It was nearly four decades ago. Cassien’s wife, Tysha, has just given birth to their first daughter, Xanphia.
“She’s beautiful, isn’t she?”
“She is. She has your eyes.” Cassien squeezes his wife’s hand and kisses her on the forehead. “I wish I could stay Tysha, but we’re announcing Diryel’s replacement today.”
Tysha looks down at her daughter and smiles as a tear runs down her face. “Who is it?”
“You know I can’t tell you. Even now.”
She sighs and looks up to Cassien. “I know. I know. Hurry back.” Looking back down to Xanphia, Tysha wipes the tear from her cheek. “I know being on the council is important work, and I know its demanded a lot of your time this past decade, but you have a family now.”
Cassien lets his hand fall from his wife’s grip. “I know Tysha. I know.” he says wearily as her turns to leave their room. “Twenty more years and I’m free of this. I’ll be all yours again. Both of you.” He straightens up his collar and grabs the long black coat he has hanging on the wall as he leave’s the room.
You knew what me being on the council would mean. You knew what it means for our future. It may be hell right now, but this will set our path for life. I did this for you. For us. For our family. And now, for Xanphia. Cassien makes his way across the city square to the council house.
As he enters, he is congratulated by the rest of the council for the healthy birth of his daughter. A couple members of the council give him a gifts for the newborn girl. One woman, Sariel, leans to his ear and gives him a few tips for handling the new mother. After the brief celebration, the council head out onto the balcony along with the Night Maiden.
Gathered in front of the council hall are a few dozen Drow. Some of them are men who think they had a good chance at being elected onto the council, while many others are runners. It is the job of the runners to carry the announcement out across the city to make sure the news is heard by all of Ny’Vae’Rehl.
With a brief muttering of magic, the Night Maiden’s voice booms out into the cavern, loud enough for even those who aren’t gathered at the hall to hear. “Diryel,” she gestures to a man behind her to her left, motioning for him to stand beside her, “your time on the council has been fulfilled. All of us thank you greatly for your time served. We have been honored and blessed by your leadership.” She turns back to face the crowd. “Taking Diryel’s place on the council is Lucan Cormrath. Lucan, welcome to the council, please, join us inside.”
Xanphia is now a year old. Things have settled down a bit in the Nailo household with the new council member being announced and not having to worry about another election for a few years. Cassien’s job doesn’t always keep him from home. In fact, when there isn’t a decision being waited on, Cassien has a lot of time to spend with his family and helping to raise his daughter. But being on the council still takes its toll on young families. All it takes is one dispute with neither party wanting to give way, and both sides having a valid argument, for the council to spend days away from their family. The aftermath of an attack from the creatures of the under dark sends the entire city into turmoil and takes weeks for the council to get straightened out.
The Nailo family has gone a few caverns over to meet up with one of Cassien’s childhood friends. Suhnae wasn’t one for politics like Cassien. While Cassien was striving to gain a seat on the council, Suhnae moved to the outskirts of Ny’Vae’Rehl to farm gourselks, a large creature that resembles a sea cucumber. When Cassien told Suhnae about the news of his daughter, Suhnae told him to come see him on her first birthday for a special treat.
The door opens and Suhnae greets Cassien with a big hug. “Cassien! Oh it has been ages. And you’ve brought the whole family with you too!” He turns to Tysha and gives her a kiss on the cheek. “And what, old friend, is the occasion?” He reaches out to tussle Xanphia’s hair.
“Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten Suhnae, you told me that when -”
“Of course! I’m only kidding with you Cassien. You never were one who was good with humor. Come in, come in! I’ve been at work at this all day.
Suhnae steps aside to let the Nailo family into his home and they are met with a mouth watering smell. “Oh, Suhnae, that smells marvelous. What treat have you been working on?” Tysha says as she takes a deep breath in through her nose.
With a big grin on his face, Suhnae let’s the door close and brings them in to his front room. “It’s something special I have been working on for the last year. I chose a special gourselk when miss Xanphia was born and have been feeding it only the best mushrooms from my little farm. I arranged getting some nice herbs. It should be just about ready. I hope you’ve brought along your appetites.” He rubs his hands together, clearly excited, and disappears back into this kitchen.
“Well, this is quite the surprise.” Cassien sits down on one of Suhnae’s benches.
“Are you telling me you knew nothing of this?”
“Well, it’s not very often we have the time to make it all the way out here. I mean, he told me when Xanphia was born that he had something special planned, but I had no idea what it was.”
Tysha smiles. “Well, I can say I’m happy with this surprise. Suhnae’s a great cook, even when he isn’t trying to impress.”
“I heard that you know!” Suhnae walks back into the front room grinning ear to ear, carrying a few plates of a slow cooked, herb crusted, and glazed gourselk. “Let’s eat, shall we? And don’t worry, you can take what’s left.”
An hour into the meal, Suhnae and the Nailo’s feel the ground shake suddenly. Quake’s may not be extremely common, but they happen enough that everyone just waits for it to die down. It doesn’t. The shaking grows more intense. That’s when they hear it, a horn piercing through the noise to signal an incoming attack.
Cassien shakes his head, “No. No, no, no, no, no. Not today…” Xanphia begins crying and Tysha quickly stands up. Suhnae follows.
“We have to get to safety.” Cassien grabs onto Tysha’s arm and heads to the door. He reaches for Xanphia so Tysha will have an easier time running.
“Cassien, you don’t understand.” Suhnae tries to speak up but Cassien has already started moving and his voice is drowned out. “I’ve never heard them blow the horns. It’s probably too late…” Suhnae runs back into his room, crawls under his bed, and weeps.
The Nailo family runs back towards the city center, though it is miles away from where they are now. Across the cavern, snake like creatures begin pouring in, spreading out across the farms, digging into the livestock and crops of those who work here. Cassien holds tightly to Xanphia and continues to run. He sees others, running in the same direction as his family, trying to get to a safer position.
He reaches the tunnel that connects this cavern to the next. and let’s his pace break slightly, hoping he has put enough distance, and food, between his family and the creatures. At this point he realizes. Tysha is no longer with him. “Tysha? Tysha?! TYSHA?!” In a panic, Cassien turns in every direction trying to find his wife, all the while people are bumping into him and pushing past him. He starts to walk back towards Suhnae’s cavern when a man grabs him.
“Are you mad?! The cavern is lost for now! Run!”
In a daze, Cassien turns back towards home and begins walking again. Tears stream down his face as he clutches a terrified and crying Xanphia to his chest. He works himself back into a run.
Cassien keeps moving until he reaches the council hall. He throws the doors open and drops to his knees. “There’s… There’s been an attack.”
The Night Maiden stands from behind her desk and looks at him calmly. “An attack? Cassien, do explain.”
“I was at a friend’s house for dinner with my family in one of the far east farming caverns. The ground began to shake. The horns blew. We ran. Tysha. I’ve lost Tysha.” Cassien begins to sob again. “I’ve lost Tysha…”
The Night Maiden walks to Cassien and places a hand softly on his shoulder. “You have my deepest sympathies Cassien. Please. Take your daughter and return to your home. Get some rest. I will summon the others and take care of this. We will meet tomorrow when you have had some time.”
Slowly, almost in a trance, Cassien begins to stand. He turns and walks towards his house, softly crying with his daughter in his arms. After reaching his home, he sets Xanphia down on the bed and walks into his family room. In a fit of anger and despair, he lashes out. He grabs the table and throws it against the wall. He grabs books off his shelves, tearing them in half and throwing them across the room. He pulls the empty book shelves down to the floor. Surrounded in his destruction, he collapses to his knees.
Cassien’s hand finds the dagger at his belt and he draws it. He looks at the blade and follows it as he presses it against his chest, the point of his heart. Tears begin streaming down his face again. “I can do this. I can do this.” The blade falls from his hands. “I can’t do this.”
Cassien picks his dagger up, wipes his eyes on his sleeve, slides the dagger back into its sheath, and stands up. He grabs a bag from amidst the wreckage and walks into his room. Xanphia looks up at him from the bed, stunned. He packs his bag, mostly with rations, but a few potions that he had stowed away. Cassien grabs a prized rapier from its home over his bed. Lastly, he picks up his daughter from the bed. and walks out of his house.