Resurrection

Тема

Аннотация: The Spider Queen has been asleep for a long time, leaving the Underdark to suffer war and ruin. But if she finally returns, will things get better… or worse?

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Paul S. Kemp

War of the Spider Queen 06

A Forgotten Realms novel

For Jen,

Roarke,

and Riordan

Acknowledgements

Countless colleagues and friends deserve my thanks, but one above all: Phil Athans. Thanks, my friend.

Eight legs, eight.

Clattering on the stones, ticking, ticking, tapping, tapping impatiently.

They were done with their battle, with their feasting, devouring their siblings, growing stronger with each juicy bite. Bloated and spent, they stood around the octagonal stone, myriad eyes staring into myriad eyes, eight legs eight tapping and clattering.

They could eat no more; they could fight no more. Exhaustion held them in place, as Lolth had desired from the beginning. The thousands became eight-the eight strongest, the eight smartest, the eight most devious, the eight most ruthless. One would fuse with the Yor'thae. One would assume the mantle of a goddess, the deity of Chaos.

Only one, whom the others would serve. . if the One gave them that choice and that chance.

If not, then they, like their thousands of dead siblings, would be devoured.

The spiders knew that they could not influence the choice any longer. The competition was long past, the fight decided, and only She Who Was Chaos could make the final pronouncement.

The spiders did not delude themselves with false hubris. They did not deceive themselves with any thoughts that they might undo that which would be done. The broodling war was over.

Eight legs eight tap-tapped nervously on the stone.

Beyond the cocoon of the inner sanctum, the drow were not so accepting. They basked in pride, they placed self above Lolth, they thought themselves worthy or even beyond that peak.

They dared presume knowledge of Lolth, of the choice before them all, and they dared plot and connive to deny their rivals their proper place.

Fools, they were, and the spiders knew it. Futility glided in their every step, their fate long sealed.

The plot was scripted by the Lady of Chaos, and that was the most perplexing and tantalizing of all. For any road paved by Lolth would not run straight, nor to any expected destination.

That was the beauty.

The spiders knew it.

The time was approaching.

The spiders knew it.

Eight legs eight clattered on the stones, ticking, ticking, tapping, tapping, patience twisted,

stretched and torn asunder.

Eight legs, eight.

Chapter One

Inthracis sat in his favorite chair, a high-backed throne made from bones packed together with a mortar of blood and pulped skin. Tomes and scrolls, the tools of his research, lay open atop the large basalt table before him. The soaring walls of the three-story library of Corpsehaven, his fortress, loomed on all sides.

Eyes stared at him from out of the walls.

Made from the heaped decay of thousands upon thousands of semi-sentient, magically preserved corpses, Corpsehaven's walls, floors, and ceilings could have filled the cemeteries of a hundred cities. Bodies were the bricks of Inthracis's keep. He regarded himself as an artisan, a fleshmason who smashed and twisted the moaning forms into whatever contorted shape he needed. He was indiscriminate in his choice of materials; all manner of bodies had been pressed into the structure of his keep. Mortals, demons, devils, and even other yugoloths had round a home in Corpsehaven's walls. Inthracis was nothing if not a fair murderer. Any being that stood in his way on his rise through the ranks of the Blood Rift's ultroloth hierarchy ended up in one of his walls, decaying and near death but still sensate enough to feel pain, still alive enough to suffer and moan.

He smiled. Being surrounded by his dead and his books always settled his mind. The library was his retreat. The pungent reek of decaying flesh and the piquant aroma of parchment preservative cleared both his cavernous sinuses and his cavernous mind.

And that was well, for he desired clarity. His research had revealed little, only tantalizing hints.

He knew only that the Lower Planes were in an uproar and that Lolth was at the center of it.

He had not yet determined how best to capitalize on the chaos.

He ran a mottled, long-fingered hand over the smooth skin of his scalp and wondered how he might turn events to his advantage. Long had he waited to move against Kexxon the Oinoloth,

Archgeneral of the Blood Rift. Perhaps the time for action had come, during the Lolth-spawned chaos?

He stared into the bloodshot, pain-filled eyes of his walls but the corpses offered him no answers, only lipless grimaces, soft moans, and agonized stares. Their suffering lightened

Inthracis's spirit.

Outside Corpsehaven, audible even through the walls of pressed flesh and glassteel windows,

the scream of the Blood Rift's blistering winds sang their song of agony-a high pitched, rising keen, similar to that made by the dozen or so mortals Inthracis had personally flayed. As the sound subsided, Inthracis cocked his head and waited. He knew that a planar tremor would follow hard after, trailing the wind's wail with the same certainty that thunder followed lightning in an Ethereal cyclone.

There.

A slow rumble began, just a soft shaking at first, but building to a crescendo that shook the entire fortress, a paroxysm that caused flakes of skin meal and dried hair to rain like volcanic ash from the high ceiling of the library. Inthracis suspected that the entirety of the Blood Rift,

perhaps even the whole of the Lower Planes, was shaking. Lolth had torn the Demonweb Pits free of the Abyss, he knew, and raw, purposeless power-reified chaos-poured into the Lower

Planes and sent shudders throughout the cosmos.

The multiverse, Inthracis knew, was in parturition, and the cosmic birthing was rattling the planes. Reality had been reorganized, entire planes moved, and the Blood Rift, Inthracis's home plane, groaned under the resulting onslaught of energies. Ever since Lolth had begun her. .

activities, the barren, mountainous plane had suffered a plague of volcanic eruptions, blizzards of ash, and thunderous rockslides that could have buried continents on the Prime Material. Fissures opened at random in the mountainous, rocky landscape, swallowing leagues of earth. The churning, gore-filled flow of the Blood River, the great artery that fed the body of the plane, roiled in its wide channel.

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