Trigger warnings (highlight to read): Body horror.
Vierna was waiting for him in the near-surface tunnels when Jarlaxle landed.
"Did you find your bloodhound?" she asked. Jarlaxle refrained from pointing out that it was her bloodhound. She had provided the name of the bounty hunter she wanted. And sent Jarlaxle to recruit him, over Jarlaxle's strenuous objections.
"He accepted the job. He says he'll inform us when he's found the renegade and help us get into dwarven space undetected."
"Good." She seemed content to leave it at that. Jarlaxle decided to try one more time.
"I don't trust him. He's a Calishite human. Calimshan didn't fair well in our invasion three centuries ago."
"He couldn't have been alive at the time. It'd be strange for him to carry a grudge."
"That hasn't stopped humans from carrying such grudges before."
"Then you'll have to watch him. You were going to do that anyway."
Jarlaxle didn't grace that with an answer. "We can leave as soon as you're ready," he said instead. Vierna smiled.
"Why do you think I wanted to meet so close to the surface? House Baenre has gifted me with a ship to carry us on our way."
"If it were a simple matter of needing a ship, we could take one of mine. The dwarves will shoot at us anyway."
Vierna stopped and let Jarlaxle walk past her to see the ship that had been given to her.
"Ah." It was sleek and small. A Drider-class scout ship. Its hull was a shiny, glistening black. House Baenre hadn't allowed outsiders access to their newest batch yet. Matron Baenre (or someone acting without her authority) must have been very, very interested in the outcome of this mission.
"Do you have a navigation computer yet?" he asked. If the answer was no, he wasn't stepping foot in the drider, Baenre interests be damned.
"Of course. Come in and meet him."
The doors curled open with a smooth hiss. The interior was as nice as the exterior. Symetrical plating along the halls, neat rows of rivets... and the navigation room.
Drider-class ships were always very sleek, very fast, and very tough. But they had a fatal design flaw, though Jarlaxle had met very few matrons who considered it such. He kept the anguish from his face as he entered the room.
"Dinin." Decades of practice allowed him to say it as a statement of fact, rather than a lament or an accusation.
Vierna's brother was entangled in wires and cords, held upright, arms outstretched. The scars along his arms and spine where the wires entered were fresh and raw. He was shaking and silent. His eyes had been gouged out to give the ship direct access to his optical nerve.
Unlike most galactic ships, driders' moving parts were largely bioengineered and grown around a metal skeleton. It was a technological coup for a world whose other resources were so limited. But even drow bioengineers hadn't managed to duplicate the power of a brain. It was much easier to plug one in, rather than develop one from scratch.
"I think he'll serve our mission well." Vierna watched Jarlaxle, daring him to object.