Twelve hundred and thirty-six years ago, her ancestors had shut the Gates of Ihuicatl. They had given up on their crumbling empire, on the legacy that had taken them sixteen hundred years to build, and cravenly hidden beneath the Earth. Tonight, that would end. Once, her people had stood proud on the surface. The very word Drow had made fear blossom in the hearts of warriors the world over. Monarchs had bent the knee; Lords had sacrificed their land; cities paid hefty ransoms to avoid sacking. It was that history she sought to repeat. A second Drow empire, greater and stronger than the first. No more skulking in shadows, eating mushrooms, and mining like Dwarves. Her armies would take the field, her Matriarchs would take to trade, and like the web of a spider, they would reach out tendrils across the world and bring it all to heel. Teyacapan Citali had been just a foolish girl, barely ninety years of age, with a distant dream. But then she had been a foolish girl with a knife and a conspiracy, and the old Empress had conceded defeat. Now she was Teyacapan of House Citali, the first of her name, Empress of the Underdark, Matriarch Supreme of the Drow Nation, Blessed by the Goddess Triumvirate with Divine Supremecy over all of Her Dominion. Now the fate of her people was in her hands, and she would not let them down, could not let them down. She had grown up knowing her people's greatness as ancient history, stories of her grandmother's five-times great grandmother. Stories that had inspired her. House Citali was one of the five hundred and forty-seven great ones, but it had not been particularly high among them. They had seats high in the Council chamber, but had never once been selected as any one of the Triumvirate. None of their members of the clergy had ever risen high enough to be of note, they had no distinguished military history, and in terms of wealth and prestige they were nothing particularly noticeable. Teya had what many of her ancestors had apparently lacked: ambition. Ever since she was a girl, she had lusted for power. At only a eighty-six, barely half a dozen years an adult, she had taken over her mother's position as Matriarch. Without any aunts or sisters, she had been nearly uncontested. Only her grandmother had argued, but once Teya proved herself with a few swift bargains and deals, even that voice of opposition fell silent. It had taken her a mere twenty-seven years to go from Matriarch to Empress. Not a bad span, not by any means. It had taken careful maneuvering, manipulation, bribery, and outright threats. She was not proud of everything she had done to earn her throne, but it was really for the best. The Nation needed a strong leader, a confident and bold woman with the courage to lead them from out the dark. There would be death and destruction, of that there was no question. But the greatest rewards always required sacrifice, and no sacrifice was too large if it meant regaining the pride of the Drow Empire. Drawing in a breath, she fidgeted nervously with the elaborate crown of silver, white mithril, and crystal. It was almost two feet high, a good third of her height, and flashy as anything. It played off of her sheer white gown, speckled with diamonds, that shimmered in the glow of the bioluminescent fungi. It was all meant to emphasize her virginal, pure form. Unwedded and unbedded, she was certainly a rarity among Matriarchs. Her hair had already gone to silver, though at a mere hundred and thirteen it would be years still before it went white as snow. Recently, at the encouragement of a serious of lesser noblewomen who called themselves image consultants, she had added some black dye to the lower layers of her hair, making it darker. More youthful to Drow and men alike, doubtless to make her seem very much the girl queen, which she had already been mocked as. But her figure was not that of a mere girl. While the classic hourglass that nearly all Drow women had was nothing special, she had taken it to new extremes with a series of corsets, compressing her waist to a waspish dimension even when not constricted. Large breasts competed for attention with ripe, full lips painted jet black and reflective lavender eyes rimmed with kohl. In a world ruled by women, beauty was not used for attracting mates, but for intimidating rivals. It was not enough to be smart, powerful, and wealthy- you had to look good doing it all. And that she did. With an almost casual wave of one elegant hand, tipped with long, flawlessly maintained nails, she ordered the gates to open. With a creak, a thousand years of dust trickled to the floor as enormous ironwood doors ten times taller than a man swung open, letting moonlight stream in. The crowd collectively gasped and blinked in the sudden glare, whispering and chattering excitedly as the first breath of fresh air washed over them. Even Teyacapan felt her mouth fall open as she took in the night sky for the first time in generations. The vastness of the world beyond struck her immediately. The biggest room she had ever been in was the High Council chambers, but its lofty ceilings held nothing to the height of the sky. A roof overhead like nothing she had ever known before, studded with lights brighter than anything but magic, crowned by the moon herself. The scents and sounds threatened to drown her with their majesty. Somehow, miraculously, she managed to close her mouth as the palanquin she was carried on moved to carry her into the camp set up just outside the Gates. The camp of the man, the man who thought to be her husband. He was likely a fool, but that was another matter entirely. A marriage was a small price for an empire.