Come the Night
It is a quick, a nimble blade,
True of temper, finely made,
Lithe and lean, straight of stroke,
That opens hearts, disjoins life's yoke.
But keener still, the steady hand,
The endless will, the stern demand,
That guide the pliant, conquered steel
When evening comes your lips to seal.
Here is the story of Llyshra Dald. Though many parts of this story are missing, and though she may be remembered for other things, what is written traces her path from her youth as a bitter young slum rat to her death with alcohol in her blood, spite in her heart, and lock picks in hand.
Her history of note begins when she is young and on her own in the south slums of Mikona. Her father, a warrior adherent of Gorethar and a sergeant in the M’Chekian Army, died many years before in one of the many frays over the village of Blandenberg. Her mother had disappeared shortly after, with the rumors of a gang and murder. Stealing what she could from unlocked doors and the pockets of fallen bandits and thugs, as well as providing services to some in the Noble’s Districts, she soon had enough to afford a chain shirt and a few minor magical curing potions. With the greatsword that belonged to her father, she left the slums in the hopes of finding something better though a life of adventure.
Soon after teaching herself the rudiments of the sword, she chanced upon a duel between the Ebony mage Vanyankaya and a half-orc warrior. Seeing Vanya easily best the half-orc with her swords, she found herself filled with an admiration, soon developing in hero-worship, and later into obsession. From that time, she often found herself in the company of Ebony mages, and she became part of a small band of mercenary swords dedicated to serving the Ebony Order of the Moon. As such, they saw fit to outfit her with armor and swords befitting her skills.
Her skills with a sword quickly grew. Adventuring with Vanyankaya, or often with others, such as Agatha Dane, Sparrowhawk, Kathea Nyht, or Ayren Milen, she journey all across the lands of M’Chek. These were the times when Sorvanok and would release his balor and hordes of undead on the city with great frequency, and when the Seregwethrin would attack Mikona in the hundreds every few days. The Gentleman and his mercenaries raided the lands. Against these many enemies, her skills were honed.
Yet her skills were not only as a fighter for Ebony and the City of Mikona; her early days as a thief followed her. She made thousands of gold robbing from the houses of Mikona, never noticed by the thieves’ guild, but having to contend with competition from the bandit group S.T.E.A.L. She was hired by the bandit Meisha to smuggle goods across M’Chek, and she smuggled people in and out of the city in the days of the great quarantine, including, to her delight, a paladin. In one instance, she traveled under disguise to the City of Elysia to hunt a llamasu in the nearby hills. When an angel appeared to protest the act, she stabbed him in the back.
Through all this, suffering from memories and nightmares of her youth and seeing these many acts of evil follow her in life, she believed that dark gods were watching over her. Soon she found herself bound to Evrak, the god of suffering and strife, and she was courted by Tiras Japheth of the Reavers to join with the adherents of the unholy trinity of Maleki, Verossa, and Evrak. Serving under the High Reaver Nahzual, and later Tiras, Llyshra was involved in trying to create a shrine to Evrak in Mikona, and also in seeing that the giants of Tumult aided M’Chek in the war. For a short time in the Reavers, she was known as Lady Pain. But as the days of Nahzual and Tiras grew to a close, and a great schism came into that order, Llyshra fell out of the Reavers. At the same time, she found another god to follow. One that she sought to exploit more than worship: Aarilax.
Concurrent to her late days in the Reavers, Llyshra was convinced by Captain Jake Bentsen and General Elenessa to join the M’Chekian Army in the newly-formed Alpha Corps unit. Having no great love for elves, it was easy for her to serve. Serving alongside Captain Bentsen in the Morale and Intelligence departments, she aided in many civilian training exercises and fought in many skirmishes along the borderlands. In one infamous battle, she fought alongside Captain Bentsen, Tianni, and then-archmage Damar Ogdem against an entire garrison of regulars and some few elites at the port of Nireth. As part of the Intelligence Department she worked with a few others, albeit with no explicit authorization and some deception, to supply shaahesk in the Southern Avlis Underdark with weapons to harry military outposts of T’Nanshi army. Soon after, however, the village of Zvidureth was brutally attacked by a group of shaahesk raiders using these new weapons. Although it was an embarrassment for those in M’Chek, Llyshra soon saw that the shaahesk could be used to further her own goals with great success.
After arming the followers of the Murderlord in the Underdark with masterwork weapons and armor, she soon chanced upon a priest of their holy order in M’Chek. Seeing a myriad of opportunities, she joined the Church of Aarilax. Seeking a subtle partnership between the Nation of Drotid and M’Chek, Llyshra worked diplomatically for both nations. She petitioned the Joint Houses of M’Chek to allow for the building of a Temple to Aarilax to show goodwill between M’Chek and the shaahesk race. Though the temple was not built until many years later, the documents granting permission to build were a diplomatic success.
At the same time as the rights to the temple in Mikona were secured, Llyshra and other members of the church of Aarilax in the south were noticed by Boyar Ss’sick and the Conclave of Murder in southern Shaah Sulehagh. The Conclave requested help in securing parts to manufacture Elven Flesh Golems that they intended to use to terrorize the elves of the T’Nanshi. This began a long affair in Deglos for Llyshra. The first of these was infiltrating a party of the Order of Gorethar and others who were investigating the Conclave, and at the same time seeking a magical hammer to use against them. Learning what the Gorethite party knew, and stalling them and steering them from their goals, Llyshra conveyed information gathered from them back to the Conclave. Dodging the activities of the Order of Gorethar in Deglos, Llyshra and others secured a supply of golem parts from the Church of Fegall in Derome Delem in an intricate ploy: ostensibly the golem parts from Deglos would be used to manufacture Seregwethrin-fighting golems in Mikona. Although scores of people were involved in financing the construction of these golems in Mikona--including many nobles, the army, the 4A, and some private citizens--what almost none of them knew is that a steady supply of golem parts was being skimmed off and sent to the Conclave to make Elf Flesh Golems. Further, an attack by the T’Nanshi elites on the keep in M’Chek where the golems were manufactured made it convenient for a huge number of parts to ‘disappear’. With the aid of some Delgosian Engineers and 4A craftsmen, a few anti-seregwethrin golems were actually constructed and given to the Sword of Toran in Mikona. They were deployed and then destroyed while fending off a massive seregwethrin assault targeting the nobles of the city. The success of the Deglos Affair saw Llyshra rewarded with a great deal of gold as well as her gaining the confidence of the Conclave of Murder and many of the boyars of Southern Drotid.
With the support of Ss’sick, and under the command of the leader of the now so-called Order of the Serpent, Llyshra and some members of the church of Aarilax began to work on supplying arms to shaahesk raiders commanded by Ss’sick. Using her position in the M’Chek Army, Llyshra secretly channeled a supply of weapons away from the M’Chek army. In exchange for these weapons, the shaahesk agreed with Llyshra to burn Nanshalath Grove, causing a near-massacre of the inhabitants there.
The unspoken alliance between M’Chek and Drotid was a great benefit to both sides. Soon, however, and against the wishes of the Order of the Serpent and the M’Chek army, Drotid and M’Chek announced an open alliance. All knew that this would soon cause Elysia to enter on the side of T’Nanshi, and an open alliance was generally thought to be a very bad idea (Llyshra spoke out publicly to end this alliance many times in later times). Nevertheless, Drotid entered the war and sent troops to the M’Chek-T’Nanshi border, and for a time M’Chek pressed north at a rapid pace. For this alliance, Llyshra was rewarded by the boyars with an enchanted greatsword with a venomous blade: The Murderblade.
The gift of the Murderblade was only a first step in the church of Aarilax courting her soul. Boyar Ss’sick offered Llyshra the knowledge to take a dark path to power: the path of the Annihilator. Initially, she refused, thinking that the rewards and training had little to offer her. Soon, however, she realized that the way of the sword was not as useful against the powerful enemies she might soon face. She told Boyar Ss’sick that she would follow the path if the Boyars would make her a suit of armor that was peerless in quality. Ss’sick agreed, and Llyshra pledged her devotion. After gaining the reflexes required and learning skill with the doublesword, Ss’sick announced the blood that would grant Aarilax’s dark blessing. Ka’an T'slandivaal, the Scribe for the Council of Nine was to be assassinated, and his soul claimed for the Murderlord. Finding the scribe unaware and outside Le’Or proved to be no simple matter. Llyshra learned to speak the elven language and spent many months traveling in Elysia and Le’Or under the assumed name Llensoa. Soon she discovered that Ka’an and his sister would be traveling through Deglos on a diplomatic mission. A trap was laid, and as the scribe dined at a tavern in Derome Delem, he was dragged into a quiet hallway and murdered in the Ritual of Blood. This same ritual blessed Llyshra as an Annihilator. For this and other events, her sword was reforged in the blood of a poisonous coal dragon. Her blade now took on an unholy character: it drank the blood of her enemies.
For a time, the path consumed her, and she served the church of Aarilax as a dutiful holy warrior. While training to become an Annihilator, she left the M’Chekian Army to avoid any unpleasant links between her new path and the nation of M’Chek. Taking up the position of the Enforcer of the Order of the Serpent, she arranged the assassination of a former leader of the order, and saw to it that the gold he had garnered from the church of Aarilax was used in financing the building of a temple in Mikona. She offered support in running of several bloodmatches, known as the Scaled Gauntlets. The last of these was used to consecrate the newly-built temple in Mikona. When the then leader tried to leave the order, Llyshra assented to having the former leader assassinated before taking over herself.
Soon, however, she began to focus more on the war again. Somewhat by chance, she found herself aiding in the destruction of the Blandenberg Hospital. In the City of Elysia, she worked to terrorize the kobolds beneath the city into taking up arms against the Grantari allies in the city. Eventually, taking up the arms and armor of an Annihilator, she took to the war zone once again, fighting in several skirmishes against a new cohort of T’Nanshi elites, and participating in the Battle of Blandenberg—the last great M’Chekian victory in the war.
Outside the war zone, Llyshra and others in the order slowly she put together the means to build what she considered one of her great ideas: the shrub bomb. Built by a mad tinker gnome from parts assembled from across Avlis, these bombs were made to resemble the plants found on the canopy platforms of Le’Or. Their purpose was to destroy the lifts to the canopies and their surrounding platforms in conjunction with a major assault by the M’Chekian army. Llyshra obtained a series of detailed maps, and arranged for a collection of stealthy individuals capable of delivering these bombs. By chance, these devices were never used on the lifts. One of them killed the gnome inventor in testing outside Mikona. Still another was used in the war to destroy a military target in the Battle of Fishaven. A last one was used by Llyshra in her final hours.
As the war drew to an end, it became clear that Drotid was going to be forced to sue for peace. Returning to her vision of exploiting Drotid, Llyshra sought to steer the shaahesk nation out of the war in a means that would do the greatest help to M’Chek, even if it meant a disaster of the shaahesk. With the endorsement of Noble House and the City of Elysia, Llyshra attended the negotiations of Drotid’s leaving the war. There she sought to strengthen ties with Elysia, the pivotal force in the war, while at the same time driving a wedge between Elysia, T’Nanshi, and Grantir. After intercepting several letters from the Conclave that a notable shaahesk in her church was trying to act in M’Chek independently of her, she was more than willing to collude with the M’Chekian Army to have that shaahesk shipped to Elysia for trial. Although Llyshra’s efforts to draw Elysia out of the war along with Drotid showed some promise, the M’Chekian nobles suddenly and inexplicably withdrew their support for Llyshra as a diplomat. This abandonment led to a great deal of bitterness on her part, and for the most part she decided that the war would end as it was fated no matter what she did, which after that was very little.
Nevertheless, M’Chek seemed pleased with Llyshra’s efforts throughout the war, and awarded her with the Elite Warrior’s Cloak. However, various boyars felt betrayed by M’Chek, and many assassins and Annihilators sought revenge against those in the south who had drawn them into the conflict. The deaths of these warriors under the Murderblade served to strengthen the sword, making its taste for blood grow, and its edge keener. The great Annihilator Boyar Szits'lisk was sent south to challenge Llyshra with his blade and bring the Aarilaxians in Southern Avlis under the thumbs of the Conclave once again. Used to mindless open confrontation, the boyar was not expecting to disappear quietly and mysteriously. His final battle against Llyshra occurred not in the battle hall of the temple, but in a tiny cell beneath the city streets as he was chained to a floor with his arms tied behind him. There she performed the Ritual of Blood on him, sending his soul to his maker forever. With this final act, and the rest of the order scattered, she left the service of Aarilax. There was nothing more to take from him. Though a few nightmares followed her, these dreams told her that Aarilax would leave her for now, but one day would take her life.
Her final days were spent somehow trying to cheat this promised death. She adventured with the bard Agnes Beck far and wide, and it seemed there was no danger that the two of them could not defeat. In the hidden and haunted towers of Ferrell, Llyshra resolved to learn the language of the Messenger of Death. She turned her worship to the Harpinger. Taking on the task of learning to be closer to the Messenger, Llyshra trained in the bardic arts, and at the same time took on the station of the Executioner for the City of Mikona. Presented with a black mercurial greatsword, she dutifully performed her office while listening closely for the symphony of the crowd, the music of the moment, a final whisper as the soul of the damned flew to the shadowed veil.
Yet still the bitterness of the war and the shaahesk wore heavily on her. She assassinated the shaahesk cleric of the temple to Aarilax in Mikona, who was later replaced by a human female Annihilator. Many days she would go to sit on the throne in the dark and abandoned upper halls of the temple that she had paid for with her gold and her blood, and with perhaps her soul. Many days she would hunt shaahesk in the forests of T’Nanshi or near the swamps of Bazgamph. Soon, thousands of them had fallen to the cursed Murderblade, which had become an instrument of art in irony. Nothing seemed to make the ghosts of her past disappear, though alcohol helped, especially the cactus distillates of Toran Shaarda.
In a haze of alcohol, she made her way to the Aarilax temple after Dala Wennen one night to claim it for their own, and by way of drunken reasoning, start a new order of murder. The priestess dead when she arrived, Llyshra made her way to the upper halls, and finding one of the temple servants she knew there, Llyshra killed the servant without a word. In the center of the dark arena, Dala and Llyshra looked about, drinking and overturning chairs and calling out for the shaahesk warriors that would sometimes meet them there. From a circle of fire, a fiend appeared, and without a word made to strike them down. With Dala fallen to the sword of the fiend, Llyshra rose two times from her own blood on the cold stone floor. Though the fiend told her this was a message for any who would defile the temple, Llyshra laughed and told the fiend that it was her temple. Though the fiend struck her down again, yet again she rose of her own volition. The fiend gone from sight, she made her way down to the lower levels and the sanctuary of the church, and out into the night. There before the church she found in her bag the last of the gnomish explosive devices. Resolved now to destroy the temple, she opened the door to hurl the device into the heart of the sanctuary. With the gnomish bomb hurled into the air, Llyshra found the door out instantly locked behind her. With the detonation of the explosive, a mighty ball of hellish fire ripped though the temple. Although shielded from the brunt of the blast, a tremendous bolt of divine lighting struck her instantly to the ground. Somehow, yet again, she still managed to recover from the very brink of death. With the shaardan distillates still clouding her mind, and the temple burning around her, she fumbled for her lockpicks and began to work the door. Then a flash of light. Then nothing.
At the bequest of lady Llyshra I wrote this to all the guards on patrol tonight. I had wished to have more time to revise it but I was assured you'd like it anyway.
The Guards lament
As I walk on my patrol, from the docks to the Gates,
I watch brave adventurers test the fates
Should the moon illuminate our path
I pray we avoid Verossa's wrath
No need for my cloak, this warm summer night
I shall climb her tower, and glance from the height
Of her beautiful face, studying the books,
Hoping for a chance, of one of her looks
A longing passes through my heart
As the bitter wind, stings like a dart
I lament my anguish, my job and my duty
Such conviction it takes, to keep from her beauty
The rain abets while I knock on her door
We leave together, and walk my chore
To keep my mind stopped from such roaming
Is as hard as to keep a Deglosian ale from foaming.
On the precious eve of tomorrow
Should I fall, she shall cry with sorrow
"The summer days remind me of pain,
Bring back the nights, I curse the sun, my bane."
I lament my anguish, my job and my duty
Such conviction it takes, to keep from her beauty.