Condemnation - By R. A. Salvatore

The food was gone and with it the warmth. All was hollow and empty, save the call to break free. That came most insistently, a subtle urging growing into desperation.

Eight tiny legs answered that imploring call. Eight tiny weapons struck at the concave wall. Battering and tearing, following the lighter shade of gray in this dark place.

A hole appeared in the leathery surface and the eight legs coordinated their attacks at that very spot, sensing weakness. Weakness could not be tolerated. Weakness had to be exploited, immediately and without mercy.

One by one, ten by ten, a thousand by a thousand, a million by a million, tiny legs waved in the misty space between universes for the first time, tearing free of their circular prisons. Driven by hunger and ambition, by fear and an instinctive vileness, the millions of arachnids fought their first battle against a pliable, leathery barrier. Hardly a worthy adversary, but they fought with an urgency wrought of knowing that the first to emerge would hold a great advantage, knowing that they - all of them - were hungry.

And knowing there was nothing to eat but each other.

The warmth of the egg sac was gone, devoured. The quiet moments of solitude, of awakening, of first sense of consciousness, were past. The walls that had served as shelter and protection became an impediment and nothing more. The soft shell was a barricade against food, against necessary battle, against satiation on so many levels.

Against power.

And that, most of all, could not be tolerated by these blessed and cursed offspring. So they fought and tore and scrabbled and scrambled to get out.

To eat.

To climb.

To dominate.

To kill.

To become. . . .
Chapter ONE
Streams of dust and sand hissed over old red stone. Halisstra Melarn drew herpiwafwiclose around her, and shivered in the bitter wind. The night was cold, colder than the deeps and caverns far below the world's surface, and the wind moaned mournfully through the weathered ruins, crouching dead and silent in arid hills. Once a great city stood there, but no more. Shattered domes and tottering colonnades whispered of a proud and skillful race, long gone. Vast ramparts still stood against the desert wind, and the broken stumps of towers reached for the heavens.

In different circumstances Halisstra might have spent days wandering the silent ways of the mighty ruins and pondering their long-lost tale, but at the moment a far greater and more terrifying mystery held her rapt with awe and horror. Above the black silhouettes of crumbling towers and crooked walls, a sea of stars glittered like cold hard ice in a black and limitless sky.

She'd heard of such things all her life, of course. Intellectually she understood the concept of an open sky in place of a cavern roof, and the ludicrously distant pinpricks of light overhead, but to sit out in the open beneath such a sight and gaze on it with her own eyes . . . that was some-thing else indeed. In her two hundred years she had never ventured more than a few dozen miles from Ched Nasad, and she had certainly never come within miles of the surface. Very few dark elves from the City of Shimmering Webs had. Like most drow, they largely ignored the world outside the endless intrigues, scheming, and remorseless self-interest of life in Ched Nasad.

She stared at the glittering lights above and bitterly savored the irony. The pinprick diamonds and the vast night sky were real. They had existed for some unimaginably long time, long before she had happened to look up in that forlorn, freezing desert and notice them, and they would doubt-less continue long after she was gone. But Ched Nasad, the city of her birth, the city whose rivalries and loyalties and fortunes had completely absorbed all of her intellectual abilities and attention for her entire life, was no more. Not a day ago she had stoodon the high balconies of House Nasadra and stared down in horror at burning stone and falling castles, witness to her city's catastrophic destruction. Ched Nasad, with its wondrous webs of stone and darkly beautiful fairy-castles clinging to the chasm walls - Ched Nasad, with its awesome arrogance and hubris, its darkly beautiful noble houses and its ceaseless veneration of the Spider Queen herself - Ched Nasad, the center of Halisstra's existence, was no more.

With a sigh, Halisstra tore her gaze away from the sky overhead and stood. She was tall for a drow, almost five and a half feet in Copyright 2016 - 2024