Nilan sat alone, cloak pulled over his head and wrapped haphazardly about his lithe body. His feet hung dangling over the wooden dock upon which he sat. Sighing heavily, the assassin glanced about him as he considered his current predicament, before once again his gaze settled upon his dangling boots. Three days had passed since he left the Llothite city of Menzoberranzan. He hated it there. He hated everything about the foul place.
Groaning he tore the hood back from his head, revealing a pair of deep crimson orbs that glistened with an unsettling air of burning hatred. Two dwarven miners that worked the dock that bordered Gloomhaven and the path to Dobluth Kyor, were unfortunate enough to meet the drow’s deadly glare. Nilan narrowed his eyes at the pair, almost daring them to make some move in his direction, just to give him a reason, an excuse to kill. The dwarves muttered something unintelligible to the drow, and quickly looked away wanting nothing to do with the obviously angered assassin. Nilan grimaced as he watched them until they faded from his line of sight.
He tore the ring of the Menzoberranzan House he ‘served’ from his finger and tossed it unceremoniously into a velvet pouch. In its place, he retrieved a ring set with a black pearl. It had been his wedding ring, which Deshana had given him when the two married in secret under the Night Sky on the banks of a lake far far to the north of his homeland of Dobluth Kyor. He thought of Deshana, as he absently twirled the ring around his finger, his ire diminishing somewhat. She was helping him, even though he could not be with her. He hoped she would be safe. He loved her. Nilan paused his thoughts, his lips silently speaking the word “love”. It was a word that had no meaning in the society of his people. There was even a time it held no meaning for him. That changed somewhat, and over time the assassin had an understanding of the word. Nilan looked down at the ring and closed his hand into a fist. The black pearl shimmered in the low light coming from the lichen that covered the cavern walls. He thought for a moment before unclenching his hand. Other than Vhaeraun, his faith…Deshana was the only thing in his life he had ever loved. Placing his hand over his heart, he wondered if she knew that.
Suddenly he tore his hand from his chest. The brand upon his chest peeked out beneath his loosely tied tunic. Fearing that Lloth herself would feel his thoughts, he purged them from his mind. He had no desire to place his lover in danger. Cursing he remembered the day he received the foul mark. The Lloth priestess, Itasha had burned the symbol into his flesh as he lay drugged and bound to an altar. So in favor was the priestess that Lloth herself had touched the brand as the scalding iron sizzled against his skin and his screams echoed throughout the chamber of his torture.
Vhaeraun’s High Priest had examined the mark shortly after the assassin had returned to the temple. Nilan recalled the numerous spells of protection the High Priest had cast in an effort to keep Lloth herself from seeing and entering Vhaeraun’s sacred halls. “Do not give Her a reason to look into your soul, Hand of Vhaeraun,” the High Priest had told him. “For if She does, She will know who and what you are, and death will seem like a blessing compared to the agonies She will inflict upon you. You will not like serving as a drider in Her army. You will beg for death, but it will not come! Remember these words…”
Nilan could not forget them. He had been forced to walk his city in disguise, he could not pray at Vhaeraun’s altar unless he was disguised. To enter the temple without such precautions would place Vhaeraun’s sanctuary as well has his people at great risk. Nilan was not about to endanger Vhaeraun’s City in the lands under the Night Sky. The assassin sighed. The weight of his dire situation seemed to surround him. He was walking a thin line in all of this, and he knew it. He wondered how long it would be before the thread snapped and he would be caught in a web that he could not get out of. Nilan shook the thought from his mind. Whatever happened his soul would be safe, for he had given that to Vhaeraun already. The assassin was certain in his faith, so certain was he of the fact that his god would shield him in his shadows. Lloth could never touch him. She had no power over him. His faith was something the SpiderBitch could never take from him. Nilan believed that with all his heart and soul.
Rising to his feet, the assassin painstakingly began to don the disguise of a drow guard. It would enable him to walk in his city, without Lloth’s eyes upon him. Soon, once the ritual was complete, Nilan hoped to be able to walk freely again among his people. He had gathered the necessary components that the High Priest of Vhaeraun needed to finish the spell to hide him from Lloth’s sight. Soon his magic cloak would be completed and he could walk the surface without fearing the touch of the SpiderQueen.
Nilan grinned as he thought of completing his business in Ashstone. Vhaeraun’s interests lied in his ability to work within the ruined city to establish some sort of foothold there for his people. The assassin knew that something sinister lay deep with the ruined city, buried and about to be unleashed. He had tried warning those that he had fought with in the past wars, surface folk mostly, but they rebuked his words as treacherous or unworthy of belief. Nilan thought back on his first few meetings in Ashstone. One such ended in the ‘Lady’ bringing forth a ghost of a drider and attacking him. He made it out of the city, barely, as the captain and his elite watcher almost took him down. Since then, he had spoken to many people regarding his beliefs, but they refused to hear his words. Even those he had thought to be friends demanded more proof or dismissed his words claiming that he was up to something for his own purpose or the purpose of his dark god. He expected as much from the rangers he had spoken too, but the bardess…he had thought her response would be different. He was wrong…
Nilan grimaced, kicking a stone sending it into a puddle of water with a splash. The ‘Lady’ was not as she seemed. He knew that. She was looking for something beneath the rubble, under the guise of clearing it for the building of her new city. Nilan suspected old portals, with access to demon planes, soul binding devices that are capable of trapping souls, and god touched weapons. All played significant roles in the last two battles, the first of which laid Bloodstone to ruin. His recent contact with his old guild master had confirmed some of his beliefs.
The assassin shook his head as he stalked gracefully through the damp cavern. “The surface races are fools,” he muttered as he considered past events. “They will unwittingly bring Ashstone, the very weapons and supplies that will lead to their own destruction.” Nilan couldn’t help but laugh aloud at the irony. Their own hands had destroyed the city of Bloodstone as each one dropped the soul ring they carried into the forge completing the ritual releasing the souls of twelve demons that laid waste to the city. He had done the same, at the point of a sword, when all was already lost. Nilan sighed. He had warned them of this, but they refused to listen. And they would not listen now, the assassin realized. This time he was on his own and he knew it. But this time things would be different. This time sides would change, of that he was certain.
He would assess the situation first, and then do whatever best served his people. Slowly, the drow sauntered down the damp tunnel towards the entrance to his city. ‘Shadow’ gripped tightly in his hand, glowed with an eerie hue, pulsing slightly in the assassin’s grasp.
“So long as Vhaeraun is first served,” Nilan muttered as he ducked into the tunnel that would bring him inside the temple of Dobluth Kyor.
What sounded like an echo whispered through the darkened halls as the sentient blade pulsed each syllable, “So long as Vhaeraun is first served.”
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