Annihilation - By R. A. Salvatore

She was the strongest. She had feasted on more than any still alive. She had killed more than any still alive. She had killed all those around her and hadn't even bothered to devour their carcasses before moving on to those outside the zone of the dead.

She was the strongest. She knew she was the strongest as yet another fell before her snapping mandibles. She was the one who would rise through the carnage and rule.

She was the strongest.

The others soon knew thisas well.

So she was dead.

Within the chaos, there was intelligence and purpose. Within the hunger and the slaughter, there was common cause. She was the strongest and would kill them all or rule them all, so they bonded together and tore her eight legs from her, devouring her fully before turning again upon each other.

Another rose to prominence through deed and fearsome assault.

That one, too, fell to the common cause.

The mortal test continued. The strongest died, but the smartest remained. The manipulative remained-those who hid their strengths beyond what was necessary to kill the present opponent.

Those who stepped forward, who rose above the tumult, died.

Through all the millennia, she had recognized those who were stronger than she, and she had persuaded them to do her bidding or be killed. Strength came not from the size of her muscles but from the power of her cunning.

In the frenzy of the birthing, in the contest of the slaughter, these traits paved the road to victory.

To find the moment when individual strength was beyond the collective power to defeat it.

To intrigue amidst battle to destroy any who were stronger.

And for some, to admit defeat before oblivion's descent, to escape and survive, new demons of chaos to run wild about the planes and in the end to serve the winner.

The numbers dwindled. Those left grew in power and size.

Each waited and watched, deciding who must die before she could reign supreme, sorting through the tumult to facilitate that desired end.

Those driven by uncontrollable hunger were dead now.

Those driven by simple self-defense were dead now.

Those driven by foolish pride were dead now.

Those driven by instinctual survival were dead or were fleeing.

Those driven by cunning remained, knowing only one could emerge in the end. For all the others, it would be servitude or oblivion. There were no other choices.

As she had manipulated the mortals who served her and the mortals who feared her, as she had maneuvered even other gods through the centuries, so she controlled her offspring. This was the test of her decree.

There were no other choices.
Chapter One
Gromph found himself growing accustomed to seeing the world through his familiar's eyes. It was that feeling that prompted him to do something about it. Gromph Baenre, brother of the Matron Mother of the First House of the City of Spiders, Archmage of Menzoberranzan, would not look through the eyes of a rat any longer than he had to.

Kyorli's head bobbed from side to side and up and down as she sniffed the air. The rat was bound to look where Gromph willed her to, but she was easily distracted. She didn't see as well in the dark, either, which in the Underdark meant she didn't ever see well, and there were no colors. Gromph perceived the casting chamber, like the rest of the world, in dull hues of gray and black. Gromph knew the chamber well enough, though, that he didn't need the rat's vision to reveal its limits. The fuzzy blurs at the edge of Kyorli's vision were the great columns that rose to a series of flying buttresses, eighty feet into the gloom overhead. The carvings on the columns were sparse, and what they lacked in beauty they made up for in magical utility. The chamber, deep in the maze of Sorcere, was there for a purpose and not to impress. Spells were cast there in the course of training the students, testing the masters, in researching new spells, straining the limits of their powers, and for the odd summoning or scrying.

Gromph stepped into the center of the room, and from the corner of Kyorli's eyes he saw the two drow waiting for him. They bowed. The rat was sniffing the air, her nose angled up in the direction of the circle of giant mushroom stems that had been secured to the floor in the center of the cavernous chamber. There were ten of them, and to each was bound a single drow male.

"Archmage," one of the two wizards in