“Devoutly to be wish’d…”



Draazzul awoke in a cold sweat. She had been dreaming of the black dragon again, a wickedly intelligent being capable of crawling behind the cavern walls of the drow. And as usual in that dream, it spoke to her through a chink in the wall just behind her sleeping pallet.

“Why not kill your matron,” the black tongue had whispered, “slit her throat while she sleeps.”

In that dream, Draazzul could neither move nor speak, her body paralyzed by magic. The dragon’s sibilant philosophy made her weep. Hearing any of this was heresy, and to have heresy forced upon one’s devotion was monstrous.

“Or poison,” the thing chuckled, “a tincture will get you far. You, yourself, could wear the crown your matron enjoys.”

“I will not,” she whispered, dressing for the day. “I will not listen to this dream.” But even as she reassured herself, a deeper self in a deeper hell awoke. On black scales did it slither through her consciousness by day, whispering, sticking its forked tongue into her heart even as she ignored it.

“You are not behind your training today,” Weaponmaster Balok hissed, grabbing Draazzul’s bladed staff out her hands, whirling it until one of its blades stopped at her throat, “and I have no use for a dreamer. Either you are with the Spider Queen, or you are not, for to blink your task is to betray her worth.”

“I will listen,” Draazzul said hotly, unsure of the correct action in such perilous circumstances. “I cherish our Sovereign.”

“You must rather die than not practice,” Balok hissed, handing the staff back to his charge, for he too was unsure of his stance against the female. Draazzul would either be  a named warrior one day in a fine drow house, or be broken, yet even he could not tell at this moment which destiny had chosen for the girl.

Draazzul put herself behind her remaining efforts, inviting exhaustion to bend itself to her will, anything but hear the forked tongue speak to her in her head. This action brought about a softening to Balok’s frowning mien, and even though he would deny it, Draazzul knew he was praising her silently.

For the rest of the day in Balok’s presence, she played the solemn attendant, snapping to action when he grunted commands, bringing honor to him during the brooding meetings he endured with other weaponsmasters.

“This is my great work,” Balok suddenly boasted to Weaponsmaster Trrask. The two had been drinking, showing off how obedient their chosen students were with ridiculous demands. And while Balok had seemingly ignored Draazzul, she now saw his wit and plan.

“The Demon Queen thinks it not so,” Trrask smiled grimly, “my fellow, my Kairn is the best.”

“And shall we wager this?” Balok dared, patting a squat purse of ebon coin.

“Not coins,” Trrask said. “They must duel to the death for the honor of the drow.”

“Draazzul,” Balok ordered, “kill Kairn.”

Kairn distanced himself from his master, unsheathing two sharp serpentine blades from his belt. Each blade was envenomed.

“Kill him and eat his heart,” the voice in Draazzul’s head taunted, “be like the vampire who sucks the blood of her prey.”

The first sally was negated by Draazzul’s staff, a whisper of blade slicing the air, forcing Kairn to recalculate his attack. Kairn was no fool, Draazzul could tell. The drow was coy, stealthy of step, wicked of intent. She would not walk away from this unscathed.

Kairn faltered for a moment over a pockmark in the cavern floor, and Draazzul sprang, bringing the bladed staff from left to right, passing it behind her back, allowing it whisper with dread momentum before she directed it at Kairn’s warding hand.

It was only a moment, but it cost Kairn his left hand.

Blood spurted from the stump, but it did not stop Kairn. He raged at Draazzul with his right hand, his right bladed hand. Bending backwards at the assault, Draazzul emulated a drunkard, dipping her head back almost to the cavern floor, allowing Kairn’s lone blade to whisk by harmlessly.

Black Fate smiled upon Draazzul, and she found herself thanking her weaponsmaster for his odd martial training her brought from the surface world. She forced her body to fall hard to the cavern floor, the impact thrusting her legs into Kairn’s, already trapping them in a vice-like lock. Kairn fell harder, and even as he flailed at Draazzul with his blade, he heard the bladed staff whisper in the darkness, and surreally heard his own surprised grunt as it cleaved with dire force into his skull.

“She cheated,” Trrask shouted, watching his investment die.

“By the Demon Queen,” Balok said sternly, “you wish to take this before the Matron then?”

Trrask shook his head stubbornly, realizing how the incident would only garner him disdain and laughter from the matron’s court. His name would be worse than offal, and Balok’s favor would rise even as his own faltered…just like Kairn.

“I suggest you find a new student,” Balok advised coldly, “for the caverns are a dangerous place without warriors to protect our interests. Come Draazzul, we leave now.”

Draazzul mutely followed, her bladed staff proudly braced along her right arm. To smile would be to court disaster and perhaps a whipping with a serpent-whip, but she did allow a slight gleeful warmth to rise in her.

“See,” the dragon said in her mind, “you can very well do anything you choossssse to do. They cannot stop you, but…they can enssssslave you.”

The black dragon’s laughter was almost deafening, but Draazzul’s step was sure and firm. She let the dragon thrive within her; let it flow into her heart, its sinuous tail wrapping firmly around like a greedy usurer.

——–Author’s Note——–

  1. The title is a brief quotation from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
  2. Usurer is a reference to Shakespeare’s Shylock character from The Merchant of Venice.
  3. This is my first drow story ever. I wrote it to celebrate my drow monk who chose to be a mystical wielder of the staff. So far, so good:)



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