Disclaimer: What is not mine, doesn't belong to me.
Warnings: This is a drow story, but I don't think its contents will warrant any particular warning.
A/N: This is a small project that has been bugging me for a while. It explores Kimmuriel Oblodra and Bregan D'aerthe's daily life, because in all honesty, I can't believe that the take over was as smooth as cannon makes it to be. The genre listed is 'general', because if this works – and I hope it does – there will be a variety of subjects touched: in any case, I'm taking this chance to experiment around. The story is a collection of scenes, so each part stands alone – in theory. But of course, - how could it be otherwise? – yes, I'll be making references to Future Markets. Reading that other fic is not necessary, but if you haven't read it you might enjoy it. That said, I'll discreetly fade to the background and let you enjoy: if you do, please, click the review button at the end and let me know.
o O o
Many miles below the earth there was a maze of tunnels and caverns known as the Underdark, a world within a world, a place of bottomless abysms and unending wilderness.
Many miles below the surface, there was a cavern. And therein lain a fair city, of broad streets and vertiginous spires, of hard angles and elaborate intricacies, of beauty and decadency; a true jewel to behold called Menzoberranzan.
In this city, there were the rich and the poor, like in any other one, and they all go about their business like small spiders preying and scurrying along, without noticing the magnificent web that supports them. At most, they only watch the other silky strands, and observe their brothers and sisters, and cherish their own position counting the number of flies they have caught, knowing that no matter how small this number is, there is bound to be someone below them.
There was this one spider, fat and greedy, who has managed to gather many strands under its control, whose spiderlings are its eyes throughout the web, and who can feel the vibrations of dust settling in the farthest reaches of the cave.
And currently this spider was very much confused, for it was dangling the bait in front of the fly and it refused to walk peacefully into its trap.
The spider, which will be referred to as Vlondril Tuin'Tarl for clarity's sake, had come out of its well defended nest – namely, she was Instructor of Arach-Tinilith, the heart of Tier Breche – for the sole purpose of dangling a good sized pouch, containing no less than one hundred polished emeralds, under its prey's nose.
And this is were the metaphor ends, because Kimmuriel Oblodra, the elf sitting across from her in a non-descript safe house of the Braeryn, would not appreciate being called a 'fly'.
The drow psion slid the pouch back towards the Academy instructor, not stopping to consider its contents.
"I am afraid that the payment method is not adequate, esteemed Lady Vlondril."
"What nonsense are you sprouting, you insolent male?" the priestess hissed.
I'd like to know myself, thought Kimmuriel. His face and demeanour kept frozen in a mask of assurance and confidence, even though he was starting to wonder why he had accepted the meeting proposition.
"I am sure that this matter was addressed in our previous communications to arrange for this encounter," he explained calmly. "The new policy of Bregan D'aerthe establishes that payment for certain services shall not be monetary."
The female leaned forward across the table that stood between the two speakers, her dignity flying out the window as she narrowed her eyes to mere slits in an open threat.
"Do you wish to cross the Seventh House of Menzoberranzan, you fool? You are scavenging more than you are worth! This insolence will cost you your life!"
Vlondril was old, and wrinkled in ways that no dark elf should be, and rumour had it that she was more than a little bit crazy, but still.
"Of course it was not my intention, honoured female," Kimmuriel forced himself to bow his head for a fraction of a blink, doing his best to appease the suddenly enraged priestess. "What Bregan D'aerthe seeks is to maximize the benefit for our clients, as you know…"
His attempt might have worked if he didn't have his own pride so ingrained. The psion didn't exercise his overwhelming charismatic appeal, and though he was as refined as a noble drow could ever be expected to be, his gifts went more towards the grooming of the mind than towards the expansion of one's acquaintances.
Said in plain words, handsome Kimmuriel was quite socially awkward.
This fact had never troubled the son of the fallen House Oblodra, though: he ruled from the shadows, and his books and experiments didn't need to be persuaded into cooperation. It hadn't even seemed to be a lacking area, right up until the moment he had had to start dealing with Matron Mothers and equally petty priestesses: Kimmuriel had the respect and fear of his men, so he could command them superbly as a lieutenant, but the females were proving to be another thing altogether.
Which was why, when he tried to sound appeasing, he came out as condescending.
"I want to deal directly with Jarlaxle," Vlondril cut him off. "Now. Your leader will not be happy to hear how you are behaving towards House Tuin'Tarl."
Kimmuriel's back went rigid at that.
Not because he feared Jarlaxle's reaction, but because he would like nothing better than to hand the old croon and her negotiations over to the eccentric dandy, and to go back to his psionic training. Lieutenant position was perfect as far as the drow was concerned, and he had aimed for leadership only because said Jarlaxle had gone temporarily nuts: the payback imposed by the Baenre rogue for trying to kill him had been temporary reign over Bregan D'aerthe, which was how Kimmuriel had landed himself negotiating with an old Academy Hag.
Truth be told, sometimes the psion dreamt that Jarlaxle was cured of his folly and that he came back to claim his rightful position, letting Kimmuriel off the hook.
Unfortunately, it was not to be.
"The new system has been developed by none other than Jarlaxle himself," he answered, barely managing to blunt the edge of his tone.
The Instructor of Arach-Tinilith changed her attitude almost immediately as she heard the rogue drow's name.
"So always clever Jarlaxle came up with this one, mmh? How did you say he called it?"
"Future Markets," the psion supplied, marvelled at how the mere mention of the Baenre's forgotten scion's name could work where everything else just failed.
The female stared him down for just a moment longer, as if assessing the truth of his words, and once she was satisfied she leaned back in her chair, her wrinkled lips pulling back in some mockery of a smile.
"Very well, then. The door open for me, the Weapon Master alive for you, and House Holrbar will be a nuisance no more. We all win," Vlondril made a sweeping gesture with her hand, and the movement showcased her bland flesh and greying skin.
The light of madness glowing in her eyes made her look more Iblith than drow for a moment, and it was a moment that Kimmuriel took as his cue to leave. He was developing a headache and some rest was long overdue on his part.
The psion inclined his head in greeting, stood up and went to the door, but he was stopped before he could make it out.
"Wait. Though the standard payment has changed, I expect the rest of the procedures to go as they were," it wasn't worded as a question, but Kimmuriel knew it to be one.
He turned to answer, and caught a look in Vlondril's crazed eyes that made a shiver run down his spine and his hair stand on end. Unable to speak past his shock, he merely gave a look to mean that Bregan D'aerthe shouldn't be questioned, and stepped out of the room.
As soon as he did, he opened a shimmering dimensional door and hurried through it, allowing himself a few calming breaths once he was safe and sound in the sanctuary of his own room.
The elf reached up and started to un-braid his snow white hair, slowly, his fingers firm and his hands absolutely not shaking.
… Vlondril Tuin'Tarl's eyes had displayed a look of absolute, smouldering lust.
The psion wondered just what kind of deals the Academy Instructor used to have with Jarlaxle that made her look at him that way, but immediately decided that such knowledge was not mandatory for running the mercenary band, and that he would probably be much saner if he didn't know whether Bregan D'aerthe's leader was included in the traded package or not.
Kimmuriel Oblodra no longer required sleep. He needed a bath.
Extra heavy in scented oils. With a slave to scrub the harpy's eyes off of his skin.
Or better yet: make it two slaves.
o O o
See, many people believe that the mere concept of morality is alien to drow society, but this is not true and as he sat in the bathtub, his mind prying those of the slaves working on him to try to discern their murdering intentions, Kimmuriel realized this.
Like anywhere else, there were three rough moral categories, and then an array of individuals in between.
Menzoberranzan, the greatest spiderweb of the Underdark, the spiderweb he was suddenly expected to control… Menzoberranzan too was made up of three kinds of people:
Evil, Sadistically evil, and Jarlaxle.