Added August 15, 1999
Category: Fantasy/Dark Elf
Author: Lledrith RavenWolf

Homeland - Rewritten

DISCLAIMER : This story has been written for my own, and hopefully your own, personal satisfaction. Most of the characters belong to R.A. Salvatore, and it's quite obvious which would belong to me. Now, after this weird disclaimer, I shall begin.


Prelude

Part 1: 'Do'Urden
Chapter 1: Twins
Chapter 2: Vierna
Chapter 3: Page Prince
Chapter 4: Festival of the Founding
Chapter 5: "Hello, Master Zaknafein"

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Prelude

The Underdark. No name in the Realms inspires such fear, such mystery as this, the lightless world below the surface. Home to a myriad of creatures that see in another side of light, monsters and others creatures, good and evil, large and small.

Of all the monstrous creatures, one stands out, the drow. Dark elves, that banded together under the overseeing goddess Lloth, Spider Queen of Chaos, they build the greatest cities of the Underdark, learn the greatest sides of magic and wizardry.

Menzoberranzan is but one of the smaller cities in the whole of Lloth's world of deceit and ambition, home to only twenty thousand dark elves, twenty thousand slaves to the Spider Queen. Blind and devoted to her every whim, their only thought her double-edged favor.

There is no such thing as 'love' in this world, only ambition. Everything they do is to gain favor in Lloth's eyes. Empathy and such are weaknesses, therefore are suppressed and destroyed.

The children of the drow, innocent, pure, are quickly tarnished in this dark society. Sometimes parts of their purity are missed in the relentless hammering of false precepts by the Masters of the Academy in the children's schooling.

To their own demise, for the children would sooner or later slip up. Become exposed, for the deadly punishment of drow 'justice', death or torture, or the life as a 'drider', the largest punishment for the drow elves, transformation into a half-drow, half-spider. Such is the life in this place.

Those who manage to retain their hearts against the corruption around them grow bitter, suicides happen in which the victim takes as much care as possible to get rid of his body, such that it would not be resurrected by the evil priestesses, for their torture. This then, is the drow world. Enter it, and judge it for yourself.


Part 1: 'Do'Urden

Chapter 1: Twins

Zaknafein, weapon master of House Do'Urden, walked swiftly back to the small audience chamber of the house, standing respectfully outside the arched entrance, his whip and swords back at his side, his ebony skin showing no sweat for his efforts of the successful night raid.

Matron Malice, exhausted by her efforts in the small war, nodded curtly at the mere male, and Zak respectfully walked to his customary corner, covertly eyeing the two bundles held by Briza and Maya. "We have all done well this night. Lloth will be pleased," Malice said.

She gave the next entering member of the house, Dinin, a hard glance. "Due to the death of Nalfein, I pronounce Dinin Elderboy of House Do'Urden." She said icily. Dinin gave her a cocky smile, that quickly quenched itself in the light of his matron's obvious ire. Matron Malice contented herself with a final glare at the new Elderboy, then slumped back into her throne, nodding at Briza.

Briza held up the bundle that she was carrying, carefully pulling back the hood, to reveal a white-haired head. "Quetzal Do'Urden, newest daughter of House Daermon N'a'shezbaernon, Ninth House of Menzoberranzan," she intoned, using the formal reference to House Do'Urden.

The nobles present smirked, the three eldest sisters Briza, Maya and Vierna, as did the three males, including Rizzen, the current Patron to Matron Malice, the female head of the house.

The tenth house had risen to the ninth place by a successful conquering of the Fourth House DeVir, under the leadership of Matron Ginafae. She had fallen out of favor, and the tenth house had taken notice. To the ultimate demise of the fourth house, literally. No nobles had been left alive.

Maya held up her bundle. "Drizzt Do'Urden, newest son of House Do'Urden, twin to Quetzal Do'Urden," she said.

Zak idly noticed that the full, formal proclamation of the male child had not been given, contrary to that of the female. However, that was hardly surprising. Females were more highly held in the eyes of Lloth, and were considered superior.

"They have been given to Vierna, who will be their wean-mother." Malice said from the throne. Vierna sighed inwardly. She had already heard this announcement privately earlier, and she knew her heavy task, especially that of raising the female child.

Vierna glanced reflexively at the bundles, again feeling that sense of awe as she met the children's eyes. Lavender they were, but the children were not blind.

"Another high priestess for the House," Briza was saying with satisfaction, with a vile smile at the female child.

Matron Malice nodded, sharing her daughter's satisfaction, though she knew she would probably not bear any more children.

She was already in her fifth century of life, and the children had come as a surprise to her, especially the fact that they were twins, something unheard of in Menzoberranzan, at least.

Everything seemed to be working out. With Nalfein gone, the new boy would make another wizard, and the girl another cleric. All for the gain of the House. With a faint smile, Malice slipped into slumber, of dreams of heightening power and light in her goddess' eyes.

Alton DeVir nearly gagged when he glanced into the mirror. His face was now a featureless surface, a blank, glowing spot of white and green slime.

He had passed out from the actual pain, now it was simply a burning, aching sensation, dulled by a potion he had taken, a salve of the Faceless One.

It did, however, resemble the Faceless One perfectly, and Alton almost laughed when he wondered how many Faceless Ones there had actually been. For the drow, sacrificing one's face for the title of Master of the Academy was not such a big loss.

Behind him, he could see Masoj's doubtful face, and he turned abruptly, swirling his Master's robes. "It is perfect," he remarked emotionlessly.

Masoj shifted uncomfortably. He was already considering the depth of what he had done, murdering his brother, to become the Elderboy of his house, House Hun'ett. This one, this one was unpredictable, and would probably not be of much use to him.

Masoj had seen many who had fallen to revenge's claws, and Alton DeVir, the new Faceless One, seemed to be sinking fast.

He had saved the buffoon Alton's life from his brother, Gelroos Hun'ett, as his brother had been instructed to kill by Hun'ett's Matron Mother, and also the request of House Do'Urden, the deciding factor in the extinguishing of House DeVir.

A brilliant move, he would believe, for none of Alton's family survived. House Do'Urden was now the ninth house, one step from the ruling council, and those houses higher up would do well to watch its ascent.

Masoj knew that House Do'Urden was the killing house now, when he went out briefly after Alton had recovered. He knew, but would not tell Alton, not until he saw some gain in it. He had no doubt Alton would try to destroy House Do'Urden himself.

Like the idiot he was.

Again, Masoj told himself not to use the magical figurine he had in his pocket on the wizard, retelling himself of the benefits of such an alliance with a Master of Sorcere.

The babes had finally stopped their wailing, sleeping peacefully together in a cradle made for one child only. Matron Malice was troubled by that.

The twins were showing a few traits already of some of the twins of yore, one of the small details the drow elves had of the surface world. Some twins, apparently, were 'bonded' together from birth, and would not separate for the rest of their lives. These shared a great link to each other, able to finish each other's sentences.

And they would not feel comfortable being separated. Well, Malice thought , she would just have to fix that. But it would seem to be a good point for the children to have this bond. Quetzal would have a permanent guardian and protector, as would Drizzt. A cleric and a wizard make a good combination, especially if they work together.

Most wizards, Malice admitted, disliked clerics.

The twins had cried unceasingly until they had been put together. Normally, she would not have cared, would have left them until they stopped. There was no room for sympathy in the drow society. However, these two would probably be the last children she would ever bear, and they were thus very important. Malice did not know whether crying without stopping had any negative effects on infants, but she did not wish to find out. Not with these two.

There was an aura of contented serenity around the two drow children as they slept, their breathing regular, sharing a blanket and a soft pillow.

Malice frowned as she considered what the children may become in future. Keeping the real fact of the two children's father from all of the House for the moment, she hoped to avert an upsurge of the battles she and Zaknafein had fought over Vierna.

With two children at stake now, her troublesome weapon master would undoubtedly think of new ways to thwart her, never openly, always subtly. He had nearly won the last time, only her open threats had kept him silent from more protests about sending Vierna to the academy.

Malice did not really wish to carry out the threats. Zaknafein was very useful to her, both in battle, training, and in bed. She would not like to have to kill him.

Now that he thought that Rizzen was the father of the twins, he would not bother to start another series of rebellions.

She could only hope that he would not find out the true identity of the children until they had entered the Academy.

Abruptly, she turned around with dangerous grace, striding out of the door without a backward glance at the common clerics minding the children, her mind returning to other, less troubling thoughts once out of the small chamber.

No retaliation had come from Menzoberranzan's ruling council of eight. Matron Malice concluded smugly that the raid had been totally successful, with no noble survivors to tell their tale. Already the fifty or so absorbed DeVir soldiers were doing well, having passed all the tests to their loyalty completely, as she knew they would.

Of the fifty, nearly ten were magic users, to the good of House Do'Urden. Content that her house was doing well, she headed back to her chamber where she had commanded her daughters to go earlier, such that they could think of more plans to raise the House in the eyes of the Spider Queen.

They would have to lie low for a few months, until DeVir became virtually forgotten. Then they could strike again, but they would have to bide their time until they saw another opening.

"Daermon N'a'shezbaernon, Eight House of Menzoberranzan!" Malice intoned to herself. She liked the sound of that.

Four cycles later, or four days later, Matron Malice was invited to House Baenre, the ruling house of Menzoberranzan.

When she returned, with her face glowing an angry red, storming into her chambers, the members of House Do'Urden knew better than to investigate.

Zak could only conclude that Matron Baenre had bared her power in front of Malice, to show her not to get too ambitious, but she should also have congratulated Malice on the coup. Matron Malice hated the arrogance of superiors, hated the idea of having superiors in the first place.

If Malice lived long enough, Zak knew, she would probably get to become at least the second House, and scheme against the first house itself. Zaknafein knew that Matron Malice had that potential. Secretly, he hoped otherwise.

Barking orders for the troops to get back into their former positions, he stepped back into the front of the courtyard, his swords drawn, leading the warriors of House Do'Urden in another training drill.

This was in full view of the quarters where the fifty or so drow elves from the former House DeVir were kept. Matron Malice had always believed in such tactics.

Zaknafein led the deadly dance of weapons in his usual magnificence, the drill so familiar to him that his hands and feet moved automatically even before his mind told them what to do.

This drill was for the sake of warming up. Then he would select another warrior from the group to fight against, schooling the rest of the troops in the process, as was his wont when he had no private students of Do'Urden to teach.

Actually he did prefer private sessions in the training gym of the house. Although more tiring, it was more exhilarating. Except when he had been teaching Briza. He had to constantly remind her subtly that even though he was a male, and striking at her, the schooling had only been teaching.

He hated that one. Zak had many opportunities to sink his blades into Briza during the training period, but had desisted to good sense. He shuddered to think of what would have happened if he had succumbed to the impulses.

His blades whirred into the final step of the sequence, when they crossed over each other, then flipped up, a favorite offensive motion that would take one over or under the opponent's defenses.

Around him, the warriors moved in the appropriate motions, those with swords copying his move perfectly, those with other weapons doing their version of the stroke.

Zak stopped, as did the rest, the group unmoving as he scanned their faces for a likely opponent. He motioned to one with a sword.

The warrior quickly stepped out of the group, two swords at the ready, white hair cut in the pattern that marked him as a Do'Urden commoner. His ebon-skinned face hesitant, he looked at the weapon master with slight trepidation. Zaknafein was considered one of the best weapon masters of Menzoberranzan, and the warrior knew he could not hope to defeat him.

Zak nodded curtly to signal the beginning of the bout, the other warriors sitting down to watch. Slowly he circled his opponent, his mouth tilting upwards slightly in a vicious grin.

This, he understood. Not the countless spinning of half truths and lies of Lloth's priestesses, not the myriad plots of Matron Malice and her daughters.

Only the rhythm of steel meeting steel, the deadly dance of his swords, did Zaknafein truly comprehend, did he truly feel a certain serenity. Only in this could he safely lose himself.

Thus he spent most of his time practicing, whether with the soldiers or by himself, in the adamantite cocoon of swords and the other weapons, resulting in him becoming the paramount warrior of Menzoberranzan. It was not pride, but pure truth.

One of those precious 'truths' in his dark world. Zak often wished he could go out to the Underdark, or do something to escape this lie that was his life. He could not find the willpower. In the Underdark, was a sure death; here he could at least eke out a living, miserable as it was.

He would continue his work. With this last thought, that had occurred to him every time he considered his existence, he went into offensive with a barrage of gleaming adamantite, flicking expertly into the created holes of his opponent.

That was what the drow lacked – passion. They could only fight like machines, and thus could learn and perfect skills, but would hardly ever, if in battle with a better, win through the quick spurring of inner strength, that Zak had. His anger at Menzoberranzan and all it signified to him, drove him quickly past his opponent's defense, finding holes where there weren't any.

Bleeding from many places, one sword smacked away, the opponent dropped his gaze to the floor, and stepped back. "I yield," he said clearly but quietly.

Zak nodded curtly. "Next," he said, pointing at another unlucky drow warrior, as the defeated one collected his swords, feeling relieved at not being executed, as what some weapon masters would do.

Vierna glanced sourly at the two infants. She knew she only had a short time more before she would be proclaimed a high priestess normally, but this... this ten year task would lengthen her graduation.

For some innate reason, Vierna could not stand the idea of Maya attaining the rank of high priestess before her. Perhaps it was the thought that Maya would get the idea that she was better than Vierna.

She sighed, then brightened up as she saw a possible way out of her predicament. Infants did not need much in the way of looking after, and she could study in front of them while pretending to be their watchful guardians.

Quickly she took out the book she had been studying before the raid, and began to commit the details to memory, absorbing as much of the contents as possible. The book pulled at her consciousness, and she soon forgot what she was supposed to be doing.

Until Briza strode noisily into the chamber, hard boots clicking on the stone floor. Vierna looked up guiltily, not even bothering to hide the book.

Briza glared at her, then at the book, then back again. "It is good that you are using this time to study," she said finally, even sounding approving.

Vierna nodded, too surprised to even make a sound.

"While the infants sleep, an aspiring priestess should study," Briza said sternly. "However if you neglect your duties..." Briza left it hanging, the snake headed whip on her side writhing even more quickly.

With that threat, the eldest daughter of Matron Malice left the chamber, as abruptly as she had appeared.

Vierna let out a deep breath. High priestess as Briza was, she would not have made such a blatant threat without Malice's approval. This was some headway for Vierna, she now knew that her Matron would approve of her studying, but the consequences of her neglecting her duty would be grave.

Such were the intrigues of a drow House. It was in Malice's best interests to have as many high priestesses as fast as possible. Even though a wean-mother was to devote all her waking hours to the care of the child, or children in this case, Malice obviously wished Vierna to carry out her studies in the meantime.

Perhaps this was not such a bad job after all.

There was something Vierna disliked about Arach-Tinilith, the school for Lloth's clerics, but she could not place her hand on it, nor allow herself to even think about that dislike.

She often found herself questioning the Spider Queen's doctrines, questioning the speeches of the many priestesses at the Academy. Looking back, she realized that the most enjoyable time of her life, was actually training under her father, Zaknafein.

Vierna quickly pulled herself out of these blasphemous thoughts. It was not good for one who aspired to be a priestess to think so. But inadvertently she would always behave like this, and she wondered why. Was it the influence of her rebellious father? Vierna devoutly hoped that when she became a high priestess, she would stop this.

Dinin sat his lizard-mount back to Tier Breche, on silent padded feet, pleased to note that the commoners scurried out of his way more quickly now.

Word had passed on House Do'Urden's successful coup, and the commoners and such were more wary of the ninth house now. The lizard walked on a straight course, different from the one Dinin had taken to Sorcere that night, to tell a participating sorcerer of another house his instructions to kill Alton DeVir.

Apparently it had worked, not a single person having seen Alton since. Dinin had subsequently delivered Malice's salve to the Faceless One, but no reply had been forthcoming.

Dinin did not really care. All he did care about was that his house had advanced in station.

Unsaddling his mount, he walked back into Melee-Magthere, the school for drow warriors. He nodded curtly at the hurried greetings of students who happened in his path, his whip and swords plainly in sight.

The guards greeted him, bowing as he sauntered into the pyramidal, rather plain looking building, compared to the other two schools of the Academy.

Dinin smiled to himself as he ascended the steps to the Master's quarters of the building. A grand Melee was taking place today, and he would be needed soon. Quickly, he went up to the council chambers, where the other masters were congregating to discuss the Melee.

"The rules are the same," Hatch'net, the Master of Lore said when he saw that all the masters were present.

"To win," Dinin mumbled to himself, a cocky smile on his face. He did like watching the grand Melee, although the winners each year were almost always of the eight ruling houses.

He had won some years himself, to the pride of Matron Malice. However, he did wish that the newest son of the house, Drizzt, was it? Would be a fighter, and win a few more laurels for the house.

He supposed that he himself would have less competition if the boy became a mage instead.

A student of Melee-Magthere gave out the wands that would cast the blue light on the losers, Dinin accepting his, then testing it. Hatch'net looked up when he noticed the blue light on the floor, and Dinin hastily switched it off.

Hatch'net gave the cocky Do'Urden Elderboy a hard glance, then gestured for the rest of the masters to follow him to the catwalk above the caverns to watch over the grand Melee.

Dinin walked with the other masters, his hand tight on the rod.

The day's entertainment, had just begun.

***

Chapter 2: Vierna

Narbondel's fire started its upward rise, slowly, lighted by the Archmage Gromph of Menzoberranzan. On the balcony, two figures watched, entranced by the sight.

Drizzt and Quetzal sat on the railing, unconcerned at the sheer drop, unconsciously holding each other's hands.

The two drow children were a contrast to each other. Drizzt's naked back showed scars of their wean mother Vierna's snake-headed whip, while Quetzal wore a small version of a cleric's robe, plain but serviceable, and the house piwafwi, shot with streaks of purple and red.

Other than that, their faces were startlingly similar, as if two replicas of each other separated only by their sex.

Their small faces wore alike smiles, innocent and unblemished as they sat on the carved railing, their feet hanging out over the side as they watched the evil city's version of a time clock.

"On one," Drizzt said quietly, in a childish voice, as their eyes tracked the progress of the clock.

"Two," Quetzal continued just as softly, their voices so close that it sounded like a complete sentence.

"Three!" the drow children scrambled off the railing of the balcony, half falling, half levitating to the ground, then scrambling to the Do'Urden chapel. Vierna would soon awake, and the two of them would have to be ready when she was.

This had become a game to them, sneaking out to watch Narbondel, then racing back to the family chapel for their daily lessons with Vierna.

Or rather, the endless reminders that Lloth's clerics normally taught the drow children. That females were superior to males, that the Spider Queen was sacred to the elves and such.

Drizzt often wondered why his sister treated him so strangely. At times, he would be equal to her, at times she would act superior.

Quetzal was trying to reconcile herself to the rules of Vierna, which seemed very wrong, somehow.

Most of the time, they simply enjoyed each other's company. The twins felt complete, at ease only when they were together, as if they were actually a single being, split into two separate parts.

Nearly breathless, they ran on soft feet into the chapel, waiting quietly for Vierna. Their sister walked in quickly a moment later, her eyes resting on the two.

Drizzt kept his glance on the floor, while Quetzal greeted her sister. Vierna nodded curtly, then motioned for them to sit on a bench.

The twins inwardly groaned. Another eulogy to the Spider Queen, most of which they would not understand. Drizzt and Quetzal had only recently started to understand words, and at a fast pace, but they still did not comprehend most of the tales of Lloth's glory and the glory of her loyal servants.

Nor did they understand why the drow society accepted females as superior to males, but as they were young, they accepted it as fact, without questioning. Vierna understood the value of beating children well, but did not do it frequently. When it did happen, Drizzt often found himself on the receiving end, his sister watching quietly near by, almost in tears, but not quite.

The doctrines were repeated to them so often that they would sometimes wake in their shared room to find that they had been repeating it in their sleep, simultaneously. Then they would smile sheepishly, at each other, and fall back into slumber.

When they finally grasped most of the drow tongue, and could follow commands, Vierna's workload lessened considerably. She began to teach them the drow hand and facial code.

Both Quetzal and Drizzt found this very interesting, spending their time on the railing conversing in the code.

Vierna realized that the two showed much promise, inadvertently teaching them more of the languages. Most of the time, she set Drizzt to cleaning the huge chapel, that held enough seats for the members of House Do'Urden.

Quetzal was not subjected to such chores. She was given books to read, to memorize, then to repeat it word-for-word to Vierna. Often, she would be slapped if her recollections were not perfect.

Quetzal considered her life to be easier than that of her brother's. She would repeat some of the contents to Drizzt when they perched on the railing of the balcony, waiting for Narbondel to light up.

Drizzt would listen attentively to his sister, adding in comments to the context. It was at such times, when they were alone, that they were content.

Vierna found that she did not mind so much being a wean mother now, though she could not devote any more time to studying. The books given to Quetzal to read mostly contained history, and also the rules of becoming a drow priestess.

She could revise that way, Vierna thought to herself. However, Maya could get to be a high priestess before her!

Vierna dismissed that idea. A few more years, and Drizzt would become a page prince, at the age of ten, a noble, and would serve the house equally. If she did not disappoint her Matron, Vierna knew she would be repaid.

Quetzal however, was already ordained a noble from birth, as a daughter of a Matron would be.

"Go up the wall," Vierna ordered Drizzt, "Tend to that statue." She pointed to the statue of a naked drow female about twenty feet from the floor. Drizzt looked up at the statue, confused, as was Quetzal. Drizzt did know the high price of disobedience, and even that of hesitation, and he walked under the statue, looking for his first handhold.

"Not like that," Vierna scolded.

"How?" Quetzal asked for her brother. A mere male child should never question a drow female's orders, but she knew that she could.

Vierna's glance swept over to Quetzal. "You will do it too. Will yourselves up to the gargoyle."

Quetzal's face, and Drizzt's showed a look of confusion.

"The emblem in your neck-purse is an item of considerable magic! The two of you are nobles of the House, and should be able to do this task!" Vierna shouted at them. She still wasn't certain if they were ready for such a task, as levitation was a high manifestation of the innate drow magic. However, the two had shown much promise, and she decided it would not hurt to try.

The Do'Urden emblem heightened the magic. While most drow nobles could only levitate once a day or so, those of Do'Urden could do so repeatedly.

Normally Vierna would not have tried this on any child younger than ten, but the twins had shown much promise. "Put yourself in line under the statue," she explained, "and will yourself to rise."

Quetzal slipped down from the bench, quickly closing her book, to walk over and stand beside her brother, under the statue.

They looked at the statue, then at each other for mutual encouragement. They could feel the vibrations of the emblem now, that Vierna had told them about its magic. Actually they had suspected it had magic before, but it was only their intuition. The twins closed their eyes, trying to attune themselves to the magic of the coin.

A series of deep breaths cleared their minds, and the twins saw the same image of the statue, and their destinations. They felt themselves grow lighter, until only Drizzt's toe was on the ground, though he felt no weight on it, while Quetzal had felt herself lift a small fraction of an inch off the ground.

They looked over at Vierna, faces wearing the same smile of childish delight… then they tumbled into a heap.

"Foolish ones! Try again, a dozen times if you have to, but do it! If the two of you fail…" Vierna put her hand on her snake-headed whip, that started to writhe impatiently.

Quetzal disentangled herself from the unceremonious pile, to stand under the statue, then helped Drizzt up, a move coming so naturally from her, but earning her a glare from Vierna.

Drizzt looked away from Vierna, flashing his twin a quick smile, then they started back to their former positions, feeling the magical energy gather in them. They were not afraid of defeat.

Vierna knew they would eventually succeed. Their minds were sharp, easily equaling any she had every known. The twins were stubborn too… Vierna knew that they would stand under the statue until they fainted from hunger if need be.

Vierna watched them go through a small series of successes and failures, the last one dropping Drizzt down from a height of twenty feet to land heavily on the ground, his sister losing her concentration at about the same time, following his route.

Vierna winced, but was troubled briefly by the sight. The twins were so alike, too uncomfortably alike. What Quetzal learnt, Drizzt would too, and vice versa. As if they were a single entity. She knew that this was troubling Matron Malice too, but on a smaller scale. Perhaps her Matron knew something about the twin pairing that escaped Vierna.

"They are too young for that," came a comment from behind Vierna. She turned to see Briza, wearing her customary scowl.

"Perhaps," Vierna replied carefully, "But I'm not to know until I try."

"Whip them when they fail," Briza said, taking out her six-headed weapon from her belt, letting the snake heads writhe around her face and neck. "Inspiration."

"Put it away," Vierna retorted. "They are mine to rear, and not yours."

"You should watch what you say to a high priestess," Briza warned, and the six snake-heads turned menacingly to Vierna.

"As Matron Malice would watch how you interfere with my tasks," Vierna shot back.

Briza put the whip away, knowing that Vierna's threat carried dire consequences. "You are too soft for such a task. Children should be taught their place in the world, and a male child especially should be disciplined well." Briza then hurriedly left.

Vierna let her elder sister get the last word. Looking back at the twins, now standing under the statue, ready to try again, she decided to stop them. "Enough!" she ordered.

"We will…" Quetzal said.

"-do it!" Drizzt finished.

Another uncomfortable point about them. Vierna liked their determination, but not their tone. Snapping her whip from her belt, she decided to give them a little 'inspiration'.

Drizzt now rapidly worked hard at polishing the statue. They had levitated the full twenty feet this day, Quetzal sitting at the bench memorizing another book.

Vierna could not help but be disappointed when none of them looked back at her to smile at their success. She saw Drizzt now, his hands almost a blur as they worked the brushes. Most clearly, she saw the many heated lines on his back, reminders of their 'inspirational' discussion. The lines also stood out from the cold gray of Quetzal's robes, her piwafwi hung on a bench as she read.

So it continued, the five year relationship, the both of them learning the lessons of drow society while Drizzt endlessly polished the statues, while Quetzal endlessly memorized books.

Vierna's whip sang again many times in those years, mostly to Drizzt's disadvantage. Everything wrong they were taught to blame on the surface elves. Such it was that each time Drizzt, or sometimes Quetzal cried out at the sting of her whip, they cried out for the death of a faerie.

***

Chapter 3: Page Prince

"You are a page prince now," Vierna announced, at the twin's tenth birthday. "You will serve all the members of this house, especially your sister Quetzal."

Drizzt glanced quickly at Quetzal, as she did him, exchanging looks of surprise at the latter piece of information. What was happening now?

They stood in the family chapel, alone but for the three of them. Drizzt and his twin knew that today would signify something important, but did not know what, until now.

Drizzt hoped that being a page prince would mean less servitude.

Vierna finished the rest of the less-than-formal ceremony with relief. She could now continue her studies, as priestesses of Lloth should. However she also wondered at Matron Malice's last instructions. She knew that her Matron wished to cultivate the relationship between the twins, but for what reason?

She shook her head, clearing out the doubts. Matron Malice would tell her why when she wished, and not before.

"The first and foremost rule in your tenure as page prince, is that you may never take your eyes off the floor," Vierna said sternly. "If you do…" Vierna placed her hand on her snake-headed whip.

Drizzt was quick to get the hint, lowering his gaze to his toes, as Vierna continued to lecture the both of them. Quetzal looked at her brother with some concern, then quickly snapped her gaze back to Vierna, as she felt the prickling glare of her older sister burning into her.

Vierna would not hesitate to whip her as well.

Finally, Vierna concluded her lecture, dismissing them with an imperious wave of her hand. The twins half stumbled out of the high door of the chapel, feeling strangely free, their neck-purses jingling against their chests as they raced each other to their small room at the end of the dark stone corridor, Vierna almost forgotten in their excitement.

Quickly Quetzal closed the door, and they bounced on their sparse, plain beds, laughing with sheer delight.

"Finally!" Drizzt crowed.

Quetzal smiled back at him. "No more memorizing!" she laughed, sharing her brother's joy.

The two, on impulse, raised their right hands in a blurring move, to bring their palms together with a hearty clap that lightened their hearts. Their eyes met with impish smiles on their small faces as they reveled in their freedom.

Drizzt immediately remembered, and moved his gaze to the floor.

"Don't," Quetzal said quickly, Drizzt's head looking up without much resistance. His natural reaction was to look at a person while speaking to him or her.

Mostly her, in his early years, as the twins spent most of their time with Vierna. Drizzt seldom saw the other males of the Do'Urden house, only during periods of worship, standing by Vierna's side with his eyes lowered.

"Well," Quetzal continued in an authoritative tone, gaining confidence, "this is my first command of this day."

Drizzt's face immediately darkened, as he recalled the other instructions of Vierna. 'Especially your sister' Vierna had said. Had he lost Quetzal, his best friend?

"You are going to forget all of sister Vierna's teachings when we're alone," Quetzal announced boldly, winking at her twin. "I can't stand having you as a servant."

Drizzt's eyes widened, his face breaking into a smile that nearly touched his ears.

"I don't know why… I mean how males are inferior to females," Drizzt remarked to his twin sister in the drow hand code, sitting on the balcony rail of the house.

Quetzal continued to gaze at Narbondel. "Who says that males are not?" she said, sounding perfectly serious.

Drizzt looked at his sister, one eyebrow upraised in questioning. They did not fear each other's status, in all respects somehow becoming more open, closer to each other.

"However, I do not think it should be this unfair," Quetzal said, Drizzt nodding, struggling for words to express his feelings.

"It seems…" he started hesitantly.

"…Wrong somehow?" Quetzal finished for him.

There was a short, companionable silence, as they saw the dimly glowing heat of the procession ascending to the cold gray stone of Narbondel.

"Perhaps," Drizzt's twin replied. "I am, though, biased in this aspect." They had at the age of ten grasped a lot of the drow tongue, and conversed in adult like language, sounding strange in their childish tones.

Drizzt laughed softly, a comforting, positive sound, even as the first figure in the procession touched Narbondel, the dim glowing fires rising now.

"As am I," Drizzt confessed, Quetzal winking at him.

The rising fire reached the twin's invisible cue mark, the drow elves walking back into the house, Drizzt lowering his gaze to the floor, his sister guiding him.

"Briza" Quetzal suddenly warned, gesturing at the edge of his vision. Sure enough, the hard boots of their malicious eldest sister came into view.

Quetzal immediately greeted Briza courteously, formally, Briza nodding curtly. The tall, round -shouldered drow handed Quetzal a book.

"You are to read the spells that are marked with the red twine with Vierna. It is time for you to learn proper spells befitting a priestess of Lloth." Briza's voice, as usual, sounded like a cross between a primal snarl and a curt order.

Quetzal grasped the book eagerly; her eyes following the alluring symbols and patterns on its leather bound cover. Drizzt felt his gaze going up as if compelled by his twin's excitement, looking up, glancing at the book in Quetzal's hands.

Immediately he realized his mistake. Briza's snake-headed weapon snapped up, the fangs biting into him, raking his back, muscles pulling and stretching painfully as the poisons took their course. He rolled into a ball as the whip beat him into unconsciousness.

Vierna noticed her student looked upset, her eyes slightly red as if from crying. Quetzal read the spells out in faltering tones, her eyes darting now and then to the door.

Briza had commanded her to leave Drizzt lying on the floor, and go to Vierna immediately. Quetzal was compelled to go as she saw the six snake-heads pointing to her, ready to inflict more damage.

What had become of Drizzt? She wondered incessantly, worrying. What if he had died? Quetzal dismissed that last thought. Vierna had whipped Drizzt before, and nothing like that had happened.

"Quetzal," Vierna said warningly, "Concentrate!"

Quetzal's gaze snapped up to her sister's face, almost rebellious, then decided to try and get the lesson over and done with as quickly as possible, reading the spells precisely.

Vierna nodded, and then taught her the myriad gestures and chants that went with each rune of the spells Quetzal had to learn.

She was pleased to see the elven child learning so quickly, no more threats passing her lips now.

The book was a curiosity. Each page contained a rune, or a spell, a small explanation at the side, and the graphic representation, if there were any, near the center. The chants were written at the side. Quetzal was learning the names of the healing spells; those marked with red twine.

She would have enjoyed the lesson more if Drizzt did not hang so in her worrying. The idea of using words to enact her will appealed to her, the chants and gestures fascinating.

"Try it," Vierna ordered, bringing out an injured specimen, a rat, for Quetzal to test her spell on. Quetzal nodded, flipping to the rune that indicated healing.

Her first try was unsuccessful, earning her a slap. Quetzal gritted her teeth, her second try stronger and more precise.

She could feel the energy inside her, draining out, into the rat, the animal's wound healing by itself. Quetzal felt elated, losing her concentration for a small second. Immediately the healing stopped.

"Concentrate!" Vierna shouted at her. "Try again! Try till you succeed! This spell, a mere chant!"

Actually it was more than that, but Vierna wished to experiment on Quetzal's potential. She knew that Quetzal would make a powerful cleric, could feel the immense energy inside Quetzal now as the youngest sister focused it on something.

She could also feel the same emanations from Drizzt. A powerful wizard and cleric would serve House Do'Urden well.

Quetzal started her chant again, carefully pronouncing each word, pushing her excitement to the side of her mind, focusing only on the rat.

Slowly the wounds healed, and Quetzal turned to Vierna with a smile on her small face.

Vierna nodded curtly. "Try not to say it so loud next time. While you practice, it is all right, but not if you are fighting an enemy."

Quetzal's smile faded, though her heart warmed at her sister's unspoken approval. Her elation was dampened as she remembered Drizzt.

Drizzt awoke to find himself back at the shared room, on his bed. He tried to get up, but lay down again as his muscles protested vigorously.

He would not give up though, managing to prop himself up on the cold wall, trying to get some sensation back into his numb legs.

Where was Quetzal? Why did she not come to help him? Drizzt wondered, looking around the room. He felt alone, so alone, even as he recalled that Briza had commanded his sister to go to Vierna.

Something inside him felt selfish for wanting his sister's complete attention, even if it would also earn her a whipping probably worse than that of his.

He gingerly fingered his back, counting the number of slashes, wincing as he did so. This would take him longer to heal, and he had to be back at his tasks already.

His tasks, Drizzt bitterly remembered. At first, he and his sister had believed that they would have freedom after Vierna's tutelage, but that was not so. If anything, his tasks had doubled, and Quetzal had found to her dismay that all the clerics of the house made it a point to give her something to memorize. Especially Briza.

They still could watch Narbondel's fires. That was a comfort to Drizzt, something so simple was yet so fulfilling. There was a certain excitement each time they managed to escape to watch the stone clock of Menzoberranzan, an adrenaline surge for the both of them as the sneaked off into the seldom used balcony to count the minutes until the dimly glowing procession went up to light the fires.

At those times, they spoke lightly about their futures, their aspirations, or Quetzal would memorize something, or Drizzt would recall something of interest he had thought of, or seen.

Perhaps it was this that made his life bearable. He could not understand how Dinin, whom he knew as his elder brother, had survived his servitude as a page prince, or Zaknafein, a mystery to Drizzt, who he had only glimpsed a few times in all his years with Vierna.

Would those times be the same again, now that even his beloved sister seemed to merge into the endless intrigue of his house?

Drizzt sighed. He wondered why no one had come to inform him what his tasks were for they day, but did not care less, moodily considering his situation.

Quetzal nearly ran out of the door of the chapel, careening down the corridor, almost crashing into another figure sauntering up the stone floor.

As it was, the figure deftly caught the drow child before Quetzal barreled into him. "Steady," a calm voice told her.

Quetzal looked up wildly, to see a vaguely familiar face. "Hello Master Zaknafein," she said politely, flushing a little with embarrassment.

"Why are you in such a hurry, child?" Zaknafein asked her, with what looked like a kind smile on his enigmatic face.

Quetzal read lines of bitterness and sorrow in that face, deciding to answer truthfully. "I'm looking to Drizzt,"

"A task for the page prince?" the musical baritone said, almost mocking.

"No," Quetzal grew impatient. What did the weapon master know, anyway? "Why don't you like your life?" she said, an insight coming to her.

The weapon master blinked, then stared at her, Quetzal holding his penetrating gaze. Zak was taken aback by her sudden, blunt observation, not answering.

Quetzal looked longingly down the corridor. "Sorry if I've said anything that you're angry at, but I have to go now." She said in a rush, then smiled at the older drow warrior, running back down the corridor.

Zak looked after the young drow with troubled eyes. Her obvious intelligence, and her smile, was not what he would expect from a child of Rizzen. Suddenly curious, he trailed the child to her room, keeping a safe distance.

Drizzt looked up as the door opened wildly, hinges protesting, his sister coming to an abrupt halt in the small room.

Quetzal glanced at her brother, noting the moody expression on his childish face. "Vierna..." she began.

"Kept you for spell-learning," Drizzt's voice was emotionless.

Quetzal felt suddenly cold. "It was not my fault," she protested.

Drizzt nodded, his face softening, then breaking into a forced smile. "I suppose not. We've discovered a new thing today. Briza still needs whipping,"

"Briza always needs whipping," Quetzal replied, climbing onto Drizzt's cot, clutching the spell book. "I have something for you." She announced.

Drizzt looked at her curiously. "What?"

"Face the wall," she said with an impish smile. Shrugging, Drizzt complied, twisting slowly, a look of pain crossing his face.

"A'bryn're'an R'yan'ye," Quetzal sat cross-legged behind Drizzt, her hands dipping up and down in a circle, a pale blue star in a sphere forming directly in front of her hands.

Drizzt looked back, his eyes widening at the display. A healing spell? He smiled a genuine smile then, his heart lightening. His sister was back.

Quetzal was using the same spell as she had on the rat, the book open on her lap as her brow furrowed in concentration.

Zak poked his head into the room at the sound of the healing spell, his head still ringing with the words of the twins.

He would not have believed that one of Rizzen's scions would insult Briza, still feeling the urge to laugh out loud.

Neither would he have believed that a child of Rizzen would help one another willingly. He could not discern any ulterior motives behind Quetzal's acts, and they sounded as if they actually were loving siblings.

Strange, most strange. Even the healing spell was part of their mystery. He had never heard of any cleric using such a spell at so young an age.

He continued to watch, as the pale star in the sphere started to revolve like a spinning wheel, a spiraling mist forming around the sphere. The last words were said, and the sphere blasted out, entering the page prince's - his name was Drizzt, wasn't it? – body, the young boy glowing with magical energy.

The twin sister's shoulders slumped in exhaustion, but the other's wounds healed quickly, the ends joining up, even the scars disappearing.

Zak quickly ducked out of sight as the boy turned around with a wide smile on his face.

Quetzal returned the smile. "It worked," she said, rather surprised.

Drizzt raised an eyebrow. "You mean it..."

"Well the last time I tried it was with Vierna and a rat," Quetzal answered, grinning at Drizzt's look of mock outrage.

"I was an experiment?" Drizzt protested, though the smile remained in his eyes.

"A good experiment," Quetzal said seriously. The both of them laughed, then fell silent, sharing that moment of quiet contentment.

"Coming?" Drizzt invited, sliding off the bed onto the cold floor.

"Sure," Quetzal replied, picking up her book.

Unconsciously holding hands, they walked towards the door of their small room. This room resembled a cell, the only furniture taking up most of the space – two small cots and a tiny table between, that looked as if it were a stone chair without a supporting back. A glowing sphere of dim light hung from the top of the low ceiling, the most ostentatious thing in the entire room.

Small and cramped as it was, this room was the only one in House Do'Urden that felt cozy to the children. It was their refuge, their other sanctuary in the harsh house, the other being their balcony.

Zak pretended to be walking back, scuffling some dirt over the tell-tale heat patterns that he had left on the floor, that would be visible to the infravision of the two children.

He nodded absently at Quetzal, who gave him a suspicious look, then continued to lead her brother out, Drizzt's gaze firmly on the floor.

Quetzal wondered how the weapon master was so quick as to finish his business in this area, and walk back just as they were exiting their room.

Drizzt looked back over his shoulder after Zak had passed, and thought that Zak was the most impressive drow he had seen, with his easy warrior's gait, the finely crafted chain mail and piwafwi, soft boots making not a sound on the cold floor. Most of all were the two swords hanging by his side, in the well-worn scabbards encrusted with jewels.

Drizzt hoped that he would be able to wear the same things one day, trying to imitate the weapon master's graceful strides, even as Quetzal snickered, understanding his intent.

Drizzt made a face at his sister. Quetzal put her hand on her mouth, to prevent herself from bursting into laughter, which would inadvertently attract the attention of Briza.

"Page prince!" they heard Vierna shout, after they had wandered further into the house. Quetzal looked at Drizzt, who shrugged, and they walked briskly to the source of the voice, together.

***

Chapter 4: Festival of the Founding

"Page prince!" Vierna's voice was clearly heard even where the twins were attempting to stay away from all the preparations being made for one of the most important festivals of Lloth, the Festival of the Founding.

With a sigh, they went briskly to where their sister was standing impatiently. Vierna held out a bent spoon to Drizzt.

"A fungus has grown on the walls of the feast hall since it had last been used. Briza wants you to clean it up, using this," she said, in curt tones.

"This?" Drizzt groaned, looking at the spoon. It would take forever to take off fungus with a mere bent spoon.

"Expect fifty lashes of the whip for every speck of fungus I find on the walls!" Vierna shouted, in overloud tones. Then she bent down to the twins.

"I have placed a spell on sharpness on the spoon, so that your task will not be so bad, little brother," Vierna said in low tones. "Your sister," she paused, producing another spoon, giving it to Quetzal.

"However, if I find that you tell anyone of this, I will whip you until your skin peels away like a rothe-hide coat." Vierna said the last threateningly, then swept off in a swirl of black and purple.

The twins shivered. They knew that Vierna would seriously carry out her threat, if need be. Excitedly, they tested the edges of their sharpened spoons, then ran to the feast hall.

Drizzt groaned again as he caught sight of their task. The hall was huge, only slightly smaller than the family chapel, and the walls were covered in thick, sickly looking green fungus.

Quetzal walked up to the nearest wall, scraping her spoon against the fungus tentatively. They watched in astonishment and delight as a large slab of fungus shriveled and peeled away.

Laughing, Drizzt levitated up the wall, twirling and slashing at the fungus. More and more peeled away, as it became a game for the both of them, their spoons whirling into the fungus, angling just out from the hard stone.

After what seemed only a short time, the both of them sank back to the floor, tired but happy, surveying their handiwork. Not a speck of fungus dotted the smooth onyx surface.

Matron Malice sunk in her chair, her eyes burning with suppressed rage, even Briza keeping a safe distance from her volatile temper.

Zaknafein had disobeyed her for the last time. She had told him to get the Dagger of Menzoberra, the founder of Menzoberranzan, but he had disobeyed, throwing the dagger down into the fires of Narbondel. Thus he had to be punished, and she had sent him away to be a drider.

The sentence may have been harsh, but she had to ensure that she had lost none of Lloth's favor. Zaknafein had committed sacrilege. He could not be allowed to live.

Now she sat in her chair, turning the circumstances over and over again in her mind, trying to see if what she had done would have affected the house in any way. House Do'Urden, in doing this, had gained no ground, but lost none either. Still, she felt as though she had lost something, something precious, that sense of loss and regret boring into her. Quickly, she pushed the feeling away. Zaknafein was gone, and he would stay so.

They knew they shouldn't be here. Briza had given Drizzt the task of polishing every doorknob in the house, and Quetzal the equally daunting task of memorizing every healing spell in her book.

She hadn't said anything about Quetzal helping Drizzt and memorizing at the same time. Nor anything about them opening any of the doorknobs.

The door clicked shut behind them, too late to turn back.

Quetzal turned to Drizzt. "Since we've already earned a whipping..." she signaled in the drow code.

"We might as well look around," Drizzt agreed.

For a moment they enjoyed the silence of the small antechamber. They did not know what drew them to this door. Perhaps it was the fact that although most of the doors in House Do'Urden were grand and ornate, this one was drab, sitting in a seldom-trod path, so plain that it had almost been overlooked.

Quetzal had buffed it a few more times, and it clicked open, so they decided to take a look inside, a short, well-deserved rest after polishing a hundred or so doorknobs together.

Looking around, they felt slightly disappointed. The room was empty except for a few broken chairs and rotting tapestries. Quetzal reached for the doorknob. If they could get out unnoticed, perhaps they would not receive a beating after all.

Drizzt held her shoulder, noticing something unusual. The walls were all speckled with mold, except for a small circle in the center of the wall to his left. Drizzt frowned. That did not make sense. Mold grew on any undisturbed surface, unless...

Quetzal got his intent, and walked over to the wall, examining the circle. Drizzt was less restrained, lifting his hand and pressing the circle.

The floor dropped out beneath them, and they tried to levitate, but were too slow, landing on a clinking surface. Their eyes widened. They had landed on coins, a pile of adamantite coins. Looking up, Quetzal saw that the exit was only a dozen feet up, easy to escape. But first...

Drizzt pulled her to her feet. A gasp escaped their lips as their identical lavender eyes looked over the rest of the chamber, making out cool shapes wrought of splendid jewels, running their hands over many priceless treasures. Excitement rose in their chests – this was the house's treasure chamber!

They did not doubt that if their mother or sisters found them here, they would receive the worst beating of their lives.

"Should we leave?" Quetzal signaled.

Drizzt shook his head. It was too fascinating, a factor that was lacking in his life as a page prince. Quetzal swept up a robe, tingling with magical energy, strutting around, while Drizzt snorted, picking up a pale sword in return.

A glint caught their eyes, their items dropping to the floor as they approached. A bowl of beaten gold sat on a marble pedestal, its glow beckoning. Drizzt reached over, touching the rim, and there was a sound of rushing water as pure water flowed from no apparent source into the bowl.

They bent over the bowl, seeing only their own reflections, then the color of the water darkened to a deepest black. A sound of fear escaped the twin's throats, but they could not look away.

A series of images came into the bowl, their mother speaking to their sisters, Narbondel, along with many more that they did not understand.

"A scrying bowl." Quetzal named the device.

"Show me something important," Drizzt demanded gripping the rim, and the bowl immediately darkened to a deep, painful black. The black suddenly shifted into flames, and they saw a beautiful dagger lying on what looked like a stone step, a purple gem winking from its hilt.

It looked so real, that Drizzt put his hand in unthinkingly, grasping the hilt of the dagger. He let out a yelp of pain at the heat of the dagger, but it cooled in the water of the bowl.

The twins exchanged looks, then glanced at the dagger. The look plainly said, "What have we done?"

"That's yours, so it's my turn." Quetzal said. Her brother's jaw dropped.

"Haven't we had enough trouble for one day?" Drizzt asked, but his sister had already gripped the rim and gone through his actions.

The waters darkened into the same, painful black, then showed another opulent room, a silvery instrument of pure mithril lying on a crystal shelf, with a small tome next to it.

Quetzal looked at her brother. Drizzt looked at her, then shrugged.

His sister plunged her hand into the water, taking out the instrument and the book. The scrying bowl cleared back to show another series of images, but the two of them had hurriedly levitated back out of the place, pressing the circle to close the trap door, then quickly getting out of the room.

Gromph, Archmage of Menzoberranzan, walked out of his bedroom, stretching contentedly. His face was that of a young drow, but in reality Gromph was perhaps the oldest male drow in Menzoberranzan.

And also one of the most important, as it was he who lighted the fires of Narbondel each day. This prestige allowed him to choose his consorts, a 'luxury' that only he could afford.

Except perhaps, the troublesome mercenary leader of the strongest houseless band in Menzoberranzan, Jarlaxle of Bregan D'aerthe. The outrageous houseless rouge had formed the band by himself, from scratch, without even a single house to support him. That fact Gromph could appreciate, he himself knowing how hard it was for a mere male to advance in the matriarchal society of Menzoberranzan.

His jaw hardened as he thought of his status.

From his lofty perch as Archmage of the city, he could see how much further he could have gone, if he had only been female.

Thus he was not overtly fond of Lloth, his evil goddess. Thus he had created the magnificent illusion in House Baenre's chapel, to allow his mother to ignore the rest of his less-than-pious deeds.

He did know that Matron Baenre disapproved of his taking consorts from other houses, but what could she do?

Gromph walked into the chamber of his display room, contentedly reveling in the sight of all his treasures. Like some people collected jewelry, Gromph collected miscellaneous magical items that he had found or stolen from the Underdark, or the many houses in Menzoberranzan.

His most prized possession, the Spider Mask, hung on its customary place of honor, but he immediately discerned that something was missing, as a dragon would know when even a cup was removed from its horde.

Gromph's eyes darkened with rage as he noticed a small compartment was empty. Someone had stolen his flute! Stalking around in absolute fury, the Archmage checked and rechecked his glyphs of warding that secured his chamber.

They had not been touched. Gromph seethed in rage, helpless rage, as he knew he could not do anything about it himself. But he doubted that Matron Baenre would help, considering the flute was 'borrowed' from Baenre's own treasure chamber.

Where was it, where was it? Zak paced the heated stone steps of Narbondel in frustration. He was sure that the dagger would be here. His newfound friend would not have lied to him!

Zak looked around the cold pillars of the stone clock, knowing he had less and less time already. Then he remembered the spider jewel.

Eagerly taking it out and berating himself for not remembering it before, the animated spider crawled on his hand then led him out of Narbondel.

s he raced through the streets, he considered what he had done to deserve this. It had started with Matron Malice giving him the job to retrieve the Dagger of Menzoberra, to receive the Spider Queen's favor.

It was believed that during the Festival of the Founding, Lloth would appear somewhere in the city. If she visited a house, that house would have good fortune and her favor. Thus Matron Malice, wishing to be such a house, had ordered him to retrieve the damned dagger.

He was given a spider jewel, from a yochlol, to retrieve the silly thing. When he had actually grasped the hilt of the dagger, inside Narbondel, he was disgusted that he had risked his life for Lloth's favor, a goddess he hated profoundly.

Thus Zak had hurled the dagger back in the fires, effectively ending Matron Malice's wish of favor. He should have known that Malice would have sent a spy along with him.

She had wasted no time in sentencing him to driderhood, the harshest sentence in Menzoberranzan. A shudder coursed though the ex-weapon master as he remembered the evil place, then a smile replaced that cold feeling as he recalled how he had escaped.

Lloth had lost four high priestesses that day.

Zaknafein owed his escape to Jalyfein, the Spider Mage. Jalyfein had saved him, informed him of his views on Lloth, which were negative due to his horrific disfigurement at the hands of a yochlol. Then he had given Zak a solution, a viable solution, to his life.

Now, if he could only find that dagger...

The house was abuzz with rumors about Matron Baenre's pending visit. Drizzt and Quetzal found shelter in their room, examining their newfound treasures.

The dagger seemed ordinary, except for its ornate hilt and gem, but the instrument felt different. Their hands tingled on contact, and the silvery color was beautiful.

The twins were bent over the tome, reading up on the instrument. The book was about how the instrument could be used, and they felt themselves becoming more and more excited as they read.

It was called a 'flute', and could be played by blowing through the mouthpiece, and pressing onto the various holes.

Drizzt laughed when Quetzal tried, blowing a discordant note. She merely grinned back at him, flipping the pages.

Apparently the book claimed that certain melodies played on the flute were the equivalent of magical spells uttered by mouth. Quetzal felt intrigued by that idea, and was determined to learn the flute.

There were even a few offensive spells, which Briza refused to teach her. Quetzal's smile widened, and even Drizzt felt even more excited at the thought of using such a flute to inflict wizardry spells.

Another discordant note hung jarringly in the air, to peals of elven laughter.

***

Chapter 5: "Hello, Master Zaknafein"

Drizzt held another stack of dishes, the cold metal of the dagger rubbing inside his clothes as he balanced the breakable items, Quetzal's directions more vague now as she read the book on the flute aloud to her brother.

"This combination," Quetzal sang out a few notes, "creates an illusion." She told him.

Drizzt tried to look at the book from his balancing act, Quetzal holding it out to him, allowing him a clearer look.

He only saw a lot of weird black symbols, a dot with a line sticking out of it, sometimes with what looked like a hook at the end, sometimes forming a bridge-like icon with another dot.

Curiously, he looked at Quetzal for an explanation.

"Those dots and lines make up a note," Quetzal explained. She had been reading the book avidly, and understood more about it now.

"Each line signifies a tune," Drizzt's sister recalled from memory.

Drizzt grinned. "So?"

"So they all make up a melody," Quetzal said. "These holes on the flute, if you press them in some patterns, they make a note."

Quetzal took out the flute from her robes, looking around briefly to see that no one was around (especially Briza), then put it to her lips. Drizzt stopped, waiting for his sister to do something.

Quetzal blew out a series of ascending, trilling notes, pure and beautiful, like a silvery waterfall. "That's called a 'scale'," she explained.

"Most of the melodies take a long time to play...I think they'd be rather useless in a real fight," Quetzal admitted. "What did you find out about the dagger?"

They had been testing their plundered goods the last night, after Drizzt's chores, out of Briza's sight and knowledge. Drizzt cocked his head to the side.

"Not much, actually. Only that it seems to be able to cut through everything." Drizzt said, remembering the newest slit in the stones of their room. From Quetzal's wide-eyed look, he guessed that she had noticed the clean cut.

"That's useful," she smiled.

"So is your flute," he replied, with the same smile.

They had decided to hide their 'treasure' from the others in the house, reasoning that it would only arouse more questions about what they did in their spare time, in turn leading to the items being confiscated, in turn leading to more chores, in turn leading to more of Briza.

That last consequence they definitely did not want, so they kept it with them at all times, their heart beating a little faster every time they passed their malicious elder sisters, not even daring to hide the things in their room.

The twins considered the fact that they had not been discovered yet a very good thing indeed. The idea that they had ventured into the treasure room would earn them a mighty beating, but if the others found out that they had also used the scrying bowl...

Determinedly, they swung away from that unpleasant thought, changing the subject.

Talking animatedly, they passed under one of the many archways of House Do'Urden. Drizzt suddenly tripped over something near a heat shadow, the dishes smashing on the floor, with a sound of astonishment from his sister, and one of irritation from himself for being so clumsy.

"Duck!" he heard Quetzal yell from behind him, and he complied automatically, seeing a flash of adamantite hit the stone behind him, seeing two legs in front of him. His mind quickly churned out an answer to his state in a fit of adrenaline, and he rolled to the side, trying to crawl away from his assailant.

A boot lashed out, faster than Drizzt thought possible, pinning him into a prone position. Drizzt refused to give up, struggling, until he felt the tip of a sword touching his neck.

"Turn over," a familiar voice ordered. "Let me see your face. But do it slowly, or you'll lose your head in the process."

Drizzt turned over, his lavender eyes widening as he saw his assailant's face. His mouth opened to greet the other drow. Then his ears picked up a soft, musical sound behind his attacker.

The other drow turned around, one sword upheld, as his keen ears took in the sound. Too late, for Quetzal played the tune ever faster, lashing out with a triumphant note.

A sudden upsurge of unseen energy bodily picked up Drizzt's attacker, slamming him into a wall. Drizzt winced, even as Quetzal ran forward, pulling Drizzt to his feet, then turning to face the dazed drow.

Her eyes widened. "Hello, Master Zaknafein," she said politely, then her face clouded briefly. "Sorry." She admitted, not really truthful.

Zak gingerly picked himself up, wincing as he fingered a bruise on his back. A chuckle rose in his throat. The situation looked very amusing now, as he looked on the guilty looking pair. Walking over to Drizzt, he flipped back the side of the younger drow's piwafwi, exposing the purple gem winking on the dagger hilt. It was the Dagger of Menzoberra.

"Tell me how you got by this. Now," he commanded.

The twins nodded in quick compliance. They spoke of how they accidentally got into the treasure chamber, and found the bowl, and how they had reached into the water first to get the dagger, then the flute. Zak listened with growing amazement. He did not doubt their words. They were not liars, a trait that would cause them, especially Quetzal, great trouble in the drow world.

"Are you..." Drizzt started.

"...Angry with us, Master Zaknafein?" Quetzal finished.

Zak squelched back a sense of wonder at this trait, perhaps the strangest one about the newest Do'Urdens. He looked at their lavender eyes, feeling an urge to reassure them. Impossible as it may seem - these two were Rizzen's scions, after all - they reminded Zak of himself. He knelt down to tell them that everything was going to work out now.

That was when he heard the chittering. Zak jerked his head up, a cold edge of dread slicing into his gut. He had forgotten about the jade spiders.

"What's happening?" Quetzal said, looking at the magically animated monsters, her hand clutching the mithril flute.

"Why are they attacking us?" Drizzt voiced their second question, as they watched, mesmerized, as the long legs clicked on the smooth floor, advancing, their pincers waving.

"They're not attacking us," Zak growled, "It's me they're after. Get back." He drew his sword, one in each hand.

A grim light flashed in their strange purple eyes. "No." Quetzal said calmly.

"We're going to help you," Drizzt confirmed.

Zak stared in astonishment, starting to order the two of them to get back, even if Quetzal was a female, but the chittering increased in volume and tune as the spiders attacked.

Zak was ready for them. He swung his swords in a dizzying pattern, striking on the spiders, even as his swords clanged off them. Even his swords could not bite through enchanted stone, and he lost ground. Drizzt and Quetzal watched, impressed by this display, even as they were pushed towards to archway.

Another chittering, scraping sound behind them alerted the twins to a spider attacking from the rear, lumbering through the archway, right towards them. At its attempt to get at Zaknafein, it would go through the twins.

"Run!" Zaknafein shouted at them.

They held their ground. Quetzal propped her book up against a ledge on the wall, frantically flipping through the alphabetically arranged pages. M: Mace... Madden... Maelstrom...

Drizzt could see that whatever spell his sister was looking for, she would not find it in time, let alone play the spell. He advanced forward, gripping the Dagger of Menzoberra in one hand, the other scooping up a cutlery knife from the broken dishes on the floor, stepping defensively in front of his sister.

With an intent look, he waved the blades at the spider, his moves wild and ineffectual, speaking of his inexperience. The spider simply batted them aside, moving in for the kill, ready to sink its poisoned fangs into Drizzt's flesh.

Quetzal gave her brother a frightened look, then continued her search, her hands moving like a blur. Magic! Magic, Enhancement...

Zak tried to break away from the other spiders, but could not disengage. He could only watch as the third spider lunged in for the kill.

It happened with such speed that Zak did not trust his eyes. Face grim with determination, Drizzt thrust out the knives in a distinctive maneuver, one high, one low, both slightly offset. The higher one descended even as the lower one rose, catching one of the spider's mandibles with them. The Dagger of Menzoberra flashed with violet radiance when it made contact and the mandible crumbled into dust. The spider let out a loud keen of pain, rearing back.

So amazed was Zak that he nearly let down his guard. A leg swiped at him even as he recovered and continued the onslaught, dimly hearing a trilling sound in the background, somewhere. The motion had been crude and clumsy, but there could be no doubt about it.

It was the torque vise. Zak had performed the motion himself a thousand times on his enemies, but how had this young boy, instinctively it seemed, managed to perform the motion?

Then the truth hit Zak. Of course. Why had he not seen it before? The twin's spirit, Drizzt's instinctive skill with weapons, the light of defiance in their strange lavender eyes... Malice had lied to him eleven years ago. The two were no children of Rizzen's.

"My children..." Zak breathed in wonder.

The third jade spider was recovering quickly. Even the Dagger of Menzoberra was not enough to keep back the magically animated monsters for long. The trilling behind him swelled into a piercing note, Zak turning in amazement for the second time that day to see Quetzal, playing her flute.

Why was she playing that instrument of hers, at this time? Zak doubted that the surge of energy that had flung him into the wall would work for long on these tireless monsters.

The third spider suddenly keened again then froze as the complex melody reached its final, almost discordant note, froze into cold stone. Zak blinked. The stone spider did not even radiate magic any more.

"Anti Magic!" Quetzal said triumphantly, Drizzt throwing her a smile of relief as the danger to him disappeared.

Zak launched an attack at the jade spiders, driving them back momentarily. He knew that the flute spell took too long to play, too long for him to keep the jade spiders at bay from the two. He jerked the door back of a side chamber, shoving the surprised twins inside.

"Lock the door!" he shouted at them. "And don't open it until I tell you to!"

They shook their heads in protest. "But we want to help you," Drizzt said.

It was no time to be soft with them, even with the female child. "Do it!" Zak snarled. "That's an order!"

They hung their heads, expressions wounded, then shut the door to the side entrance, the both of them picking up the heavy lock. Zak waited until he heard the bolt slide into place. Satisfied, he turned to face his enemies, the remaining two jade spiders rushing at him as one. A vicious smile spread over his dark visage.

"Come on, you magical vermin," he growled, the spiders obliging.

"Hello, Quetzal and Drizzt," spoke a sultry voice.

Gasping in surprise, they whirled around. At first glance, the chamber seemed empty. Then she walked out of the dark shadows, which unfolded around her. They blinked, realizing they were not as alone as they thought.

She was the most beautiful drow lady they had ever seen. Her skin was as dark as onyx, and her bone-white hair fell in a single lustrous wave down her shoulders. She was wearing a low cut gown that appeared to be made of thick black velvet. Her deep red lips parted into a smile, revealing perfect white teeth. Most remarkable of all were her eyes, which were as lavender as the twin's own.

Muffled but clear, they could hear the sounds of battle raging outside the door. "We should be out there, helping him," Quetzal protested.

"We're going to be warriors one day, you know." Drizzt finished. They had 'decided' this earlier on, with the pure belief of children that if would be fulfilled.

The lady laughed - a sparkling waterfall, a beautiful sound. "One of you, yes. But your place is here right now, Dagger Bearer."

Quetzal looked at Drizzt, who glanced in turn at the dagger he was holding in his small hand. Its purple gem winked back like a secret eye. He looked back up at the drow lady.

"How do you know us?" he demanded.

"I know many things," she smiled, a breeze seeming to ripple through the fabric of a ground, like a uniform wave, but they felt no breeze. Then they realized that her gown was not made of cloth, but of a thousand small spiders, tightly linked together to form a continuous, living fabric.

They licked their suddenly dry lips. "We're not afraid of spiders, you know." Quetzal said, haltingly.

"Truly? Then come here, Dagger Bearer," Her smile deepened, a perilous expression.

Drizzt found himself complying as she beckoned, drawn by an incredible power, even as Quetzal found she could not move.

"Give the dagger to me," the drow lady said, holding out her hand.

Drizzt felt as though the dagger was yearning, yearning to be out of his hand, to be given to the other female. He hung on to it stubbornly, fighting the manipulating power.

"Why?" He demanded of the drow lady.

A flicker of annoyance seemed to pass through her purple eyes, then she smiled again. The power pressed down, harder, on Drizzt, and he found himself slipping, slipping into the deep purple pools of her eyes.

Quetzal could feel the residue of the power, wanted to scream at Drizzt to fight, to scream at the lady to stop and let her go, but found she could not speak, could not even lift her flute to play a countering spell.

Something was going on, that she could not understand. A sound was playing in her mind, soothing and lulling her, and she recognized it as the drow lady's handiwork. Like Drizzt, she fought valiantly.

"Why?" Drizzt demanded again, his voice now barely a whisper.

The drow lady reached forward with one slender hand. Drizzt wanted to back away from that hand, to run back to Quetzal and slam the door to this chamber, but found he could not.

She cupped his face with that hand, forcing his eyes back to hers. "Matron Malice would be pleased if you give it to me. The dagger belongs to me." She said in a purring voice.

To Drizzt, and Quetzal, the explanation sounded perfectly reasonable, their young, unshielded minds changing to perceive the drow lady as a wondrous sight, and not anything hostile.

Even the battle outside was blocked out, as Drizzt now only saw the Dagger, and the hand of the drow lady.

Slowly but surely, he moved his hand upwards, placing the beautiful dagger on the hand, the jewel winking at him for the last time.

The drow lady laughed again, and the twins could feel her power surge in their minds, giving this time, and not oppressing.

Opening their minds, as if it was a solid thing in a solid place, opening a door from a previously enclosed room, building a passage, a link to another place.

Quetzal suddenly could 'feel' her brother, and he her, they could sense each other's feelings now, clearly, when before it had only been like looking through half murky water, trying to discern the bright ground.

Drizzt? She thought to him, as if it was a perfectly natural thing to do.

Drizzt felt as though Quetzal was speaking to him directly, as if he heard his name spoken in the thick air of the side chamber.

Yes? He replied, also through his mind, feeling the thought zip through the link between his mind, and he knew now, hers.

The drow female had opened a telepathic link between them, Quetzal realized, recalling some of her lessons with Vierna. It seemed permanent, as Quetzal carefully 'felt' around the edges of the link.

Telepathic? Drizzt asked, and Quetzal realized he had read her thoughts, as easily as she could read his.

Mind speaking. It was all the explanation she could offer for the moment, her thoughts giving him all the information he wished to know on the subject, unconsciously even. What power had the drow lady, to create such a thing?

The twins looked at each other in pure astonishment. Then they turned to the drow lady, all restraints on them apparently gone, about to offer her thanks for this gift.

But she was gone, only an empty spot in the shadows where she had been standing, not even a residue of heat marking her place.

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***

Lledrith RavenWolf



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