Author's Notes: This story is erotic fantasy written by Etaski. I reserve the right to be listed as the author of this story, wherever it is posted. If found posted anywhere except with this note attached, this story is posted without my permission. (c) Etaski 2016.

This is the first of several "bonus" stories I will be releasing in December and January as I work on Chapter 39 of Surfacing. :) It can be read on its own, though readers of my Red Sister series will recognize these characters.

Please enjoy this story of Sirana's Mother from "Surfacing." Thank you for reading!


Her Matron gripped her wrist. It hurt, but she bore it bravely. She did not blink, even as she felt her Mother's gaze in the pitch dark like a hot blade pressed to the hollow of her throat. She was pulled closer, stubbornly down, until the Matron could whisper without anyone else hearing. The young Drow had to hope part of her ear was not bitten off at this last moment, if only for her to have something by which to remember her.

"You can never show what you really are," the dying Elf hissed. "Y-you are my sole heir, First Daughter. S-soon you will be Matron! Make it quick. L-leave me to suffer and you sh-shall run afoul my l-last weapon. It will to come for you instead of them. Kill me... Quickly...!"

"Where did they strike you?" Rohenvi asked, feeling the tremors begin in the scalding, sweating body.

The Matron-Mother clutched her Daughter's hand and clumsily slid it to cover her waist, where Rohenvi could just feel the break in the fine fabric. It was a very small hole.

"Quickly," the Daughter agreed, embracing her Mother tightly to her and reaching for the hard-cased needle at her own belt.

It was the closest they dared be to each other in six decades, when the inevitable tests arose between a Mother and her Daughter. Would the all-too-necessary heir be a puppet, pliable and useful but lacking the necessary initiative to maintain power after her Matron's death and thus dooming the House's standing? Would she be a subversive competitor undermining her Matron's and her House's image well before her time as she dealt with the plots of any siblings?

Or would the First Daughter be a cooperative extension of the ruling Matron during her lifetime, loyal but always ready and waiting for her Matron's passing? This was the best case scenario for any House, assuming there were no latter-year regrets to fray would should be clean severance at the end.

Matron Thalluen had worked hard to assure this clean cut, and Rohenvi would not disrupt it now. She used the same puncture wound made by the poison dart to deliver the glass needle, breaking it and letting leak the rare toxin. The First Daughter had been holding on to it for three years now, staying out of the plot as her Mother willed it, making her seem the pliable puppet to the Court...except for this one eve.

The First Daughter had waited out in the darkness to see if her strong, determined Matron made it out alive. She had, but it wouldn't last. Finding Rohenvi, her Mother had pulled out the dart in her haste; her Daughter would have to find and recover it before she dared leave. For now, she held her Mother, feeling the heat lessen and the rampaging heart slow. Rohenvi exhaled, silent and sure.

Matron Thalluen's mind would go black; she would fall into her last reverie well before her tongue and glands swelled up and closed off her throat to choke her. She would be asleep before her eyes would bulge and begin to bleed. The pain of her entrails and her inner organs would cease as her heart simply stopped and her lungs quit drawing air.

Matron Surenat of House Thallen would not suffer, and she would not leave behind an ugly corpse for witnesses. Whoever was watching now this moment would see this, and they would not come after her Daughter. They would let her live to rule in her Noble Mother's stead, because she did not hesitate to do what needed to be done. She had proven herself worthy.

Rohenvi held the body for as long as she was allowed without seeming too weak or mournful. She lifted her head, swiveling her head to move her ears, inhaling above her Mother' sweat. She could sense nothing, and might figure she was not being watched.

But she didn't believe it.

Soon her Mother's Head Guard came, having obeyed her last order and circled around on her lizard mount to wait a little longer. She dismounted now to help the First Daughter move the Matron's body back to their House.


You can never show what you really are.

Last words as a lesson reinforced. Rohenvi had heard this many times. At different points in her life, it had meant different things. She could not show she was afraid of pincer worms as a child. She could not show she was covetous of her brother's new slave as an adolescent. She could not show she was angry being jilted by a member of a Higher House at the last worship ball at Court, five years ago.


Rohenvi offered the Head Guard her soup; the warrior tasted it without fear, and pushed it back. She smirked slightly and ate.

The First Daughter could still feel those emotions, could nurture them if she willed it—they all did—and she could act on them, possibly. But if she showed them, her competitors would know those thoughts well before she had any plan in place to deal with them—be it to deal with the adversary or the emotion itself.

She lifted her bowl into her hands to drink what her spoon didn't easily capture, lowering it and making eye contact with the stoic female sitting across of her.

Stoic. The First Daughter—now the Matron, she reminded herself—licked the soup from her upper lip. That is how her Mother had gotten along for a few centuries, with stoicism. She had done well enough in her short time, had built their wealth and only just now raised their House from Thirteenth to Twelfth, and if all went well, Surenat's "last weapon" meant there wouldn't be any immediate retribution.

"How old are you, Fintre?" Rohenvi asked the silent Head Guard.

Her jaw was like rock. "Three hundred three, Matron."

Almost her Mother's peer. Now over double her own.

Surenat had only lived to be three hundred-fifty; she had birthed only one Daughter and had bet everything on that. Now Rohenvi thought she knew what it was that her own Matron had never been able to show. Not until the end. Surenat wasn't really a Matron; she was a mercenary hired by herself, and Fintre, the Head Guard, was her Second. Her Right Hand. They didn't want to lead an army, but they did want to get things done by their own wit and endurance.

Mercenaries also tended to die in their prime, and her Mother was no different.

Rohenvi wasn't a mercenary, she knew. She wanted to live longer than that, and be sure their bloodline would survive by more than by a single Daughter. If she didn't, it meant her life was would be half over in another few decades and it could all vanish in one assassination, as it had for many of the lower Houses, renamed and reformed again and again.

One hard and stealthy strike, on which the middling and lower Noble Houses were always on the cusp to suffer—the most recent, Rohenvi suspected, her Matron had gone out this very eve to prevent. In this last desire, Surenat had been successful taking it into her own hands. And it was her last mission.

She should have been a Red Sister or something, she thought, burying her expression in a taste-tested wine glass as the Head Guard stood vigilant between her and her Matron's body. But then she came into the title of Matron very young as well, just like me.

There weren't that many truly elder Matrons below the Fourth House, those longest-lasting Houses with Matrons who had somehow bourn children, raised them, and avoided death past the age of five hundred. The Matrons were all young compared to the Valsharess, the Red Sister Prime, a handful of Her Priestesses, and those top tier Houses. Beneath the Matrons, the average warrior was younger still, as were the servants and the slaves.

Something got to everyone, sooner or later, and no one saw all their children survive to bear their own.

"Your...Matron," Fintre began quietly, "was glad you did not take after her, Rohenvi."

The young Matron lifted her head. "Hm? How so?"

A shrug of strong shoulders. "You can be content inside these walls. You figured out a lot of efficiencies Surenat always hated putting her eyes to, much as they needed to be done. A lot of the recent profits and fortune was because you took that off her plate, you split the work. You deserve your inheritance, Matron."

The young Noble waited, keeping her face placid as she was taught. This was oddly blunt between the two of them—Fintre did not even use her Mother's title for Surenat—but perhaps it had been this blunt between Mother and Fintre, and Rohenvi was only taking her rightful place in the eyes of the Head Guard. It spoke well for a relatively peaceful transition.

Rohenvi nodded, trying to be graceful. The Guard accepted that acknowledgement, but it didn't bring out the same level of manners.

"And I take it you enjoy male company?" Fintre asked.


"More than Mother did," Rohenvi said, well aware that her Matron had barely kept males around long enough to plant the seeds. Surenat might not have gone through a second pregnancy at all if the first child hadn't been a male. "I also want more children. Four, at least. I've already decided."

Fintre nodded, her rigid face softening a bit to look somber and relieved at once. "Good. That's good. Makes it easier, Matron Rohenvi."

She just started to smile hearing how the other said that, then remembered not to.

Easier. Easier to do what your rank dictates you must.

Surenat probably only smiled when she was out with Fintre, when no one else could see her. Rohenvi wasn't sure; she was only guessing.

"We will light the pyre at waking, Head of the Guard. You will stand with the rest."

"Thank you, Matron. Long live our House Thalluen."


At first, Rohenvi did not have time for male company at all, outside of seeing her brother safely travel from Court to stand at their mother's pyre, to stand witness, before he would be sent back at some point. The siblings had a short eve to talk following the funeral, to plan over a hot drink.

"What newest whispers have you heard at Court, Azed?"

He smirked and shook his head slightly, blowing on the surface of his taze. "They become more ridiculous each month, and quickly forgotten when they don't come to pass."

"I am sure I can judge that. Just speak."

"You're wasting your time, Roh. I do not need to fill your head with Court gossip. You want to hear it, you can come to Court yourself."

"I have to stay here and manage our land." She squinted at him. "You never would have argued with Mother."

"She didn't give two hangs about Court gossip. She never asked."

The young Matron sipped thoughtfully. "Why are you at Court, then?"

Her brother, older by only two decades—nearly making them twins—just shrugged. "She didn't want to sell me to another House, I suppose. She bought her information on the streets, she did not have to put me at risk using me as a plant, so she didn't."

Rohenvi planted her fist on her cheek. "Are you grateful?"

Azed looked toward the ceiling, considering. "Court has its own petty spites and dangers, I don't think it is any 'safer.' If that was her aim. I figure she could never decide what to do with me."

With no one else could Rohenvi talk this way; somehow their Matron had not given either of them much reason to despise her. She merely expected them to take care of themselves, be self-reliant, and punishments the Matron's children suffered were no worse than Fintre's among her own Guard—and for very tangible reasons. Even young Nobles could do stupid things to endanger their security—that was the only time the siblings suffered. Growing up here had been more like living in a fortress than a Noble manor.

Rohenvi scratched her chin. "Do you want to come back home?"

Azed blinked but considered the option. He was quiet until her cup was nearly empty, as he weighed a lot in his mind.

"I do," he answered. "But...well, there is one mention you should know, the only thing I'm sure isn't just gossip. It's coming from too many places."

The young Matron straightened her back and watched her brother, waiting for him to continue.

"Word is the Priestesses have renovated one of their floors in the Sanctuary to house male children, kind of like the Wizard's Tower, except...I don't know, something like embodiments of beauty as well as magic."

Rohenvi didn't understand. "You mean...they're going to claim yet more sons from among the Nobles?"

Azed shook his head. "No, I mean they're making new ones. The Priestesses are having children with mage potential, and they plan to share the males as...well, the word I've heard are 'consorts.' They aren't grown yet, but they say the Valsharess is going to introduce them at a worship ball in the future, and the Nobles most worthy will be gifted with the first generation."

Rohenvi frowned, looking somewhat ahead and to the side of where a Priestess might wish. "So fewer Nobles will be chosen to be Priestesses? The daughters of the Priestesses will simply fill the ranks, it will become a hereditary position, and they'll just farm the males out for favors and further wealth. The gap between the populace and the Sanctuary will grow."

She was thinking that might not be a good thing, but Azed shook his head. "That's the odd thing. Whispers only talk about male children. No daughters that anyone has seen. Supposedly a gift from Lolth to increase our Nobles' beauty and magic."

So maybe the Priestesses had already worked out that danger, and decided only on male children as less threatening. Could they select the sex that way, then? Had they grown that strong in their divine worship? Frightening to think, but then to add they were making deliberate choices and showing restraint to keep the power balanced.

Rohenvi kind of liked the idea. The Valsharess is wise. What if we can gain one of those children? Perhaps my first?

She smiled a bit. "We haven't had a real mage in our line in a while. Almost certainly that's why our House hasn't climbed much. All the powerful Houses have a good ratio of children becoming sorceresses and wizards and Priestesses."

"Which benefits nobody but the Sanctuary and the Palace," her brother comment boldly.

Rohenvi frowned at him. "You know, most Matrons would demand I punish you for saying that in public."

"Which is why I do not say it in public, Matron-Sister," he granted with an appropriately gracious bow in deference to her, even as he tried to suppress his humor.

"Do not play so lightly," she warned. "I will punish you if you place me or House Thalluen in a position that gives any excuse to others to doubt our loyalty to the Valsharess. I would rather not, because I know your wit is better than some females and it should not be necessary."

Azed's lingering humor vanished and he lowered his eyes and nodded. "I understand, Matron."

And so she had made herself plain. Good. She nodded in satisfaction.

"If I may dare," he continued somberly, "I thought instead you would like one Drow with whom double-speak wasn't necessary." He hesitated. "I know I would. I grow tired of the Courts, and my loyalty is and always will be to my House. To you, Matron."

Rohenvi felt her chest tighten—similar to when her Mother had been dying in her arms—and turned her cup around on its saucer. She frowned. "If we speak such in private here, and you should mutter something at Court, under some influence...perhaps it is better we do not speak at all about how we would see the City run. It is not our place."

Azed didn't argue the point. He had already been drugged and abused once. He had confessed to Matron Surenat eight decades ago, when he'd allowed himself to be trapped by some gleeful females shortly after arriving at Court. It had caused problems for a time, the things he had said—but at least they had been innocuous enough to vanish quickly from the memories of the Court when the embarrassment was fully harvested and the scavengers found their next juicy bit. New male arrivals like him were always most vulnerable.

"Let me come home, Matron," he said, "and I will watch my tongue."

Rohenvi pursed her lips. "What if I need your eyes and ears to tell me when the consorts are going to be introduced?"

Azed did not look surprised to hear that. "Truthfully? It will not give you any edge over the other Nobles. It is not first-come, first serve, it will be by invitation. I would consider other ways of distinguishing yourself, like Mother did. I could help you more with that than listening to insipid rumors cycle in and cycle out, and you would not need to worry about what I might say."

She exhaled. "Give me a cycle and we will talk again about how House Thalluen might distinguish ourselves to be noticed for the consorts. If I like our plan, you may stay."

Azed smiled, both wry and relieved. "Yes, Matron."

Before he left her suite, her brother paused, watching her. "No one at Court would have given me that option, Roh. That I told you any preference at all means the 'correct' answer is the opposite of it. To keep me in line."

The young Matron frowned. "So you were testing me, brother?"

His eyes were not particularly distinct; red and a bit of on the dark side. Still, he had had enough taze to be relaxed. "I meant what I said. You do not have to do 'double-speak' with me. But it is up to you, as ruling Matron, how you run the manor. We'll talk again at your tolerance, sister."

After Rohenvi took down her own ward to let him out, and put it back up again, sweeping her room to assure herself privacy, she continued thinking about mages. All Nobles had some basic ability—the standards in privacy and security that no one survived without learning—and really only the street commoners might not use magic at all except in pre-made items bought and traded from more powerful Drow.

Despite the overall youth of the Matrons and the fast fluctuations among them, the final status was still overall consistent with magical strength: the more Priestesses, sorceresses, and wizards in a House's living lineage, the higher up on the ladder they were. The work was harder when one had to contend with spells and potions, incense and gems; unlike what some lower Houses thought, winning a windfall of magical items did not make things easier, only more complicated. But managing that complication sorted out the powerful Matrons from those who merely managed resources and added to the Valsharess's army under the Sisterhood.

The consorts, if what her brother had told her was true, would be a new way for Nobles to change their status more quickly. If they were willing to work hard enough with the new influx of talent in their blood.

Yes, Rohenvi accepted, knowing even before the next wake cycle that she would keep Azed here to advise her. I accept. I want the blood-sons of the Priestesses to sire my children. As many as I can manage.

Her crotch tingled a little in delight at the thought.


Rohenvi rarely left her plantation for well over a year following her Matron's death, as she spent time not only to reaffirm her share of crop farming and mining, but to get a handle on her information network with the Merchant Guild and the House army left behind by Surenat. A few of the previous contacts were willing to meet with the Daughter—only once Fintre found them and insisted on a meeting. Though Azed could not be present for any of them, his Court-honed insights and opinions discussed both before and afterward were valuable to her in setting up these new arrangements and stabilizing her inheritance.

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