan stared at the female suspiciously, hands near his blades.
“I do not recall summoning you,” Itasha spat.
“My apologies, my lady, I hadn't heard from you in a while and feared you were in danger,” stammered the soldier. Carefully, Itasha folded the stirge back into its wrapper, as Saeshalee continued, “There is many a dagger that would seek you from the dark.”
Itasha inclined her head towards Nilan. “He is sufficient protection for now.”
Saeshalee glanced at Nilan warily, who calmly stated, “My lady is in no danger.”
In an effort to defuse the squabbling, Yezhes offered, “Please, do not hesitate to partake of the services within. They are quite extraordinary.” He bowed and gracefully stepped aside to allow the soldier to pass if she wished.
Itasha maintained her glare at Saeshalee, who bowed low with her hand over her heart. “As you say, my lady.” She turned around and left.
Embarrassed by the lack of skill her bodyguard had shown in discreetly following, and angered by Saeshalee’s failure to follow the order to find something else to do, Itasha forgot herself. “My apologies for the interruption.”
“My pardons. As I was about to elaborate upon...” Yezhes continued, “There are regularly raids upon the surface realms, led every time by a priestess. Each time, they return with great favor in the Spider Queen's eyes. Is this not so?”
The priestess nodded in confirmation as Nilan kept watch for any more interruptions. “I have yet to receive such an honor.” She didn’t want to mention that she had been kept busy mapping the areas surrounding Menzoberranzon as well as her studies when she wasn’t patrolling.
“There is even some trade conducted, between some of the Houses and certain cities upon the surface. In each case, this trade is overseen by a Priestess and the House gains much power, and thusly favor.”
“Usually by one within who wields more power in the house,” Itasha retorted.
“Certainly, but that is because the bargains were brokered with established settlements. The opportunity we have before us is to broker an agreement with a budding settlement, that promises very lucrative trade,” the merchant told her. Itasha was intrigued. House Srune’Lett had no such trade agreements that she was aware of. In an eerie echo of the direction of Itasha’s thoughts, Yezhes added, “To be the priestess who brings a solid foothold within a growing surface city of great power and influence, would yield tremendous favor in the eyes of our Goddess.”
“We know they will grow to great power. Even now, as they dwell in a refugee camp they are able to sell valuables, such as this…” Like a conjurer, a small ring appeared in his hand, which he handed to Itasha with a flourish. The small diamond ring was well-polished; the gem was of good cut, and the workmanship of excellent quality. Itasha’s eyes flashed with excitement as she examined the ring, then remembering herself, schooled her expression once more into one of boredom.
“A small trinket,” Itasha drawled. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Nilan grin, relieved at her interest.
“Naturally, but would a people who are unable to grow to great prosperity, peddle such gemstones when they still dwell within tents as they await the construction of their city?” countered the merchant.
“Who lives in this ‘settlement’?” the priestess queried.
“The human survivors of a demon raid, led by a human necromancer whom the guards fear. It would seem that she makes use of their disobedient as undead labor,” was the reply.
Itasha pondered the possibilities. Humans were weak. Their strength lay in the fact that they bred like goblins. “So a city populated with mindless rothe who sell trinkets such as this.” Her agile fingers held the ring up to display before tucking it away. “It holds many possibilities.”
“She desires trade, and we can provide a great source of luxuries that will be unavailable to humans. Luxuries that would bring us great profit, and an open channel to a city that gladly sells its own to advance.”
“There is indeed much to gain,” Nilan interjected. Itasha threw him a quelling look to silence him.
“Not to mention a place to gain information,” Itasha added, returning her gaze back to Yezhes. “Information of the world above that could benefit our people.”
“It promises to be a tremendous source of added influence for the Priestess who provides such information.”
Itasha whispered softly to herself, with a fierce grin, “Webs to weave...” Nilan smothered a snicker. To the merchant she declared, “You have captured my interest.”
Nilan returned to his watchful vigil, a smirk on his face.
“We have the means to approach the leader of the settlement, a tome that was recently retrieved. But we desire one such as yourself, to add weight to our efforts, and to keep other groups, like Jarlaxle's from interfering,” Yezhes explained. Itasha nodded. “With your interest, we will approach this leader and arrange for an initial negotiation, now that we have a position of credibility.” Bowing deeply, he added, “Your presence at such a negotiation, is quite naturally requested and desired.”
Itasha raised an eyebrow. “A journey to the World Above. Intriguing. One hears the tales.” Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her servant’s smirk become a grin. That would have to be dealt with soon; it would not do for him to become too sure of himself.
“We are not without other contacts. Goortok is an ogre-magi sentinel above who we pay to keep the way clear.”
Itasha nodded. “I presume I will be shown the path, escorted in fact?”
“Of course,” was the quick reply.
Itasha inclined her head in confirmation.
Yezhes bowed deeply, “I must take my leave. Please, enjoy the comforts here under my sponsorship. I will send word when a meeting is arranged.”
“It seems you already know how to contact my servant,” Itasha indicated Nilan, who bowed slightly, “He will pass such a message to me.”
“As you wish Priestess. With your leave?” Yezhes asked, bowing once more. Itasha inclined her head imperiously to give her consent, and the merchant slipped out the door of the massage parlor, merging into the normal traffic of the drow city.
With a smug little smile, Itasha turned back to the head masseuse, and ordered a bath and full massage.
More to come...
Posted: Tue Feb 21, 2006 4:30 am
Itasha paced back and forth waiting impatiently for the return of her servant. She had received a message from Yezhes of the Darklake Consortium, requesting her presence, prepared for travel, at the Three Lamps Massage House. Not intending to place her safety in the hands of those not bound to her, Itasha was waiting for Nilan’s arrival before leaving for the meeting.
Itasha spun around from one end of the room and almost bumped into Nilan who had appeared silently out of the shadows behind her. While normally the priestess would have taken advantage of such fortuitous positioning, she was irritated, and they were late.
“Where have you been?” she snapped.
“Many pardons My Lady, I have been exploring the outlying tunnels,” Nilan responded with a bow.
“I did not give you permission to leave the city.” Itasha growled. “Never mind, I want a massage, and you are to attend me.” Nilan’s eyes showed his understanding, and he nodded, stepping in behind Itasha as she left the house, heading for the massage parlor.
Once more, the Three Lamps Massage House was empty of all save the head masseuse, Yezhes and a fierce looking male who turned his attention to the priestess as she entered scanning the front room with a haughty look. The slight drow merchant bowed deeply before the priestess, who nodded her greeting in return. The fierce looking male with him bowed, drawing Itasha’s attention. She nodded, and looked him over appraisingly, noting his scarred countenance, and well equipped appearance.
“Welcome Priestess,” Yezhes said, regaining Itasha’s attention as Nilan moved to the right of the priestess. Folding his arms across his chest, he nodded toward the merchant in greeting.
“Have you word for me?” Itasha inquired.
The merchant shifted so that his body concealed his hand motions from the rest of the room. We have had word from our contact, that a meeting has been established near the surface. Itasha tilted her head, raising an eyebrow inquiringly, and the merchant continued signing. This is Xesar. The fierce drow bowed. He handles most of our first contact meetings that are away from the city. But we felt that, given your sponsorship Priestess, you would like to be present for the introduction.
Itasha nodded her agreement, flicking her fingers almost imperceptibly and shielding them from casual view. And when is this to take place? Now? She absently flipped a wayward lock of hair over her shoulder, wishing she’d taken the time to braid her knee-length tresses.
The meeting will be conducted in the caves near the Ogre-magi Goortok. Are you familiar with the sentry? The merchant asked.
The priestess pondered for a moment, trying to call up the map in her head from her explorations. Over by the duergar settlement?
Yezhes inclined his head politely. Yes, their delegation is likely en route even now, though they've a shorter trail to traverse. He wards the passage to the surface near the Duergar settlement of Gloomhaven.
Itasha nodded. Nilan stood quietly, holding his position and watching the priestess.
He is an ally of ours. Yezhes signed, grinning wickedly.
I know of it. I decided to extend my explorations, and found what I believe is the direction, Itasha gestured.
Xesar here, also knows the way. Yezhes bowed once more. Thank you for your sponsorship. I trust this meeting will be the start of a very prosperous relationship.
We should make haste, Xesar signed.
Itasha nodded her agreement, adding, Swiftness in the tunnels is our ally.
Nilan slipped into one of the changing areas to don the armor Itasha had thoughtfully purchased a few days previous. It is best at times that he appears to be something other than what he is. It would not be seemly for me to not have a guard as an escort, Itasha signed in explanation as he disappeared behind a curtain.
Smiling, the merchant replied, I will not question your wisdom in managing your servants Priestess.
Itasha tapped her foot impatiently at the delay, and then got a mischievous grin on her face. “Need help with some of the... fastenings??” she called with a snicker. It really was too bad they were running behind. It might have been amusing to follow up with the offer.
Nilan emerged from behind the curtain with a bow. “Forgive the delay.”
“We prepared?” Itasha asked, anxious to begin their travel. Both males nodded, and with nods of farewell to Yezhes, she led the two out the door. “I move swiftly, be prepared.” Upon leaving the city, Itasha began a cautious jog through the well-patrolled tunnels.
The trip was without mishap, aside from a rockworm who mistook the priestess for a meal, and was easily dispatched. The innate stealth gifted to the children of Lloth served them well, allowing the small band to move quickly past any menaces before they were aware of the group’s presence. The three levitated to the ceiling of a cavern to the southeast of the duergar settlement, and located a trapdoor. Opening it, they floated gently through, landing in a chamber reeking of rotten food and feces. The fire pit in the center of the room sent pain shooting through Itasha’s head as the unaccustomed brightness of the fire acted like twin daggers to the eyes unaccustomed to light other than that she tormented herself with during her studies. Itasha stumbled, tripping over some of the debris that lay scattered throughout the room. Standing still and trying to force her vision to adjust, the priestess pulled her coif low to shade her watering eyes.
Itasha heard the grunt of a large creature, and froze squinting at the light. In thick broken common, difficult for Itasha to understand at first, a voice said, “Squishy ones come, run away after short fight.” After blinking some more, Itasha was able to make out the shapes of the two males, and a large ogre. The sentry Yezhes had spoken of.
The priestess carefully picked her way around the other refuse that littered the cave, towards a large boulder blocking the exit. With a slight grunt, Xesar pulled the boulder out of the way, and with the two males flanking, the priestess stepped through the opening into a cavern, filled with humans and an ogre. Disoriented by the light, Itasha squinted and tugged her coif down a little lower to shadow her eyes further.
“Company people,' one of the humans said. Itasha listened intently, her mastery of the surface common far from complete.
“Yes,” was the reply from the one who seemed to be in charge, as Xesar bowed to him. Itasha felt the regard of all the humans in the cave, as she stood still a moment until her eyes adjusted, allowing her to see.
“Welcome, welcome. I am Beolar,” one of the males said with a bow, “I represent the Lady Ashstone.”
“May I introduce the Lady Itasha. She represents our interests,” Xesar indicated Itasha in flawless common.
Is this them then? Itasha signed. Xesar bowed in Itasha’s direction.
“I greet the Lady Itasha in the name of the Lady Ashstone.” Beolar bowed, and Itasha dismissing the rest of the humans as mere servants, inclined her head in return.
It took a moment for Itasha to work through the translation, before she replied in a heavy accent, “I greet you.” Itasha felt the reassuring presence of Nilan standing to her right with his arms folded across his chest. One of the humans approached him, asking a question.
“We welcome this opportunity to make your acquaintance,” Beolar continued.
Xesar moved back into the shadows, his eyes bright as he watched the proceedings.
Before the meeting could continue, a voice sounded through the caverns. “Evil DOGS! I have tracked you here from the frozen wastes after what you did. NOW YOU DIE!”
The drow looked at each other, frowns on their faces at the hostile tone resonating from the voice. Itasha worked out the meaning of the shout, though what a dog was, the priestess had no clue. The guards who had come with Beolar formed up protectively around him, and Itasha backed away a few steps, Xesar moving with her. Beolar looked around for the source of the voice.
“Here we go again,” muttered one of the humans as a few others began murmuring arcane phrases. Itasha and the two males glanced around uneasily, hands near their weapons and bodies tensed for battle.
“Again?” Beolar asked.
“Great a fight!” boomed the human’s pet ogre.
“What do you mean?” Xesar pressed, trying to get an idea of the incoming danger. One of the humans sat down, pulling out his spellbooks. Itasha mentally marked him for a mage, before quietly asking Lloth to bless her companions in the possible upcoming battle. Xesar moved in closer to Itasha’s left side, the two males flanking her defensively as she continued her spells on them in preparation for combat.
“Yes this has happened before,” replied the human who had first spoken as his companions continued readying themselves.
The drow intermediary raised an eyebrow at the human’s words, and Nilan glared.
“We will protect you lady,” another of the humans tried to reassure. Itasha stifled a derisive snort before kneeling to pray, the two male drow guarding her devotions.
Beolar frowned as the young angry voice rang through the caverns once more. “You shall pay for killing him. Your blood will cover my axe and your heads will adorn the walls of Waterdeep. I SWEAR IT!!!!!”
“Waterdeep is a pigsty, go back to your stye pig!” shouted the ogre in a taunting response.
Xesar pressed once more as the priestess rose from her knees. “Is there something we should know before violence descends on us?”
“I haven't killed anyone recently. Would this be your enemy, Lady Itasha?” Beolar asked.
Itasha paused, working through his words before replying dryly, in her accented common, “I have none on the surface,” Beolar frowned. “None that live...” she finished with a smirk.
“They have been a few interfering with our work,” a voice came out of thin air.
“Stupid humans,” the ogre added scornfully.
“A good policy, one I prefer as well,” Beolar replied to the priestess with a smile. The conversation was interrupted when at last the source of the shouts entered the cavern, in the form of a warrior, charging the group of humans.
“Step back Lady Itasha,” Xesar snapped needlessly as the priestess had gracefully danced backwards against the wall of the cavern giving the foolish humans all the room they needed for combat. Nilan vanished, and Xesar led Itasha back into the refuse filled chamber that housed the sentry Goortok. The sounds of armed combat and explosions of spells echoed through the caverns while the two drow waited to see who would emerge the victor. Itasha took note, peering through the opening, that Beolar and the soldiers who had flanked him defensively took no action.
Let them solve their own problems, Itasha signed.
Where is your guard? Xesar asked.
Itasha frowned at the excellent question, and one that would certainly be answered later. To cover up the apparent lack of control over her servant, she replied, He has taken to the shadows to watch the battle.
Xesar stepped closer, weapon drawn as a precaution, and nodded curtly. Their battles will not harm you.
The priestess nodded, and the two waited, listening to the dance of death, weapons held ready. A cry was heard, and the sounds of combat ceased. The two drow cautiously re-entered the chamber, taking note of the corpse lying at the feet of the humans.
“He not a threat, anymore,” grunted the ogre, kicking the corpse. Xesar nodded.
It appears they won, Itasha signed, her expression one of mild amusement which turned to annoyance as Nilan stepped out of the shadows at her side.
“Be patient and I have some answers,” one of the mages said.
Itasha took little heed of the human’s words, her attention captured by the reappearance of her servant. One of the soldiers with Beolar whispered something to Nilan who found himself the recipient of an angry frown from Itasha.
“Will this be happening again?” Xesar curtly asked the humans. One of them shrugged, causing the intermediary to frown.
“I'll find out,” the one who shrugged replied.
Xesar looked to Beolar as Itasha began furiously berating Nilan in sign. You should have stayed with me. Their petty squabbles are their own concerns! her gestures snapping with irritation.
“This is disturbing. How can we have a quiet chat if you have enemies?” asked Beolar with a frown. Itasha distractedly noted that one of the humans murmured a few arcane words over the corpse and it rose as a ghost, which he started questioning. Familiar with necromancy, the priestess returned her full attention to Nilan.
Forgive me lady, I had wanted to be sure none moved toward you. Nilan replied, bowing apologetically.
It’s difficult to assure my safety if you are gone from my side, Itasha retorted with a glare.
“Warrior how many are with you? Speak,” the necromancer insisted as Itasha continued her silent tirade.
Beolar raised an eyebrow at the necromancer, and one of the guards muttered.
The ghost moaned, “I come with the blessing of my God.”
“We apologize for the interruption,” whispered one of the humans to the priestess, who ignored it her anger focused on Nilan. Xesar stood close by watching for any other dangers.
“Were you alone?” queried the human.
“Gods' blessings aren't what they used to be,” Beolar said with a chuckle.
“No,” came the moaned reply.
“Who came with you?”
“He worships wrong god,” quipped another of the humans.
“The righteous always travel with Torm the True at their side,” was the ghost’s reply.
“Was he your only companion?”
“If Torm is here, he's hardly all he's been rumored to be,” Beolar added.
Nilan dropped his gaze in deference to his priestess’s anger, nodding in acceptance. She growled one final time to drive her point home before turning her gaze to the necromancer and snapping, “Interrogate your problems another time. We are here for a reason.”
Nilan returned to his position, both hands resting on his scimitars.
Beolar bowed to the priestess, whose expression lightened. She nodded in return. “Yes, we are,” he confirmed.
“Auril will protect us,” stated one of the humans. Itasha snorted derisively.
“He is alone,” the necromancer stated. Itasha returned her attention to Beolar, ignoring the others again, who continued to talk.
“As I said, I represent the Lady Ashstone,” Beolar began, “And you, Lady Itasha. Do you represent someone? Or yourself alone.”
Itasha replied slowly, “I am here on the behalf of the Darklake Consortium.” Beolar nodded, and Xesar nodded slightly, relaxing.
“A fine organization, or so I've heard,” Beolar responded. The priestess nodded. “I have not had any business opportunities with them, yet,” he continued.
“The consortium wishes to offer the opportunity for trade with your city,” Itasha went on, her words accented and deliberate.
“Excellent! We of Ashstone greatly desire trade,” Beolar enthused. “So the Darklake Consortium wishes to trade with us? Or in our fine city? Or what?”
Once again, the conversation was interrupted, this time by the ogre sentry. “Any have elfbits? Hungry!” the ogre rumbled. He looked at the ghost, poking at it where the undead minion’s ribs would have been, before grumbling and wandering back into his cavern. The humans, who had tensed upon the ogre’s entrance, relaxed.
Beolar frowned. “I suppose it's too much to ask an ogre to share his food,” he stated, looking pointedly at the other ogre, who handed him something. “Thank you.” The ogre grunted, receiving a pet from one of the humans.
Trying to keep the conversation on track and eager to return to the quiet of the underdark, Itasha replied to Beolar’s question. “For now the consortium wishes to establish relations.”
“Good, good, a first step but a necessary one,” Beolar nodded.
“I have been sent for first contact. How the merchants wish to further it would fall under their areas of expertise,” Itasha continued.
Beolar frowned. “But must I go back to Lady Ashstone and say...nothing? Not even how we are to meet next?”
The priestess raised an eyebrow at Xesar in a silent signal. Beolar peered at him questioningly.
“What does this consortium have to offer?” interrupted one of the humans.
Itasha thought for a moment, and formed an answer. “We of the world under are able to procure items not seen in the world above.”
“Are you the desired contact for the Lady Ashstone?” Xesar asked Beolar. Relieved, Itasha fell silent, listening intently and puzzling out the words of the exchange.
“I can be, if that pleases you. Or another can be, if not,” Beolar replied.
“I could use a few fine poisons,” the human who kept interrupting added.
“Trade good, war better,” the ogre muttered.
“Tildan hush,” one of the other humans directed, and received a glare from “Tildan” in response. Itasha filed away the name for future reference, and returned her attention to Xesar and Beolar.
Xesar nodded. “Is there some way we may recognize a representative of the Lady Ashstone?” he asked Beolar, “Besides the large entourage that is.”
Beolar nodded, holding up a small bone engraved with a creature of some sort Itasha did not recognize. Xesar nodded. “Her seal,” Beolar informed him, “The entourage is merely a precaution at a first meeting. You understand, I'm sure.”
“A wise one,” agreed Xesar with a nod.
“Interesting seal indeed,” Nilan commented his common hardly accented.
Itasha frowned to herself, darting an unseen suspicious glance at Nilan. As an additional comment, she signed, The large, ill-mannered, entourage. The one who speaks for Her has manners, though the others interrupt.
Surface scum are so...uncooth, was Nilan’s wry response.
“Have you a means of delivering a message to Lady Ashstone? Or, to her camp?” Beolar asked Xesar.
“You understand we are not surface dwellers but we have our means of communicating with those who choose to live in the light,” the intermediary informed him. The human nodded. Tired of being forced to stand like a servant, Itasha concentrated, her body levitating off the ground. From there, she sat, her head even with those still standing.
“Excellent. Then, when you wish a meeting, send a message naming a place and time. Mention my name. Beolar. That should be sufficient.”
Xesar nodded. “We will be contacting you shortly.”
“I look forward to it.” Beolar paused a moment. “'Perhaps, though... Before we go, you might mention a specific item or two that you might want to trade. Or three.” Nilan snickered.
“Have you massage houses in your new city?” Xesar asked.
“As of yet, we have little in the city. As for plans… You would have to ask the Lady Ashstone.”
Nodding, Xesar informed him, “We can supply scented oils, perfumes.” Beolar smiled and Xesar continued. “Small luxuries that can mean much.”
“Yes, a slave girl just isn't the same unless she is properly perfumed!” Beolar exclaimed, “Why, I may have to buy some myself!'
“Great for relaxing the weary worker or weary travelers to your city,” Nilan suggested.
Tossing a sly glance at Nilan, Itasha added, “A day of patrolling is not complete without the comforts of a massage.” Nilan’s cheeks darkened as Itasha’s meaning was understood, and the priestess smirked.
Xesar handed Beolar a backpack made of lizardskin, the slight clink of glass audible from within. “We have prepared a small gift for you from the luxuries of Menzoberranzan.”
“An excellent selection,” Beolar complimented, pulling out a vial of scented oil and examining it. He gently removed the cork from the vial, and sniffed delicately. “Very nice, very nice.” He carefully reinserted the cork and returned the vial to the backpack. “The Lady Ashstone will be most pleased. And will welcome your message.”
“There is much more to be had,” the intermediary told him.
Beolar nodded. “Trade will be good.”
“I believe this can be very profitable for both parties,” Xesar added.
“I agree. My own business will do quite well with your contacts.” Beolar grinned, eliciting a grin in return from the drow.
“A pleasure to meet you,” Beolar said to Xesar, bowing deeply.
“Thank you for meeting with us,” Xesar told him, bowing in response. “We will be in touch to work out further details.”
Beolar turned to the priestess, who stood. “Lady Itasha, it has been an honor,” he bowed.
Itasha inclined her head in response. “Safe return to your home, Beolar of Ashstone.”
“And you to yours, Lady Itasha,” Beolar said in farewell.
“It has been a pleasure meeting you all,” one of the humans said, bowing to the priestess who acknowledged it with a short nod.
The two parties formed up in preparation to depart.
Are we prepared to take our leave? Itasha asked the two males who both nodded in response.
Whenever you are ready, Lady Itasha, replied Xesar.
The three entered the rank chamber of Goortok who unlocked the trapdoor. One by one, the three drow silently descended with the aid of their levitation back into the blessed blackness of the Underdark. Through the trapdoor as Goortok reached to close it behind them, a whispered question in drow drifted upward. “What is a dog?”
Posted: Wed Feb 22, 2006 2:48 am
A week after her travels to the surface, Itasha reclined on some pillows, reading another tome to advance her studies. Turning a page with one hand and idly twisting a strand of hair with the other, she hummed softly.
Suddenly, a blast of fury stole the breath from Itasha’s lungs, knocking her to the floor and sending her tome flying. Gasping from the pain, Itasha knelt on her hands and knees. A second wave of anger had her shrieking in agony, leaving her cowering in its wake.
“My Queen? What have I done?” the priestess gasped. A third wave left Itasha coughing, fighting for air and groveling for forgiveness from the unknown transgression for which her goddess was punishing her. The priestess wiped her mouth, a small trickle of blood coming away on her hand.
A child belonging to one of the troll slaves residing in the city had slipped in unnoticed during Itasha’s torment and snickered softly, earning a glare from the breathless priestess.
The door to the house opened and a noble male drow wearing the insignia of house Teken’duis strode in. Itasha forced herself to her feet, angry at the additional intrusion during her moment of weakness. He raised an eyebrow arrogantly at the priestess, and smirked at her haughty look. In just a few strides, he was across the room, grabbing Itasha by the arm and fondling her backside.
Itasha slapped his face with her free hand, glaring at the male for his forward behavior. “You were NOT invited,” she spat.
“A fallen priestess is a treat,” the noble said, grabbing her by the front of her robe and pushing her back against the wall. “I am inviting myself before others have their piece of you.”
Anger rapidly burning away her shock at the punishment from her goddess, Itasha began fighting the male’s grasp, cursing him and his ancestry, struggling to break free. He casually slapped her, causing her ears to ring, but she managed to grab his arm and bite down. The noble broke free, his startled cursing accompanied by the troll child’s cackle of glee, and grabbed Itasha by the throat, squeezing until she was struggling for air.
“Fighting only makes it more fun,” he whispered menacingly before affixing his mouth to her shoulder, marking her skin. Itasha struggled, scratching at the hand that stole her breath, fighting back the darkness that was approaching from the lack of air.
A fist to her stomach, and the sudden release of her throat had Itasha kneeling on the floor gasping for air. The noble placed a knee to her back shoving her to floor and holding her there.
“I am a daughter of Srune'Lett…” coughed the priestess, “This will not go unpunished...”
“So you say,” a new voice answered, “If we leave you your tongue.”
The addition of another had Itasha fighting once more for release. Suddenly the pressure on her back was gone, and Itasha scrambled to her feet. The Teken’duis male was standing in the doorway, blocking any attempts to flee. The priestess raised a hand to her throat and faced the newest arrival, gaze defiant. Shocked recognition almost undid her attempts at composure as Sorn Duskryn, Elderboy of House Duskryn stepped forward and with a backhand staggered her.
In a blur of motion, Sorn drew his blade and beheaded a commoner who had entered to discover the cause of the commotion.
Itasha didn’t bat an eyelash at the casual slaughter, but glared at the two males as she rasped, “How dare you assault me...”
“I dare because I can,” Sorn purred, his voice like velvet over steel. “Strike me down with your magic, see if it comes to you. Surely you can defend yourself against a mere male.”
The words of a spell poured from her lips, the request unanswered. Itasha’s eyes filled with dawning comprehension, and all unheeding of the males in the room, she dropped to her knees with a scream. “My Queen! Why have you left me! I have done nothing but your will!”
The Elderboy padded silently over to where the priestess knelt, grabbing her chin and forcing her to meet his merciless gaze. “Helpless,” he sneered, “Your prayers here will avail you not. It is by the Spider Queen's own will that we are warded.”
Itasha shoved his hand away and scrambled to her feet among a tangle of hair and vestments. Drawing her mace, she met his gaze, burying deep the fear that was beginning to well in her breast. “I may no longer hold the favor of Lloth, but I am not helpless.”
Sorn once more drew his blade with lightning speed, and with lazy contempt slapped the mace out of the priestess’s hand, sending it across the room and under a table. Itasha massaged her stinging hand as she moved until the wall was at her back then shifted her balance to the balls of her feet.
Weapons back in their sheaths and smirking with superiority, Sorn stepped close to Itasha, his voice once more lowering to that purr. “You cannot fight me and win. Maybe him,” he gestured, indicating the eager younger male. Itasha’s gaze darted to the young noble before returning to the Elderboy. “Here, my own actions are supported by the Queen you cry out to for salvation. She has sent me here, she protects me. You would stand here, and thwart her will?'”
“If it is her will to strike me down, why send a mere male to do it?” Itasha queried, her voice still raspy. She clenched her hand, trying to get the feeling to return to her fingers.
“If she wanted you struck down, she would do so herself. No, far better uses for a poor priestess trapped, unable to cast a single offensive spell,” he purred.
Understanding hit her like a blow to the stomach, and Itasha glared fighting back the terror threatening to choke her. “Even if I have lost the favor of the Spider Queen, you cannot think that such an insult to Srune'Lett would go unpunished.”
Mocking laughter rolled from Sorn’s throat. Itasha edged towards the doorway, hoping to push past the young male guarding it. The laughter stopped and Sorn produced a small wand, pointing it at the priestess. A glob of green goo shot out, striking her forcefully and pinning her to the wall with magical adhesiveness. Itasha tried to move and could do nothing but glare, held fast.
Sorn smirked at her struggles. “But I have no interest in sharing my trophy,” he said, drawing his blades. In a whirlwind of steel, the drow killed the young noble with one blow and the troll child with another. The noble died with a look of eager anticipation on his face, his eyes glazing over in death. Itasha blinked in momentary shock and, panicked, began trying to summon forth a spell of blindness. When it failed, she struggled frantically in an attempt to break the magical bonds.
“Now, no witnesses,” Sorn drawled, indicating the bodies staining the carpeted floor. “Srune'Lett can hardly avenge what they do not know. And who else is here to tell them of this?” He wiped his blades on the once rich cloak the noble had worn and sheathed them in one graceful movement before stalking over to the still struggling priestess.
Sorn stepped close and pushed Itasha’s head back against the wall, holding it at a painful angle. With a feral grin at her wince of pain, he captured her gaze. “However will they know what I do to you? Priestess..." he whispered menacingly.
As a last desperate act of terror-stricken defiance, Itasha spit in the Elderboy’s face. Sorn sighed loudly. “It is no wonder you find yourself in this situation. One wonders if you are as dense as your adopted family is fat.”
Itasha choked back a hysterical chuckle at the old slur on the Srune’Lett bloodlines. Her own lithe form had caused no end of trouble for her, growing up in a house of short, stout priestesses.
Itasha took a deep breath in an effort to compose herself before once more meeting Sorn’s regard. “Release me.”
He leaned forward and slowly licked her cheek before whispering into her ear, “No. So long as you stay here, you're mine.” He straightened and gave her a ringing slap across the cheek before stepping away to retrieve some items from his pouch.
Itasha hissed with pain and renewed her struggles against the arcane bindings. Sorn softly padded over and reached up with his free hand, taking a firm hold of her spider-shaped brooch, ripping it from her robes and casting it into a corner of the room. Withdrawing his other hand from his cloak, he displayed a slave collar which he snapped around the slender neck of the now cursing priestess. Anger and mortification burning away the fear, she regaled him with every obscenity that came to her lips.
Sorn smirked slyly, and withdrew a vial of liquid from his pouch, tossing it on the goo that bound Itasha to the wall. As it began to dissolve, he casually stated, “You will not walk out of this room. You have worn my collar, you cannot avoid that order even if you are so foolish as to remove it.”
The moment the last of the magical goo dissolved fully, freeing the priestess, she rushed for the door. Right before reaching it, every muscle in her body froze under the influence of the collar leaving her unable to move further towards the portal. Chuckling wickedly at her predicted response, Sorn removed a whip from his belt and uncoiled it, the leather hissing as it brushed the floor. A flick of his wrist sent the whip snapping towards Itasha, its coils wrapping around her waist. With a jerk, he brought the stumbling priestess to stand before him.
Itasha’s fingers attacked the coils of the whip, working to unwrap its leather embrace. With another jerk he pulled her close, ignoring her struggles, and grabbed a handful of her tangled hair. “You will not bite me either,” he whispered, his eyes pinning her under their gaze, “I think that could be relevant.”
With that, the Elderboy of House Duskryn captured Itasha’s mouth in a bruising kiss that had her shoving against him in an effort to break free. Summoning a last bit of strength, she brought her knee up into the male’s groin, causing him to grimace with the pain. He threw her against the wall, knocking the breath out of her and blurring her vision, then stalked over and slammed a fist into her stomach dropping the priestess to her knees, gagging. He finished with a brutal kick that sent her sprawling backwards, fighting to hold onto consciousness.
“Mistake, rotheling,” Sorn growled angrily, “You will not fight against me.” Itasha, cradling her stomach and sobbing for breath, staggered to her feet. Knowing she was denied any form of offensive spell but sensing she was not completely cut off from her goddess, the answer to her escape became clear. She could not walk from the room due to the collar’s influence, so there remained only one last option.
As Sorn approached, his eyes blazing with temper, Itasha grasped her amulet of Lloth and spoke a single word, wrapping it in a plea, praying it would not be ignored. Fierce joy burned in her heart when her petition was answered with the knowledge that her goddess had not turned her back completely.
Itasha’s strength drained from her, dropping her to hands and knees when her feet once more touched the floor and sudden relief overwhelmed her, inviting the dark embrace of oblivion.
Itasha stirred with a moan, uncertain as to how much time had passed. Something was amiss. There was nothing remarkable about the well-cut stone floor she was lying on, but somehow the priestess knew she had not returned to Arach-Tinilith. Opening her eyes she was shocked to find herself within the personal chapel of House Srune’Lett. Spiraling, fluted pillars rose grandly to the ceiling, eight independent supports that curved and came together at the apex to form the spider-shaped ceiling. The temple was dominated by the large, black altar that sat directly beneath the massive bloated stomach of the stone arachnid. Behind the pillars, rich velvet tapestries hung upon the walls, each one depicting a scene of worship to the Spider Queen. Only the Matron and her two oldest daughters used this chapel for the most secret of rites to Lloth or audiences that needed no witnesses.
Matron Srune’Lyris’Lett stood behind the altar, laying out tools for a ceremony. At her adopted daughter’s movement, she reverently set aside the ritual dagger she had been examining, and circled around to the front of the altar, scooping up her whip in passing.
“Matron…” Itasha queried while pushing herself to her knees, still disoriented from her magical journey.
The Matron strode over to the kneeling priestess, the spider jewelry adorning her hair tinkling with her movements and five-headed snake whip writhing angrily in her hand. “Wael!” she said, slapping Itasha contemptuously with her empty hand. Shocked, Itasha fell over. Matron Srune’Lyris’lett snapped out her hand, the five snake heads arching through the air to dig painfully into her adopted daughter’s flesh. Itasha screamed in agony as their venom coursed through her body.
“Wael! Foolish girl,” the Matron snarled, stalking over and grabbing the slave collar ringing Itasha’s neck. She sneered at the priestess’s submissive posture and the mark of ownership Sorn had placed upon her. “Duskryn too?” she snarled again. “Wael!”
“What have I DONE?” Itasha sobbed questioningly. The Matron released the collar and slapped her again before pacing over to lean against the altar. Itasha fumbled at the collar around her throat, removing it and casting it away from her.
“You are a fool girl, who never learned what it is to be Priestess,” Matron Srune’Lyris’Lett hissed. She pushed off the altar, bearing down again on Itasha, who cowered before the Matron’s fury. “You would bring war down upon us from Faen Tlabbar! I should give you to them, or back to Duskryn for what you do.” Itasha looked up, her expression one of confusion. “The surface you idiot girl!” shrieked the Matron. “The surface is their trading market. You would put us in competition with them, without my knowledge. WAEL!”
The whip snapped three more times, each time driving the fangs into the priestess’s body with agonizing accuracy. Itasha’s anguished cries accompanied each blow.
“No true priestess of this House would have fallen into a plot with this pathetic Darklake Consortium,” Matron Srune’Lyris’Lett stated calmly after the screams had quieted to sobs. “Did you think your actions would go unnoticed?”
“I thought to bring more wealth, more glory to the house,” choked Itasha.
The Matron sneered in contempt. “With an organization that must seek patronage from a half trained priestess?'
“Who of the High Priestesses would soil their hands with such?” rasped the cowering priestess. “I thought to bring the glory to our family, without disrupting the duties of an older priestess.”
“You thought only of Itasha, and not of what would come of your decision to infringe upon the Third House's domain,” the Matron corrected, the writhing fury of her whip belying the calm tone she spoke with. “Houseless males, they are no threat to Faen Tlabbar on their own. You give your sponsorship, and now they suspect us of rising above our station.”
“WAEL!” she howled, snapping the whip into Itasha twice more with a vicious snarl, eliciting more tormented shrieks to echo in the chapel.
Itasha whimpered, “I swear it, I only thought to bring more to the house. I have nothing to gain in such a thing.”
Matron Srune'Lyris'Lett spit on the wretched creature sobbing and shivering at her feet, expression filled with contempt. “You are no longer of this House,” she growled. “Lloth has not turned from you fully, or else your heart would be given to her this moment. But you will not draw Faen Tlabbar's wrath upon us with your imbecilic ambition. Turn to your new friends, or run back to Duskryn since they want you.”
Itasha weakly pushed herself onto her knees, fighting off the dark oblivion that once more loomed as the waves of pain rolled through her body. The whip snapped thrice more, forcing agonized cries to leave her lips, and graying her vision. Matron Srune’Lyris’Lett snarled a magical phrase causing energy to envelop the anguished priestess.
Itasha landed in a moaning heap, back in the house where she started.
Sorn Duskryn grinned maliciously at the sight of the once proud priestess transformed to the huddled, shuddering creature before him. “Back so soon?” he drawled. At the sound of his voice, Itasha painfully fought her way to her feet, sheer panic lending her strength.
“You removed your collar,” he purred malevolently, toying with her, “That warrants punishment.” He reached into his bag, and a terror-stricken Itasha made a dash for the door, careening into the street.
Houseless and hurting, Itasha’s only thought was to get out of the city. She knew a couple of places in the surrounding tunnels where she might pause to heal if only she could get away. Staggering in a circular route through the streets of Menzobarranzen, she pushed past surprised drow whose expressions turned into vicious looks of pleasure as they saw the battered priestess run by. Turning to look behind her for Sorn’s pursuit, she ran into a darkened house, closing the door behind her.
Out of thin air, a whip lashed out and snared the priestess around her ankles, sending her sprawling to the ground. Breath sobbing in her throat, Itasha tried frantically to kick free of the whip’s coils. Sorn faded into view, stalking across the distance. Reaching down, he grabbed her by the hair, yanking Itasha’s head painfully and arching her back off the ground. He leaned close, his whisper sending chills down Itasha’s spine. “Remember Priestess. You were at my mercy before, and I allowed your escape.” He twisted her head, baring her neck and bit down hard, marking her while his free hand arrogantly fondled her. Once more he captured her tormented gaze, “Remember.” With that last word, the whip released and he disappeared, leaving Itasha weeping in agony.
Posted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 5:03 am
A few stocky duergar muttered grumpily in their language about the odd sight at the end of a shipping dock just outside Gracklstugh. A drow, wearing the tattered robes of a priestess with her hair an unbound disarray of waves pooling around her still form, sat motionless staring into the inky black that was the Darklake. At anyone’s approach, a hand immediately went to the handle of her whip and a crimson glare warned away interruptions.
Itasha’s eyes tracked movement under the water, her mind a whorl of thoughts, senses still attuned to her surroundings. She was now houseless. In suffering the punishment and indignities permitted by her goddess, Itasha considered herself fortunate she had been given the chance to learn from her weaknesses instead of dying for them. The weak or foolish usually died and the strong survived.
Itasha was a blade that had broken, one that would have to be re-forged into a weapon that would not be easily wielded.
After Sorn left her, the priestess had painfully made her way back to the blood spattered house. Slipping in, she gathered a few precious items before leaving the city, shadowing a patrol and relying on her knowledge of the surrounding environs to avoid the creatures that roamed, until she reached the docks of Gracklstagh. It was there a surprised Nilan found her standing in the shadow of a warehouse close to the dock she occupied now, swaying with pain and exhaustion and trying to find a safe place to recuperate and pray.
He took one look at his mistress’s battered appearance, and began peppering her with questions. “Lady Itasha? What has happened? Was your patrol attacked?”
The priestess hissed, “Do not call me that. I am no longer of Srune’Lett.”
Nilan blinked in shock. “What has happened Mistress?”
“It is of no concern to you. I am houseless. That is all that is necessary for you to know,” Itasha rasped. “I must find a place to stay, a place to heal,” she whispered, her bruised face thoughtful. “Menzoberranzan is not safe for me right now. Neither is Gloomhaven or Ixharkon. The other drow cities would hold the same danger as my home. Perhaps the surface…”
“What of our contact? The Darklake Consortium has offices here somewhere I’ve heard,” Nilan offered.
Itasha snorted contemptuously, wincing as her bruised stomach protested the action. “I know not if they will even stand by me now, and I will not present myself to them in my current state.” Other suggestions made by the male were as easily discarded. “My fate is no longer your concern.”
“Are you releasing me from your service?” Nilan asked.
“I have no house. You gain nothing by serving me,” Itasha growled. A glare from the priestess had Nilan reaching into his pouch and producing the spider-shaped amulet she had given him. Hand shaking, he held it out to Itasha, who took it and turned it over, running her thumb over the symbol of House Srune’Lett that was engraved on the back. Grimacing, she clenched her fingers tightly around the symbol, its edges digging painfully into her hand. With an almost inaudible keen of frustrated grief, Itasha spun and hurled it into the lake, watching its descent into the freezing waters.
The two were silent for a time, the only noise the footsteps of passing errand-boys, dock workers and merchants.
“What of your service to Lloth?” Nilan asked, breaking the silence.
“I’ve lost my house not my faith,” snarled the priestess. One hand crept up to the amulet of Lloth around her neck, caressing it tenderly.
“I don’t understand. You threw her symbol into the lake…”
Itasha’s fingers twitched towards the handle of her whip, “That was the symbol of Srune’Lett, not Lloth. As long as I draw breath, I belong to her. Beyond if she commands it!” A feeling of approval embraced the priestess, bathing her injuries in fire, healing them as it burned through her. Nilan took several wary steps backwards, eyes widening in surprise as all of the visible marks on Itasha’s face and neck vanished. The priestess, eyes aglow with fierce jubilation, straightened, all signs of pain disappearing from her posture. “Bel'la dos Ussta Valsharess whol dosst dumoas, Usstan dro drill ulu kla'ath*,” she murmured gratefully.
“What happened to you in the city Priestess,” Nilan dared to ask after her expression calmed. “If I am in danger, I think I have a right to know.”
“It is none of your affair,” the priestess scowled. Laying a hand on her mace, she turned on her heel and walked away to the end of a nearby dock. The assassin watched her walk away with her head held proudly, before slipping into the shadows.
She would return to Menzoberranzan.
The Matron had mentioned the wrath of Faen Tlabbar. Unsaid was whether the Third House knew of Itasha specifically or merely that someone in Srune’Lett was interfering in surface trade. Until Itasha found out otherwise, she would walk carefully.
Something else to be wary of was House Duskryn. The Elderboy himself had toyed with the priestess, commanded by Lloth and with her protections upon him against any offensive spells. He had killed a son of house Teken’duis, within a residence she was known to stay in. There were only two who knew the truth behind the death, one being he who had wielded the blade that struck the noble down, but witnesses served a purpose only when justice was called for. Sorn’s position in his house, as well as his own reputation and skill would protect him from shadowed retribution. Itasha had no such mantle of defense.
Additionally, there was Nilan. There were several things that did not add up about the assassin’s tales. He had claimed to be from Ched Nasad. From the time she had taken him into her service, he had left the city often and for long periods of time, once returning to her reeking of the surface. He spoke the common language of the surface with barely a trace of an accent and he winced away any time Itasha prayed to her goddess. Itasha suspected he was a spy, but for who? It was he who had brought the priestess to the attention of the Darklake Consortium. Though she had released him from her service, it would behoove her to investigate him further as a possible ally. If nothing else, it could prove entertaining… and rewarding if it became necessary to dispose of him later.
Finally there was the Darklake Consortium to deal with. Matron Srune’Lyris’Lett was right. Yezhes had blinded the young priestess with flattery and the lure of power. That lure had cost Itasha her place, though not her goddess’s favor. The merchants still needed a priestess to add “credibility” to their operation, and Itasha needed wealth to support her and establish a new life. It was time to negotiate. (The three heads of her whip shifted restlessly before stilling again.)
She’d had a century, most of her life, of living in luxury and had a taste for it. The lesser houses of Menzoberranzan would refuse to take her in, not wishing to chance the wrath of the Third House. Her best chance for the life she had been accustomed to, under her terms, would be the birth of a new house. Through guile, time, money, alliances and above all, the blessing of Lloth, such a thing would come to pass. Perhaps it was time to learn the ways of the surface as well… even humans had their uses, and the sacrifice of an elf or two would please her Queen.
It was time to return home. She would enter the city openly, though not heralding her arrival for all to hear, for a priestess did not skulk in the shadows like a street thief. Better to expect a dagger from the dark, than be surprised by one. A message would be sent informing Yezhes of her desire to meet with him.
A duergar errand-boy jumped as the motionless figure of the priestess shifted, rising to her feet gracefully and walking with deliberate steps into the tunnels, disappearing into the darkness.
*Translation: Thank you My Queen for your blessing, I live but to serve.
Posted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 6:22 am
Nilan found her as she was examining a tunnel just outside of the city as a possible place to create an altar to Lloth. The lack of access to one had been frustrating the priestess who had to resort to crude methods to perform her devotions. After much discussion, the two had come to an agreement, and Nilan’s service to the priestess resumed, though more in the capacity of an ally.
After her return to the city, Itasha had made her way to the Narbondel’s Shadow Inn, a place of less discriminating taste than Ilitree’s Inn. The Shadow housed foreign merchants of non-drow heritage, as well as lesser drow merchants. Itasha hoped to avoid unwelcome attention by blending in with those of lesser rank for a short time until she was more certain about her circumstance.
A week later, Itasha sent a message telling Nilan to meet her at The Three Lamps Massage House. It was time to speak with Yezhes in regards to her future with the consortium, and he was most easily found there.
Itasha waited impatiently for the assassin’s appearance outside the massage house. She had turned to glance through the door as it opened, and felt all the air leave her lungs as she was tackled from behind by a male form. With an undignified squawk of surprise, Itasha landed in the street, fighting free of the form to stand and find it was Nilan who had tackled her. Yezhes stood in the doorway of the massage house watching, his alabaster eyebrow raised in disbelief.
The look Itasha shot at Nilan was murderous as she dusted herself off, nodding at Yezhes with injured dignity. The merchant returned her nod before striding down the street. Still dusting off her robes and shooting angry glares at Nilan, Itasha entered the Three Lamps and prowled, sniffing at bottles containing fragrance and calming herself for the moment while Nilan questioned the masseuse. There would be time later to punish the male for his idiocy, the priestess told herself as she picked up a bottle and inhaled the delicate fragrance, his action is still more proof that he doesn’t know his place here. Nilan finished speaking to the masseuse with a wink, and Itasha stalked out the door, the assassin following in her wake.
“Find him,” she growled, and the male nodded, scanning the busy street for traces of the merchant’s passage. Itasha followed as Nilan walked the streets looking for the merchant. Finally, in an alley, they found the merchant cautiously making his way through the area.
Yezhes, Nilan signaled.
Here you are, Itasha signed.
The merchant raised an eyebrow. Yes, here I am, his dexterous fingers flashed.
It is good to see you, Nilan began, Is there a place we might talk we three?
Itasha looked around the street, silently indicating the public nature of their location.
Once more Yezhes raised an eyebrow, Concerned with decorum now?
Itasha immediately grasped his meaning, and leveled another icy glare at Nilan. Sensing the priestess's anger, he bowed respectfully allowing her to continue.
Some take their freedoms too lightly when circumstances change, Itasha signed, still glaring at the assassin who smiled slightly, but held his peace.
Certainly, Priestess. Do you know the Do'Urden compound, the merchant asked. Itasha returned her crimson regard to Yezhes and nodded shortly. I shall see you there.
With that, a globe of darkness surrounded the three. Itasha stepped out of the globe with Nilan following her, and took a circuitous route to the ruins of Do’Urden, a house that no longer existed. Upon reaching the place where the gates once stood, Itasha paused, seeing the heat traces of three against the rubble. Erring on the side of caution, she quietly called upon the power of her goddess to grant protection to herself and Nilan. Sensing the wary nature of the priestess’s preparations, Nilan’s hands went to the hilts of his daggers as they entered the once proud compound.
As they approached the merchant and his armed escort, Itasha gave a pointed look at the guards flanking him while Nilan’s careful gaze flitted over the males before continuing to search the surrounds for danger.
Nodding an acknowledgement, Yezhes stated, “No insult intended Priestess, but your status is still questionable.”
“My status is affirmed to the one who matters. My goddess still grants my requests,” retorted Itasha.
“Should others seek a trophy, perhaps one who lost it once, insurance will ensure time to evacuate,” Yezhes clarified. Itasha nodded, Nilan taking a watchful stance to her right.
“I am certain that rumors run rife through the city,” Itasha calmly stated.
“They do without fail, some of them even concern you Priestess.” The merchant paused, before slipping in an extra innuendo, “One wonders at the validity of some, concerning the nature of what I and others witnessed earlier.”
“I am certain they do.” Itasha, ignoring the jibe, pondered a moment before asking, “Me in particular or merely a priestess of a certain house?”
“No name has been specified, aside from that of Sorn Duskryn,” he informed her. Itasha nodded, her focus on the merchant causing her to miss Nilan’s smirk. “And that Srune'Lett finds itself in high favor with Lady Lloth ever since.”
Itasha’s expression turned thoughtful as she pondered the implications of this news.
“So, what brings you to me?” Yezhes asked.
As Itasha began to answer the merchant’s question, Nilan spoke, interrupting her. “I had been wondering about our latest mission, it was a success was it not? Perhaps I might inquire about that little object I obtained for you…”
Itasha raised an irritated eyebrow at the assassin’s impertinence. Nilan leaned in, whispering “Our business venture my dear.”
Fingers flashing sharply with irritation at the interruption and his familiarity, she signed to him, I see surface dwellers aren't the only ones who lack patience.
Forgive me....but I had...questions concerning our activities, Nilan responded.
They can wait, Itasha snapped, returning her attention to the merchant who was smiling slightly as he watched the exchange. Itasha took note of Nilan’s bow of respect, and felt him step back as he resumed his watchful stance.
Catching Yezhes’s eye, she began. I find myself in an interesting position due to my sponsorship of your efforts in the world above.
Yezhes nodded. Sponsorship which has yielded benefit thus far, for which we are, naturally, grateful.
Srune'Lett has no wish to be part of such an interest, the priestess informed him.
Pity for them. Perhaps another will display some interest, with a slight shrug.
In our initial conversation, you mentioned it was a priestess you needed... not a house to sponsor your activities, Itasha reminded him. He nodded in acknowledgement. I am no longer of Srune'Lett. Nilan absently kicked a stone along the stone floor of the ruins, though his eyes continued to scan the area to ensure safety as Yezhes nodded. No other house will risk bringing the anger of the Third House upon their heads. I am in a position to be of more use than before. I answer to none save my Queen.
You have been seen moving in and out of Arach-Tilinth, so that status is not in question. Nor is there any doubt of your affiliation or lack of it. But for Srune'Lett to be enjoying great favor after their actions... one is left to question which favor shall expire first, Yezhes replied, pausing a moment before adding, Especially when one is rumored to have been taking the elderboy of House Duskryn as a consort, by one tale. One of the males with Yezhes snickered. Nilan smothered a grin to avoid the priestess’s further anger.
Anger burned in Itasha’s stomach, though she fought to keep it from her expression. With a derisive snort, she signed, Rumors are only that... rumor.
Certainly, but rumor is ever the way of life in Menzoberranzan, as fact is so fleeting and scarce, was the retort.
Forcing her expression to remain nonchalant, Itasha continued. I am certain there are rumors of a mad woman fleeing for the tunnels of the underdark... rumors of a dead noble male… rumors of an affair gone wrong... the priestess glanced over at Nilan who had been the source of that final rumor when he spoke with some gossiping drow gathered at the Three Lamps. The assassin kept his face expressionless, gaze roaming the ruins.
Sorn Duskryn factors into each of those as well, Yezhes inclined his head with a smile.
When one such as he prowls the streets rumors run rampant as to the reasoning, Itasha pointed out, and perhaps one of three has a grain of truth.
Again, while our need is for a priestess, your status is uncertain, the merchant stated. Certainly Lady Lloth can favor your former House as well as permit you to continue to serve, but the reasoning is farther fetched than other options.
Nilan stopped keeping watch, leaving it to the guards, and leaned against the wall watching the conversation.
My status is clear. I am houseless, yet I live. I still serve my goddess. She responds to my prayers.
We don't wish to align ourselves with one who has such powerful enemies and little support base. Yezhes signed. Nodding towards Nilan, he added, Even your own servant treats with you familiarly.
Anger caused Itasha’s eyes to flash a deeper crimson as she turned once more to cast a dark look at the assassin. Nilan dropped his gaze downward as he felt the priestess’s glare bite into him. He has always been problematic. Efforts to put him in his place only work for so long. Unfortunately he has his uses.
A thousand forgivenesses, my priestess, Nilan signed, fingers shaking.
“Something we will discuss later foolish one,” she hissed, noting his lowered gaze. Her hand briefly touched the handle of her writhing whip before returning her attention to Yezhes. Nilan nodded.
He takes my change in circumstance too lightly, Itasha explained. Though one who easily traverses the shadows is useful watching them.
You see our position. You still have Lady Lloth's blessing, but such serves as no shield to those hunted by the Elderboy of Duskryn. You have become high profile, Priestess. And your current profile puts us in a dangerous position if we continue our affiliation.
Nilan lifted his gaze and stood straight, watching the priestess.
Meeting the merchant’s look squarely, Itasha signed, Sorn's business with me is done.
The slight drow merchant raised an eyebrow. You wish for us to shelter you from House Duskryn on nothing more than the assertion that they are no longer interested?
Itasha responded slowly, choosing her words carefully, her fingers shaking almost imperceptibly. The Elderboy of House Duskryn no longer needs to hunt his quarry, as he found it.
Nilan remained expressionless, leaning against the wall of the destroyed compound and watching as Itasha shifted her weight, glancing around the area.
The merchant nodded slowly, tapping one finger against his cheek thoughtfully. After a moment, he asked, Very well, what is it you seek Priestess?
Previously I was merely a sponsor, one necessary to your operation to be certain, but on the fringes for appearance only, Itasha began.
And now? With a raised eyebrow.
While I have little care for the actual buying and trading of goods, I would join the consortium as one who would ensure the Spider Queen's blessings on its continued operation. I hold particular interest of course in the trade between the consortium and Ashstone. Itasha explained, For rather obvious reasons. Nilan shifted his weight, arms folded across his chest as he observed the exchange.
Such as? The exchange between yourself and Lady Lloth is incomprehensible to one such as I, the merchant queried.
Sacrifices are always looked upon with favor by our Queen, Itasha grinned. Nilan shifted uncomfortably.
Yezhes nodded thoughtfully before asking, Where does your service lead you to, Priestess? Aside from Lady Lloth's glory, which we all aspire to, where does your trail take you?
Itasha pondered her response. Where it leads every person who seeks it... onward to power. Money is power, and power brings luxury, she signed. I have lived a majority of my life in luxury, and have no wish to lose such.
Again the merchant nodded. I will speak with the others. In the meantime, you would be well advised to ensure that no other improprieties occur where eyes lurk from every shadow. Rumor lives and breathes within Menzoberranzan, but it also dies unless fed.
Itasha nodded as Nilan bowed to Yezhes. I can be reached at the Narbondel's Shadow.
Lloth's blessings upon you Priestess, he signed in farewell as his guards formed up and they departed.
As soon as the males reached the road, the anger Itasha had been holding in check burst forth as she turned to glare at Nilan who stepped back under the heat of her gaze. “WAEL!” she shrieked in an ironic parody of her former Matron. She advanced angrily on the male, grabbing him by the tunic that covered his armor. Pulling his face close to her own she hissed, “Just because you have gone from servant to ally does not give you the right to act foolish.” She released him with a shove and backhanded him. “You almost cost us everything.”
Nilan staggered with a wince then straightened to meet the burning gaze of the furious priestess. “Your forgiveness, lady, I did not think...to consider all things.”
Like an angry cave lizard, Itasha spat, “Not even male nobles behave so in public.”
“I had...'forgotten' myself....in a moment of...playfulness,” Nilan stammered, aware he had pushed the priestess too far. He raised a hand to shield his face from any more slaps. Enraged by his pathetic attempt to defend himself from her anger, Itasha snatched the whip from her belt and sent the snake-heads toward the male.
Needle-like fangs struck around the bracelet covering Nilan’s arm, sending a wave of intense agony through the male who dropped to his knees with a cry of pain. The snake-heads released, and Itasha stood, shaking with anger and the effort of restraining herself. Through clenched teeth, Itasha told the assassin, “You do such a thing again, and I swear by Lloth I will have you over an altar if I have to build one myself.”
Nilan dropped his gaze to hide the hate-filled expression that had entered them. “Your forgiveness lady, it will not happen again,” he gasped out. Slowly, he rose to his feet, muscles still twitching slightly from the power of the whip.
Itasha glared one last time before spinning on her heel to head for the road, her hair flaring like a living cloak with her sudden movement. As she passed through the former gates of the compound, an object on the ground captured her attention. Its colors ran from red to blue as the stone bled the heat from it. Recognizing the item, she stopped, Nilan almost bumping into her. With a shaking hand, she reached down and lifted the polished slave collar and matching leash. Finding the mark she feared, she dropped it as if she was burned, and walked quickly away heading for the inn.
It seemed Elderboy Duskryn was not done with her after all.
Posted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 9:33 pm
(This looks like a good place for this.)
The rain was coming down in sheets as Futaz made his way the forest. The wetness didn’t bother him much as he was a native of Doblyth Kyor and grow up experience the surface weather. He actually preferred these days. The sun shines what not so bright and the scents became clearer. Now the individual he was heading to meet on the other hand was more miserable in this weather, since he hailed from the dry underdark. It was his emergence from the underdark that precipicated this meeting in the Forest of Mir. Upon spying is him in the opening Futaz hail him and after some jabs about women with whom neither were having relations with. Nilan bluantly asks, 'You spoke to me briefly regarding you plan....kidnapper her? For what purpose if I might ask?'
'To use her to more actively obtain the information we need.’ answers Futaz, 'Kidnap is not the proper term, seizing her is more accurate '
Nilan shakes his head not agreeing and pauses briefly before speaking, 'Use her...just how do you plan to use a priestess of Lloth?'
'It appears that she is now in a vulnerable position. I intend to play upon those vulnerabilities.'
'Becareful you do not overstep your bounds.'
‘Your little plan will place what I have accomplished thus far in jeopardy, not to mention place me at considerable risk. Remember that should you attempt this little escapade.'
'There is a risk that I may have to follow though with the threats I will issue.'
'Threats that you issue? What threats and to whom?'
'Upon seizing her I plan on bring her to the altar of Vhaeraun.'
'I warn you...you should do no such thing'
'If she does not comply with my wishes, she will be sacrificed upon it. Unless she still has some use to you. In her current position she does not.'
'I have been given a mission sanctioned by Vhaeraun Himself, by his temple. I warn you this day that taking such action will have dire consequences on what I have attained there.'
'For what I have heard she no longer has any usefulness.'
'You do not know what uses she has, weaponsmaster.....you are not interwoven into the web there as I have gotten myself. And you have heard wrong. If she had no uses to me or the mission, she’d be dead already. Think on that before you take rash actions.'
'I do see some use, but only if she take a more actions toward our goal.It is my plan to compromise her to the point that she obtain the information we need. And yes, my plan is more direct than yours.'
'Did you ever stop to think that you and I might have been given very different goals? Yours lies in Ashstone and Lady Hhlands bedroom. Mine lies in the city of spiders.'
'You forget the goal, the goal is to reach the forge of destiny. You were to find out what Menzoberrazan knows about it. So far you have found nothing.'
'I warn you this day weaponsmaster, you interfere in this, and place all that I have done thus far, place my life in jeopardy. I will do whatever I have to, to see that my cover stays in tact and that means the priestess Itasha stays just as she is.'
‘Then you'll need to point her in the right direction.'
'Do not force me to kill my own people, inorder to see this mission of Vhaeraun through. You let me worry about the priestess and you worry about Hhlaund's nocturnal activities'
Futaz faces becomes very severe as he growls, 'You will no longer demean me with the sordid references to Lady Hlaund.'
'That is your mission, remember it. And remember Ashstone' chides Nilan.
'That is not my mission! My mission is to find the Forge of Destiny and you are to get me that information that Menzobarrazan has on it. Ashstone is proceeding well enough and does not need my constant attention.'
'The priestess Itasha is off limits. Should you attack her, you would force me to defend her inorder to see that my position in that city remains intact.'
'You seemed to have forgotten what the prize is.'
As Nilan’s exasperation mounts he states 'Think you one second Weaponsmaster. In order to obtain what I need from that city I must hold a solid position within it. Your little escapade will place that position in jeopardy. And that is something I will not allow as it will also cost me my life. 'Understood?'
'It is time to get some return on your work.'
The two friends glare at each other for at time before Nilan breaks the silence, 'You will do what you want regardless of the consequences by the look of things. Just know I will take whatever action I must to maintain my position, and fulfill Vhaeraun's missions. If you place that in jeopardy, you do so at your own peril'
'Remember that I too work to fullfill Vhaeraun desires.'
'Then think! Because that little plan of yours will cost us greatly.'
'Then stop being distracted and obtain the information we need to obtain the Forge for Vhaeraun.'
'I will debate this with you no longer, but if we face off in the underdark. We will be on opposite sides, because I will defend her to secure the position I have attained. i won’t let anyone place that at risk. Not even you!'
'Seeking the forge is our primary mission, seeking the vhaeraunite refugees is my secondary mission. And Ashstone is a teritary concern right now. For now she is your tool and for now I have not seen any spiderkisser activity near the forge.'
'Tou know my position and I know yours. Do not force me to have to defend her, I’d take no pleasure in killing you or my own people. But I will do what I must.' Nilan pause for a moment, 'you haven’t even found the forge. How can you say there is no activity?'
'We know the general area. But if they become more active near it, then I will consider my plan to be prudent approach.'
Just as Nilan signs these words, 'Then what stops you from finding it?.
An escaped orc slave enters the clearing from the south and Nilan quickly dispatches the orc. Upon the both catch a glimpse of movement before a field of darkness blankets the clearing and the word, 'hzrzsafh' is utter by someone in the darkness. After which the darkness lifts from the clearing.
'You were followed here?' Nilan quickly accuses Futaz.
'I was not.', he defensively responds and scans the clearing both visually and with magically means that are at is disposal. He signs 'There is no one else here now .' when his scan is complete
'Next time lose your tail Weaponsmaster. This meeting is over'
'Yes', Futaz quickly concurs.
'You know my position'
'And you know mine.'
Nilan whispers something to his black steel amulet of the crescent moon, it begins to glow with soft moonlight. Shadows in the room begin to move and wrap around his still form. As the light dissapates Nilan vanishes into the darkness.
'Your’s holds for now. If that changes I'll let you know', Futaz quickly signs to Nilan as he fades out of sight and with a flip of his Cloak of Shadows, he disappears into the shadows
Posted: Fri Apr 21, 2006 1:02 am
Itasha made her way to Lake Donigarten and crossed it to the little islet in the center. She glared at the slaves who darted fearfully out of her path, herding the rothe away from the writhing snake-whip in her hand. Itasha grinned fiercely as she watched the goblins scatter. She reached her accustomed spot, and levitated before assuming a seated position to stare out over the black waters of the lake.
It had been an eventful fourteen cycles of the Narbondel. After her meeting with Yezhes, Itasha dismissed Nilan and went hunting. During her explorations she had found an area where creatures from the surface stumbled into when the confusion of the Underdark overwhelmed them. The priestess silently traversed the tunnels, completely at home in the shadows, until she reached a large cavern with stalagmites. Quietly slipping through the dark, her footfalls silent, the priestess hunted for a likely victim, and struck.
Later, the priestess examined her ceremonial bowl with satisfaction at its pristine state. Despite her crude preparations, the offering had been accepted. Itasha cleaned her tools with blessed water and put them away neatly in their velvet lined pouch, her blood humming with the approval of her goddess. Suddenly, the priestess felt as though someone was watching her. She looked up, searching for the source of the gaze, the hair on the back of her neck prickling.
Aware of her vulnerability in the wilds, Itasha rose and made her way to the entrance of the cavern. There, in the center of the tunnel lay a small circle of mottled crimson, growing dark as the cold stone floor bled the heat from the slave collar. Ill prepared for a confrontation with the Elderboy, Itasha murmured the word that returned her safely to the halls of Arach-Tinilith.
After returning to the Narbondel’s Shadow, Itasha sat in a corner of the tavern, staring sightlessly at one of her tomes. Her head throbbed, a side-effect from the well lit room. After much thought, Itasha came to a conclusion, pulling out parchment and quill from her bag.
When Nilan returned, Itasha handed him a sealed piece of parchment.
Deliver this to House Duskryn and tell the guards to give it to the Elderboy. Itasha instructed.
I will do as you say Jabbress. and with a bow, the assassin left.
Upon his return, the assassin found Itasha staring distantly at one of the walls of the tavern deep in thought. He wandered over to the bar and ordered food and drink for the two of them, carrying the bottles of beer back to the table. Nilan set one down before the priestess, who stared with distaste at the bottle, her reverie broken.
“If I may be so bold Jabbress, you do not belong here,” the assassin pointed out. Itasha’s eyes, emerald in the light of the tavern, hardened at the male’s presumption. “This place is beneath your station. May I humbly suggest you move to Ilitree’s Inn?” Covering his hand so only Itasha would see, he added It is there I have met with our contact when we do not meet at the massage house.
Here is where people who I have contacted know to reach me.she signed back her movements sharp with irritation at the knowledge he was right.
They watch you, and will learn where you stay. Nilan shrugged slightly. Itasha pondered for a few moments, then rose and returned a short time later with her packs which she dropped at Nilan’s feet. The assassin scooped them up and the pair made their way the priestess’s new lodgings.
Two days later, Itasha sat in the common room staring at the ale in front of her with an expression of disgruntlement, when a form slid into the seat beside her. A finely decorated decanter appeared on the table and was pushed within reaching distance. “I believe this would be more to your taste,” a familiar voice murmured. Itasha’s startled look met the sardonic gaze of a man in guard array. “You do not belong here priestess.”
Uncertain at first, Itasha picked up the decanter and cautiously sniffed it. The sweet smell of wine, free of any odd additions, wafted from the flower-shaped container. Ever cautious, Itasha took a sip, waiting for any odd sensation. Pleased with the burst of flavor from the drink, Itasha took another swallow before setting the decanter down and toying with it.
“You do not strike me as one who would normally patronize this place,” Itasha said quietly, finally recognizing who it was sitting before her.
The male quirked his lips in a half smile. “Perhaps, though gems can be found in the unlikeliest of places if one but has the courage and temerity to seek there.”
Itasha flashed a wry grin, her eyes shifting to her surroundings, and replied softly, “True words indeed.” She snickered softly. One of the other guests, a female, began loudly berating the male who accompanied her.
The male cast an annoyed glance at the guest, before redirecting his gaze back towards Itasha. “I have other fishing to attend to,” he said. “The decanter is my gift to you.”
“I thank you for the gift... and perhaps we will meet another time,” Itasha murmured.
He rose to his feet smoothly and inclined his head politely, before slipping gracefully through the common room and out the door.
“So,” Itasha murmured to herself. “He’s received the message. We shall see what we shall see.
Itasha awoke her eyes heavy and the tome she had been reading half-fallen off her lap. She peered through the small slit in the wall for ventilation and measured the time. The “light” from the Narbondel indicated it was mid-day. The priestess scooped up a parchment scrap and placed it inside the tome, closing the book with a snap, and stood. She gathered up the piles of parchment scattered all over her disheveled bed and tossed them into her satchel to keep curious eyes out of her studies. Itasha cleaned up and changed her garments, her stomach reminding her it had been a long time since her last meal. As she entered the tavern area of the inn, the bartender nodded meaningfully at her. The priestess made her way around the tables to the bar and ordered food and drink.
Your visitor from last eve left a message requesting you meet him. He has gone ahead to begin his fishing,the bartender’s fingers flashed as he handed her a tankard.
Did he say where he hoped to cast his bait? the priestess asked, taking a drink of the bitter ale.
There is only one place within the city where one may fish Priestess.
Itasha nodded and indicated that he should hold her meal for her, sliding a coin across the counter. The bartender bowed, and Itasha gracefully walked out the door.
Hair twisted up and tucked beneath the coif that shaded her face from easy recognition, Itasha strode through the streets of the city towards the fungus fields. Commoners, recognizing the garb of a priestess, stepped out of the way, bowing as she passed.
Upon reaching the fields, the priestess stepped around fungus, slaves, rothe and the messes that accompanied the bovines, to approach the lake, her eyes seeking the form of the person she was here to meet. Crossing to the islet, she found him.
Quietly she slid up next to the male, who nodded in greeting. “So... what does the Elderboy of House Duskryn want with a houseless priestess?”
“A fine question. What is there about such a priestess that would attract attention?” Sorn Duskryn countered.
Itasha smirked to cover her apprehension at meeting the only male to bring her low. “Some would say much. Others would say nothing. Still others would say nothing as long as she is under the attention of someone.”
“And what is your belief... Priestess?” he queried.
“It is an amusement for you.” Itasha stated baldly. “Something to pass the time?”
“How far to have fallen,” smirked Sorn, “to be a noble of the eleventh House and then sinking low enough to be mere amusement, an idle... toy.”
Itasha's eyes angrily flashed a brighter crimson in the darkness.
“There is more there I see, that bodes well,” the seemingly pleased male responded to her flash of fury.
“I am not a toy,” the priestess spat. “What is it you seek with me?”
“You are a piece in a game, Priestess,” he told her. “As of now, most are unconcerned with where you are played. There are a select few who see where the game may lead, where the pieces may advance and reposition.”
“Those few who may watch my position in the game may be concerned about the piece that shadows it, not permitting it to advance at all,” Itasha retorted, joining the duel of words.
“The wise, concern themselves with even the meagerest of pieces to watch for the potential,” was the parry.
“Without halting their advance, in case the time comes that the piece may be of use somehow,” was the return thrust.
Changing his tone, Sorn added softly, “And potential must be carefully cultivated in some cases, for if left to its own devices the weeds will inevitably choke off the growth.”
Itasha raised her eyebrow in a silent question.
Quick as a viper, Sorn leaned close, one hand quickly snaking out to curl around the back of the priestess’s neck and pulling her cheek to cheek with him. Her hands rose defensively to his chest pushing away. “Release me,” she demanded.
“Pursue your contacts with the Consortium,” Itasha froze at his words, “But mind the Brown Mushrooms. Further alliances will be necessary, ones which can withstand the might of Barrison Del'Armgo and Faen Tlabbar,” he whispered, before releasing her suddenly and moving past to stare out at the city.
The priestess stared at the Elderboy’s back with a surprised expression on her face, before slipping up behind him, close to his shoulder. “They will have nothing to do with me while you watch my movements.” Her gaze moved over the black stretch of water.
Out of the corner of her eye, Itasha caught his grin. “They fear a takeover, and do not wish to fall under the sway of a House who will seize what they are building and cast them out.”
Itasha grinned slightly to herself, her plans for her future at the forefront of her mind.
She looked up to catch Sorn’s piercing stare as he told her, “But you know they have no chance within this city without the protection of a Matron Mother.”
“Of that I am aware,” Itasha replied meeting his gaze evenly.
“And is their success of importance to you?” he queried.
Itasha tilted her face up slightly. “It factors in with my own wishes for the future.”
The Elderboy reached out and lightly cupped the priestess’s chin in one hand, holding her gaze solidly with an expectant silence. Pride kept Itasha from moving, refusing to let the male see her uncertainty.
“I have... tasks I must accomplish, but I have plans,” Itasha informed him, placing her hand on his wrist. “Perhaps a Matron will arrive to direct them.”
Sorn whispered sibilantly, “Perhaps a Matron will arrive, and if she does do you expect she will honor your accomplishments?”
An orc slave, paying no heed to the two drow, walked over and tried to shove a rothe back towards the rest of the herd.
“I expect she will hold them in great esteem.” Itasha whispered, allowing her eyes to tell him the plans her mouth would not. “Her arrival will hinge completely upon them, and the Spider Queen's blessing.”
With his free hand, Sorn withdrew a slender metal wand from his belt, and directed it towards the slave. Sensing its eminent death, the orc turned to flee. A beam of light flared from the wand disintegrating the orc slave and reducing it to a small pile of ashes. Itasha grinned at the creature’s death cry, before returning her gaze to the male who studied her closely for a moment longer, before slowly releasing his grip and stepping back.
Offering a perfunctory bow, Sorn told her, “In which case, I expect that we shall see one another again. Sometime in the future.”
The priestess nodded. “In the future," she repeated, watching him fade into nothingness.
Yes. The past fourteen cycles had been eventful. As indicated, the Elderboy of Duskryn had stopped shadowing her, and a message had come from Yezhes to meet with them at the ruins of a dead house. Itasha had sent Nilan off on a task and told him to not disturb her as she would be involved with her studies. Now the time had come, and Itasha rose to make her way through the city.
Posted: Mon Apr 24, 2006 3:35 am
Quaffing a potion she had procured from a wizard, Itasha faded into invisibility, and walked through the shadows along the streets to the ruined compound of a house formerly known as Do’Urden. Upon reaching the gates, she looked through to see Yezhes pacing about agitatedly while waiting for her arrival. A large floor rug lay in the center of the courtyard.
Itasha focused a moment and faded into visibility right behind the uneasy merchant who didn’t even bat an eye when he turned in his pacing to find her standing there.
Yezhes glanced about nervously and whispered, “They mean to put a test to you, of the strength of your faith.” Itasha raised an eyebrow in question. “They are emboldened by the departure of the Duskryn elderboy.”
Itasha's hand absently gravitated to her amulet as she asked, “Who is this ‘they’?” The priestess scanned the area warily.
Yezhes whispered, “The Consortium leadership.” Itasha grinned fiercely. It seemed her conversation with Sorn had worked. The male had stopped shadowing her and it had been noticed.
“When?” was her whispered question. Before Yezhes could respond, two warriors entered the ruined courtyard led by a robed figure, a deep cowl hiding his features.
“Welcome,” hissed the mage. Itasha nodded at him in greeting maintaining her calm veneer. The mage continued. “We have considered your petition, to continue to work with the Consortium in our concerns, and there is some merit to be found in the idea.” Itasha raised her chin a little higher, proudly meeting his gaze. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw more figures arrive identifying them as males by their movements. “With one notable exception…”
The priestess raised an eyebrow, waiting for him to continue.
“Your recent fate is not unknown to us, including the rumors that despite your shame you still maintain the favor of the Goddess.”
“I do,” Itasha replied calmly, a slow burn of anger starting in her stomach. Aware that her future hinged on her reaction, she held on to her neutral expression. With a sibilant rubbing of scales, the snake heads of her whip writhed against her hip as a reflection of her emotions.
“That we shall see,” the mage hissed. “A priestess who has fallen from favor is of little use to us, and your continued survival to this date can easily be attributed to the watchful eye of a powerful guardian.” Itasha's expression chilled as the mage continued. “Acts of magic can originate from many sources; your continued access to spells is circumstantial evidence. But there is another means by which the reality can be ascertained.”
The wizard gestured at the rug along floor imperiously, and the two warriors who had accompanied him pulled the floor rug away, rolling it as they went and revealing a circle of power. The priestess felt the gaze of all six males present upon her as she looked over the circle.
Expression frozen with anger, she returned her gaze to the mage. “You would presume to test me?”
“You come to us, seeking to utilize our resources and associate your fallen name with our own,” came the retort.
She laid her right hand on the handle of her whip, which increased its movements in response to her anger. “This is proof enough that I hold Her favor.”
“A simple telekinesis spell upon a whip could accomplish the same,” he hissed. Itasha stifled a gasp of outrage. “The rituals of conjuration should have been a part of your instruction to date.”
Itasha tossed her head haughtily, looking around at the others assembled. “The rituals are not something meant to be watched by males.”
“A priestess is not meant to be banished from her House and still retain her favor.”
Burning with resentment and the strong desire to punish the presumptuous males, Itasha reached into her travel pack and pulled out the velvet lined bag she carried her personal ritual implements in. She walked a slow path around the circle, examining it carefully for any minute mistakes.
“You will find it complete and safe for summoning even so mighty a fiend as a balor,” the wizard hissed to reassure her. The priestess ignored him, focusing intently and taking the time to pull her emotions under control. The conjuration of fiends was delicate work, and required an emotionless focus or the summoner could end up with something other than what she called for.
Finding the circle well cast, Itasha thought about what she would summon. An image formed in her mind of the graduation ceremonies from Arach-Tinilith, and she made her decision.
Her hands went to the collar of her vestments in an automatic reaction, but the gaze of six males boring into her back changed her mind. It was enough these males would be watching as she performed the ceremony, she would not give them the pleasure of her nude form as well.
“Are there any other components you require?” the mage asked. Blood, came to Itasha’s mind, though she had no intention of insulting the creature with the blood of these males. Again, Itasha tamped down the burn of anger as she wielded her ceremonial dagger and pulled her prized bowl from its bag, carefully laying it on the ground.
The priestess knelt, ignoring the snicker from one of the males watching, took several cleansing breaths and began chanting softly. Unflinching in her resolve, she pierced her ebony skin with the ceremonial dagger and drew it up her forearm to her wrist, filling the black bowl before her partway with her own lifeblood. In her mind she focused on the tall, muscular body of the demon she wanted to appear. Two of its four arms would end in clawed hands and two in powerful pincers. Its doglike head would be horned and its muzzle full of sharp teeth.
Image complete, Itasha's rhythmic chanting increased in pitch, including the words glabrezu over and over in her call of supplication.
Face and arms covered in the thin sheen of perspiration with effort and blood still running freely down her arm, Itasha gracefully rose to her feet, lifting her head and raising both arms, changing her pitch one final time calling for the glabrezu to appear.
There was a pause and then…
Power formed, causing the very air to sizzle with energy as a vortex slowly began to open. Dark lightning flashed, sending lances of pain through Itasha’s body as it arced through her. Her shocked cry was lost in a hollow rushing sound followed by a deafening cacophony of miserable howls and shrieks of anguish. A massive figure appeared in the vortex, backlit by the eldritch glow before the portal snapped closed, leaving the figure standing in the middle of the circle.
Decades of training had the shocked priestess drop to her knees. Having not yet reached the rank of High Priestess, Itasha would never in her wildest imaginings attempted to call upon the creature that stood within the circle.
Shaped somewhat reminiscent of a half-melted candle, she exuded an aura of pure malevolence. Long rubbery tentacles extended from the amorphous body at sporadic intervals. No features could be seen in the oozing flesh, nor any other sort of limbs. Soft acidic sizzles were heard as small bits of flesh dropped to the ground and melted away with acrid puffs.
The mage jerked in shock, and the other males stood watching the spectacle, their eyes wide with surprise. “KNEEL!” Itasha screeched to the fools. Yezhes fell to his knees, pressing his forehead to the ground. A wave of large spiders swarmed over the area, surrounding all who were present.
Itasha glared at the wizard who, with the rest of the males, remained standing.
“It is bound by my circle,” he hissed as his warriors moved to either side in support.
Itasha returned her regard toward the Yochlol, gazing at the ground before it. “You asked for a sign necromancer and here it is, A Handmaiden of the Spider Queen.” Itasha fought to keep the smug tone out of her voice and not quite succeeding.
“It requires courage to summon the mouthpiece of our Queen,” a voice echoed into the minds of all present. Itasha felt the regard of the Handmaiden before it shifted. She kept her head lowered in respect.
“It requires stupidity for a male to place demands upon one of Her own, and to presume to issue a test,” the Yochlol continued, her mental voice laced with scorn.
The mage swallowed thickly before replying, “We had to know, had to be sure.” Itasha clenched her jaw, and turned her face to dart an angry glare at the necromancer.
Suddenly, the yochlol lashed its tentacles in the air and slapped them against the ground, the resulting tremors burying the summoning circle and staggering those who remained standing. “Revel in your proof, male,” the voice rang into their minds.
The spiders that had been patiently waiting swarmed around the necromancer who tried to flee. Itasha looked up, watching the male’s struggles as the spiders began to climb up his legs. “Help me!” he howled.
A smile filled with dark malice spread across the priestess’s face as the handmaiden wrapped her tentacles around the necks of the other males who had remained standing and lifted them from the ground, her body growing to enormous proportions. With a strong shake and snap, the first of the warriors died, his neck broken. The handmaiden dropped him to the ground where he laid like a discarded toy, followed by a second soldier.
Itasha’s attention was recaptured by the wizard, whose scream was cut short by the pair of spider fangs that ripped out his tongue before the arachnid climbed onto his face. The necromancer collapsed to the ground, only to be buried by the horde of spiders.
The priestess fought back a vindictive laugh, noted the prostrate form of Yezhes and returned her attention to the yochlol who had the remaining two warriors in the grip of her tentacles. Both were fighting the grasp she had on their throats, struggling to break free. The tentacles squeezed, the struggles of the males weakening with lack of air. With the grating crackle of bones breaking, they finally perished as with a twitch their spines were broken. The yochlol dropped the corpses, leaving Itasha and Yezhes as the only two survivors.
The Handmaiden turned her attention to the kneeling merchant, brushing her tentacles across his back. “Is this one of use yet? Its thoughts are unlike the others.”
Without hesitation Itasha replied, “Yes mighty one. He alone showed you the proper respect and one is needed as witness to the others.”
The spider swarm turned and scuttled over to the kneeling merchant, abandoning the mutilated corpse of the necromancer as the spiders perched expectantly. Yezhes flinched, but maintained his posture of submissiveness.
“Then it will be spared,” projected the yochlol. She turned her full regard to the priestess, “Do not sway from this path. You will do what is necessary to accomplish the goals.”
“I will,” Itasha responded, bowing to touch her forehead to the stone before rising back to her kneeling position. “My thanks Mighty One.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Itasha saw Yezhes flinch as each of the eight spiders bit him once before they scuttled away.
“Do not fall to this position again,” the Yochlol commanded.
Itasha felt a slight chill pierce through her ebullience at the pointed reminder of Lloth’s fickle nature. Once more she returned her gaze to the floor before the yochlol. “It will not happen again.”
With that said, the yochlol’s body decreased in size until she disappeared, a puff of pungent smoke and the scattered bodies the only evidence of her having been there.
Itasha gracefully rose to her feet with a hushed whisper of robes and turned to Yezhes, stepping over to where he still knelt shivering in pain from the spider bites.
She reached down and captured his chin, forcing him to meet her gaze. The male flinched slightly at her touch, but obediently moved with her pull.
“I trust that this...” Itasha began, using her free hand to gesture towards the broken bodies of the males, “Is proof enough?”
“I required no proof Priestess,” the male whispered, “I sought to warn you of their plans, as best I could.”
“That is why I spoke for you.”
“Thank you, Priestess, for sparing me,” he whispered fervently.
Itasha leaned down, gaze fierce. “I would meet these others who would doubt me. I would see the expressions on their faces when you tell them what transpired.” Dropping her voice to a heated whisper, she continued. “And I would remind them that they might join the fate of these males who would dare question a priestess."
“You have met them, and conquered. Dezef, Orlat and Ipzar led the Consortium, and all were here,” Yezhes told her, “I was the youngest and newest, and afforded little voice.”
Itasha laughed, her mirth a release of every bit of stress and concern she’d harbored since the day she had been cast out of her house. Yezhes waited patiently for her merriment to cease, swallowing back a shudder of pain. “So...” the priestess purred, “That would leave you as the only leader?”
“No Priestess, the only one who led before.”
Itasha grinned. Pleased, she released the merchant and spun around to pace thoughtfully for a moment, before returning to the merchant and looking him over appraisingly.
Itasha reached out, lightly placed her hand under Yezhes’s chin, staring him in the eye and beginning a soft chant. The male’s trembles ceased as an icy cold sensation washed over his body at the completion of her spell.
“I am in need of information,” Itasha told him softly, as some of the pain left the merchant’s eyes. “Information you may be unable to provide if you are too distracted.” He bowed his head in gratitude.
“Tell me everything.”
Posted: Tue May 23, 2006 12:00 pm
This is kinda a catch up before the next big one... That and the connection between the last post and Nilan's story. Its an attempt to keep the time-line going.
The information Yezhes had provided was priceless. The Dark Lake Consortium now belonged to her, and the priestess was well pleased with the turn of events. As further information about the backgrounds of the former owners was necessary, Itasha summoned her rogue and set him his task.
After sending Nilan on his mission, Itasha attempted to bury herself once more in her studies, but could not focus. Carefully, she packed one of the tomes in her traveling bag and donned gear suitable for slipping through the tunnels of the Underdark. With a nod for the priestess assigned with the patrol who guarded the cavern housing Menzoberranzan, Itasha slipped into the silent world of the wilds. Carefully she traveled, avoiding the hazards with only her faith, soft breath, and near silent footsteps as company. Upon reaching the first set of duergar guarded locks along the canal, Itasha grinned to herself and began to sprint, her soft chuckles the only evidence of her passage as she ran past the scrags who hunted around the Darklake. Stopping at the docks of Gracklstagh, she paused for rest, stretching her warmed muscles before continuing along the areas the duergar patrolled on her way to Ixharkon.
Passing the city of the Illithids, the priestess made her way to the duergar settlement outside the city of Gloomhaven and down a path she had only traveled twice before. Through a tunnel and to the underground river, Itasha headed south towards the shaft that would take her to the cave of Goortok. Focusing a moment until her feet not longer touched the floor; she silently levitated up the shaft, opening the secret trapdoor. Taking a deep breath, she stepped into the room above and nodded in passing to the ogre, making her way to the boulder and pushing it out of the way with a grunt.
Eyes still dazzled by the fire in the magi’s cave, Itasha almost stumbled into a human who had been resting outside the cave. Blinking quickly in an effort to get her eyes to adjust quickly Itasha looked up to meet the gaze of the human, regarding him cautiously through her tear blurred eyes. Light colored hair fell to his shoulders, and his face had an aristocratic mien with blue eyes visible in the light he carried with him. He dwarfed the priestess with his height and breadth when he rose at her entrance. Though youthful in appearance, his demeanor was of one who had lived well past his physical years.
Standing around him were various undead servants, one of them being the skeletal remains of a drow surface raider. Human and drow looked each other over appraisingly, an amused smirk drifting across the male’s features.
“Interesting place to meet a human,” Itasha said in thickly accented surface common. She clenched and unclenched her hand, ready to reach for her weapon if needed.
His eyes unfocused a moment as he stared at a point to his right. “Siyo,” he said haltingly, before shaking his head in irritation as he refocused his gaze on Itasha. “You speak common better than I can drag words out of him in your tongue.” There was a pause as she mentally translated his words before she gave him a puzzled look. “Do you explore for yourself or does some other purpose bring you here?”
The priestess’s expression changed from mild curiosity to a blank slate. “Myself”
He smiled smugly. “And I thought that the priestesses of Lloth never do anything just for themselves.”
Itasha failed to hide the slight look of surprise that crept over her face. She had taken precautions to hide her origins, having learned of some drow that resided on the surface. Her eyes slid over to the skeleton that stood motionless beside him, eyebrow arching in question.
The male smirked. “Now he can be useful.”
Itasha snickered. Obviously the drow had been a poor servant of her city if he had allowed a single human to slay him. Menzoberranzan was better off without him.
“I am Lintral Carcophan,” he introduced himself.
“Itasha,” the priestess reciprocated.
“I haven't dealt with a drow from your city before, at least not directly,” Lintral told her. “You're uncommon.”
“We do not leave much,” she shrugged. “All that is needed is below.”
Relaxing minutely, the two sat and spoke for some time, exchanging tidbits of information with regards to each other’s worlds. For once Itasha was in a position to gain information without resorting to threats or torture, and it was an unfamiliar feeling. She learned of his consort, and some small amount about the Keep of Ash and Stone, the destination she had planned to reach in her explorations. She described a few of the beauties of the Underdark.
“What House do you hail from?” the necromancer asked.
Itasha rose gracefully to her feet, frowning a moment in concentration. A ball of darkness surrounded the mage. “Until next we meet surface dweller...” she called softly, before slipping into the shadows of the tunnel that led from the cave.
Itasha spent the next four cycles of the sun exploring the tunnels and caves around the ogre magi’s cavern, venturing into the mysterious world of the surface when it was dark. She found the road that would lead her up to the Keep of Ash and Stone, as well as a road that led her to an area rife with surface elves where a few of their so-called guardians met their untimely end. Itasha was always certain to leave a taunting sign of her presence, usually the body of the soldier pinned to the ground with its own sword through its heart.
The necromancer appeared once more prior to her return to the eternal darkness of her home, and they spoke. Before they parted ways, he gifted her with a token to summon him with if she had need. After returning to the temple, she grabbed a quick bath at the Three Lamps, and dressed in robes to meet Nilan for his report.
Very little of it was the information Itasha sought, but she filed it away for future use. Elstearn’s Escorts was an interesting business, and many of her questions about it and the ties previously held with the Consortium were unanswered. That would have to be rectified, and perhaps Yezhes had found out more.
Irritated by the lack of information, the scowling priestess instructed the assassin to follow, and returned to the city. Making their way to the inn, they met Yezhes and moved to the Three Lamps Massage House for secure conversation.
Itasha walked away from the meeting, her mind awhirl with details. Obviously a meeting with Elstearn was in order as he had rebuffed both Yezhes’s and Nilan’s attempts to find out more information. Some of the information reported was troubling. It seemed there had been some resistance in the ranks to her taking over the Consortium, and several of the duergar soldiers had staged a coup, taking the warehouse near Gracklstagh. A resourceful drow soldier, one Idtah, had reorganized her forces and retaken the warehouse, dealing with the treacherous dark dwarves. Yezhes had rewarded his efforts by making him captain of the guard.
Three cycles later, Itasha wandered into the establishment known as Elstearn’s Escorts. After identifying herself with a signal pre-arranged by Yezhes, Elstearn closed the shop and led her to a private area where they spoke. Satisfied with the answers he provided, the priestess left with an escort in tow and returned to the inn.
The next cycle saw the priestess with Nilan in tow, return once more to the tunnels of the Underdark. It was time to tidy house
before the next crisis landed.
Posted: Wed Jun 21, 2006 1:16 pm
I'd like to thank RPQ for allowing me to borrow one of their chars, and for all the input. Also, only the beginning references to events that occurred in Gracklstagh took place in game. The rest needed to happen but difficulties in finding research on the subject had me "winging it" in a story. :-) - Itasha
Itasha, war-clad and covered in blood, faded into view within the antechamber of Arach-Tinilith. The student there raised an eyebrow at Itasha’s appearance, but didn’t comment as the older priestess stalked out the doorway, irritation emanating in waves from her slender form. Making her way through the city, she arrived at her destination, the Three Lamps Massage House.
After passing some coin to the proprietress, the priestess strode over to the nearest unoccupied tub and began stripping off her filthy armor, dropping it to the floor next to her pack. With a soft sigh, she eased into the steaming water ignoring the sting of superficial injuries and closed her eyes, allowing the heat to soothe her sobbing muscles, while allowing her mind to replay the events from the past day and a half.
The message had been delivered to Nilan by the captain himself who had immediately left to return to his men. Her warehouse in Gracklstagh was besieged by duergar led by one of the soldiers who had remained after the Consortium had passed to Itasha’s ownership. Itasha had been out of the city and upon returning to hear the news, ordered Nilan to prepare for travel. The two arrived in the midst of a skirmish; several duergar had broken through the doorway and were being held back by three warriors. Nilan joined the battle, slipping from the shadows and back again, flanking, finding the weak points in their armor and striking fatally. The priestess attacked, laying about with her mace and the carefully placed spell. After meeting Idtah, the captain of her soldiers, Itasha had Nilan scout the warehouse to look for hidden areas of entry while she went to work healing those of her soldiers who remained.
Yezhes had done well appointing Idtah as captain over her soldiers. He had fought like a demon, stepping between the priestess and the blades of the duergar warriors who had attacked the warehouse while she frantically used the spells granted by her goddess to heal the soldiers as well as slay the duergar. Nilan continuously slipped in and out, seemingly everywhere at once as he continued to use the shadows. Finally, all the drow soldiers but Idtah dead, the three found themselves herded into the center of a bristling circle of weapons. The leader of the attackers had stepped out of the shadows and stabbed Idtah from behind, poisoning the warrior to weaken him and holding a blade to his throat. He introduced himself as a former member of the Darklake Consortium, sneering at Itasha and blaming her for the murder of the “true” leaders, before disappearing into the shadows with the rest of his force. Through Lloth’s blessing, the priestess had cleansed the poison from the warrior and healed his wounds.
That memory still rankled, the ember of anger flaring once more in Itasha’s stomach. She’d carefully held it within, as there were none to blame but the duergar himself, and he had eluded them for now. After ordering Nilan to return to the city, Itasha had gone hunting. Once she had offered a sacrifice to the Spider Queen in thanks for the blessings of her spells and killed several other creatures unworthy as offerings in an attempt to appease her own temper, Itasha had returned to the temple, her mood only slightly improved.
The sensation of being watched had Itasha’s eyes open, awakening her from the light doze she’d slipped into. The Three Lamps was a public bathing house, but most of the other patrons tended to watch her from the corner of their eye not wishing to risk the wrath of a priestess. She looked up to see the captain of her soldiers, Idtah, soaking in another tub watching her. Meeting her gaze boldly, he nodded in greeting. Itasha studied him, enjoying the play of the faint light of faerie fire over his powerful shoulders and chest. The eye patch he wore over his left eye gave him a rakish look.
Reaching up, she unpinned her hair, which had been braided and coiled around her head in anticipation of battle and let it fall into the jasmine scented water. The priestess slid under the water then re-emerged and began washing her hair, all the time conscious of the warrior’s regard. From the corner of her eye, she saw another female approach him invitingly. They exchanged murmured words, his head shook emphatically once and she departed, rebuffed by his unswerving observation of Itasha. Meeting his gaze again, Itasha pondered her options. As violence had done little to assuage the flames of her temper, perhaps another distraction would suit.
With her bath complete, Itasha stepped out of the tub and into the heated towel the attendant had waiting. Wrapping it around her, she slipped over to Idtah and leaned to whisper into his ear. "I would not have you ‘accept the welcome of a lesser house’ this night." To drive her point home, she nipped his ear before turning with a saucy wink to gather her things and ignoring the other patrons, gracefully moved into one of the curtained alcoves.
Almost as soon as the thick curtain had settled in place to afford the priestess some privacy, it was pulled aside imperiously. Idtah prowled in, crowding the small alcove with his presence as the curtain swung back closed again. Itasha spun in surprise, mouth open to call down curses upon the intruder until she recognized the nearly nude form of her captain. His swordbelt and blade were slung over one dripping shoulder, but otherwise he looked to have just risen out of his bath. Idtah's eye stabbed at her with an almost feral intensity, one powerful hand reaching out to run through her hair and rest against her cheek. "There are none who could compete," he growled softly, standing proudly before her.
The priestess’s expression changed to one of delight. “At last,” she purred with a salacious grin, “A male not frightened into impotence by my presence.” With a pointed look to his swordbelt, she chuckled softly. “That is not the blade you’ll be needing,” she told him before leaning in and claiming his mouth with her own.
Much later, judging by the fall and rise of Narbondel's glow, Itasha stretched languidly in her bed at Ilitree’s and glanced over to study the resting form beside her with a smug look on her face. Yes… Yezhes had done a fine job in promoting Idtah. She chuckled softly to herself and leaned over to trace the battle scars on the warrior’s chest with feather-light caresses. His eyes opened and he smirked at the satisfied expression on the priestess’s face which quickly turned to a scowl as someone knocked loudly on the door.
“What,” she snapped in annoyance, her hands stilling.
“Priestess, I beg your forgiveness, but it is urgent!” a muffled voice called from the other side.
Exchanging a glance, both reached for their weapons, he his sword and she her mace. Silently, she slipped off the bed and padded over to slide the latch, opening the door a crack to find the anxious face of the proprietress. “Priestess, an escort from the first house is here to summon you.” Itasha blinked with surprise, sensing Idtah move to stand behind her. The warrior noted her death grip on the weapon concealed behind the door.
“Go, I will be out soon,” Itasha instructed the female calmly and closed the door, locking and pausing to lean against it. She stared blankly at Idtah a moment before bursting into a flurry of motion. Folded in the clothes chest was a set of robes she had not worn since before her outcasting from Srune’Lett. Stark black silk with silver spiders embroidered around the neck, sleeves and hem, these were the robes Itasha had worn only for the highest of holy days and special occasions. Over them went her vestments. She grabbed her silk boots and hurriedly shoved her feet into them while breathlessly saying, “I know not why I have been summoned by Matron Baerne or in which capacity she calls for me. If the First House is becoming involved in all this, we are done for certain.”
She started running a brush through her hair, pausing to curse each tangle. Strong hands gently took the brush from her grasp, working in tandem to quickly run it through her tousled hair and plait it together into a neat bundle. His fingers lightly rested against her neck momentarily, and his voice whispered reassuringly. "I do not suspect any danger. Be on your guard, but this is not Tr... Matron Baenre's style."
Itasha paused and took a breath, turning to meet the warrior’s gaze. “If I have not returned by this time two cycles from now, find Yezhes and tell him what has occurred. After that find a place you’re safe, and watch.” Lastly, she reverently donned her amulet of Lloth and picked up her snake whip carrying it in her hand instead of attaching it to her belt as was her custom.
Idtah watched as the moment her hand touched the handle, the three heads began writhing madly in an echo of Itasha’s anxiousness. Eyeing her weapon with a frown, the priestess took several deep cleansing breaths, locking her emotions away. The snakes stopped their frantic motions, and returned to their normal state of gentle movement. Uncertainty clouded Itasha's eyes as she met Idtah's gaze one final time with her hand upon the door, before they too joined the expressionless mask she wore. Idtah nodded to her once, curtly, and moved to don his tunic. "I will watch for you, and stand ready Priestess," he said formally, blocking out any sense of familiarity from the statement. His eyes flashed once, knuckles whitened upon the hilt of his sword before he bowed deeply.
Four elite soldiers of House Baenre stood in the common room. “We are commanded to escort Priestess Itasha to Matron Baenre,” the leader of the squad of soldiers told her.
“I am she,” was her reply and flanked before and behind, she walked out the door and stepped onto a floatdisc where the four joined four more and the procession made its way to the Baenre Compound.
The driftdisc landed before the entry, and Itasha stepped off, following her escort through the halls and to the temple doors which were open, waiting for her arrival. Stepping through, she found Matron Triel Baenre and eight other priestesses standing around the altar. The double doors closed behind her, and she approached the assembled females, bowing slightly as a sign of respect to the Matron. The air was thick with smoke from the incense and herbs burned in preparation for a sacred rite. Above her, the image the Baenre temple was famous for changed from the beautiful drow form to that of the spider. Itasha paid it no heed, her focus completely on the small, slender, austere form of Matron Triel.
“Lloth has watched you, priestess. She has seen into your heart, and watched as you continue to strive higher in her service despite the fact you are d'nau qu'ellar*. Your feet tread the path She has set before you, and it is Her wish you become a High Priestess in Her name.”
Itasha stood, face devoid of expression as the Matron spoke, until she reached her pronouncement. Awe nearly overwhelmed the younger priestess. Absently, Itasha followed the instructions to begin the ritual of indoctrination until the sharp pain of a multi-headed snake whip piercing her flesh captured her undivided attention with a gasp.
Many hours later, Itasha wearily stepped back onto the floatdisc. Despite her exhaustion from the vigor of the rites, she was wide-awake and filled with exultation. In her hand was her whip, with the addition of two more heads, for a total of five.
“Go forth High Priestess Itasha Mzil’Jindurnen in Her service,” the final words of the rite echoed in her mind. Itasha had taken the name to avoid the awkwardness of introducing herself as houseless. She had used it sparingly, and the fact that Matron Triel had used it during the ceremony meant only one thing; Lloth approved.
As the escort left the gates of the compound, a familiar warrior approached the two soldiers at the front of the formation, who tensed up alertly placing hands on their weapons. Itasha watched in complete shock as Idtah strode up, wrapped his fist in one warrior's piwafwi, drew and leveled his sword at the throat of another before either could react.
“I will lead the escort of the High Priestess,” he informed them firmly, his voice carrying to the ears of the commoners and other normal pedestrians who had moved aside for the floatdisc to pass. The other six soldiers approached with a rapid, deadly intent, blades out and circling the warrior whose blade never faltered.
Certain she was about to see him cut down before her eyes and furious at his behavior, Itasha called out, “Halt!” The soldiers froze, keeping a wary eye on Idtah, but staying their attack at the command of the High Priestess. “He is my guardian, and will lead the escort.” Sensing the frustration of the thwarted soldiers and the anger of the two Idtah had insulted, Itasha schooled her face once more into its expressionless mask, and waited with a feigned air of boredom for the soldiers to fall back into position, continuing their trek with Idtah leading the way.
As she stepped off the floatdisc and entered the door of Ilitree’s behind Idtah, she heard him snapping out an order for food and drink to be brought to her room. Fighting to maintain her blank expression, she reached the door to her room and stepped through with Idtah on her heels. As soon as she heard the portal close, Itasha spun around, her mask of indifference vanishing.
“Fool! Are you trying to get yourself killed?!?” Itasha spat knuckles whitening around the handle of her whip. Her fury had the snakes hissing and writhing madly as she glared at him eyes blazing. Idtah’s expression chilled at her tone. “Was the destruction of nearly all our force at Gracklstagh not enough death for you that you would risk yourself in such a manner?” She spun away and began pacing, pausing long enough to lay her weapon on the foot of the bed. The snake heads quieted upon leaving her hand.
His fingers twitched, but he mastered himself and replied calmly. "You gained more status by that confrontation than was risked. They all know your station, that you have no House and that none have wanted you. Lloth alone desires you, but you were no doubt seen as the beggar priestess. Looking for aid," he said, sneering. Removing his sword belt, Idtah hung it within easy reach. "Now they will wonder. They will think, does she need to beg? What does she have, that her one warrior can face eight?"
“By challenging eight of Baenre’s elite guards?” Itasha stopped her pacing in front of the warrior, close enough to stare him in the eye. The musky aroma of ritual incense and oils scented the priestess’s skin and hair. “What exactly would I have done if they had killed you despite my order to stop?” she whispered, “I could call for their deaths for disobeying the words of a High Priestess, even wield the dagger myself, but that would do nothing to replace you.”
"It had to be done," he insisted quietly, firmly. "I command a force of ten warriors now; your quartermaster has a price upon his head. Several prices even," he said wryly. "On your day of ascending to High Priestess, you should not disappear into shadow. Let the city know that Mzil'Jindurnen is strong," he growled emphatically. "That Her warrior is worth eight of Baenre. None will move on you until they see past the shadow that was just cast."
Itasha’s expression turned thoughtful, and she stepped away. A knock at the door signaled the arrival of their meal, and the priestess moved towards her clothes chest, allowing Idtah to handle the server. She pulled out a soft loose tunic with shortened sleeves that flowed to her knees. With a wince for the marks on her back she shrugged out of the robes and into the comfort of her tunic, all the while facing away from the warrior. Her fingers reached up and pulled her hair loose from its binding with a soft sigh, allowing it once more to cascade to her knees. After the portal closed, she turned to face him.
“It was a risk. The benefits, with Lloth’s blessing, will most likely be as you’ve foreseen and I believe I understand now why you did it.” She gave him an impish grin. “Do not use this as an excuse to challenge every warrior in the city to keep in shape.”
He grinned and offered a bow. "There are better methods to stay in shape," he said blandly. A husky chuckle answered him. "With your permission, I'll see to it that by tomorrow the aches will be only memory. I've done this before," Idtah said wryly, stepping over and carefully picking up the robes that Itasha had shed.
With her anger having burned itself out, the feeling of exultation had returned carrying with it exhaustion. The priestess grinned at the picture the well-muscled warrior made gently folding the delicate robes. After kicking off her boots with a hiss for the anklets of torn flesh that matched the marks on both wrists, she padded barefoot over to the table and sat down in one of the chairs. “Do your worst,” she purred playfully.
"Good," Idtah said, placing the robes into Itasha's clothes chest. "Eat for now, you have to restore the energy you've expended in the last day." Quietly he moved across the room and stood behind her chair, sliding his hands beneath her hair to press his thumbs against the base of her skull. "Once you are done, we'll address the physical needs," he added mischievously.
Itasha closed her eyes appreciatively for a moment before reaching out to lift the lid off one of the large plates piled high, the aroma of her favorite roasted mushrooms making her light-headed. “Closer to two,” she reminded him before taking a bite. One led to another and before she knew it the plate was clean. Blinking in astonishment, she muttered, “I never eat that much... I’ve never eaten that much. Not even after the appearance of the han...” she trailed off and took a sip of her wine. “After all,” she quipped, “I never wanted to resemble my sisters.”
His hands stilled, resting lightly upon Itasha's shoulders. A low, wicked laugh escaped before he controlled himself. "The touch of Lloth is more draining than a week of battle. She delves inside, probes and takes what She will. There is no resisting, no desire to even resist. When She is satisfied and withdraws Her hand, there is nothing left but the exhilaration of survival, of passing the Test. And exhilaration will last only a short time, leaving you empty."
Itasha froze, goblet halfway to her lips. She set the goblet on the table and spun in her chair to stare at him. An eyebrow arched in silent question, waiting.
"You never forget Her touch. Never forget the look that peels away your flesh and burrows inside." His voice was quiet, introspective as he kept his eye locked on Itasha. "A priestess, newly graduated but not yet elevated to your new station was displeased with my attitude and thought to give me to Lloth as a drider."
Itasha snorted with derision before stating in a flat voice, almost too softly to make out at first, “Too many follow Her for the power it brings, power to dominate any who offend, power to destroy those who would attempt to think for themselves.” Her eyes burning with an internal fervor she continued, “They are predictable; predictable followers of a goddess who revels in chaos. The only differences between them are the lengths they will go to and the tactics they employ. They are so busy battling for their station in life that they cannot see outside the cavern that is our home.”
"There is no doubt about why you find yourself in Her great favor. You will be a formidable Matron Mother," Idtah complimented softly. "But not tonight, for I have MY orders," he grinned, his tone lightening. He hefted her easily, startling a chuckle from the priestess, adding "I am under orders to do my worst, after all."
Itasha drifted from the darkness of deep sleep as the bed shifted. Absently she noted a comfortable warmth settle at her back, her groggy focus on the throbbing of her wrists and ankles where she had been bound during the rites. Something within captured that focus and directed it, pushing the mostly asleep priestess into drawing the last bit of power remaining to her and forcing it into an apprentice healing spell. Idtah tensed a moment at the beginning of her soft chant, then relaxed as he realized that the spell the slumbering priestess murmured was one of simple healing. Lifting himself up onto one elbow, he looked down at her, the scent of the massage oil still strong in the room, and watched as the angry crimson gouges encircling each wrist turned an icy blue to his heat sensitive vision before returning to match the normal warmth she emanated. Her lips fell silent, and he watched until her chest rose and fell in the slow rhythm of sleep with wisps of hair cast across her features. Content that she was once again oblivious, Idtah lowered himself back to the bed and joined her in slumber.
*of no house
Posted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 3:50 pm
Itasha softly closed the door to her room and walked into the tavern of Ilitree’s with a self-satisfied grin playing around her lips. Nilan sat at a table, hastily rising to his feet and bowing at her entrance. Her smile slipped into a smirk, signaling for Nilan to follow. She led the way through the city, thoughts circling around the events of the past few cycles. Nilan followed as silently as a shadow, his face impassive. The priestess nodded to the guardians of the entrance to the cavern housing the city as they passed through and into the wilds of the Underdark.
For a while the two spoke quietly of Gracklstagh. Familiar with her mercurial moods, the male drow noticed an air of relaxation around the quirky priestess which changed to smoldering irritation while they discussed their next move.
“What is it you wish me to do?” he asked cautiously.
The priestess’s gaze turned inward a moment while she pondered his question before shrugging carelessly. “You can see if you can locate that duergar. I'm not hopeful.” Little wretch has probably buried himself in a hole somewhere, she thought with annoyance. “Though there will be a reckoning.” Her eyes flared a brighter crimson in the lightless tunnel.
“If I do... do I have your permission to dispatch him?” the assassin asked with an edge of eagerness. The duergar had humiliated him as well as his mistress and it was not something he would forget soon.
Nilan raised an eyebrow. “No?”
“I want him brought to me so I may dispatch him and serve his heart to Her.” Her tone took on the religious fervor that sent an unseen tremor of hatred through the Vhaeraunite.
“He will not come willingly,” Nilan pointed out.
Itasha full lips twisted into a sneer. “He claims to know how we females in the 'pixy city' work...” Her eyebrow arched at Nilan’s snicker.
The male sobered amusement still apparent in his gaze. “I will do my best to see he 'falls' into your hands then.” He gave a slight bow.
“I hardly think he will walk up before me and offer himself for sacrifice Nilan,” the priestess muttered sarcastically.
“As do I. That is why I would prefer to dispatch him and bring you his heart for your rituals.”
The High Priestess crossed her arms, gaze growing cold. “His heart is of no use if it no longer beats.” And once more his words betray the fact he does not belong here, she added silently to herself.
“Of course not...forgive me, I have no understanding of priestess rituals,” he said quickly. “I’ll see what I can do to locate him.”
Itasha nodded then froze as a slight breeze caressed her cheek and a familiar voice whispered, “Yezhes has been discovered, his heart is promised unless the third house finds value in it.” A shiver of alarm ran down the priestess’s spine at the sound of Sorn’s voice until the meaning of his words became clear. Curses escaped her lips as she scrambled to her feet.
“I must return NOW,” she spat as Nilan looked at her bewildered. Itasha pelted through the tunnels leaving the assassin to track her movements and follow along behind. Upon reaching the entrance to the cavern she ceased her run and hurried to the inn. Appearances were everything, and she would wear the garments befitting her station when meeting with the Elderboy of Duskryn.
After scrambling into her vestments, running a brush through her hair with a curse for every tangle, and placing the headdress denoting her station upon her brow, she decorously reentered the taproom. The bartender raised a hand to capture Itasha’s attention and passed on the message that a certain acquaintance was awaiting her company in his normal haunt. After a few moments pondering, the priestess recalled the rumors of the Elderboy’s preference for Tolkar’s Copper Door, and headed that way, meeting Nilan just outside the inn.
As the two entered the smoky, incense scented establishment, Itasha looked around the lightly populated area. Nilan gently nudged the priestess and nodded at a hooded drow standing towards the back of the room, who lazily beckoned them over. After nodding at the owner, Itasha gracefully moved around the worn massage tables and approached the Elderboy. Nilan followed, arms crossed in front of his chest and expression stoic.
Priestess and Elderboy studied each other intently for a moment.
“Fetching,” he commented on Itasha’s raiment. “Congratulations upon your honor.” Itasha allowed her expression to slip into a brief grin of acknowledgement before it returned to its neutral mask. “Would you care for a drink?”
“Wine,” she requested. Sorn reached behind him and withdrew a goblet, handing it to the priestess who nodded her acceptance. Steadily meeting his gaze, she took a sip.
Sorn Duskryn smiled easily, his hand resting idly upon his sword hilt as he watched her swallow. “The game moves on. Another player has joined the board, and has a critical piece in their possession.”
Itasha’s eyes flared slightly in annoyance, a slight smile appearing on her face in contrast. “I find myself becoming enchanted by games of late.”
Sorn's smile turned wry. “They are engaging, no doubt. By now, the other players are slowly awakening to the presence of a new player, and one has even played the first move.”
Lines appeared on the priestess’s brow as she frowned. “And that move will be a challenging one to counter.”
The male motioned to a seat in the corner, separated from the massage section of the house by a thick curtain. Itasha forced her body not to stiffen nervously as she strode past him to sit down in the indicated area, smoothing her robes absently with her empty hand. The males followed, Sorn taking the seat opposite and giving Nilan an amused glance. The assassin moved to slightly behind the priestess with his arms folded and gaze flitting around the room watchfully.
“They stumbled into the match quite by accident,” Sorn began after everyone was situated. “It seems they had their trophy right under their noses, posing as a servant for some time.”
Itasha lifted a brow. “The last place one would look,” she sighed.
“Their action was somewhat impulsive, without due consideration for what they had at hand. Now the move is played, and the game moves to other players to counter a hasty strategy.” He took a sip of wine from a goblet matching the one the priestess held idly perched on her knee, his eyes constantly in motion.
Itasha nodded. “They have him, he is promised. Now it falls to me to make my move in the game,” she stated quietly, her own gaze scanning the room while she pondered the situation.
“Promised, but without a component of time,” he drawled. “They have no small amount of spells they wish to test upon such a convenient subject, magics that have been devised by their considerable talents.” Sorn swirled the wine goblet in his hand, an amused smile crossing his features. “The screams so far have been quite melodic.”
Itasha winced with a slight narrowing of her eyes. She forced herself to relax before commenting quietly, “The pawn is of no use to me if it can no longer think.” To continue her relaxed façade, she casually sipped from her goblet. Nilan shifted his weight behind her, his ebony face a mask of stoicism.
“The mind is where the pawn's value lies for all. They are zealous, but know where the value lies and are skilled enough to preserve that, even if little else remains.”
Itasha bit the inside of her lip thoughtfully. “So... it seems I must meet with them... request the return of what belongs to me.” She stared at the ceiling for a moment, thoughts turned inward. “Timing…” she muttered absently, taking a sip of her wine.
Returning her gaze to Sorn, she lifted a snowy eyebrow questioningly. “Know you what they seek?”
“That the pawn has value is known. But there are other pieces of value that may be worth much to them,” he responded enigmatically, “Pieces which may no longer have much value to you.”
The Elderboy leaned back in his chair, resting one booted foot lightly on the edge of the table. “Have you recovered from your recent exertions?” he asked innocently, eyes flickering between Itasha and Nilan.
“You know much,” Itasha commented, her rich chuckle changing to a purr, “The battle was… stimulating.” Nilan's eyes flashed crimson in acknowledgement of Sorn's comment, but made no reply, deferring to the High Priestess.
“How about your business endeavors, how do they progress?” the male asked.
Itasha shrugged slightly, eyes still filled with mischief at Nilan’s discomfort.
Taking a sip of her wine, she leaned back slightly and replied, “Slowly. Even more so with...” she trailed off with a frown.
“There are after all, a tremendous number of expenses involved, especially in what you seek to accomplish,” he commented neutrally, studying the priestess intently. “Why, it is all but impossible to procure a secure haven outside of Menzoberranzan for caravans on such a long journey.” He paused to take a sip of his wine before continuing. “Such havens require the right contacts, which only a very select few are aware of. And without such a stop over place, a caravan must simply absorb the extra expense.”
Itasha's expression grew as cold as obsidian. “I am aware of the details I lack knowledge of,” she said deliberately, each word rimed with frost.
“Such a contact, knowing who to talk to or eliminate, could prove to be quite valuable to the right players,” the Elderboy continued despite her obvious annoyance.
Itasha absently ran her fingertips around the edge of her goblet evoking a soft tone as her temper thawed slightly. “Which would, in this case be the pawn in the game.”
Nilan stood silently, his alert gaze watching the entrance and other patrons as he listened to the conversation.
“Oh that pawn has uses,” Sorn commented, “Though in that regards not quite so much. Others of acquaintance however were much more skilled, and left their leavings about for you to clean up.” The priestess’s eyes went blank with confusion. “You had such a haven in your possession until recently, no? Taken back away from you?”
Itasha nodded cautiously.
“Such a pity,” he murmured, “Knowing who to contact or remove to obtain such havens is quite valuable information.” He calmly took a sip of wine, then toyed with the goblet, turning it this way and that in his dexterous grasp.
Her gaze focused on her goblet a moment as she thought on his words, before shifting to meet his gaze. “That damned duergar,” she murmured almost soundlessly.
Sorn tipped his glass slightly but otherwise remained silent. Itasha slowly dipped her head in response before taking a sip of her wine.
“I rather expect this player intends to work with their surprise pawn for quite some time. They're very creative with what they can do magically,” the Elderboy quipped.
“No time has been promised as of yet?”
“No, merely a spoken intent,” he assured the priestess who nodded. “Not even a promise spoken to the Queen as of yet, as it would never do to make such a promise and discover that one of their spells, the inversion one perhaps, actually removed the pawn prematurely.”
Itasha turned her head to look over at Nilan. The assassin bowed as he felt the gaze of his mistress. “Then I think it might be time to hunt... and have the gift packaged,” she purred, eyes beginning to glow with eagerness. “After all... promises are easily forgotten at times.”
Sorn placed his goblet on the table and rose gracefully, his eyes dancing with amusement. “Lloth's webs guide your hunt Priestess.”
She turned a playful look on the Elderboy, a teasing grin on her face as she stood in one smooth movement, the heavy velvet of her robes smoothing over her form. “We can but pray. Come Nilan... we hunt.”
“He seems to have learned his lesson well.”
Itasha grinned fully. “It seems so… most of the time.” She raised an eyebrow at the icy glare the assassin fired at Sorn.
“And still some spirit,” Sorn smirked. “You might yet need to borrow one of my little toys.”
“I am ready Priestess,” Nilan spoke tonelessly, his angry gaze at odds with his voice. Avoiding further eye contact with the other male, he dropped his gaze to his weapons and gear.
Itasha leaned in close to the Elderboy who stood but an arm-length away, dropping her voice to a soft whisper. “You have my thanks... And I would speak with you another time with regards to those...” She leaned back just far enough to wink.
Before the priestess could register the movement, Sorn turned his head, nipping her ear, before slipping out of the curtained alcove. Itasha stood rooted to the spot gazing after him torn between uncertainty and annoyance at his presumption. Remembering that she was not alone, she turned to Nilan.
“Doer, udos tah*,” she commanded the assassin, wearing once more her mask of confidence as she led the way out the door.
*Come, we hunt.
Posted: Wed Oct 11, 2006 2:07 pm
After meeting with Sorn, Itasha and Nilan returned to the inn where she ducked into her room to gather her armor and gear. Tying off the end of her braid, Itasha flipped it over her shoulder and double-checked her gear. Satisfied, she coiled the braid around her head and pulled up her hood to conceal her features before shouldering her pack and stepping into the hallway to head down to the taproom where Nilan waited. With a nod, the two left the city, silently jogging through the wilds as was the priestess’s habit.
Ever alert and Nilan watchful, the priestess led the way through the chain of caverns towards the Darklake and Graklstagh. Upon reaching the first Lock in the series of Locks built by and maintained by the dark dwarves, Itasha paused and stretched muscles warmed by their steady pace.
Tilting her head teasingly, she gestured to her Shadow with a grin. Ready to run?
Yes, he responded shortly, his expression serious. The priestess rolled her eyes and with a shout of laughter ran through the tunnels, dodging the dark dwarves guarding the lock and passing the scrags that lived along the lakeside, Nilan only a breath behind her.
They came to a stop under one of the loading docks at Gracklstagh. I do not trust the duergar at the locks, which is why we did not stop. Go see if the warehouse has been refortified, she signed. Nilan nodded and whispered something to the small amulet around his neck, becoming one with the shadows and disappearing before her eyes. It was something that never failed to impress the priestess, who knew well the uses of such an item.
While her Shadow scouted, she pulled the small chest out of her magical bag and checked the contents, counting the precious vials of potions she had procured for this trip. Finding them perfectly protected by the padding in their case, she withdrew a sealed vial that appeared to be empty and tucked it into her belt. Next she withdrew a metallic potion and quaffed it. Her eyes tingled a moment, then eased as she watched the area warily waiting for the assassin’s return.
It is secure. I feel I might have been seen. he signed, stepping out of the shadows. Two warriors at the entrance but it dead-ends priestess.
Well, she shrugged, We shall see what we shall see. Quietly, she raised her open palms and closed her eyes, intoning softly, “Ultrine Lloth, Wun dosst kaas Usstan dumo nindolen waenre ulu xun dosst orn.” Mighty Lloth, In your name I bless these servants to accomplish your will.
The pair slipped up the ladder to the dock, Nilan fading once more into the shadows while the priestess stalked arrogantly along the docks, her chin held high. Approaching the now repaired doorway of her former warehouse, she challenged the sturdy duergar warriors that stood guard there.
“Bakuzubem. I will speak with him,” she commanded.
“So ye say. Yer word ain't the law here though,” one of the warriors sneered. His companion nudged him, pointing to something in the shadows. Nilan stepped out of his concealment with a snicker and stood behind the priestess, his arms folded and hands within easy reach of his weapons.
“So go tell him and see what he has to say about it,” Itasha ordered, beginning to get annoyed.
The first warrior snorted. “If he wanted to see a spider wench, he'd go buy one. Shove off.”
“And If I wanted to speak with an underling, I'd talk to my own,” the priestess retorted. “Go get him.”
“Docks're ours,” he growled. “Ye can go beggin’ like th' others fer a space if ye want.” Both of the warriors grew in stature until they towered over the drow. Itasha merely stood waiting, the only sign of her impatience was the tapping of her foot. “Shove off, we got our job t'do. If ye need space, go beggin’ at the master's office.”
Itasha snorted with contempt, and spun on her heel, heading towards the office of the Dock Master with Nilan a silent shadow behind her. Taking deep breaths as she strode purposefully toward their destination, Itasha calmed herself, tamping down the irritation stirred by the insulting underling.
Standing outside the door to the office, she took a deep breath and checked the weight of her coin pouch before the two entered and approached the small desk where the armored duergar stood talking with one of the dock workers.
“Aye, ye go about yer duties. I got me work to do,” he told the other duergar who nodded and left the office. “Awright, yer busines. What's yer cargo, when ye expectin it and what space ye ne...
“I'm looking for someone,” Itasha interrupted arrogantly.
“Look I ain't a missin’ person lookup. Ye got cargo, I'm yer duergar.”
“Had Cargo,” she told him as Nilan paced around the office, “In a space that appears to be re-occupied.”
“Space is premium, we can't go around lettin it sit around unused,” he retorted.
“Would still be in use if it hadn't been cleared out,” she stated icily.
He snorted. “Well it ain't my problem if ye can't mind yer affairs or yer own security. Space, no guarantee.”
“Bakuzubem. What do you know of him,” she asked, continuing as though he hadn’t spoken.
“Heared a lot 'o names like that, what's it to ye?”
“He would be the one responsible for clearing my security. You cannot tell me that as the man in charge of this area, you knew nothing of it,” she drawled.
“What I'm knowin tends t'change based on incentive,” the dockmaster rumbled, watching her expectantly.
Prepared for this, the priestess reached into a small padded pouch at her waist, counting out the small discs by feel before drawing them out and placing a small stack of coins, shining gold in the low light of the room, on the desk. Her dexterous fingers ruffled the stack, causing them to clink invitingly before sliding them across the surface. A small part of her heard Nilan rummaging through his travel kit behind her. “Memory returning?” she asked, her voice sugar-coated steel.
“That Bakuzubem,” he said as the stack disappeared. “Aye, he tends t'run the warehousin' these days. Ye've no doubt had a meetin with him bout the 'rangements for yer own space.”
“My Quartermaster took care of those details,” she pointed out. “I however would like to... discuss the matter of our last meeting.” Once more she reached into her pouch and pulled out another stack of coins, toying with it briefly before sliding it across the desk, as Nilan stood behind her, arms crossed and watching the proceedings. “I would like to know where he could be found.”
“Well, suren yer quartermaster can tell ye how t'contact 'im. He don't generally hold court ye know.”
“My Quartermaster is currently occupied elsewhere. I am here now,” she said softly, drumming her well-manicured fingers on the edge of the desk.
“So ye are. But cause th' other ain't here, I gotta be guessin he don' wanna be seein ye right now. Ain't healthy t'let th' memory come back bout 'im when he don't want it.”
Itasha’s gaze narrowed in annoyance, looking at the dockmaster closely.
“Him an' his strongarms don't much care who works this post ye see,” he explained, “An' I'm passably fond o' breathin.”
She ignored the snicker that came from behind her. “Perhaps he is merely unknowing that I wish to speak with him,” she continued softly, not breaking eye contact and keeping her normally mobile face expressionless.
“Well, they don't exactly hold down a regular office y'know,” he prevaricated. “But there's th' telltale signs o' where he comes from, if one can only 'member em.”
“Surely you have a way to contact him, should his strong arms become necessary?” The priestess idly tapped two more coins that had appeared on the desk under her hand.
“He's got spies all over, no doubt they already know ye're about lookin. But they're like me, an' they don't come in across th' lake if'n ye take me meanin.”
He eyed the platinum coins as the priestess toyed with them, weaving them around the desktop with her fingertips. “Likes 'is privacy too, ain't like t'be too out in th' open, ye see.”
“Look fer 'im somewhere nearby, somewhere that don't see much traffic an' ye may well find 'im. Just be knowin that he don't necessarily wanna be seein' ye.”
Itasha chuckled softly. “Understandable. He has cost me a small fortune in manpower.”
“Ain't me problem,” the duergar shrugged. “Place keeps runnin, me job is done.”
Nilan stepped into the edge of her vision, fingers moving discretely. I doubt this dog will tell you more, priestess.
“Thank you for the lovely chat…” Itasha told him quietly, sliding the two coins across the desk’s surface where there disappeared. “And for the sake of your enjoyment of the fine air of this lake... the contents of this conversation should most likely remain between us.” Placing both hands on the desk, she leaned forward and smirked. “We wouldn't want any misunderstandings after all.”
“I told ye I didna have warehousin fer yer goods. Git outta here!” the dockmaster bellowed. Itasha winked at him before straightening, spinning on her heel with a snap of her cloak, and stalking out the door, her face suddenly transformed into an icy mask of anger.
Nilan followed as she kept up a muttering diatribe of unheard words, glaring at every duergar that crossed her path until they reached the mining tunnels past the docks, where she dropped her façade of irritation.
After some debate, it was decided that they explore the mining tunnels just off the main pathway between the lake and Gloomhaven. After some time spent questioning a duergar merchant who was resting in a small cave, the two drow prowled further into the tunnels, stepping around the rothe that stood around grazing on the mushrooms.
A soft sound, almost inaudible even to the keen hearing of the drow, captured the attention of the assassin. Halt,he signed. His gaze pierced the gloom of the tunnel, picking up an additional presence hidden behind one of the rothe. He gestured, and the priestess approached, finding a small duergar child who gasped and fled. The pair followed, and with a promise of a gift charmed the location of a hidden pool where the “others” would “go ‘way”. Searching the dead end tunnel carefully they found a small magical pool, hidden from sight by tendrils of mist that constantly moved across its surface.
Posted: Wed Oct 11, 2006 2:22 pm
Looking at her Shadow she instructed, “Go look. I will wait thirty counts before following.” He nodded, pulled out a small vial to apply poison to his blades, then slipped into the shadows and entered the dark pool. Calling upon her goddess’s blessings, the priestess prepared herself before entering the pool.
Itasha felt a familiar pull as she was surrounded in mists, only to materialize in the midst of three duergar warriors who glared menacingly at her. Itasha felt her face slide into its accustomed blank mask.
“What're ye doin here?” one of the well armored guardians demanded, before glaring at the shadows where Nilan had been hiding.
The floor beneath the priestess’s feet gave as she shifted slightly, causing the mist and smoke ghosting around the floor to eddy about her. Her sharp ears heard cries, shrieks and growls, even though they were muffled by the “walls” of the magically created pocket.
“So this is where you hide,” the priestess drawled, seemingly unconcerned.
“And one o' yer pets," he growled, glaring at Nilan. "Women know their place in a proper city.”
Itasha raised one delicately arched eyebrow. “I'm certainly not standing here for my health. I will speak with Bakuzubem.”
“Well yer here, git about yer business. Ye'll be wantin t'head due north. Or ye can tuck yer tail twixt yer legs and run off like ye did last time,” the guardian taunted. Itasha glared at the offending duergar, before striding angrily in the direction he had indicated.
As they followed the hallway, Itasha touched the wall, feeling it shift beneath the pressure of her hand before continuing on her way. The walls and floor themselves were a roiling mass of contained ethereal smoke, barely visible through the tendrils of loose planar material which floated around. Her stomach tightened with each duergar they passed. The group was proving to be quite well trained and armored. It would take an army to destroy them with force. The priestess’s mind worked furiously as they reached the chamber at the end of the hall.
Passing through the ‘doorway’ into the chamber, Itasha’s gaze locked on the duergar rogue who lounged in a large chair. Her eyes flashed briefly, before blanking as he stared at her insolently.
“Ah... here you are Bakuzubem,” she purred with false sweetness.
“Well, look what the spider dragged in,” he smirked.
“You are a difficult one to track down.”
“Where's yer other toy?” he peered around curiously before snickering. “I got a matchin hole to give him if he wants.”
Itasha tamped down a flash of anger, gifting him with a brilliantly insincere smile. “He is off training replacements I'm sure.”
“Hope he does a better job than on that last lot.”
“I don't believe he was expecting to be er.. stabbed in the back,” she quipped. A robed duergar accompanying Bakuzubem began chanting softly. “Jumpy lot you have here.”
“Never pays to be too ready with pixies around,” he retorted. “Well, what's yer deal this time? Come to beg?”
“I never have a need to beg,” the priestess purred.
“Well I'm going to go out on a cliff here and wager you ain't here for the pleasure of my company,” he stated wryly, “So say yer deal and we can get to business.”
“My.. deal...” she murmured softly, wracking her brain for a way to get him alone. “My space it seems is no longer available.”
“Never was yer space. Was on loan, and you just thought you'd walk in and take over the loan. Don't work that way, not with us. Deal ran out,” he commented. “Never really trusted the last guy, and I'll be drinkin' with an elf before I trust a spider wench.”
“Who said anything about trust?” she asked, tilting her head inquiringly.
Bakuzubem roared with laughter. Itasha patiently waited for his mirth to subside, her eyebrow once more raised. “Well Nilan… it seems if ever I find myself out of favor with my goddess, I can turn to work as one who entertains..." The assassin snickered at her sarcasm.
“Takes trust to let yer folk store stuff inside our space. Mithril hall wasn't so long ago, and yer new leader may get it in her head for takin us on,” he retorted. “Lettin one of the spider bitches little toys get her hands on indoor space, takes a lot more than what we were gettin.”
The priestess fought back the suicidal impulse to slay the duergar for his heretical slights against her goddess, regardless of her need for his survival.
“So I'm interested t'hear what you got to offer,” the rogue said recapturing her attention. “Otherwise our business is done, unless you want me to put another hole in that other soldier of yers. Was fun watching him fall, thrashing around like a stuck rothe.” He snickered. “Ain't so tough then.”
Itasha’s face felt like obsidian as she swallowed her rage, refusing to be baited.
Nilan stepped in. “Enough, Priestess Itasha came on business, you are one of my profession duergar...surely you can understand a good business deal and are not stupid enough to pass one up.”
“She hasn't offered any deal spider puppy, so you can sit on yer little stickers and enjoy it.”
The priestess having regained control of her temper interjected, “I can offer no deal if I know not what my options are.”
“Well alright,” Bakuzubem brightened, “You're interested in dealin then after all?”
“Of course I am,” she drawled as Nilan shuffled his feet. “But I have to see my options. After all... my expenses are up due to the need to replace my force.”
The duergar rubbed his hands together, “Alright, then we'll go have a look at the place and see what kind of arrangements we can reach.” He gestured imperiously to the two warriors in the room with him, “You two, get drinks ready for when we return.” Turning to the two drow he smirked. “Well alright then, you should know the way.”
Wrapping arrogance around her like a cloak, Itasha led the way back through the roiling hallway, the mists parting before her booted feet. She turned at the pool, a mirror image of the one they had entered to arrive at this place, and tapped her foot impatiently, waiting for the males to catch up. Nilan arrived first. Enter, she signed imperiously to Nilan, who nodded and entered the pool, fading out of existence.
“We'll be back, with a juicy deal boys,” he chuckled as the priestess entered the pool. Itasha rode the disorientation common with teleportation spells, landing with her knees slightly bent so she did not stagger. After a moment, the duergar appeared.
Quietly, the three began the trek back towards the docks of Gracklstagh. Itasha managed to catch Nilan’s eye, look down at the blade he had applied poison to before first entering the pool then looked at the duergar who walked slightly ahead. Nilan nodded in understanding. Just after they passed the turnoff from the main road into the mines, Itasha nodded.
Nilan spun into action, thrusting his blades towards the duergar’s back in an attempt to wound and hurry the poison into his veins. Bakuzubem sensed the drow’s movements and dodged, taking only a minor wound, before attempting to flee back the way they had traveled, but the assassin’s poison worked true, stopping the startled duergar in his tracks. He watched helplessly as the priestess stalked over to his still form, giving him a gentle nudge to knock him to his back.
“Get him,” Nilan stated quietly. “It wont last long.”
With a smirk, Itasha pulled a set of manacles and leg irons from her bag, fastening them securely around the dark dwarf’s wrists and ankles while Nilan disarmed him, leaning in closely to whisper, “Next strike, there be a hole in you, that you wont recover from....understood, duergar dog?”
Itasha knelt beside the helpless rogue, pondering their next move. Dragging him through the middle of the docks would not be prudent, she signed to Nilan. He kicked Bakuzubem and spat with disgust. Search him, she commanded, I don’t want any surprises like picks up his sleeves.
Nilan nodded. Nothing Priestess, he responded. I disarmed him too.
With a nod, the priestess began dragging the duergar through the tunnels, leaving Nilan to watch their surroundings. Soon the poison wore off and Bakuzubem began grunting in protest. “Who is the puppy now, duergar dog!" Nilan sneered as he followed behind.
“You're still following along, licking at her heels like an obedient pet pixie,” retorted the duergar who had not been gagged.
Hush, the priestess commanded. Need a place to put him,as she glared at their captive.
The old drider can hold him no? Nilan asked.
Itasha paused to catch her breath, pulling out a small potion flask and quaffing its contents before continuing. Dragging him across the docks would be foolish in the extreme.
Is there no other way?
Not that I am aware of, she shook her head. Unless we drag him across the surface.
I could perhaps apply the right disguise to him, Nilan suggested, so he looks like a goblin or elf.
While the two drow held their silent conversation, the duergar grinned and called upon the innate power of his race to disappear.
The priestess paused, snickering. “Nice try,” she murmured, nudging him with her booted foot. The duergar spat, cursing her. Nilan pulled a scarf from his belt pouch and forcefully tied it around the duergar’s mouth, silencing him.
Do you desire me to disguise him , into a goblin perhaps? Nilan asked.
No.. her face took on a thoughtful expression. I have a more interesting idea. Nilan grinned while she reached into her belt pouch, her sensitive fingers seeking a particular item in the soft light generated by fungi. I merely have to think of where exactly I want to do this.
Gently she withdrew an earring from her belt pouch. A tiny droplet of water was magically attached to a small pin, held in place by some unknown force. The priestess looked over the duergar appraisingly, half-formed ideas still churning within her mind. She gently held the earring in one hand and dragged the lanky duergar by the manacles with the other, continuing down the tunnel. He thrashed, twisting impotently against the bindings.
Noting the priestess staggered as the duergar’s struggles threw her off stride, Nilan handed her a vial. “Pour some in his mouth perhaps....if I stick him again I might accidentally kill him.”
We're going to have to chance this, the priestess signed, shaking her head. We need him close to home. With a sigh she put the earring away.
Too bad your spell to sanctuary can not take him with you. Nilan commented.
Nodding in agreement, Itasha pondered. I wonder if I might be able to summon him past...
Itasha walked off alone further down the tunnel, leaving Nilan with their captive. Taking several deep breaths, she focused, drawing the image of the duergar within her mind. Lifting her palms to chest level in supplication, she chanted the words to summon the duergar to her. The tendrils of her spell slipped from around the image she had conjured in her mind, unable to complete the task.
She returned to the two males, meeting the glare of a squirming Bakuzubem before looking up at Nilan and shaking her head.
“Try and make him look drow,” she told the assassins softly, purposely speaking aloud. She nudged the duergar with a smirk. “Difficult as it may be.” The assassin nodded, pulling out his disguise kit while Itasha continued. “We can drag him past the docks, and none will think twice. I will deal with any who ask.”
Itasha watched the area while Nilan began working, first taking the precaution of reapplying the paralyzing poison. Once it took affect, he shaved the duergar’s beard off and applied a dark charcoal substance to all the visible areas of skin, and applied a white powder over Bakuzubem’s matted hair.
Itasha glanced down and nodded. “Good enough.”
Nilan took the final precaution of tying a sash to conceal most of the duergar’s face before rising to his feet. “That is the best I can do on short notice priestess.”
Itasha looked over at the twisted, vaguely drow-looking figure, and nodded before gathering up the chains on the manacles and dragging the helpless duergar further along the tunnels. Just prior to the docks, she stopped and looked pointedly at Nilan. Drag him. Will be odd if I do it.
The priestess straightened her appearance and adopted an attitude of icy hauteur, leading the way and leaving the assassin to follow with Bakuzubem in tow. As predicted, no one paid notice to a drow priestess accompanied by two males, one bound and being treated less than gently.
Passing guards, dockworkers and concerned ship owners, the trio walked through Gracklstagh and off the dock into the shallow area of the Darklake, heading for Menzoberranzan. Itasha sighed quietly in relief as they reached the water, urging Nilan to continue. They still had the duergar guarded locks to pass, and the priestess prayed the soggy rogue’s disguise would hold. Together the two drow thrashed their way through the shallows along the lake. Nilan wore his cloak of flight and hit a deep place in the waters, loosing his hold on the duergar who sank like a stone in his paralyzed state.
Both the drow stopped in shock before the priestess shoved Nilan out of the way, diving into the water and scrambling for a hold on the heavy duergar. Bubbles rose to the dark surface and Itasha finally got a grip on the duergar’s hair, dragging his dead weight to the surface and pulling him into the shallows with a gasp, momentarily leaving Nilan behind. A scrag took that moment to pounce, catching the priestess unprepared.
Sharp claws caught at her unprotected throat and face, ripping the soft flesh of chin and cheek and sending the priestess into a sprawl which she turned into a controlled tumble, allowing her to lithely regain her feet with morning-star to hand, in time to see two dagger tips appear in the chest of the monster. Nilan withdrew the blades and the priestess hurriedly summoned a pillar of fire to consume the corpse. Blinking away the painful lights dancing before her eyes, she knelt down and fumbled for the manacles securing the duergar, slowly continuing their pace through the tunnels, pausing after a few minutes to heal her wounds.
Able to see once more, the two drow and the struggling duergar safely passed the remaining guards, roaming scrags and drow patrols until they reached the outskirts of Menzoberranzan where the priestess sent Nilan to fetch Idtah, so the two could turn over their prize to one who could better watch him while Itasha sent a missive to the Third House.
Posted: Wed Oct 11, 2006 4:59 pm
Itasha sat brooding.
She had just returned from a session of pampering at the Three Lamps, the scent of night jasmine wafting around her slender form, clad in the robes of a priestess. She had spent a lot of time in armor of late, and it was wonderful to enjoy the comfort of the soft, worn, velvet. Rhythmically, she ran a brush through her slightly damp hair, using the motions to soothe while she stared at the wall with her thoughts turned inward.
They had procured the duergar. Now to arrange a meeting with the Third House to set up an exchange for a prize they knew nothing about. But where? The priestess owned no house. Her seat of power was on a bed within an inn, and while it was comfortable, especially when her weaponsmaster wasn’t off training or playing with the duergar, it was nothing to impress a member of the Third House. A frown marred Itasha’s smooth forehead. Idtah’s words, spoken while she had raged at him, came back to haunt her.
“…Lloth alone desires you, but you were no doubt seen as the beggar priestess…”
Beggar priestess indeed.
she thought to herself, tossing her hairbrush peevishly at a pillow before flipping her loose tresses over her shoulder and striding out the door. She stalked through the common room towards the exit, leaving Nilan to rush to catch up.
The assassin sensing her mood, wisely kept silent, following the priestess as she roamed through the streets stopping to stand in the shadows outside the compound of Faen Tlabbar. After staring at the gates for a short while, Itasha turned and aimlessly roamed the streets before stopping in front of a mansion. Remembering this place from her life before, Itasha entered to see if it was as she remembered.
Expensive furnishings graced the walls and floors of the main floor. Furniture made of materials she did not recognize was carefully placed throughout the many rooms. The caretaker, a stunningly beautiful female in her middle years, followed as Itasha and Nilan wandered through the ground floor.
When the priestess paused to look at a small room perfectly furnished for an audience or small meeting, the caretaker stepped over to Nilan, reaching out and lightly running a finger down his arm. “You keep pretty companions around you, Priestess,” she commented.
Itasha flashed her a grin while Nilan blushed crimson, bowing slightly. “If one must be surrounded by males, one should at least select the pretty ones.”
The caretaker laughed wickedly. “He looks... agile.”
“Oh he is,” Itasha chuckled, letting her assume what she would. Smirking slightly she added, “Lovely hands too.”
Nilan smiled shyly at the drow female, turned to glance at Itasha, then returned his gaze to the floor, blushing even harder.
“His stamina though,” the priestess shrugged, trailing off.
The female looked amused and reaching over cupped Nilan's chin with her hand, drawing his gaze up to her. “If my feet were that interesting, I wouldn't need boots,” she told him.
Nilan stammered, “I do umm think this place is, umm, a good selection, priestess.”
Itasha smirked slightly at the assassin’s discomfort, her previous dark mood banished.
The caretaker smiled smugly, letting her fingers trail down Nilan's chest, and looking over at Itasha. “You wish to arrange something?”
“Yes,” the priestess answered, “I am in need of a secure place for a meeting. This,” she looked around appraisingly, “Looks appropriate.”
Nilan, blushing at the female, stepped back. Itasha raised an eyebrow at him just before the caretaker stepped forward, and grabbed him by the tunic. “You do not step away until I tell you that you may step away,” she growled.
Nilan staggered as she slapped him, the sound of the blow echoing through the mansion. Itasha watched impassively as his eyes flashed crimson. He straightened and nodded respectfully to the caretaker who shoved him away in disgust, returning her attention to the priestess.
“The mansion is available to any of high station for the standard price of one hundred platinum retainer,” she stated as Itasha caught Nilan’s eye and brushed her fingertips meaningfully across the handle of her snake whip. The assassin stood silent, a look of relief flickering across his face before it smoothed into his normal expression of stoicism.
“One hundred platinum,” Itasha repeated, returning her full attention to the caretaker.
She nodded. “That will provide for you and any guests you indicate may enter.”
“What will it provide?” the priestess asked. “Merely the space? Refreshments?”
“The space,” she confirmed. “Refreshments are left up to the host to provide, as you know your guests’ tastes better than we do.”
“I will be meeting with the Matron of Faen Tlabbar or her representative and their party, five cycles hence.” Itasha reached into her belt pouch, withdrawing a small pouch of rothe leather and handing it to the caretaker. “And your retainer.”
The caretaker accepted the pouch with a nod, then leered over at Nilan once more. “I wager the Matron can teach this pet of yours to behave properly when admired.”
Nilan lowered his gaze as Itasha said, “He is accustomed to my being a little more... possessive.”
“Then he needs to learn the difference between admiration, and possession,” was the retort.
Itasha chuckled softly. “Ah well. I will have the pleasure of reminding him.”
“Include a reminder from me,” the caretaker exchanged a purely feminine grin with the priestess while Nilan shuffled his feet and blushed once more. “The Mansion will be ready for your engagement. I have other tasks to tend to now though, much as I would like to play with your pet some more.”
“We will be here,” Itasha confirmed with a nod. “Lloth's blessings upon you,” she said before sweeping out the door, Nilan trailing in her wake.
To the assassin’s surprise, once they cleared the gate before the mansion, the priestess spun and slapped him, staggering the male. “Idiot,” she hissed.
“Forgive me priestess, but her touches made me uncomfortable,” Nilan stammered in the face of her fury.
“It is not your place to be comfortable,” Itasha growled, glaring at him. “It is my place to stop wandering fingers.” She turned away and began striding in the direction of the inn.
“I was only uncomfortable, priestess, because she dared to touch that which is yours,” he said quietly, rushing his steps to keep up and almost tripping over her as she stopped once more, turning to glare again.
“If I felt she went to far I would have handled it,” she hissed, slapping him again.
“I shall remember that, priestess,” he said, lowering his gaze to hide the anger burning crimson in his eyes. Without another word, the priestess continued her path to the inn, leaving the assassin in the common room to go to her chamber, slamming the door behind her and driving the bolt home.
Pulling out a small box carved of stone, the priestess pulled out a vial of glowing ink and a stack of parchment. Eyeing the dwindling level of her precious ink, she pulled out a small glowing stone, and drafted the missive to Faen Tlabbar in normal ink. After a time, with a headache brewing from the light, she had the wording she wanted, and transcribed it to the high quality parchment, using the last of her underdark ink.
Unto Ghilanna Tlabbar, Matron Faen Tlabbar and High
Priestess of Lloth, does Itasha Mzil’Jindurnen,
High Priestess of the Spider Queen send her greetings.
You are one whose time is consumed with the affairs of
her house and service to our Lady so I will come directly
to the point. You have something that belongs to me. I
wish him returned, preferably in the condition in which he
was discovered. Of course I have something interesting to
offer in trade. I feel you will find the information contained
within the mind of the one I would offer as a replacement
I would like to propose a meeting between the two of us to
discuss terms for the return of my servant Yezhes in exchange
for the gem of information I have procured. I invite you to be
my guest at the mansion known as the Pride of Menzoberranzan
four cycles hence. Refreshments will be served in the nineteenth
Once the magical ink dried, she carefully rolled the missive, placed it into a scroll-case and sealed it with a small curse. Anyone not of the Faen Tlabbar High Priestesses attempting to open the missive would receive a nasty shock indeed.
She would send the missive on the morrow.
Posted: Sat Nov 11, 2006 11:44 pm
Preparations for the meeting with the Third House were extensive. The priestess, not wishing to seem completely without resources, purchased a pair of slaves to serve during the meeting and refreshments to offer. Upon her return to the city, she found her guard captain waiting to speak with her. An impish grin crossed her features as he bowed, her gaze lingering over his muscular form.
Is everything prepared? her fingers flashed.
Yes. The runt has been patched up though he won't be able to speak for another day or so. Idtah replied. No sense allowing him to give away information before you can use it as trade.
The priestess nodded. Then a thought occurred to her. Ah.. as a precaution... Sliding the steel ring off her finger, she motioned for the warrior to do the same with his. Exchanging rings, she continued her instructions. Blue or purple come at once. Crimson.. she paused thoughtfully with regards to the ring she had given the necromancer, well... tell me later, but ignore it.
If you call, aid will come. he assured her. Do not drink anything offered at the mansion, I saw at least one ally of Faen-Tlabbar enter to scout already.
The priestess nodded. I will be stopping to pick up wine to offer them. She nudged the two goblins who cringed at the contact. They do not look like much, but will suffice to serve for now.
I have seen the effects of their brew. Idtah signed, his expression somber. While it can be amusing at times, I would not wish to see it afflict you. Itasha raised an eyebrow.
A priestess on patrol duty took care to ensure that her troops had drunk of it, so they would be all the more interested in preserving her well-being, he continued.
So the rumors are true, she said pondering a moment.
Idtah nodded. Yes. One of the soldiers afterwards kneeled on the road outside their compound begging admittance afterwards, until a duergar cart ran him down.
Howâ€¦ unfortunate. The expression on her face showed the wryness of her tone, before taking on a serious cast. I will be cautious, and will warn Nilan as well. The priestess bit back a humorous grin at the thought of the assassin falling under the effects of such an elixir.
It is said the elixir bears the touch of Lloth herself, there is no dispersion of its effects. I don't know that it would work upon an anointed High Priestess, but gender is no object normally.
Itasha looked thoughtful for a moment. They have many adoptees in their family, she pointed out with a slight shrug. How better to ensure their loyalty rapidly?
Devious, but likely accurate, he replied. Itasha nodded. If all goes well, I will see you at the end of the day Priestess.
Itasha grinned, her gaze scanning his muscular form with a mental sigh of regret for timing as he bowed to her. Until later.
After procuring some fine bottles of wine, as well as a few items of food, the priestess paused at the inn, leaving the two goblins in the care of her Shadow long enough to change out of her armor and into the livery of her station before leading her servants to the mansion she had rented for the occasion.
Pausing just outside its gates, Itasha stopped Nilanâ€™s advance with an upheld hand. Listen carefully, she commanded the assassin.
If things go badly, and I go down, use the ring you wear, she told him.
Go down? he puzzled.
Itasha scanned the area carefully and hid her hands from casual view, with a curse under her breath. Slowly she signed, If this meeting goes badly, use the ring. But only if I am unable to do it myself.
Explain how again priestess I... his fingers stumbled through the signs in his haste, I have never used it before.
The priestess raised her gaze to the dark ceiling of the cavern which housed the city in silent supplication for patience which was running thin. Hold it and call my full name.
I will priestess.
Rolling her eyes, she added. Reinforcements are standing by if needed.
Nilan nodded. I understand...priestess.
Itasha nodded and led the way into the mansion, where the caretaker met them at the door. Nilan stepped closer to Itasha, placing himself immediately to her right.
â€œAll is in readiness Priestess, will you require my presence?â€
Posted: Sat Nov 18, 2006 1:45 am
The duergar had been handed over to the Third House, Yezhesâ€™s story told, and the male himself dragged off by Idtah to find someone to take his mind off Vadalma. With yet another fire put out, Itasha found herself at loose ends. Wanting some solitude for her thoughts, she dismissed Nilan and returned to her inn room, changing out of her formal attire and into the comfort of pants and blouse, reveling in the feel of silk instead of the weight of velvet. She did not expect Idtah to come to her, as he would be occupied with Yezhes for a time then returning to her guards.
Lying curled onto her side in the center of the bed, her thoughts circled within. It seems that no matter what I do, still we dwindle. We are far too vulnerable despite Yezhesâ€™s assurances of safe-guards.
I have very little in the way of contacts. Sorn Duskryn gives me more information than my own people. I need alliances. Itasha paused her thoughts a moment, rolling to her back to stare at the ceiling with a small frown on her face. What reward does he earn for his aid to me, she asked herself, her flawless ebony brow furrowed in thought. After he had finished with her he had walked awayâ€¦ then continued to stalk herâ€¦ then suddenly became helpful by giving her information and never asking for anything in return. His behavior was not what the priestess was accustomed to from another drow, much less a male.
Sitting up, she reached for her boots beside the bed and pulled them on, her snowy hair a living curtain that shifted with her movements. It was time to find out his intentions.
Knowing one of his haunts, Itasha made her way to Tolkarâ€™s Copper Door. The Elderboy was not present, so the priestess decided to get a massage. Scented lightly with Night Jasmine from the oil used, she dressed and took her place in a chair where she could watch the doorway. Once more her thoughts turned inward, her eyes, emerald green in the soft light of the shop, blurred with thought.
Only to jump with startlement as a shadowed figure planted a kiss upon her cheek before backing away with a wicked grin. Itasha rose gracefully from the chair she had been occupying and stretched muscles still lax from her massage before bestowing a cool look upon Sorn.
â€œPriestess, so nice to see you again,â€
Posted: Wed May 30, 2007 11:19 pm
Itasha’s expression changed from one of shock to irritation as her steps took her to the inn where she donned her armor and grabbed her travel pack. She pulled up the hood of her cloak with one hand, the other clenched around the small object she had retrieved from the bed having dropped it to arm herself. Angrily, she crammed it into her belt pouch for safe keeping, slamming the heavy door behind her as she left. By the time she reached the gate, her crimson gaze blazed with fury, the warriors watching her pass with expressions of stone, nodding respectfully as one of the heads of her whip twitched past the edge of her cloak in response to her anger.
I have been played for a fool! she growled mentally, her delicate features twisting into a silent snarl as she turned her steps toward a tunnel where a clan of goblins had taken up residence. The patrols left them alone for the most part providing sport for bored nobles who wished the ‘thrill’ of hunting outside the city. Itasha used them when the call for blood pulsed uncontrollably through her.
Snatching the whip from her belt, she lashed out at the sturdy goblin guarding the tunnel, the snake heads burying their fangs into the creature who screeched in agony as she caught him by surprise. With a flick of her wrist, the whip released. Again and again she sent the animated snake heads into the helpless creature. Finally the goblin lay dying at her feet, its body convulsing from the toxins injected through the fangs of her weapon. Fury still burned. Stepping into the shadows, she continued her search, finding the entrance to the small settlement.
The priestess stalked in boldly, her whip writhing in one hand and a dagger in the other. Goblins scattered, some of the more daring ones grabbing spears and charging. She dodged two, growling as the stone tip of a third grazed her thigh, leaving behind a crimson gash. She lashed with her whip entangling the spear and jerking it from the goblin’s grip, then spun on her good leg to open the creature’s throat with her blade, allowing it to drop with a gurgling death cry. At a mental command, the snake heads dropped the spear, writhing as she turned to seek a new target.
The scent of the drow’s blood gave courage to some of the other goblins who picked up make-shift cudgels and rusted swords, joining their brethren in defending their home. Bloodlust sang through her like a soothing balm as she weaved and darted to dodge the thrusts and slashes, leaving death in her wake but gathering her own injuries in return. As she fought, Itasha gave voice to her frustration in a throaty scream. Soon she was covered in gore, her hair a crimson curtain having spilled free from her hood.
The floor grew slick as the solitary drow limped slowly backwards towards the tunnel away from the goblins threatening to overwhelm her. An icy phrase left her lips and she closed her eyes momentarily, striking a burly goblin before her with divinely created flame. The brilliant glow burned through the priestess’s eyelids overwhelming her sight as the afterimage danced before her tearing eyes despite the protection given by her closed lids. The goblin staggered away, bumping into several of its fellows who jumped backwards to avoid the stumbling conflagration. Itasha took that moment of confusion to summon a globe of darkness to stand between her and the goblins as she backed out of the cavern to the sound of the burning creature’s screams.
As quickly as she was able, she slipped into the soothing darkness of the tunnels, moving back towards the heavily patrolled areas, wrapping her cloak securely around her and stepping into a side tunnel she was familiar with. The burn of anger had drained out of her with the adrenaline and she slid down the wall, her body a mass of stinging cuts and aching muscles. Closing her eyes she focused to determine the worst of her injuries. The gash on her leg throbbed, followed by a wrenched shoulder and twisted ankle. Once again, her armor had held against the worst of the attacks. With a soft chant, Itasha asked her goddess for the blessing of her touch, an icy caress ran along her body healing her injuries as her request was granted.
Exhausted, though still wary, she rested her head against the wall of the tunnel, staring sightlessly towards the ceiling. What to do about Sorn? He had finally stopped dodging her questions, giving her an answer she expected, though not in the way she had anticipated. Her blood caked fingers touched the pouch at her waist where she had shoved the small object he had given her.
“I want what I've had. Think about it, there is a great deal to be gained...” his words echoed. Her fingers moved from the pouch to stroke her neck where his mark had resided for a short time after their first meeting where he had left her, a priestess of Lloth and former noble, broken and sobbing at his feet before he turned and walked away. Even now anger and humiliation burned at that memory. Sorn Duskryn was dangerous and not just as Elderboy of the tenth house.
Yet he had stood for her. Since her casting out, he had watched her, warned her, and nudged others away without her knowledge. He had taken an interest in her. Odd. Most males sought protection within established houses, or conspired to rise within their own. She was houseless. Her ownership of the Dark Lake Consortium her only asset, and the secrets of that organization kept within the mind of Yezhes who served her with unswerving devotion. She did not even profit from it, telling Yezhes to return any funds into the business until such a time came that the financing was necessary for another purpose. She still lived in an inn, paying from her own purse. Such humble means served to keep her out of the attention of most, though apparently not all.
I would be the worst kind of fool to ignore his offer, she thought. And I would loose more than I wish to. What would I gain? The answer lay in the discussion she’d had with him, the semblance of an alliance between herself and Duskryn, without the annoying requirement of dancing to their tune. There would also be the bonus of the male himself, one who many high priestesses and matrons within the city watched carefully. One of his position would wish to be Patron of the house she planned for her future. How to control him? With his experience he would be able to wrap me so tightly in my own webs with one hand that I could not see what he intricacies he weaves with the other. He has already proven how clever he is for a male. So I have to try and be more clever. Itasha sighed, idly rubbing her cheek, dried blood flaking off. Then a thought occurred to her, a mischievous grin tugging her lips. She pulled the pitch black object out of her pouch, stroking the brilliant gem with her thumb. “He wishes to play a game of subterfuge?” she whispered softly to the darkness. “He will have his game of subterfuge…” A soft chuckle escaped her lips. “And I know I will certainly enjoy myself as a result.”
Slowly the priestess rose, making her way back to the city, ignoring the guards who looked at her closely for signs of injury before turning their gaze to the next traveler. It was time for a bath, then a message to be sent to the Elderboy. They would meet again, this time on her terms.
Halfway through the next cycle of the Narbondel, a scroll case, sealed with a small rune glowing with purple fire, was delivered into the hands of the guards of the Duskryn Compound for delivery to the Elderboy. The rune went dark when the case was placed in Sorn’s hand. Within was a small piece of parchment, its words written in black ink by a familiar feminine hand.
Out in the wilds, a twisting tunnel that ends
Suddenly. Privately conversation will begin.
A pile of bones with ghostly former inhabitant.
She waits in quiet prayer for Blade Magic’s return.
Several cycles later, Itasha descended the stairs into Ilitree’s common room to see her “Shadow” seated at a table there. A small smile played across her lips as she signed for him to follow. She led the way out of the city and into that favorite side tunnel, stretching languidly before curling up to lean against the wall of the tunnel. The rogue watched her closely, uncertain of her mellow mood, before verifying their safety. Certain they had not been followed, he returned his regard to the priestess who had been watching him with a smirk.
I have summoned you to tell you about a change to our little... "family". her fingers flashed in sign, a smug little smile on her face.
Truly? he questioned, and at her nod added, What is occurring priestess?
It has come to my attention that you, Idtah and Yezhes will be targets as long as you carry no house name. she began, sitting up a little straighter as she got down to business.
It has seemed that way...yes, from Faen Tlabbar you believe, or from others.
Itasha shrugged. From any who wish to weaken me. The male nodded. Which for now are not many, though our activities will not remain unknown for much longer. Taking a deep breath, she added, I have begun drafting my petition to the Council for House status.
What must be done to ‘petition’? he asked.
I will concern myself with that, she told him, before grinning impishly as she imparted her next bit of news. Sorn Duskryn will be taking the position of Patron. She shifted, her posture and attitude relaxed.
An excellent choice, Nilan signed. Considering things... The priestess arched a slender eyebrow. I mean only that it appears he shares no alliance with those that oppose you currently.
You will keep this information to yourself, she instructed, moving to fold her legs under her. I will attend to telling Yezhes and Idtah the situation.
Nilan nodded respectfully. Of course, as you command Priestess.
Her jovial expression sobering, Itasha’s crimson gaze pierced the male. I should not have to stress the precariousness of this situation... it would be easy for anyone learning of my intent to attempt to wipe out the rival house before it begins. There was an attempt on Idtah recently, and someone attempted to negotiate for my disposal.
Rising gracefully to her feet, she studied Nilan thoughtfully, adding her voice to her warning. “We are all in a precarious situation. Now I must go. It seems I am regarded more closely than I first thought, and a long absence will be noted, with those watching me trying to find out why.”
I had hoped that as your servant you’d offer me protection should things go gravely worse. Nilan commented.
She snorted inelegantly. It is your back, protect it as best as you can until I can get the armor fitted for all of us. and with a quiet word, she vanished.