March 30, 301, the day after the Battle of Vhaerun Bay
The Chieftess Amerakhte stood beside her daughter halfway up the hill, looking out over the wreckage in the harbor. Smoke was still rising from a few of the roundhouses whose roofs had fallen in, to smolder through the battle and catch fire again when the dry winds of the anticyclone swept ashore, following the cyclone.
"I am thinking that I erred in attempting to defend this place," said Amerakhte.
Ashliin frowned, then folded a finger over her lips. "Are we going to rebuild?
"A pier or two. A couple of warehouses. We'll keep a trading post." They would buy timber from the Vhaerun loggers, would sell fish, would sell imports.
Ashliin looked down around the harbor. On the shores, surviving clan-members were building a great pyre with the wood from the wrecked docks and houses for their own dead.
She laid a hand across her mouth and frowned briefly. Then she slowly nodded.
"It's almost time," she said.
Amerakhte stood near the pyre, holding a torch.
She had praised the valor of their dead.
She had spoken -- publically, for the first time -- of her meeting, so long ago, with the Dark Maiden, who had refused all worship and who had told her that the Highest did not forget them even if the light elves did. Who had told her that her murdered father sang again to her mother slain in battle, upon no mortal shores.
The wood was yet wet, so they had soused the pyre with naphtha. As Ashliin took up the final hymn in her powerful contralto, Amerakhte threw the torch onto the pyre and stepped back.
At long last the burning was over. Drow had stood watching long in silence, some with still solemn faces, some fierce and bleak, some weeping.
The Chieftess turned to them again. "Nihera, Roshakh, Niastar, Ilsery."
Three young women and a young man stepped forward and knelt. Each of them had blood in their hair, from the first enemies they slew. Roshakh had long white hair, and while the strand-heads were yet pale, the tails were deep dripping red.
Amerakhte stepped from one to the next, bearing scarlet-enamelled brooches shot with silver runes: she pinned them on their tunics, one by one. "Ere this, you were children. But now you have shed the blood of the foe. Be known henceforth as warriors."
The surrounding soldiers cheered. It was a fierce and enthusiastic cheer, but not a happy one.
Ilsery bowed courteously to the tribe, but her face was a hollow-eyed mask. Her eyes flicked toward the smouldering ashes that had been the pyre.
Ashes of homes.
Ashes of people.
Her brother Minta's ashes.
Practically every initiation in drow history had followed the lighting of a pyre.
Amerakhte Sei-Varun -- Chieftess of the sea-going drow clan who live off the coast of Vhaerun.
Ashliin -- her third daughter and warlord.
Ilsery -- Amerakhte's great-granddaughter. She is the daughter of Elazhda Daithau who married Nazuor, son of Khimele, first daughter of Amerakhte
Minta -- son of Elazhda Daithau and Nazuor, Ilsery's older brother, killed in this battle.
Rhoshakh -- a descendant of Imohara Nazhanora, who married Amerakhte's brother Inzuran.
Nihera -- Amerakhte's great-niece: daughter of Fiakhte Asetanta and Dasai son of Julaikha, Amerakhte's sister.
Niastar -- son of Gilahea Asetanta and Imar son of Khimele: Amerakhte's great-grandson.
Meraun Varun -- Amerakhte's mother, killed in battle, not named here.
Ruho Morgath -- Amerakhte's father, who was murdered, not named here.
Vhaerun loggers -- unnamed.
The Dark Maiden -- a Maia of Nessa.
The Highest -- meaning Iluvatar and the Valar.