The Queen rolled Maelgad over with her foot to better see his face. She delighted in seeing his features twisted in torment; she took pleasure in seeing his expression screwed up in agony. She crouched down beside the body of the cataleptic Prince to better examine him, to see if the spell had worked. It had. It had been over five thousand years since the rite had been last performed, an ancient form of punishment dispensed by the High Elves of Caerwyn. The incantation appeared to have worked. Rianon smiled in smug satisfaction.
“Perfect,” the Queen hissed as she drew a fingernail across his contorted cheek.
Her revelry was disturbed when there came a knock on her chamber door. The sound was barely audible, but it was distinct. It was Lord Arian. She knew by the combination of taps and scratches. Even if she had not summoned him, she would have known.
“Enter,” Rianon commanded as she wrapped herself in a translucent black robe made from spider-silk.
The stone door of the chamber opened on unseen hinges and Lord Arian stepped in, his long silver hair flowed behind him shimmering in the warm red light. He bowed deeply and dutifully.
Lord Arion had come from the best Drow stock, his bloodlines were undeniable, but he was born with the birth defect of having argent hair, a hue seen only in High Elves. This was his only fault and the only reason Rianon found him unsuitable for mating. Only the best stock was suitable for siring her heir.
The Master of Poisons looked with trepidation at the body of Prince Maelgad on the floor. He did not let his eyes tarry too long, he gave Rianon his full attention. He waited for his Queen to address him.
“Arian, you are Maelgad’s right hand, are you not?” Rianon asked menacingly.
“Yes, my Queen,” the Master of Poisons answered.
Rianon could detect the notes of nervousness in Arian’s voice. She drew out the silence to add to his discomfort. She walked in a crescent around the prone body of Maelgad stationed between them. Her thin black lips parted and she broke the burden of silence.
“As you can see, our Master of Assassins has been indisposed,” Rianon said, directing her eyes to the body on the floor.
Arian nodded his acknowledgement of the veiled threat. It could just as easily be him in his mentor’s position, which at that moment didn’t look too promising.
“Previously you answered to Maelgad, now you will answer to me, directly to me and only to me. You will follow my instruction without deviation, or variation, is this understood?” Rianon spelled out the new terms of Arian’s existence.
“Yes, my Queen,” the Master of Poisons answered without hesitation unable to avert his eyes from the unconscious, contorted form that lay prostrate on the floor between them.
“Good,” Rianon said with a smile that made the Master of Poisons squirm. “Have we any word from Cadfeal?”
“The Captain of the Guard has proved to be an excellent ambassador, my Queen. He has successfully treated with Balesh, Grand Chieftain of the Orcish Tribes as he has with Maluch of the Kobold clans. Both have agreed, in principal, to aid us. Lord Arthfeal, the Bear King is thirsting Dwarven blood after the murder of three of his most beloved children. We wait only on word of the intentions of Lord Bleiddud; and locating the Prince of Wolves has proven difficult.” Arian reported and as he spoke he grew more comfortable, more at ease.
“We will have to reward the Captain of the Guard. Perhaps a promotion is due,” The Queen mused aloud to make Arian insecure in his present station before she queried. “Who has been running the patrols in Cadfeal’s absence?”
“That would be Cadfrawd, Cadfeal’s most trusted lieutenant.” Arian answered.
“Send word to this Cadfrawd that he is to exterminate the next Dwarven expedition that ventures into the Iron Hills,” Rianon paused a moment before revising her instruction. “Cadfrawd is to kill all but one. One Dwarf is to be spared that he may scurry back to Halldor and relay this message to the good King Thorvaldr. Let him know the Drow have returned and we contest Dwarven claim to the Iron Hills. Trespass will not be tolerated.”
As Master of Poisons and Maelgad’s right hand, Arian knew the Queen was orchestrating an offensive of some sort, but he could not believe his ears. Taken aback, he did not expect such an open act of aggression. Lord Arian forgot himself, his station and to whom he spoke.
“My Queen, is it wise to act so boldly? We have survived thousands of years of exile after our near extermination, by stealth and keeping our existence secret. The disappearance of a few Dwarven prospectors from time to time is easily explained. We either leave neither hide, nor hair, or we make it look like an animal attack. There are many dangerous creatures in the Iron Hills that could be blamed for such deaths. We’ve never let anybody live.” the Master of Poisons cautioned.
“Don’t make the mistake Maelgad made in doubting your Queen,” Rianon spit out the words, venom dripping from her viper’s tongue.
“My Queen, I only caution you. We have not yet heard from Cadfeal as to the intentions of Lord Bleiddud,” Arian continued to press, but stopped when the unconscious body on the ground writhed and groaned.
“Know your place Arian. You are Master of Poisons, you are not my advisor, best you remember that if you wish to fill Maelgad’s shoes, or remain in your own,” Rianon warned and then arrogantly added: “As for Lord Bleiddud, at this point the Prince of Wolves is of little consequence, a minor convenience if he is with us and a minor inconvenience if he is not. That is, unless there is something you aren’t telling me,”
She had him right where she wanted him.
“I would keep nothing from you my Queen, you know all that I know,” Arian scraped and groveled.
“Very well, your first task will be to dispose of this filth littering my floor,” Rianon said, kicking the body of the cataleptic Prince. “Take him to the northern tip of Lake Cemlyn. You will leave him intact and whole. You are to see to this personally. Do you understand?”
“Yes, my Queen, I will see it done just as you have specified,” Arian answered with a stiff voice.
“After you have taken care of Maelgad you will deliver my orders to Cadfrawd. I am charging you responsible for seeing that he carries them out to the letter,” Rianon commanded.
“Yes, my Queen,” the Master of Poisons said obediently.
“If you carry out your orders to my satisfaction, you will be well rewarded and I will install you as my Master of Assassins. Fail me and it will cost you your head,” Rianon threatened before dismissing Lord Arian with a wave of her hand.
Arian pivoted and strode to the door. He stepped momentarily into the corridor and returned with two soldiers that had accompanied him and were stationed outside. The Master of Poisons gestured to the motionless body on the floor and the guards each took a heel and dragged the former Master of Assassins out of the Queen’s chamber, with Lord Arian in tow. The door shut behind them and Rianon was alone.
The seeds had been planted. It was now time to see what fruits they bore. She rubbed her belly and thought of the daughter she would give birth to, the daughter she would groom to one day be her successor. Rianon would see Sion restored to its former glory and when the time was right, her daughter would rule from Lolth’s throne. The Master Web would be complete.
Copyright by T J Therien 2014
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