A Hand-Woven Universe - Chapter 173

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Many many miles to the south of Cinapul was the dry and cracked stone-lands of Montese . The home of the dark elves .
Whereas the rest of the common realms were lush and vibrant with life - even the deserts of the northern lands - Montese was the closest to what the people of Tapestry had assumed the surface world looked like .
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There were endless fields of cracked stone earth . The sky was merely a constant layer of clouds adding to the ever-present gray and drab feeling of the land . Boulders littered the surface, discarded there since long before written history .
However, the inhabitants of Montese complained extremely little despite the dreary conditions . In fact, most dark elves wouldnt ever think to complain . It would not be an exaggeration to say that these lands were perfect for them .
Very rarely would anyone travel to Montese, and those who dared to venture that far south would have a hard time finding any dark elves unless they revealed themselves willingly .
This was because the entirety of Montese was actually an intricate network of cave systems . The surface was pockmarked by hundreds of thousands of cave entrances, most of which went nowhere . Some of them however, would lead to dark-extreme elf societies which could hold their own against even the most robust human cities .
The surface of Montese was a calm and completely dreadful place to any common realm species . But just under the surface, countless powder-kegs were lit and extinguished as the dark elves warred amongst themselves for the favor of their god and to achieve power .
Each city in Montese was ruled independently by a dark-elf family . They led imperiously, not backing down to each other and naturally forming into city-states .
In between the biggest city-states, countless smaller families would rule over smaller portions of the cave network . This created extremely niche communities and towns that were each specialized to their own needs .
Some allied with the nearest cities, maintaining relative autonomy and choosing to become tools for larger families in exchange .
Others chose to hide themselves away, keeping to the shadows and avoiding notice .
In a small and unremarkable corner of Montese, there was a relatively quiet and unmarked cave system which snaked hundreds of meters into the earth .

Sealed away deep inside this cave system existed dozens of expensive and intricate buildings .
They stood majestically within the sealed cavern but looked shockingly alien . The design sensibilities of the dark elves were nothing like those of the rest of the common realms .
The homes and shops were built with sharp edges and uncomfortable angles, a sense of death surrounding each one . At the center of the city, a single large hall stood like a primordial spider, built to evoke the image of their spider-god .
At one point, this had been the town of Kenod . Though now abandoned and sealed away due to a violent infection, the light-stones and torches still shined out casting ominous shadows into the deadly silent caverns .
Kenod had been a relatively respected and feared town, a dark elf family numbering just over 1000 .
Like all dark elves, they were specialized in sneaking and subterfuge, however they had also developed a reputation as an impartial and violent protector of goods .
In other words, they were merchants .
Merchant dark elves in Montese were all at once treated with respect and simultaneously scorned for being seen as betraying the path of their god . However, no city would be willing to offend these merchants . Merchant societies in the land of Montese were the only source of exotic and imported goods from the rest of the continent . It had been a system developed nearly 2000 years prior and yet it still held strong even today .
They would bring goods – everything from weapons to food to magics – and information about the going-ons of the rest of the continent .
Information was key for the dark elves, as focused on subterfuge and trickery as they were .
But now, the once mighty and untouchable family of Kenod was no more . Several hundred had been slaughtered by their kin, several hundred more died within the sealed caverns – their skeletons littering the roads, and the rest were currently being hunted into extinction after being forced to flee to the borderland between Montese and Cinapul .
The story of Kenod served as a good warning for the many smaller communities of dark elves in Montese .
Nothing was permanent . No one was untouchable . And except for the larger families who ruled their cities with fear – no one couldnt be replaced .
It wasnt even a year after Kenod had been sealed to keep the infection from spreading that another family of dark elves rose to fill the vacuum left behind by their fall .
It was a bloody battle in that year, but in the end, everything went back to the way it had been before .
A century had passed since Kenod had risen into prominence .
30 years had passed since the rest of the dark elf communities worked together to hunt down and seal the Kenod family away . Creating a tomb in place of the family of merchants .
Yet, only a single week had passed since there had been a noise within the otherwise dead caves of the town .
It was soft . Completely unnoticeable . Unheard by the rest of the world .
Within a silent room in the middle of Kenods city hall, a small gasp had sounded out, followed by two beautiful white and grey eyes opening for the first time in decades .
Sitting on the cool stone floor and surrounded by an aura of death, a lone figure sat in stilled beauty . Like a statue carved from unblemished white marble, an emaciated figure with skin untouched by the sun had breathed again after so long . It was a breath of nothing but stale air, however she did not flinch .
Or frown .
Or smile .
Other than the smallest breaths which had only just resumed, one could mistake this being for dead .
A perfect statue was it not for a single blemish . The area around her eyes were perpetually dark . She had not slept in so very long . Loneliness and sadness had completely overcome this being, and she had lost the ability to sleep ever since the tragedy had struck her home a hundred years earlier .
Her mind was not her own anymore, and it caused her nothing but pain . She could fight the other presence off sometimes, but not always… not enough .
Within the womans mind a smile filled with cruelty and gluttonous hunger grinned at her, mocking her, showing her scenes that she could hardly believe, and twisting her heart as it did so .
A week ago, in a land far to the north, she had been shown a face which all at once looked familiar and alien . She couldnt believe it was true .
Noone… A soft whisper escaped her lips . Her voice was airy from decades of silence, but it was clear at one time it had been home to beautiful dulcet tones . She forgot everything else and focused in on the face of the person being shown to her… Youre alive . . . ?
Suddenly, extremely thin white lines began to brighten on the surface of the womans extremely pale flesh . The effect caused her to look as though she had begun glowing .
If Noone had been here to see this occur, he would have immediately recognized the pale beauty . Despite her emaciated figure . Despite her missing smile and eyes which were full of tragedy and sorrow… despite her silent expression .
Noone had known her since he was a boy in Tapestry . The mysterious woman who Liter had introduced him to .
White light pulsed from her skin, quickening in tune with her awakening heartbeat .
Trisha… The soul-attuned woman who had seen Tapestrys fall . . . and the woman who was forced to become a vessel for the disease which brought disaster with it wherever it went .

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