Sidescene: They Were Coming

They were coming.

The young Drow knelt behind an overturned stone slab that was once a table. It was just a few hours ago that laughter filled his ears as he and his friends drank bitters and played dice games. Now he could only hear his heart pounding so fast and loud he was afraid the enemy would hear it.

He rechecked his crossbow as they had taught him in war camp. It was cocked and ready. The string hard and tight, ready for battle, expectant. Even in times of peace a cocked crossbow made him nervous. Not for the warnings his weapon master gave him about accidental firings, but because it made the crossbow seem anxious for battle, hungry for blood—something he never was.

He swallowed hard and closed his eyes. He mouthed a silent prayer to Lolth, the spider queen goddess of the Drow. Months ago word leaked out that her priestesses were no longer receiving spells. Lolth had abandoned her children. The Drow, who had always been the dominant power in the Underdark, panicked. Major cities fell into chaos and ruin. Thousands starved as clan rivalries became open warfare. Some brave Drow headed for the surface, hoping the Overlight would bring a new chance at life for them.

But still the young Drow prayed. It was all he had. The enemy had made it past the outer post and into the enclave. Warriors far better than he had already been killed defending their small community. It was up to him and his two brothers in arms to stop them from getting into the shrine. Lolth may have abandoned them, but the Matron Mother hadn’t and he would give his life…. His life. Oh goddess. If Lolth was gone and he was to die this day, where would his soul go?

Some had given up on the traditional Drow pantheon. They believed that with Lolth gone, oblivion was all that awaited a dying Drow who held true to them.They flocked to the worship of Eilistraee, a Drow goddess of redemption that still worked within the Elven pantheon. They preached peace between all Elven folk, so that Drow could live long full lives instead of dying in some raid or battle before they even reached their third century. Normally that would be a great heresy, but many were drawn to its message of hope. The young Drow had never really thought too much about the other gods before now, but he was suddenly wishing he had. Perhaps things would be different.

The young Drow let out a long slow breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. Things weren’t different, though. He was here now and the enemy was coming. He was afraid of the battle he was about to fight, afraid of dying, and afraid of oblivion. But he had to be strong. Strong for the Matron Mother. Strong for his brothers. He always thought he was the weakest of them because of his fears. But maybe some of them were afraid too. Maybe all of them were. Maybe that’s what it means to be Drow. To be strong in the face of fear, to attack that which makes you afraid, and to be the thing that makes other races afraid of the dark.

He heard the bootfalls of the enemy. He could smell their rotting flesh. And he was—expectant, ready for battle. He finally understood. This is why he was here, why all Drow were here. This moment. Right now. He looked down at his crossbow. This thing he once feared was now his brother, his twin. It was hungry, ready for release, ready to fulfill its destiny as an instrument of war. He understood—everything.

He was still looking at his crossbow when the arrow came that sent him to oblivion.

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