Fyre’s burning toy dances around her palm like a little ballerina. She stopped talking a while ago, allowing a moment of silence for both of them. Fedrel stares at her dancing flames, both he and his green-skinned guest lost in thought. He watches the flame as it leaps in her hand, but then Fyre closes her fist around it, extinguishing the fire. This abrupt movement startles Fedrel out of his reverie, and he looks up to the mage.

She gazes at him, a bit of anger playing with her features. She holds her angry glare for many seconds before speaking again:

Her name was Beslae of the house Mlezzond. Her house wasn’t one of the major houses in Menzoberranzan, but it was prominent enough to afford some slaves. Beslae was the only high priestess in her family and was also the matron of Mlezzond.

She only had one daughter, Bautha, and it was her responsibility to manage the slaves. She had several sons who were treated terribly, except for her son Elkzyr, who was gifted in wizardry. I spent a lot of time with Bautha, and she taught me the drow tongue. My first year with Bautha was perhaps the worst of the years spent with them, for they trained us with cruelty and fear.

It’s true that I feared for my life every day, but I never lost my desire for freedom, so I played the role of slave, rebelling only when I thought I could get away with it.

I learned their tongue quickly, so quickly that Bautha had me working in Elkzyr’s study organizing his books and running messages for him. I had learned a little from my short time with Marthus and Sornin, but they spoke to me mostly in goblin.

I learned my first cantrips while working for the Mlezzonds, but I had to be especially careful, because if I were caught studying Elkzyr’s books, they would have executed me. However, they thought I was a natural caster, and thus, I became very valuable to them.

Still, they were cruel, and I was sometimes whipped for very unjust reasons. Not that any of it was just.

One day, years after I had been sold to Beslea, Elkzyr tore through his study, pulling one book after another off his shelf. I followed him as he piled each of them into my arms. His white hair was tightly coiled into a bun, and he wore the cloak that so many drow are known for.

As he flipped through each book, he mumbled to himself, “Where is it? Where is it? I need to make that blasted wand before noon tomorrow!” I knew where every book in his library was, for I had a knack for remembering things quickly, and since I shelved the books for him, I was certain that I could tell him exactly where the book was . . . if only I knew the title.

I debated whether I should ask him if I could help, short of acting like a book stand. The problem was that I didn’t want to get beaten for anything. However, the longer he took, the more irate he became, to the point that I was scared that he might beat me anyway.

“Excuse me, master, but what is the book called?” I asked timidly. He turned toward me. A deadly scowl seared through me, and I dropped my gaze to the floor as fast as I could.

“Why do you ask?” His voice was low and edged with a deep wrath. I tensed, knowing that the beatings were about to ensue.

“Master, you have 342 books on the creation of wands, each book in your collection is organized alphabetically by the author’s last name, if applicable, and you task me with organizing them,” I said quickly, dropping and putting my cheek to the floor at his feet.

“Get up!” he shouted, kicking me in the shoulder. “The name of the book is ‘Advanced Wands by Kharza-kzad Xorlarrin.'”

My shoulder smarted, but I stood up, keeping my head turned toward the floor without flinching. “Master, many of your books are written by Xorlarrins, especially Kharza-kzad. However, I saw you reading that particular book just yesterday, and you carried it off when you left.” I flinched as soon as I said this, which was followed up by a slap that knocked me to the floor.

Michael C. Sahd, author of The Unfettered Child and Assassin Marked

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