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The Lady Penitent trilogy is a Forgotten Realms series by Lisa Smedman that takes place after the events of War of the Spider Queen. Several fairly large realm-changing events take place during this series, ranging from the use of Elven High Magic on the drow race to the death of several deities. It ranges from the year 1372 DR to 1379 DR.
Most of the deities of the Dark Seldarine, the drow pantheon of gods, always competed and battled for influence over the dark elves. The pantheon consisted of Lolth, the Spider Queen, the goddess of chaos; Eilistraee, the Dark Maiden, the goddess of song and goodness; Vhaeraun, the Masked Lord, the god of thievery; Selvetarm, the Spider that Waits, a demigod and the patron of bloodlust and battle prowess; Kiaransalee, the Lady of the Dead, the goddess of the undead; and Ghaunadaur, the Elder Eye, the god of abominations. After the end of the Silence of Lolth in 1373 DR, the drow deities continued to fight for supremacy over the dark elves or, in the case of Eilistraee, to free them from Lolth's renewed control. Eilistraee and Lolth finally elected to play a divine game of sava, with the stakes being the very fate of the drow and loss meaning death for one of the goddesses.
Lolth sent Halisstra Melarn, a drow priestess who had been transformed into the Lady Penitent, a tortured demonic creature obligated to eternally serve the Spider Queen, to Faerûn to hunt down and kill priests of Vhaeraun. Lolth also enlisted the services of one of her long-time minions, Wendonai, a balor who had been used by the goddess to corrupt the Illythiri dark elves into following her many millennia earlier. Lolth had Wendonai possess the Crescent Blade, a magical sword created by Eilistraee, and provide the weapon with the magical strength that it had lost after Halisstra had broken the blade in the Spider Queen's divine realm, the Demonweb Pits, during the Silence of Lolth.
In 1375 DR, Vhaeraun plotted against Eilistraee and worked to devise a method to slay her. As a result, his worshipers planned to cast an elven High Magic spell that would allow Vhaeraun to enter Eilistraee's divine realm and assassinate her. Since the followers of the Masked Lord lacked the reciprocal trust to cast that complex type of magic, they worked to kill various priestesses of Eilistraee, who were taught to care for each other, and magically trap their souls in order to use them for the ritual. Eventually, the priestesses of the Promenade of the Dark Maiden, a temple of Eilistraee, learned about Vhaeraun's plot. The drow high priestess Qilué Veladorn, the leader of the Promenade and a Chosen of Eilistraee and Mystra, the goddess of magic, started working to disrupt Vhaeraun's plan, alongside the drow wizard Q'arlynd Melarn, who had recently become a follower of the Dark Maiden. Q'arlynd's task was to take the place of one of the servants of Vhaeraun and try to disrupt their magical ritual.
Meanwhile, Cavatina Xarann, a drow priestess of Eilistraee and a Darksong Knight, was sent to investigate the appearance of Halisstra in Velarswood and to retrieve the Crescent Blade. Selvetarm, who served Lolth, had his followers attack the Promenade, but Qilué and the temple's other defenders defeated the assailants. Cavatina located Halisstra and was taken to the Demonweb Pits, where she recovered the Crescent Blade (which had been previously broken, and was no longer the original artifact with its power, but a vessel for Wendonai). Cavatina then battled Selvetarm and used the Crescent Blade to slay the demigod with the assistance of Halisstra. Around the same time, Q'arlynd failed to accomplish his mission and Vhaeraun managed to enter Eilistraee's realm, where he attempted to assassinate her. However, Eilistraee had been warned about Vhaeraun's plot and was prepared to confront the rival deity. Although the details of the fight were not known, Vhaeraun failed and was killed by Eilistraee.[note 1] The Masked Lord's death caused chaos and despair to immediately spread among his followers. Eilistraee absorbed Vhaeraun's portfolio, became known as the Masked Lady, and had the dead god's worshipers join with her followers, albeit uneasily. When Cavatina returned to the Promenade from the Demonweb Pits, Qilué took possession of the Crescent Blade and the essence of Wendonai in the sword began to corrupt the high priestess.
In 1377 DR, Kiaransalee had her followers augment the Faerzress, the magical radiation of the Underdark that was tied to the drow, in order to render the dark elves incapable of divination and conjuration, as well as keep them bound to the underground realm. By that time, Q'arlynd had made his way to the drow city of Sshamth, where he had joined one of its colleges of mages. After Eilistraee's followers at the Promenade and the wizards of Sshamth learned about Kiaransalee's plot, Qilué ordered Cavatina to lead Eilistraee's forces in an assault on the Acropolis of Thanatos, the main temple of Kiaransalee. Meanwhile, Lolth gave Halisstra to Wendonai, who sent the Lady Penitent to Faerûn to search for Cavatina and bring her to him. Halisstra managed to capture Cavatina and brought her to Wendonai in the Abyss. Halisstra was discarded by Wendonai once she delivered Cavatina to him, and looking for a way to kill herself and escape from Lolth, she entered the Negative Material Plane, but it was not enough to kill her. Cavatina was tortured by Wendonai and told about her tainted lineage, but she resisted the balor and destroyed his physical form. However, Wendonai was not truly dead, since his soul still possessed the Crescent Blade.
Q'arlynd discovered that since his ancestors were Miyeritari elves, they were not tainted by Wendonai, and he therefore could use a selu'kiira, a magical elven gemstone that contained a vast amount of knowledge, that he recovered. When he accessed the selu'kiira, Q'arlynd learned about the origins of the Faerzress and its true purpose. Cavatina returned to the Prime Material Plane and reached the Acropolis of Thanatos, where Eilistraee's forces had engaged Kiaransalee's priestesses and undead servants. Cavatina joined the battle, but she was soon mortally wounded by one of Kiaransalee's followers. Cavatina was healed by the drow priest Kâras, a leader of the former clerics of Vhaeraun who now served Eilistraee.
After Kâras informed Cavatina that the minions of Kiaransalee had slaughtered all of Eilistraee's other followers, the two disguised themselves in order to approach a voidstone, a solidified piece of the Negative Material Plane that Kiaransalee's priestesses were using to augment the Faerzress, and launch a final attack. At that time, Q'arlynd used the knowledge stored in the selu'kiira to perform an elven High Magic ritual that wiped Kiaransalee's name from the minds of all mortals and gods, causing her to fade from existence. With the assistance of reinforcements from the Promenade, Cavatina and Kâras killed Kiaransalee's servants and then destroyed the voidstone.
In 1379 DR, Cavatina discovered that Wendonai's soul had possessed the Crescent Blade and that the balor had gradually corrupted Qilué. Cavatina wanted to organize an exorcism for Qilué, but before she was able to, the high priestess secretly imprisoned her in the Promenade. Qilué planned to take Wendonai into her body and destroy him with silver fire, powerful magical flame that could only be used by a Chosen of Mystra. With the final death of Wendonai, Qilué hoped to free all drow of the demon's taint. Qilué magically traveled to the only place where such a task could be accomplished: the royal court of ancient Ilythiir, where Wendonai had been summoned for the first time. Qilué's friend Laeral Silverhand, a Chosen of Mystra, agreed to help the drow priestess enact her plan.
At that time, cultists of Ghaunadaur and a host of oozes attacked the Promenade after being lured by the demon-influenced Qilué. Ghaunadaur's forces sought to destroy the magical prison that prevented the avatar of their patron deity from entering Toril. Qilué had been the one who had imprisoned Ghaunadaur's avatar many years earlier, and the followers of Eilistere guarded the prison. Although Qilué had placed a magical glyph that caused insanity on the prison, Ghaunadaur's minions engaged and decimated a large portion of the population of the Promenade. Most of Eilistraee's priestesses, followers, and lay worshipers who lived in the Promenade or were visiting the temple were killed.
During the battle, Cavatina escaped from imprisonment and participated in the fighting, but she was magically rendered insane, turned ethereal, and transported to the underground city of Skullport. After the Promenade fell to Ghaunadaur's forces, the avatar of the god managed to escape from his prison, but he was soon tricked into attaching itself to Naxil, a drow priest of the Masked Lady who sacrificed himself for the goddess by going through a magical portal that led to a plane of endless mazes. Although Naxil was killed in the process, he trapped Ghaunadaur's avatar in the mazes.
Fearing that Qilué would lose her life in the ritual to destroy Wendonai, Laeral magically stopped time for the drow priestess and went to seek help. While Laeral was gone, Halisstra found the immobile Qilué, carried her to a nearby ancient temple, and took possession of the Crescent Blade. Laeral tracked down the incapacitated Cavatina in Skullport, and once she had the drow warrior healed, she magically transported her to Qilué's location while she searched for more followers of Eilistraee to help save the goddess's Chosen. Cavatina confronted Halisstra, and Eilistraee then inhabited the body of Qilué in order to purge her of Wendonai's corruption and to try to free the Lady Penitent from Lolth's influence. However, Halisstra killed Cavatina, and Wendonai deceived her into believing that Eilistraee and Qilué were actually Lolth. Halisstra used the corrupted Crescent Blade to slay Qilué, and (apparently)[note 2] Eilistraee. Laeral and Leliana Vrinn, a drow priestess of Eilistraee, soon arrived at the temple, and the latter killed Halisstra in retribution for slaying her patron goddess.
Meanwhile, Q'arlynd and a group of wizards of Sshamth conducted a High Magic ritual that was meant to transform those drow not tainted by Wendonai's blood and the followers of Eilistraee into their original dark elven form. However, the spell only affected a few hundred drow among the few thousands followers of Eilistraee. As a result, Corellon Larethian, the leader of the elven pantheon of gods, permitted the souls of the newly transformed dark elves to enter Arvandor, the divine realm of the elven deities (even though they could already go to Arvandor, through the divine realm of Eilistraee, which kept existing).
- The Grand History of the Realms explicitly says that Vhaeraun's assassination attempt failed and Eilistraee killed him. However, in one of his answers, Ed Greenwood suggests that Eilistraee actually spared her brother's life. The Dark Maiden defeated Vhaeraun with the indirect help of her ally Mystra, as the Weave frustrated the Masked Lord's magic while enhancing Eilistraee's. The goddess temporarily took her brother's portfolio, and trapped his sentience in the Weave, where it was enfolded in a dream by Mystra. The Lady of Mysteries did that to ensure that the two drow siblings would survive the cataclysm that she knew was coming—the Spellplague—in which she would be "killed" to renew the Weave, and magic would go wild.
- In the same answer mentioned in the previous note, Ed Greenwood hints that Eilistraee actually managed to survive Halisstra's attempt to kill her, albeit much weakened. When Qilué Veladorn was killed, since the Masked Lady was inhabiting her body, a great part of her power was dragged into the Weave with the Chosen's soul (the souls of Mystra's chosen often become "Voices in the Weave" after their death, as explained in the novel Spellstorm, and their memories and experiences are shared by Mystra). After that, for about a century, Eilistraee could only manfest herself only as a floating black mask surrounded by moonlight, capable of silently communicating with mortals, but not of answering prayers or granting spells (except by direct touch). After Mystra and the Weave were completely restored in 1487 DR, the goddess of magic could finally give Eilistraee her own lost power, and do the same with Vhaeraun, after having awakened him from his dream.
The Lady Penitent
- Sacrifice of the Widow (February 2007)
- Storm of the Dead (August 2007)
- Ascendancy of the Last (June 2008)