Authors: Philip Athans
Pharaun heard footsteps and brought the wand out from under his
“You will not require that here, mage,” a voice echoed in the chamber.
As the others filed into the room, Pharaun looked for the source of the voice. He sensed a figure lurking in a particularly dark shadow.
“There,” Pharaun whispered to Quenthel. “See it?”
Quenthel nodded and said, “You will cast no spell; you will make no move toward it unless I order it. Do you understand?”
Pharaun said, “Of course, Mistress,” but the others stood silent.
“I said,” the high priestess reiterated, “do you understand?”
Danifae and Jeggred nodded, and Pharaun again said, “Of course, Mistress. Can you at least tell me what it is?”
“I prefer to be referred to as ‘she’,” the voice said, “being female.”
The figure stepped out of the darkest part of the shadow and strode confidently into the purple light from the active but untuned portal. The sight of it took Pharaun’s breath away.
The figure of a drow female slowly twisted and writhed a good ten feet in the air. The drow was perfectly formed and nude, her body more like Danifae’s in its fullness than Quenthel’s modest, strong frame. She dragged her hands over her body in long, slow caresses for which no part of her was forbidden.
From her sides grew two sets of long, segmented spider legs.
It was those four legs—and four more like it all together—that held the drow female up above the rusted floor.
Pharaun had seen too many driders to count, but what stepped out in front of him was no drider. Everything about the spider-drow creature demanded the wizard’s full attention. The drow form was beautiful—beautiful in a way that Pharaun had no words to describe. Her long, spindly spider legs simply reminded him of where he was: the home plane of—
The Master of Sorcere shook his head slowly from side to side. It couldn’t be.
“Lo—?” he whispered.
“I am not the Queen of the Demonweb Pits, Master of Sorcere,” the spider-drow said in accented High Drow. “To even say it would be blasphemy.”
“I’ve only read about you,” Quenthel whispered.
A second spider-drow appeared, stepping lightly out of the gloom, and a third hung suspended from the ceiling, both their drow bodies those of a writhing naked drow female.
“Abyssal widows,” Danifae said.
The name meant nothing to Pharaun.
“You are her handmaidens, and—” Quenthel started.
“And her midwives. We were only legend,” the first abyssal widow purred. “We were only prophecy.”
“Prophecy….” Quenthel whispered.
“We exist now,” the abyssal window said, “to guard the entrance to the Demonweb Pits.”
“But,” Pharaun said almost despite himself, “we’re
the Demonweb Pits.”
The beautiful drow female smiled, her teeth perfect and clean, the skin of her cheeks smooth and utterly devoid of blemish or imperfection.
“No,” the creature replied, “not anymore.”
“What’s happened?” Quenthel asked. “Where is the goddess if not in the Abyss?”
“All your questions will be answered, Mistress,” said the widow, “when you pass through the gate.”
“It’s a plane all its own now,” Pharaun guessed.
The abyssal widows all nodded in unison and moved to stand on either side of the portal—guards along a procession route.
“You have come this far,” one of the widows said.
“And so have proved you are worthy,” continued another.
“To face Lolth and speed her into her new form,” finished the third.
“Her new form?” asked Pharaun.
The abyssal widows all shared a coy look and gestured to the yawning violet portal.
“Did you …” the Master of Sorcere said, his throat dry, his hands shaking no matter how hard he tried to stop them. “Did you call yourself a midwife?”
“Pass,” one of them said. “You are expected.”
Quenthel stepped forward, Danifae close on her heels, and boldly walked into the roiling mass of purple light. She disappeared instantly, Danifae only steps behind her. Jeggred was a bit more reluctant, regarding the abyssal widows with blazing eyes as he passed them. Soon enough, he was gone as well.
Pharaun turned to Valas, whose eyes were darting from one widow to another. He had a hand on one of the many garish trinkets he wore pinned to his vest.
“So, Master Hune,” Pharaun said, “here we are.”
Valas looked at him and nodded.
“Where we’re going …” the wizard said, pausing to gather his thoughts—not easy with the prospect of stepping through that particular portal looming so close. “It could be that your services are no longer required.”
Valas locked his eyes on Pharaun’s and said, “My services are no longer adequate.”
Pharaun took a deep breath.
“Well,” the wizard said, “as I said before, we would benefit from your skills and experience wherever we go, but here we’ve come to a point where you must make a decision.”
“I have,” said Valas, the look in his eye inviting no more conversation.
“Yes, well,” Pharaun said, “there it is.”
The wizard turned and without a backward glance stepped into the portal, leaving Valas Hune behind.
was born in Rochester, New York in 1964 but grew up in suburban Chicago, where he fed his imagination a steady diet of
magazines, Marvel comic books, reruns of
, and the very real triumphs of the Space Race. After graduating from film school in 1985 he published a small circulation literary magazine called
Alternative Fiction & Poetry
while working in a series of record stores to pay the bills and get free CDs. In 1995 he accepted a position as editor in the book publishing department of TSR in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. When that job moved west to Seattle in 1997, Phil moved with it and eventually became the Wizzy Award-winning Managing Editor for Wizards of the Coast Book Publishing.
R. A. SALVATORE’S
War of the Spider Queen Book V: Annihilation
©2004 Wizards of the Coast LLC
All characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or unauthorized use of the material or artwork contained herein is prohibited without the express written permission of Wizards of the Coast LLC.
Published by Wizards of the Coast LLC
IZARDS OF THE
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All Wizards of the Coast characters, and the distinctive likenesses thereof are property of Wizards of the Coast LLC.
Map by Todd Gamble
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 2004116878
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