CHAPTER FORTY NINE
When the gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers. (Ancient saying)
Kythorn 26 1277, Year of the Beholder, the Great Forest of Tethyr
Fresh gusts of night wind ruffled the tops of the giant oaks and maples. Washed in the uneven light of the full moon, their leaves looked unnaturally bright, as if they had been cut from thin gold and silver paper – the kind that suppliers of trendy and expensive fripperies to the royal court at Ithmong used to wrap their most costly pieces. Illuminated by the same mystical light, the shallow pools and waterholes scattered among the groups of statuary and the stone edifices of ancestral shrines, appeared to hold liquid mercury instead of brown marsh water. Even the giant stone heads of the venerable elven ancestors – the silent guardians of the Elder Grove – were touched by the moon magic. In its bright silver radiance, the statues’ stern faces looked nearly alive. Mysterious half-smiles trembled in the corners of granite lips, covered in green and white lichen, while traces of hidden intelligence seem to lurk under the heavy lids of the sleeping idols.
“Beloved…” King Errilam fell to his knees before the object of his passion, capturing both of Ellesime’s hands in his tight grip. For him, all the midnight mysteries of the elven forest were less important than the single blue line pulsing at her temple. “My Queen…” his voice broke and faltered, as he tried to collect his wits.
The elaborate declarations of love and unrelenting vows of eternal devotion, which he had been preparing inside his head for this very occasion, vanished in a flash, and all Errilam could do was lower his head, bringing Ellesime’s cold hands to his brow. Tenderly, he pressed his burning forehead against these two last remnants of hope – a hope both foolish and desperate, like that of a child about to learn that he had been left an orphan.
The Queen drew a long breath, gathering her strength, and tying her emotions into a tight knot of resolve. She felt genuinely sorry for her friend – yet the task at hand was too important for her to fall victim to pity, as she needed all her tact and wisdom to bring this vital conversation to a successful conclusion.
“My dear friend,” Ellesime began quietly. But even as the empty words of friendship and reassurance poured from her mouth, she began to realize how little they meant to a man whose very soul was burning with vain, unfulfillable desire. She never underestimated the magic of her face – it was, after all, one of the gifts the Seldarine had bestowed upon her to better serve the People. Over the many centuries of her existence, the immortal Queen had wielded her beauty with pride – sometimes as a powerful weapon, bringing down her enemies’ defenses, but more often as a glorious banner for Suldanessellar and the People’s values. Yet once in a while she wished that her physical beauty was less of a burden.
“I am sorry my friend, genuinely, deeply sorry, but... I cannot reciprocate your feelings,” the Queen murmured gently, hoping beyond hope that the kindness of her voice would soften the harsh certainty of her words.
“We will both have to bear our respective burdens of statehood, serving our nations in deference to the will of the Gods. Seldarine bless you for the gift of friendship that you have lent to Suldanessellar and her People! For my part, I want to thank you from the depth of my heart and express my gratitude by once again naming you a Sha'Quessir – the elf-friend,” she concluded sincerely, stroking Errilam’s bowed head. The texture of a human’s coarse tresses was very different from the lustrous silk of elven locks, and Ellesime’s fingers trembled slightly at the thought of how close she had come to abandoning her lover for the sake of her stately duty.
Errilam’s broad shoulders had been shaking with the strength of his emotions, yet the simple touch of her hand had quieted this powerful storm, as he raised his head to look into her face once more. His eyes were red, his pupils huge and black from the almost physical pain of her second rejection. Briefly, Ellesime wondered whether the King understood even half of what she was saying, or was he merely drinking in the cadences of her voice, which seemed to have an almost hypnotic effect on him.
Finally, reenergized by the importance of her task – the future of her beloved city depended on it – and emboldened by Errilam’s visible meekness, the Queen gathered her strength, and decided to tackle the most controversial topic.
“There is one ultimate boon I want to beg of you...” There was no turning back now for her, if Errilam took her offer as an offence she would lose everything she had gained so far. Ellesime paused, allowing the King to reinstate his grip on her hands, which he immediately covered with fervent kisses.
“Is there anything in this world that I could deny to the Queen of my heart?” He finally said. “Name thy prize, radiant star of my soul, and I swear on my life and my Crown that you shall get it – if it is within my powers to attain.”
“It is not a priceless gem or magical trinket that I beg of thee... but an ultimate bond of love and friendship between our Peoples!”
“Have I not already offered you my heart?” A look of puzzlement crept over Errilam’s face, still glistening with tears. “What more can I give to my Queen?”
“I wish... I wish for you to accept a gift from me in return – a gift of healing and reconciliation. I cannot marry you myself... however I beg you to take another elven maiden as a wife in my place. So that once again, as it was in the times of King Strohm and his kin, the children born of this union would bind the two races together in the alliance of trust.”
A lengthy silence, as deep and frightening as a fall from a steep cliff, lay between them. Then, even as she watched, Errilam aged visibly and without recourse. The King’s face – soft and glowing with passion – slowly solidified into a pallid mask of defeat; his hot, shiny eyes became the dull chunks of dark glass. Abruptly, he brought Ellesime’s hand to his lips one final time, and slowly rose to his feet, towering over her fragile form with his massive bulk.
“There is a saying among my people, my Queen. It goes – if dreams were horses, then beggars would be kings. Alas, I wish I were a nameless beggar, devoid of titles and armies to lead, than you would never have asked such a favor of me.”
Suddenly panicky and ashamed of herself, Ellesime tried to object, but Errilam stopped her with a simple shake of his head. “Nay, I shall not renege on my promise to you, Star of my soul. Verily, I would rather die than snub your request. But I wish your boon was something less cruel, like cutting my chest open and pulling out my beating heart.”
“Amin hiraetha – I meant no insult! The maiden in question is a jewel of my House, bright and beautiful as the full moon.”
“I was not insulted, my bright Star,” the King answered quietly. Yet, his eyes were made even darker from his poorly-concealed heartache. “I assume you mean the sister of your court magician, whom I had the honor to entertain tonight?”
“Yes... but... did not you like her at all? Bodhi admitted to being fascinated with your stature and merit. I would not want to force her on you though, if you did not wish it.”
“It would not have mattered to me if she was an ancient hag with one eye and one leg,” Errilam replied sternly. There was something else lurking in the depth of his eyes however, something that Ellesime could not make out right away. Some sort of dark fire, akin to the flicker that the Queen had seen in Joneleth’s eyes after she had returned from her first assignation with Errilam. “I told you, you can have your boon, my Queen, and I would never go back on my promise. Alas, regardless of my personal resolve, there will be some significant difficulties at Court, as in order to convince the nobles of my country to accept an elven queen, I would have to present them with sufficient reasons...”
“I assume you mean... a dowry? The People do not have such traditions, but of course, in order to appease your court, Suldanessellar would provide her daughter with all the needed possessions.”
“I would never ask you for a dowry measured in coin, my Star! Besides, the political importance of such a union would far outweigh any material wealth. No, I want a reason that will overcome my nobles’ superstitions against the fair folk, and squash their potential rebellion in the bud,” Errilam halted his fervent speech, looking the Queen in the eyes, as if daring her to argue with him. “Perhaps, you could send a troupe of best elven archers to escort my bride, so that she is not seen to be alone? I fear, however, that even this might not be enough to stop them from plotting against her and her future children. I would need a powerful ally to back me at court. Someone of great subtlety and power – a powerful mage perhaps? Aye, my Star, what a splendid idea! I will risk bringing an elven wife to Ithmong, if you send her brother with me – to serve as my advisor in magical arts, and as the protector of his fair sister. Surely you will not deny me such a sensible request?”
“Filthy, rotten bastard good for nothing but tormenting his own flesh and blood!” Bodhi rolled in the dirt, beating the impassive ground with her bloodied fists. Her lips and cheeks were covered in grime and bleeding abrasions – in the hour that had passed since the geas had been cast on her, she had scratched and bitten herself repeatedly. Upon concluding his casting Jon had abandoned his sister on the deserted riverbank, leaving her to deal with the consequences of her new condition by herself. Predictably, Bodhi went nearly insane with wrath.
“I hate you brother!” She yowled and hissed like a wild beast, shaking her clenched fists at the dark, silent sky. “Hate your bloody arrogant smiles! Hate your false composure! Hate your stinking manner of bringing me down like a mere insect! Hate you to the grave and beyond! Hate you to the burning bottom of the Abyss! If there is any justice left in this world, you shall pay for my humiliation, this I swear! If there is none – you shall pay regardless! For I have not used all of my resources just yet, and I will not rest, nor eat, nor make love until I figure out how to make you writhe in pain, cursing the hour when our mother first took a glimpse of our father’s face!”
Finally, utterly exhausted by the flood of her virulent curses, Bodhi crawled into the thick of the disheveled willow-brush that grew along the river, and fell into a mindless stupor – a condition somewhat close to a human ‘sleep’ but more akin to the conscious relaxation of an elven reverie, albeit without its revitalizing visions of past happiness. Hers was the bleak, senseless exhaustion of a mind too depleted to care for safety or bodily comfort.
As a matter of fact, Bodhi had not had a proper reverie in decades. Ever since her enlistment into Kiaransalee’s faith, her reveries had grown shorter, less potent, and less refreshing in their effect, forcing her to take frequent naps and even use artificial stimulants, such as herbal smokes and potions. Bodhi’s irregular lifestyle allowed her to conceal her abnormalities, (switching paramours as frequently as she did helped a lot), and so far she had managed to attribute her frequent spells of exhaustion to her insatiable temperament. Yet every now and then the huntress vainly longed for a long, invigorating reverie. Remarkably, Bodhi still considered her condition a fair price to pay for her acquired new powers – a nifty set of minor clerical spells and immunities that she had attained over the years. Hanali Celanil, the elven goddess of love and romance, who had been Bodhi’s original divine patroness, had never granted her such favors, perhaps due to her lack of true devotion. Always a sybarite, Bodhi never loved anybody but herself, and, not surprisingly, Kiaransalee had turned out to be a far more suitable divine patron for her vengeful, greedy soul.
For a considerable period of time, the huntress’s languor was as bleak and despondent as her emotional state, as Bodhi’s mind simply floated in an empty gray bubble, devoid of any dreams or nightmares. Yet eventually, her state began to change, shifting into the semblance of a psychotic nightmare. Some strange half-conscious patterns began to form on the surface of her exhausted brain, shaping into rows of images that were neither dreams, nor reverie-induced reflections. To an outside observer, the huntress still appeared a motionless wreck, curled into a tight ball in the midst of the tangled brush, her eyes opened wide and staring blankly into empty space. Her mind, however, had been cleared of the obscuring gray fog, and once again Bodhi could see the dark outline of the river and the other familiar features of her surroundings.
Yet, to her utter astonishment, the huntress soon discovered that in the course of her slumber her vision had been sharpened to such a degree that she could easily count the individual twigs and leaves on a tree growing on the far side of the river. At the same time, her spectrum of available colors had shrunk to black and white, with all imaginable shades of gray in between, and oddly – an occasional splash of carmine-red. The bright red spots were few and far between, but to Bodhi’s further surprise they moved, falling in and out of her field of vision with remarkable agility. It took her some time to realize these were living critters – most likely small rodents and nocturnal birds, scuttling through the brush in search of sustenance. Of course, as every full-blooded elf, Bodhi enjoyed the benefits of her sylvan heritage, and her night vision was extremely sharp, yet this new condition was somewhat different... and the absence of the hues of green, blue, and yellow was worrisome, if not outright frightening.
Not counting these abnormalities however, the riverbank appeared exactly the same... at least at first glance, yet there was a faint, subtle feeling of wrongness. Something was odd about the outline of the two small trees on her left, and it took her awhile to realize they ought not to be here at all... or at least not in their present state. These two saplings should in fact be the two ancient willow-trees, knotted and twisted like a pair elderly hags – only a few hours earlier Bodhi had had to rest against one of them, to stay on her feet after her monster of a brother had finished his hideous spell.
The huntress shifted her gaze to the right and her innards turned to water. “This cannot be!” She wanted to scream, but found herself unable to open her mouth.
Before her lay the moss-covered, rotting trunk of a dead tree, with its mop of leafless branches half-submerged into the dark waters of Suldanesse. It was this particular snag that had caught Keth’roen’s dead body, preventing it from being carried away by the river. But Bodhi had personally taken care of the obstinate stalk. Two days after her first meeting with the Goddess, she had borrowed a wand of fire from Joneleth’s studio, (the wretch had been indulging himself with the Queen, and his fool of apprentice was not much of a guardian), and had incinerated the stupid thing, leaving nothing but a patch of scorched grass and a pile of embers that had later been swept away by the river. Since that memorable event had occured nearly seven decades ago, the tree trunk could not possibly be here now. Unless her brother’s accursed spell had turned her utterly insane!
“And whom, in your infantile impertinence, would you call ‘sane’, Naukhel?” A voice full of gleeful contempt whispered in Bodhi’s head. “Would you dare to suggest that your earlier performance was an example of prudence and sagacity?”
The huntress recognized the speaker instantly and without doubt. The sweepingly crazy ups and downs of that voice were hard to misremember – even though the traitorous elf-maid could count the number of contacts she had had with its owner on the fingers of one hand. The insides of Bodhi’s skull exploded in pain, and immediately her mind became a jumble of drifting, panicky shreds that could not be called ‘thoughts’ even in a sweeping approximation. She was sick with dread, yet at the same time filled with hot and jittery anticipation that always came upon her in her rare moments of communing with the Goddess.
“Great Mistress,” she muttered in hysterical awe, “it was... thoughtless of me not to seek your advice on this matter. Will you forgive your humble satellite for being such a fool?”
A light, round object burst from the ground next to Bodhi’s slumbering form, and began to rise into the air on a shaking, twirling column of dust and debris. Spinning and bending in all directions, the cone-shaped tornado reached the high of an adult elf, and that was when Bodhi finally identified the thing supported by the churning pillar of dirt. It was the bald clean skull of a humanoid creature, gleaming dully under the sparse light of the few remaining stars. (The silver Faradome moon had long vanished from the sky, but Bodhi had been far too preoccupied with her plight to pay this any heed.)
At first, the skull’s eye-hollows were dark and empty. However, even as Bodhi continued to stare at the apparition with a perverse mix of horror and anticipation, two bright-red dots blinked into existence inside the dead thing, quickly filling the brain box with the unholy red radiance of an alien presence. At the same time, the features of the skull blurred and warped, and suddenly it acquired flesh, skin, and a mop of tangled, dirty-white tresses. One look at the dark, tantalizingly-beautiful face twisted in a spasm of psychotic laughter, was enough to make Bodhi’s hair stand on end – not only was the Goddess paying her a personal visit, it looked as if the Lady of the Dead had finally abandoned any pretense at deceit, and appeared in her natural, drow form.
Of course, over the decades of the secret worship the huntress had guessed the true nature of her divine patroness – Bodhi was no fool and had been able to read the portents in the subtle details of the rituals that she had been ordered to perform, and in the wordings of the prayers that she had been taught to say. Soon after her initiation into the cult, she had developed a sudden urge to pay another visit to the fissure hidden deep within the crags of the Starspire Mountains, that same cavern that had held the coffin of the deceased drow priestess, from whom she had stolen the magic ring.
Bodhi had not been overly disturbed by the idea, nor had she been surprised when upon her second arrival she had found the coffin empty of its desiccated inhabitant. Instead, the stone sarcophagus had contained a number of minor magical artifacts, and a set of scrolls that described dark and gruesome rituals of her new faith. The scrolls had been worded in Common, however the rituals themselves disclosed the Goddess’s true name, and left little doubt as to her nature. These had been the scriptures of a powerful necromantic cult, dedicated to promoting the glory of undeath and the virtue of vengeance. Even to an untrained eye, it had been obvious that the hieroglyphs, which covered the lid of the black marble coffin, had been etched in the angular Drow Script. Combined with the knowledge of the coffin’s original content, and the dark magic of the ring that she had briefly possessed, Bodhi had been left with little doubt of the cult’s affiliation with the drow. However, the exact standing of Kiaransalee’s followers in the dark elven society had remained unclear, and the complete absence of spider designs among the decorations of the crypt had been a curious fact.
Having made the first step onto the path of darkness by taking an innocent life, Bodhi had eagerly continued her downward spiral of betrayal by paying homage to the Lady of the Dead. She had read and destroyed the scrolls, as instructed by her new mistress, but had kept the magic artifacts as her reward. Afterwards, the huntress had abstained from asking improper questions about her deity’s racial identity, but had eagerly accepted the proffered clerical powers.
Much to Bodhi’s delight, most of her duties as an initiate of Kiaransalee’s faith had been unproblematic, and even beneficial to her standing at Queen Ellesime’s court. As Bodhi had soon discovered, Kiaransalee possessed an insatiable hatred for the Lloth-worshipping drow of Ust-Natha – the dark elven settlement that lay closest to the borders of Suldanessellar. It had been Bodhi’s pleasure and privilege to hunt and destroy the drow scouting parties that Matron Mother Ardulace, (the drow city’s incumbent matriarch), had kept sending to explore and scourge the surface world.
In time, Kiaransalee had found it beneficial to link her new handmaiden with other members of her cult. The huntress had never had a chance to have a close look at her drow co-conspirators, although once she had caught a glimpse of one of them: a frail, superbly-agile creature, wrapped from head to toe in voluminous black clothes. But the short notes in broken Common, which the nameless informants left in the Starspires’ crypt on the second tenday of each month, were full of detailed information on Ardulace’s current plans and always turned out to be accurate. (More urgent messages were delivered by means of specially trained crows and ravens.) Of course, Bodhi found it deliciously ironic to sabotage one drow faction at the bidding of another. She cared little for either party, but her personal agenda had been served well by siding with the Lloth-hating dissidents, and Kiaransalee appeared pleased with her surface cohort.
As time had passed, and the huntress had earned the Goddess’ confidence, she had been charged with further duties – some of them of quite a dubious nature. For instance, at one point she had been asked to provide her counterparts with a fresh supply of corpses to be raised as undead. To achieve this, Bodhi had had to stop her elven followers from burning the corpses of their enemies, instead leaving the dead orcs, goblinoids, and drow to rot where they had been slain. The Green Spears had become infamous for their aberrations, and Bodhi had taken some scolding from Suldanessellar’s clerics, although her brother’s lofty position and her own numerous victories in service of the Queen had mostly protected her from their wrath.
However, in all her years of serving the Lady of the Dead, Bodhi had never caught a glimpse of Kiaransalee’s true drow form. Even in the course of her remarkable initial manifestation, the paranoid deity had chosen to use the simple but effective trick of changing her appearance to that of a surface elf. It was likely that the Goddess’ sudden abandonment of her habitual deceit spelled trouble for the unlucky traitress, who was now hastily assessing the possibility of outliving her own usefulness.
As if confirming Bodhi’s worries, the floating drow head shrieked and broke into a gale of insane giggles, filling the nearby glades and valleys with noises more appropriate for the halls of a mental Asylum. The performance went for a several minutes then cut off abruptly, as the disembodied deity considered her for a moment, before speaking ironically.
“My, my, my – isn’t she perceptive! It seems that you have already deduced my true identity?” The apparition’s voice became harsh. “Truly astonishing when you consider the display I just witnessed.”
For a split second Kiaransalee’s expression shifted to that of an adolescent girl, proud of playing a particularly nasty trick on her playmate, before the Goddess regained her composure. An evil imp was pushing Bodhi to speak her mind, but she wisely decided to keep her mouth shut.
“At least this will spare me the trouble of going over the boring details,” the drow deity continued with a hint of disappointment. Mad, crimson lights rekindled within her eyes. “I have caught a snatch of your screeching, Naukel. Your incompetence is appalling! The only reason I am here now is because your clumsiness has given me a few laughs.”
“But Great Mistress...” the huntress finally found her tongue.
Yet the Lady of the Dead was not about to let her clumsy acolyte excuse herself. “Olot dos!” The head snapped back with renewed ferocity. “I have little need for a servant who so carelessly falls into a trap of her own making. You have fallen victim to your own ambition, Naukel, and in the process of doing so you have neglected my interests! I have already wasted enough of my time and energy dealing with you, and to what avail?!” She finished on a high-pitched note, before being overwhelmed with yet another fit of hysterical giggles.
“I will continue serving my Mistress as the new queen of Tethyr,” Bodhi ventured to suggest after the convulsion had passed, (by then she was well used to Kiaransalee’s noteworthy condition, yet still far from comprehending the whole depth of the drow Goddess’ insanity). But her timid defense was met with an even greater expression of scorn.
“Of what use are you to me in Tethyr, Naukel, tied to your human husband as a broodmare to a stallion?!” The Goddess exploded in rage. “You’ve been superbly outflanked and defeated by a male, and I have little doubt that you will keep losing to your brother till the end of your miserable life!” She managed to gurgle amid choking gasps and peals of uncontainable laughter. “At the moment I am extremely tempted to make this end come earlier rather than later. In fact, you might prove to be much more useful and obedient as an animated corpse!”
“She cannot be serious about that, can she?” Bodhi sweated in panic. “I do not wish to join her entourage of zombies! Let her blow off steam – eventually, she will have to stop,” the elf thought unhappily, wincing under the flood of ridicules and abuses coming from the angry Goddess’ mouth. Kiaransalee’s disheveled visage danced in the air, making Bodhi’s already confused mind spin like a peg-top. “But then what?” The huntress quizzed herself. “What enticing treat can one offer to a deity?”
Bodhi’s dizzied mind was grasping at straws – now that she thought of it, she had absolutely nothing of interest to offer to her divine Mistress. Under Joneleth’s geas, Bodhi’s existence in Tethyr would be fully dependent on her human husband. There was little doubt in her mind that Queen Ellesime would wrench a marriage agreement from the King whose mind was completely muddled by his passion. Yes, the human was a thrall to his obsession, and because of her brother’s meddling Bodhi would be turned into the subservient toy of a man practically owned by another woman. That is if she could survive this encounter with an angry Goddess. She had gone to all that trouble and to what end – a chance to control Joneleth’s magic? Was her potential prize ever worthy of such risk? But her brother’s power was sufficient to walk the dreams of a demigod, and maybe even to tap the power of Suldanessellar’s mythal... Bodhi shivered at the thought. Yes, there was little doubt in her mind that her gamble had been laudable... although now she wished that she could wiggle out of paying the price of her defeat.
“Maybe I should tell my Mistress about Jon’s association with the Tree?” She clutched at the suddenly obvious solution to her problem. “I should definitely tell her about the Tree of Life ... and how I risked my life and freedom in trying to worm out my brother’s secret – all to better serve my Goddess!”
“You have the most interesting way of putting things.” Kiaransalee admitted with a dry chuckle.
The Goddess had been questioning Bodhi about Joneleth and his link with the Tree of Life ad nauseam, occasionally switching from suspicions of deceit to angry insults. In the end though, her curiosity prevailed over her ire.
“Yet, because of your atrocious planning, Naukel, your purported ‘schemes’ never flourish into anything useful! The situation can be salvaged yet... and I am willing to give you one last chance to entertain me with your tricks. Know however,” the floating head continued with a nasty grin, “that if you bungle this arrangement, the rest of your service to me will be performed in the shape of my picking. Of course, most of my Chosen continue to serve me after their death, but usually I let them select their preferred state of undeath. Becoming a lich rather than a zombie makes a big difference to some. You, however, might not be so lucky!”
“Great Goddess, I will do my best to serve you in any form! Yet, I feel that, at present, I can be of more use to my Mistress while remaining my humble self.”
“I am not that certain, my Naukel, but I am willing to give you another chance.”
“I shall always obey your orders, Great Mistress. But where shall I begin?”
“Since I do not wish you to leave Suldanessellar,s you will have to rid yourself of that nuisance of a groom. This can easily be arranged... if you follow my advice.”
“Will you remove my geas, Great Mistress?”
“There is no need to do that, my pet, and the fact that you cannot see it yourself once again proves your complete ineptitude.”
“But Great Mistress!” Bodhi wailed in terror. “Would you abandon your faithful servant to her horrid predicament? How can I serve you while tied to a human vermin?”
“My poor Naukel,” Kiaransalee’s grin became a sneer of disdain. “With this remarkable lack of wits you were plotting against the immortal daughter of Rillifane?” Much to her relief, however, Bodhi sensed that under the layer of scalding sarcasm the divine wrath was no longer boiling. “You shall do the following...” the drow Goddess’ voice became a quiet whisper inside Bodhi head. “... and then, of course, you shall be free of him forever.”
“Your wisdom has no limits, Great Mistress!” This time, the awe in Bodhi’s voice was almost genuine. “But what of my ‘dear’ brother and the Tree of Life? Can you break Joneleth’s spirit and force him to serve your will?”
“Your brother is an interesting character, Naukel. Powerful, vain, and ruthless from top to toe. Nevertheless, I cannot simply steal his will. Know that even Gods are sometimes forced to play by the rules. We are forbidden from breaking an individual’s free will, and coercing her mind into our service. Aye, a mortal must willingly choose her path to serve her deity. There is very little I can do to help your case, except, possibly, making your brother a little more susceptible to your wiles.” Kiaransalee’s voice trailed off as she frowned, considering her options. “Here,” the spinning drow head finally broke into a fit of dry chuckles. “Might as well try the simplest ruse to trick the most arrogant of minds.” She whispered a simple word of command, and an object the size of a gambling die fell into Bodhi’s lap. “Take the rune, Naukel, and place it in your brother’s chambers, in a spot where he and he alone will come across it. Eventually he will find it and try to break its secret.”
“What is it, Great Mistress?!” Bodhi nearly jumped from her slouching position, as her hand clutched the proffered item in a tight fist. “Will the rune put a curse on my brother, binding him to my will, the same way he has enslaved me?”
“Nothing so drastic, my pet! Vengeance is the sweetest of nectars, yet I have no desire to invite the retribution of the entire Seldarine. I am following the rules; thus my intervention must be subtle, not exceeding the scale of harm that has been dealt to you. Yet, if you play your cards well, this small object will bring you the victory you seek.”
Naukhel – (drow) nobody
Olot dos! (drow) Darkness take (you)!