Upon entering the house stood Matron Shyntyl. She was in the anteroom talking to Sornhrae, another one of her consorts, and one who had not been given the Kilanatlar noble name. The twins realized they were caught as their mother's face suddenly turned amused and furious at the same time.
"Next time listen before you enter," Zarae signed secretly to her brother.
Matron Shyntyl dismissed Sornhrae and turned to her youngest children as they bowed their heads in respect and faliure.
"Well, what should I do now? You know sneaking out of the compound is forbidden. I am rather amused though. My children are rather resourceful and clever. How did you manage to escape from Zebeycyrl's watch?"
Neither answered. Instead they waited for their punishment that was coming.
"Unfortunately you didn't think too much ahead to not get caught in the first place."
The snake headed whip came down, first on Zarae. The fangs bit in with burning agony and wreaking pain. Then Matron Shyntyl turned and Nilrae felt the sting. His own punishment lasting until he could barely move. Then with no further word, she left the two to think about it.
A lowly half drow entered the room right after the matron left, kneeling down to the two still curled up on the floor. "You are expected to be on time for supper," the servant's soft voice spoke. She had to get them changed and ready within the hour or else the three would be in trouble.
Zarae moved first the pain slowly leaving her. She sat up, seeing Nilrae twitching from pain. The servant helped her to her feet, then moved over to Nilrae. He winched as she touched his shoulder but was unable at the moment to pull back from her.
Nilrae currently curled up on his bed. He wanted so bad to be cursing his mother, but fear of her wrath, and of Lloth's, he instead turned them on himself, for getting caught and on the faerie elves as he had been taught. He grabbed a pillow and tried yanking it in hope of ripping it. Anything to vent his anger on. it too went flying across the room. A soft knock on the door and he paused, his breath heavy and sweat covering his face. Another knock and the door creaked open. A look of confusion was on the half drow's face at the mess. She could only sigh and shake her head.
Zarae paced her room rubbing the back of her neck where one set of fangs sank in. She too was upset; she'd gotten them into trouble- again. Mostly, angry because she'd gotten caught. A few blades were in the dresser, stuck hard and fast. She walked over to her bed, picked up Shade and stared at the stuff toy's eight eyes with an intense glare. "I know Zeb did this. We will get her back!" she declared intently.
Of course Zarae would not let their punishment stop her from getting out. She would just have to become more creative and devious. Shade went back to her bed under the covers as a knock on her door alerted her.
Both the twins were escorted to the dining hall, where everyone else of the immediate family had already gathered. The room was large and divided into two rooms. The first room was bigger and full of small round tables and stone chair where the house workers and non-family members ate. Orange faerie fire covered a small chandelier in the center. Three long murals ran along the wall. Near the divider a statue of a drow female upper half and spider body guarded the entrance to the other half of the dining hall. In the second part was two tables. The smaller one in the furtherst corner round with six stone chairs with red velvet cushions. A 12 foot rectangular table stood in the center. A large plush stone chair covered with purple coverings sat at the end. On the side was eight similar chairs with blue coverings. Soft red faerie fire lined the ceiling in even spaced locations. Two stone spider golems guarded the door to the kitchen.
The males were seated at the round table the females at the other. Matron Shyntyl sat at the head, her face blank as the last two entered. Xullafay and Zebeycyrl closest to her. Myrurra next to Zebeycyrl, Alylin actually home and next to Xullafay. Zarae took her seat, one away from Alylin. Nilrae sat down at the male's table, furthest chair from the matron mother. He said nothing, but his eyes were redder than usual. Neeryrd grinned at the boy's misfortune; word already reached what happened earlier.
kitchen slaves, a male halfling and young half orc female brung out the trays. A ceramic decanter of scalding Kal-da, a drink made of diluted Ka-la-na wine, mixed with lemon juice and stinging spices, and a crystal decanter of Orbb Jhinrae, a dark red surupy sweetly tart beverage made from secretion of sacred spiders, was placed on the table. Each female was handed a crystal glass. The halfling returned to the back with another tray and headed over to the males. A pitcher of Pagar-Sa-Tarna, a spiced fermented brew made from Sa-Tarna grain, and a pitcher of Rence beer. Small ceramic glasses were set before each male.
The half orc began her task setting out the dishes and silverware, first to all the females then to the males. The halfling returned to the back to get the meals ready while the half orc began pouring drinks. The room was rather quiet, not a lot of talk occurring at either table. Zarae's leg bounced as she sat uncomfortable in the large room. Only once a month, a supper was required that they eat together, which also meant being on time. Progress reports were usually the first topic followed by boring conversations on city news, house business, and other things she didn't care about. There was little she could do other than squirm and entertain herself with her imagination. Zebeycyrl many times looked over to the young girl, giving her an evil eye scowl. When the assassin looked away, Zarae would make a secret face at her sister then continue to silently grumble. Matron Shyntyl's elbows on the table, fingers folded together and watched her youngest daughter. Xullafay had begun small talk with Alylin over her business with the rebel group. Myrurra sat gulping down the wine then waited as the slave poured her another glass, joining in the conversation when mention of a trip to Skullport came up in conversation.
Matron Shyntyl sipped her wine, still quiet, but now with a an amused look watching the girl entertain herself.
Then as if multitasking and listening the entire time, "No Myrurra. You will not be going," the matron said casually, "Neither is Zebeycyrl or Alylin to join in. Matron Mae'vir wants her own daughters, no other's."
"What!" came Xullafay, "they exclude our house?" she asked incredulously.
"they are up to something rather underhandly," Myrurra replied, "fearing their place in the city so she must strengthen their position."
"so why was it mentioned in your council meeting?" Alylin asked.
"Rhylaun is to go along with a leading male from the other four. Mae'Vir does not fear the males, underestimating our weapon-master. Besides, Xullafay, you do not like sailing," the matron slyly insulting her daughter.
"Zarae," the matron said firmly, "we will discuss today's incident after supper."
The girl sighed wondering if she could sneak out before the conclusion of dinner.
Conversation at the males table was slightly more relaxed, less business. Sornhrae was doing the most speaking, mostly gossip and dark tales occurring in the city. Rhylaun poured himself another glass of Rence then leaned back in his chair, gloved fingers tapping the table. The conversation naturally turned to Skullport. Rhylaun and Gulhrys, House Mae'Vir house wizard, would be heading a small group on one of the ships to the outpost. Of course, the weaponmaster had plans of his own unknown to any. He would need to meet with a contact from treea dal Har'oloth.
The door opened and several trays were carried out with dishes of hot food. A plate of smoked wingfish, lichen salad, baked Kes, and Marnosk cheese was set before the matron. Plates were set before each female, their dishes each something they enjoyed. Zarae who'd been using her knife to draw on her napkin finally received her meal, her stomach growling as it was set on the table- fried rothe strips with cave fisher sauce and sautéed mushrooms. Zarae tried to wait as long as she could, hoping to draw out supper as long as possible. Another growl of the stomach, she couldn't wait, reaching for the hot piece of meat and dipping it into the red sauce.
Nilrae hated the taste of alcohol but drank what was given. his plate finally set before him, he didn't wait to eat. A plate of steamed mollusk with mushroom flour noodles and rothe cheese sauce. The males all dug into their plates as chatter became the crunching and munching of delicious delicacies. The fork twirled around the noodles and into the hungry boys mouth.
Rhylaun finally broke the silence, "During the next week, Sornhrae, you will stand in my place."
"What? Why him? He does not even wear the Kilanatlar name!" Neeryrd exclaimed.
"I would advise secondboy to watch his tongue and place," Izzmurss spoke, "or else he may find himself shown his place."
Rhylaun, who was not amused at the wizard's intrusion ignored them both and continued, "Nilrae," getting the boys attention, "you are commanded to be up and ready before business hours."
Neeryrd's mouth hung open, Nilrae giving him a smug look before quickly hiding it; but the boy could not hide the excitement in his eyes. Despite how bad today had gone, he was going to get to journey on one of the famed ships of Lith My'Athar!
Velnarin walked the white light lined halls, impressed by the shear amount of subtlety that went into the house's design and architecture. He had been here 5 years and it was a place he could truly call home. Sure part of it looked like any other house in the city; the compound was like any other drow place. A grand hall decorated with random geometric shapes as murals on the walls highlighted with numerous colors of faerie fire greeted any guest, both dwellers of the house and enemies. Carved figures of dancing drow stood beside the fake throne. They had a had a wavy appearance, indicating they were disguised. Gifts from the Dark Maiden, any not of her faith saw only two priestess standing beside a marble chair. The 3 level stone house also had mithril veins enforcing the walls, rooms, a chapel, a dining hall, kitchen, gym, all the basics a house had. But what was different was the complex deeper inside the cavern. A complex that held a couple hundred people of many races- many of the non-drow inhabitant rescued slaves who had stayed. Many of the surface races over time were returned to the Light Above. the classrooms were unique to the studies: magic training, history/religion, and other important school studies. The gyms were rather neutral and the dorms were fitted to the younglings, dived into male and female sections and washrooms and further divided by age categories. Other rooms included teacher rooms, storage, a cafeteria and the grandest room of all. The Cavern of Song, a dome shaped cavern and no illusions effected the carvings. The center held a large statue made in the replica of the Dark Maiden; hands above her head, a sword between them. The statue's hair flowed around her unclad body down to her feet. A beach ball sized whitish blue ball of faerie fire was permanently set above to represent the moon and bath the cavern in its light. It was the closest to the real moon they could get 6 miles underground.
Velnarin turn a corridor coming to a closed door. He rubbed her hands on his black shirt trying to remove any nervousness. He didn't even know why he was. Eva had bring news that Lady Erelae requested to see him as soon as possible. So he stood at her door wondering what she could want. From inside he heard, "come in."
Velnarin entered, stunned by the normalcy of the priestess's room. It was decorated with art, for elves loved art, but it was nothing he imagined it. Not the over rich furniture or expenses in the room. Instead, its walls were decorated in geometric designs that one could imagine a spider shape. Tho to many it would appear as something else. A whitish ball of faerie fire illuminated the room in a soft silvery glow. Lady Erelae sat up from her desk a warm smile on her face as she motioned for him to come on in as she closed the thick tome.
"I assure you, there is nothing sly going on nor any tricks. You may close the door."
He chuckled nervously, but he didn't doubt her words. Walking over twords her he gave a courteous bow then looked into her warm turquoise eyes. Lady Helvighym was as beautiful as a 3rd century drow, even if she had been in her sixth century. her presence warm and peaceful, even if she was always busy.
"Vendui Lady Helvighym, guiding mother of this esteemed house and priestess of the Dark Maiden."
The older drowess rolled her eyes playfully but said nothing of it; "Vendui abbil," her face then showing concern, determination, and a few other emotions Velnarin had not figured out yet. "Sit please," she continued pulling out a chair for him then likewise sitting herself. He did so, eyes not leaving her face. Only in the rebel house could he look a female in the face and not fear for his life.
Straitening herself to begin, "I know you have not been here long. But I asked you because of your expertise and former position within your house. I have a mission for you," she paused to gage his reaction before continuing, "At the 6 hour, a ship is heading to Skullport. As you know our city has an outpost there. What most do not know is a group of fellow believers are there. Ithlyn is a contact. I need you to meet up with her sometime within the time you are there. Every person on that ship will clearly be serving their own house, so you will not be the only one to slip off."
"Why me? Are there not more qualified to do this?"
"Possibly. But I trust your capabilities. This will be an information gathering mission. Simple, but very vital." She stood up and walked over to desk and pulled out a bundle of leather wrapped parchments.
Velnarin seamed to think hard about it; 'trust' that was a word that was rare as sun among the drow. Uncertainly filled him. But when he looked back up to the woman clutching the bundle, he nodded his agreement.
"This is what you will need to get on the ship." handing them to the male, "you will be a low level house soldier of Mae'Vir. These papers will identify you as proof that you belong in the crew."
"And if discovered by my house? Omat must believe the matron's favored son dead? How would it look if he suddenly showed up as a Mae'Vir solider?"
"Only the ruling house are going."
"I do not know how the first thing about a ship."
"If you look, your position, tho lowly, has you as a soldier and you will be below decks most of the time."
"If I get caught. Or worse? What…" he tried to choke back the thoughts, "what if they discover you or this place?" he did not believe he would be strong enough, not like Lady Erelae's daughter had been.
"Lady Silverhair is with you. She will guide you."
Supper nearing its end, the slaves were getting the meals for the rest of the workers prepared. Dessert had been served, Tastas- soft, rounded, succulent candies, usually covered with a coating of syrup or fudge, and molasses. The slave did not place the plate of candy before the girl, the matron not allowing her the treat. Zarae picked at the last strip of rothe and the two mushrooms, peeking a glance back at her mother who was now enjoying her sweet treat along with the other daughters.
"Finish it or it will be taken," the matron finally said in annoyance at the girl's attempted tactics. Zarae sighed and did so.
Hopping off the chair to head out she finished her meal. by now everyone had cleared the room, leaving only Zarae and her mother. The other half of the dining room had become nearly full as drinks were served to each table. Zarae walked solemnly twords the anteroom.
Running free among the city. Laughing as she was chased by her brother. They paused to watch the small fight break out, Zarae and Nilrae betting on a winner. Nilrae won the bet and the two walked off laughing at the after match. The two walked off deciding to visit the navy yard to see one of the magnificent ships. But before getting to far, they stopped off to take a dip in the cold flowing waters.
Then she was in a room full of hundred of colors, most she didn't know what they were. Fabric lining the room to go with the rainbow of light filling the spaces above. Zarae spun in a circle, adding more movements until it became a dance. Her hair flowed around her like a silky cloth, capturing the light and appearing to glow. Her movements became more complex and more elaborate, adding jumps and midair twirls. Cloth between her fingers spun with her and swirled around her lithe and graceful frame.
Or so Zarae imagined as her mother voice continued in the background, mostly unheard by the girl who was stuck in her mind. Somehow she manage to keep her head and eyes forward and remain still. Zarae only picked up a few words here and there. Matron Shyntyl pacing in front of the girl. So distracted the girl didn't notice her mother stop and look at her.
"Nothing to say?" the voice broke thru, a face staring scornfully at her.
"There's not enough color in here," came out before she could stop it.
A slap, not often used by the matron on a female stung the girl's face and knocking her to the ground. The matron rubbed her temples in frustration, Zarae staying on the ground, not looking up.
"get up and act like my dalhari!"
The girl bit back, wisely so, a retort she had. Slowly standing to her feet as the mark on her face showed up. she bowed her head, her now dark bluish eyes didn't hold the lively flame usually there. For once the matron had no idea what to do. Never had she had a daughter such as the girl before her. The girl was creative, clever, even resourceful, but she had still yet to learn her place.
"Get out of my sight."
Zarae didn't waste any time, and was out as fast as she could move. Zebeycyrl was summoned in shortly after into the chamber. The look on her mother's face told her this would not go well at all.
"10 years you had been given to get her ready to become a proper priestess," the matron replied evenly, her back to the second daughter looking up at the statue behind the throne. "When I selected you, I had believed you the more capable. The most likely to succeed. Lloth has great plans for our house, and that child will be a key to Mae'Vir's undoing and our rise in power like we have never seen before," her voice rising as she spoke, turning to face the assassin, "Yet she finds time to not only escape, but to sneak off into the city from under your very nose!"
"The girl, she does not listen, she refuses to work. She spends all her time rebelling against me. She is impossible to work with."
"Your excuses are as tiring as her disrepect. Your failure is a disgrace to this house and to the Spider Queen," her voice coldly calm again. The matron then turned her back again to her daughter, unafraid of a blade or attack- another subtle reminder the power and favor Shyntyl had with Lloth. A dangerous thought occurred to Zebeycyrl, she could try to remove her mother now and hope to remove her older sister. But the assassin knew it was too risky now. Her mother had to lose favor or be weakened in some other way.
"You have three more years until otherwise noted."
Matron Shyntyl turned her head to her daughter daring her to continue. Zebeycyrl too wisely kept her mouth shut. Sooner or later she would be slipping that blade into her mother heart and claiming the covet title of matron. Dismissed Zebeycyrl had turned to exit.
"If she is able to find time to learn such skills, she is not busy enough."
A pounding woke her from her rest, her hand instantly reaching for the blade she always kept under her pillow. Again another pounding when she groggily realized it was next door. Getting up, she tip toed over to the door and put her ear to it. Nilrae's door opened and a muffled conversation followed. A few words stood out- 'go' 'leaving now' and a name she hadn't heard of- Siasta. The girl cracked her door just enough to peek out and see Nilrae close his door and follow the usually silent sword guy. 'I wonder where they're going?' she thought to herself. When they were far enough away, she quietly closed her door behind her and followed. 'Averl's recent tips were more useful than I thought,' she thought to herself. One of servant had been teaching her tricks and better methods of sneaking around in exchange for small things or minor favors; Zarae always thought that they were nothing and agreed. And now to sneak around the weapon-master, the epitome of stealth… Or at least she thought anyway. The girl was getting better and rather skilled for her age, but he knew she was following them and said nothing.
Pausing at the entrance to the foyer of the house, she watched as he gave a few last instructions to Nilrae and head twords the exit. The tall male turned Zarae's direction, winked and then exit the house.
"Well, that just aint fair."
A small contingent of 4 soldiers awaited for Rhylaun and Nilrae as they walked into the courtyard of the compound. Moving to attention until they were in the midst then turned to follow around the two nobles. The group made their way thru the Brozen, early enough that there were few out in the district; but soon other small contingencies from the other 4 top houses too were heading to the House Mae'Vir compound. The Kilanatlar's were greeted by a short male of ashen color skin and grayish white hair. His face had a permanent hard look and sneering lips made him very imposing despite his short height. Pulling his deep purple piwafwi around him tightly, he motioned for the two to follow and the guards to leave. Nilrae looked to the faces of those around him then shrugged.
They followed around the south side twords the Mae'Vir dock. Closer they got, the more excited the boy got, ignoring the rest going on around him.
Before them, the Siasta. a marvelous ship of dark colored wood and mithril reinforced; it was narrow, less than 10 feet across for fitting thru the tunnels and 18 feet long with two 5 foot high decks below. On the side a black shield like sigil with a red black widow- a sigil of the first house. Three mast, able to extend or shrink as needed, that could unfurl ominous black sails with the same red black widow. magic was its power, enchanted with crystals that could allow the ship to fly; this crystal remained hidden to all but Gulhrys. A demonic dragon head on the front set with a red gems in the eyes. Watching it long enough, it seamed the eyes would grow brighter then dimmer while a small black fog seeped from it mouth. Workers swarm the decks preparing the ship to leave within the hour. Walking among the males a high priestess directing and threatening with her 4 headed scourge of fangs.
Led down to the boarding plank, they fell into line to load as House Ischarri's man handed over his documents. Behind Rhylaun and Nilrae a young man stood. He was dressed as a low level house soldier of Mae'Vir but he did not have the demeanor of house. Nilrae watched him in slight interest, believing the man nervous about sailing. Most drow never set foot on such grandeur as Lith My'Athar's ships. The City of Dark Waters was one of the few cities to have a port.
Velnarin dressed in the clothing provided by Lillintha. He still was unsure about the task, spending the night preparing and praying. Maryne had helped the young man prepare and provide a comforting hand.
"Lady Erelae has faith in you. Relax!" she said giggling as she noticed her hand had ticked Velnarin.
he turned to take her hand gently and kiss it, "I do not worry about my part, I have done it for 3 decades. I worry that if I were to be discovered that they may discover this place. The priestesses have mind reading spells."
Maryne smiled pulling out a small ring. The band of mithril and silver, an ancient script was engraved in the metal. She held it up twords his face, "this will stop any prying. But staying hidden and out of the way is your best bet."
He took the ring as she leaned over to kiss him a good luck.
Velnarin made his way, the paperwork ready and playing his part well, the first group of sailors boarding the vessel. He eventually got in line behind a red streaked hair male and a drowling that was definitely his son. Had he known the houses better, he would know right away that the red piwafwis were Kilanatlar nobles.
"the boy is with me," came in front of Velnarin roughly.
The line moved on, paperwork handed over, assignments given and then directed where to head next. The disguised Velnarin was directed to the lowest deck and hurried there as quick as he could. 5 soldiers in what he guessed was equal rank were there stowing belongings. Four others, younger students of Melee Magthere entered followed by two drowlings.
Within the hour the ship pulled out from Mae'Vir's port and was sailing twords the main river to head south.