A Prelude, somewhere in the Abyss…


The meeting had been arranged through intermediaries, with suspicion and treachery on both sides. Now, at last, the two demon lords had arrived at their secret meeting place. They would have been more comfortable in his Argent Palace, but the Queen of the Succubi, sometimes consort of the Archdevil Asmodeus, would agree to that no more than the Dark Prince would have agreed to meet in her realm of Shendilavri, the 570th layer of the Abyss. 

If his plans came to fruition, the inconvenience — and this pretense of civility — would be worth it. 

"The idea," Graz'zt said, "is for one of her Chosen to summon the mightiest of our kind into the Material Plane. I have discovered that Lolth intends to reveal this ritual to her mortal agents to open the gates of the Abyss itself; I must be one step ahead of her…" 

"Mortals have their uses," Malcanthet agreed, smiling pleasantly. She poured dark red liquid into her goblet from a silver flagon, not bothering to offer him a cup as well. He wouldn't have accepted if she did. "You intend to thwart the Spider Queen? I had no idea your . . . tastes . . . included a desire for self-destruction." 

She was baiting him as she always did, but this time he had no intention of being seduced by her tricks. Although her cooperation wasn't required for his plans, Graz'zt needed her to agree, or at the very least, not to interfere. "I seek the destruction of our mutual enemies — yes, our," he said to her raised eyebrow. "We waste strength warring on each other. What we need is unity. Her pawns will provide a pretext, with all their blundering." 

"Unity in the Abyss. Blasphemous words, some might say. And dangerous." 

Graz'zt waved dismissively. "For Lolth it might be dangerous. My own parlor will not be muddied by their boot prints. Well, perhaps a little, in my city." 

"How many steps ahead are you planning this, o Prince of Tyrants?" Malcanthet's voice was more growl than purr. 

"As many as you like. Let's say, six steps ahead. Six is my lucky number." He drummed his fingers on the ebony tabletop. 

Malcanthet's wings flapped a little as she contemplated the proposal. "Mortals are unpredictable, drow even more so… They may kill the Demon Lords aspects, and then what? No one to read the Pact, no one to raise the armies of the Abyss, and no way for you and I to lead the charge against her?" 

Curiosity and ambition ensured her agreement, as he had known it would. "You worry far too much. Lolth is a creature of eightfold duplicity and glorious paranoia. There are flaws in her plan…" 

"Yes. How does that help us if no divine aspect survives to read the Pact?" 

"What makes you think she has only one aspect?" 

"Ah," the Queen of the Succubi said softly, and smiled. 

Graz'zt smiled in return, showing his fangs. Even if the Spider Queen were to be defeated in her own Web — well, that would be no defeat for him, would it?