Like all citizens within the Yungian enclave of Augran, NaiNai grew up hearing stories of the Dragon Spirit coming and going from Yong-wen; she even once saw him when she was thirty years younger, serving one of the Father Merchants' family. He did not linger long, but she had heard he would sometimes grant wishes if offered a pretty enough jewel.
Xijuan is a small child with persistent pneumonia, sequestered from her healthy brother being sent to live with NaiNai, her grandmother. The medicine healers NaiNai and her own parents could afford have not been able to keep the coughing from returning.
One day, when word spread like wildfire that the Dragon Spirit was walking among them, bringing with him an entourage from the spirit world, NaiNai sought out the prettiest jewel she owned and ran to the market faster than she ever thought her old knees could carry her.
The first was made; the second found.
Night-mare was once an ordinary, aging horse serving her necromancer masters. The very day after Gavin left Brom's Inn, however, she was fed small doses of his new black blood, chanted whispers engaging her swiveling ears, her ordinary hide marked with streaks of sticky black but washed away before the others could see. Within only a day, the brown nag died, and Night-mare will now follow her blood-bonded master to his chosen eternity.
By contrast, Graul never gave up his will entirely bonding to Moryxxyleth. He chose to follow the hybrid, curious at the start: From what was his kin was so clearly running away? Graul chose to play hide-and-seek, chose to ease into the big creature's good graces while still testing his patience. And when it came time to choose whether or not to face the Sun, he made his choice well.
Raised with an isolated community which harbored many Varasa, Willven was the strongest psionic talent of his generation. He never lacked for affection and among his teachers were the best but otherwise unknown Varasa in hiding.
His hamlet worshipped Musanlo, and with the recurring, golden-haired forest spirit of several generations, it often seemed His blessed, kind eyes watching over them. Young Willven heard the stories before he ever saw her, and when he finally did, he believed them. At least until one day, as a young man with a dream to join the Sun Army, she trusted to show him more.
When she did, Musanlo Himself actually spoke to him.
It changed his purpose and his determination to face a world much darker than he had been raised to assume. He would never assume again, but no one could tell him he could not bring some of the light back.
Few Noldor roam the surface of Miurag alone, and those that do are invariably outcasts. Krithannia was chosen as a vessel for an unnamed ritual by her Priests, something performed before and of no mystery to any but the young child herself.
Noldor die of old age far more often than the dark cousins belowground, who fall frequently to violence and treachery, but witnessing this death changed Krithannia forever. Her curiosity for the land beyond and what could be revealed in its history could not be contained, and no distraction of lover or child or family could dissuade her from venturing farther and farther out.
One day there came a point when the lifeline was cut, and she would stay out as far as she had ventured.
A former slave purchased as a toddler, Mourn escaped his late mother's people in Vuthra'tern before he had fully matured. By that time, however, he had experienced fresh emotion his father had long ago shed, and learned focus and lessons of thought which his Aunt attempted to crush, not accepting that they came as one with his promising fighting skills.
Though he wandered the Underdark for a relatively short time, he realized there was little space to grow down below and constant threat from his mother's race if he stayed. Curiosity and the desire for new challenges drove him as well to seek a portal to the Surface and begin a new life where Drow had not been seen in millennia. He was free to go where he would, and act as he desired. The only rules were his own.
Mother squeezes through the tiny gaps of breaking bonds, before they have a chance to reform, and She may start as a speck of green landing in an insect's eye. The only direction is escalation, the only plan is to gather more and more matter to rip it apart.
Worlds both welcome and resist this. By the nature of their very birth, they need it and they abhor it.
Though base life may grow cancerous or twisted, sentient life suffers most being caught on the maelstrom of change following no laws.
A female and a male pair, each displaying remarkable stealth and martial skill. They stalk the Underdark, stealing evidence from areas of conflict, spying on the Illithids and those looking for them. They deny any loyalty to the Valsharess in Her City.
A young boy destined to become a Witch Hunter must know helplessness before the Lord and His Bishops. Helpless desires becoming the confession, the dream. Humiliating betrayals become despair.
At the very bottom of the pit, a Witch Hunter rises again if his first taste of revenge, of power, is to his liking and he wants more.
He wants it so much he forgets the only way those witches could have tormented him so in the holy temple and most protected place in the city was if the Bishops had welcomed them inside.
A relic of times long past, Soul Drinker is a glossy black blade with red runes magically seared into both the blade and the hilt. Somewhat choosey about its handler, Soul Drinker's magical aura affects sentient beings in different ways, warning them away, tempting them nearer, manipulating their most basic instincts, fear and desire, distilled into pure forms of terror, rage, lust, and, in rare cases, joy. A contest of wills determines whether one wields the relic, or if the relic wields the carrier.
Its name is simple and appropriate; it was made to be a stealer of souls, drawing the essence or spirit of a sentient being out of their body to feed its eternal hunger, punishing those who die by the blade with passing not to the Greylands or beyond, but...Elsewhere.
Innathi is the Queen of the Elsewhere, a long-time mistress and wielder of Soul Drinker, and the strongest will among those damned with her. She has been capable of keeping her identity over untold centuries while others weaker than her dissolve and fade into the generic moans and cries which drift across the blue sands.
Over time, Innathi and Soul Drinker have come to some sense of balance as they each await an opportunity to return from exile to the race which made them both what they are.
Amelda is a Ma'ab Noble Lady's daughter, born in the Northern Empire but spending the first twelve years of her life observing and enjoying of Ma'ab politics. Her father, she was told, was Ma'ab from her caste, but had died before she was born. After her mother's assassination, another man altogether claiming to be her father, arrived to save her from being executed as a secret "half-caste" without the protection of her mother's estate.
Now well matured, she lives bored and idle much of the time at her father's Inn in the middle of nowhere. Inheriting her Ma'ab mother's attitude and magic both, humility is not one of her virtues. If not for her father's ability to further hone her magic, she might have left by now. Brom seems to indulge her idleness, but her very lineage almost demands conflict and intrigue to occupy her mind.
Being in exile as the lowest blood of the Ma'ab (something Amelda will never acknowledge) and not being able to exercise her leanings in any appreciable fashion in her current location, nor share in the political gossip of those from her former caste, Amelda is temperamental, bossy, impatient, and easily frustrated. While the staff of the inn are devoted to their Master Brom, they would not likely extend the same courtesy to his half-Ma'ab daughter. Only the threat of her magic earns her any respect, though some have considered giving her name to the Witch Hunters of Manalar who occasionally pass through, if only it wouldn't turn Brom's wrath on them.
A small, fatherless family working at Brom's Inn. The three work in the kitchen preparing the meals for the travelers and the staff. On the whole, they have seen many strange things in their master's inn and are more difficult to frighten than the general population in. Elana is a hard-worker and grateful to Brom for having work and a place to live even being an unmarried mother, and Layne, much more than his younger sister, Imara, is protective of his mother's treatment by others, suspected of pulling pranks on those who express their open contempt. The boy is also very curious what goes on amongst the travelers passing through, and why some draw Master Brom's attention more than others.
Cheri is one of the several young, female human servants who works at Brom's Inn, the largest business and source of entertainment for the young logging town on the East side of the Midway. Cameron, Ian, and Leif are all "peacekeepers" or "bouncers" who not only deal with mundane trouble but listen to the tales of the guests and travelers, passing on everything they see and hear to their employer, the Innkeeper.
In the East Mountains of the Midway, Brom appears as a healthy, physically strong man in his forties, pale-faced and with dark brown hair like many of the men working there. One of the founding members of the town, he carries himself with confidence, has cunning business sense and a diplomat's smile and demeanor. He draws loyalty and trust from those in his employ, and is open to almost any negotiation if the price is right. He comes across as well-traveled, educated, and with contacts and resources well beyond his modest inn within the mountains.
It would not surprise any canny individual to learn there might be other lives, other faces, and other names Brom might carry with him on his back.
Rithal's childhood and coming of age was a fortunate one. His relatively small community lived in peace shepherding in the fertile hills southwest of Manalar, making the annual trip north to Augran, and sometimes to Taiding, trading wool and fine cheese for other goods to improve their quality of living.
As he grew, he learned once they had made the much shorter trip to Manalar, but adjusted their journeys when they found themselves increasingly unwelcome to the east. Stories of extreme religious persecution, targeting dwarves in particular, sometimes made it hard to sleep at night.
As Manalar expanded their area of threat over Rithal's young adulthood, Augran and Taiding remained strongholds where the dwarves could trade and prosper. The hill dwarves continued their trade and way of life, even shifting to slightly less hospitable lands farther south. Nonetheless, it was this pattern becoming known by a group of Human enforcers, men others had started to call the "Witch Hunters," which would see Rithal's life torn asunder.
Returning from Augran one spring, the group of traders lived what was becoming a more common nightmare for the isolated dwarven communities living aboveground: the burning of land and livestock, and the capture of a number of their young females on accusation of witchcraft. Any others that tried to protect them were taken as well. Only the old and sick remained to tell them what happened, but only just, as they had been tortured and instructed to give a warning.
Grief-stricken and with attempts to trade for their missing family going unanswered, Rithal and the only remaining able-bodied dwarves of the damned village would not stop seeking vengeance against the City of the Sun God, becoming mercenaries over time. A few would join the Guild in Taiding while others unable to cope with such a duplicitous city lifestyle would attempt other means of revenge. Rithal would be the last of those unable to live inside a city, and the one who may have found the perfect method to be the bur under the armor of the Templars. He did not care who his allies where; none of them could be as bad as the Witch Hunters in his eye.
Castis was born in the same caste with Kurn, limited to choosing from just this pool of companions since one never crossed the social boundaries as equals.
As individuals, Castis was not particularly interested in keeping an equal friendship since he was more than content to let Kurn lead the way. He possessed a decent magical talent, but with his lack of any accompanying curiosity or interest in politics and intrigue, all he could see it gaining him was breeding a slightly higher sorceress over a lower one, the idea of either chance disgusting him in equal measure. So he chose nothing.
His overall laziness and lack of ambition irritated his governesses and he would often listen to a young Kurn talk about how the women ruined their lives and took away their choice. He easily agreed, even if he lacked the passionate hatred of his friend. His attitude toward women was mere indifference, perhaps a little jealousy that they took up so much of men's thoughts.
The two young Ma'ab entered adolescence at about the same time, and Kurn's rants changed more and more toward "punishments" of a nature that made Castis wrinkle his nose, at least until he got the idea of suggesting that Kurn "practice" on him, to prepare for the day when he'd take the woman of his choice to fear him in secret, the way Kurn's mothers secretly feared Kreshel Divigna.
The young mage enjoyed the attention well enough and for quite some time, unintentionally extending the years Kurn would actually remain in their capital city. Then one night, when Kurn came to him with a stolen ruby and familiar defensive wounds on his arms, Castis finally had to make a decision on his own.
Pilla is the immobile guardian of Tamuril's fluid emotion. The bird of prey is fiercely protective of her druid and intelligent enough to distrust any sentient capable of deception. She has lived far longer than a natural falcon, and Tamuril's adopted Human family believe the bird to be the killing nature missing in the Elf's gentle soul.
Mathias had plenty of older brothers, so his chances of inheriting any of his Lord Father's lands or wealth was negligible. The only "inheritance" bestowed by Lord Briar personally would be the subtle encouragement of Mathias's developing love of "trophy hunting." It began with animals, small to begin then larger and more dangerous, but even his father seemed to know one day that would not be enough.
For years, Lord Briar kept a scholar as some kind of mysterious advisor, and as Mathias matured through adolescence and had more free-time than his brothers learning to one day run and defend their lands, he and his father would stumble on a talent, desire, and use for the young man: the punishment of criminals caught on their lands, in whatever manner he desired. None of them were missed, and disposal of the remains was usually left to the aging scholar. It would not take long for the youth to uncover just why this was.
The Lord's youngest son would prove incredibly restless, leaving to travel lands far beyond where his brother would dare dream. He feared none he met on the road, for if they proved troublesome to him they became like the animals that used to feed his lust, watching living things in pain.
One day, in a lumber town just on the other side of the Midway, Mathias was approached by an innkeeper who possessed an odd confidence and a need for men at arms. The innkeeper quickly uncovered his deepest desires in their first negotiation, and his promise of refining his "talents" intrigued him. Over the next few years, Mathias would earn a reputation even in Augran to the north as one of the better freelance man-hunters and interrogators for hire. The Guild never asked him to join their organization, and Mathias had little interest in staying under the direction of even the innkeeper before he would wish to travel again.
One of the few times he returned home, his Lord Father said he was proud of him and mentioned that their old scholar, who had long since vacated their lands, had asked about the youngest son just recently. It would seem he had an intriguing job for him.
Sarilis has enjoyed a long life taking and using the lives of others. In many ways, usurping the will and very breath of his victims has strengthened and lengthened his own.
Though a curious scholar and collector of tales like most mages who ever approach mastery of their craft, Sarilis also had charm and skill in political manipulation. In a time when many mages either hide their powers for fear of being hunted, or bargain with a Lord for protection, or simply go untrained, Sarilis has been a creeping, dark hand behind the actions and odd disappearances of several Noble family members around the land.
He has needed to move several times as patterns would lead potential mobs his way, and as his powers and knowledge grew with his age, it would become more and more difficult to start again. Eventually, he would trace and track down an isolated ruin which could be put to very good use as he continued his experimental death magic. His last, lingering ally on the outside would help an old man out by sending younger men with magical potential to become his apprentice, though there always came a time when they would prove too much of a threat to be worth the free labor.
One day he would be approached by a young man even uglier than himself, already well-accustomed to abuse and servitude, shrinking and sulking around the Tower like a well-trained slave.
This one would be his favorite for a while.
Born in the Second Tier caste of the Ma'ab Empire far to the North, Kurn knew great privilege and wealth, and the benefits of living in the shadow of his father's reputation. He did not, however, enjoy much direct attention from that absent figure, though the image of this warrior would encapsulate all the desires and ambitions of his son, as well as his growing hatred for the women who would run his life with an iron fist.
Hellhound Kreshel Divigna was often tapped to lead aggressive deployments of one of the Ma'ab elite forces, and he was given more rein to act as he saw fit, his decisions so often proving sound. Kurn's father was the longest-living Hellhound, ever-focused on his purpose to the Matriarchy, delegating and overseeing the intelligence, reconnaissance, and the running down of traitors and escapees all across the Northern part of the continent.
Kreshel never seemed to miss his home city or the two Governesses who claimed his offspring, but four times he would be called back, he and his best men forbidden from their next deployment until at least one Governess conceived.
Kreshel's matings were boldly brutal, always pushing the edge of what a cherished female high caste would tolerate to gain his strength for her own child. Generally very private, Kreshel rarely spoke without a specific need and this was how he got away with his actions. Never bragging or gloating, none of the other Nobles or society at large knew of his abuses or the potentially embarrassing tastes of his ruling Governesses.
No one except for one young, devoutly admiring son, who managed to spy on his father breeding, more than once. In this warrior was everything Kurn wanted to be, and he would not be stopped from reaching a similar level of respect and fear in the women in his life.
Kurn's inability to keep his mouth shut like his father, however, would prove to be his undoing.
Gavin was born of the union of a repentant Ma'ab witch and a clergyman of Musanlo. His mother died soon after childbirth and he was raised in the monastery under the watchful gaze of his father. Resentment grew quickly between the two as his father saw too much of his mother's cursed blood in him, witnessing seizures of "possession" and muttering in a demonic tongue starting when he was five years old. The priest became focused on removing that 'stain' from his son at any cost.
Gavin's father, an overly devout man before, now became violent in his pursuits of molding the boy into a righteous man. He didn't protect his son from the prejudice of the rest of the monastery, so Gavin's early life was one of constant beatings and insults. He would never rise high in the ranks and was too 'unclean' to perform most of the sacred duties, so Gavin was given the menial and laborious tasks; he learned to skulk in the shadows and stay out of sight and mind just to avoid the brutality of other monks.
His first act of grave robbing when he was eight was intended as a financial means to escape his current lot in life. He'd pocket a few relics and use them to get far away. This might have been the end of it except for his bloodline. Gavin was a natural necromancer through his late mother, and his time amongst the catacombs and tombs saw his talents begin to develop. The first faint whispers of a feminine voice he would come to know well asked him to stay.
By the end of that encounter, the young boy would have a whole new set of goals that required an education, something the monks would provide. Gavin possessed a sharp mind and a keen interest in the inner workings of the body. His talent in the healing craft would have made him a competent doctor had he pursued them. Despite often being used like a common peasant, he studied to be as well versed in reading, writing, and history as most young clerics. This talent and devotion to learning Musanlo's scripts even appeased his father somewhat.
At the age of seventeen, Gavin left the monastery with a decent haul of stolen goods, but that alone wasn't enough for him. Not content with the defilement of the Sun God's tombs, he also poisoned the food and water supply. He made certain his own father died before he left, though the round about and secretive manner of his revenge did little to soothe his hatred.
Gavin fell in step with thugs, bandits, and footpads as he made his way across the land, searching for one that could aid him in his pursuit of knowledge and power. Following the ley lines would lead him to his apprenticeship with Sarilis deep in the western mountains. The derisive old codger would prove a poor teacher, however, and Gavin found himself self-taught for the most part, reliant upon his own talent and what he could pick up from sorting, copying, and cleaning up after his 'master' for more than five years.
Fortunately for Gavin, the proximity to so much death and dark magic strengthened his inherent bond to the grave and the Maiden who had always been there watching him would manifest more and more with time.
Follow the Ley Lines, Find the Magic
Follow the Dreams, Find the Connections
The Surface Elves are not seen often or in large groups; for most Humans living now, they are magical tales, gossiping wishes of eternal and inhuman beauty, or threatening unknowns.
Like most other sightings of the Pale Elves, Tamuril limits her interaction and her known appearances to as few sentient eyes as possible. Having earned the trust and love of an isolated family of Humans living in her chosen mountains, she follows a path little understood: exile from most of her own kind, but willing to help and protect the family of mortals to whom she's chosen to show herself.
Her temperament is an odd mix of determination and too-tender emotion, her magic bound closely with the natural world she wanders and, unlike many Pale Elves, she is in tune with the constant cycle of life and death and open to its rise and fall.
Tamuril will be tested how much risk to herself and her hidden kin she will accept to keep what she has earned.
Enchanted spiders imbued with preternatural awareness of an individual they are created to obey and protect. They can communicate in the basest instincts of existence--calm, danger, hunger--and can obey basic, immediate direction if their guarded handler accepts the magical bond between them. Unless directed otherwise, these spiders will act against a threat even if it means they will be crushed or eaten.
Only two mages apart from the Valsharess are known to be powerful enough to create them.
As one Priestess holds the secret to creating the Bred Consorts, another holds the secrets for twisting and transforming condemned Drow to become mindless, mal-formed Driders. She also possesses the knowledge for controlling them as mother to her brood.
Auranka has no clear past that anyone is certain about, though it is assumed she was once a Priestess in the Sanctuary as she is still given the courtesy to enter at will. Either she volunteered or the Valsharess called on her, but regardless she was selected to become a hybrid Drow-spider to be the better warden for the damned and most deadly guardians of the City.
Unlike her sister Priestesses and even the Valsharess, she does not appear to be aging even over the nine centuries Phaelous has been alive as witness, as if her youth is refreshed every time she changes form. Likewise, it seems as if her mind or memories may be refreshed as well, as Auranka does not carry herself as the Valsharess, the Prime, or Phaelous do with so many years behind them.
Auranka could explore the Underdark for eternity and still find new corridors to hunt within.
Unlike the position of the Prime, which has never changed since the Sisterhood's formation and is recognized as one of effectual power, the title of High Priestess has changed many times over the centuries, sometimes frequently. It was the eventual pinnacle Wilsirathon expected to reach should she prove successful in her experiments to provide viable bred-daughters to the Sanctuary, but she was not in a hurry to get there.
The unspoken thought of this title is that it is redundant. With the Valsharess acting as the Drow's visionary, political head, and conduit through which Lolth's voice may be heard most clearly, and Auranka displaying the symbol of the spider herself in her transformations, then the position holds very little in the way of actual teeth.
More than anything, it was created to satisfy the Priestesses' need to compete with each other and reach some established rank, in line with the Noble Houses and even the Sisterhood.
Roshenthanon is an excellent mistress of ceremonies for the public eye--except for the fertility events in which Wilsirathon oversees her project-- and she is sadistic and intimidating to the other Priestesses. Her raw power is enough to overwhelm but she lacks innovation to be anything more than Wilsira's placeholder (not that many would say so to her face).
Her one value to the Valsharess is being the third of a triumvirate with Auranka the Drider Mistress, which serves a very specific purpose. The third piece of the triumvirate is interchangeable.
Suna is a Red Sister beneath Corpora Thena, belonging to Elder Rausery. She is an occasional thief of useful items if she thinks she can get away with it, though Lead Qivni is aware of her tendencies. She is also the Corpora's longest-lasting follower. She has partnered with Thena long enough to have been involved in the torment of many initiates, including Panagan, Moria, Gaelan, Sirana, and Jael. Like Thena, she is content where she is and looks no higher than to indulge in the binges where there is opportunity, and more often submit to her Corpora upon command.
Mindflayers do not have names; no sound made by any formed mouth can be as precise as pure thought, and all Illithids in a conclave tending their Elder Brain know each other as One, by the grace of those thoughts. They will, however, grant a "placeholder" of sorts when negotiating with another sentient who possess something that it or the Elder Brain needs or wants. They are all Ullipmious.
While the Elder Brain may yet decide there is nothing the Drow possess that is worth the danger in dealing with them, the fast decline of Ullipmious's kept body required an isolated transfer to another to preserve their knowledge. As always seemed to be the case when dealing with the Drow, this presented unexpected results.
An acting Corpora is determined by the relative age and experience of a given unit of Red Sisters working as a team. This Corpora acts as the point for her group underneath the direction of any particular Lead. Thena has acted as Corpora beneath Qivni, Agalia, and others, and even though other Red Sisters fluidly take up and drop the name of Corpora based on a task and their working unit, Thena is one of the few who is consistently called by this rank inside the Cloister.
Corpora is Thena's preferred function, which in practice has led her to be the joyful bully, testing the boundaries of every Drow who dares to enter Red Sister territory, certainly any female thinking she has what it takes to earn her reds. Thena's Elders and Leads allow this behavior as far as it does not physically cripple or kill a recruit, but the mental endurance and the will is entirely up to the one being challenged. Recruits who make it past the first few weeks either set Thena back on her heels and establish the boundary, or they follow her to do the same to others.
Currently, Suna, Moria, and Panagan are Thena's closest followers, though there are others that she may call upon. She and her group are known for episodes of "binge rape," in which their captive is not allowed sleep as the Red Sisters take enough stimulants to keep them awake and horny for multiple cycles. They usually experience a serious hang-over following one of these binges, and are almost always cleaning out lizard stalls, cells, and store rooms until they can be useful outside the Cloister.
Daleina was a Commoner arrested and imprisoned in the Palance dungeon for reasons unknown. Ramblings before her death and shortly after her escape claimed her breeding-age daughter was abducted by a Priestess and fed to demons because Daleina could not pay a ransom to free her, and Daleina's own protests landed her in a cell. The Sanctuary dismisses this as mere hallucinations and fever dreams of a distraught and grieving mother unwilling to accept her last moments before her passing.
Lana was the Tugren to Kain, her first Vungren (husband) in the Grey Dwarf Stronghold closest, but not close, to the Valsharess's City. When Kain did not return from his last scouting mission, Lana was fought over per tradition and claimed by her second Vungren, who would lead a group of seven dwarves into the area where Kain was known to be headed.
The all-male troop waited one year from when he left to leave themselves, not only to find the mineral what he did not, but to hope for the sense and certainty that Kain was now a ghost and Lana would belong to their leader without further challenge. Confident of his ownership of his new Tugren, Lana's second would accept her request to tend him on their journey.
Along with Kiren, these three Red Sisters form the rest of Jaunda's favored team in the field and all are happy under D'Shea's direction. Berayla is the most experienced under her Lead (the Corpora), sometimes going on missions with Panishan as they've proven to work well together in nearly all circumstance. Similarly, Kiren and Lawret work well together and particularly enjoy interrogations where physical abuse of the captive is allowed. In most caes, Kiren and Lawret require the leading hand of Jaunda or Berayla to guide them.
Shyntre was raised within the Sanctuary. He has a working knowledge of the Priestesses who first taught him of magic, as well as of their Draegloth and their Bred Consorts. He has not had an easy time of things as he proved willful and difficult to break when obedience and complacency would have been preferred. He heard much gossip early on that he was the unwanted and abandoned son of one of the Red Sisters, and his primary sponsor, Priestess Wilsirathon, encouraged his belief in this.
The young male would prove to have too much arcane potential, too much will and yet not enough talent for intrigue to stay serving the Sanctuary. The powers that be would move him next to the Wizard's Tower under Headmaster Phaelous for far more formal teaching.
Once standing side-by-side, few would miss the physical likeness between the Headmaster and the Sanctuary son, thus it was no mystery from where Shyntre had inherited his magical potential. Phaelous never openly acknowledged their exact relation, and any favoritism he may have shown was not in public view; neither did the old mage become an obstacle to Shyntre's education.
A voracious and studious learner in this environment, Shyntre would throw himself into his tasks and tests, sometimes without the caution more of his mage-brothers would show in similar circumstances. He seemed to be trying to prove something, either to himself or to someone else.
Anchorless and an ill-fit even in a fraternity of mages, Shyntre did not make allies easily. Some of them heard the rumors of his origins within the Sanctuary, and it would often be brought up, either as taunts or suggestion. At first it seemed his path could be to serve the Sisters who had borne him, as it was well known that the Red Sisters made use of their wizards when they needed their various talents.
Upon reaching a higher level of mastery than those his same age, it was whispered that Shyntre tried to take that path, that he tried to gain the Sisterhood's attention. And that he may have succeeded.
Those who connected the dots would have said that the young wizard deeply regretted his choice.
Phaelous is the oldest living male in the City. Only the Prime and the Valsharess have lived longer. There is a notable gap between his apparent age of perhaps nine or ten centuries and the ageless guess that many have about the Valsharess Herself. Though the Prime and a few other females now passed have lived to be over one thousand years old, no males to common knowledge have ever reached that age.
The Headmaster is always exceedingly polite and has not been seen to become outwardly angry to anyone. Few of his pupils require more than one demonstration of discipline as his everlasting calm and high competency leaves him difficult to predict and few males are willing to test his boundaries on a regular basis.
Given as the example of the ultimate favored male to which one may aspire, Phaelous at this point need only obey the Valsharess in directly given tasks, and the Prime in all matters of protecting the City; all others including Priestesses are at his pleasure. Though granted many opportunities to become obstructive and petty with females asking for his services and students, he remains the Valsharess's favored male and generally cooperates. If he does not, he always has a good reason.
Agalia has a more pure and straightforward reputation as being competent and fair compared to many Drow females. Like Jaunda, she is very hard to rouse to anger, but unlike D'Shea's Left Hand, Agalia is also quieter and watchful.
Her consistent displays of patience and observance made her ideal to lead a team of Red Sisters with a similar temperament. Agalia and her team are one of Elder Rausery's finest as a set of eyes and ears and silent daggers, without a mouth getting in the way.
House Aurenthin has long seemed to be cursed. That it still exists is a surprise to all of the top Houses looking down at them over the balcony of societal status.
The Matron and her daughters are barely considered Nobles to many, and they are only barely above "grey sludge" status. Their manners are brusque and inelegant at times, and they have never been favored to keep a Bred Consort to strengthen their House magic and refine the features of their offspring.
Unknown to most, House Aurenthin has also suffered centuries of harassment from the Draegloth. The demonblood hybrids are capable of invisibility almost at will, so every daughter of this House has known hot breath on the back of her neck as she dines, or has sensed looming shadows at the foot of her bed as she tries to rest.
There is very little actual in-fighting between family members; none see where they might rise in status and only the stubborn streak that seems to be a family trait has kept the successive Matrons from giving up entirely. It is pointless to fight among themselves, and this "us versus them" mentality in almost unique in the City, as it has left very little actual fear of the queen, her Priestesses, or the Red Sisters. Let them come, let them do their best, they say; House Aurenthin would take as many right along with them if it came down to an attack, to be wiped out for good.
It does not, however, mean that they are staunch allies during more peaceful times when they are being ignored by the higher Nobles and the Court. Each has their hobbies and their private thoughts, and surprisingly little is shared between them.
Jael herself is very young, just about Rausery's age when she entered the Sisterhood. She is preoccupied by her roiling adolescence, filled mostly with too many visits from the Priestess's Draegloth, no answers or place in the current status quo. Overflowing with energy and troubled by her dreams, the young Drow joins the military to release her rage out on anything to be targeted by her blade.
Her viciousness and complete lack of fear, combined with a noteworthy talent for one so young catches the eye of at least one Red Sister, and opportunity no daughter of the House has ever had before may be within reach. If she can survive her trials.
Tuilia is Curgia's meeker and more pliable younger sister. Also afraid of their sometimes-unstable mother, Tulia follows Curgia's lead on how to best gain favor for their House.
She grew up without being often exposed to truly sensual males, as her elderly Matron did not keep a consort except when she would become pregnant, and Tulia's younger brother, Grelio, was born well after she entered adolescence.
Her very public introduction to the Bred Consorts at the Palace would leave her awestruck and proud to serve her mother and sister.
Callitro is a young Noble who went willingly to the Tower when his magical talents became clear to his Matron. His obedience and intelligent observance of ways specifically to avoid irritating his female superiors has served him well, and he has been granted his true desire to become a Battle Mage.
The young wizard has heard many whispered tales of the Red Sisters, some incredibly unflattering from a few males who seemed to fear them more than anything. The one exception, everyone knew, being Shyntre, an older mage dragged to the Tower long after he should have been. His hatred for the Sisterhood seemed personal.
The chief Red Sister rumor of interest to Callitro, however, says that plenty of these queen's elite have come to the Tower in the past to slake their lust when their duties have built up too much tension, and that pleasing one of the Sisterhood not only built connections but their intensity in pleasure was unmatched.
Callitro would like nothing better than to see that tale come true in his small dorm room.
Rohenvi is a Matron who has climbed as high as she can, and is now only trying not to slip. Once highly active in the politics of Court and dealings of Houses, she displayed an intelligence and shrewdness during her first decades in full status of her inheritance that many thought would become something of note in the coming decades. It was shortly after the birth of her third daughter, however, that she became more a tender of the garden than a competitor in the ranks.
Court gossip says this was the result of three growing daughters of very dangerous and demanding natures and too much leniency on the sons and consorts. Rohevni spent most of her time fulfilling trades and trying to produce enough wealth to maintain her lands and family while sleeping with the proverbial dagger beneath her pillow.
Rohenvi seemed to recognize her own faded youth in her Third Daughter only once the First born was dead. By then, her will had been worn down with low-grade poison and the House's current standing was damaged, current agreements fracturing, that she could not see either her Second or Third being able to save it. The questions of possible sororicide were secondary as she had long accepted the enmity between her daughters.
After Kaltra's failed attempt on Sirana's life, Rohenvi sent her youngest daughter to live at Court, thinking the angry youth could learn much more simply by doing. It would not harm House Thalluen more than the elder daughters and her own complacency already had.
Shortly after being informed by a Red Sister of Sirana's new fate, Rohevni became pregnant once again. Uncertain she or the baby would survive what her late eldest had already done to strip her health, Rohenvi chose not to kill Kaltra, thinking the inevitable failure of House Thalluen a fitting fate for the cannibalistic set of daughters to whom she had given birth.
She would see her disinherited Third Daughter twice more, however, and the Red Sisters would reset a tentative balance, giving the yet-unborn Fourth Daughter of House Thalluen one last chance to save their bloodline from oblivion.
Panagan is a "middling" talent under Corpora Thena, who is under Lead Qivni and Elder Rausery. True archery is of limited use in an underground of twisting tunnels, but her precision and mild magical focus had been made of positive use more than once in the Sisters' group tactics.
She hungers for more status than she has at present, but as one of the younger Red Sisters, believe she has only to keep working, keep pleasing, and do as her elders do, to receive what she craves.
Moria is the third youngest Red Sister--initiated just before Gaelan and years before Sirana. Her ranking is also under Corpora Thena. She was quickly captured by Panagan during the wilderness hunt, and easily submitted to and followed the archer and her Corpora obediently, until her own chance to hunt a new recruit.
Though that recruit died in the wilderness during her test, Moria had stayed out long enough to practice her training far longer than Panagan. Because that recruit was not captured, she was also sent on the hunt for Sirana alongside Gaelan, against whom she could not keep up.
In the end, Moria convinced Lead Qivni that Panagan had the least experience hunting between them, and when a new recruit was Collected, she would not have to go out to fail a third time. Panagan would take her place.
When She speaks, it is formal and carries the weight of Her station and aura with it. When She moves, it is with deliberate purpose and unreal grace. She wastes not breath nor gesture nor step.
She is always watching, listening to the heartbeat of Her City, encouraging in Her People as much change in status and wealth and appearance as possible. There is no need to seek change from outside of the Underdark. The City provides all that could be needed, and they provide all that She requires..
Yet new visions coupled with ancient memories preoccupy Her more often these days, rooted in a time long buried in sand, Her history dispersed upon a surging wind.
These premonitions happen more than She is willing to let any know, not even the Prime--though She will use Her Sisterhood as needed to discover more about who or what troubles Her most.
Rausery never had any other name; she was a street urchin surviving on her own for a time. She was a natural leader and could draw other orphans or runaways to her as they sought protection and safety in numbers in some of the darkest nooks of the City.
When the reports of organized, and very young, thieves, traders, and mercenaries were finally traced back to Rausery, the Red Sister Prime did not want her followers, only their leader. In claiming the Drow "troublemaker," who at the time was nearly too young for the blind tests of the Red Sisters, the Prime effectively cut the head from the beast, and established merchants had no further cause for complaint.
The Prime put Rausery's strong tactical talents and inspirational draw to work for the Sisterhood, and none were surprised when the nameless, Houseless youth earned rank upon rank. Long before Elder D'Shea, Rauery became both Elder and the Prime's Left Hand. For centuries she has been one of the most stabilizing presences for the Sisterhood, and one of the primary reasons the Priestesses have not yet caused lasting splinters within their ranks.
Curgia is the First Daughter of her middle-power, merchant-based House, and yet she is the fifth daughter born. The offspring of a paranoid Matron, she never knew her older siblings, as they had been purged from the House before she was ever born. She had heard the stories, though, and has tried hard to please her mother and Matron for the whole of her life.
When she and her younger sister, Tulia, both came of breeding age, her Matron made it clear that she wanted Curgia's generation to be granted a Consort from the Sanctuary, to sire at least one child of the House, if not more. She gave this task to Curgia, and eventually sent her to Court to seek the proper connections.
This quest would eventually see Curgia negotiating with the Priestess Wilsirathon in a small, private room within the Sanctuary, with only Kerse present to bear witness...
Wilsira was born a First Daughter to her House, with all theaccompanying privileges. Any hesitation at her calling was lifted after her first witnessing of a demonic summoning ritual by a new Priestess her same age.
When it came time for her own initiation upon the altar, she remembered the demon's true name beyond the ritual, and did not recollect much of the pain, even seeing how much of her blood had been spilt. Any elder Priestess would have said this was a call for concern, but Wilsira knew enough to take extra steps to hide these facts as her half-blood son grew her in womb.
Scarred and barren after the birth, as all Priestesses are, Wilsira always kept her male, Kerse, closer than most mothers, as she survived deadly intrigue and gained rank in the Sanctuary. She came to understand well the general envy and hatred toward the fertile Sisterhood, who were at that time free to breed and accept their own talented daughters into their Cloister.
It was a power imbalance, a threat to the queen, Wilsira convinced certain minds. Males knowing of their mothers in the Sisterhood had caused problems before, and if an "inbred" line of daughters remained within the Sisterhood without ever having lived outside of it, how could they be trusted to understand what the queen's City needed to flourish? The queen easily granted the sons of the Red Sisters to the Priestesses to raise, and with enough time, that came to include even the daughters, and the Sisterhood was forced to seek their talent entirely outside of their Cloister.
Inspired further by Lolth in reverie and with a particular skill in summoning magic, Wilsira created--with the Valsharess's blessing--a converted, insular dungeon beneath the Sanctuary, where she developed a method for breeding sons for her own Priesthood; sons of their own blood, and selected for traits and temperaments, using surrogate wombs in place of their own scarred bodies. Though daughters seemed either forbidden or incompatible with the ritual, Wilsira would never give up seeking a way to bear "custom" granddaughters of Lolth. Whatever the cost.
Where the web starts to build in earnest.
Will you be spun into a trap or sliced open struggling upon the strands?
Jaunda is Elder D'Shea's Left Hand. She is more muscular than most Drow females, even among the Red Sisters, and is crass, forceful, and intimidating to any who might consider getting into a wrestling match with her. She rarely loses, and always takes advantage of one defeated, to have them feel the thrust of her Feldeu.
She is the tactician and the sergeant who does what needs to be done, sometimes when she sees it, but most times when she is given the order. In contrast to her fellow Lead Qivni, however, Jaunda has an impressive sense of humor, and is not easy to get riled. Those who know her a bit better might consider her "laid back" and she is easy to laugh when she's comfortable.
Her loyalty to D'Shea and her sense of responsibility toward those on her teams is oddly strong, born out of the desire to keep what she's found in the Red Sisters. She seems to have let go of her past and her origins entirely as she lives purely in the moment. Where she comes from almost never comes up in conversation.
Kiren is a "middling" Red Sister satisfied with having some status in the Sisterhood as one of Jaunda's team, but doesn't want the responsibility and extra work that comes with having a higher one.
She has more than a bit of a mean streak and likes to cause pain and fear in the course of her duties, especially when she is called upon to use her talents with the whip. Jaunda knows well when to use her and will do so without hesitation when needed, but the Lead will also hold her back in rare cases where a cruel hand is not necessary to get what the Sisterhood needs.
Where Sirana's change truly begins.
This Grey Dwarf was out scouting in a promising area for his Stronghold, a bit too close to Drow territory. His knowledge of some far outer areas, coupled with his less common ability to sense a rare element within the rock (used in psionic weaponry) formed the crux of his function within his community. The Duergar did not send more than one scout if one would do.
Kain had left behind a fairly new Tugren (wife) on his last journey out, merely because he had always gone scouting alone before, and he had refused her request to tend to him out in the wilderness.
A Consort has many names; he is known by one "given" name by one Priestess within the Sanctuary, but he is also assigned a new one every time he is given to a Noble House to serve.
Every once in a while, a Matron may grant a Bred Consort some time for solitary worship of Lolth and of fertile females. This can be done as a means to rejuvenate his sex and fertility magic, as he meditates without the female company to which he may have become too accustomed. He always wears the "round belly" version of a House's sigil, as a collar around his neck and as a warning to others of his "restricted" availability and relatively high status among males.
One particular Bred Consort has recently attained a new name. He is the only one to possess a name by which the Red Sisters call him, one that not even the Priestesses know.
The oldest Red Sister and the founding leader.
The Prime answers only to the Valsharess, and she enforces her own chain of command below her, directing her two Elders, who each direct their Leads, who each direct their teams. She is not a heavy magic-user--this is in keeping the balance 0f divine magic in the High Priestess of the Sanctuary and the Valsharess herself being both arcane and divine--but the Prime's freedom of initiative and access to information goes well beyond any Priestess kept within the Sanctuary.
One of the younger Priestesses, but the only one in recent memory who began her early career as a trained sorceress. Her calling to serve Lolth occurred much later than average, when it reached the ear of the Valsharess that she had once dreamed of a dagger with red runes.
This dream has never been discussed, nor does the young Priestess know why the queen has favored her, but Tara has been in position to influence many of the politics within the Sanctuary and the Palace. Her strong talents and flexible mind have served her well as she does not shy away from these opportunities to follow her ambition.
She is an ally to Elder D'Shea, and together they work to strengthen both the Sisterhood and the Sanctuary, by the blessing of the queen.
She was the youngest Red Sister before Sirana's initiation, and the more honorary Right-Hand to Elder D'Shea.
Gaelan had also been vulnerable to a culling as a member of an unimportant merchant family within the City, found to be selling compulsion potions from an previously unknown origin. Only the fact that the spells were too powerful to be from the family itself spared this magically-gifted daughter from immediate death.
Unlike her mother and siblings, hauled away by the Red Sisters, Gaelan was inexplicably given a choice: the dungeon or a blind test. She chose the test.
The oldest living Draegloth of the Priestesses at nearly 500 years. Like all of his kind, he is trained to be devoted and obedient to the Valsaress and his mother-Priestess. Unlike most of his kind, he is in turn jealously cherished by his mother, serving her in ways most would consider undesirable.
As an only child and the fruit of the ritual that fulfilled Wilsira's full initiation into the Priesthood, his demonic bond with her enhances her abilities. Despite being so old, Kerse is still like all Draegloth in that he does not seem to have well-developed speech or much awareness beyond his more bestial and immediate wants or desires. He can, when it suits him, bend energy to become invisible.
Juarinia fancied herself a "natural," Lolth-chosen visionary and Priestess, though she lacked any training or sponsorship when she undertook experimental "rituals" on her two younger sisters.
Kaltra, the middle daughter, succumbed to Juarinia's delusions and kept these harmful rituals secret from their Matron. Sirana did not believe her sisters were anything but insane, and as such was forced to be silent by magical compulsion, effective until the moment Juarinia died.
That moment would come sooner rather than later.
Sirana's sponsor into the Sisterhood. She has been watching the young Noble ever since the death of her older sister. Seeing an intelligent and resilient problem-solver---one probably guilty of sororicide and, in rejecting female allies, vulnerable to inevitable execution---Elder D'Shea wishes to collect and test the young Drow as a potential recruit for the Sisterhood. If she tests well, D'Shea only has further plans for a new Red Sister.
Elder D'Shea is known as a powerful arcane sorceress and ambitious, ruthless Red Sister. She has a talent for navigating the politics between the queen, the Priesthood, and the Red Sisters. Many of the current methods for gathering and controlling information are either the work of D'Shea or her and the Priestess liaison, Tarra. On all sides, D'Shea's abstract foresight is the perfect compliment to Elder Rausery's more direct, physical competence.
The Drow Pr0n that started it all.
The humorless and exceedingly loyal Left-Hand Lead to Elder Rausery. Qivni prides herself on self-discipline more than most Drow, and she does not tolerate flippancy or lack of focus in others. She is the "Collector" who arrives to make a claim on a new recruit for the Sisterhood.
Her origins are unknown to most, even within the Sisterhood.
Latest update: December 7, 2016.
On Literotica, the tales go in order as follows:
"Sisterhood" (4 parts, 1 chapter, Dec. 2011)
"Subterrane" (4 parts, 1 chapter, Feb. 2012)
"Sufferance" (15 chapters, Aug 2012-March 2013)
"Surfacing" (on-going since May 2013, 38 chapters as of December 2016)
I decided that the easiest way to list the characters and not to provide unintentional spoilers to new readers is to offer them in order of their first appearance and their basic relationship to the story at that point. I will not in most cases be giving a full background or recounting every way in which a character impacts the events as that spoils surprises and intrigue, but you may still pick up some juicy bits about a character that play in the background of the action.
The main character of the story; most of the events are told through her eyes.
Sirana was born a Noble, Third Daughter of House Thalluen, in the Underdark City of the Drow. Though possessed of mild magical potential, she developed an unexplained resistance to learning magic and a barely-respectful attitude toward Lolth and her Priestesses. She preferred to develop her martial skills instead, strengthening her body and her wit.
After the suspicious (but alibied) death of Juarinia, the First Daughter, and a subsequent attempt on Sirana's life by Kaltra, the Second Daughter, their mother and Matron learned in questioning that her youngest daughter was barren. With no choice but to keep Kaltra alive as her only fertile heiress, the Matron ordered her third-born to live at the Palace Court as a permanent representative of her House.
Sirana spent more than fifteen years primarily coupling with as many males as she could get into her bed as she played games of intrigue at Court against other females for fun, seeming to reject all potential female companions, including any Priestess' interest, and repeatedly drawing the attention of a certain group always looking for recruits among the more alienated female Drow.
A devoted worshiper of Musanlo, the Sun God, growing up, yet shortly before he would discover his own potential as a mage, Brian watched helplessly as members of his family fall prey to accusations of witchcraft, devil-worship, and ill curses by the fearful and ignorant clinging to the questionable mercy of the Bishops of Manalar.
Traumatized, disillusioned in the belief of a loving god when the powerful men of the Temple City could order interrogations on very little "evidence' and destroy whole families, Brian ran away to Augran. In time he would join the Guild to make his way, keeping his lingering love of a Sun God he once believed in secret lest his new brotherhood judge him.
It was Talov the dwarf who approached him. Somehow the greybeard knew about Brian's magical talents. He asked whether he would like to be trained to use it.
"What good will it do to embrace magic outside the tutelage of the Bishops?" he'd asked.
Talov had smiled. "Reprisal for what they've done."
A well-traveled adventurer who has fearlessly explored along the water's edge of the Great Lake, eager to learn language, culture, and trade for the benefit of his home city of Taiding and the many undermountain cities surrounding it. Always welcomed back by friends and family alike as he's rarely gone for longer than a decade at a time, Talov has brought wisdom and experience back to his people with each trip, especially as news of a Guild's transformation in Augran leaked to settlements around the Lake. No doubt, and as usual, the strong hand of a dwarf had something to do with this turn of affairs.
Now as a once-fiery red beard has turned completely grey, Talov's reputation among his own and within the Guild of Augran is legendary. Whether laughing or ruthless, empathic or randy, the elder dwarf can say what's on his mind and few are of the mind to discount it entirely..
The three eldest sons and middle daughter of Shi Mu Kuo. They each know their place in meetings which can effect their father's status to keep them clean and above the squabbles of the gang leaders within the metropolis. The sons are well-trained in the martial traditions of their homeland and the daughter in polite decorum; they are a source of pride for their father.
The young are curious, most curious, when presented with the most exotic guests of their mundane lives.
It was the honored ancestor of Shi Mu Kuo who was among the first to venture across the Great Lake following signs of the Dragon Spirit that now was the time to reach out in trade and tolerance to the people of Augran. Family Shi has been in Yong-wen since the buildings were temporary and the streets were mud.
Many, but not all, grandfathers of the Shi get to see the Dragon Spirit in the flesh, but to host him even for one night is the greatest honor which can be given to the prosperous house which has seen more fortune than failure in their days. Shi Mu Kuo credits the spiritual wisdom which somehow followed them from their homeland so long ago.