The Jewel of the Sands, (Book 1 of the Vicelord Chronicles)

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Chapter 7

Skullport, Undermountain

(12th of Uktar, 1373 Dalereckoning)

Months passed as he mentored the girl personally or by proxy. The latter became more frequent in recent days; Lloth had broken her silence, and Menzoberranzan was in such turmoil that Kimmuriel's organization had nearly abandoned the city altogether. Dozens of operatives had perished, either as bystanders in the war with the Scourged Legion, in the murderous intrigue of the Matron Mothers, or in attempting to monitor the progress of Valas Hune and his band, which had departed to ascertain Lloth's fate years prior.

When the girl was not in his company or that of his Illithid allies, Iljrene continued Vala's education in linguistics, geography, and other forms of magic. While the girl could not tap Mystra's weave as a wizard might, she showed considerable promise in identifying and understanding magical artifacts, and could even determine the meaning of the runes of a scroll or spell book.

Vala also sought out tomes on the subjects of philosophy, history, and the cultures of the Underdark and surface races, devouring the knowledge they contained by the scores.

Likewise, as her knowledge of the world grew, so did her knowledge of Psionics. It took every bit of Kimmuriel's hard-learned ability and fortitude just to repel her attacks while maintaining his aura of invulnerability.

It became more and more difficult to hide the shrinking gulf in their mutual ability to manifest the invisible art.

Compounded by no less than three occasions in which her powers had overwhelmed her, akin in nature to a true Orcish berserk. Her body would become a living furnace, and her thought processes, while simplifying to the state in which she could no longer determine friend from foe, would remain capable of summoning the full breadth of her powers.

Actually, he was convinced that her combat potential actually amplified during this state. A pity she became as a much a threat to herself as her enemies, for such a technique would be her strongest attribute otherwise.

As it was, Kimmuriel was forced to exhaust even more of his power to restrain her during these events, waiting until they passed of their own accord. He found himself increasingly exhausted, and his own powers genuinely tested when pitted against this young opponent.

Such was the case as they sparred on this day.

It was too dangerous to battle in the confined area of the Bregan D'aerthe safehouse; instead, he had moved them into his Mindscape, a telepathic representation of his consciousness. Though their bodies remained behind, Kimmuriel and Vala dueled with precise representations of their natural reserves of stamina, their powers, items, and abilities, and each would suffer damage equal to what was inflicted on their incorporeal selves.

They were inside of a great sealed cavern, their arena four bowshots in diameter with a high, sloping roof. Orbs of Faerie Fire hung from the ceiling on invisible tethers, lighting their area. The rest was concealed by impenetrable darkness that could not be pierced by infravision. Every aspect of this chamber's temperature, light, heat, and gravity, was precisely equal to that experienced in the physical world.

The level of focus required to manifest such a power, combined with the strain of actually battling his apprentice within its confines, was staggering.

Kimmuriel manifested Empty Mind even as he portioned a section of his consciousness to the task of defeating Vala's Tower of the Iron Will, even as his Kinetic Barrier absorbed the frenzied attacks of Vala's animated whipblade, which struck with purpose and intelligence that only a sentient artifact could possess.

When the accumulation of his potential injuries exceeded his ability to contain, the Drow dropped a globe of impenetrable darkness about his person, a natural ability of any full-blooded Dark Elf. As Vala no doubt hesitated in the instant before adjusting to infravision, he reached out his hand, touching Toshisha and transferring the stored kinetic energy.

He heard a sound akin to a scream as it splintered apart.

Vala exhaled deeply, and he knew she was in the globe with him. Using his House Insignia, a memento from his days as his Matron Mother's lackey, Kimmuriel floated upward in weightless levitation, focusing his energies into a focused ball of concentrated telekinetic energy and dropping it back into the globe.

The floor, to them solid stone, blew apart in a tremendous explosion that rocked the cavern about them.

From this vantage, Kimmuriel grinned as he saw that Vala was in fact several paces away, shielding her eyes from the debris.

She had manifested only the most subtle of telepathy, throwing her voice in little more than common ventriloquism, and had in turn prompted him to waste one of his stronger manifestations.

He had not expected something like that; generally, her attacks were entirely too straightforward. That was the Orc in her. This was the Drow.

He readied another orb, and hurled it at her.

A subtle aura surrounded her, and his attack passed through her.

This was not his Kinetic barrier; Vala had in that moment recreated her body into ectoplasm, becoming intangible.

That was a power unique to Egoists, the forth school of psionics that she could draw upon.

Vala's expression soured as he began to penetrate her defenses; the iron began to soften into flesh. He could almost sense-

Her eyes began to emanate a light that was not caused by her infravision, which was mimicked by the chakra on her forehead. He felt her focus divert, and tensed, expecting a hail of psicrystal to bombard him from all directions, as was her main offensive ability.

But instead, she re-created her whip-blade, and thrust it forward, extending its length by several paces.

Grinning, for Kimmuriel would not possibly be defeated by such an attack, he formed a cone of telekinetic energy that hovered before his body like a kite shield, more that prepared to directly parry her sword.

But then a prism of light came into being in front of the ascending point, and expanded into a reflective disk. As Toshisha came into contact with the disk, it continued to shoot forward without resistance, though its tip never penetrated its surface.

Kimmuriel gasped as a numbing cold spread across his forearm, and twisted in mid-air to see Toshisha's dagger point embedded into his arm, its links leading into a duplicate of the reflective disk, which stood in place a stone throw behind him.

A dimensional door, small in size and range but a dimensional door regardless. The ability of a Nomad.

He turned, gaping, to see Vala floating up to him, aided by levitation that did not belong to the effect of a house insignia. Another power of a Nomad.

In her hand, she held a sphere of telekinetic energy similar to his own, but much smaller.

She was now manifesting telekinetic abilities. She was a Kineticist, as she was each of the other five disciplines.

Never had her heard of a Psion that branched into all six schools!

Injured, nearly defenseless, Kimmuriel hastily erected a barrier of force that surrounded his body, crackling where it cut into Toshisha's length. With her other hand, Vala pulled on her blade, in turn twisting its tip in his arm.

Still, his concentration held.

She dismissed the blade, its absence leaving a gaping hole in his arm.

Still, his concentration held.

She hurled the orb forward, towards his barrier.

Still, his concentration held.

It impacted with thunderous retort. His barrier held. Vala began to plummet down, her eyes wide.

In her other hand, the hand which had held Toshisha, she bore another telekinetic orb, and hurled it forward with prodigious speed.

His concentration wavered; Vala's telepathic tendrils bored into his mind as her second orb shattered his physical defenses. The Mindscape crumbled apart, just as his body was thrown upward from its sitting position.

He landed hard, against the wall, the air blasted from his lungs.

What was this creature?!

Dozens of offensive abilities formed in his mind, and even knowing her to be connected to him, he blanched as he saw her hold up her hands in surrender, visibly terrified.

"Master, wait! I did not...-"

"Enough!" he snapped, dismissing his power and using all of his strength to repel her telepathic intrusion and not to collapse in exhaustion as he rose to his feet.

He drew a potion from his belt, and drank it, sealing the wound in his arm and the concussion that Vala had given him with that sudden, final attack.

"Enough." he replied more gently, breathless, "I am satisfied. There is no more that I can teach you. Tomorrow, you will return to the Promenade, and I, in turn, will return to Menzoberranzan."

He wiped the sweat from his forehead, tried to slow his heartbeat, "Bathe and eat. I will speak to Iljrene for a time."

Watching Kimmuriel depart from the room, Vala did as instructed, trying her best to forget the murderous intent she had gleaned from his thoughts.

She had bested him.

He was centuries her senior, a Master Psion, and she had bested him.

And he had nearly killed her because of it.

She threw off her tunic, unmindful of her nudity, and washed vigorously with the water she had drawn from the docks and purified with an alchemical tonic that was common to those with a little wealth.

She tried not to think about the other things she had learned in those moments...

After discussing Vala's success with the priestess, Kimmuriel returned to the main room, leaning ageist the wall. The girl had set aside her clothing, and meditated beside her bedroll, kneeling as if praying, garbed in a thin white nightgown.

A plate of half-eaten bread and cheese lay forgotten beside her.

He watched her, trying to discern what it was about this creature that contained such incredible power.

She began to notice his scrutiny; her brow and eyelids pinched. Her breathing pattern altered.

"Master?" she asked, looking back to him, and he nodded, reaching an unspoken decision, "You should sleep. I will want you both gone from this place in the morning."

She blanched at his indifferent tone, then shrugged, "You will indeed return to Menzoberranzan?"

He nodded.

"Why would you want to?" she asked, her voice small and timid as it had not been since she had arrived months prior.

"It is my home." he replied simply, "Why would I not wish to? Bregan D'aerthe requires my presence. The insufferable politics of the Drow nation requires my attention."

Deflating, Vala slid into her bedroll, and her hidden meaning struck him.

He smiled, though not kindly, "You were hoping I would follow you to the Promenade."

"It is so different there." Vala explained, "You could do so much good."

"At the heel of a priestess, you mean." he replied dryly, "By Lloth or by Eilistraee, I am but a lowly male meant to grovel for my station. I will not. In Bregan D'aerthe, I shape my own destiny. I survive. I command. I overcome. There is nothing that I need outside of this."

The girl looked like she had something to say from that, but did not follow through.

That was fine. He could care less anyway.

"You are aligned to neither."


"Lloth." Vala said, "Or Eilistraee. You follow no goddess?"

"Of course."

"But you lean towards Lloth."

"I suppose. I would sooner return to my previous station than dance in fields of grass beside Faeries and Humans or other iblith."

"So you would side with the Matron Mothers if they ever came to blows with the Promenade. I would not want to fight you if that happened..." she said drowsily, "I hope I never have to."

Kimmuriel considered that statement even after the girl had fallen asleep.

At first, he had assumed it to mean that she feared a confrontation between them, if the Darksong Maidens and Bregan D'aerthe battled openly. As the ranking Psion in each group, the two of them would eventually be bound to battle, likely to the death.

But on closer inspection it sounded more like she would not want him to die, or for herself to die at his hands. It sounded like she felt some connection to him, and would not want to fight him because of it.

He reminded himself that she was a sentimental fool, no matter the ability. It was not a trait she would grow out of. Like all the followers of Eilistraee, she was soft.

He could kill her easily if he needed to.

But for now he would ensure her survival; such a malleable subject would be easy to manipulate. All that strength would not protect her from Drow intrigue, Kimmuriel's second prized weapon.

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