By Devan Smith
Chapter 1 - Only a Male
Levon'el watched as the crown of the child emerged. She slowly extracted the babe as her younger sister, Kiarys, began to clean it.
"How interesting. The babe's eyes are a deep blue," remarked Levon'el. Her eyes reverted to the infrared spectrum. "What the- its eyes do not glow in the infrared spectrum. Blind perhaps?" She looked to her mother. "Who was the patron?"
"That's none of your concern," snapped Sheara.
After the newborn was cleaned, Levon'el handed it to her mother, Sheara, Matron of House Der'sho, 27th House of Menzoberranzan.
"Douse the candle." After Levon'el did so, she put her finger directly in front of the babe's nose. Its eyes crossed, looking straight at the extended digit. "Interesting, it is not blind." She glanced downward on the child.
"Only a male," she growled.
"But at least it's healthy," remarked Levon'el. "We can well use a noble wizard or warrior."
Matron Sheara slowly nodded. "That's true. Kiarys, as part of your tasks, you will now raise your new brother, and teach him to speak. Take him to the chapel." The Matron extended the male child.
Kiarys hesitated and Sheara backhanded her. "What are you waiting for?"
"Matron, you have not named the child!"
"Oh yes, a name," said Sheara lightly. "Dren." She gave the child to Kiarys and waved her away. Kiarys took the child and left the ante-chamber.
"She is observant, and learns quickly," said Levon'el.
"She will do us proud when she leaves for the Academy," Sheara replied. "But an elder sister should watch such a promising sister carefully," she added, with a grin.
Dren swept the small Der'sho chapel with a broom taller than he. A priestess of Lolth stood cleaning the altar, and a few of the house soldiers sat in the pews conversing. Once he finished sweeping the tiny room, he put the broom in a closet and headed towards the kitchen. His mother had company, so the cooks needed a little extra help. Naturally, the task fell to Dren.
Entering the kitchen, Dren was immediately assaulted by wonderful smells. One of the cooks motioned for him to stir a large cauldron filled with what looked to be rothe stew. He stirred if for nearly an hour, then sliced up some mushrooms, and added them, along with a few spices. His time in the kitchen had taught him how to make a wickedly good stew.
After another hour spent cooking, Dren was released to his own machinations for the rest of the day. He went were he always went. To the Der'sho gym. Roughly twenty-five soldiers, a quarter of the House's army, practiced within the room, drilling, sparring, and playing around.
The House Weapon's Master, Jedzikon, wandered the room, offering pointers here, demonstrating attacks there. Spotting Dren, he grinned. The child would grow to become a great fighter. He spent nearly three hours in the gym everyday, and he was only eleven! He could probably out fight a full half of the Der'sho soldiers. And he was quickly improving.
Jedzikon only hopped that Dren would not kill him for the position of Weapon's Master once he returned from the Academy, some twenty years hence. "Ready to spar, Dren?"
"Always!" came the reply.
Jedzikon motioned for one of the House's soldiers to come to him. "Spar with the young master," he instructed the hesitant drow. The dark elf nodded and picked up a pair of sparring poles, each three feet long, as did Dren. The two faced each other and nodded, bringing their poles to bear. The soldier, a new graduate from the Academy named Donn'ilak, made the first move. He came on in a series of slices and jabs. Dren easily parried and dodged them. Seeing a moment to seize, he went on the offense, going through several attack routines, forcing Donn'ilak's weapons wide.
Dren stepped forward and kicked his opponent in the side of the knee, dropping him to the ground. In a blur of movement, he kicked the poles from a stunned Donn'ilak's hands and placed the points of his on the defeated soldier's throat. Dren smirked, Donn'ilak fumed. Turning back to Jedzikon he remarked, "Too easy."
Jedzikon grinned. "Very well." Motioning to another drow, he chuckled, Dren was good, but he still had a lot to learn. Precautions must be made to make sure he doesn't become too cocky. Dren's eyes widened when he saw his new opponent. Tar'lin was the Lieutenant in charge of the quarter of the soldiers currently training. Each of the four Lieutenants had finished in the top ten in their classes, though Tar'lin was the least of the Lieutenants and had finished tenth, feeble compared to Jedzikon, who had finished second under a Baenre.
Tar'lin picked up the errant poles and lifted them. Dren had not yet battled any of the Lieutenants and Jedzikon wanted to see how he faired against Tar'lin. Dren shook his head in bewilderment, and lifted his poles. He attacked Tar'lin with some measured routines, testing the skilled warrior's defenses. Tar'lin easily picked the attacks apart, then knocked both Dren's poles to the side and spun around, keeping alternating poles out to block Dren's returning attacks. The Lieutenant brought his right pole around for the back of Dren's head but Dren had brought one of his poles up to block. This left both of his poles inside Tar'lin's, and he pushed straight out, throwing the elder drow's poles wide.
Dren stepped in, but as he did so Tar'lin kicked for his knee. Expecting this, for he had learned the move by watching Tar'lin, Dren jumped up, drop-kicking Tar'lin in the face, and did a back-flip in the air, landing gracefully. With Tar'lin's weapons wide, his face bloodied and eyes watering, Dren did a quick attacks that poked Tar'lin in the neck.
Jedzikon stared, slack-jawed. Dren was surely an improvisational genius, yet could still perform the routines of a more structured fighter. In nine years, Jedzikon was sure Dren would go to the Academy and dominate, not to mention the skill he would have when he returned. Still, Dren had a lot of pride, though he could not stand against the Der'sho weapons master and emerge victorious. To teach him some humility, Jedzikon took the poles from Tar'lin.
"Defeat me Dren, and perhaps you can take the Weapon's Master position before you leave for Melee Magthere." Dren looked to Tar'lin for help, but Tar'lin only grinned and wiped the blood from his face. Dren would have to face the weapon's master.
As the two faced each other, the soldiers training, and some who weren't, all gathered around them. Dren attacked first, coming at Jedzikon with a triple poke with one pole, and a downward chop towards his neck. Jedzikon batted the three pokes aside and deflected the chop crossways, across Dren's body.
Dren sliced back to each side, bringing his weapons back out, Jedzikon jumped back, and thrust his swords in a downward X, knocking Dren's swords down, and brought them straight back up, towards the younger drow's chest.
Dren snaps his weapons up, batting aside the attacks, but leaving both drow's weapons wide. Both bring them back in front and trade of attacks. Finally Jedzikon issues a double thrust high, and Dren pushes his weapons wide, as the weapon's master expected. Jedzikon steps as he slides his crosspeice around Dren's poles, and knees Dren in the gut.
Dren doubles over and Jedzikon brings the poles down on the back of his head, knocking him out.
From her chambers Matron Sheara watched the battle. Everyday, when Dren went to the gym, she would spy on him through her magical scrying mirror. She watched his progress as a fighter. It was clear to her that her son would not become a wizard. She was not, however, concerned, for he would make an exceptional fighter. His loss ot Jedzikon brought only one thought to her mind.
Only a male.
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