Dissolution

Тема

Аннотация: Book 1 of War of the Spider Queen By R. A. Salvatore.

The War of the Spider Queen begins here.

The first novel in an epic six-part series from the fertile imaginations of R.A. Salvatore and a select group of the newest, most exciting authors in the genre. Join them as they peel back the surface of the richest fantasy world ever created, to show the dark heart beneath.

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RICHARD LEE BYERS

It was a flicker of clarity in the foggy realm of shadowy chaos, where nothing was quite what it seemed, and everything was inevitably more treacherous and dangerous. But this, the crystalline glimmer of a single silken strand, shone brightly, caught her eye, and showed her all that it was and all that would soon be, and all that she was and all that she would soon be. The glimmer of light in the dark Abyss promised renewal and greater glory and made that promise all the sweeter with its hints of danger, mortal danger for a creature immortal by nature. That, too, was the allure, was, in truth, the greatest joy of the growth. The mother of chaos was fear, not evil, and the enjoyment of chaos was the continual fear of the unknown, the shifting foundation of everything, the knowledge that every twist and turn could lead to disaster.

It was something the drow had never come to fully understand and appreciate, and she preferred that ignorance. To the drow, the chaos was a means for personal gain; there were no straight ladders in the tumult of drow life for one to climb. But the beauty was not the ascent, she knew, if they did not. The beauty was the moment, every moment, of living in the swirl of the unknown, the whirlpool of true chaos. So this, then, was a movement forward, but within that movement, it was a gamble, a risk that could launch the chaos of her world to greater heights and surprises. She wished she could remain more fully conscious to witness it all, to bask in it all. But no matter. Even within, she would feel the pleasure of their fear, the hunger of their ambition. That glimmer of the silk edge, cutting the gray perpetual fog of the swirling plane, brought a singular purpose to this creature of shifting whims and reminded her that it was time, was past time. Never taking her gaze off that glimmer, the creature turned slowly, winding herself in the single strand. The first strand of millions. The start of the metamorphosis, the promise.

ONE

Gromph Baenre, Archmage of Menzoberranzan, flicked a long, obsidian-skinned finger. His office door, a black marble rectangle incised all over with lines of tiny runes, swung noiselessly shut and locked itself. At least certain that no one could see him, the drow wizard rose from the white bone desk, faced the back wall, and swirled his hands in a complex pattern. A second doorway opened in the stippled calcite surface. His dark elf vision unimpaired by the lack of light, Gromph stepped into the blackness beyond the new exit. There was no floor there to receive his tread, and for a moment he fell, then he invoked the power of levitation granted by the House Baenre insignia brooch that he was never without. He began to rise, floating up a featureless shaft. The cool air tingled and prickled against his skin as it always did, and it also carried a rank, unpleasant smell. Evidently one of the creatures native to this peculiar pseudoplane of existence had been nosing around the conduit. Sure enough, something rattled above his head. The rank smell was suddenly stronger, pungent enough to make his scarlet eyes water and sting his nose. Gromph looked up. At first he saw nothing, but then he discerned a vague ovoid shape in the darkness. The archmage wondered how the beast had gotten inside the shaft. Nothing ever had before. Had it torn a hole in the wall, oozed through like a ghost, or done something stranger still? Perhaps— It plummeted at him, putting an end to his speculations. Gromph could have effortlessly blasted the creature with one of his wands, but he preferred to conserve their power for genuine threats. Instead, he coolly dismissed the force of levitation lifting his body and allowed himself to drop back down the shaft. The fall would keep him away from the beast for long enough to cast a spell, and he didn't have to worry about hitting the ground. In this reality, there was no ground. The bejeweled and sigil-adorned Robes of the Archmage flapping around him, he snatched a vial of venom from his pocket, set it alight with a spurt of flame from his fingertip, and recited an incantation. On the final syllable, he thrust his arm at the creature, and a glob of black, burning liquid erupted from his fingertips. Propelled by magic, the blazing fluid hurtled straight up the shaft to splash against the descending predator. The creature emitted a piercing buzz that was likely a cry of pain. It floundered in the air, bouncing back and forth against the walls as it fell. Its body sizzled and bubbled as the spattered acid ate into it, but it resumed diving in a controlled manner. Gromph was mildly impressed. A venom bolt would kill most creatures, certainly most of the petty vermin one encountered in the empty places between the worlds.

Manipulating an empty cocoon, he cast another spell. The beasts body crumpled and folded into itself, and for a heartbeat, it was a helplessly tumbling mouse—then it swelled and rippled back into its natural form. All right, thought Gromph, then I'll cut you up. He prepared to conjure a hail of blades, but at that moment, the creature accelerated. Gromph had no idea the creature could descend any faster than it had hitherto, and he wasn't prepared for the sudden burst of speed. The creature closed the distance between them in an instant, until it was hovering right in his face. It had the melted or unfinished look common to many such beings. Rows of blank little eyes and a writhing proboscis sat off center in its bump of a head, only vaguely differentiated from its rubbery blob of a body. The monster possessed no wings, but it was flying—the goddess only knew how. Its legs were the most articulate part of it. Ten thin, segmented members terminated in barbed hooks, which lashed at Gromph again and again and again. As he expected, the frenzied scratching failed to harm him. The enchantments woven into Gromph's piwafwi—not to mention a ring and an amulet—armored him at least as well as a suit of plate.

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