Life among the drow is not easy. The dark elves of the Underdark are cruel, ambitious creatures that prey upon one another as easily as they prey upon other races. The spider goddess Lolth, their capricious and malevolent deity, encourages this kind of behavior, believing that it leads to the ultimate strengthening of the drow race.
The drow venerate spiders, and under Lolth's guidance, they have come to resemble these vermin in many ways. Like spiders, they are cold and ruthless: Lifelong friends and siblings exterminate each other without a second thought to gain the smallest perceived advantage. Like spiders, the women wield the power of life and death over men: A matron mother's consort will be slaughtered and discarded like garbage once he no longer amuses his patroness. For many, this existence means a brief lifetime full of agony and paranoia, ending finally on the poisoned blade of a family member or "friend." For a few females who have the proper ambition, the favor of Lolth, and the backing of a noble family, this life is one of near absolute power, where slaves and lesser drow scramble to fulfill even the tiniest whim.
Arda Pharn is one such female. She began her career as many other clerics of Lolth do by serving the matron mothers with feigned obedience while waiting for the right time to strike. Spinning her web of intrigue and deceit, Arda bided her time until the proper opportunity presented itself. It was, she knew, only a matter of time before the Spider Queen put forth a test that would allow Arda to eliminate her rivals and increase her rank among the other drow priestesses.
As it happened, she did not need to wait long.
Vandra, favored child of their house's matron mother, seemed a likely candidate to rule one day. She and Arda developed an intense rivalry that resulted in a number of failed assassination attempts and some moderate collateral damage. For years, neither woman could gain the upper hand: Arda's strength in divine magic was greater, but Vandra had the power and resources of their house at her disposal. An uneasy truce developed, and a tension like the lines of a small spider web spread through their noble house.
Lolth, however, hates the weak. She values those who advance themselves through strength or subterfuge, but she has no use for those who rest on the accomplishments of others. Vandra, a mediocre talent at best, depended almost completely on her mother's patronage. She was not, in the many eyes of the Spider Goddess, worthy to lead.
The first test fell not upon Arda but upon Vandra's mother, since the Spider Queen commanded that the incompetent child be destroyed. Vandra's mother attempted to avoid the command of Lolth. She dissembled, and then attempted to placate the wrath of the Queen of the Demonweb Pits with sacrifices. This only provoked Lolth to further rage, and Vandra's mother suffered the consequences.
With the protection of her powerful mother gone, Vandra was left open to attack. Arda wasted no time in pouncing on her and she offered her rival's still beating heart as a sacrifice to the Spider Goddess. Having gained the favor of Lolth and eliminated one of her most bitter rivals, Arda became one of the rising luminaries in the drow clergy.
Arda's meteoric ascent through the ranks of the clergy continued unchecked. Devoting herself completely to the service of the Spider Goddess, she adopted the path of the arachne. This brought her closer to complete union with her deity and set her further above the common drow priestesses. Control of her own noble house was a forgone conclusion, and her attainment of this goal was almost anticlimactic.
With her limitless ambition and seemingly unstoppable rise to power, Arda has begun to expand her goals even further. First, she intends to destroy or subjugate every drow noble house. Then she intends to purge the drow race of all those who are unfit to serve the Spider Queen, making these weaklings into "food for Lolth" in a tremendous ceremony of sacrifice in which the rivers of the Underdark will run red with drow blood, and the smoke will rise in such gouts as to choke those who dwell in the Night Above.
Having purified the drow, Arda does not intend to stop. She plans to continue her reign of destruction until every other Underdark race, and then every race in the Night Above, is scrubbed clean from the face of Faerün. She will be satisfied with nothing less than complete dominion over all Toril when finally, she plans, the Spider Queen will annex the world and make it a mere extension of her realm in the Demonweb.
About the Author
Ramon Arjonais a software developer with Wizards of The Coast. His poetry has appeared in the Absinthe Literary Review and the Hawaii Review. His short stories have appeared in Strange Horizons (www.strangehorizons.com).
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