AUTHOR'S NOTES: Apologies for the phantom update earlier, if you noticed. The site stripped out the "smart quotes" and dashes and I did some flailing and scrambling.

Date from the Demonweb

(Language, twisted implications, untwisted implications)

In the drow city of Menzoberranzan, in the Underdark beneath the North where Lolth - or Lloth, as she is known there - appeared during the Time of Troubles, the Spider Queen has allowed rumors to spread of a new demipower of chaos and assassins, Zinzerena the Hunted. While Zinzerena was once a legendary drow assassin and later an emerging demipower of a world other than Abeir-Toril, the Spider Queen recently slew Zinzerena - or at least banished her influence from the Realms - and assumed her aspect.

- On Lolth, Demihuman Deities

Zinzerena (zin-zuh-RAY-nuh) is a rebellious heroine venerated by the dissidents and outcasts of drow society. She appears as a cloaked and masked drow rogue who moves with astounding agility.

- On Zinzerena, Living Greyhawk: The Vault of the Drow, Dragon 298

Circa 1370 DR

"So," asked Mask after what seemed like a tenday of enthusing, "is she pretty?"

Vhaeraun blinked and frowned at him. "There's no need to be shallow. What does it matter if she is?"

Mask swirled his drink in the glass. "She isn't? And 'shallow' is an odd word coming from you."

"As a matter of fact, she had a mask on." Vhaeraun sniffed. "A full mask. And awareness of my own good looks is not 'shallow,' it's common sense. I am perfectly aware that attractive people can still be shallow cloud-headed twits. But," he added reflectively, "She does have nice legs."

Mask was reminded again of the absence of one of his own, concealed by the overhang of the bar counter and the perhaps slightly excessive shadow it cast.

"It's destiny," Vhaeraun declared. His own drink had gone untouched as he chattered on about the mortalborn from Greyhawk. "The cloak, the mask, the egalitarian ideology... did I mention she tricked Keptolo into sponsoring her for ascension, that miserable doormat?"

"Five times now."

Vhaeraun sighed the sigh of the put-upon and perpetually oppressed. "At least you're listening. Shar is just a bottomless pit of pessimism about this. Of course, it's her job, so I can't really complain."

"I suppose not. But considering the harem she's collected, pessimism seems to work for her."

Once the door shut behind him, he greeted her with "Vhaeraun has a girlfriend."

He had to give Sharess credit. She couldn't slip in anywhere like he could, but she got into places all the same. As he watched she summoned new earrings into her ears to replace the ones she'd bribed his petitioners with. When he'd come in she was lounging on a chaise, sipping wine and waiting for him. "Vhaeraun this, Vhaeraun that. You should fuck him and get it out of your system."

"Is that your advice for everything, my lady?"

"Well, not for everything. For one thing, I wouldn't. The first time was enough."

He flipped through the air and landed perched atop the chaise. "Fair enough."

Sharess looked up at him and smiled lazily. "Ooh, let me guess."

"Go ahead."


Mask recalled another familiar face in the Cynosure tavern. "Brandobaris told Tymora and Tymora told you, I take it?"

She laughed, running a hand along his boot. "You take it right. Though Tymora asked me to guess, and I guessed aright the first time. She's so much like a twin of his that I thought he would either fall hard or hate her like he does his actual twin. My second guess was going to be, well, her."

"Apparently she's unenthusiastic," said Mask. "Perhaps she's jealous."

"Anyway, did you want to try your hand at the Splits now? I mean that literally. I think we can do an Inverted Split if you have the upper body control-"

Tonight Vhaeraun had gold hair, insisted on paying for everyone's drinks (even Erevan Ilesere's drinks; Erevan was drunk enough by this time to take the windfall in stride), and as if this wasn't enough confided to Mask that he had another rendezvous set up. He refused to say when or where, and responded with laughter to Mask's attempts to tease it out of him (he was, after all, mildly interested in seeing if the fuss over Zinzerena was at all justified), saying "Don't worry, I'll cut you in on the next heist." Then he was making his excuses and jumping out through a shadow, and Mask thought that he was probably going to meet with Zinzerena now, a conclusion that was shelved for a while as seconds afterward Kiaransalee gated in screaming, in essence, that someone had run off with her good silverware and heads were going to roll.

That conclusion proved to be the correct one. Kiaransalee left in pursuit, and some time later Mask was entertaining himself in another tavern by listening to a thoroughly soused Erevan discuss mortal relations.

"She kicked me in the face and walked out," Erevan told him, and the tavern at large. "And it was just a little mistake, I mean, could've happened to anyone. Don't tell me she never got her names mixed up, I mean, you're not thinking too clearly at a time like that! And saying Sehanine at a time like that is actually kind of a compliment, isn't it? She didn't care about me calling her little Moonbow, did she? Come on, I mean -"

The door slammed open and Vhaeraun entered in a swirl of red hair and black velvet, the latter of which proceeded to catch on the doorknob. A moment's cursing and struggle followed, whereupon he stormed to the bar and slammed down coins and gave his order through grit teeth.

"Oh dear," Mask said, joining him at the bar. "Take a dip in the Far Realm? You look like you've seen an atropal."

Vhaeraun made another gritty sort of noise in his throat and downed his drink, immediately holding up a hand to signal for another. He was halfway through his third glass before finally turning to Mask and croaking "I forget, did you ever have a family?"

"No comment."

Vhaeraun finished off the glass. Signaled. "Her mask came off."

"Not so pretty after all?"

"She didn't even change her face. Maybe she wasn't expecting it. Or maybe - maybe she wanted me to find out. The bitch."

Mask mentally reviewed Vhaeraun's usual insults of choice as applied to various individuals. He feigned oblivion. "Oh dear, not Sharess?"

"If only it were Sharess." Another glass. "I cannot fucking believe I thought she had nice legs."

"Well, they're your legs too, aren't they?" Mask ventured. "In a manner of speaking."

Vhaeraun groaned. Mask's findings were confirmed.

It wasn't long before Vhaeraun was making plans for a Greyhawk vacation. Shar remained pessimistic as ever. Mask tried out various forms and positions with Sharess and mentally assembled his proposal for a foursome. A threesome if Sharess finally drew the line there, a plain twosome if the real Zinzerena didn't measure up.