Chapter 8 - Behind the Masks

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Chapter 8 chronicles Ariel's preparations for her journey to find Faen on the surface, as she unexpectedly confronts the sisters she'd grown to fear in her childhood. Meanwhile, Quain'tana and Zala'ess meet to discuss Chrys'tel's fate, and the young Chirinide grapples with inner strife over her holy purpose.


Summary

Mel'arnach is restrained from attacking Quain'tana by Lulianne and her fellow guard.[1]

Mel'arnach's Plea

Two days after Ariel's capture of Chrys'tel, Mel'arnach requested an audience with Quain'tana herself. Already at the end of her patience with her eldest daughter, Quain'tana demanded she make her case quickly, as a Sharen delegation would soon arrive. Swallowing her pride and refusing to respond to Quain'tana's provocation, Mel'arnach knelt to the ground and respectfully requested that she be granted the privilege of raising Ariel, in the wake of Kel'noz's apparent failure. Not trusting her daughter's meek affectation, Quain'tana bluntly denied the request, scoffing at Mel'arnach's suggestion that they follow tradition in providing familial tutoring. After being informed of the Sharen's arrival, Quain'tana bluntly dismissed Mel'anarch. Frustrated and enraged, Mel'arnach made an attempt to attack Quain'tana, but was restrained by her guards. Mel'arnach then spat upon her mother in a gesture of defiance, inciting the unforgiving Ill'haress to deliver a brutal punch to her face. Ordering her daughter returned to her cell, Quain'tana calmly ignored Mel'arnach's spiteful death threats as the latter swore to herself that her chains would hold her no longer.

Meeting with Zala'ess

An enraged Quain'tana forcefully rebukes Syphile for her weakness.[2]

Shortly thereafter, Zala'ess was granted her audience, accompanied by her mate, son, and daughter. To their mild disgust, Quain'tana had prepared for their arrival with the presentation of a tortured and mutilated commoner that had been caught spying on behalf of the Vel'Sharen clan. As Quain'tana finally executed the man to silence his agonized moaning, she sarcastically commented on the disappearance of one of Zala'ess' daughters. Momentarily angered, Zala'ess discarded any attempts at wordplay and coldly demanded Chrys'tel's immediate release. Quain'tana rebuffed her request, noting that Chrys'tel had sworn loyalty to the Sarghress in exchange for her life.

In response, Zala'ess adopted a different approach to their meeting, mocking Quain'tana for her barren status and condescending to her greatly with the aid of her son. The tactic succeeded in agitating Quain'tana, who challenged them to test their mettle in a combat. While Sabrror placed a hand to his blade, anticipating a fight, Zala'ess did not take the bait, continuing to mock Quain'tana without openly challenging her. Increasingly frustrated, Quain'tana scorned Zala'ess for her cowardice and reliance on words alone, demanding she beg for the return of her child. Seeing little point in continuing the meeting, Zala'ess turned to leave.

In their path was Syphile, who by chance stood near the door. As Zala'ess ordered her to open the door, Syphile quietly complied with little thought. Zala'ess took the opportunity presented to deliver a final barb, commenting that Quain'tana's "fake daughter" knew who truly commanded in Chel. As the Sharen departed, Syphile was quickly reprimanded by a nearby Dragonslayer for her thoughtlessness in allowing the Sharen to leave without the approval of Quain'tana. Syphile had only a moment to reflect on her careless lapse of judgement before being lifted bodily from the ground by an enraged Quain'tana, who noted that by unquestioningly following orders from the Sharen delegation, Syphile had both failed and shamed her. Bitterly denouncing her adoption as a mistake, and openly insulting Syphile for her cowardice and lack of strength, Quain'tana demanded she leave her sight and reflect on where her loyalties lay.

Syphile suffers an emotional breakdown and prepares to openly murder Ariel.[3]

Confrontation with Syphile

Meanwhile, Ariel continued to struggle with nightmares. He dreams focused on rejection from Quain'tana, as well as the guilt she felt over her execution of Mir'kiin and murder of Maya. In her dreams, twisted versions of her fellow students and her sister dragged her into a deep pool of blood. Finally awakening, Ariel resigned herself to an inability to sleep, despite the fatigue she felt. Though frustrated she had been kept waiting most of the day in case she had been needed, Ariel remained grateful that she had not been summoned to attend the meeting after all. After receiving confirmation from Jiv'kyn that she had no current orders, she departed her quarters to get something to eat from the fortress' kitchens.

Along the way, she encountered Syphile, who was sobbing in anguish over her recent string of failures and losses. As Ariel looked on with an expression of scorn, Syphile angrily demanded she laugh at her if she wanted, insisting there was nothing more Ariel could take from her. Coldly, Ariel accused her of faking her grief, much to Syphile's anger. Ariel then repeated the words of Chirinide, accusing her of being taken by a demon, now a creature incapable of feeling and deserving only a merciful death. As Syphile decried her suffering at the hands of Quain'tana, warning Ariel that she would be treated in the same manner, Ariel's hatred finally boiled over.

Ariel then began scolding Syphile for her failings, for her weakness, and for status as one of the tainted. Increasingly irate, Syphile attempted to continue her warnings and accusations against Quain'tana, only for Ariel to press harder as she saw Syphile's composure faltering. A look of hateful satisfaction appearing on her face, Ariel compared Syphile to Jer'kol, accusing her of spouting lies and wanting to kill her. As Ariel insisted that not only would Syphile now attempt to kill her, but that she would kill her first, Syphile realized with horror that Ariel was gazing at her with the very same expression that Quain'tana herself did.

Horrified and pushed to her breaking point, Syphile snapped and moved to murder Ariel, intent on confessing to the deed afterward despite the consequences. Extending her arm, she released a bio-golem weapon gifted to her by a Val'Jaal'darya many years prior, impaling Ariel and explaining its deadly ability to siphon blood from the victim. Unable to dislodge the weapon, Ariel desperately utilized her shapeshifting, not only halting the attack but beginning to absorb the weapon into herself. In a panic, Syphile unclasped the weapon from her shoulder as she felt the power begin to take her own arm as well. Horrified, Syphile could do little as a newly transformed Ariel smiled in anticipation and lept to attack, unleashing many years of pent-up resentment and rage for her treatment, maiming Syphile in just a few moments before being thrown off by a desperate blast of mana.

Terrified, wounded, and enraged, Syphile began began summoning nether in an spiteful attempt to forcibly taint Ariel and subject her to the same rejection from Quain'tana that she herself had felt. However, before she could complete the attempt, Mel'arnach escaped her nearly cell and subdued Syphile as Ariel looked on in awe and fear.

Preparing for Retaliation

Meanwhile, in the chambers below, Quain'tana met with several key members of the Sarghress leadership, instructing them to prepare for retaliatory action by Zala'ess and to summon the all the houses to the Sarghress Fortress. Though Sang noted the members of House Yuhin'hiir were still days away at best, Quain'tana assured her that signal had been sent and Quill'yate would ride ahead of her forces and arrive by the next day.[4]

Interrupting suddenly, Itan'sha brought up the recent rumors regarding Quain'tana's hidden daughter. While Sang reacted to the news with joy and Rosof attempted to set the matter aside, Suu'be seethed with resentment and Itan'sha herself expressed disgust at what she presumed to be Jaal'darya science. While Quain'tana was quick to dismiss the involvement of the Jaal'darya, she confirmed that she indeed had a new heir. Agitated, Suu'be once more brought up the matter of her daughter's prior status as heir. In response, Quain'tana sought the opinion of Koil'dorath, who insisted she did not care for the matter in the slightest, seeking only to serve on the field of battle regardless of who led the clan. Though Suu'be intended to press the matter further, the meeting was interrupted by arrival of Syphile as she was thrown down the stairs by Ariel.

Seeing her adoptive daughter broken so easily by Ariel and no longer willing to tolerate her failures or weakness, Quain'tana harshly declared her to have outlived her patience and exhausted any purpose she might have once had, ordering her to begone and not even bothering to formally disown her.[5] Relived that she would never again have to deal with Syphile, Ariel thanked her savior for her assistance. However, Mel'arnach had further purpose in mind and sedated Ariel before the young drow could leave.

Mel'arnach gifts Ariel with a biogolem, succeeding in fostering a small bond.[6]

Mel'arnach

Later, Ariel awoke to find herself in the spider-infested chambers of Mel'arnarch. Though Ariel was fearful and mistrustful, Mel'arnach attempted to soothe her, assuring the young girl that she would never harm her. As Mel'arnach informed Ariel of her desires to raise her, Ariel responded with hard-learned skepticism, comparing her efforts to that of Jer'kol. As Mel'arnach cringed at the accusation, a large spider moved to approach. Addressing him as Zhor, Mel'arnach bid him to give the young girl more time. Though Mel'arnach attempted to assure Ariel that she told the truth in accusing Quain'tana of keeping the two separate, Ariel angrily scolded the older woman for insulting her "mother".

Sensing Ariel's unwillingness to listen to the truth of her heritage, as well as the danger the knowledge might pose to her daughter, Mel'arnach settled for a less assertive approach, inviting Ariel to share the tales of her hardships. Though initially hesitant, Ariel gradually opened up and recalled the many traumas and challenges she had overcome to become Quain'tana's heir. Saddened, yet glad of the small bond they had developed, Mel'arnach asked if she shared the power of transformation that she too had. As Ariel displayed her abilities by altering the colour of her hair, Mel'arnach kissed the young girl on the head, much to the confusion of Ariel, who was unsure what to make of her childhood boogeyman showing such gentle affection.

Standing, Mel'arnach asked Ariel to wait while she retrieved a gift for the young girl. Begrudgingly, Ariel waited as Mel'arnach finally returned with a small draconic biogolem. As Ariel reacted with joy towards the creature, Mel'arnach lectured her on its nature, informing Ariel that the creature would not only come to life only for those that shared their bloodline, but also its potential use as a weapon if Ariel transformed with the creature close by, much like Ariel had earlier absorbed the weapon of Syphile.

Having grown to trust Mel'arnach at last, Ariel stated her disbelief that Mel'arnach was a monster, noting that she herself had been called a monster as well. Though Mel'arnach was quick to dismiss that notion, she sensed something troubled her young daughter. As Ariel confided in her looming meeting with Quain'tana where should would have to convince the hardened woman to allow an excursion to the surface, Mel'arnach offered to share a story with Ariel that would help convince her.

Return of Quill'yate

The next day, Quill'yate finally arrived in the company of a small escort of Highland Raiders let by Kira'liss. As she was required to meet with the rest of the Sarghress leadership, she granted thesoldiers, including her own grandson the freedom to relax until such time as they had new orders. As she entered the fortress, Ariel gleefully ran to her honourary aunt.[7] As Ariel proudly recounted her success in achieving recognition as Quain'tana's heir.


Characters

Main Characters

Portrait Ariel Val'Sarghress arc1.png
The young heir of the Sarghress clan, Ariel confronts the two terrifying women she had been raised to view as her sisters.
Portrait Chirinide Val'Kyorl'solenurn Arc I.png
Chirinide is a conflicted young warden assigned a holy mission to protect the "Daughter of the Holy Eye".
Portrait Mel'arnach Val'Sarghress.png
An imprisoned elder daughter of Quain'tana, Mel'arnach desperately seeks the right to raise her own daughter.
Portrait Quain'tana Val'Sarghress.png
The hard and unforgiving Ill'haress of the Sarghress clan, Quain'tana brusquely handles multiple threats to her rule and clan.
Portrait Syphile Val'Sarghress.png
The abused and abusive adopted daughter of Quain'tana, Syphile suffers a mental breakdown and attempts to murder Ariel.



Sharen Delegation

Portrait Phani'lath Vel'Sharen.png
One of Zala'ess' elder sons, Phani'lath accompanies her during her meeting with Quain'tana.
Portrait Sabrror Vel'Sharen.png
Zala'ess' favoured mate, Sabrror escorts his beloved during her meeting with Quain'tana.
Portrait Yami'ni Vel'Sharen.png
One of Zala'ess' elder daughters, Yami'ni accompanies her during her meeting with Quain'tana.
Portrait Zala'ess Vel'Sharen.png
Zala'ess meets with Quain'tana in an attempt to secure her daughter's release.



Sarghress Forces

Leadership

Portrait Itan'sha Mae'yukir Sarghress.png
Itan'sha is the Dev'ess of House Mae'yukir, comprising many of the clan's drowussu and mixblood.
Portrait Koil'dorath Nori'fu Val'Sarghress.png
Koil'dorath is one of the two commanders of the Assault Legion and Quain'tana's former designated heir.
Portrait Quill'yate Yurun'hiir Sarghress.png
Quill'yate is the commander of the Highland Raiders and Dev'ess of House Yurun'hiir.
Portrait Rosof Tions Sarghress.png
Rosof is one of Quain'tana's closest advisors and the male Dev'ess of House Tions.
Portrait Sang Niz'zre Sarghress.png
Sang is one of the two commanders of the Assault Legion and Dev'ess of House Niz'zre.
Portrait Suu'be Nori'fu Sarghress.png
Suu'be is the commander of the Home Guard and Dev'ess of House Nori'fu.


Soldiers & Servants

Portrait Ant'alya Sarghress.png
Ant'alya is a Fallen Legionnaire assigned to guard and train Ariel.
Portrait Jiv'kyn Sarghress.png
Jiv'kyn is a Fallen Legionnaire assigned to guard and train Ariel.
Portrait Kira'liss Sarghress.png
Kira'liss is a veteran Highland Raider and commands the escort of Quill'yate.
Portrait Kor'maril Niz'zre Sarghress.png
Kor'maril is a senior Sarghress officer and an elder son of Sang.
Portrait Liriel.png
Liriel is an oft-drunken slave that serves Ariel with questionable effort.
Portrait Lulianne Mae'yukir Sarghress.png
Lulianne serves as one of Mel'arnach's jailors, restraining her when she attempts to attack Quain'tana.
Portrait Myo'na Sarghress.png
Myo'na is a Fallen Legionnaire assigned to guard and train Ariel.
Portrait Rikshakar.png
Rikshakar is a former gladiator and mercenary that has promised to aid Ariel in her surface expedition.
Portrait Tebryn Teuzt'sor Sarghress.png
Tebryn is a veteran Highland Raider and serves as part of Quill'yate's escort.
Portrait Vaelia Arc I.png
Vaelia is a freed Emberi slave that serves as Ariel's loyal bodyguard.
Portrait Valo Varren Yurun'hiir Sarghress.png
Valo is a veteran Highland raider and is a member of his grandmother's escort.



Kyorl'solenurn Clan

Portrait Kahru Kyorl'solenurn.png
Kahru is an experienced Templar that aided Chirinide in her capture of a "corrupted" Illhard'dro girl.
Portrait Shimi'lande Val'Kyorl'solenurn.png
Shimi'lande is the kindly Holy Mother and Ill'haress of the Kyorl'solenurn clan, reassuring Chirinide and sending her on a holy mission to the surface.
Portrait Tir'ade Kyorl'solenurn.png
Tir'ade is a young Templar that happens to be patrolling within a Sarghress-held district as an outbreak of demonic activity begins.
Portrait Shan'naal Kyorl'solenurn Arc I.png
Shan'naal is a young Templar that briefly appears in a description of the many individuals impacting events in the world.



Ariel's Nightmares

Portrait Kiel'ndia Vel'Vloz'ress arc1.png
A twisted vision of Kiel'ndia appears to Ariel during one of her many nightmares.
Portrait Maya.png
A twisted vision of Maya appears to Ariel during one of her many nightmares, haunting her with guilt over her death.
Portrait Mir'kiin Vel'Vloz'ress.png
A vision of Mir'kiin appears to Ariel during one of her many nightmares, haunting her with guilt over his death.
Portrait Naal'suul Val'Beldrobbaen Arc I.png
A twisted vision of Kiel'ndia appears to Ariel during one of her many nightmares.
Portrait Yafein Val'Sullisin'rune arc1.png
A twisted vision of Yafein appears to Ariel during one of her many nightmares, accusing her of killing Maya.



Other Characters

Portrait Discordia.png
Discordia is a powerful Vel'akar unleashed upon a Sarghress-held district.
Portrait Kel'noz Val'Sarghress.png
Kel'noz briefly appears in a description of the many individuals impacting events in the world.
Portrait Kyo'nne Val'Illhar'dro arc1.png
Kyo'nne briefly appears in a description of the many individuals impacting events in the world.
Portrait Zhor Arc I.png
Zhor is a monstrous spider that resides with Mel'arnach in her prison, to whom she shows great affection.





This article reflects events up to chapter 8.

Sources:

  1. chapter 8 page 4
  2. chapter 8 page 11
  3. chapter 8 page 23
  4. chapter 8 page 31
  5. chapter 8 page 34
  6. chapter 8 page 41
  7. chapter 8 page 41