Dark fingers made the crimson fabric dance, winding it around an armored waist, then twisting it and bringing it together into a final knot. Sabal's movements were automatic and perfected, hands never faltering. Instead, the sure motions cast dancing shadows against the light of the golden flame of the lonesome candle that lit the room. She was alone here, everything that could not be packed into a bag for the long hunt ahead discarded thoughtlessly. There was little room for sentiment in the life ahead of her, but she did make one concession: the dagger, with its disjointed blade and silver spider. It was quickly becoming her close companion, despite all its flaws.

The small spider that she'd been given very long ago, with its nimble legs and light dusting of reddish-brown hair, crawled across the surface of the table. Someone else had been feeding it while she was gone, carefully sweeping away the cobwebs but allowing it to keep the nests of silver gossamer still in use. When it was time for her to depart, she would carefully carry it to the chapel and tuck it away near one of the statues. That would be its new home, full of other spiders to prey upon. If it was feeling particularly hungry or ambitious, it could always bite a drow. The problem, of course, would be eating one afterwards.

Sabal reached out with one finger, gently stroking the tiny abdomen. Eight little eyes looked up at her in numerous different spectrums. From what she could feel of the tiny mind, it regarded her with a sort of fond disinterest. She had become the source of food, but wasn't edible or particularly predatory herself. It was more interested in constructing a web using her arm as a base anyway.

There was something reassuring about the tiny, dangerous creature. It was not in the business of judging. Spinning webs and assuring a meal was more important on the whole, and it didn't understand the complicated thoughts of creatures like drow. And it seemed to enjoy her presence, as much as it was capable of doing so.

She did not look up from her packing when she sensed a familiar presence behind her. "Now is a poor time to say 'I told you so', Ryld," she said bluntly, her manner cold and almost indifferent.

He sighed slightly and stepped in, a set of papers bound with red thread and sealed with wax in his claw-like hand. "That is not why I'm here, qu'essan. These are...records. For you. I was instructed to make these available to you after you took your vows."

"I have no interest in Yvonnel's games. You may tell her so."

"It wasn't her instruction, qu'essan. You know whose it was," the male said quietly, carefully. He knew better than to provoke the wrath of an inquisitor. Simple jibes and teasing might have been fine before, but this would have been like baiting a wounded and very venomous serpent.

Sabal turned smoothly, her face as soft and forgiving as that of a statue's. The wound across her face had finally begun to knit closed—soon it would be a vivid scar beneath her eyes. She was the only female drow he'd met to allow such things to remain and mar her features when there was an option to have them healed. "Records of what?"

"Your family. Your bloodline. Your house," he said vaguely, offering it to her. "They are perhaps at times somewhat incomplete when it comes to the why, but any question you might have about the who or when should be answered."

The wilder took the papers from him, holding them tightly enough to crinkle the smooth sheets covered with neat notes in Ryld's slanting handwriting. There was a long, hushed moment as she looked down at them.

Ryld hesitated. He knew it was probably wiser to leave, but as far as he knew, no one had come to speak to Sabal for as long as she'd been back with the Yath'Abban. He felt like he should say at least something. What, he didn't know. No one had ever taught him words of sympathy or apology or comfort.

"I know who I am," she said finally, turning towards the table. The flame of the candle burst to life, burning hotter and brighter under the subtle touch of her mind. She held the sheaf of papers just above and watched the hungry tongue of flame as it lapped upwards, turning the pale parchment dark as it was consumed. "The Houses can burn just like this, for all I care. The only mother I ever knew is gone."

He took a deep breath. "It wasn't your choice, qu'essan. I know I spoke of sacrifice as inevitable, but do not let it poison you."

She opened her hand, letting ashen remains of the papers drift to the floor even as they still burned. "I deserve whatever I become."


Thank you very much to everyone who reviewed! I plan on continuing the story in other parts, since this one went surprisingly well.