"We are winning you know? We could take this all the way." Rizzen sounded too excited for his own good.
Solaufein found it to be infectious and wanted to agree, but past war experiences made him a lot more cautious than his drow were-rat friend. "Menzobarranzan has not fallen and if it hasn't by now, it will not. We are running low on supplies, food will be gone by the end of the week, and the coal will be gone by tomorrow and without coal the drill rams won't run, but the losses have definitely hurt the city which makes our losses all the more worth it."
Rizzen nodded. Over the ridge he saw the ruins of Menzobarranzan, only house Baenre still stood, but the second house Del'Armigo was still present as well, supplying the resources to keep the first house from falling, the rest of the city was a smoldering shell of its former self. It was hard to feel disappointment that they could not demolish the entire city when half of it turned on itself and aided the rebellion, thanks to Xull'rae's coercion and psionics. It seemed that Lolth herself was aiding them, but the fickle goddess never showed herself during the carnage.
Solufein joined Rizzen on the bluff and they both watched as the slaves and dregs of the Braeryn were pouring out in droves to surround the Baenre compound only to be struck down by divine and arcane magic.
Rizzen whistled. "That Gromph sure is tough makes me wonder why he never defected to Sshamath."
"Too far, too lazy, old habits die hard. Take your pick," Solaufein replied with a shrug.
"More like he'd lose status, he'd just be another wizard having to work his way up," offered Rizzen.
"Lazy," both said in unison.
"Any word from our Lord?" Rizzen asked as he jumped down to check on his drill ram's repairs.
"None," Solaufein sighed, "So we need to go with our back up plan."
"Claim the third house, name it Zauviir so they have no idea she is from the original Oblodra house and give Xull'rae the Matron title. Laele isn't going to happy with that, what about Sshamath?" Rizzen looked torn.
"When Xull'rae and Mourn recover, she will be staying here, as will he. She needs to be a Lolth priestess in their eyes. I'm sure Xull'rae will keep tabs with Laele and even open up a trade route to Sshamath. Most of us will return to the tower. I will, but you my friend will be staying here as well as others I will hand pick."
"Don't strain our numbers too thin Sol," Rizzen gave his friend a pointed look, "I'm all for protecting Xull'rae, but be sure some loyal followers return to the Tower of Masked Mage with you. The last thing we need is for the Tower to be divided now, after such a hard fought victory. We do have less numbers now . . . ."
Solaufein grinned. "You are worried about Xull'rae don't be."
Rizzen scowled. "She collapsed and has been out for a week, how you can say not to worry, I have no idea. I told you psionicly shielding all of the drill ram's was too much for her." He was angry, there were thirty of those things total, thirteen of which had been destroyed and each explosion had wounded Xull'rae, not to mention mentally exhausted her.
"Xull'rae is awake. You should go see her since you will one of three candidates for Patron. She was asking for you anyway," winked Solaufein with a laugh.
"Vesz'aun is one, he arrived here the day after she fell!" Rizzen was shocked at Sol's glibness considering how much the man adored the red headed drowess. "Why me and who is the other?"
"You sound jealous to me old friend," Solaufein snickered. "Lesaonar no doubt once word reaches Sshamath that Xull'rae secured a house for Zauviir in the mightiest Lolth city and the third one at that! That weaponsmaster will be shipped here to begin 'breeding' right away is my guess. Besides we can use his skill to keep the house and he'll be an unknown patsy in our cover until we can regroup and strike again."
"I'm not jealous," Rizzen muttered, "I just don't want to be Patron!"
Solaufein gave his companion a sympathetic smile. "Don't worry about it, just see to it Xull'rae back on her feet by tonight. She'll need to stake her claim and soon."
"She's not ready Sol!" Rizzen protested, anger rising in him again.
Solaufein was unforgiving as he was calm. "She has to be Rizzen, it's too late to back out or hide now. Tired and wounded she might be, but tonight she must rise up and play out how unscathed she is. Power and appearance is everything she knows this better than anyone. She will pull it off. Xull'rae is nothing but strength, if she has none, she will find it. The girl does not know how to quit. She needs you now more than ever. I believe she will not fail, have faith Brother! You must."
Rizzen was shamed as he nodded. "I do not doubt her I just wish she could have some rest first."
"She is family there is no shame in your worry." Solaufein gave Rizzen a brief hug. "I need you to care for her, but do not let it cloud your judgment."
Rizzen nodded again with a heavy sigh and with a worried frown left Solaufein to call back their remaining troops.
Today victory was theirs, it was a pity there would be no time to celebrate it.