CHAPTER SIXTY FOUR
14 of Nightal 1371, Year of the Unstrung Harp
"How deliciously reckless of you to be so immersed in your own thoughts, mage," a voice full of amused wonder murmured in my ear. "A male with a bit of backbone is a sporting challenge. Still, I am not used to being ignored so completely."
"Please excuse my bad manners, Mistress." I jumped to my feet to greet my unannounced visitor.
The drow female was standing next to the couch I was sitting on, observing me with a somewhat disconcerting expression on her pretty face. She must have snuck into my rooms a while ago, since she looked bored and impatient at the same time. I took a brief look at her, and my instincts screamed that I should be as careful as a rat in a cat-patrolled pantry.
She was tucked into lavender-died leather armor, skin tight and generously cut at the bosom. The black and gold medallion, dangling from the velvet choker, declared her a member of the House Torafin. At first glance, one could almost confuse her with her elder sibling.
Except that this sister's house insignia would doubtlessly have remained in place without suspension. Her husky, mellow voice did not fit Treachery's regal appearance at all. And a glint of pure mischief, mixed with undeniable interest of the more... peculiar nature, quickly convinced me that I was facing a different sibling.
"I've been looking forward to the meeting with the Matron," I said cautiously. "Are you here on her orders, Mistress? You must be..."
"The menace," she chuckled at me, tucking a stray lock of thick, silver-white hair behind a pointy ear pierced with what looked like a fortune in silver and diamond studs and hoops. "By the Goddess' will, born to rain chaos on Treachery's carefully laid out plans." She smirked invitingly, fingering her house insignia.
"And your name is?" I asked politely, leaning slightly away from my visitor. Her perfume was as bold and zesty as the glint in her eyes.
"Don't be such a bore, male," she pouted a little, at the same time almost wrapping herself around me. "Don't you like riddles? Tell you what – if you can guess my name correctly, you will earn a reward."
"Did you not have enough bed sport for one week, Vengeance? Or are you bored out of your skin with your latest conquest already?" The black-clad drow female, standing at the entrance to my rooms, sounded as lackluster as she looked. Dour-faced and sinewy, she was the harsher, sharper version of the other two sisters.
"Go back to your quarters, Despair! No one will miss you here." Vengeance replied in a ruthless, no-nonsense voice. The contrast with her earlier purr was so great that I could not help but chuckle.
"So you can get horizontal with this male and pick out his brains?" The newcomer sneered at her pretty sibling. "This is how it works," the she told me sourly. "Treachery sends Vengeance to visit the most promising students at the Fighter's Society and the Academy of Magic. The scamp dallies with the males and pumps them for information. If she finds a truly remarkable individual, she seduces him away from his Matron Mother by offering herself as reward. Everybody benefits: Treachery gets the strongest fighters and brightest mages adopted into the House, while Vengeance scratches her itch."
"While you, poor wretch, wallow in absent misery," Vengeance crooned mockingly. "What is your bone with me, sister? You are the one who collects the intelligence and prepares my list. The Goddess will smile upon a House fecund with new blood! The scheme benefits House Torafin as a whole, does it not?"
"It usually does," Despair agreed. "Except that in this case, the mage has already proved himself strong enough to wipe out the Matron Mother's most ruthless tool, and her entire regiment of brutes."
"Most ruthless?" The pretty one smirked. "More like the most pathetic and brainless of Iolathe's brood. Streeka was an idiot to assault an unfamiliar wizard on the street, unprepared as she was to cope with the Dark Mother's Silence!" She stopped and clucked her tongue, giving me an innocent look. Automatically, I noticed that it was bright pink, and had a silver stud in it.
"And it sounds like lechery has turned your brains into mush and your tongue into a whisk!" Despair hissed menacingly. "Face it, sister – you are the weakling, sullying herself by pathetic alliances with males. An instrument, to be used and discarded by your betters. Regardless of your insidious schemes, you will always remain at the bottom of the House hierarchy. What were you planning to do here?" The somber sister nodded in my direction. "Entice this mage into doing your bidding behind Treachery's back? If so, you must be an even bigger fool than Streeka ever was. This one is a weapon too dangerous for your inept hands."
"But he will suit your dreary, tedious nature just well?" Vengeance sneered. When she was angry, her face contorted into a particularly alluring grimace. "I can make the mage both my Consort and my House Wizard, and he will be all the better for it. Go get a good look in the mirror, sister dear. What is it that you can offer as his reward for wiping out Iolathe and making you the Matron Mother – a visit to the torture chamber or a game of sava?"
"Shut your blubbering mouth, contemptible fool!" The dour-faced one hissed at her beautiful sister. "Trust you to spill the beans, and ruin it for everyone."
"Can't I avert my eyes even for a second, without you two making a grab for my piece and messing up my game?" Treachery's voice sounded more exasperated than angry. The Matron was standing in the doorframe, giving both of her sisters a disapproving look. "Get out of here, both of you! Before I decide to completely overhaul the House chain of command."
"With all due respect, Matron, your daughters are not mature enough to serve." Despair bowed before her elder sibling. "And it was the young one, who imposed herself on your guest. I was here merely protecting your interests."
"Protecting her chance at a power-grab more like!" Vengeance hissed in contempt. "Don't listen to the dour-face, Matron! She is the one who is likely to stab you in the back, while you look elsewhere. I was going to test the mage's ability to resist the temptation. Would you want an ally who can be easily swayed?"
With that bold pronouncement she turned her head slightly, and winked her cherry-red eye at me, making sure that no one else could see it. Judging by the sudden sharp glint in her eyes I decided that the temptress was playing a game much more interesting than it first seemed. I wondered if she was indeed as empty-headed as she wanted to appear, and if her 'slips of tongue' were done without careful planning.
Vengeance had just warned me that Despair was the House Torafin Spymistress, and that Treachery was about to make me an offer that I could not refuse. She had also slipped me a fundamental piece of information that instantly changed the rules of the game in my head.
"I said, out!" Treachery ordered unequivocally.
A hand, draped with purple silk, struck the five-headed snake-whip at the top of her high-heeled boot. I noticed her new attire and mentally whistled at the change in her appearance. The head of House Torafin was wearing a magnificent purple stole draped over a slinky dress of grey spidersilk. A pair of black, knee-high boots complemented the outfit. Her very long white hair was pleated into a braid and wrapped around her head in a manner of a crown.
"As you command, Matron," Vengeance replied demurely, then sauntered out of the doors swaying her hips in the most alluring fashion.
Despair threw me a warning look and crept after her. While she completely lacked Vengeance's natural grace, her motions were quiet and competent, as if she were a well-oiled mechanism, designed for ruthless efficiency.
"One day I will have these two fed to the House foulwings." Treachery stated dreamily. Her eyes were glued to the door, behind which her two sisters just disappeared. "But that day has not come yet." She sighed. "So here I am, forced to clean up the mess they leave in their wake just to spite me. How much did they tell you?" She turned back to me, giving me an appraising look.
"Nothing more than what I had not figured out already, Matron " I replied casually.
Treachery nodded, and moved towards the silk-upholstered coach, which I occupied earlier. Taking her seat, the Matron pulled out a flat, ebony box inlaid with mother-of-pearl squares, and laid it on the small table before her.
"A friendly game of sava, mage?" She smiled at my uncertainty. "I promise to leave you a shred of self-esteem."
There was no way I could wiggle out of this. I felt certain that refusing to play sava with the Matron of the House was not an option. I had no idea how the game was played, although at first glance the board appeared to look similar to chess one. (Chyil owned a set; the pieces were made of cheap soapstone, and were moved across a mat of woven grass.)
"As you wish, Matron," I replied with pretend indifference. "But do you really have time to squander on idle entertainment?"
"Are they all so uncouth in the place where you come from, Master Jevan?" She made a face at me. "Sava is no entertainment, as you well know. It is a power contest, where we use our intelligence instead of weapons and rituals. But you are right, of course. A sava game without a suitable bet is a waste of time. Tell you what, mage. If I win, you will give me your darthiir captive as a hostess gift. Mother Lolth's altars are running dry without suitable sacrifice."
"And if you loose?"
"Then you will keep the wretch, to do with as you please." Treachery looked me straight in the eye. "I can't imagine why anyone would want to have her around though. She is mute, and quite insane after her treatment at the hands of the late Streeka."
"I was not planning to conduct academic debates with her." I smiled politely. "I do, however, collect surface rarities. Her brain might be useful, in performing certain... experiments with the artifacts from my collections."
"I will gladly extract the part for you even if I win." My hostess offered generously.
"I would like to keep my specimen alive. Most of what I plan to do with her involves stimulating the living tissue."
"And you would have the benefit of not hearing her screams," The Matron nodded. "Sometimes I forget that scholarly minds work differently. Going back to our bet, mage, if you win, you will also have my leave to keep this peculiar item." Treachery pulled out the dagger that the wretched elf had stolen from me not a few hours ago.
"Why would you want to seize it, Matron? Besides emitting that perilous ray, it bears no valuable enchantments. One would be insane to use it on an opponent, and strip themselves of dark vision in the middle of a fight!"
"Don't take me for a fool." She frowned at me. "The weapon is the handiwork of the damned ones. Of course I had my House Wizard test the blade, right after he finished probing you for illusion spells."
I could not help but admire Greenberyl for the simple brilliance of his idea with the dark oil. Applying the thrice-accursed salve had probably saved my skin from being used for a drum.
"You are the wisest one, Matron. But I assure you – the dagger is just a curio."
"Technically speaking, you are telling the truth." She scowled at my compliment. "But for whatever reason there is, the blade had driven the darthiir to you. What else can you tell me about it, mage?"
"I believe you are correct, Matron. The darthiir was drawn to me by the item's aura. As for its other properties... It is very useful in deterring all types of undead." I offered reluctantly.
If anything, Treachery's reaction was interesting. I could have bet that she was upset, and only kept her composure with effort. Then it struck me that without power, granted by the Goddess, the priestess could not be sure of the weapon's nature.
"I should have guessed." She murmured quietly. "Very well, Master Jevan. Are we clear on the standing of our bets?"
"Very clear, Matron."
"Then stop dragging your feet and pick up the color of your pieces."
She upended a pouch and rolled out a set of elegantly carved game pieces and a pair of eight-sided dice. I looked at the unfamiliar assembly, and broke out in sweat.
Amusingly, both sets of game pieces were done in black onyx, although one set utilized white silver for ornamental details, while the other was done in dark, almost black, gold. I picked up a silver-girdled figurine of a male, swathed in cloaked robes, pretending to admire the craftsmanship.
"Giving up the advantage of the first move?" Treachery frowned at me. "You are either very confident or very foolish."
I bowed my head politely, but remained silent, giving her time to set up the game. After waiting for the briefest of moments, Treachery collected the pieces, finished in black gold, and proceeded to place them on the board.
"This is not going to fly with her, you know."
"Damn you! I thought you would never show up. Not after the mess you have made of the marketplace!"
"I've got carried away." He agreed gloomily. "But you are not the one to complain about my ruthlessness."
"Not really. Still, you left me high and dry amidst a pack of hyenas sniffing for blood."
"You've managed." He pointed out dryly. "Otherwise, I would not be here. Anyway, can we end this sniveling contest and go back to the problem at hand?"
"Do you even play sava?"
"I have won a game or two in the past."
"Are you going to take over again – like you did at the..."
"No." He replied almost instantly. "That won't be necessary. Telling you which piece to move will suffice. And I will teach you the rules as the game progresses."
Eventually, we figured it out just fine. Soon enough, I even began to enjoy the game. If one can enjoy being a mere conduit for the master whose rank exceeds yours own so dramatically. At first, Treachery kept giving me amused looks. But after I took over her Slaves one by one, then forced her Priestess piece to abandon her entrenched position and exchange places with one of her Warriors, whom my Mage eliminated in two moves, her expression grew curious, if a bit tense.
"I commend you on your skill of deception," The Matron offered edgily, after a few further moves forced her Priestess to flee across the board from my pursuing horde of silver-girdled soldiers. "You almost convinced me of your ineptitude through the opening moves, thus making me loose caution and open myself to your flank assault."
"Your generosity knows no bounds, Priestess." I lowered my head in submission. "I am happy I was able to provide a honing stone for the blade of your skill."
"Speaking of blades," she said thoughtfully. "Have you had a chance to test your darthiiri dagger against its intended targets?"
"As a matter of fact, I had," I replied moving my own Priestess piece to a position that would threaten her remaining Warrior. "But I would rather not talk about it in detail though – it is a private matter."
"Every House has its own skeletons, mage. And since you don't wear your House badge on the open, I will leave it at that." She smiled at me, moving her piece. "I took personal care of mine at some point in the past. Alas, some other people's ghosts have become great nuisance. That is why I am proposing a pact, beneficial to all."
"Finally." My alter ego sneered. "She is bringing the subject up at long last. You can tell her you are going to kill the Matron Mother for her, for a measly sum of your own weight in gold."
"Hold your horses, horror of celestial trees!" I nearly spoke out loud. " I am not signing up to kill anybody. Besides, how are we going to collect this reward? Do I look like I can lug it on my back?"
"I was merely trying to make a joke, fool. And what did you just call me?!"
All through that exchange, I continued to look at the priestess with expression of polite attention, hoping that I was not overdoing the boredom part. Joneleth was correct, of course, she was offering me the assassination contract.
There were, however, some interesting details related to the old feud between House Torafin and House Zauviir. The late Matron of House Torafin was named Violence, she was also the mother of the three joie de vivre sisters currently running the House. After House Despana had been decimated by the unfortunate turn of events, mostly related to the Bhaalspawn's visit to Ust Natha, there had been a brief period of insurrection. Unfortunately for House Torafin, they had had a traitor in the upper echelons. Violence's sister Madness, who had also used to be the darling of the late Matron Ardulace Despana, had allied herself with Iolathe Zauviir against her own House.
Privately, I decided that the peculiar naming tradition was to blame for half of House Torafin political misfortunes.
"Matron Violence was slain by her sister's hand," Treachery explained calmly. "But I was waiting for my aunt in the alcove behind the House Torafin throne room, with a troop of loyal warriors and mages. My sisters were with me, and with Dark Mother's help we managed to overcome Madness' defenses." She moved her Priestess piece three squares to the right and looked at me with a triumphant smile. "As I have just managed to overcome yours, Master Jevan. I have your Mother piece cornered, and in two more moves I will have you surrender the game to me."
"Why have not you been watching her moves?" I yelled at my alter ego. "She has outsmarted you, old fox. I cannot loose this game – the girl's life is at stake!"
"Which is exactly why I am letting the Matron win." He replied calmly. "You have proved to her that you are a formidable opponent – without hurting her ego by defeating her. You cannot save the scarred one, little brother. Let her go. She will be better off in Arvandor."
The locks on the heavy outer door rattled. Hazel curled into a tight ball, digging deeper into the dirty pile of rags that served as her bed. The House Torafin dungeon was surprisingly sufferable: there were rags thrown on the stone floor. The grate-covered manhole, inside the barred part of the cell, opened into a sewer aflush with running water. Someone even left her an almost-full oil lamp, smoldering on the shelf next to the entrance.
But regardless of this particular House's customs in treating their prisoners, Hazel knew she was dead. She was still breathing and all, but it was only a matter of time. The only question in her head was if she were going to be gruesomely tortured first, or if her execution would be relatively swift. She hoped for a razor-sharp sacrificial knife, and a steady, well-trained hand of a senior priestess. Yet her chances for such a favorable outcome were slim. She had already used her share of good luck. She knew she was going back to the Pits, and this time there would be no scavenging fire-beetles to drag her out of the bitumen-filled quagmire, and no last moment rescue by a party of treasure-hunting half-drow.
A haughty female voice ordered the guard to get out and Hazel shuddered, wishing she could die right now. Maybe her heart could stop of pure fright, she thought hopefully. The elf could understand a little of drow-speech. Jabplynn had spent hours with her saying the words in Drow, then repeating them in Undercommon. Sometimes, that was a self-defeating practice. Undercommon itself was a version of the Common speech, heavily polluted with a variety of Underdark languages. Hazel fervently hoped that the musician had not followed her to the upper city. Her last view of the battle site, before Torafin guards had whisked her away, was that of the market platform awash with blood of innocent bystanders.
"Get out in the open, would you?" The drow female voice suggested cheerfully. "I know you are out there, little mousey."
Hazel froze, thinking that she recognized the voice. She had last heard it in all of its melodious splendor back at the ruined marketplace – commanding the soldiers to hurry up with cutting the throats of the survivors.
"Oh, by the Dark Mother's pierced bellybutton!" The female said poutingly. "I am not going inside your dirty cage, mousey. Nuh-uh. Digging you out of your nest would ruin my manicure. Besides, I had had enough blood and soot on my clothes for one day."
If Hazel had ears, they would have perked up after that sentence. Something was wrong with this female. The elf strained to hear if the drow was moving any closer, but could not perceive if the portcullis leading inside her cage was being opened.
"Do you even understand me?" Hazel's visitor suddenly switched to Undercommon. Her pronunciation was not perfect, but for a drow she managed surprisingly well. "Oh, this is so utterly boring." She addressed the empty air. "The Third Daughter of the House is reduced to talking Goblin with a pile of rotten wraps. My day has definitely progressed from bad to ugly!" Hazel heard her yawn, but could not be sure if this was not another ruse to lure her out of her den.
"I'll talk to you the way you are then, little mousey." The Third Daughter conceded. "Even though I am mighty curious to have a peek at you, I did not have much of a chance back at the market. Are you even worth all that trouble?" She burst out in a peal of laughter. "Of course, you've plucked an undead-repelling dagger from the belt of a wizard, who in his turn wiped out half of the city's remaining militia! But still," the drow paused to take a breath. "Do you even know, that right now the Matron of the House is straining her brain powers to get her hands on you? And so far she is not getting very far."
Hazel peeked out of her nest of rags, trying to get a better look at her visitor. The drow had moved the burning lantern to the stone bench on the other side of the bars, and was perched next to it. All Hazel could see from her spot was a perfect ebony profile, framed by a cascade of silver-white locks. As if provoked by Hazel's shy motion, the lovely apparition opened her mouth, and chuckled. Something bright flashed on her tongue, as if the dark one had found a small star and put it inside her mouth.
"You cannot do this to her!" I screamed at him mentally. "This is not fair. She has already been through Hell. And now you are throwing her life away for absolutely no reason!"
"I have been through worse." He replied tiredly. "Why should I care about a life that has no meaning to me? Perhaps, prior to her misfortune, that girl lived a good life, delighted in her friends and family. She has long been dead to them. Nowadays she is but a pebble on your path, destined to be crushed under the heel of your boot, and instantly forgotten."
"To Hell with your bloody rationalizations!" I raged at him. "I imagine this is why you've ended in the Abyss in the fist place, before some overbearing divinity decided to spew you back into this world!"
"Master Jevan," Treachery snapped her fingers to command my attention. "I understand that defeat feels humiliating. Still, I want to commend you on your dashing performance. I have not met a sava opponent with so much style for years."
"With all due respect, mylady, the game is not over yet."
"There is nothing you can do at this point to save the game." He whispered to me. "Don't make her pity you. The drow perceive pointless resistance as weakness."
"Liar," I told him coldly and grabbed the pair of octagonal dice, carved out of bruise-colored amethyst. Seven sides had numbers carved on, the eighth bore a symbol of an open eye. The engravings were marked in red garnet, giving the pieces remarkably sinister appearance. "Get out of my head, butcher, before I boot you back into oblivion!"
"Can you even do this?" He asked curiously. "I suppose you can – in the real world it is you who is calling the shots. You might still need my help though. What are you going to do next time, when the overwhelming odds will turn against you?"
"I've managed before," I answered, throwing the dice on the table before us. They bounced a few times and finally stopped, flashing two single red eyes on both top surfaces.
"Two full moons," The Matron whispered in awe. "I have not seen such a throw since I was one hundred and thirty. My mother played against her late Consort. She won his life with that throw; he was executed on the next morning. I suppose you would want me to sacrifice my Priestess piece?"
I nodded politely, carefully avoiding her eyes.
"You learn fast, little brother." Irenicus's voice was a faint, dieing echo inside my head. "That telekinesis trick was interesting. But you were running a terrible risk – what would have happened if she had magic wards put on these rooms?"
"She had little time," I replied grimly. "And you are not my brother."
Castle Torafin occupied the insides of a giant stalagmite that thrust upwards from the very bottom of Ust Natha's cavern. The dwelling spanned levels upon levels of spiral staircases and vaulted chambers carved inside the dark, porous stone. The very bottom of the monstrous pillar contained the House dungeons, and various storage facilities. But here, at the upper levels of the Castle, the air was dry and fresh from the perpetual torrents that blew through the Underdark.
I leaned against the stone balustrade, taking in a deep breath of air. This level of the Castle implemented something of a circular arboretum, populated with luminescent fungi and giant pale mushrooms. The radiance was weak, so I could enjoy the view of the cavern below without extraneous light polluting my vision. The vista was spectacular. As far as the eye could see, the city was crisscrossed with running walkways and wider esplanades, festooned with streetlights. Every pillar-like mansion and open plaza had its own source of illumination. And above all that splendor shone the giant central Orb, suspended from the short stalactite on the chains of adamantine.
Currently, the Orb was at the peak of its power, emitting light so white and brilliant that it could rival the surface moon. It had been getting visibly brighter from the moment I had first stumbled into the secret garden, after nearly loosing my way in the endless stairways of the Castle.
I was certain that I had been watched every step of the way from my room but it did not bother me much. Treachery had conceded defeat in a strangled voice, and departed, soon after my 'lucky' throw. I felt dead tired. Still, when after an unsuccessful attempt at catching a bit of sleep, a male attendant had slipped me a note, I had been rather pleased at the distraction. The drow looked like he was more afraid of me than of his Matron, but I had managed to talk some sense into him. Which had resulted in a long walk along unfamiliar corridors and through echoing passages. In the end, my feet had finally brought me here, to the eroded stone gallery populated with fungus plants and weirdly shaped sculptures.
"They say Menzoberranzan's Narbondel shines ten times brighter than our pitiful imitation here." A voice said with a chuckle.
I made a non-committing sound. Even if I'd seen the famed glowing pillar of the drow's infamous city, I was not in the mood to discuss the comparative attractiveness of the views.
The Orb flashed bright silver and suddenly shifted into the dark hue of deep purple, fading from sight before my very eyes. I made a questioning noise, without turning my head. I was certain I recognized Vengeance's voice and perfume, but I did not want to give her extra points by admitting it.
"Midnight, "She explained simply. "By morning it will be rosy-red again, and then it will start to lighten up all the way to pure white. Is not it the same way with Narbondel?"
"No two Arcane enchantments are ever the same, Mistress. "I replied crisply. "But yes, it uses the same general principle."
"Mages." Vengeance took a step away from the balustrade, stretching her body in a sinewy arc. I could observe the breath-taking effect of that stretch from the corner of my eye, but pretended to ignore the view. "Why do you prefer to spew gibberish instead of using regular words?"
I shrugged, ignoring the warmth of her body that all of a sudden occupied the spot right next to mine.
"For example," Vengeance continued cheerfully, while utterly ignoring my lack of reaction. "I just came from the assignation with my brother Szordrin, who is supposed to be House Torafin Primary Wizard, and Treachery's faithful tool. We shared some private time together, but that is besides the point. So, I ask him about a particular arcane enchantment that he placed on your chambers not a few hours ago, and all he can say is 'negligible traces of residual magic'. What a complete pile of gibberish! Imagine how disappointed the Matron is going to be. She surely hoped to catch you red-handed."
"She should ask you for pointers before her next hunt." I muttered jokingly, while finally turning my head to look her in the eye.
"Treachery would die first," the youngest sister laughed gaily. "Besides, it will do her no good. All the House wizards are loyal to me. That is why we can talk freely here, without risking Despair's spies overhearing us."
"Why would you go to such lengths to arrange a private meeting with me?"
"Because I wanted to show you this." She pulled out a piece of cheap, yellow parchment that held a few lines scrawled with strange brownish ink.
I took a brief look at the letter written in unsteady Quenya, and the words swam before my eyes.
"I offered her regular ink." Vengeance shrugged. " The prison clerk has all the writing supplies. But she wanted to write this with her own blood, so I had to slash her wrist to get this done."
Sava - is a game resembling chess. It involves the moving and capture of pieces that represent soldiers on a battlefield. The pieces in sava are labeled Warrior, Slave, Priestess and Mage. In order to inject a bit of chaos into the game, a pair of eight-sided dice can be rolled – each player can have one roll per game. (Drow)
Foulwings - appear as 20-foot long, 10-foot tall, grotesquely misshapen creatures with huge, black, leathery wings, toad-shaped bodies, and horse-like heads. Three mouths are spaced evenly around its single nostril snout. Used as mounts by drow. Some drow Houses keep and breed foulwing livestock on the premises.
Narbondel - is the great natural rock pillar at the center of Menzoberranzan connecting floor and ceiling in a massive shaft. At the end of each day, the city's ranking archmage casts a fire spell into its base. The heat created by the powerful dweomer is conducted slowly upward through the stone, until all of Narbondel glows red to the infravison of the drow. Then it fades rapidly to darkness. This is known in the city as "the black death of Narbondel", and the time when the archmage casts his fire spell anew corresponds to midnight in the surface world. (Drow)