It is the nature of the mortal world that all who live must die. Dynasties and Houses rise, and then decline. As House Le’Tent grew to became the First House the other Great Houses that had awed Asse so much dwindled, as did numbers of Drow in the world.
The Drow were the dominant race in their world but they were not true masters of it. Gods and Godlings also walked there, beings with their own jealousies and agendas, while the great Drow Goddess, Lloth, seemed to be elsewhere, her children neglected.
Chill and sinister undercurrents began flowing, not just through the Underdark, but the entire existence the Drow inhabited. Forces were at work that could were not tangible, but could be sensed. Forces that sapped the very will to live – leaving aimless confusion in their wake; bitterness in a proud race forced to bow.
So, for Asse, began her most significant years of learning as she struggled to comprehend what was happening, and then to understand why. So she came to the furthest shore of the soul where, in sorrow and grief, she met the true measure of the cancer, which ruled them.
“Come,” said Streea, “send word; for tonight we sack Brosna. The Pindanon’s and Ravers are meeting with Nande as I speak making preparation. Keep up if you can.”
Asse did her best, but appreciated Streea’s waiting for her. They headed towards the Lloth Temple in Chaulssin. Once inside she was lead to a chamber in which she had never been before. The entranceway was huge, and she passed private merchants and endless private bedrooms that made her jaw drop.
Inside a massive courtroom was a huge table that sat twenty easily in nice comfy thrones. The room was full of drow, many of whom she had never met but whose reputations preceded them. Nande sat magnificently at the head of the table in her finest regalia. Streea went in and sat at Nande’s right hand. Asse was offered a seat much to her great surprise and honour and accepted it gratefully. Amandel arrived soon after her and stood behind her throne, which pleased her. She wondered if Streea noticed.
The meeting was called to order and a plan formulated. The Ravers were going to lead the way and call the hunt. Streea was to accompany Moshka Raver, their leader and offer council. By this time many House Le’tent members had joined the gathering, uncertain of what to do and what to expect. Asse could hear Yaxzool’s insane laughter behind her somewhere through the crowd. This meant that Masoj was also there, as Yaxzool had been placed in Masoj’s tuteledge.
As the room erupted into a frenzy of activity, with everyone departing in great haste, Asse realised she had not been paying much attention. She was far more concerned about keeping her eye on Amandel’s gaze, to ascertain if indeed his allegiance was genuine, as he had so vehemently proclaimed.
Asse left Nande’s Seminary thinking to herself that this place indeed would be a very nice place to live. She was tired of being nomadic and yearned for a place to call home. She envied Nande’s possessions. Her family and companions fell in behind her and they went to taste human blood.
The blood curdling battle cries of such a huge Drow hunting party sent shivers of delight and pleasure down Asse’s spine. The echoes in the caverns resounded but with none to hear, as anyone who lived and breathed this night was there with them to wreak havoc. The adrenaline rush was a pleasurable bonus and the chill in the midnight air of the Valley of Darkness was refreshing and invigorating. They turned north to Brosna, a destination Asse had always wanted to see.
By the time Asse made it to the gates, House Le’tent was already following the trail of dead bodies. Guards lay in pools of blood. Archers had their throats slit. Far up ahead Drow could be seen dispatching more guards who vainly called for help, and dashing into houses to return moments later after silencing the screams. The streets of Brosna flowed red with human blood. It was a massacre, an overwhelming triumph and success.
Asse stopped and looked. She had never seen a Surfacer city before and took a moment to survey what she saw. It was full of fancy buildings. There were shops and houses. People had things to do and places to go here. They had streetlights and gardens, civic buildings and public art works. It was clean and tidy. Her anger deepened as she realised how easy and comfortable life was in Brosna.
It was at this particular point of time that Asse truly felt abandoned by Lloth, by all the gods. She did not understand why they had been relegated to drafty corridors and communal chairs. Now she hated the Surfacers even more. She screamed as loud as she could. The nearby Drow looked up from looting bodies and collecting more armaments and saw a woman on the brink of madness. Nobody dared move.
From that time forward Asse started to be come fanatical and militaristic. She wanted a systematic annihilation of all Surfacers. She created and defined who was in what Hunting Party and started them on drills. She ordered routines repeated to hone skills and pitted them against each other for practice. This was done day in and day out.
She designated Rules of Engagement, by which all Hunting parties must abide. Protocols were introduced to ensure maximum productivity whilst containing mistakes to a minimum. She introduced set positions within the parties, that were formed and adhered to, giving each individual a unique place from which to serve the House, which it protected, and who in turn protected them.
As her House numbers grew so did their military strength. Increasing the size of the House was of paramount importance and Asse did her bit by bearing as many children to the cause as she could. Asse knew that this was what was going to win the war. The Surfacers with all their comforts had grown complacent; none of them would be a match for her trained, organised and co-ordinated groups of killing machines.
The Hunting Parties grew in reputation and prestige. Jabress fought to be enlisted by their favourite team and jaluks were grateful beyond comprehension to be included in the honour of admittance into one. The weekly forays into the Fire Blasted Pass to train on Ancient Red dragons became legendary and steeped into House Le’tent history, as every Drow knew that for every Ancient Red slain, they came one step closer to a total Drow victory.
The family came from far and wide, to stand at Ilhar Asses side. Tonight they hunt the Ancient Reds, while rivvil snore in comfy beds. Before they leave to Lloth they pray and offer a life so that they may, Return home safely filthy rich, not lying dead in a shallow ditch. So Asse stands atop the landing, “Bow down” she says “or die there standing” The rivvil quivers full of dread and in one swoop she offs his head. They wipe their blades in blood for luck, and all dash off and run amok. Through darkened caves they journey fast, to the end, and out at last. The nighttime sky knows what is to come, their footfalls beating like a drum. At last they reach the spot they seek, Sol Del sneaks in to have a peek. Excitement grows, their hearts are pounding, they all rejoice with cheers resounding. They all buff up and ready to start, to steal the ancient dragon’s heart. They sneak inside the darkened cave, and take their spots all feeling brave. Thral lets loose and casts his spell, the fighters cheer and watch Sol Del, The dragon turns around to stare, at those who would disturb his lair. Sol sees her chance and nods to Shay and both run in to join the fray. Distract the dragon Talice will do, so the others all can run it through. Belia stands atop a mound; with bow in hand she holds her ground. Fire & Ice is cast about, as Singe’s roar is heard throughout. Chook & Nebril wield their blades, as some get close to early graves. Danna Rothe and Thyrren too are all there helping, to name a few. The fighting’s long and fierce and hard, but none of them will give a yard. For eternity the battle rages, to bards song and battle mages. Eventually it heals no more, the Dragon dies and hits the floor. Asse then removes the heart, before the journey home will start. Her family made her proud this day, “Long Live Le’tents”, they cheer & pray. She holds them dear, each every one, “Lets go via Brosna & have some fun”
Decades had passed and still House Le’tent had no home. Prayers were made, victims both human and Drow had been sacrificed and it yielded nothing. Tensions were always at their peak for family hunt nights where often times dozens or more members stood and sat around the pathetic little table in Underdark Central.
Amandel arrived out of breath. Asse loved that and it always made her want to retire to her bedchamber immediately, and she swallowed hard in remembrance of the night before.
“I have a key,” he said, looking pleased with himself. “It was on an elderly cleric of Shar I had never seen before, so I relieved him of it.” The bloodstains on his hands confirmed the statement. “Lets see if it opens the Temple door. We could use it as our home if it does.”
The family, bursting with excitement weaved their way through the corridors and caverns of the Underdark to Loknar. A crowd had soon assembled outside the Temple door. No one had ever been inside it, so no one had any idea of what to expect. Everybody dreamed of private chambers and rooms in which they could relax.
Asse put the key into the lock and turned it. The doors swung open. It was unfortunately a single room, drafty and barren. It contained eight chairs and an altar. An ox was summoned immediately to consecrate the ground in Lloths name.
“Well at least we can hold conversations in private now,” Asse said trying to sound happy.
“One hundred million gold pieces,” as requested said Tass, “now give me my freedom,” he demanded.
Asse unsure of what to say said nothing. It was unprecedented. The rumours of the rothes extraordinary experience with a God must be true for here he was with the cash. She regretted that she had not taken the question of a price for freedom seriously enough to stop and double the price that first popped into her head. A question formed on her lips.
“And by the way I am going to marry your daughter,” Tass added.
The question forgotten, Asse bit her tongue instead. It was an outrage to say the least. Unheard of. A disgrace. She was about to decapitate him on the spot for his audacity, when something occurred to her. An alternative was clear. She would take the money, grant his freedom AND rid herself of a backstabbing daughter. It was almost too convenient. The thought of a rothe, funding the Le’tents war effort for decades made her smirk. She could live with that. As for her daughter Talice, as far as she was concerned if she was stupid enough to marry the halfling thief then so shall it be.
“Let me be the first to congratulate you then. I will conduct the ceremony myself,” said Asse nodding for the chests of gold coins to be removed to her private treasury.
Tass grinned from ear to ear and left in a hurry. Within a month the two were wed. The event itself was unremarkable in so far as only three family members had to be removed from the ceremony under pain of death for interference. The bride was obnoxious and the groom was nervous. Bets were laid as to how many days it would be until Tass discovered one of Talice's daggers cutting out his heart.
Odd things were happening in the universe, thought Asse; there was no doubt of that. No one could make sense of what the Gods were doing.
It was becoming unsafe to hunt in-group. Almost every time a Hunting Party departed for a destination, something mysterious or inexplicable would happen resulting in the deaths of all. The Drow were fearful.
Neither the Raver’s nor the Pindanon’s had been sighted for some time. It was of great concern. Had they been killed? Asse never broached the subject with Nande and Nande never spoke of it, so what happened to them remained unknown.
Asse was not sleeping well. She would dream of arguing with the Gods. She imagined herself surrounded by faceless nameless figures yelling at her. It was always the same argument.
“You are too powerful,” resounded the voice in her head.
“But I am only doing what I am supposed to do, what any Drow would do given a chance,” she replied.
“You have too many resources, its unfair,” would be the next line.
“Resources? We have nothing but each other – we work as a team. That is who we are. We are a family,” she would try to explain. This was always followed by the infuriating comment,
“But the Surfacers don’t like you.”
This was always the point at which she would wake up. With sweat pouring off her she would grind her teeth in frustration at not being able to scream back at the voice…
“GOOD - we don’t like them either – that’s how its supposed to be!”
One night she woke and found Amandel gone. There was no reason, no warning and no note left. Perhaps her Amandel had also fallen to the pestilence of the soul that now sapped them all.
Asse spent more and more time pacing the Shar Temple and less and less time in the field conducting Hunting Party drills. Several passing lovers failed to distract her or comfort her from the increasing burden she felt on her shoulders.
House Nulefnein had long ceased to be. Nande’s Seminary stood empty and abandoned. Streea’s Monastery and Tetras grand residence did likewise gathering dust. Asse no longer had a mentor or advisor to turn to for advice of assistance in matters Drow. She was now the expert, and she now Matriach of the First House of the Underdark.
The victory however was hollow and meaningless. She had conquered no one; she had inherited it by default. All the Drow were being driven away by the Gods. Why was she still here she did not know. The loss of her friends weighed deeply upon her. A fear of loosing her heritage crept up on her. She knew unless she taught the young how to be Drow that they would grow up unappreciative of their proud and honourable heritage; that they would not care, or would be disrespectful out of ignorance. The future of both the House and the Family, indeed the entire Drow race, was now all up to her.
The immergence of a new rival Drow House called the Var’Hastt’s worried her deeply. There was talk of civil war as the Var’Hastt’s openly declared their loathing for House Le’tent. She suspected that they were sent directly by the Gods to hinder and annoy. They were doing a good job. Asse would have no talk of it at her table however, as she believed civil war to be ultimately counterproductive to the big picture.
Contessa Var’Hastt constantly avoided a formal audience with Asse. The insult was not lost on the Le’tents. Meetings with lesser Var’Hastts did not go well either. In many cases they were Asses’ fears come true. The jaluks were disrespectful and spoke out of turn and the jabressen were sloppy with their instructions, having not an ounce of integrity or honour between them. They were poor excuses for Drow. They were as unorganised and unpatriotic as the Surfacers.
Asse considered the benefits of just ordering them all slaughtered. It would have been easy enough and certainly stop the breeding of contempt. It seemed however, to be such an unbearable waste and misuse of resources.
An urge to wander aimlessly overwhelmed Asse, as she left Loknar to walk and think. She paid absolutely no attention to where she went, she just followed her feet. She had no fear of her home now. There was no new corridors left to explore, and no monsters here could threaten her life, such was her strength and skill. A part of her was dying on the inside and she knew not where to find the answers she sought. She watched an old woman in rags, fumble for coins to buy a new weapon with. She recognised a new fear within herself; a fear of old age. After 30 children she started to feel a bit stiff in the morning. She knew that the time she had left to accomplish her ambitions was limited.
“Oh OK then, ustaan does not have that much. Bel’la dos (thank you) anyway,” said the old woman.
“Nande?” said Asse with curiosity and concern.
The old woman straightened up, turned and smiled.
“Asse chev (beloved), how bwael (good) to see dos,” she said gently with sincere affection.
“Yathtallar,” Asse said, bowing deeply. Asse could not remember the last time that she had subserviently yielded her authority, and it was a relief to do so, even if only for a moment. Asse was also glad however that apart from Nande, the only soul to witness it was a rothe.
“Smith give me that sword,” commanded Asse, and promptly handed it to Nande. Looking over the smiths stock, she selected all of his finest items, requestioned them in the name of House Le’tent and proceeded to assist the former great Matriarch into some decent clothes. Looking over her handiwork Asse then presented her with a hefty pouch of gold for further shopping at her leisure. The irony in the role reversal was not lost on Asse and saddened her.
“What a fine Jabress dos have grown up to be. Dos have done very well so ustaan sees,” said the old woman nodding her head in approval.
“What has happened Nande? Where are the others? Where have dos been all this time?” asked Asse overwhelmed with despair.
“Ustaan have just been wandering around,” she replied. A look of sadness swept over her face. ”Things have changed haven’t they. Some for the better, like dos and dosst (your) family,” she took Asse by the arm and allowed Asse to lead her out of the shop. “And other things, well other things not.” She paused to reflect before continuing her story.
“Ustaan has nau (no) idea where the others are. Ustaan has not seen anyone familiar for at least a decade. Streea, ustaan think, was finally taken by that do-Gooding dragon Galdor. She was the best fighter ustaan has ever known dearest Streea, and well, ustaan is sure if it is true, then Galdor will have not had an easy time of it. Just thinking of that self-righteous pompous gold lizard with a limp pleases me enormously.
Both women smiled at each other.
“Come, let me take dos home,” said Asse.
“Nau, nau, nau,” replied Nande. “Ustaan has no desire to go home. Just let me wander, ustaan will be fine. I will be safer now, bel’la (thanks) to dos”
As much as Asse wanted to argue and insist, she knew it would be disrespectful to question the request so knew that she would have to honour the wish. It pained her to do so however.
“As you wish Jabress,” said Asse swallowing hard and once again bowing low, with respect whispered, “Vedaust (goodbye) Yathtallar.”
“Vedaust (goodbye) abbil (friend) and bel’la dos (thankyou) for these,” said Nande gesturing at her new equipment.
“The pleasure and honour is all mine,” replied Asse, rising from the bow.
Nande leaned forward and kissed Asse lightly on the cheek. Asse then turned and walked away. She found it a struggle to keep her head held high. She had a lump in her throat and was rapidly feeling unwell and upset. She wanted to turn and look back but did not. She wanted Nande to hold her and make the pain stop. Moisture left her eye and ran down her cheek. Asse had no idea what it was but she knew she didn’t like it much.