In 2018 we announced the return of Drizzt Do’Urden. The beloved
Zaknafein, Drizzt Do’Urden’s father, must face demons and driders–along with internal conflict in the book. The
That sounds like the perfect way to end a trilogy, no?
“We have a gift for you,” Yiccardaria the yochlol told Matron Zhindia Melarn, who had camped with her forces in the destroyed halfling village that had been known as Bleeding Vines.
“You seem to need it,” giggled Eskavidne, another of the handmaidens of the Spider Queen. The two could not have been more obvious. They had come not in their natural form, which resembled a slumping, half-melted candle of dripping mud, but walking as beautiful drow women–fully and unashamedly naked. To them, so they had explained to Zhindia when she had once complained of their distracting presence, wearing the mantle of a drow was no more than putting on the costume of an animal, and so why would they bother with pretty clothes when the form itself was so much more aesthetically pleasing?
“I need it?” the matron asked, skepticism splayed openly on her face. “The dwarves are in their hole with no way out. The halflings are…” She paused and swept her hand across to invite their gazes to the gutted buildings. “Luskan has fallen to Brevindon Margaster, by all accounts, and Port Llast is gutted. I have all but won the north, and so swiftly.”
“All but,” said Yiccardaria.
“Should we tell Lady Lolth that you refuse her great and generous gift?” Eskavidne added.
“No, of course not,” Zhindia blurted.
“Where are your demon hordes?” Yiccardaria asked.
“Down below, fighting in the upper levels of the complex the dwarves call Gauntlgrym, but one that I will soon rename in tribute to the glorious Queen of Spiders.”
uppertunnels,” said Eskavidne.
“The dwarves are a stubborn foe,” Yiccardaria added. “I have been told by more than one demon lord that a hundred demons are being destroyed for every dwarf falling. Perhaps more than a hundred.”
Zhindia Melarn shrugged. “The demons can be replenished. They open their gates to the Abyss and more stream through, even many of the same reconstituted lesser fiends that were destroyed the day before.”
“But you have fewer major demons now who can perform such portal magic than you had in the beginning of your adventure,” Yiccardaria reminded.
“Of course. And so I have ordered the major fiends back from the fighting,” Zhindia replied. “It is not an easy command to enforce, I admit. They do so love killing.”
“Tell us, child, what will you do when the first armies of the humans show up to do battle with you here?” said Yiccardaria. “When the Lords of Waterdeep arrive with their thousands and your demon armies remain underground in mortal battle with the dwarves?”
Matron Zhindia’s face tightened.
“And when you recall the demons to fight up here, do you think the dwarves will remain in their hole?” Yiccardaria went on. “They are not cowardly.”
“Luskan will do nothing to aid you here,” Yiccardaria insisted. “The city teeters, and will do so for months if not years. There remain other forces up there more formidable than those of Brevindon.”
“The Host Tower,” Zhindia muttered.
“Others,” said the handmaiden.
“If you speak of Jarlaxle’s mercenaries, then go to Menzoberranzan and demand that Matron Mother Baenre leash him and lash him!”
The yochlols both chuckled. “The world is wide up here, Matron Zhindia,” said Eskavidne. “There are many forces with which you must contend. You are vulnerable up here, with the demon hordes engaged below.”
“But I have the blessing of Lolth, the retrievers…” Zhindia started to argue.
“One of the constructs failed and was destroyed,” Yiccardaria interrupted, and the blood drained from Zhindia’s face. Yiccardaria stared at her hard, letting her know that she was taking the loss of the retriever personally.
“How can that be?” Zhindia asked, a rare stutter in her voice.
“The other returned to the Abyss, victorious,” Eskavidne added, “and so Drizzt Do’Urden is destroyed. And for that, you are rewarded. Your reward is Lady Lolth’s gift, unless you are so certain that it is not needed that you refuse it now.”
Matron Zhindia verily beamed at the news, elated that she would forever be known as the matron who defeated Lolth’s mortal enemy. She heard their words, however, for she quickly replied, “I accept any gift from the Spider Queen, with gratitude and reverence.”
The yochlols looked to each other, then stepped back from Zhindia. Each held her hands far out before her, left hand up high, right hand lower. They touched fingers and began to chant, then slowly moved back and apart, sweeping their hands as they let go of each other, trailing lines of black smoke.
They shaped that smoke into a tall and wide doorway, then moved aside, chanting still, as the smoke curled inward, filling the area inside the formed rectangle.
Their chants grew louder, now compelling obedience from within. Through the gate came a huge spider leg, then a second, and a large drider stepped forth, quickly moving to the side.
Then another, and a third after that, and on and on, a hundred driders, another hundred and more, spilling forth, moving around into predetermined formations, filling the whole of the ruined halfling town and more, and pushing out the Melarni drow and the drider escorts they had brought from Menzoberranzan.
“What is this?” Matron Zhindia breathed, barely able to get sound past her quivering lips.
“Lolth does not dismiss the driders from her service when they are killed,” said Yiccardaria. “Behold an army of long dead driders, the heretical drow of millennia lost. Now they are yours, a greater army still.”
Zhindia fumbled for words that would not come. Hundreds of driders at her beck and call? She had hoped to come forth and fulfill her destiny to destroy the heretics – a goal that seemed at least half-completed at this point – but now, with this new power given to her, what else might she accomplish?
“The demon army is not permanent,” Yiccardaria said, as if reading her mind. “No demonic army ever is on the Material Plane. When they are gone, the north will be captured, but not by you, not for long. No, your allies here will hold Luskan and Port Llast and all the lands of the northern Sword Coast. But your place is not here.”
“Gauntlgrym,” said Zhindia.
“Think bigger,” Eskavidne replied. “Matron Zeerith, now of House Do’Urden, will be happy to strike out and retake the great complex and the magical forge for the children of Lolth, as Gromph Baenre will be reined in by the dominance of your allies in Luskan to choose a side – and he will undoubtedly choose you.”
“Menzoberranzan,” Matron Zhindia breathed. “I am the destroyer of the prime heretic, and my armies will return Zaknafein to his grave forthwith. Even House Baenre will bow before me when I return to Menzoberranzan with this army at my back.”
The yochlols looked to each other and smiled, then stepped through their own gate and were gone, the smoky gate diminishing behind them.
When the yochlols disappeared, Charri Hunzrin, the First Priestess of the powerful drow house that had allied with House Melarn, moved up tentatively to stand beside Matron Zhindia.
“What was that conversation?” she asked in a halting tone. “Where and how have these driders come from?”
“Drizzt Do’Urden is destroyed.”
Charri sucked in her breath. “But still, is this?”
“This?” Zhindia replied with a chuckle. “This, my dear High Priestess Charri, is proof that your matron chose wisely in allying with House Melarn.
“This, High Priestess Charri, is victory.”
The word hung in the air for a few moments, and Zhindia liked the sound, so she said it again.
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