Insurrection - By R. A. Salvatore

She felt as if a bit of herself was sliding from her womb, and for a moment she felt diminished, as if she were giving too much away.

The regret was fleeting.

For in chaos, the one would become many, and the many would travel along diverse roads and to goals that seemed equally diverse but were, in effect, one and the same. In the end there would be one again, and it would be as it had been. This was rebirth more than birth; this was growth more than diminishment or separation.

This was as it had been through the millennia and how it must be for her to persevere through the ages to come.

She was vulnerable now - she knew that - and so many enemies would strike at her, given the chance. So many of her own minions would deign to replace her, given the chance.

But they, all of them, held their weapons in defense, she knew, or in aspirations of conquests that seemed grand but were, in the vast scale of time and space, tiny and inconsequential.

More than anything else, it was the understanding and appreciation of time and space, the foresight to view events as they might be seen a hundred years hence, a thousand years hence, that truly separated the deities from the mortals, the gods from the chattel. A moment of weakness in exchange for a millennium of surging power. . . .

So, in spite of her vulnerability, in spite of her weakness (which she hated above all else), she was filled with joy as another egg slid from her arachnid torso.

For the growing essence in the egg was her.
Chapter One
"And why should my aunt trust anyone who sends a male to do her work for her?" Eliss'pra said, staring disdainfully down her nose at Zammzt.

The drow priestess reclined imperiously upon an overstuffed couch that had been further padded with an assortment of plush fabrics, as much for decoration as comfort. Quorlana thought the slender dark elf should have looked oddly out of place in the richly appointed private lounge, dressed as she was in her finely crafted chain shirt and with her mace close at hand. Yet Eliss'pra somehow managed to appear as though she was counted among House Unnamed's most exclusive clientele. Quorlana wrinkled her nose in distaste; she knew well which House Eliss'pra represented, and she found that the haughty drow reclining opposite her exhibited a little bit too much of her aunt's superior affectations.

Zammzt inclined his head slightly, acknowledging the other dark elf's concern.

"My mistress has given me certain . . . gifts that she hopes express her complete and enthusiastic sincerity in this matter," he said. "She also wishes me to inform you that there will be many more of them once the agreement is sealed. Perhaps that will assuage your own fears, as well," he added with what he must have intended as a deferential smile, though Quorlana found it to be more feral than anything. Zammzt was not a handsome male at all.

"Your 'mistress,' " Eliss'pra replied, avoiding both appellations and names, as the five of them gathered there had agreed at the outset, "is asking for a great deal from my aunt, indeed from each of the Houses represented here. Gifts are not nearly a generous enough token of trust. You must do better than that."

"Yes," Nadal chimed in, sitting just to Quorlana's right. "My grandmother will not even consider this alliance without some serious proof that House - " The drow male, dressed in a rather plainpiwafwi, snapped his mouth shut in mid-word. His insignia proclaimed him as wizard member of the Disciples of Phelthong. He caught his breath and continued, "I mean your mistress - that your mistress is actually committing these funds you speak of."

He seemed chagrinned that he had nearly divulged a name, but the male maintained his firm expression.

"He's right," Dylsinae added from Quorlana's other side, her smooth, beautiful skin nearly glowing from the scented oils that she habitually slathered on herself. Her gauzy, hugging dress contrasted sharply with Eliss'pra's armor, reflecting her propensity for partaking in hedonistic pleasures. Her sister, the matron mother, was perhaps even more decadent. "None of those whom we represent will lift a finger until you give us some evidence that we aren't all putting our own heads on pikes. There are far more . . . interesting . . . pastimes to indulge in than rebellion," Dylsinae finished, stretching languidly.

Quorlana wished she were not sitting quite