Fantasy & Sci-Fi

A Night To Remember

By C.M. Plante

Katar stood with a heavy sigh. A quick glance reassured him that the coals were still glowing. On Silthara, keeping a fire alive was essential or survival. It wasn't just the faint chill that made it necessary, but the roving bands of drow or undead as well. Fire was as good a weapon against undead as any, and the drow were practically blind in the presence of a good heat source. Like a well constructed campfire.

His gaze strayed out to the eastern horizon, searching for the companion he had spent the last three rises waiting for. As always, the rimson glow in the distance set his thoughts tumbling back to the history texts he'd read as a child. The war between the Three Sisters had been one of his favorite stories. The fall of Tanana, Sister of the Sun, was still poignant enough to bring a sting to his eyes. Her death at the hands of her sister Tencatha, Sister of the Land, and the maiming of Telira, Sister of the Moon, was a dark chapter indeed.

Since that fateful eve, over a thousand starfalls past, there had been no sun, no warmth in Silthara. Tanana had fallen far to the east, thus causing the deep glow in the distance. Legend held that a single fragment of her essence remained, flickering, fading slowly. Other storytellers would say that Telira had absorbed what she could of her dying sister's spirit, sacrificing her self for the survival of the people she watched over. True, the moon _had_ tripled in size in the span of a few hours, and the land _had_ remained unfrozen, though drastically altered. Even the simplest of trees had been mutated.

The bloodpine Katar was standing under, for instance. Bloodpines were unknown before the Betrayal. What had once been a popular source of wood was now a valuable and protected resource. It's ability to provide warmth in exchange for a small amount of blood was highly appreciated by travelers of all sorts. Even the lowliest of animals had learned to make use of the bloodpine.

Another sigh crept from the half-drow as he turned to the north, where the stands of kolanth trees painted the air with their iridescent shimmer. Kolanth weren't real trees, but instead a strange crystalline latticework that only resembled trees and had the unique property of attracting lightning. Groves were cultivated near all the major cities in an effort to keep the terrible lightning storms from demolishing them. On every Starfall's Eve, the seeds were harvested and sold in the markets. Like the trees that produced them kolanth seeds were natural attractors of lightning. The useful and lovely light that they shed was considered a fine secondary benefit, but many a wanderer had been saved from certain death by tossing a kolanth seed out and running off in the other direction when one of the unpredictable storms came roaring in off the plains.

Turning now to the west, the Riftwall came into his view. Looming over his home city of Taun Silthas, the Riftwall was another product of the Betrayal. When Tencatha was cast out of her home in the sky by Telira, her wrath was so great she tore a gaping wound in the land. An enormous chasm opened and one side rose no less than ten miles into the air. Had Taun Silthas not been protected by the Shard of Melikor, the city would have been reduced to dust and ash by the massive quake that followed. Aftershocks had rocked the entire region for tens of nights afterward, totally rearranging the terrain. Before, Taun Silthas had been situated high atop an extinct volcano. Now it rested in the center of a plain more than fifty leagues across.

A chill swept through the young half-breed, one that had nothing to do with the lack of warmth in the air. He had hoped that after Tencatha was dead, the land would return to its original state. That hadn't been his real goal, of course, when he'd crept into the human's city, Uram, with the intent to destroy the Fallen Sister. He had wanted to put an end to the war that consumed so many brave citizens of Taun Silthas, the war between the humans and drow that had left Taun Silthas trapped in the middle for three hundred starfalls.

He had wanted peace.

Memories of that nightmarish battle tore at the psionicist's mind. He could still feel the grate of bone against steel as he drove his blade home in Tencatha's chest, and the almost unendurable heat that washed over him as the Sister died and released the energy she had stolen from the land in her quest to return to her home in the sky. He still remembered the sight of Telira weeping as she picked up her sister's body, the horrible wounds on the Last Sister's face still gaping, after more than a thousand starfalls, staining her moonlight garment with blood...

A shudder washed through him as he tried to push the memories back. Killing a goddess was a terrible, terrible thing, and it would remain with him for the rest of his life. But it had to be done. That made it endurable if only barely, but endurable nonetheless.

When he had seen that the wounds on Telira's face hadn't healed, he knew there was little hope that the land would. The damage caused by Tencatha's ravages, and those of her shalakar, the insectoid minions she had transformed her most faithful human minions into, was simply too extensive, too far along, to be reversed so quickly. It would take another millenium before the land could even _begin_ to recover, and even then it would never be the same as it had been when his parents and the original members of the Council had created it.

As he turned at last to the south, where Uram sat, his thoughts were still on the story of the creation of Silthara.

The New Beginning. His father had wandered his world for decades, never welcome anyplace, never able to rest. When the man had met a kindred spirit, another half-drow that, like he, was chased from every city she visited, he quickly fell in love and decided that if they couldn't _find_ a home, they would _make_ one.

Another decade slipped by as they wandered together, passing through city after city, world after world, collecting a motley band of outcasts who could see their dream and wanted to share it.

They gathered together on the top of a mountain and cast a powerful spell, one that literally yanked them from the material plane and into the ether, taking along a massive portion of the world they had been on. They set about building a city, while the members of the Council worked on protecting that city and it's citizens. The work on Darkspire, the tower at the center of Taun Silthas, and the Shard of Melikor was completed in the same evening, and in fact at the same hour. The Shard was placed in the highest room in the tower, whereupon it flared to life and, to the astonishment of all present, grew an entire world from that tiny plateau floating in the ether.

For a thousand starfalls peace reigned. Travelers from other planes and worlds stumbled across the boundary and settled Silthara, slowly populating the new world with a variety of intelligent life, from humans to drow to gnomes to dwarves to humanoids. No one was turned away. After all, there was plenty of room for all, and the Taun Silthans never forgot their past. When it was discovered that Silthara was rich in silver, a few intrepid souls thought to build their fortunes trading the precious metal with other worlds, but soon discovered that anything native to Silthara _remained_ on Silthara, or dissipated into ether upon removal. Thus was war over wealth diverted.

At the end of the first millenium, the Three Sisters came. Before that time, there were no priests. They had refused to take part in the mass exodus when they realized what was planned. It was for the gods and the gods alone, they claimed, to build worlds. They departed, warning of dire consequences.

But the Sisters, newly come to immortality, were intrigued by the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Siltharans, and chose to remain and seek worship. They found it, in every city and race, though in Taun Silthas they had strong competition from the veneration of the ancestors. Still, conflict was practically nonexistent.

Over the next few centuries, the races and cities gradually began to segregate, splitting into the various elements. Humans congregated in the agrarian Uram, drow in the caverns in the eastern regions, gnomes and dwarves in the mountains, surface elves in the forest town of Qa-dar, humanoids on the plains by the sea, and the wanderers, half-breeds, and others who found little welcome in the other cities made their way to Taun Silthas. The Sisters also found their centers of power migrating. Uram became the central priesthood for Tencatha, while the elves of Qa-dar built temples to Tanana. Taun Silthas became a power base for clerics of Telira. Many of the dwarves, gnomes, and humanoids remained godless, not out of lack, since each of the Sisters accepted tribute from any race, but instead due to their rigorous lifestyles and different mindsets.

By the end of the second millenium, the stage was set for disaster. The separation of races proved to be unwise, as tensions built and conflicts escalated. Humans waged war against elves, elves warred with drow, drow battled dwarves...

Still, none of this would have amounted to much, had it not been for the evil seed of jealousy in Tencatha's heart. The enormous number of followers her sisters had collected over the centuries gnawed at her, even though her numbers were scarcely smaller. As time slipped by, she gradually grew to hate her sisters and the races they cared for so dearly.

In her hatred, she conceived a plan to do away with her sisters and assume dominion of Silthara. One season before the second millenium ended, Tencatha approached Rashek, a human smith. Rashek, a lonely man, was easily seduced and convinced to make the goddess a torque and a pair of earrings. Though it sorely tested her patience, Tencatha waited almost three months before the jewelry was finished. When Rashek handed the items over, she murdered him and sent his twisted spirit down to the land, where he still wanders yet.

Working feverishly, the dark Sister worked her glamours on the jewelry, until they literally sang with power. Under the guise of sisterly love, she sent the necklace to Tanana and the earrings to Telira. Tanana, delighted, immediately donned the torque. Telira, being lethargic, as a moon goddess is wont to be, took her time and thus only had one of the earrings on when Tencatha made her play for ultimate power.

The gifts exploded in fiery displays, instantly killing Tanana and viciously disfiguring Telira.

Telira, upon seeing her sun-sister fall, and suffering horrible pain from the searing wounds, struck down Tencatha and cast her out of the sky, confining her to the land.

Silthara changed, much of it due to Telira's efforts to save the world from destruction. The moon expanded to provide light to a world now without a sun, and the lightning storms began sweeping across the world to provide heat. Most living things adapted swiftly, died out, or were transformed to allow them to survive.

And the stars fell, thus marking the first night of a new era.

For seventy decades, Tencatha slept, dreaming and slowly corrupting the land with her wicked presence. The humans gradually recovered and rebuilt their society. The surface elves, however, were doomed. Those that didn't sicken and die from lack of sunlight were slaughtered in assaults by the drow. The drow left their caverns behind and settled in Qa-dar, building a thriving military city and engaging in trade with the humanoids and Taun Silthans.

Undead began roaming freely, as did lycanthropes, imperiling travelers.

The gnomes settled in the Riftwall. Once each starfall, they came down to Taun Silthas to sell their gems and metals at the Great Market. Otherwise, little was seen of these quiet people. And nothing was seen of the dwarves, though no one knows what happened to them.

The humanoids continued their hunting, gathering, and fishing as though nothing had changed, save that they increased the frequency with which they raided the civilized cities.

In the seventh century following the Betrayal, Tencatha awoke and gathered her followers. Nearly half the human population of Silthara, more than five million people, were mutated into shalakar to provide her with a massive army, which she sent crashing against the walls of Qa-dar. Taun Silthas, being directly between Uram and Qa-dar, was caught in the middle, and many citizens died protecting the city.

So it continued, for three centuries, until...

Katar eased himself back down, resting against the trunk of the bloodpine and brushing the dust from his black clothing. Stirring the coals into life, he prepared himself for a longer wait than he'd expected. The moon was low in the sky now, and the stars showed that there were only a couple more hours until darktime. His companion was well capable of taking care of herself, but he still worried.

A rustle from the rear sent the half-drow careening away from the tree, his short sword drawn and a psychic crush already reaching out for the intruder. Seeing that it was the one he'd been waiting for, he drew back and relaxed. A smile creased his face as he sheathed his sword.

"I was wondering if you'd show. Ready to head out, or do you need some time to rest up before we go?"

"I'm ready. Let's go, before fulldark. No point in wasting time and energy fighting off undead if we don't have to."

"Right." A few well placed stomps ground out the coals, pressing them into the dirt. Shadows raced in to reclaim the clearing once again. "Let's see if we can get to Uram by next moonrise."

*All names and places contained herein are fictional and should not be construed as representatitive of any persons, living or dead. Silthara, Taun Silthas, Uram, Telira, Tencatha, Tanana, bloodpine, kolanth, Riftwall, starfall, Darkspire, Melikor, Qa-dar, Rashek, shalakar, and Katar Shon-Dranith are copyrights of the author.
Copyright © by C.M. Plante.