This series shows how Shann Lightfoot came to be in Irenicus' Dungeon in my Right Place, Wrong Bhaalspawn series.
Poor, poor, medium, poor, good, good, poor. The small child sighed as she worked. Her long, dark hair was matted with sweat that rolled down in rivulets to leave dark streaks in her dust-covered face. Her name was Shann and she had been born a slave, looked upon as little more than an animal by her Drow masters. Shann wiped her sweaty brow with a dust coated hand as she crouched over a low bench heaped with small rocks. It was her job to sort the illithium ores into rough grades. It was a dreadfully tedious job and her back always ached by the end of the day. Don't complain, she chided herself, soon enough I'll be sent to dig the pit like Momma and Grandmother.
The drow overseer looked her way, and Shann quickly began working again, fearful of being punished. I wish things were different. Grandmother says to trust in the god Ilmater, but she's been praying for years and is still a slave. Maybe the new Commander sent by the Matron Mother will make things better.
Shann furtively watched the new commander, Mistress Sidhie, as the Drow inspected the mine that was the heart of the N'evarn outpost. It was buried in the Nether Mountains. The location a secret guarded zealously by the O'farn family. Against all predictions, a large deposit of illithium ores had been discovered there. The immense wealth generated by the mine more than made up for the discomfort of those sent to work there.
There were no proper caves in the area and both the drow overseers and the slaves were forced to live on the surface. Many of the slaves were surfacers and did not mind the sun. Some, like Shann's grandmother, had come from the Underdark, but gradually became used to the surface. The Drow masters rarely ventured outside in the daylight. Corridors linked the buildings together and a Drow could spend months without ever venturing outside when the sun was shining. The colony slept during the day and most work was done during the night.
The trouble began when the workers gathered for their final feeding. Shann liked mealtimes because she could spend time with her mother, Dornleif, and her grandmother, Berthild. Most of her life was spent working or sleeping and Shann adored the chance to relax. Unfortunately, meals rarely lasted as long as Shann wished they would. Shann soon finished eating, and was idly swinging her feet, when Sidhie looked over at her family and whispered something to the aide by her side. She came over to Shann's mother and stood there, glaring at her.
"Why has this mongrel abomination been allowed to live?" Sidhie asked of the chief overseer, K'ress.
"Dornleif is a strong worker; we are constantly plagued by a lack of servants," K'ress answered as Shann's mother looked down at the table. Sidhie placed the handle of her flail under Dornleif's chin and forced her to look up. "How old are you, girl?" Sidhie asked in a quiet voice.
"Seventy-eight, Mistress," Dornleif whispered.
"Seventy-eight!" Sidhie repeated, with venom in her voice. "And already the filth shows signs of ageing. It ages faster than either elf or dwarf. Is that not proof that Lolth detests the unnatural mingling of drow blood with that of the lesser races? It should have been strangled at birth," Sidhie screeched as she struck Dornleif a blow that knocked her unconscious.
"Momma!" Shann cried, and reached a hand out to touch her mother. She realized it was a mistake to move when Sidhie grabbed her by the hair and pulled her up.
"You allowed the abomination to breed." Sidhie said in a quiet voice that was more chilling than her earlier shouts. "How far has this outpost been allowed to degenerate? It is a wonder Lolth did not destroy you all for blasphemy." She threw Shann down, and then pointed at Dornleif. "Why wasn't it sterilized?"
K'ress trembled as she realized her life was at stake. "It was, Mistress. It should not have reproduced; there was something unnatural about the breeding. The high priestess said the child seemed to be the same racial mix as the parent. It has aged faster than normal too, like the mother. It is only eight, but it is almost grown enough to be useful in the mines." She looked at Sidhie who was getting more and more irritated the longer K'ress continued talking. K'ress swallowed nervously, and then tried to explain why Shann was alive. "The high priestess, she … she prayed, but said Lolth gave permission for the infant to live. I swear it is the truth."
"How convenient that the high priestess is dead and cannot verify your words." Sidhie looked around and frowned. She raised a hand as though to strike K'ress but stopped. It appeared that Sidhie needed K'ress's help to control the colony. Instead of venting her anger on K'ress, Sidhie beckoned to her guards to take Shann away. "Punish the small one for daring to interrupt me. I shall retire now to think about the matter of the abomination."
Shann was no stranger to punishments. Sometimes she earned blows and whippings by not deferring properly to the masters, and sometimes she was punished for no reason she knew of. Shann gritted her teeth as the blows fell on her body, determined not to cry out this time. She knew the cuts and bruises were superficial; the Drow could not afford to lose a worker. Punishments were painful, but rarely did any lasting damage. But, as the pain increased, Shann was unable to stop herself from screaming.
Berthild and Dornleif came over to Shann when the guards threw her into the slave barracks. Berthild stroked the child's hair and tried to heal her as best she could. Shann backed away in anger. Dornleif reached out to comfort Shann, but found herself rebuffed.
"You told me I had elf blood in me. Not Drow," Shann said accusingly.
"It doesn't matter, Shann," Dornleif said, but the look of shame on her face belied her words. "A..a Drow is still an elf."
"The masters are evil! To share blood with them is ... is obscene!" Shann said.
"You cannot be Drow without being raised Drow," Berthild said. "All her life, I have said as much to your mother, but she has never had the sense to accept it. I expect you to do better."
"And I suppose you are not Duergar, Mother?" Dornleif said wearily.
"If I do not wish to be, I am not." Berthild said firmly. "Shann, you have the blood of dwarves and elves within you. What particular type of dwarves or elves your ancestors were is not important." She raised a hand and spoke in a voice that would accept no arguments. "That is the final word on this subject."
Shann knew better than to speak again, and secretly resolved to never think of her Drow heritage again. Grandmother is right, I am not Drow if I do not want to be. Still, I wonder, what else have they lied to me about?
As soon as the sun set, the workers were called to order. After they ate their first meal, they were assembled, as was normal, but this time they were not marched to work in the mines. Instead they were led to a vast clearing where the crude altar that served the needs of the outpost's priestesses was located. Sidhie was standing in the place of honour surrounded by the two lesser priestesses of Lolth and the five other Drow nobles who ruled the outpost. Assembled in a semicircle around them were the Drow commoners not assigned to guard the slaves who formed the outer half-circle.
Shann's attention drifted as Sidhie started speaking. She caught parts of the new commander's speech about no longer allowing degeneracy in the workings of the colony, but didn't really care; she was too happy not to have to work. Shann's focus returned when she heard Sidhie say she would no longer permit abominations in the eyes of Lolth to exist. Two soldiers came and took an unprotesting Dornleif over to Sidhie as she said this.
The soldiers stripped Dornleif and bound her to the altar. Shann tried to call out but Berthild put her hand over the child's mouth and turned her around so her face was buried in Berthild's shirt. "Do not watch, child," she said and gazed forwards with a blank face. Sacrifices of intelligent beings were rare in the labour-starved colony, but still performed on occasion, as Lolth demanded. Berthild sighed, but she was used to outliving her children. All of Dornleif's siblings died in the mines; perhaps a quick death was preferable to further degradation.
"The N'evarn colony will be a testament to the ways of Lolth," Sidhie stated after Dornleif's body had stopped twitching. The slaves were sent to the mines and ordered to work faster to make up for the lost time. Shann found herself grateful for the tediousness of her sorting job. It gave her a great deal of time to think about Dornleif's death. Shann knew she should mourn the loss of her mother, but did not even cry. Instead, she found herself fantasizing about hurting the Drow, and wondering what it would feel like to break their bones and cut their beautiful flesh. Thoughts of revenge comforted Shann and kept her feelings of grief at a distance.
When they returned to the dormitories, Berthild tried to console Shann by reminding her that Dornleif was surely welcomed by her god, Ilmater. "You must be faithful, Shann, and he will watch over you too."
"When it's my turn to be sacrificed?" Shann said flatly as she looked at Berthild. "I am as much an abomination as my mother, and Mistress Sidhie will not permit me to live." Berthild's eyes filled with sadness as she nodded. "I do not want to go to a 'glorious afterlife'." Shann stated.
"Shann, you must have faith and accept the life that you have been given."
"Faith? What good did faith do mother?" Shann said bitterly. "I do not care for your useless god, a human god. He probably doesn't even listen to your prayers. I will find a way to destroy them all. I will feel their blood on my hands."
Berthild shuddered when she saw the bloodlust that shone in her granddaughter's eyes. "Shann, you must not allow hate to overcome you. Better you should die with honour than find joy in killing."
"That's not what Father says," Shann said and saw her grandmother draw in a breath as a look of fear crossed her face. She knows, Shann thought.
"What…what do you mean by father?" Berthild asked.
"He has come to me in dreams. A great, powerful man who tells me that I have the blood of a god in my veins." Shann drew herself up proudly. "He says he can help me escape from this place. He will give me the power to hurt my enemies." She looked at Berthild. "Do you know who my Father is? Is he really a god?"
"Yes," Berthild hissed. "The knowledge was given to me shortly after Dornleif was violated by that monster. Your father was an evil god, Bhaal, the Lord of Murder. He is dead, Shann, he cannot help you, and you must not listen to him. He will draw you into a darkness you cannot escape."
Shann looked at Berthild and smiled. If he cannot help me then why is she worried? I will leave tonight but best not to let her know. "Yes, grandmother, I am upset. I will pray to Ilmater tonight. A live god must be more powerful than a dead god."
The sun was high in the sky when Shann attempted to make her escape. Her Father had promised her a great power that would let her leave unnoticed. Your grandmother's blood grants you the innate ability to become invisible once between resting periods, Bhaal had said in her dream, I will enhance that power so that even the skills of Lolth's priestesses will be unable to detect or dispel that invisibility.
Shann trembled as she crept invisibly from the slave quarters. If Grandmother had been right about Bhaal, and her dreams were lies, then Shann would soon be detected by the wards that ringed the outpost. Shann stood and blinked in the bright light of day. She was unused to the light, but since she had been born on the surface, she was not blinded like many Underdark dwellers.
She walked cautiously towards the common soldiers' equipment room. The single guard was half-asleep and did not stir when Shann crept past her. She went through the supplies and outfitted herself with travelling clothes and a small dagger and slingshot. She wanted larger weapons but realized she could never use them properly. Shann felt a lot more confident once she had filled her backpack with travel rations from the stores and was ready to leave.
With a growing sense of relief, Shann stepped lightly as she moved away from the despised place which was all she had ever known. She did not dare travel on the single path that led away from the N'evarn Colony. She walked through the underbrush that bordered the road, keeping an eye on the path so she would not get lost, never looking back until night was beginning to fall. Then, Shann looked towards the now unseen outpost, and vowed to return some day. When I am strong enough, I will return and destroy all of the masters. I will be the greatest Drowkiller in all the lands. Father has promised.