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Illiriel, the drow


Enveloping my senses, encroaching on the rational parts of my mind, the dark shadow looming over what scraps of confidence I had consolidated in anticipation of this moment as surely as it stretches across the lightless ground. Impenetrable. Inconceivable. Inevitable.

Darkness. And something more…

My eyes cannot discern its shape. My ears cannot detect its footfalls. Yet, I know it to reside in the timeless gloom, watching, waiting for the moment when my concentration falters. This dance we have danced nine hundred and ninety-six times prior…

The first step, as always, belongs to the shadow. This time he waits, drawing out the moments between my breaths, letting the all-consuming darkness eat away at my patience. I realize, too late, that time has become my enemy as well as the darkness, working at my frayed nerves as surely as a serrated blade.

The shadows send forth their avatar, an invisible dervish of whirling swords and boundless fury, a perfect warrior without pain, fear, or mercy. The pattern has become familiar after so long, and I meet him blade-for-blade, staving off the ceaseless attacks with the same futility that the cliffs hold back the waves.

Blows rain down too fast for any mere mortal to match. The swords do not cut, but rake across my obsidian flesh weightlessly as would shafts of brilliant light, scoring my skin again and again with flares of incandescent pain. Inevitably, I begin to give ground before the onslaught, and I am rewarded with another spark of growing torment for every step taken away from my shadowy foe.


"What lies beyond my blade?" The voice echoes out from inside me, but is not my own. The question does not emerge from my mind, but resonates from the depths of my soul, an impossible place where only truth can dwell.

I know this pattern, as well. The pain is only too familiar, a small price to pay to be able to anticipate the position of my opponent. For a moment all too brief the hurt and anger vanish, overwhelmed by the burning desire that threatens to consume my patience far too soon.

"My enemy!" A tortured roar of rage erupts from deep within as I hurl myself into the sea of shadow, pushing the blinding pain from my mind long enough to lash out with a single, desperate stroke of my sword…


Finding only air, the weight of my sword pulls me further off-balance. I surrender to inertia and despair, collapsing to my knees as the blade clatters across the cold ground, the sharp pangs seeming to echo into eternity within this lightless place. The enemy has gone, leaving me alone with my failure, my pain, and that sourceless voice.

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