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 Trueborn - completed

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Thor665
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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Wed Oct 17 2012, 20:26

I'll have to hear the others from you sometime, I don't think i could come up with that many Wink

I will say comments like that do help me when I'm occasionally muddling over some dialogue and going 'am I being *too* subtle here?' The answer generally appears to be 'it's not a problem' which I rather appreciate.

You will probably enjoy the Obessa scene next chapter though - it will be shedding light on a couple of angles I hope.

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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Mon Oct 29 2012, 20:23

Chapter 17: The Masquerade


Obessa’s tap on the door chime was answered by the willowy, white-haired Lhamaean courtesan. Her blue tinted lips shifted very slightly into a smile as she saw Obessa and tilted her head almost unperceptively in greeting, though she failed to step aside. Obessa shouldered through the door slightly, if it offended the Lhamaean there was no sign, though creatures like that tended to play their annoyances close to their chests.

She walked across the vast chamber toward Douraal and his entourage. Zak and his fellow Incubi stood in seemingly casual rest nearby, but she noted that they all regarded her carefully as she approached, assessing her level of threat. She fancied that Zak’s gaze stayed on her a touch longer than was needed.

She’d been attired in a ballgown of deep green for the coming festivities. The pleated length of the dress decorated in glittering ivory strings of polished bone. Her purple hair had been worked up into a collection of ringlets and loops atop her head, with a few long curls allowed to dangle down the back of her slender neck. She also wore a green silk choker around her throat, pinned in place by a glittering amethyst set in bone.

Douraal stood in the center of his chambers, arms outstretched, as four handmaidens dressed him in his costume for the evening. It came as little surprise to Obessa that his costume included a full set of fully functional armor, the golden plates being hooked on with delicate care by the nimble fingers of a Craftworld Eldar handmaiden. Douraal’s sharp blue eyes flicked over to regard Obessa’s approach, his wizened face cracking with a nasty leer as he took in her own outfit.

“She cleans up nicely, don’t you think, Sharess,” asked Douraal of the Lhamaean.

“I find her desirable,” offered Sharess simply as she eased down to lounge artistically on a low sette. “Though I fear she might be unimaginative if you want me to seduce her. Still, as you said, she mixes defiance and strength with a delectable streak of naiveté and vulnerability. You’re going to upset her though.”

“I am?”

“You are, though I suspect that pleases you, just as it pleases you that I’m able to notice.” Douraal gave a wicked little smile at this, though Sharess remained coolly enigmatic.

“Just as it pleases you to think you’re clever enough to know what I’m thinking.” Douraal’s voice purred like a saw blade as he glanced at the Lhamaean.

She looked at him through her delicate eyelashes, a touch of desire in her voice. “If I wasn’t correct more often than not then I would not still be employed by you.”

“Perhaps your ignorance while thinking yourself clever amuses me.”

“No,” Sharess did allow herself a very slight quirk of her lips, “it would not.” Obessa wondered if this counted as some sort of strange mental flirting between the two. She supposed the Lhamaean knew her trade though, because Douraal did seem flushed with pleasure at her words. Sharess then noted Obessa’s uneasy glances as she tried to follow the conversation and gave a small half shrug to her. “I am sorry, he does enjoy his games, and I am well rewarded to indulge them for him.”

“What games?” Obessa asked the question uneasily.

“You expected to be released back to the service of your Cult at the culmination of this gathering tonight,” noted Sharess, “you were told you would accompany Archon Douraal and his honor guard to the festivities, you also clearly took some time preparing yourself.” One of Sharess’ perfectly manicured eyebrows quirked slightly, “were you expecting to impress someone?”

Obessa forced her gaze to remain totally focused on Sharess’ face, but the cool bitch still seemed to have a moment of quiet satisfaction as if she could read Obessa’s thoughts. She decided right then that she didn’t much care for the Lhamaean.

“Ah, of course,” Sharess nodded as though in understanding as she picked up a silvered goblet and took a sip from it. She flicked her shockingly deep blue eyes over at Douraal as she did. “He desires me to pull out the agony of this reveal for his own amusement, can’t you tell?”

Obessa glanced at Douraal, who was still being dressed by his pleasure slaves but was watching the exchange carefully.

“You were asked to accompany him, you were not told to dress yourself.”

“I just thought…” Obessa shrugged and bowed her head, cutting off her own protest, “of course, I shall wear what my lord wishes.”

Douraal snapped his fingers. One of his pleasure slaves trotted forward holding a small handful of silk and straps, barely enough clothing to maintain an illusion of modesty. Coiled atop it was the barbed collar that Douraal had grown so fond of in their bedroom engagements. Obessa eyed the slave garments for a moment, taking a steadying breath before she looked up again.

“Is this appropriate?”

“He requested you as a gift.”

“I understand my role here as his gift,” Obessa answered curtly, “I have followed my duties exactly as punishment for my failures to my Cult and as apology to your master, but the terms for that engagement have expired with the successful raid on-”

“No,” Sharess raised a hand to halt Obessa’s answer, “he just requested you as a permanent gift.”

“Permanent?” She glanced up at Douraal who was still giving her a thin lipped smirk of exceeding arrogance. “Succubus Ayasha would not allow-“

“She wished you well in this endeavor, we have her seal affixed to the ownership papers if you feel a need to see them, and you can always check with any of her representatives at the party to see if they have heard anything different.” Sharess’ voice remained icy calm and detached, Douraal’s intense eyes and leering smile were flushed with emotion as he watched Obessa’s every reaction, drinking in her slowly growing despair. Sharess took another sip of wine, keeping her eerily blue eyes on the wych over the rim of the glass. “He would now like to know if you would prefer to disrobe and dress yourself, or if it would please you more to have him order his Incubi to strip you forcibly and attach the collar for him.”

Obessa glanced over her shoulder at the Incubi. Zak’s gaze was on her, but his thoughts were unreadable behind the mirrored lenses of the grinning death skull mask.

“I wagered him with a not inconsiderable amount and predicted self-disrobing, even though he thought you would consider that the more insulting option.” Sharess shrugged, “but he does pay me to be observant.”

-------------------------------------------

House Douraal rose before them from the towering spires of High Commoragh itself. The first thing you noticed about it were the dizzyingly high spires of fluted crysteel, each of them bearing proudly a fluttering pennant of green and black emblazoned with the sigil of the House, the mark of the Shattered Soul. As one drew closer it became apparent how heavily fortified the fortress was. Dozens upon dozens of gun emplacements were worked stealthily and artistically into the structure. Not just from the ornate outer wall but also from the spires and nooks of the building itself. Heavy weaponry platforms, bristling with power and well trained gun crews, ready to bring down any hostiles that approached the fortress.

Their Venom lightly flitted over the outer battlements and gave them the ability to see what lay beyond. Ben’rik had expected an ornate and open courtyard, instead he was greeted to a maze of low battlements and walls, each constructed to give the defenders perfect security and fall back positions, while leaving the attackers almost nothing, and also exposing them the entire time to gunfire from the inner wall and battlements.

Roaring up on them as they passed the outer wall came a pair of Ravagers. The heavy gunboats sailed through the air with a speed that belied their thick armor and the multiple weapons equipped on each. The crews motioned them where to land their Venom.

They passed over the inner wall, and saw the troops arrayed in order along it, the glittering blades on their splinter rifles marking them out all along the wall in perfect and ordered spacing. Behind this wall was the expected pleasure gardens. But it became quickly apparent they were more than that, creatures lurked within them, and some of the larger plants seemed to shift and move to follow the path of the low flying Venom. The pleasure gardens were a massive deathtrap for anyone caught within them. The landing pads and the transparent crystal walkways that led away from them to the main fortress were all built to be retractable, in a time of war they would go away, leaving any intruders alone versus the wilderness.

As they approached the end of the walkway they were greeted by more regimented cadres of soldiers, all positioned in murder nooks, protected from anyone approaching through the gardens or from the air, yet with clear fields of fire available to them. They also had some more heavy weapon emplacements ready and set to provide air support or to target important locations on the inner wall. The Obsidian doors were undoubtedly neigh impregnable, but on this day had been swung open to invite the guests onward.

“We are going to die here.”

“Ben’rik, Ben’rik, you are always so negative, my old friend.”

“What were we thinking planning an attack on this place? It is built as an abattoir for any who attack it, and he must have at least one Kabalite Warrior for every man we have, and most of ours are just rabble gangers. What was I even thinking when I said we had enough men?” Ben’rik scoffed. “A few thousand won’t even make a dent here.”

“I think they’ll do much better than you think,” replied Tael as he turned his smiling mask to regard Ben’rik carefully, “you would do well to calm yourself.”

Ben’rik forced himself to smile, but the churning in his stomach didn’t abate in the least. How had Tael talked him into this? He was such an idiot to buy into these mad plans for a second time when the first time Tael had almost gotten them all killed.

“Tybalt sends his warmest regards,” Ben’rik smiled as he showed their invitations to the guard captain. The beady-eyed Dark Eldar smirked in knowing understanding as he scanned the invitations and, as promised, didn’t subject them to any weaponry search. Ben’rik didn’t really feel that much better knowing that he was walking to his sure death with a blast pistol as he would have without, but he supposed at least it was something.

They were guided along a long palatial entryway filled with pieces of art taken from hundreds of different cultures over the centuries of raiding by the Kabal. Ben’rik spent more time noting the dozens of automated weapon systems notched into the walls then he did appreciating the artistry of the displays and battle honors. It was a showroom, built to intimidate and kill any who dared enter the domain of Archon Douraal…and in Ben’rik’s opinion it was working perfectly.

The entryway disgorged them into a sprawling outdoor garden lit by thousands of candles drifting along on anti-gravity nodules that were programmed to avoid collisions with any of the guests. The candles, along with the force shielding that prevented energy weaponry or unwanted guests from entering the gardens from above, created a flickering ephemeral glow in the gardens. In addition to the trees, flower mazes, and other exotic décor there were also a number of flesh sculptures. Artistically arranged in dramatic poses, the captives had been held frozen in stasis fields, kept living through a series of potent inoculations, as small mechanical torture devices went to work on them, slowly skinning them alive and dismembering their organs as appreciative onlookers gathered to enjoy the savory offerings of fresh torment.

They were halfway down the steps descending from the entry platform to the garden below when Ben’rik realized that the tortured subjects must have been fellow Hellions taken in the raid, a glance at their sharpened teeth, or the few patches of skin that still bore their tattoo markings confirmed this for him.

“How quaint,” sighed Kyssindree as she waved at one of the screeching tortured shapes

“Okay, let’s stick to our jobs.” Tael’s voice sounded dead serious, though his smiling mask added an off-putting note to that impression. “I need to go find a certain someone here who will be important to the operation. Kyssindree needs to stand by, ready to arrange our distraction. Ben’rik, you and Wren should mingle, keep an eye on me, and be ready to go as soon as Kyssindree’s distraction starts.”

“Of course,” Ben’rik nodded, “but how will we know it’s time to slip away?”

Kyssindree grinned, don’t worry, you’ll notice it.”

-------------------------------------------

She stood on a balcony outcropping from the gardens, enjoying the relative peace from the party. She’d done extensive planning and work for it, and, like all things she planned, it was indeed perfect and would flow without a hitch. However, most of the guests rather bored her, and with Archon Douraal soon set to make his grand entrance on stage there was little need for her to play hostess anymore, so she had happily allowed herself to slip away.

Though the hand drifting dangerously close to her behind didn’t even touch the sheer material covering her skin, she could feel the heat and warmth coming off it. Sharess Fenlynion, known by most as ‘The Ice Courtesan’ slowly turned around, her pointedly intense blue eyes narrowed slightly as she regarded the figure who had approached her, a man attired as both a jester and an Archon, and wearing a smirking Cegorach mask. The figure retreated back a step and offered her a comically intense and respectful bow.

Sharess could see twenty-seven different ways to kill the man at that instant. Twelve were immensely painful. Two of those couldn’t even be traced back to her. Logistically Douraal would prefer to keep the deaths in his house to a minimum, so, as a mark of decorum to her employer, and due to mild curiosity of the man’s bold approach, she simply tilted her head almost unperceptively in greeting.

“A lady as beauteous as you, out here alone at a gathering filled with so many men and women of power, prestige, and beauty, it is a jape fit to make even a laughing god cry.” He held out his hand to her, flicking up from his wrist the offering of a flower, a white bloom with bloody scarlet edging on a curving crimson stem, a bloodflower.

Sharess Fenlynion was known as the Ice Courtesan for a number of reasons. Some thought it was her frosty and imperturbable exterior, the gentle mask that never slid off her face, the icy cold eyes that never lost their intense calculation. Others said it was for her cold minded focus on a mission, the lack of almost any true affection that had allowed her to leave friends, colleagues, and family in her wake, each kill seeming to affect her not in the least. Those who had been unfortunate enough to be her enemy, or fortunate enough to work alongside her, rather believed the name was most accurate due to her clinically pristine and sharp mind, like a finely honed steel trap it seemed to consider each and every possibility of every action and follow them all along exact ice cold logic pathways to the perfect ordered response.

As such, many things registered to her and were considered the instant the flower was offered.
One pathway considered the flower simply a vain and pathetically laughable attempt by a man unworthy of her. A foppish attempt at bemused faux-courtship, an inartistic appeal to achieve some simple carnal pleasures by pleasing a woman he found attractive.

Another strand of thought went on a more complex arc. The bloodflower was actually a highly poisonous plant, and had served as the basis of a poison she had used to settle many past accounts. To handle it was a matter to be taken with care, for its beauty held many deadly secrets, and its offering could be a message from a past target or affiliated connection.

Yet another flurry of thought noted that the bloodflower was actually her single favorite bloom, she found its aching beauty combined with its deadly nature to be amongst the most artistic of natural poisoners. A quick tally informed her that, to her awareness, there were only four still living people in the galaxy that knew that about her.

Because she was Sharess, she also accepted an additional two who could perhaps still be alive in some manner despite almost overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Also, because she was Sharess, a very minor thought on a back mental pathway took precise note of the notable and slightly unusual broadness of the man’s shoulders.

“Do you think me a flower in bloom, one you can pluck with such an offering?” She didn’t quite smile, not her, but her tone allowed a very slight hint of coquettish charm and invitation. A lifetime of training in the arts of seduction had allowed her to develop many methods to capture a man’s heart, despite her reputation’s suggestion of the contrary, she just tended to specialize in men with more than simply physical demands. The answer was, of course, perfectly chosen to allow an answer without hinting at any suspicions on her behalf.

“Would the flower perhaps like to be plucked? The bush it is on looks old and scraggly.”

The answer likely ruled out fourteen of the possible scenarios in her head because an agent working those angles would not take time or find it worthwhile to insult her current employer.

“If you are aware of the bush to which I am attached,” her eyes shifted very slightly in a downcast turn, just enough to imply perhaps favor from her to someone brave enough to pluck her, “then you are aware that I am not a simple girl to impress with mere words.”

“No, you are a wonderful creature, with a very high price for her…best services.”

Nineteen more options were ruled out, they joined the others in a collection that could be called back if needed, but were unlikely to be so. Other thoughts were expanded on and fleshed out in her consideration. Sharess’ face showed none of her inner turmoil, remaining serene and slightly becoming. Inside she was in a desperate race, she fully understood that moments of uncertainty about what was happening were the most dangerous, and she prided herself on avoiding danger.
Amongst other things she was noting was the marked consideration of a possible veiled insult in the costume, and how few would attempt it at a gathering such as this knowingly, meaning it was either unintentional, or very intentional, and not many options remained for it to be unintentional. A test could narrow the options that were available down that field by seeing if the flower was meant specifically or generally.

“Then you are aware that I cannot accept your favor, and even if I were to do so you must admit the color would ill match my dress.”

“I think this bloom would match you quite appropriately.”

It was enough, the final hints snapped into place and an answer arose with crystal clarity.
“I thought there was firm word of your death.”

Tael laughed. “You should know as well as I what those sort of firm words might mean. Are you growing complacent in your old age? I feel that took you much too long.”

“He is quite certain you are dead, the level of his assuredness lowered the likelihood of your survival.”

“Or increased the functionality of my plan, but my thanks for confirming what I think of his state.”
“Am I? Or am I just telling you what you wish to hear?” Sharess offered a very tiny smile, her eyes smoldering slightly. Tael laughed again, though she could see his own eyes narrow slightly within the shadows of his mask.

“I need access to his personal chambers.” Tael’s abrupt change of tone and shift to a very serious request was his usual way of trying to unbalance others. It was a trait he had always and would always have, that need to try to catch people unaware to prove his cleverness and to enjoy their uncertainty.

It was also why he desired her so much, she never blinked.

“You don’t need access to his personal chambers, you want access to the last backup.”

“I do.”

“Then you truly intend to see this through to the end?”

“Was there any doubt in your mind about that at all?”

In full honesty Sharess had considered a number of alternative actions he might have taken after his rather interesting escape. That said, she suspected he didn’t care to hear any of them. He was making a very dangerous play here though, at the heart of his opponent’s lair. That said, he had also ordered things to some degree, or he wouldn’t have got this far…

Pathways of thought flittered off considering all the possibilities.

“I offer you a place by my side, similar to your role now, or with more prestige if you would prefer. You know that I don’t think I could get by without our little…talks.”

“How about a counter offer?”

“A counter offer?” Tael looked taken aback. She suspected he was also considering what he knew of her and weighing his odds. He glanced back at the party, and it was clear he was considering his own plans and their time tables. Finally he glanced back at her, swirling the flower thoughtfully between his fingers. “What is the counter offer?”

“You don’t get any help from me in breaking you into his inner chambers. What you get from me is an agreement that I’m departing to my chambers and will be considered neutral in this affair for the duration. If…and I do say, if you win…” Tael laughed slightly to himself. “Then I will side with you.”

“I don’t think you understand my concerns about the backup.”

“I don’t think you understand me.” Sharess, for one brief instant, allowed a real smile to flicker across her features before being quickly hidden again. “I’ve been here for how many years? His backup was poisoned long ago, I can kill it at a whim.”

“But only if I prove strong enough to win.”

“Indeed.”

“No risk to your beauteous neck in that little deal, is there?”

“There never is.”

“Though, if you’re intent to return to your chambers now…”

Tael laughed as he clasped her to him. She allowed the embrace, though, since she was Sharess, she did consider the relative merits of putting certain backup measures into place while they touched, after all, it was best to have one’s angles covered.

-------------------------------------------

Archon Douraal walked with stately decorum down the hallway towards the balcony he would address the party from. He was clad in gleaming golden and scarlet armor, a flowing cape drifting behind him. His face was hidden behind a golden mask, a perfect representation of Kaela Mensha Khaine.

Escorting him, as always, were his six Incubi bodyguards. Their silent passage marked only by the clicking of their armored boots upon the polished marble floors. Obessa’s bare feet made no sound at all, though the chill stone floors left her feet pained and numb. She walked with her head bowed. Zak walked at her side, in his position of honor as Klaivex to walk at the right hand of Douraal. His head wavered not at all, the polished gleam of his eye lenses not turning to even so much as look at her. She wasn’t sure if she considered that a good or a bad thing, but she did find herself wondering what he was thinking of her at this moment.

Douraal stepped onto his balcony, raising his golden arms high, his scarlet cape billowing around him as it caught in the breeze. Below him lay his pleasure gardens, filled to overflowing with sycophants, supporters, and allied forces who wished to appear like they were still sycophants or supporters. The roar of cheers from the crowd below rose up, matched in fever pitch by the wails of pain from the living pain sculptors as, on cue, they amped up their ministrations to rattle new neural pathways with fresh agonies.

The cheers went on for a while, as the nobles shouted, the warriors of the Kabal rang their rifle bayonets against their breastplates, and, below the gardens in the slave warrens, gratuitous applications of pain assured proper cries from the slaves. Finally, Douraal turned his palms outward and lowered his arms, signaling for a silence that quickly fell, on pain of death, across the courtyard.

“I welcome you, my dearest…friends, to my rejuvenation ball. Dance, love, eat, drink, kill, make yourselves merry, on this day that I will reclaim my youth I only wish the best for those who honestly wish the best for me, and to those who don’t, I will, of course, plot you a most hideous demise.”

There was some mild laughter at the jest.

Obessa knew, however, that holo recorders had been trained on the faces of hundreds of important guests, and their facial reactions and body temperatures would be analyzed to see who amongst them had felt most uncomfortable at the thought.

“Now, though the sacrifices will, of course, be most enjoyable for all, I think it is wise we provide some proper entertainment to go with it, and since I am made manifest in the raiment of Khaine...” Douraal clapped his hands together. At this signal dozens of attendants rushed into the crowd, pushing and clearing them back from a large mural of entwined serpents that decorated part of the gardens. Even as the crowds were cleared the mural split open, sliding apart, the serpants seeming to coil amongst each other as they pulled away, to reveal that underneath it lay a deep pit, its walls formed of smoothly polished stone set with steel gates, its bottom coated in thick sand, stained brownish red from the blood that had drenched its floors.

Archon Douraal’s private arena.

Kneeling in the sands of the arena were nine figures, each underneath a gleaming spotlight that shone down from the towers of the palace above them. Each wore gleaming half armor over scraps of skintight body suits, their faces and bare flesh decorated with red war paint.

The Bloodbrides of the Bloodied Kiss. Archon Douraal announced each of them, but Obessa knew them all easily enough.

Wyst’till the Snake, master of the hidden blade.

The Klaviskar Twins, identical sisters known for their fluidity of fighting as one.

Cordus, who wielded a Shardnet and Impaler as though they were extensions of his body.

Kaar’la the Beast, a feral female known to feast on her foes after gutting them with her hydragauntlets.

Feath’lyn, the knife thrower.

Annal’se, whose braided locks of hair already smoldered and smoked from the burning wicks there.

Mor’osez, who still wielded the crudely massive mon’keigh chainsword she favored.

And Cali’q…Cali’q the Counter, second deadliest wych in the entire Cult.

“Does it please you to see them, do you expect any help?” Douraal glanced down at Obessa as he pulled on the chain around her neck, forcing her forward so that the Bloodbrides could clearly see her. If her former allies had any reaction to seeing her like this, it was clearly only mild amusement. “They are here to entertain me, just as you are, the mightiest warriors of your Cult and Ayasha sends them as performers for my joy. And you think she cares one whit about a broken, unpleasant voiced, wretch like yourself?” He leaned forward, his leering Khaine mask pressing up to her face as he muzzled her neck and whispered in her ear. “I’m going to enjoy breaking you down, and when I’m done with that, I’m going to enjoy putting you down there on those sands to fight until only your death will still amuse me.”

Despite her resolve, she shivered, and Douraal laughed as he looked back down at the Bloodbrides, who were now rising to their feet as the crowd cheered in pleasure at the show they realized they were going to receive.

“I have arranged a regeneration contract with the Haemonculi of the Black Coven.” Douraal pulled forth an embossed and sealed scroll of flesh bearing both his sigil and that of the Coven. “Who amongst you has the courage to step onto the arena floor? Who amongst you is willing to dance with the Bloodbrides and experience the most painful of pleasures in honor of my rejuvenation? Who will stand forth and fight for our gratification!”

A single pale hand rose from the crowd even before Douraal finished his question, and a laughing voice eagerly announced.

“I will.”

Obessa let out a strangled gasp of surprise as she saw the figure step forward from the crowd.

Kyssindree was here.

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Thor665
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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Mon Oct 29 2012, 20:33

So, it looks like I have the final chapters all settled - I'm currently writing up Chapter 20, so it looks like I'm mostly on schedule to fulfill my wish of finishing this thing prior to the New Year and also keeping to my release schedule. Everything is mapped out and I know the points I'm hitting, it's just a matter of filling in the details and seeing if any of my characters have any surprises they're going to pull on me.

If you liked Sharess in this chapter and seeing how her brain works, I will (cheap plug!) clue you in that she's the star of her own short story;
http://www.thedarkcity.net/t3620-kisses-sweeter-than-poison

I am even currently toying around with a Zak short story and a tale featuring some of the Bloodbrides - these things may or may not ever see the light of day, but, hey, if I mention them it helps guilt me to finish them.

Next chapter -- It's Kyssindree vs. Cali'q, place your bets now! Also, Ben'rik may spend a large part of the chapter drunk and ornery, AS YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO ON A STEALTH MISSION!

That is all.
Enjoy Wink

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Lady Malys
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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Tue Oct 30 2012, 00:51

Quote :
I am even currently toying around with a Zak short story and a tale featuring some of the Bloodbrides - these things may or may not ever see the light of day, but, hey, if I mention them it helps guilt me to finish them.

I can guilt you too if that will help? Perhaps cake-based bribery will find a way ... Very Happy

Another fine read, though I did want more .. wait, that's good Smile Cali'q vs Kyssindree, though .. Wych one will win? Hmm... and who do I want to win? I don't know ...

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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Tue Oct 30 2012, 15:38

Spent a good amount of time catching up on this from chapter 10 to the end of Masquerade....and I loved every second of it!

The visuals provided from your enriched characters in motion, to the symphonies of the verbal and physical combat within our beloved Commoragh; the eternal game of intrigue, misdirection and wits, and the stunning visuals of Commoragh itself pictured within the nunaces of detail that bring it to life.

I can't wait for the next chapter, Kyssindree vs the Brides again will be a treat, and see if Tael's every inflating ego will be proven right or fail in a most delicious diaster.

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And the little glass vials go into the blast pistols like a battery~
And the blast pistols get pointed somewhere against your anatomy~
And when the pistol goes off it sparks and you're ready for surgery..Surgery~

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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Thu Nov 01 2012, 01:28

@Malys - You've got to stop toying with my emotions as regards all this cake talk. Wink That chapter also probably helped your Zak theories...well, or at least gave you some clues as to Obessa's theories.

@KnightSeer - I'm not even sure of half of what you're saying, but it sounds pretty, so thanks! Very Happy Tael's ego will definitely be put to the test soon, as he's going up against some right proper manipulators now who are likely to test even his skills.

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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Thu Nov 01 2012, 22:43

Just had a really good flow and finished Chapter 21 and it all came together as expected...well, okay, it's almost a double length chapter to my normal, but, hey, there was a lot to get in there (betrayal, murder, sexiness, not-sexiness, comeuppances, and a few dozen buckets of blood splashing liberally around)

But, that said, I nailed that chapter way faster than expected - so, what I'm looking at is really only one chapter to go (and that one is a fight scene, a bit of politics, and then wrapping up a few of the loose threads...and maybe leaving some others intentionally loose.

So, what I think I'm saying is I'm planning to shift this sucker into a once per week update for the finale. Which means it should all be up and posted by the first week or so of December - huzzah!

And then maybe shorter stories for a while... Wink

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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Tue Nov 06 2012, 18:18

Chapter 18: The Red Sands

Kyssindree was not happy. It had first started back at the Hellion encampment before departure for the mission. She had been there, looking as glorious as only she could look, when that scheming wench of a commoner had gone and dressed up Wren in such covering and form creating garb that even a fat sow would look decent in it. The Hellions had, true to their crass ways, proven so simple as to find Wren somehow more desirable than she was. To ignore all that was Kyssindree for a baseborn mongrel who probably had eaten rodents and bugs in her day.

Then they had come to this party and Tael had actually decided to separate from her ‘for the mission’ as an excuse. But she has seen the pale-haired tramp he had sidled up to, how he had pawed at her, offered her a flower, and eventually slipped away with her. Kyssindree didn’t like the pale-face bitch one iota, and she certainly didn’t appreciate that even she was forced to admit that the other woman, perhaps, might be almost as attractive as she was herself. Kyssindree didn’t like the idea of any potential competition for Tael’s attentions, not in the least, she was quite certain that her control over him began and ended between the sheets.

Finally, as if reality itself was twisting the rightful way of things just to offend her…the other nobles at the party had actually appeared to become entranced by Wren! She narrowed her eyes dangerously as she glared towards the dance floor where an area of the gardens equipped with gravity nullifiers allowed couples to dance and swirl through the air in elegant sweeps.

Wren was there, surrounded by young noblemen and noblewomen, all of them apparently blinded to the girl’s inelegance due to some idiotic tale Ben’rik had weaved about her being a distant noble from a satellite realm. So Wren sat there, not speaking a word, occasionally prodding at servants or wandering up wide-eyed in awe of some minor bauble or decoration, and all the while fawning fops drifted around her, commenting on her beauty, her unique flair, and acting like the skinny wench was worth one second of consideration!

Kyssindree had been focused on tracking down some slave with a platter of designer drugs just to take some of the temperamental edge off her evening when Archon Douraal had appeared on an ornate gilded balcony above the crowd. Huge holo-ghost projectors broadcast his image in thirty foot tall visualizations of light around the garden as he spoke, his voice amplified to thundering levels.

She plucked at a passing boneware platter, snatching up a drug injector labeled as containing Serpentin and Red Lotus Extract as well as managing to snag a fluted goblet of some glimmering golden wine. Her eyes were fixed in bemusement on Douraal, who was attired as though he were Khaine made manifest, and was gloating of his victories and his coming feast of souls.

Then things got fun, as he revealed his arena and the Bloodbrides of the Bloodied Kiss.

She drank down the wine in one gulp and smiled to herself. Tael had definitely told her that she should give him a certain amount of time before starting her distraction, she remembered that clearly. But…screw him, he had left her to run off with the pale tart, and, besides, she was certain, in an arena she could manage to make the distraction last long enough to still meet his timetable. Then, Douraal, bless his heart, even gave her the perfect opening so she didn’t even need to brazenly leap into the arena in the middle of a match…though that might have been fun.

“I have arranged a regeneration contract with the Haemonculi of the Black Coven. Who amongst you has the courage to step onto the arena floor?”

Kyssindree laughed out loud, a throaty and purring sound as she raised her hand, stepping forward as he finished his boring little speech.

“I will.”

Around her the crowd reacted appropriately. Amusement at the eager acceptance, and veiled pleasure that she was clearly a beauty who they imagined they could watch being carved apart under the talented ministrations of the Bloodbrides.

She smiled as she made her way down a set of gleaming basalt steps that extended from the wall to allow her to descend to the sandy floor of the arena. As she moved down them the steps behind her retracted into the wall, entrapping her in the arena until the battle was decided.

“Which of the Bloodbrides would you like to watch this evening?” Douraal shouted the question to the crowd. “Who should perform a dance for you?”

As one the crowd chanted back one name, the name of the wych they desired to see execute, a performance of amazing skill and talent rarely allowed to be witnessed in the arenas anymore except at exorbitant prices.

Cali’q.

Cali’q the Counter.

Cali’q hadn’t realized it was her…yet. He was currently drawing forth his matched razorflail swords as the Klaviskar twins peeled off most of his armor, leaving him half naked, his body rubbed heavily in fey’la unguent giving it a rich crimson sheen, his hair pulled back into a long ponytail by a golden skull-shaped clasp, his face marked in gleaming white paint to resemble a stylized skull.

The other Bloodbrides were withdrawing as small anti-gravity platforms began to lower into the arena, each of them only a few feet across and half a foot wide. The metal platforms lowered down, circling about the arena in arching beautiful fractal patterns. They were the Stairs of Pain, an excellent game of the Arena, the only way to win the game was to slay all the opposition, or to remain unchallenged on the uppermost platform for the space of one whole minute. Each ‘stair’ was also equipped with a multitude of razor sharp cutting blades that would periodically snap out in a pre-arranged pattern, rendering parts of the stair deadly to be touching. The guests all applauded the choice, knowing the Stairs to be an elegant, fast-paced, and decidedly deadly contest that would well suit Cali’q’s famously attentive mind.

Kyssindree smiled as she reached down and began undoing the cords of her bodice. The crowd roared in approval as she peeled it off and cast it aside. Next she went to work on her dress skirts, pulling them up to reveal shapely white legs in red stockings as she undid the clasps holding it in place to her lingerie. Then she reached up, toying slightly with the buckles at the front of the dress, waiting as the crowd grew quieter, before tearing them open and stepping out of her dress as it fell to the blood red sands.

Kyssindree stood there, shaking out her wild long black hair, wearing only her mask, her stockings and lingerie, and the knives that had been strapped to her body. She laughed again as she reached up and removed her winking and smirking mask, flicking it up in the air.

“…Kyssindree.” Cali’q let out a hiss of recognition as her mask tumbled back towards the sands. Even as it toppled between her and him she snapped out an arm, sending a throwing knife hurtling through the air, to pass perfectly through one of the eyeholes on the mask, and straight at Cali’q’s face. He jerked to the side, not even moving his feet, but his timing was ever so slightly off due to his surprise at her appearance, and the faintest scratch of red blood now began to seep down his bone white cheek. Kyssindree kissed her fingertips and pointed at him.

“Kyssindree, the Flensing Laugh,” she corrected, “I’m going to cut you apart, piece by piece, Cali’q.”

“You are dead,” he snarled softly, his eyes ferociously intent.

“Let’s dance,” she licked her lips, “I’ll make you famous…for a little while.”

Archon Douraal raised his arm.

All across the inner wall one thousand soldiers of the Kabal grabbed the heads of one of four prepared slaves bound at their feet. In one motion they drew forth one thousand hooked blades treated with a special mix of drugs to enhance and flavor pain.

Douraal’s arm dropped.

One thousand slaves had a blade slowly driven down through the flesh right above their collarbones angling in and down to eventually pierce their heart as they spasmed in agony. Kyssindree and Cali’q both sprang forward, leaping upon the closest anti-gravity platform as they began a rapid climbing rush towards each other.


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Ben’rik had his hand halfway up the thigh of a rather attractive bauble from some minor noble house who had been partaking a little too heavily on some of the wine, and…truth be told, Ben’rik had been partaking almost as heavily, and was really starting to get some pleasant thoughts about her brightly painted mouth, a hand twisting her corded hair, and that discrete looking spot by the bushes nearby when he happened to hear the shouting.

“Kyssindree!”

“Aye, the Flensing Laugh.”

“I’ve seen her fight in the arena before.”

“This is wonderful!”

Ben’rik blinked a few times as he glanced up at one of the towering forty foot high holo-projectors which were currently showing Kyssindree taunting one of the ruddy Bloodbrides of the Bloodied Kiss.

“Pfffft!” He sputtered in surprise, spitting out a spray of wine into the noblewoman’s face even as she was leaning in for another kiss. She hissed in displeasure, but he simply shoved her off his lap and staggered to his feet, this was not the plan, who had been dense enough to trust that deranged wych with anything close to subtlety?

Oh…right, Tael.

“You!” Ben’rik grabbed at a passing slave, gripping his shoulder tightly to pull the young boy in close and glaring at him menacingly with his one good eye as he considered the platter of drugs in front of him. “Which one of these helps, and listen closely here, to clear the mind?”

“I don’t think I understand, sir?”

“I don’t want to be drunk right now.” Ben’rik pulled out a rather large dagger and pressed it up to the boy’s face, “do you understand that?”
Ben’rik grabbed the proffered injector from the boy, pumping it into his neck as he stumbled towards Wren, who was still surrounded by an army of eager admirers. It was almost laughable to watch the nobles vie for her attention, and suggest how clever and mysterious she was, when all the girl was doing was sniffing at them, or poking at interesting baubles. Currently she was toying with a pair of birds nesting in an intricate cage woven from the hair on a noblewoman’s head all while another nobleman attempted to lure her over to his table with offers of some special drugged perfume.

A shockwave of pleasure washed over him, dropping him to one knee as he continued trying to stumble forward. It was like an ocean of pained pleasure, the combined death energy of a thousand slaves executed at once. Ben’rik gasped at the grandeur of it, realizing this was only a small taste of the feast Archon Douraal planned for the evening.

“Urgent house business,” Ben’rik announced as he shoved the man away and elbowed between Wren and the bemused noblewoman. Wren looked confused, but after Ben’rik pointed out Kyssindree’s face on the holo-projectors she nodded in understanding.

“Do you dare shove away a fourthborn scion of the House of Ud’del?” The nobleman clapped a hand on Ben’rik’s shoulder. Without missing a beat Ben’rik turned and smiled at him.

“My deepest apologies, I was totally in the wrong,” he admitted while he jabbed his dagger up to the hilt in the nobleman’s gut. The minor port-lord’s face went slack and his eyes wide as blood gushed out of the wound in a stream. Ben’rik nodded in farewell as he turned and grabbed Wren, hustling her away quickly.

“We have to bring down the fission generators now,” he snarled.

“Yes,” she agreed with a bobbing nod of her head.

They made their way across the courtyard, weaving through a quieter part of the gardens towards the door Ben’rik had seen Tael and the noblewoman he’d picked up sneak off through. As promised, Tael had left a jammer on the door and it was unsealed. Ben’rik took a moment to glance around and figure out where he was in the interior layout of the structure as he pulled out the data crystal reader that Tael had filled with rough diagrams of the palace.

“This way,” he announced as he and Wren set off to fulfill their mission.


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Kyssindree laughed the entire time she was leaping up the steps towards Cali’q, she hoped he too appreciated how glorious this moment was. She reached down to her thighs and drew forth a matched set of dueling knives, each inlaid with precious jewels and with the jagged symbol of The Howlers etched on the blades.

Ahead of her, through the drifting platforms of the Stair she could see Cali’q, his twin razorflails in hand, both of them in their serrated sword configuration…currently. Despite her bravado she understood that his long-bladed weapons were better suited to the battleground of the Stairs as they tended, by their nature, to keep fights at a certain range. Still, she was sure she could think of some strategy to hand her back the advantage, she just had to stay alive long enough to puzzle it out.

They met at the midpoint. Cali’q executed a beautiful slash for her throat even as she was starting to land on a platform next to his. Kyssindree arched her back, the toes of her left foot just barely touching the platform as she strained to pull herself out of the way of the strike. Then she was falling. A somersault twisted her back upright and she angled herself to fall onto another of the platforms below her. Even as she landed, her legs bunching up beneath her to absorb the impact, she was springing upwards again, climbing fast as she called out to Cali’q.

“I’m going to bleed you, slow and painful, you know that, don’t you?”

Cali’q had come to a pause, standing upon a platform high above her as he watched her climb towards him. His eyes gleamed as he smirked, a tap of his fingers released his razorflails and the blades clattered and clinked as they fell into their whip configuration.

“Fifty-two.” He announced loudly, declaring the exact number of moves it would take for him to defeat her…he had never been wrong in hundreds of arena combats, ever. The crowd roared in approval at his bravado. Kyssindree simply sneered, displeased that he was claiming such a low number, she would make him regret that.

Then she was upon him again. His glittering razorflails snapped through the air as he weaved them in a dangerous web as she approached. Simply counting on her speed and skill, Kyssindree happily barged straight into the waiting web of death, knowing she had to get closer to him to bring her knives to bear.

Cali’q’s muscled body writhed impressively as he snapped up one of his lashing blades in a wide arc meant to split her open. Kyssindree had just landed on one platform and sprang off to her side to avoid the blow. She allowed herself a moment of amusement to see that he had not predicted that move from her…then it became clear that he hadn’t predicted that move because there was no anti-grav platform for her to land on in this direction…

Seeing one of them cruising by overhead Kyssindree reacted more on instinct than thought, if she’d thought there would have been no time to act. Her left hand hurled its blade straight at Cali’q’s chest and then continued the motion upward to grab onto the platform overhead. Even as she did she realized its lights had just pulsed red, signifying the imminent arrival of its blades. She swung off the platform, releasing it a bare hand’s-breadth before the razor sharp scythes clicked out of their hiding spots and slashed through the air around the platform.

Meanwhile, Cali’q had been forced to snap his razorflails back into their sword configuration to deflect her hurled knife. She landed on a platform only a few feet away from him and smiled as she sprang for him, drawing out a fresh knife with her left hand as she led with a devious twisting stab for his shoulder.

Cali’q jumped back to avoid the stab, his swords snapping through the air in thrumming slashes as he attacked her while continuing to climb and leap up the platforms. Kyssindree ran with him, at times even sharing the same platform he did, as her two knives sparked and sang as she deflected his swings or dodged them and lashed out with ripostes of her own. Finally the path they were on diverged, and Cali’q cut downwards and to the left while Kyssindree lightly bounded up and to the right, turning back to blow a kiss to him as she did.

“Thirty-two moves left, sweet Cali’q.”

“And yet,” Cali’q noted as he lightly bounced to a new platform, behind him the one he had just left pulsed a warning of red before four buzzsaws hissed out of its surfaces and swept around the platform, “I still feel my count is quite fine, you’re only accelerating your own death here.”

“You make me worry though, I feel I’m doing all the pursuing,” she said as she sprang higher, suddenly reaching the summit and the scoring platform. It gleamed a soft golden color that slowly began to grow brighter as it signaled the countdown to her victory. The instant she achieved the summit the thousand knives flashed along the wall and a thousand more slaves were slowly slain, waves of pain and pleasure rocked through the crowd as they applauded. “Maybe it’s time you pursued me a bit?”

Cali’q laughed as he jumped up the platforms with nimble and casual ease, clearly he had already analyzed the pattern and seemed to know which platforms to avoid, as he never came near even one that was about to snap forth its blades.

His razorflails came out as whips again as he reached a lower platform and began lashing them upwards at her.

“Your bravado and beauty are only matched by your stunning stupidity and lack of planning, he announced coldly. “I have the reach advantage, and can strike with impunity from here, while you cling to your golden platform as though it will help you evade me. You are dead, Kyssindree, you just don’t know it yet.”

She dodged and danced atop the platform as his blades arced up, snapping over the edges and promising painful and crippling strikes if she failed to evade them. Kyssindree’s smile was bright and joyous as she watched the timing of his attacks. Cali’q had always been an excellent warrior, but she had long planned to usurp him, and though she was a decidedly deadly and beautiful foe, she suspected he had spent a lot of time worrying about many different high ranked Wyches in the Cult, whereas, for her, it had always been a desire to usurp him and his position.

Cali’q’s weaknesses were part of his strengths, naturally. His mind was like a computer, able to predict the actions of others and plan out his moves perfectly to maximize his ability to win. However, part of the problem with that was his moves sometimes became repetitive, so as to establish a baseline understanding of how other fighter’s reacted to them. And a move that was repetitive, perfectly executed the same way every time to help The Counter predict his opponents…also left him open to being predictable.

Her knife stabbed down sharply, slashing between two of the bladed prongs of the razorflail. A tight pirouette of her body wound the blade and the metal cabling of the razorflail together tightly. Kyssindree then purposefully stepped backwards off the golden platform, dropping down and pulling the razorflail with her, leaving it hooked on the golden platform above her – her weight suddenly supported only by Cali’q’s grip on his sword.

He let out a curse as his arm jerked upward and snarled at the sharp jolt as her full weight was halted in its fall. He probably only needed a moment to assess the situation, but Kyssindree didn’t, she saw the opening of the soft flesh exposed under his outstretched arm and immediately hurled her untangled knife at it.

Cali’q reacted…quicker than she had expected. He immediately released his grip on his trapped razorflail, the length of chain and blade slithering upwards as it snarled around the golden platform, sending Kyssindree plummeting downward. His arm snapped downward, steel sure fingers catching the blade of her knife as it flew at him, and in a sharp up snap of his arm, sending it spiraling back at her.

Kyssindree cursed, falling through the air she had no way to dodge, and her only weapon was the blade snarled up in the razorflail. She twisted to haul the razorflail and knife up in a desperate bid to block, and through dint of sheer luck one of the tines on the razorflail clipped the thrown blade, sending it just enough off course that it slapped into her abdomen a finger’s breadth below any vital organs.

As Kyssindree landed on another circling platform, blood-stained hands scrabbling for purchase, she heard Cali’q laughing. “You always do the same underarm lob with throwing knives, and take the chance on doing it over ninety-five percent of the time when seeing an opening within your range. Did you really expect me to fall for that?”

“I can do math too,” she hissed as she pulled her knife out of her own side while tossing away the other one that was hopelessly snarled in the razorflail. “Two, minus one, is one,” she reached up into her wild tangle of hair and drew out a set of spiked punching barbs which she hooked her bloodstained fingers through, gripping the punch spikes firmly as she smiled. “How many weapons do you usually carry into battle to show off how good you are?”

Cali’q wasn’t laughing anymore.

“Let’s dance, Cali’q.” Kyssindree jumped up to a higher platform and started stalking her prey, “also, remind me how many moves you have left. I may have lost count.”

The crowd, which had gone silent for a moment, roared in approval.


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Four Kabalite Warriors guarded the entryway to the lower level. The guard captain was Trueborn, his plumed burnished bronze helm and scarlet cloak sticking out amongst the otherwise mirror black armor of the other Kabalites. The warriors stood at the ready, though were clearly relaxed here within the heart of their base where they would have ample warning of any attack. Two of the Warriors had even taken off their helms and were sharing a small bottle back and forth between them to pass the time.

“Come back here you little minx!”

Ben’rik stumbled around the corner, pawing at Wren as she darted out of his grasp and down the hallway. He held a decanter of expensive alcohol sloshing in one hand while he took another clumsy grab at her with his other hand. She flitted away, dodging behind the Trueborn, lifting up his cape as she snuggled in behind him and pulled it over her head to hide.

“Unhand her, sir,” grumbled Ben’rik as he blearily tried to focus in on the Trueborn. Behind them the other Kabalites were chuckling and nudging each other as they pointed out the drunk nobles. One of them even, rather unsubtly, craned his neck to peer at Wren’s small backside poking out from under his squad leader’s cape. “Lady Zen’drike owes me some attention I’ll have you know, certain promises were made.”

“Really?” The Trueborn glanced over his shoulder to where Wren’s bird mask poked up to peer at him and Ben’rik. Her hands snaked out from behind him, reaching around to grasp his armored chest as she pressed her soft body against his back. He smirked as he looked back to the slobbering drunk in the Solar Lord’s costume and chuckled. “I think the lady has found a need to renegotiate the terms of your agreement, you should probably get out of here before you embarrass yourself, we’ll look after Her Ladyship’s needs.”

“I would advise you against that, boy,” drawled Ben’rik as he pulled himself up to his full height and sneered at the Trueborn.

“Oh?” The man snapped his fingers and the other three warriors with him stepped forward, raising their bladed splinter rifles as they formed a defensive line. “Remind me why I should heed your advice, m’lord?”

“Because I’m pretty sure she’s insane.”

The Trueborn’s head jerked backwards as Wren pulled on the black plumes of his helmet. The golden crystal claws on her gauntlets slammed up into the soft bodysuit liner that was all that protected his neck between the bottom of the helmet and his gorget. He couldn’t even manage a scream, drowning as he was on his own blood as he tried to draw breath.

The Kabalite Warriors spun around to regard this new development, and consequently failed to notice Ben’rik drawing forth a thin poignard as he sprung forward, grabbing one of them in a chokehold with one arm while he plunged the blade into his back all the way to the hilt.
“Don’t fight it,” he whispered softly as he twisted the blade deftly to puncture the heart.

Wren pulled her claws out of the Trueborn’s throat and promptly hurled a handful of the Trueborn’s viscera and blood into the face of one of the unhelmeted Warriors. The last one managed to squeeze off a quick snap shot, but she dove beneath it and popped up again right in front of him, her claws going to work, the gleaming crystal sawing open the armor and flesh beneath it as though it was little more than an overripe cheese. Ben’rik’s sabre lopped the head off the blinded guard who was still trying to scream for help as he wiped blood and gore out of his eyes.

“Three guarded positions and each dumber than the last,” he chuckled as he snapped his wrist to shake the blood off the polished blade. He was kneeling down to snag the Trueborn’s encrypted bone key, and also to loot the body for any worthwhile looking swag, those Trueborn wretches always had plenty of that, when a shadow fell over him.

“You think I’m insane?”

Wren stood over him, her black cloak of feathers billowing about her slightly, blood dribbling off her claws, her eyes peering out at him from behind the bird mask as she cocked her head to the side to regard him carefully.

“A simple jape, m’dear,” he offered her his most charming smile, “I only wanted to give them a moment of fear before you struck, not that I’m sure you needed my help inspiring fear in them.”

In typical Wren fashion, she chose not to answer, but did slump her shoulders slightly as she stalked away from him. He quietly stood up and made a careful mental note not to turn his back on the poor disturbed wretch for the rest of the mission. He wasn’t sure what endgame Tael had in store for her, but he had been leaving her balanced on a razor’s edge for quite a while now, and Ben’rik couldn’t imagine how anyone as clever as Tael was, who had seen Wren fight, could possibly think that was a good idea.

If he was bored of the girl that was all well and good, but do yourself a favor and shoot her in the back right away. That’s what Ben’rik would have done, but, he sighed, he did suppose he was an old gentleman at heart. Besides, she could still possibly be useful to him in dealing with the Tael situation…though Ben’rik had to admit dealing with her was starting to feel more and more like toying with high explosives; useful, but hazardous and temperamental in the extreme.

The door slid open silently as Ben’rik waved the encoded bone key under the scanner. Beyond it lay the vast expanse of the fission generator that powered the entire complex. Like any intelligent Archon, Douraal was not so foolish as to use any energy source he didn’t personally control, and as such maintained the generators here. The room was over a hundred feet deep, plunging down into the dark stone of the structures around them, a thin metallic rod enmeshed within a crystalline sheathe that crackled with the very power of the stars themselves. Catwalks ringed the structure all the way down, connecting it to various safety and service terminals, all crewed by gangs of silent servitors in burnished gold robes.

“Now we just need to figure out how to disable it.”

Wren pointed at his blast pistol and shrugged.

“Now we just need to figure out how to disable it without starting a chain reaction that would reduce us all to subatomic ash,” he clarified. “Go fetch me one of the servants, and leave him capable of talking, please.”

Wren bobbed her head slightly as she turned and sprang over the edge of the walkway to drop in a flutter of black feathers to one of the lower catwalks. Ben’rik meanwhile glanced up at the gleaming fission generator, his face feeling warm in the strange blue light crackling through the crystal. He glanced down at his chronometer, the countdown markers slowly ticking off the time until he was scheduled to drop the generators. Naturally the backup generators would kick in, but by then it would already be too late.
He hoped.

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Kyssindree dropped down to lounge in a sitting position on another platform that was slowly drifting upwards. Her chest heaved as she drew in breaths slowly, and sweat and blood alike glistened on her smooth white skin. Below her Cali’q also took pause, the fey’la unguent was being sweated out of his pores, running in syrupy red rivulets across his perfectly sculpted body, helping to hide any wounds she may have caused on him. Not that either of them were much feeling their injuries, the Trueborn had just sacrificed the third captive in front of them, three thousand souls had now been claimed in exquisite agony all for the sake of one man, Archon Douraal. Even just being around such focused agony was enthralling, and Kyssindree felt no pain at all, only a languid exhalation had made her halt the duel.

“Three left by my count,” she noted as she tossed her long black hair back from her face and winked down at him. The crowd cheered for her, never had they expected a battle of such superb skill. Never had they thought that they might be able to witness his death as a possibility, for as much as the crowd loved a champion, what they always secretly desired was the champion’s comeuppance and degradation.

“My only fear is you’ll die before my predicted time, you’re far less talented than I expected,” Cali’q offered back, a wicked smirk on his face as he motioned her to come at him again.

Kyssindree laughed, and waited until her platform pulsed red before narrowly escaping it by simply sliding herself forward and dropping down towards Cali’q. She was amused to watch his clever smile grow more clever yet as she dropped towards him. Of course, Cali’q figured he ‘knew’ her now, and thought it clear she would try another direct approach attack as she had been doing all this time.

But that was what she wanted him to think.

She hurled the last of her knives at his face, needing her hands free. He brought up his right blade to parry and then snapped out its blade whip configuration to skewer her as she landed on the platform in front of him.

However, the parry moved his blade in front of his eyes, even if only for a moment, and his strike was no good if she had never intended to land on the platform.

Instead she dropped past it, out of the reach of his strike, her hands latching onto the platform as she swung up under and up between the platform and the one Cali’q stood on. Meanwhile his reactions were slowed, it only took him a part of a second to realize she wasn’t where he expected her to be, and then to twitch his eyes down to spot her, but that was part of a second he had needed to be dodging in.

Her heels were aimed perfectly and cracked into Cali’q’s left knee with a pleasing crunching sound. The Counter howled in pain as he toppled backward, his sword falling from his hand as he scrabbled to prevent his fall. Kyssindree’s hand shot out, grabbing hold of his fallen razorflail as she landed on the platform and then merrily sprang off it, letting out an undulating warcry as she pursued Cali’q in his fall.

His shoulder cracked against one of the platforms below him as he bounced off it, and his cry of agony was sweet joy to her as she danced down after him. Even as she sprang down the platforms seemed to conspire to slow her, turning red and lashing out with their blades. But she always just narrowly avoided them, sometimes just twisting and leaping out of the way blindly, trusting only in her skill and reaction time to give her any chance of landing on a new platform. Cali’q was hobbled as he managed to halt his fall and swing onto a new platform, wincing and crying out as he landed, his leg buckling under him as he sprawled down onto the platform.

Kyssindree landed above him, watching him flinch as she allowed the dangling razorflail to lightly stroke his back like a lover’s caress. He turned over to look up at her as she snapped the blade back into its sword configuration and smiled at him.

“Maybe I’ll just let you lie there like a slave, waiting for your ‘perfect mind’ to tell you exactly how long you have to live until that platform rips you open.”

“Bitch.”

“You can flirt with me all you want,” she laughed, “but you, dear, sweet, Cali’q, are mine. You only have one move left, want to give it a go?”
Then Cali’q laughed at her as he lifted up his hand, Kyssindree tensed, not liking the feel of his confidence. Cali’q snapped his fingers and pointed at her.

“Bloodbrides! Kill her!” So issuing an order as his final move of the match, Cali’q rolled to his side, dropping down to the red sands of the arena floor. Sprinting towards him came the other eight Bloodbrides of the Bloodied Kiss, each readying their chosen weapons.

The crowds cheered as the fourth slave was slain, the pain of yet another thousand slaves gushing over them, and they realized they would get to watch the wanton and prideful beauty hunted down by the other Bloodbrides. The anti-gravity platforms all started to go red, starting at the top and moving its way down the stairs. Clearly the Bloodbrides didn’t care to allow her a chance to dance and hide or perhaps manage an escape amongst the Stairs, but wanted to force her onto the sands for a final showdown, eight against one. Kyssindree strutted down the stairs, stretching out the kinks in her arm and checking on a few of her wounds. She experimentally swung the razorflail a few times, already disliking the feel of the weapon alone, she had always preferred to fight with two blades, and her knuckle spikes were ill-paired with the long reach of a razorflail.

“I just want you all to admit, before fighting me, that you’re doing it as a group because I defeated Cali’q, made him look weak and afraid, and that all of you are now also afraid to face me, except as a mob.”

“We could admit that,” Annal’se smirked, her face wreathed in strange blue smoke from the burning wicks in her long braided hair, “but what advantage would it gain you?”

“None, I just want to make sure the crowd understands how talented I am.” Kyssindree raised her arms, and the crowd cheered her, as entranced by her pride as they were perversely hoping to watch it crushed. Such was the way of the Wych, such was their purpose to make the crowd love, fear, desire, and loathe them as they danced this most beautiful of dances.

Kyssindree usually never worried about the plan of things, when she had stepped into the arena with Cali’q she had not expected it to end in her death, she had not thought it out much beyond the pleasure the moment would give her and her belief that she could kill him. Not that she didn’t possess enough cunning to know that the countdown timer for the plan had to be getting close, she didn’t need to beat the Bloodbrides, not even she could do that. Not alone.

But maybe, maybe she was good enough to last long enough that she wouldn’t be alone any more.

And Kyssindree knew she was good, very, very good. She dropped into a fighting stance.

“Who wants to be made famous first?”



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The last chapter continues to fight me, but that's okay, I've got some time yet before that becomes an issue.
Lots of fun to write this fight scene with Cali'q and Kyssindree as they have two highly contrasting styles and methods of showmanship. I suppose that's also something I wanted to emphasize, Wyches really are all about the 'presentation' of the fight as much as its conclusion - which is a fascinating concept with them on the tabletop as well. It's not just about killing their opponent, it's about looking good while they do it. Kyssindree's flash and impulsiveness versus Cali'q pride and elegant orchestrations was fun to play with on that score.

Next chapter is The Race - wherein we'll get to learn how Obessa got her throat injury, as well as seeing how Kyssindree earned her place as a leader of Reavers.

Also, the final battle between Douraal and Tael starts.

Also, more arena action.

Sadly, less drunk Ben'rik. Wink

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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Sun Nov 11 2012, 17:31

Chapter 19: The Race


A small glyph on his bracer chimed softly, emitting a haunting red glow. Douraal languidly glanced down at it, and then his whole demeanor changed.

“Bring Sharess to me.”

He spoke the words sharply as he looked at Zak, almost as if there was a sudden surge of urgency in him. The Incubus saluted smartly, his fist thumping against his chest as he spun and marched away, motioning to two of his fellows to accompany him on the task, his skull-faced brethren falling in silently behind him. Obessa’s brow furrowed slightly as she glanced up at Douraal. He was now speaking to another of his aides, ordering for some of the camera footage from the party to be fed into his helmet’s internal monitors.

Did he know?

Had he guessed?

Her gaze returned to the sight of Kyssindree on the sands of the arena. She stood in an elegant gown of dark red silk and lace bound by a tight bodice of leather the color of dried blood. Had Douraal done enough research into the traitor wych who had gone to work to aid his foe? Even if he hadn’t, knowing Kyssindree, she was fairly likely to openly declare herself and her challenge before fighting Cali’q, even if Douraal hadn’t done much research he must surely notice that.

Obessa bit her lip.

She glanced back at Douraal who was, at least, distracted at the moment. She could see the play of light on the eye-plates of his mask as he watched playback of the holo footage of the party. She then looked back at Kyssindree who had removed her mask, tossed it high in the air, perfectly threw a blade through it at Cali’q….and, yes, loudly proclaimed who she was.

Archon Douraal snarled, dropping his arm to signal the start of the battle as the first thousand slaves were sacrificed to him, the soul conveyers on the balcony drawing in the energy to him even though he seemed to gain no pleasure from it. Being this close to it took Obessa’s breath away, the sheer amount of exquisite and focused energy burning through her like no feast she had ever before tasted. Even so, her mind stayed worrying on one question; did Kyssindree have a plan? Or was she tossing her life away on a gamble? Obessa couldn’t help but remember how Kyssindree could get when she thought power and fame were within her grasp.


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She lay upon the bed, curled up in a fetal position, hugging her knees to her chest and trying not to think of the pain from her various injuries.

“You still haven’t told me why you did it.”

Cali’q stood in front of his wardrobe, half admiring himself in the mirror and half glancing at her reflection, a sardonic smirk of ‘knowing’ on his face. Obessa cringed at the sight of it and looked away, and he laughed.

“As I thought,” he murmured. “You did it for her. Do you really think Kyssindree has a chance to survive this folly? Wryn’kill is no small talent and I,” he flashed a grin into the mirror as he zipped up his leather flightsuit, “I am so very good in so many things…am I not?”

“This is about us,” managed Obessa around her bruised lips, they cracked slightly and she felt blood drip into her mouth. Cali’q had been rather…boisterous last night. She fought hard to remember exactly what Kyssindree had told her to say. “Let’s let Wryn’kill and Kyssindree settle their score themselves. You and I can just play on the edges.”

“Why would I want to do that?” Cali’q laughed as he pulled on his spiked gloves, the leather creaking as he flexed his hands into fists. “I’m better than both of them, and Kyssindree’s foolish little game gives me a chance to prove it. You could help me, of course, we could leave them both dead on the raceway.”

“No.” Obessa sat up, glaring at his reflection. “You understood what me coming here meant, and you know you wanted it. We leave this between the two of them.”

“Is that what you want?” Cali’q turned around, a wicked leer on his face. “Say it then.”

“Say what?”

“Tell me how good I was at everything.” He walked forward, pulling the red, spun, silk sheets away from her body. “Tell me, and maybe I’ll let Kyssindree live a little longer.”

She forced her hands to hold steady, refusing to cover herself in front of him to let him know how his gaze bothered her. “You were good at everything.”

“Now say it like you mean it.” His leather clad hand clamped down on her breast, fingers pinching and twisting at one of the bite marks there. “And make me believe it, or I promise you her blood will spatter the crowds before the race is done.”

Obessa later left his chambers feeling filthy, and not even standing under a scalding hot sonic steamer made her feel clean. She was silent as she put on her own riding leathers, the suit pulling tightly across her wounds giving her a sharpened edge to her senses that felt good. She went to join Kyssindree, who was waiting on the antigravity platform that would lift them both up into the arena.

“You look glowing,” Kyssindree laughed, “did it go as planned?”

“He agreed, but I don’t trust hi-“

“Yes!” Obessa’s warning was drowned out by Kyssindree’s exuberant shout of victory. “Wryn’kill is mine, do you hear that you withered old wretch!” Kyssindree shouted into the empty hanger, “I’m taking your command and your life tonight, another step on my rise.”

“Kyss, we shou-“

“Our rise,” Kyssindree draped an arm across Obessa’s shoulders and squeezed her companionably, “I meant ‘our’ rise, of course.” The platform suddenly began to rise and Kyssindree smiled at Obessa as the roar of the crowd grew louder.

“THE CHALLENGER – KYSSINDREE, KNOWN AS THE FLENSING LAUGH, CREATOR OF THE TRIPLE-SKULL IMPALEMENT, ACCOMPANIED BY OBESSA, HER TEAMMATE.”

They rose up through a tunnel and into the vast Reaver Racetrack stadium of the Kabal of the Poisoned Fang. Their Archon had long had a love of the death races, and the Cult of Bloodied Kiss had often performed here on the ever changing racetrack which was generally accredited as one of the most challenging in the city, well known for its hazards and extreme elevation changes. The Archon sat on a throne with Ayasha and the other Succubi of the Cult. The female Archon wore her usual mask, as did all of her attendants and guards. The three Succubi wore glittering domino masks as a mark of decorum for their hostess, each also resplendent in their robes and gilded armor as they politely applauded the arrival of Kyssindree.

“AND NOW INTRODUCING THE BLOODIED KISS’ CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS OF THE DEATH RACES, THE MISTRESS OF SPEED, CREATOR OF THE REVERSE DROP GUILLOTINE, WRYN’KILL – THE BLOODY PEACOCK!”

The cheers were so loud that Cali’q’s own impressive list of accomplishments could barely be heard. Wryn’kill appeared in all her finery, her golden mask gleamed under the lights, and her blue plumage adorned not just her crest, but also her custom jetbike. Cali’q also wore a long cape of blue plumes, and golden bracers adorned with them as well, though other than that he was almost naked, his body coated in fey’la unguent until it gleamed blood red, his face painted white in a skull motif, his eyes glittering from the dark pools around them as he smirked.

“I knew we should have spent more time color coordinating,” sighed Kyssindree as she and Obessa walked over to the start line, their bikes separated from their opponent’s by a yawning chasm, the first part of the race being a rather suicidal nose-dive down a sheer drop. Obessa’s feet clanged as she walked across the burnished metal surface of the raceway, each step seeming like a drumbeat as her heart thudded in her chest.

“We need to be careful,” she began as she strapped her helmet to her head, “if we have a plan, we-“

“The plan is I’m going to kill her,” Kyssindree picked up her own helmet, kissing it, before tossing it away over the edge to further cheers of the crowd. Obessa watched it spark and spiral as it dropped from sight. “And I’m going to look dazzling as I do it.”

Obessa straddled her bike, checking her weapon systems carefully, running through all the pre-battle checks that had been drilled into her head by her instructors. She had equipped a set of grav-talons to her bike for the race, as a precaution. Kyssindree had preferred to go without, not wanting the extra weapon systems to slow her maneuverability.

The spectators watched from giant anti-gravity stands that glided about the raceway, huge holo monitors would provide close up feeds of the battle as it progressed. The goal was simple, it was a small race after all, five circuits of the course, best singular time wins each lap, most laps held by a team would make them the winner…or until one of the teams could no longer compete, then their opponents would automatically win.

The Archon almost looked bored, engrossed as she was with a skinning knife and some new slave plaything with a pretty face. Still, when one of her aides reminded her she languidly raised an arm and motioned for the start signal.

The four jetbikes took off in a roaring whine of high powered turbo-thrusters. They dropped downward, spiraling wildly through the air as they already fought for the prime position to enter the bladed tunnel that lay at the bottom of the drop. Obessa opened her throttle to the maximum, even the stimulant drugs not able to keep the edges of her vision from starting to blur and go black from the force of the descent. The tunnel opening yawned before them, lit by bright yellow light and outlined in saw edged decorations that were as sharp as any sword.

Kyssindree and Wryn’kill were already at it, darting in and around each other, trying to force the other one into the blades on the tunnel walls. Somehow they both managed to get through the entrance, Kyssindree loosing just a small snip of her hair as she did so. Cali’q, somehow, managed to snatch it up as he passed and smiled wickedly as he held it up for Obessa to see. A cold chill passed through her, feeling very much overmatched, if Cali’q started to take the race seriously, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to stop him and save Kyssindree.
The crowd, of course, loved it and cheered loudly.

Blasting out of the blade tunnel they entered a more conventional length of track, the metal path rising, twisting, and even turning around on itself as it soared over and about the arena. Spiraling rings of flame and gutting jets of acidic mist were part of the course during this stage. Obessa scowled as she blitzed through them in a blur, she could only pray that Cali’q didn’t try to kill her, because she didn’t think she could pilot through the obstacles and also dodge any attacks.

By the time she cleared the hazards and reached the wild and curving raceway that soared back up towards the finish line she was well behind the others. For a moment she considered putting her thrusters on full burn to catch up by flying off the course and through the middle of the upward spiral. It would technically be an illegal maneuver and she couldn’t count as the fastest racer on this loop, but that hardly mattered to her. However, a quick glance told her that route was effectively sealed, for nesting amongst the support structure were great teaming flocks of razorwings, the black and blue birds cawed angrily at the racers, and anyone who wandered off the course would likely be sliced apart by the razor sharp pinions of the bird’s wings.

The last loop of the course was in an almost idyllic wide open space, a perfect platform to allow the victorious pilot to call for adulation from the crowds, or to allow a last minute desperate attempt to slay or pass your opponent. As was usual for the Poisoned Fang, they had provided a course that was short, prone to provide many chances for daring feats of skill, brutally unforgiving, and replete with multiple ways to kill the unwary pilot; in other words, their usual fine workmanship.

Cali’q did a few sweeping passes at her in the open, laughing uproariously as he battered her bike around, forcing her to fight to keep it on course. Still, it was clear he was just playing, and allowing Kyssindree and Wryn’kill to settle the matter themselves, as promised.

Obessa opened her throttle fully once again as she blazed down the sheer cliff drop once more. Ahead she could see Kyssindree and Wryn’kill still sparring, sparks erupting every time they scraped their bladevanes past each other. This time when they approached the tunnel Kyssindree looked to be hindered by Wryn’kill, hemmed in and being forced into the blades, but she suddenly did a dangerously tight barrel roll, her bladed keel smashing against Wryn’kill’s bike sharply and almost sending the champion into the wall of blades herself.
Kyssindree slowed down enough to show Wryn’kill that she had snatched a handful of feathers from the tufts attached to her jetbike. Wryn’kill responded with a sharp juke that almost tore Kyssindree’s face off, though Kyssindree’s only reply was mocking laughter.

The next three laps passed in a blur for Obessa. She dueled with Cali’q, at least enough to keep up appearances, and it became painfully obvious how much he outmatched her. He would toy with her, continually almost forcing her into a bladed wall, or through a wall of flames, or down low enough to scrape her hull in a shower of angry sparks across the racetrack itself. But he always relented at the last moment, pulling away, laughing through his death mask war paint as he would salute her, or blow a kiss, or make…vulgar gestures.

She gripped her handlebar tightly, knowing none of it would matter, as long as Kyssindree won. None of it would matter, and she’d never have to serve him again.

The moment of truth came as they dodged their way through the ever changing obstacle portion of the field, now featuring crackling laser arcs and flurries of splinter cannon fire, and headed for the spiraling tower that would lead to the finish line. Wryn’kill had already won three laps to Kyssindree’s one, with neither Obessa or Cali’q winning any. All Wryn’kill had to do to win was to not die, whereas Kyssindree was obligated to manage a kill.

The Bloody Peacock was not known for half measures though, she was a Champion of Champions and knew how to give her fans a show. Obessa watched as she lured Kyssindree in, getting the younger Wych to accelerate after her, locking in tight as they approached the upward spiral. Obessa was so far behind, all she could do was watch as Wryn’kill unleashed the last of her turbo charges and shot ahead of Kyssindree, laughing as small metal discs spewed from the back of her bike directly into Kyssindree’s path.

Cluster caltrops! The small proximity mines were a favored weapon of Wryn’kill’s, and she was known for deploying them at high speed and at near suicidal proximity to herself and target alike.

Kyssindree’s bike dodged over the first wave, though she passed close enough to set off a ruinous explosion as the cluster caltrops erupted in clouds of flame and pitch black smoke. In Wryn’kill’s wake the racetrack became a wave of explosions and death as each caltrop burst apart, the shockwaves shaking Obessa’s bones and the waves of fire and smoke hiding everything from her sight.

Wryn’kill leaned back in her bike as the explosions finally subsided, so close had she been to the blasts that her clothes still smoldered. She arched her thin neck and let out the trilling bird-like call that had been her signature of a battle gloriously won.
It was answered by Kyssindree’s undulating war cry.

Bursting from the smoke to Wryn’kill’s side Kyssindree emerged, half of her face scorched, her hair smoldering, and her skin blackened from the smoke save for her flashing white smile. Somehow she had done it, somehow she had actually steered through the explosions due to a mix of reaction time, raw speed, and blind luck.

Wryn’kill’s war cry died out sharply as Kyssindree suddenly juked and dove across her bow, righting herself directly next to the champion of champions. She held up her hand to reveal she had plucked another feather from Wryn’kill’s bike and passionately kissed it.
It was probably the last thing Wryn’kill saw as her head peeled back off her neck, sliced perfectly off by one of Kyssindree’s bladevanes during the pass.

The roar from the crowd was deafening as Kyssindree illegally passed off the course to toss down the feather into one of the passing anti-gravity seating platforms. Kyssindree’s undulating war cry rang out as she spread her arms wide, gesturing for the crowd to rise in glory to her. Obessa felt a clenching tightness release in her chest as she laughed at Kyss’ antics.

Then she saw Cali’q moving in.

His face was twisted up in eager bemusement, his Reaver swooping in from above to drop in right on Kyssindree’s tail. He was already motioning to call out his shot, suggesting the way he was going to split her skull in twain. He winked at her as he did it.

There were two options available to Obessa at that moment. She could simply maintain her course, swooping around the corkscrew track. Kyssindree was probably half deaf from the explosions, and she’d never know what was happening until Cali’q’s bladvane fragmented her head like a fresh melon. Obessa would then be allied to the most highly ranked Wych in the Kabal besides the Succubi themselves, and she knew he favored her in more ways than one. Or, she could open her throttle to full, and take a shortcut up the corkscrew through clouds of razorwings that would probably flay the flesh from her face before she even was given a slim chance to save Kyssindree’s life.

Obessa never hesitated.

The Razorwings reacted in anger and annoyance as she throttled through their lair. A twist of a control stud snapped her bladevanes in as close to her body as she could, praying the defense of blades wound be enough to hold back the carnivorous and aggressive avians. She ducked, twisted, and weaved through them, and then, as she realized how little time she had, she simply chose a straight line and prayed. Feathers and blood sprayed across her as she tore through the flock, razor sharp feathers slashing apart Wychsuit and flesh alike, and even leaving silvery scratches torn across her jetbike’s chassis. She winced as a flutter of wings snapped against her helmet, gouging open the faceplate as though it were curdled cheese.

Still she did not slow.

She never even saw the razorwing coming from the side as it snapped out a wing and raked it across her throat between where her helmet and breastplate met, where only the thin second skin of the Wychsuit protected her.

There was a sharp snap, and she felt a bubbling liquid fill her throat, tasting the tangy iron of her own blood as she coughed it up into her mouth to try to prevent drowning on it.

Still she did not slow.

Then she was there! Bursting out of the cloud of Razorwings she was sweeping down on Cali’q and Kyssindree. She had no time to slow and aim her splinter rifle, and doubted she could manage a bladevane hit, so she simply activated the grav-talons and flew past Cali’q. Her fingers felt numb and unresponsive, but it would be enough she prayed. The ancient technology reached out, tendril thin lances of purple gravimetric energy, snaring Cali’q’s jetbike and pulling it off course with her.

She didn’t even feel the crash, nor did she hear it. All she could feel was the spasms as she coughed up gouts of her own blood, all she could hear were the gurgling sounds of her own breathing as she lay on the floor of the raceway, weakly reaching up to try to staunch the flow of her life.

She could see Kyssindree high above her, smoke curling from her long hair, her hands raised in triumph. She wondered if she would ever look down in time to notice and help her, or if she even cared…


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Obessa was shaken out of her memories by the Incubi marching back into Douraal’s balcony. Zak returned with more than just Sharess Fenlynion, he also brought a minor nobleman half dressed in some Cegorach costume and a smirking mask. Douraal turned to regard the pair of them and Obessa wondered how he felt when he saw the marks of blue lipstick on the man’s muscular chest, or noted how Sharess’ normally immaculately ordered hair was fussed and out of place, her makeup smudged, her bodice only half bound around her slim waist.

“My lord,” Sharess dipped her head in a respectful bow. Behind her the man dressed as Cegorach offered a bewilderingly insulting half wave and incline of his head, almost dismissing the Archon. “To what do I owe this unexpected and,” she glanced sideways at Zak and the Incubi escorting her, “abrupt, summoning?”

Obessa couldn’t help but smile to see the proud Lhamaean brought down a peg.

“There is a Wych fighting in my arena,” Douraal replied, his voice icy and smooth as a polished blade. Sharess and her male companion both glanced down into the arena where Kyssindree still dueled Cali’q. Obessa could see Kyssindree wasn’t doing poorly, but Cali’q was so deadly… The masked man seemed to take some joy from the sight, as his shoulders shook as he laughed at some private jest.

“So I can see,” answered Sharess, her unnaturally deep blue eyes flicked back to Douraal, waiting to see what he’d do next.

“You killed it.”

Sharess didn’t even look frightened at the comment, instead her eyes twinkled in pleasure and a small smile appeared on her features. It was almost like she was a stage magician who had been discovered in the middle of some trick and was impressed anyone had figured it out.

“You knew?”

“Suspected,” Douraal shrugged, “none of my technicians were able to tell me what happened to it, and I can think of only a few persons that clever and the list of those who had any sort of access, much less today, is…limited.”

“You do me honor, my lord, as always.”

Obessa had no idea what sort of ‘honor’ it was to have an Archon claim you had killed something that appeared to be important to him. Douraal even looked more intimidating than normal, it looked like his body was swelling with youth and power now, as more and more soul energy flowed into him.

Douraal motioned to the man, “you take his bed at this time?”

“To be correct,” offered the man dressed as Cegorach, “She took me in her bed, mine is a ways distant from here, though I hope to correct that.”

Douraal turned to the man. The scowling mask of Khaine and the smirking mask of Cegorach regarded each other. One crimson and gold, the other pale ivory and silver, like opposite reflections of each other. But Obessa’s gaze was down to the arena, where Kyssindree was currently winning! She stifled a cheer as she watched Cali’q fall, that too proud face of his twisted n pain as Kyssindree pursued him.

“You,” breathed Douraal slowly.

“Me,” offered the masked man with a mocking half bow.

“You come into my house during a celebration in my honor?”

“It seemed to be the best time to catch you unaware, you did quite the same to me.”

“That at least somewhat forgives your infraction,” Douraal glanced at Sharess, “but we shall discuss it most…carefully afterwards.”

“I of course live only to serve,” offered Sharess as her blazingly blue eyes flicked between the two men, “whichever of my loves happens to survive, naturally.”

“Naturally,” they both said together before returning cold stares to each other.

“She’ll be mine, old man,” offered the Cegorach masked man, “her and everything else here will be mine, as it should be.”

“There is nothing here for you, boy, save death.”

Obessa didn’t even notice the drama happening behind her. She was looking down into the arena where Cali’q had just proven what a coward he was by ordering in the other Bloodbrides. A coward, assuredly, but not a fool. He was laughing as he stumbled back, calling out for medical aid to patch up his wounded knee. Meanwhile, eight Bloodbrides, eight of the deadliest warriors in the whole city, stalked in towards Kyssindree who stood alone wearing little more than her undergarments and a smile, holding a Razorflail and a set of punch spikes as each of the Bloodbrides prepared their custom tools of death dealing.

Obessa glance at Douraal. He wasn’t even looking at her, his hand on her leash was lax and unmindful. There was a long dueling dagger tucked into a decorative sheath on his belt.

She had two options. She could sit here, wait, secure that her fate was decided and she was relatively safe within the service of a powerful Kabal. Also, with the current Sharess situation, she could likely even find a more comfortable future, as Douraal would likely be distracted for a while in the bedchambers.

Or she could steal a knife from her master’s belt, and spring as a half-naked slave down into an arena to fight eight of the deadliest warriors she had ever known to help a friend whose goals and intentions she was utterly uncertain of.

Obessa never hesitated.

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Oh-ho! And Thor gets to post another chapter prior to any comments being made.
Chapter 22 has gone through a couple of re-writes but I think I'm becoming happy with it now and am just working on finishing up some things. Still have some time to toy with it though. If I finish it sooner I may just post all the remaining chapters in one big monster wall. I have now been writing this thing for over a year if the date on the first post is to be believed, so...yeah, looking to finish it up Wink

Interesting bit of random writer insight: Back when I wrote the first chapter I had no idea that Obessa would become anything resembling a main character. As the story grew I realized the idea of a Wych with physical imperfections and an apparent lack of showmanship was actually a fairly interesting idea and expanded on her.

As I approached this chapter I had all sorts of ideas of how to give her the throat injury and how that would tie in with her relationship to Kyssindree. All sorts of plans and ideas flitted through my head and then...then I went back and read Chapter 1 again (y'know, that thing I had written about a year ago) and suddenly I realized I'd included a comment from Kyssindree that Obessa had been injured due to 'ill-conceived stunt flying through a Razorwing flock'

Egads! The whole chapter is ruined, because now Obessa needs to come out of the race without a throat injury! Woe unto me!

But, after a night's rest, I realized that little comment was actually perfect. After all, it was a comment from Kyssindree's perspective, and Kyssindree is a self-centered, megalomaniac, sociopath, so her concept of 'reality' is hardly that of anyone else. Suddenly the idea for how The Race ended gelled in my mind and I actually think I'm a little more fond of it now than the original. That'll teach that dumb Obessa to do stunt flying though, silly girl Wink

Hope you all enjoy.

Next Chapter - The Rescue. Obessa is in the Arena, so is Kyssindree...and so are eight Bloodbrides, let us just say there will be lots of flashing blades, daring acrobatics, and maybe even a few deceptions and betrayals! Should go up sometime around the 18th.

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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Sun Nov 11 2012, 22:37

From my flu-addled state I salute you! Very Happy The race was magnificent and well worth waiting for. I don't want to neglect the previous chapter, either, I loved the interaction between Ben'rik and Wren,

Quote :
If he was bored of the girl that was all well and good, but do yourself a favor and shoot her in the back right away. That’s what Ben’rik would have done, but, he sighed, he did suppose he was an old gentleman at heart.

and will take a continuing delight in just how upset Wren's attention-having is making Kyssindree Very Happy

I feel for Obessa ... well, yes, I know I shouldn't. And I really want to see the resolution between Tael and Douraal ... but again, I don't know exactly what I want to happen ... because one thing I've learned is that a simple sentence like "Chapter 21: The Death of Tael - Part 2 - Tael dies." could mean a lot of things.

You've produced something that both has me really keen to find out what happens next, and at the same time, almost reluctant to see more because the end is approaching. And that emotional rollercoaster is like the rest of the story, compelling me to pay attention until the last word Smile

Incidentally, the date of that first post was my birthday. Happy birthday to me cheers

EDIT:I forgot to add how fantastic the exchange between Tael and Douraal was.

Quote :
“I of course live only to serve,” offered Sharess as her blazingly blue eyes flicked between the two men, “whichever of my loves happens to survive, naturally.”

“Naturally,” they both said together before returning cold stares to each other.

I should have said Tael, Douraal and the Lhamaean.

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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Tue Nov 13 2012, 06:01

@Lady Malys wrote:
one thing I've learned is that a simple sentence like "Chapter 21: The Death of Tael - Part 2 - Tael dies." could mean a lot of things.
I can't imagine how - I mean, tael will die, I'm pretty sure that's a promise Wink

@Lady Malys wrote:
You've produced something that both has me really keen to find out what happens next, and at the same time, almost reluctant to see more because the end is approaching. And that emotional rollercoaster is like the rest of the story, compelling me to pay attention until the last word
Aww.
I will admit that I'll be pretty content to have it finished - but, hey, I'll invariably still write stuff. I've got a few short stories I want to do. I wouldn't mind doing a tale or two centered on my own Kabal's history, and, frankly, I've got ideas for a sequel.. Of course, maybe I'll just get lazy and do something else, but...hey, now there's hope.

I'm glad you liked some of the wordplay. The Douraal/Tael/Sharess stuff was fun because of their specific foibles.
I'll admit I'm not sure if you should or shouldn't feel sorry for Obessa, she does seem to invite a lot of it on herself, but she is still probably the woobie of the story (Wren may have started that way but might be going down a different road now)

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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Tue Nov 13 2012, 23:48

Thor, the Dark Muse of AWESOME WRITING


Need i say more?
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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Mon Nov 19 2012, 20:13

Chapter 20: The Rescue


“Can I get some more drugs? I’m worried you lot may not be exciting enough to keep me awake by yourselves. Of course I do feel pretty high right now, maybe a boy-toy? I do like to do that after a nice clean win…or a dirty one.”

Kyssindree laughed even as her eyes darted around the sandy floor of the arena, looking for the telltale glint of metal that should mark the places where her knives had fallen during her battle with Cali’q. She’d had six of the bloody little things, you would think it’d be easy to spot a couple. The Bloodbrides were already starting to spread out around her, and even Kyssindree had few illusions about what would happen to her if they penned her in, having a ranged weapon would be nice, and she’d always favored knives to the vagaries of a Razorflail.

Not spotting anything, she started walking boldly directly towards the center of their line, where old Mor’osez, that scrawny psychopath, Annal’se, the bestial Kaar’la, and the muscular Cordus waited. Faeth’lyn and Wyst’till were circling to her left, not a surprise as Wyst’till was a cowardly bastard and Faeth’lyn wouldn’t want to get in too close where her pretty face might get scarred. The Klaviskar twins were circling to the right, the two of them, as always, operating as a unit that was more deadly than the sum of its parts. They would bear watching, they were a nasty pair and not above trying to stab someone in the back if they thought it would be funny.

“Kyssindree the Flensing Laugh, you did better against Cali’q than I expected. The boy is too cock-sure sometimes.”

Mor’osez was a tall woman, all lean muscle and long limbs, her sharp and angular face framed by her long locks of dark hair. Kyssindree could see a light spattering of scars on the other woman’s body, and also the telltale signs of slightly sagging skin, a hint of gray in the hair, and a few wrinkles edging in around her cool green eyes. The signs of age creeping in on the older Wych, combined with lacking the funds to kill enough slaves to maintain a properly youthful sheen. Mor’osez had been a legend of the arena when Kyssindree had been but a toddling babe, and her lists of accomplishments was so long that she no longer even bothered with a title, her name alone being enough to bring a crowd to the arena.

Kyssindree had always wanted to kill her.

“I didn’t get a chance to fight you in the vaults.”

“Cali’q felt Grexel would be more amusing as a sparring partner for you I suppose. He had been fornicating her small brains out and had always seemed mildly interested in doing the same to you, so I suspect it turned him on watching you two bleed each other.” Mor’osez shrugged, shaking the ungainly human chain blade weapon off her shoulder so that its tip crunched down into the sand. “Want a chance at me now, little girl…one on one?”

“Do I?” Kyssindree paused and glanced up at the crowds, who were still getting to watch, and hear, the whole display through the holo projectors even if they hadn’t managed to fight their way up to the edge of the arena. They let out thunderous roars of approval. “I don’t know, think your old heart can handle it?”

Mor’osez smirked, a few wrinkles edging her eyes, a long scar showing on her chin. “Proud girl, I was almost going to take it easy on you for putting our little popinjay, Cali’q into his place, but now maybe I’ll make it painful.”

“Don’t hold back on my account, I know I won’t.”

“Good.”

Then the crowd was shouting out in surprise and confusion. Kyssindree felt a stab of annoyance flare through her as she realized that they weren’t paying attention to her. They all turned to see a figure leaping out from the balcony stands of Archon Douraal, grabbing onto a pennant hanging from a long and slender pole, the weight and force of the jump bending the pole downward until the figure released the flag and dropped down into the arena.

“Obessa?” Kyssindree blinked in confused bewilderment as she saw her former racing partner wearing little more than slave garb and holding a long bladed knife in her hand as she ran towards them.

“Interrupting arena executions to save a lover has been de rigueur for a few decades now.” Mor’osez shrugged as she snapped her fingers. “Kaar’la, Annal’se, if you wouldn’t mind?”

“She is already dead,” snarled Kaar’la as the towering and burly woman stood up, flexing her muscular arms, the giggling Annal’se skipping along in her wake.

“Now,” Mor’osez turned back to Kyssindree, clearly nonplussed by the interruption, this all being just another day on the job for her. “Where were we?”

Mor’osez started running forward as she thumbed the activator for the chain sword. The mon’keigh monstrosity squealed to noisy life, emitting a howling screech as she dragged it along in her wake, the teeth churning up the sand in a wild cloud that half hid Mor’osez’s footwork as she sprinted towards Kyssindree. It was a beautiful and intimidating opening.

Of course the old sow had been using it for decades…

Kyssindree cut to her right, circling away from the monstrously large and unwieldy blade, as she cut in to close the range between them, feeling annoyingly certain that she could have already won if she’d had a knife to throw.

Still, as she lunged in with a stab of her razorflail sword, Mor’osez proved shockingly nimble in bringing the hefty blade around to block the blow. The parry sent a jolt of pain reverberating down Kyssindree’s arm and her sword was almost torn from her grip as it felt like her shoulder half dislocated. Then came a sharp counter cut that dipped downward and almost lopped Kyssindree’s whole leg off.

Kyssindree sprang backward, somersaulting in midair before landing nimbly in a guard position. Mor’osez was already on her though, cutting off her angle of escape as that huge and deadly blade chopped through the air in ponderous sweeps of devastation that somehow the canny old harridan kept coming in fast and cunning arcs that made the battlefield feel cramped and lethal.


-------------------------------------------


The two Bloodbrides approached her purposefully. Obessa didn’t even stop her running approach, she was too focused on her objective, she just called out to them, two simple words.

“Stand aside.”

The young one, Annal’se, giggled, her khol rimmed eyes dancing merrily, wicks burned in her hair, wreathing her head in a churning blue smoke that wafted about her child-like features. The Large one, Kaar’la, just snarled and charged. Obessa had seen Kaar’la the Beast fight a few times, she was a powerful woman, strong as an Ur-ghul, twice as mean, and just as likely to try to chew your face off in the middle of a fight. Her charge was to be expected, full of fury and speed, but with a cunning awareness of battle stance hidden within its apparent chaos. The woman wore Hydragauntlets, and as she charged the extraplanar crystal within them reacted to her wishes, forming out terrible claw-like blades.

Kaar’la’s strikes came in a blur, an over and underhand cross, two sharp reverses, and a step through to a spinning backhand that would have torn Obessa in half even if she’d tried to parry it. Instead she stood her ground, ducking and weaving in-between the blows, moving like fluid as she bent backwards underneath the backhand before snapping back up into a standing position, slapping out a sweet kiss with her knife before stepping past Kaar’la who was carried forward by the momentum of her last strike.

“You cower and duck like a Craftworlder.” Kaar’la turned to regard Obessa and lifted her Hydragauntlets again…and then paused. Her snarling face went slack as she glanced down at her right armpit where Obessa’s blade had kissed her so delicately. A spray of red blood gushed out in a streaming mist from the wound that had pierced through her underarm and through the arteries there, coating her arm and side a deep wet crimson. Kaar’la looked back, an expression of shock on her face as she crumpled to the ground.

“Stand aside,” repeated Obessa softly to Annal’se.

“That was as artistic as spitting,” offered the young Wych.

“I’m not like Kyssindree,” said Obessa, “I’m not going to cut you up slowly and give you a chance to get away, I’m going to kill you unless you stand aside.”

She started walking forward again.

Annal’se danced around in front of her for a bit. The girl was the second youngest Bloodbride in the history of the Bloodied Kiss Cult, and her smoking braids of hair and heavily makeup coated face almost made her look more like a child pleasure slave than a gladiator. Then the girl shrugged as she glanced over her shoulder and shouted to the other Bloodbrides.

“Kaar’la’s dead, I’ll need help!” Her face was a wide and mischievous grin as she snapped her head back to Obessa, “let’s dance.”

She shot forward in a half scramble on the ground like a hunting beast. Her opening gambit was to grab a handful of sand from the arena floor and hurl it up into Obessa’s face. Even as Obessa raised her arms to ward off the sand the girl executed a tight pirouette and lashed out with her forearm nightstick-blade in a sharp stab for Obessa’s bare midriff. Obessa barely managed to snap down her knife to parry and in that instant Annal’se drew a dagger from behind her back and slashed it out in a blur. Obessa managed to dance back, receiving only a light cut across her forearm.

“I’m not going to kill you, I’m just going to, how would you say, carve you up slowly?” The girl laughed, clearly having the time of her life.
Obessa promptly kicked up a cloud of sand into her face, easy enough to do as the girl was crouching and prancing about. Though Annal’se rolled away from the cloud, Obessa took the chance to dart through, delivering a sharp side kick to the girl’s ribs as she did and feeling the satisfying crack of bone.

Ahead of her were Faeth’lyn and Wyst’till. Faeth’lyn was wearing a long black and red robe, her glossy red hair hanging in a long plaited loop down her back. Wyst’kill holding a pair of matched dueling blades. Obessa charged them. As expected, Faeth’lyn fell back, looking to avoid the fight on Obessa’s terms. Wrst’kill stood his ground, however, working his knives in an intricate dance as he waded in at her, perhaps thinking her easy prey, perhaps fearful of turning his back.

Obessa’s arm was a blur of motion. Sparks flew as she parried and slashed around Wyst’till’s blades. She would defeat him, given time, but she did not have the time to waste on this battle. She and Kyssindree were facing multiple talented opponents, and the only reason they were still alive was because the Bloodbrides wanted to make it a show and hadn’t chosen to use their superior numbers to their advantage. She needed to do something drastic to deal with Wyst’till and get over to Kyssindree, fighting as a unit the two of them could probably battle their way free of the arena and then…then they’d figure out the next problem.

She tossed up her knife in front of Wyst’till’s face.

It was such an unexpected maneuver that it did catch him by surprise, he tilted his head back to watch the blade go up into the air.
Obessa punched him in the throat as hard as she could.

As he fell, coughing and gagging, she plucked the two dueling knives from his hands and sprang over him to continue towards Kyssindree.

-------------------------------------------


“I’m bored of you now,” Kyssindree mocked Mor’osez. As she spoke she flipped the stud that released the razorflail into its whip configuration. Her eyes were locked on Mor’osez’s whirling mon’keigh sawblade sword even as she insulted her. “It’s a wonder anyone comes to watch your saggy backside anymore, I swear I feel old and feeble just being near you.”

It was hard to tell if Mor’osez had been insulted, but she certainly at least responded with the lethally fast thrust Kyssindree had been hoping for. Even as Mor’osez lunged forward Kyssindree twirled up the razorflail, spinning its whip-like length in a cone around the sawblade, and smiling as the whirring teeth caught hold of the micro-chain cable and blades. Pressing the stud that would have it reconstrict into sword formation, Kyssindree released the weapon quickly, least she be wrenched off balance, and laughed as she watched the sawblade sputter and whine as its gears ground and the razorflail clogged its spinning blades, turning it into nothing more than a badly weighted club of jagged metal.

Mor’osez quickly dropped the weapon, recognizing it as a liability now, and Kyssindree sprang forward, leading with a sharp punch with her knuckle spikes straight for Mor’osez’s face.

“Let’s see how well you manage without your fancy toy you old bi-“

Kyssindree’s taunt died in her throat as Mor’osez reached up and caught the punch. The needle spikes tore straight through the older woman’s palm, jutting out the back of her hand and spraying crimson spatters of blood across her face. Mor’osez didn’t even wince.

Instead her hand clamped down, trapping Kyssindree as she pulled the smaller Wych in closer and promptly head-butted her in the face. Kyssindree cried out in shocked confusion as she felt her nose crunch, a flash of white light flaring across her features. The blow hadn’t even hurt that much, maybe it was just shock, but she was reeling backwards and confused as to why she was being dragged around till she realized Mor’osez still hadn’t released her hand. A knee snapped up, catching Kyssindree just below her ribcage and blasting the breath from her as she was driven to the ground. Mor’osez fell on top of her, a forearm crushing down on Kyssindree’s neck while her mangled hand still held the punch spikes trapped in her grip.

“Two hundred and twelve years ago, they had quite a fascination for unarmed combat with only armor spikes and small punch weapons allowed, if at all.” Mor’osez’s voice was just as calm as it had been at the start of the battle, a clinical and slightly bemused tone and she spoke as casually as one might to a friend in a training match. “I earned my first championship choking the life out of my sister just like I’m doing to you.” Her coal black eyes almost looked distant. “You’re going to feel light, and then you’re just going to float away, it will be very peaceful…”

Kyssindree could already feel her body going limp. She kicked her feet a few times, trying to reach up and hook any part of Mor’osez’s body to pull her off. But the older Wych had positioned herself too far forward on Kyssindree’s chest. Her one free hand delivered a few kidney punches to Mor’osez’s muscular abdomen to little effect and then began scrambling to try to get ahold of the forearm, but with all of the larger woman’s weight pressed down on her it was an unlikely attempt at best. Finally she was left just clawing up at the face above her, fingers trying to hook into an eye and tear it open. All while Mor’osez softly shushed her and the world seemed to grow dimmer.

Then a blur shot past and suddenly all the weight was off her again. Kyssindree coughed and gagged as she sat up weakly, blinking to try to center herself.

“Kyss, here! Cover me!”

A pair of finely wrought dueling knives was tossed to her, and Kyssindree barely managed to catch them in numb fingers. She coughed again and drew in a deep and wracking breath as she fought to her feet, only now seeing her rescuer.

Obessa stood there, her knuckles bloodstained, her long purple hair billowing wildly around her face, the soft silks of her slave garb spinning about as she moved revealing haunting flashes of her barely hidden assets. Mor’osez stood before her, nose and cheek bleeding, though her face remained calmly dispassionate. She threw out a sharp roundhouse that Obessa ducked under, and followed through with a spinning backhand that Obessa blocked before delivering a punishing left cross to Mor’osez’s face. The older wych stumbled back, trying to keep up her guard as Obessa ducked and weaved around her, lashing out with sharp elbows and open hand chops.

The crowd was chanting her name.

Kyssindree stood up straight, wiping the blood drooling from her nose and realized she must look almost the fool at this point. Mor’osez knew how to dismantle a foe, and she had chosen to rob Kyssindree of her beauty and pride and then slowly kill her like a hapless child. But apparently even Mor’osez couldn’t stop…Obessa? Kyssindree looked around at the cheering crowds, and could see that every monitor in the arena was showing nothing but the battle between Mor’osez and Obessa as the stunning wych battled and broke down the older veteran. She could hear Obessa’s name on their lips, see their eyes watching her athletic body clothed only in thin, swirling silk.

Looking around Kyssindree could see the other Bloodbrides closing in. The Klaviskar twins sat arm in arm watching the battle, apparently as entranced by Obessa’s fight as the crowd was. Annal’se and Wryn’kill were closing in, both looking bloody murder at Obessa and clearly bearing marks of where they’d fought and lost to her, Wyst’till’s swollen throat which he was injecting with a fresh dose of combat drugs, and Annal’se’s face dirtied with red sand. Faeth’lyn had fallen back to stand by Cordus and was reaching up insider her long robe, her hands came back out clutching two throwing daggers each.

She and Cordus began to advance, and Kyssindree could see Feath’lyn’s emerald eyes flickering between her and Obessa. She had seen Faeth’lyn manage to catch a Razorwing in flight with a thrown blade, and Cordus was a master of entangling and slowing his targets. It was clear that the two of them in concert would be deadly, and it was also clear that they intended to rescue Mor’osez. Kyssindree glanced over her shoulder at Obessa who was currently beating down Mor’osez, her finely muscled back to Faeth’lyn, a back she thought Kyssindree was guarding.

Kyssindree stepped aside and motioned invitingly for Faeth’lyn to proceed.

The Bloodbride looked confused, but with Cordus in front of her felt safe as well, so she simply shrugged and hurled her blades.

With picture perfect precision they slapped into Obessa’s back and the young wych cried out in pain. Mor’osez wasted no time, eager for the opening she cracked Obessa hard across the chin with a sharp uppercut and staggered away from her as Obessa dropped to the sands.

Kyssindree smiled as she lifted up her dueling daggers and eyed the other Bloodbrides. All the cameras would have to be back on her now.
“So, where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?”


-------------------------------------------


Sharess watched Archon Douraal and Tael face off. She was not often thrilled or excited by much, but these two, focused so intently on making sure the other was dead, these two cunning and deadly men. This she could get excited for. She could feel a flutter jump in her heart as Douraal reached out to a slave and took a glass of onyxberry wine off the platinum platter there. He offered it to Tael, who graciously accepted.

“You think you’ve some chance of winning this, don’t you?” Douraal took a glass of wine for himself.

“You know I do, or I wouldn’t be here.”

“You’re stalling,” offered Douraal.

Sharess had suspected the same thing, and Tael’s laughter suggested he knew they both had seen through him. Douraal had a handful of counter moves available to him at this point, and Sharess realized she was actually aroused in wondering which he’d choose. Which of them had plotted this exchange more cleverly? Douraal was at some disadvantage because Tael had planned for this encounter, but Tael had also walked right into the center of Douraal’s power.

“I could have my Incubi cut you to ribbons right now,” Douraal mused.

“That seems a wise precaution,” Tael admitted.

Can’t work, thought Sharess, he had to have planned for that, but how? Incubi tended to be quite loyal as long as they were employed…

“Grant him release.” There was an uncomfortable pause. Sharess smirked when she noticed that Zak was busy watching Obessa duel the Bloodbrides in the arena. “Klaivex!” Douraal barked Zak’s title and caught the Incubus’ attention once more. “I ordered you to kill this man.”

The Incubus nodded and drew his blade.

“Before you do that,” sighed Tael as he removed his smirking mask to reveal he bore an almost identical expression. He took a small sip of the wine and nodded in approval to Douraal. “It might behoove you to check your contract.”

Zak paused. He glanced at Douraal and then pulled back a latch on his gauntlet to reveal a small gleaming green screen and control pad. He tapped a small button there, the lights on the screen pulsed amber markings. Zak turned to Douraal, his voice hissing out from within his skull mask.

“You are in arrears for payment.”

“Nonsense, I sent it out just this morning with a brace of Scourges…” Douraal frowned as he glanced at Tael. “Well played,” he admitted.

“A simple matter, I needed money for this costume in any case.”

“Hurm.”

Zak bowed stiffly to Douraal. “Until such time as the contract is honored, we regret to inform you that the protection of our temple is withdr-“

“I know what it means, you fool,” snarled Douraal.

“I wish you well, Archon, if you will excuse me.” Zak bowed to Douraal and then to Sharess as well, as always, impeccably polite. Then he turned and leaped off the balcony down into the arena. leaving behind the rest of his Incubi who simply turned and marched out, while Douraal looked on in confusion.

“Where is he going?”

“That,” Sharess smiled, “is why I won our wager this morning.”


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She could hear the fighting around her, but her entire world had devolved into two tiny points of pain. Her hands reached up, scrabbling along her back until they found the handles wrapped in smooth cured strips of hide. Her fingers curled around them with a grunt as she pulled first one and then the other out of her flesh. She hissed in pain, but bit her lip to prevent any screams as she forced her eyes open once more.

She could see Kyssindree there, dancing around Cordus as the Bloodbride swept his net around to try to snare her. Wyst’till was there as well, a fresh shortblade in his hand as he attempted to slip in back of Kyssindree to stab her from behind.

Behind…Obessa’s brow furrowed as she considered that thought. She felt like there was something she should remember about a strike from behind, but her head was too jumbled to think right now. She pushed herself to her feet, maybe if she just started killing some more Bloodbrides it would all become clearer. The suffused cloud of pain and reflected agonies from all the killing done in Douraal’s name seemed to be filling her with energy despite her wounds, and she found her feet were not as shaky as she might have feared.

“Hey, hey, the slave’s okay,” Annal’se’s giggled cry brought Obessa to her senses quick enough, and her gaze snapped up to consider the girl walking towards her. On either side of Annal’se walked an identical dark elder, the Klaviskar twins. One was smiling and the other bore no expression at all, but that was the only way to tell the two perfect white haired wyches apart. “Gonna carve you up, pretty face,” Annal’se’s mad grin grew wider, “gonna start at that scar and peel your face right off, wear it in my thong on cold nights maybe.”

Obessa didn’t bother with banter, she just started to move forward…and then stopped. Her eyes saw the figure in black armor approaching behind them. The Klaviskar twins saw her expression and both turned. The smiling one waved.

“You get lost, tall, dark, and skull-y?”

“No, I am not lost.” Zak’s voice echoed out of his helmet, calm and without emotion. He was still walking forward even as he spoke. “Step away from her or die.”

“This isn’t a battlefield pretty-skull-face-boy.” The talkative twin dropped into a battle stance, her sister mirroring it perfectly. “You might not belong here, yeah?”

“It’s all a battlefield.”

Zak was then attacking, he had issued a warning and they had ignored it and taken battle stance towards him, his was a world of very clear absolutes. His klaive hummed through the air as the Klaiviskar twins danced to either side of him, a common strategy to split their opponent’s attentions and cut him to ribbons. But, if Zak was distressed by fighting a battle on either side of him he did not show it. His blade flowed almost like liquid silver, first on one side then the other of him. Attacking, defending, pushing one sister away and then drawing in the other as he battered her defenses. The one twin laughed maniacally as the other silently tried to find a hole in his defenses.

“Want to know how we got our name? We used to carve up Incubi all the time.” The smiling twin laughed. “Gonna cut you up now, skull-boy, keep you as a broken pet, maybe?”

Zak’s answer came in the form of a fresh flurry of attacks.

The quiet twin went down first, a sharp thrust at her side opened a deep gouge that dropped her to the ground. His coup de grace of an overhand chop was partially deflected as the loud sister sprang forward to block the blow with her slender sword. The klaive sheared through metal, flesh, and bone alike as he took off her arm just above the elbow. She squealed as she collapsed, blood spraying across the sands as her sister tried to help her.

Annal’se struck then, a sprinting lunge meant to cut him from behind. Obessa shouted a warning, but she had a feeling Zak had already known the attack was coming. He spun around, moving away from her stab while at the same time sweeping out his klaive in an arcing backhand that sheared her head neatly off her neck. It spiraled through the air, blue smoke spinning off the still smoldering braids.

A snap of Zak’s wrist splattered the sands with red blood as he walked towards her. Obessa raised her daggers. Zak came up short, his head cocking to the side as he considered her, and then he chuckled and raised his hand in surrender.

“You win, my side still hurts from last time.”

“You…you’re not here under Douraal’s orders?”

“I am here under no orders.”

“Then,” she stepped closer, considering the unreadable, reflective, eye slits of his skull mask, “what are you doing here?”

“I thought,” Zak glanced off to where Kyssindree still fought the other Bloodbrides, “you looked to need someone to watch your back.” Obessa followed his gaze, watching as Kyssindree laughed with glee as she danced amongst the Bloodbrides, dueling with them as she mocked their talents.

“Kyss let Faeth’lyn throw the knives into my back, didn’t she?”

“Yes.”

“You were right about her.” Zak didn’t say anything and Obessa softly smiled as she turned to him. “I’m an idiot, you’re allowed to say it.”

“I do not say things I do not believe.”

She kissed him then. Reaching up to grab one of the wrought horns of his helmet she pulled down the skull mask and kissed it forcefully, leaving a red mark from her bloodstained lips on the white mask. She released him then, leaving him in confused silence. He probably thought her mad then, but it didn’t matter, she had clarity to her now. She had not been wrong, she had just thought differently…well maybe it was time she started demanding others treat her differently. She turned to walk towards Kyssindree.

“Where are you going?”

“To settle this.”


-------------------------------------------


“You clearly think you can win this in some manner.” Douraal still spoke calmly to Tael, clearly having as much interest in trying to figure out his plan as Sharess did. “You would not throw your life away.”

“Certainly not after all I’ve done to preserve it, your men seemed quite intent to see me dead.”

“You were never supposed to wake up,” noted Douraal with a shrug. “You were an anomaly, a mistake, a glitch in the system. It was only appropriate that we took measures to correct the error.”

“To correct the error…” Tael’s grin grew brittle as he considered Douraal. “Is that what you call it? Sending your Trueborn after me? Hunting me through the warrens with an Ur-ghul like some sort of beast, as though I was fit to do no more than die?” He tossed aside his glass, it shattered in the corner and Sharess grinned at the sight. “Well I made a decision not to die, not until I’d managed to come back here and-“

“And what?” Douraal set aside his glass of wine, a low chuckle shaking his shoulders. “What did you expect of me? Yours is the petulant mewlings of an undisciplined brat. A child.”

“This ‘child’ is about to destroy you, old man.”

“Indeed?” Douraal gestured over his shoulder at the expanse of his fortress palace. “I have thousands of warriors at my direct command and thousands more indebted to me by blood, contract, or threat. My fortress is impregnable, and you are my prisoner. So, tell me, what makes you think that you are about to destroy me?”

“Tell you?” Tael was suddenly all smiles again as he pulled out a timepiece and smirked at it. “How about I show you…right…now!” He snapped his fingers and laughed.

Sharess glanced around carefully, her deep blue eyes scanning for any sign of Tael’s plan.

Douraal coughed to clear his throat and then smirked. “Perhaps my plans were better than yours?”

Tael’s face went pale.


-------------------------------------------


“Why wait?”

“Because I think it will really piss Tael off,” answered Ben’rik with a laugh as he waited for the counter to slip a few more seconds past deadline. Then he motioned with his blast pistol to the tech Wren had fetched, still whimpering from the claw marks torn across his face to ensure his cooperation. “You can shut it down now. Also, do you have any alcohol down here at all? I find slaughter to be much better experienced drunk.”


-------------------------------------------


“Isn’t there anyone!?!” Kyssindree danced under Cordus’ thrust and slashed one of her blades across his ribs. He managed to twist away from the worst of the blow and respond with a sharp snap of his net, but by then she was already gone. “Isn’t there any of you able to face me?”

First one blade slapped into the sand by her feet, and even as Kyssindree backpedaled from it another slapped down right where she had just dodged from. She rolled to her side, a bounding leap that she sprang up from to turn towards Faeth’lyn. But the Bloodbride knife master was still down by Mor’osez, trying to help the old wych back to her feet after the beating she’d received from Obessa. Kyssindree glanced again at the knives and followed their angle to see…

“Obessa.”

“Everyone stand back,” Obessa actually stated it like an order to the three Bloodbrides. Wyst’till immediately retreated, and even Cordus moved back, a look of curiosity on his face. Obessa was still half naked, and now carried a long dueling knife. Her long purple hair blew fitfully in the light wind snaking through the arena and her hands were slick with her own blood. “You tried to kill me, Kyss.”

“I would say Faeth’lyn tried to kill you, let’s be honest, if I’d thrown knives into your back I would have aimed better.” She smirked. “What are you doing?”

“Was it that you never thought I was good enough, or was it that you were scared I was too good?”

“What are you talking about?” Kyssindree flashed a smile as she started walking forward. “Bessa, I was trying to kill them for you, together we’ll just do it a little quicker.” As usual, Obessa was probably all confused by her laughably twisted emotions. Kyssindree figured all she really needed to do was walk up a bit closer and then slash her throat open while the girl was still befuddled.

“Back at the Hellion camp, where you going to come with me?”

“Of course I was,” Kyssindree laughed, “it’s silly to think otherwise, you were trying to save me, just like you tried to save me here. You’ve always been the one friend I knew I could trust…my only friend.” She breathed the last softly, she was almost close enough to strike. It would be quite funny and artistic, and the crowd which had grown so silent in anticipation would cheer to watch such beautiful betrayal. “You’ve always helped me, and I’ve always loved you for it.”

“That makes me happy.” Obessa smiled sadly. Her voice was still all ugly and scratchy from the old throat wound, which was why slashing it open again would be so funny.

“’Bessa,” Kyssindree held out her arms for an embrace as she stepped forward.

“Kyss…”

Kyssindree smiled sweetly, as her knife slashed in for Obessa’s throat, she could see it now, the cut perfectly bisecting that ugly Razorwing scar, ripping open her throat, the blood would spray on Kyssindree’s face and she would be able to taste it on her lips. Maybe she would even kiss the silly sow as she died, choking on her own blood.

Obessa’s blade snapped up in a blur, blocking Kyssindree’s slash, the hilts locking together firmly. Kyssindree looked into Obessa’s eyes and saw anger there, like a volcano just ready to erupt, bubbling and dangerous heat beneath the colder surface.

Above them the twinkling lights of the shields protecting the palace winked out. With a soft hum all of the lights, and holo projectors, and gun emplacements, and all else in the courtyard fell silent and went dead from lack of power.

Lights appeared in the sky again, hundreds, no thousands of tiny flickering orange lights. Kyssindree could see them reflected in Obessa’s dark eyes and along the mirrored edges of their blades, but she couldn’t bring herself to look away from that gaze. Obessa was looking at her with a cold hatred that made Kyssindree’s mouth go dry, and it slowly began to dawn on her that she was feeling afraid.

Above her the lights became closer and clearer, and the guests and guards realized what was descending towards them was an army of Hellions, the flickering flames of their skyboards lighting their approach. Flying alongside them came re-purposed pleasure craft, filled to overflowing with heavily armed gangers, beating their blades against the hulls as they chanted war cries. Flitting in and amongst the crowded sky were Scourges as well, their armor glittering red and deadly, their weapons already starting to unleash streams of dark matter at the weapon emplacements and guard posts as they descended.

But it wasn’t until the Hellions shrieked, brandishing their hellglaives and howling and gibbering out curses as they swept down from above that the Dark Eldar below them realized their plight and began to run for cover.

The final assault on Archon Douraal and The Kabal of Shattered Soul had begun.

Obessa batted away Kyssindree’s blade as she stepped back from her, ignoring the splinter pods, and dark lances firing through the darkness, ignoring the screams of the guards and guests as they were cut down, ignoring the battle cries of the Hellions as they swept in to sow chaos and death. She simply lifted her blade and fell into a ready combat stance. An explosion rocked the arena and a fireball flared into the sky, igniting the darkness and casting sharp orange light across Obessa as she smiled.

“I want to see if you can make me famous.”

Kyssindree swallowed nervously as she raised her own blades.




=====================================
=====================================
=====================================

Next chapter...Tael dies! Wink
Also, other stuff happens. There might be sort of a Obessa v. Kyssindree battle. Wren may make a very important decision. Ben'rik may figure out one of the biggest secrets of the war. Zak may look cool and enigmatic.
Plus, sex, drugs, and whatever type of music DE prefer (heaven knows the discussion thread on that one has strongly differing opinions Wink )

I'm relatively certain I'll post both of the last chapters up as one mega chapter posting.
I've gone about two days now without changing anything in the last chapter...I'm just not sure if I like the ending yet, may need to toy with it a bit more.

But, still, probably the grand final chapter posting will happen around the 26th next week.
And then I get to do my 'I'm done' happy-jig.

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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Tue Nov 20 2012, 01:42

Kyssindree, your fear is sweet.

Another chapter full of interesting things that I'm adding to see if I can guess at the final revelations Very Happy As well as action! romance! drama! slightly less drunk Ben'rik! My highlights this time would have to be Obessa, and hubris and flashy spotlight-hogging losing to age, experience and sheer bloody minded Will. Fantastic Very Happy

I owe myself half a cookie for thinking Zak might get involved, but only a small one as the elegance of the reason he was able to quite caught me by surprise Smile

I am of course, looking forward to seeing how this all ends!

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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Tue Nov 20 2012, 03:46

I'll admit I may have sort of fallen in love with Mor'osez as a character - I may be obligated to do a story featuring her at some point. I'll be frank, the Bloodbrides really only got this chapter and the next one to have any spotlight time, and I loved doing all of them, even the poor slobs who got carved up before they were able to have much time in the spotlight. They're an interesting bunch.

During our chats it was also clear your foresaw some of the bits with Zak. You deserve your partial cookie.
I'll also say there might be an Easter Egg for you in the last chapter, also from those chats.

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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Tue Nov 20 2012, 14:52

Well, anyone who has managed to get as far as 'slightly aging' in the Dark City is obviously, to anyone with less arena sand between her ears, not someone to take lightly Wink If Mor'osez is still a Bloodbride then it must be because she can keep the position.

Aha! I shall enjoy my partial cookie even more Very Happy And I shall eagerly await the revelations that there might be ...

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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Thu Nov 29 2012, 21:09

Chapter 21: The Death of Tael - Part 2

Archon Douraal watched as the invaders descended from the sky. The Hellions were already darting in and amongst his guests, tearing and cutting at the cream of the nobility that had come to his party. Kabalite Warriors swarmed out of their barracks to give battle to the invaders, and fought to establish beachheads against the swarming throngs of wild gangers and howling Hellion swarms. He could hear noises from his pleasure gardens, and the excited snarls and cries of the exotic beasts there as they let their presence be known to the foolish gangs that had landed in the outer ring.

Sharess watched his expression and felt a thrill wash through her body at the sight of it. Her face flushed slightly in pleasure.

“You took down the generators.”

“I did.” Tael stepped up to the edge of the balcony and let out a sharp whistle as he held up his hand. One of the passing Hellions zoomed lower, tossing him a hellglaive. Tael caught the bladed polearm easily as he turned to look at Douraal. “It’s time we settle this, old man.”

“I quite agree,” Douraal’s voice was low and calm, and that only excited Sharess more as she realized he was not yet feeling outmaneuvered. “The throne room?”

“The throne room,” agreed Tael, that haunting smirk of his on his face.

The two of them walked down the hallway, Sharess trailing after them. They each walked close to a wall, keeping their gaze attentively on the other as they marched down the silent and dark halls of the palace. As one they pushed on the gilded doors that swung into the huge throne room. Douraal’s throne was there, on its raised obsidian dais the stark white bone of the chair glinted even in the darkness.

Douraal walked up to it, slowly undoing the clasps of his crimson cape and allowing it to drop to the floor. He pulled forth his sword, the blade coated in a glittering green glow of the self-replicating poisonous virus that inhabited the blade within a thin resistance field. His sleek golden armor shone in the dim phosphorescent glow of the viral poison. His golden Khaine mask looked fearsome in the murky light.

Tael was all smiles, bouncing lightly on the balls of his feet, the small bells on his jester uniform jingling merrily as he twirled the hellglaive around in slow arcs. His icy blue eyes considered Douraal carefully.

“You cannot win here, boy, I foresaw this attack and planned for it.”

“If that is true,” laughed Tael, “why risk fighting me yourself?”

“Perhaps that too is part of my plan, it appears to be part of yours.”

They both laughed, and Sharess hugged herself in eager anticipation as they both advanced.


-------------------------------------------


Ben’rik and Wren moved up the steps at a quick run, though Ben’rik’s run was a little wobbly thanks to the rather potent bottle the menial had handed him. He really should have bothered to ask what it was before having Wren rip the man’s throat open, because whatever it was it tasted amazing and kicked like a Clawed Fiend.

They entered into a wide chamber which housed a massive dining table and a balcony that stretched the length of the hall looking out into the pleasure gardens below. Ben’rik quickly stumbled over to the balcony and looked out upon the battle below and above.

Hellions filled the sky, zipping through the baroque architecture of the palace. Some were hurling firebombs down on the buildings, others let out wild bursts of splinter pod fire as they swooped past windows, most had descended to sweep along just above the heads of the people on the ground, lashing out with their hellglaives to hook the blades into defenders and rip them open.

Raiders and other pleasure barges had dropped down onto the grounds as well, disgorging the street gangs. They rushed about in undisciplined mobs, catching at nobles and dragging down the lords and ladies by their silken clothing. Their blades flashed in the darkness as they battled the Kabalite Warriors who were fighting to hold their defensive lines. Already it was clear that the looting and raping had begun in earnest.

The skies overhead were a nightmare dance of shadows and darklight beams. Douraal’s air skimmers were fighting a losing battle to the sweeping clouds of the Scourges. Ben’rik could see Glyvius and a brace of his winged brethren landing upon one of the Ravagers, tearing apart the crew of the gunship before pointing it towards one of the gun towers and putting it on maximum thrust as the sprang off its deck, their dark wings spreading wide as they swooped up into the night, illuminated from the explosive fireball of the Ravager exploding as it struck the tower. Already blood was starting to fall like rain, and the Scourges let out haunting screeches of joy as they claimed dominion of the skies over Shattered Soul.

“Don’t move.” Ben’rik glanced over his shoulder slowly to see a squad of eight Kabalite Warriors entering the chamber. They bore the markings and colors of Shattered Soul, and their splinter rifles were pointed directly at him and Wren. “Who are you?”

“Guests,” offered Ben’rik weakly as he raised his hands in surrender, “friends?”

“Death.” Wren’s answer was quiet, though the Kabalite Warriors clearly heard it as they began to laugh. Their leader raised his splinter rifle, pointing it right at the slip of a girl in the bird costume.

They didn’t laugh for long though, as black shapes suddenly poured through the huge balcony window, wafting around Wren as they filled the chamber. Ben’rik cursed as he hurled himself to the floor, above him he could hear the flapping of wings, the screeching of birds, and the inhuman howls of pain from the Kabalites. He peered up from the ground to see all eight of them being flayed alive as the Razorwings descended on them, the hunting birds slashing open flesh and armor as though it was nothing, their black and blue metallic pinions, claws, and beaks shredding them to pieces as the birds fought over eyeballs and other choice bits of meat as they worked their way towards their true goal, the bones. In a matter of a few heartbeats all that remained was churning crowds of black birds and the cracking sound of bones being torn and splintered apart.

Ben’rik looked over to Wren who sat crouched on the railing of the balcony, her pet Razorwing sitting on her shoulder, its dark eyes glaring down at him. Wren’s face was unreadable behind the hooked bird mask she wore but she looked down on him and Ben’rik felt himself suddenly wishing he could burrow down into the floor.

“Good…good job, Wren.” He tried to smile, but it felt brittle.

She looked at him very closely for a moment, her head tilting slowly to the side, the flashing and angry purple streaks of darklight fire casting her in ominous shadows as she crouched on the balcony railing. Ben’rik wasn’t sure when it had happened, but he suddenly became painfully aware that he was no longer her superior. She’d always been dangerous, but also quite controllable. That was all gone now. His only consolation was that, though he had manipulated the silly girl quite a bit, he’d always tried to be subtle and polite about it. He didn’t try to move, and eventually she turned away from him, letting out a haunting screech as she turned and sprang out the window in a billowing swirl of her feathered cloak. The swarm of Razorwings flowed out after her in a skirling wash of bloodstained feathers and dead black eyes.

Ben’rik let out his breath as he slowly stood up, and then took a fortifying swig from his bottle. It would probably be wise to find some handy loot and maybe a saucy wench who wouldn’t fight too much, and then he definitely needed to get out of this madhouse.


-------------------------------------------


Cali’q stormed back into the arena, a fresh pair of razorflails in his hands and murder on his mind. He’d already seen the bodies of Annal’se and Kaar’la dragged into the curative workshop he had been being worked on in, as well as the wounded and dismembered Klaviskar twins. He was not going to sit by while his Bloodbrides where sliced to pieces, and he also fully intended to pay back Kyssindree in kind for what she had done to him.

As he reentered the arena he saw naught but chaos around him, a full blown invasion of the palace was going on. But that didn’t matter to him, he was a Bloodbride of Bloodied Kiss, this whole Kabal could burn down around Douraal’s ears for all he cared. He stalked forward, seeing the other Bloodbrides skulking together in a small clump. Beyond them he could see Kyssindree dueling…Obessa?

He approached the Bloodbrides, reaching out he grabbed at the plaited loops of Faeth’lyn’s hair and hauled back on them. She hissed in pain but fought the urge to cry out just to spite him. He sneered down at her and then looked at the others. “What are you all doing here?”

“Mor’osez is hurt,” grunted Cordus, as usual thinking of the other Bloodbrides as something to be protected and dealt with as a cohesive unit. The man was a rampaging moron.

“We thought it best to wait till she recovered enough to help us fight,” added Wyst’till nervously, edging behind Cordus in case his words brought any retaliation from Cali’q.

“I just need a few moments,” mumbled Mor’osez numbly. She was injecting some drugs into her arm, and looking rather lost as she half sat on the ground. Cali’q promptly kicked her in the head, sending her crashing to the ground again.

“You don’t need her, I’m here,” he sneered, “now what is the problem here killing two wyches with three Bloodbrides?”

“Not just wyches,” came Faeth’lyn’s whispered answer as he continued to haul her head around by the hair. She pointed at a dark shape lurking in the shadows and smoke of the fight. “He forbids us to interfere.”

Cali’q considered the lone Incubus standing in the arena, intently watching the duel of the two wyches. He glared down at Faeth’lyn and spat in her face before shoving her away. “Cordus, with me, Wyst’till, to the left side, come in at the same instant.” He started walking forward. “See if that useless bint can manage to throw a few knives or do a few tricks to help us as well.” He stalked forward clanging his blades together as he approached the Incubus. “It might be wise to step aside.”

The Incubus turned around to look at their approach, his klaive resting casually on his shoulder, though Cali’q could spot that he had already placed his feet at the ready, balanced and prepared to attack, defend, or retreat, as needed. He didn’t say anything, but he most assuredly didn’t step aside.

“Cut him apart.” Cali’q smirked as he motioned for the others to start their attack.

Faeth’lyn struck first, a pair of blades snapping through the air for the Incubus’ face, while three more came spiraling in for his belly. The klaive moved in a humming blur as he swung it out, sidestepping some of the knives and deflecting the others as he suddenly moved towards Wyst’till. The Bloodbride snarled as he lunged in low with his short sword, Cordus barreling in from behind with shardnet and Impaler at the ready.

The Incubus parried Wyst’till’s lunge and then angled his blade to drive the point down into the sand. At the same instant he sprang into the air, anticipating the shardnet that was sweeping in to hook his feet, instead all it did was snarl around Wyst’till’s sword. Cordus was fast though, and stabbed up with his Impaler. But the Incubus twisted in midair, his klaive locking with and blocking the Impaler. As he landed he reversed his grip on his blade, rotating it and catching the Impaler in a notch of his sword.

Normally the plot of a sword-breaking notch like that would be to snap smaller and more fragile weapons, but the durasteel shaft of an Impaler was unlikely to be snapped so easily. Thus, with Cordus as the larger and more physically potent of the pair, it should be a simple matter of sheer strength. Cordus grinned as he pulled his spear upwards and then drove down towards the Incubus’ chest.

The Incubus bent like a willow, and suddenly twisted to the side again. As if by magic he freed the Impaler from his klaive as he spun back and away. As he did one of his hands swung his blade around in a tight arc, catching Cordus on the side. Only the banded armor there saved his life, for it slightly deflected the power blade, though the armor still sheared open and as the Incubus pulled his blade out Cordus staggered backwards to a knee, blood spilling from his wound. The Incubus retreated a half step and then turned towards Wyst’till who had just freed his sword.

In one slash Wyst’till’s head left his shoulders, spiraling through the air. The Incubus turned back in time to parry another brace of throwing blades. Faeth’lyn darted forward, grabbing Cordus’ shoulder and hauling the large man back even as he was pulling out a dueling knife and preparing to go at the skull faced Incubus again.

“Impressive.” Cali’q had watched the man’s movements, his mind analyzing them for any weakness. He was sure it was there, he just had to figure out the small gaps, and extrapolate them to learn how to overcome him. “But it will do no good. Do you know who I am?”

“Cali’q, called the Counter.”

“Indeed, and now that I’ve seen your style-“

“One.”

Cali’q paused in mid-sentence. The Incubus was holding up a single finger.

“Pardon me?”

“One.”

“Really? I am a Syren of the Bloodied Kiss, I have slain more opponents in single combat than most have even seen on a battlefield, I can accurately predict how many blows it will take to kill-“

“One.” The Incubus motioned for Cali’q to come forward.

“You can’t kill me in one move!”

“Then you have nothing to fear. Step forward.”

Cali’q licked his lips nervously, his fingers fumbling with his razorflails as he looked at the inscrutable skull mask with reflective eye slits in front of him. The man was good, no doubt, but ‘one’? Preposterous! But, his style was deadly and fast, maybe he had some new maneuver, a certain death maneuver? But Cali’q could probably counter it, couldn’t he? He swallowed and licked his lips again. The Incubi didn’t move a muscle.

When the hand came down on his shoulder Cali’q almost jumped in surprise. He glanced over his shoulder to see the bloody face of Mor’osez. She had retrieved her ungainly mon’keigh chainsword and stood ready next to him.

“The audience is gone,” she offered simply. Cali’q looked around at the carnage around him. She was right. “We were paid to perform at the party. The party is over.” Cali’q looked up into her cold black eyes. He had known Mor’osez long enough to know that nothing scared the woman, though she was cautious and conservative when it came to risking the lives of underlings and herself.

“You’re saying we should run away?”

“I’m saying we should walk to an exit cutting our way through anyone who stands between us and our Cult. I don’t see how dueling an Incubus in service to the Archon we were sent to perform for is remotely worth the bother.”

Behind her he could see Faeth’lyn nodding. Cordus made no motion, holding his knife and bleeding wound and just waiting for an order. Cali’q frowned, glancing back at the Incubus who had returned to watching the dueling wyches. He spat on the ground.

“There will be another time, for you.”

Cali’q turned and motioned for the Bloodbrides to withdraw, let the Shattered Soul take care of its own problems, there was no glory to be had here for him anymore.


-------------------------------------------


Kyssindree slowly circled to her right side away from where Obessa held her knife. Not that she was sure it mattered. Obessa had always been too clumsy and stupid to figure out how to fight with a weapon in each hand, but she was equally talented in fighting alone with either hand and had an annoying habit of doing mid-stroke hand switches which were damnably hard to properly trace, which was why Kyssindree currently had a rather painful slash stitched across her inner thigh.

This was starting to remind her of her awful Beastmaster induced nightmare, and Kyssindree shook her head to try to clear away that thought quickly, not enjoying the memory of that dream Obessa defeating her. She just needed to change the dynamic of the battle a bit. Obessa had such a slow head for combat that Kyssindree knew that all she needed was some way to shake things up, and the poor wretch would likely go down easy enough while trying to figure out what was happening. Then she saw it, one of her fallen daggers lying in the sand beyond where Obessa stood. Kyssindree smiled, if she could get to that blade…well, things would get a lot more interesting.

She charged forward, looking to unleash a flurry of slashes before darting past Obessa again. But, the churlish sow stepped into her path, trying to force Kyssindree to fight her. With two blades it really should be a simple contest, but Obessa had become damnably clever and quick. She parried half of Kyssindree’s attacks, and moved to continually force Kyssindree to reposition herself to bring her second blade into play, and by the time she had invariably Obessa was darting around her again.

And single blade to single blade, Kyssindree was begrudgingly beginning to realize, meant that Obessa would win.

Their knives flashed in the darkness, lit only by the flames of the burning palace and the flickering bursts of darkmatter shots. Obessa hadn’t said anything since the battle started. Kyssindree had taunted her, cajoled her, even just screamed random questions, but she had gone dead quiet. Their knives moved in a blur, Kyssindree trying to batter Obessa’s blade to one side or the other to gain an opening. But every time she thought she had found one Obessa would flick the blade over to her other hand, twisting her body out of danger before renewing the attack. She just had to separate her from her blade, and then she could cut her down.

Kyssindree executed a few wild and swirling attacks, big, wide, and flashy. It was risky, but as was expected, Obessa chose to simply step back and away from the shots. If she had been willing to expend more energy or to take a risk she could have stayed closer in and perhaps managed to score a serious hit on Kyssindree. Instead she had given her a perfect means to slip away again, and this time Kyssindree moved towards the fallen blade.

“So predictable, Bessa, so slow, and stupid, and ugly, and predictable.”

Obessa stretched out a small kink in her neck and started slowly stalking forward again, her eyes cold and burning with focused intensity.

“You’re like a dog, a dog so offended that it was kicked to the side because it was boring. I’m sorry I couldn’t show you the love you wanted,” she laughed, “but, I mean, look at you. Your biggest asset is that it amuses your betters to watch the obvious pain and confusion in your big dopey eyes every time we betray you anew, especially since you should have figured it out years ago that it was going to keep happening!”

She laughed as she mocked Obessa, and smiled as her toes found the blade half hidden in the sand.

She paused then, positioning her foot though making it look like she was just preparing for another charge.

“Combine that with an acceptable face, big tits, and solid hips and it makes you slightly worthwhile as a plaything, which is clearly what Ayasha thought you were worth to the Archon. I’ll assure you that you look better in slave silks than you ever did in a wychsuit. And look at me, your ‘best friend’ ever and I can barely stand the sight of your stupid face! You should probably just let me kill you and save everyone the pain of having to talk to you in the future.”

Obessa’s expression remained stoic, but Kyssindree was certain that her words cut deeper and more painfully than the other wych was willing to let show. Kyssindree laughed at her and then suddenly hurled her knife at Obessa’s face. At the same instant she kicked out her foot tossing out the other blade in front of her.

Time seemed to slow for Kyssindree, a mix of adrenaline, the sweet intoxication of all the pain and death around her, and the combat drugs still filling her system. Red sand and the twinkling blade danced in front of her as she charged forward. She reached out a hand, grains of sand bouncing away from her hand as it shot through the air, and caught the spinning blade, once more getting two knives as she sprinted for Obessa.

She could see the other wych snaking around, the sleek muscles glinting in the firelight, the delicate silks dancing around her as she twisted and deflected the thrown knife straight up into the air over her head. A sloppy parry, thought Kyssindree with a smirk, the blade would drop down almost straight and still be a potential risk to Obessa.

Then Kyssindree was there, the knife she had caught still half hidden behind her back, her other knife out in the open as part of a slashing lunge, an obvious threat. Obessa moved very quickly, her upraised arm tossing down her dagger into her lower hand as she parried the slash. The hilts locked and Kyssindree rolled her blade wide, Obessa was caught by surprise as she still didn’t have a proper grip on her blade and both weapons were torn from her and Kyssindree’s grasp.

Kyssindree locked gazes with Obessa and grinned. Red sand was still darting down around them from the cloud Kyssindree had kicked up. Her hidden hand snapped out from behind her back, its blade snaking forward to pierce Obessa’s heart. Kyssindree could already feel the warm rush of blood spurting out across her hand and savored the thought of running the sticky and warm digits across her own body afterward.

Then Obessa caught the knife she had deflected upwards with the hand that had stayed up there waiting to receive it, and rotated her hips slightly to the side to toss off Kyssindree’s lunge.

Her free hand rose up, snatching hold of the billowing wavy curls of Kyssindree’s hair and gripped tightly at the raven locks, pulling Kyssindree up short with a painful stab of white hot pain across her scalp. At near the same instant Obessa’s knife plunged down between her collarbone and shoulder, severing muscles and shearing nerves. Kyssindree let out a hoarse screech as her arm went numb and dropped her blade.

She was pulled further down by her hair, her back meeting Obessa’s knee and she felt a sharp snapping shock as one of her ribs popped from the impact and tore into her lungs. Kyssindree gasped, blood spitting out between her perfect lips as she writhed about helplessly, looking up into Obessa’s deadly calm face and the knife that now rested at Kyssindree’s throat. She coughed again and felt herself go limp as she realized she had been beaten.

Obessa leaned in closely, the sticky sweet smell of her sweat and the oils Douraal had ordered rubbed into her skin mixing with the coppery sharp tang of Kyssindree’s blood. Her lips dropped down towards Kyssindree’s, brushing against them ever so softly and slightly, Kyssindree actually found herself trying to lift her head for the kiss, but she was held firmly in place by Obessa’s death grip on her hair.

“Do it,” she whispered, “take me, kill me, do it, you’ve won.”

Obessa stayed there for a moment, breathing in quickly as she tried to catch her breath after the exertion of the duel. Then she suddenly stood up again, shoving Kyssindree off her knee and shaking off the torn strands of long dark hair that still clung to her hand after releasing her hair.

“I always told you that you shouldn’t leave your hair unbound in battle, it gives your opponent an easy handhold.” Obessa smiled softly as she shrugged.

“What are you doing?” Kyssindree managed to push herself up off the ground enough to look up at Obessa, every movement an agony. “You defeated me, finish this!”

“It is finished.” Obessa slid her knife into the silken sash she wore on her curving hips and then kicked some sand into Kyssindree’s face. “I’m done with you now, forever.”

“You’re not done with me!” Kyssindree shouted after Obessa as she turned and started walking towards the silent Incubus in black armor who had been watching their battle. “Obessa, do you hear me!?! We’re not done, I’m going to hunt you down, and I’ll seduce, screw, and stab that stupid Incubus, and then do the same to you and anyone who looks like you like them! I’m better than you, Obessa, I’m Kyssindree the Flensing Laugh! Who are you? Obessa the Nothing, that’s who! You can’t seriously think you can leave me alive after this, I’ll have my revenge ten times over!”

Obessa glanced over her shoulder, carefully considering Kyssindree as she lay on the sands.

It started slowly at first, just a small smirk on her lips. Then it grew, the smile growing wider as her shoulders began to shake. Then she actually tossed back her head, her long silken purple hair bouncing away from her face as she laughed and then walked off with the Incubus.

“OBESSA!” Kyssindree howled after her.


-------------------------------------------


The outer gardens had become a nest of murder and madness in the darkness. The exotic plants and decorations were on fire, and as a safety measure when the power had been cut all of the walkways had returned to their lowered position, leaving no safe path through the forested domain infested by hundreds of fearsome predators culled from across the galaxy for Douraal’s pleasure and amusement.

Yet the gardens were awash with Dark Eldar trying to cross them anyway, despite the fires and the beasts. Kabalite Warriors stationed on the outer wall were fighting their way inward towards the central battle to aid in the defense, and the guests and their guards were attempting to battle their way out. Even the attackers were here, laughing Hellions looking for prey, overladen anti-gravity skimmers disembarking hordes of eager and armed gangs looking to pick apart the fleeing guests for plunder and amusement.

But it was when the Beastmasters had arrived, ten lone figures swooping about the outer perimeter, releasing clouds of special pheromones from their skyboards as they howled strange sub-vocal screeches into the smoke-choked and dark gardens, that was when the true horrors of the gardens had begun. Now Kabalite, fleeing noble, horrified ganger, and harried Hellion all worked together, desperately fighting to find any exit from the abattoir.

Wren walked through the carnage proudly and unafraid, knowing full well she was unlikely to find anything more fearsome in aspect than herself here. Her birds cavorted around her, happy and pleased with the hunt as they feasted, occasionally she would pluck a prime morsel from a corpse and offer it up to one of her flock as a reward, for they had all been so good. She rounded a bend to see a squad of Kabalites, ten strong, trying to manage an orderly retreat through the gardens. When they saw her approaching they actually broke ranks and began to run. Wren couldn’t help but smile.

To’kar appeared out of the flames and smoke like some ancient god of battle. He glided along effortlessly on his skyboard, flying low enough to the ground that the dangling chains and hooks sparked and danced as they dragged along the cobbled pathways. He held a crackling whip, its length suffused in vibrant pulses of blue energy that sparked like a shining star in the darkness of the smoke choked courtyard. The few scattered Kabalite Warriors who even attempted to attack him met gruesome fates as beasts seemed to spring from the shadows to take them down the instant they raised weapons in his direction. Carnivorous huge purple hunting cats, betentacled and lumbering monstrosities that walked on their hind legs like men, even flapping bat-like creatures that were all barbed wings, spine-tail, and snapping jaws that stripped the flesh from their targets in a matter of mere seconds. He seemed to breathe out smoke from the nostrils of his mask as he calmly regarded the devastation around him.

He laughed.

“Little sister, you were correct, this place was worth coming to, it is as you said, ripe with the chance for us to expand our stock of beasts. The payment is worthwhile indeed, but now it is time for your choice.” He glided up next to her, a hulking shape of fur and muscle in the darkness, his voice echoing hollowly out of the leather beast mask he wore. “It is time to choose.”

She looked up at him, her own face hidden behind her mask, but certain he could sense the turmoil in her.

“The one you desire, Tael. Have you decided if we’re here to help you kill him, or here to help him achieve his goals?” To’kar’s voice was distant, and it was because he truly cared not at all which way she chose, only that she would choose to join with him and his Lodge afterwards. It was a pleasurable feeling to be so desired. To be desired for herself, and not for any other reason than a want of her to be with them.

She looked out across the battlefield, through the smoke and fire and carnage. Somewhere out there Tael was still fighting for his dream, fighting alongside the wych, Kyssindree. Was there a place here for Wren anymore? Even if there was a place, was it a place that she desired? She had once had such strong feelings about Tael and what she wished for the two of them, but those feelings had been twisted, toyed with. She had thought that spending a bit more time with him would help her understand what those feelings were…

“Little sister.” To’kar’s voice was strong, calm, and firm. “It is said that any decision before a balanced mind should be able to be reached within the span of four breaths. You walk the Way, your breaths are firm, your mind is ordered, do not allow it to fool you. Have you reached a decision?”

“Yes.” Wren nodded her head as she looked up at him. “I have reached a decision.”


-------------------------------------------


Ben’rik made his way through the twisting halls of the palace. When he saw larger groups of Kabalites he would affect a panicked expression and try to demand they escort him off the grounds. When he saw a band of rampaging Hellions or other gang rabble he would snarl and spit as he stormed through them, calling out to a few by name and asking where the best looting was to be had. In general both methods allowed him to pass unmolested and mostly ignored. Occasioanlly he would come across a lone and lost noble, or a wounded member from either side. At those moments a quick knife or a well-aimed blast from his pistol would net him some not poor treasures as he looted the bodies.

Still, he knew he had to get out of this place sooner rather than later, because either the Archon would win, in which case Ben’rik wanted to be well away, or Tael would win…in which case Ben’rik wanted to be even further away.

He finally hit on a bit of luck when he came across Scarlet Silviir and her hellion gang. They had taken over a library and had captured a number of the noble guests and dragged them here for their own purposes.

Silviir was easy enough to spot, partly for her long bright red hair and scarlet fighting leathers, and partly because she was currently on top of a large wrought-bone table, riding astride a horrified looking young noble lord, his pants down around his ankles and her choking the life out of him as she pumped her shapely hips and promised him many a gruesome end if he didn’t improve his performance.

Ben’rik politely coughed as he entered, and a few of Silviir’s guards promptly pointed pistols and blades in his direction. He smiled and waved to the female bodyguards as he again tried to catch Silviir’s attention. She looked up, some of her curling red locks falling in front of her flushed face as she smiled at him.

“Ben’rik! Why, I haven’t seen you in ages, how goes it?”

“Better now that I have seen you again, m’dearest.” He bowed to her.

“Want to climb up here and show this mewling pretty-boy how a man does it? I recall you being quite a bit better than he is proving to be.” She paused to glare down at the lordling. “In fact, he is about to have me rip it off and cram it down his throat if he can’t at least figure out something good to do with either it or his mouth.” She promptly shifted forward and shoved the noble’s face between her thighs and shrugged at him. “He looked so promising,” she pouted, obviously trying to lure him onto the table.

“As usual, I suspect your beauty and…ah…energeticness may disquiet a callow youth like that.” Ben’rik smiled as he wandered around the library, glancing at some of the destruction done to the ancient tomes and considering a few of the captives to see if any looked much worthwhile.

“What do you want, Ben’rik,” Silviir sighed, looking bored now that she realized he didn’t want to play.

“Honestly, I got a little lost, I’m trying to figure out the way back out to the party.”

“That way,” she pointed down a hallway. “Keep going straight till you reach the end of all artsy-stuff, one of the big doors leads outside, and the other to the throne room. Even with only one eye you can probably puzzle that out.”

“Of course, I shall leave you to your fun.”

“Send any pretty-boys you find this way, me and the girls will treat them to a fine-joy-time.” Silviir smiled and waved to him before glancing at one of her underlings and motioned to he young noble trapped between her thighs. “We’ll need the spike tongs for this one.”

Ben’rik hastened away, glad that she had been in such a good mood. He charged off down the hallway, hoping none of his pockets bulged or jangled too obviously from his stolen loot. As he half ran down the passage through a bewildering assortment of art and décor one of the giant paintings hanging from a wall caught his eye. Ben’rik slowed to look at the painting, confused by its subject. Why would this be hanging here? He leaned closer to inspect the plaque and his eye widened in shock.

By the Dark Muses! Suddenly he understood what Tael was doing, and now he was quite certain he didn’t want to be here any longer.

Ben’rik turned and ran for all he was worth, not caring if his pockets jangled or bulged anymore.


-------------------------------------------


Kyssindree limped up the steps towards the grand entrance to the Kabal chambers. She had managed to find Jorik and Ssinssilla as they had led their forces towards the palace and had joined up with them. Ssinssilla she didn’t trust at all, mostly because she couldn’t read her ugly snake face at all. But Jorik was obviously thinking with his wrong head around her most of the time, so was as reasonably trustworthy an ally as she could likely find. Also, he was a talented field medic, which at times like this was even more valuable. He’d done some work on her shoulder which had numbed the pain and left her able to move it around reasonably well. But he didn’t have many solutions for the rib tearing up her lungs.

“We need to get you laying down somewhere where I have time to work.” He spoke the words with almost a pathetically youthful optimisim for what that particular scenario might earn for him. Though, Kyssindree shrugged, she liked a bit of sex after a fight as much as the next girl, and if he could make it so every breath she took wasn’t a ragged pain then she would be rather thankful.

“We’re losing the east gate,” Ssinssilla announced as she listened to a battle report through the Sslyth vibration device attached to her side. “The Trueborn of Ssshattered Sssoul have taken the field and are cutting the gangersss apart.”

“What about the outer gardens?” Jorik glanced away to order some of his men into battle squads guarding the doors as he helped Kyssindree through them and into the relative calm of an inner chamber.

“Ssstill burning, the only clear understanding I have of that place is that it is death to go there.” Ssinssilla hefted up her splinter cannon and began laying down surpressing fire on a group of Kabalites approaching the gate, in a few moments hordes of undisciplined gangers fell on them. Each Kabalite was easily worth three of the wretches, but the gangers currently had the numbers to spare in that regard.

“And they’ve activated their secondary generator which means their air defenses are back which means we need to hold and secure the outer wall to fly out past the gardens, and to secure the outer wall we need to pass through the gardens…”

“Yesss.”

“Get to the hangers,” Kyssindree offered with a shrug, “all we need are some vehicles with Kabal markings and transponders and we won’t be auto-targeted, and if they are manually controlling them they’ll be paying more attention to everything else than a handful of skimmers marked as their own.”

“Good idea,” gushed Jorik.

“We also have found the Bloodbridesss again. Glim-Resss and the Nightmaresss found them in their sssector. They sssaid the Bridesss were cutting their way out of the palace ssstraight through anything that got in their way and sssaid they were going to deal with them.”

“And then?” Kyssindree looked up in interest.

Ssinssilla simply flicked out her tongue slowly. “No further communicationsss from them yet.”

“Nor is there likely to be,” Kyssindree smirked, “your only chance for dealing with them was me.” There was suddenly a disturbance near one of the side doors, and they looked up to see some of Jorik’s men accosting Ben’rik. The normally smirking gang leader was quick talking his way around them as he sidled towards the door. Kyssindree frowned. “Jorik, fetch him for me, would you?”

“Of course,” he smiled as he stood up, and in moments he and his men returned with Ben’rik.

“Why the rush,” she asked coldly.

“Why not,” returned Ben’rik as he glanced her over, “I see you’re doing well.”

“Well enough to still slash your face off before you can offer another feeble insult, now tell me why you’re running, we’re still basically winning.”

“Basically winning?” Ben’rik laughed. “Send me an invitation to the victory party then, I’m leav-“

The doors to the throne room creaked open. Doors that had, until that moment, been securely magnetically sealed shut. Kyssindree glanced up in surprise to see two figures descending the wide marble steps from the entrance down towards the foyer they waited in.

The first figure was the pale and willowy thin woman Kyssindree had seen Tael skulk off with near the beginning of the party. Her face was flushed, and her hair out of place, and a small and secretive smile was on her delicate features.

Behind her came a male, broad of shoulder, in tattered clothing. His chest bore a few bloody scars, and his shoulder had a nasty gouge in it as well. In his good arm he carried an elegant straight blade, gleaming with a luminescent green liquid on it, held in place by some sort of power field. His face was hidden behind a bloodstained golden Khaine mask.

“Oh no.” Ben’rik began to back away.

“Douraal,” Kyssindree said as she stood up slowly, wondering if it would be possible to strike some sort of bargain with him. Also wondering if she’d be allowed to get away with killing the pale wench first…

There was a bit of mocking laughter as the figure strode down towards them, elegant in his power, sure in his movements, totally unconcerned by how they outnumbered him easily thirty to one. Kyssindree gripped her blade carefully, ready to strike or flee.

“You have entered my house, and my domain, and mine is the power here, the only power. Soon you will all crawl before me, like the lowly slave wretches you are meant to be.” The figure laughed a bit louder as it reached up and suddenly removed the golden mask, revealing the smirking face behind it.

“Tael!” Kyssindree laughed in relief and amusement.

Jorik laughed as well, and the other Hellions nervously glanced at each other before erupting in cheers as they realized what it meant to have their war leader walking around with the battle mask of the enemy Archon on his face. Ssinssilla let out a happy rattle of her tail and began to send out the message to the other attack leaders also on the waveband.

“Well, I do have to say that went a bit harder than I had anticipated.” He glanced at his shoulder wound and winced. “The old man was a little…resistant to death, in the end.”

“Let me.” Jorik stepped forward and began attaching a magnetic suture to the wound and fiddling around with some injections. Kyssindree, meanwhile, was working hard to surrepstiously clean her face and make sure she looked desirable despite her wounds, it would not do for her partner to see her in disarray, especially not with the pale skank lurking right there. She definitely had to learn quickly what the woman meant to Tael…and then figure out how to kill her regardless.

Ben’rik continued to back out the door, only stopping in horror when the first few black birds fluttered in around him. They all looked up as Wren entered. She had discarded her mask somewhere, and her pale face was smudged with dirt and blood. Her wild red hair stuck up in spikey disarray, and the black feather robe smoldered in a few patches. Her claws glistened with blood and dripped little spatters on the floor as she walked forward slowly. Her eyes were focused on Tael, wide and innocent as a small smile split her features as she saw him standing there triumphant.

“It is good to see that I am so loved,” offered Tael with a small smirk as he slightly bowed to Wren.

The girl darted forward, the Razorwings perching on her hopping off in annoyed disarray as the girl sprang up the steps and rushed into Tael’s arms. Kyssindree’s eyes narrowed murderously as she started forward herself, she was just going to kill both of the challengers and be done with it right now.

Wren reached up to clutch at Tael’s head as she stood on her tiptoes and craned her neck upward, her lips pursing together. Tael blinked in mild confusion and then shrugged ever so slightly as he leaned his head down as well. Kyssindree snarled as she started to storm up the steps, only a dozen paces away.

Then Wren jerked Tael’s head backwards, opened her mouth wide to reveal her teeth sharpened into gleaming fangs, and bit deeply into his throat.

Tael howled in pain, raising his hand with the sword in it, but even as he did a flitting black bird snapped out of the shadows, tearing open his wrist and spraying blood across the glistening marble steps. Jorik’s hand managed to drop to his pistol before a cloud of black birds descended on him him, tearing and ripping at him until he turned and sprang off the edge of the stairs to drop down to the unforgiving stone floor below with a wet crunch. Kyssindree raised her own knife as well, but a piercing impact in her back sent her sprawling, feeling a sharp pain from her broken rib as she landed and cried out in agony, as one of the Razorwings tore and bit at her shoulder. She lashed out at it blindly and another of them swept past, snatching the blade from her grip as they left her bloody and broken on the steps.

Looking up she could see the birds swirling around Wren and Tael. The girl jerked her head back with a wet sucking sound as she tore out a large mouthful of his throat. Blood gurgled and frothed from the wound as Tael looked down at her in confused shock. Wren’s face was coated thick with red blood from the tip of her nose down to her pointed chin and across her neck and chest.

She tilted her head to the side slightly, her eyes blinking once as she locked gazes with Tael who still looked at her in bewildered shock as his life flowed out of him in buckets.

Then she spit his torn out throat back into his face and shoved him over as she turned and walked away. Her eyes stared out intently from above her bloody face, glinting amidst her dark and smeared eyeliner. The billowing cloak floated around her shoulders as blood dribbled off her claws. Her boots clicked with each step as she walked down the stairs, and her birds cawed happily as they swept about the room, circling through the air.

Every Hellion cowered, some even going so far as to toss away their weapons as Wren’s gaze fell across them. Only Ben’rik was still standing by the time she reached the base of the steps, and he had the craziest smile on his face as he watched her stalk across the room and back to the entryway doors. She paused as she looked at him.

“Ben’rik…friend?”

“Ben’rik, not enemy,” he said very seriously.

She smiled, a bloody smile at him and Ben’rik shivered and stood aside.

Ten figures waited for her beyond the doors, mounted on skyboards and wearing furs and chains, as well as fearsome bestial masks. As she approached they began to rap their weapons on their chests, the blades beating against the chains that swathed their bodies as they howled in greeting to her.

Wren smiled as she sprang lightly up onto a waiting skyboard. She looked back into the room, wide-eyed, bloody mouthed, and she smiled, a fanged smile of victory, contentment, and happiness. The hellions, almost all averted their gaze from her. She let out a squawking screech and then turned and accelerated into the sky, the swirling flocks of black birds turned and swept out in her wake, rising up into the sky as she and the Beastmasters departed.

“Tael,” Kyssindree turned to look at him, but it was clear he was quite dead and beyond any hope of help. Leaving her crippled, wounded, and alone inside a palace she didn’t think they could hold, Tael was dead, and she and everyone here would soon follow the same course.

====================================
====================================
====================================

Only one chapter to go. I keep minor tweaking it, I kind of want to make sure I feel good about it before it is posted.

It will be The End though. A few more deaths, a few more scores settled, and...maybe...a few more desires granted?

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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Fri Nov 30 2012, 01:28

First of all, a small point to get out of the way first. I don't want to read about the graphic assault of a terrified prisoner. That crossed a line for me, and because I have been so honest in my feedback so far I felt I should say something. There have been places where the story was close to crossing various lines for me, but it hadn't really done so until now; I understand the nature of DE, but I don't think it was necessary for us to see that, especially given how you've handled extreme events up until now. That's my view, anyway.

Moving on from that, I cannot say I'm disappointed with what happened with Wren Smile (happy easter to me!). She finally got some clarity ... and some pets Very Happy ... and some revenge. I was so happy to see her fly away with the Beastmasters at last. It was good to see her getting some respect as well. Proving that Tael might be clever, but Ben'rik is canny. Speaking of which ...

Will we see the duel between Tael and Douraal? Because I have yet another theory about that, too Smile I'm suspicious and paranoid until I can see a body, of course! Very Happy (And even then ...)

And speaking of duels ... Of course I wanted to see Obessa win, but I did appreciate that she won without killing Kyssindree. Not because I want Kyssindree to be alive, but because knowing she is alive because Obessa let her live seems a fitting conclusion. Very DE.

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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Sat Dec 01 2012, 15:57

I appreciate the candor about the questionable scene. I will note that it probably is just saying something good about you, because really, that scene is no more (or less, I'll admit) explicit than a number of other scenes. I think the subject matter just turns you off. I did wrestle a touch with including the scene, but felt it was a worthwhile juxtaposition of debased actions paired with friendly banter and total relative disregard for others. I'll consider the critique before doing anything else similar in the future, but will at least suggest that if a line was crossed it was a moral one and not an explicitness one - a viable consideration in *how* lines were crossed.

I'm glad you liked Wren's moment - it was one of the funner moments to write in the entire story and it looks like it hit the emotional place I wanted.

The Douraal/Tael fight scene is totally written up and appears in the last chapter. Paranoia may simmer until then.

The Obessa/Kyssindree duel was originally going to end with Kyssindree dead. Then it became Kyssindree with a large facial wound so Obessa would leave her scared. Then...then I realized for someone like Kyssindree that really the worst wound was basically telling her she wasn't important and you weren't even thinking about her. Chuffed you liked it!

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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Sun Dec 02 2012, 23:19

Thank you for your kind words. I think that the ability to discuss this (or anything) lucidly and respectfully is a mark of the quality of the site, which is one reason why I feel able to come here and read fiction about what are, when one comes down to it, a generally despicable and unlovely bunch of people, the Ynneas Eladrith! To clarify my point in case it is relevant in future, I would summarise it like this: torture scenes and graphic violence = close to the line. Scenes of an obviously explicit sexual nature, = close to the line. Scene involving torture + explicit sexual content = over the line. I would say it's not a question of morality but of degree. I think personally that the scene was just a fraction more graphic, but the combination of factors was what pushed into unacceptable territory for me. Those are my views, of course. I will be happy to stand by my statement (made so long ago!) that you have captured the DE character perfectly, because you have, even if we may differ slightly on what to show Smile

Speaking of what to show I've been thinking some more about what happened with Tael and Douraal and I can tell you, I'm watching and reading very carefully. Sharess obviously knows something more. Just what, I look forward to finding out!

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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Wed Dec 19 2012, 18:51

Chapter 22: The End


Tael and Douraal both raised their weapons slowly. Douraal fell into a classic fencing position, the venom blade resting lightly in his hand, he weaved the point in small figure eight patterns as he kept his weight on his back foot for maximum power in moving forward or backward. Tael dropped into a low crouch, the weight on the balls of his feet to capitalize on his ability to move to either side, the hellglaive balanced in his hands as he watched Douraal carefully, a small smile on his face.

Sharess walked right between them and up the steps of the dais. She turned around and gently lowered herself into the throne. Both men glanced up at her, their gazes narrowed, and she smiled indulgently at them both, knowing how much they would look forward to ousting her from the throne the instant they had defeated their rival. She was as much a prize as the Kabal itself, and they both knew it. She motioned them permissively.

“You may begin when you are ready.”

“Tonight you’ll be begging me to stop,” noted Douraal in a low growl.

“She’ll be begging me not to stop,” quipped Tael with a wink towards her.

Douraal lunged forward.

Douraal was all sharp movement, moving forward with blindingly quick lunges and sharp counter cuts. Tael circled and shifted, the arcing sweeps of his hellglaive surprisingly delicate seeming despite the raw power behind them. Every time the weapons met Sharess winced, expecting the slim venom blade to shatter, but the power fields that held its deadly viro-toxin in place also allowed it to withstand the fearsomely fast swings of the hellglaive.

At first glance one might have thought that Douraal had the advantage in weaponry, after all, a venom blade could kill with but the slightest scratch. Still, if the hellglaive connected it would not scratch at all, and would likely split Douraal open even through his armor.

It also started to become clear that Tael was better. Sharess had honestly not expected that, Douraal was a fearsome warrior, and well experienced, and even suffused with youthful vigor and health from all the life energy he had just absorbed. But Tael was better. Perhaps it was because he had planned for this, or simply that he had much more recently engaged in battle, having been fighting consistently for the last few cycles while it had been almost four decades since the last time Douraal had been obligated to draw his sword for anything that wasn’t simple slaughter.

Tael was cutting off the room, occasionally snapping out with larger sweeps of his hellglaive to keep Douraal constrained. He also circled constantly, preventing Douraal from squaring off with him where his faster thrusting weapon could give him an advantage. He worked the hooked blades well too, occasionally sneaking out a low cut trying to catch a foot and trip Douraal, or hook his arn to drag him off balance. Douraal escaped these attacks by springing away, but this only served to drive him further and further back towards the corner behind him.

“You’re better than I had anticipated,” Douraal admitted the obvious and Sharess smirked at his pride. It was one of his finer attributes. “I’ve also been impressed by your planning, so many like you just rush in quickly, thinking I am weaker and more foolish than them for some reason, and that they could just take the power.”

“To be honest,” Tael side-stepped a quick thrust and battered at Douraal with a few well timed sweeps of his glaive, “I also thought you were weaker and more foolish than I. Still, it is always smartest to strike when you are assured of victory.”

“I agree,” Douraal laughed as he retreated suddenly, pressing himself into the corner that Tael had been trying to herd him into. “Do you think you are assured victory?”

Tael advanced to maintain the trap, but even though he was smirking it was clear there was uncertainty in his eyes. He had to be wondering why Douraal had willingly entered the trap. “I would say I am far more assured to win than you.”

“Indeed?” Douraal laughed as he pressed a small stud on his belt. There was a flickering of light around him, and then two identical versions of Douraal stepped out of his body, leaving suddenly three of them in the corner, all smirking at Tael. When they spoke, they did so as an echoing chorus. “I am an Archon of a Kabal, nothing is assured when I am involved.”

The three Douraals all attacked in different ways. Tael slashed first at the one in the middle, but his hellglaive passed through the holo-clone and it blinked out of esistance. Tael retreated desperately as both Douraals hounded him, each of them evading and ducking away from his blows this time to avoid letting him physically touch them to discover which was real. Then another clone stepped out of one of them, raising its blade.

“I know what you’re thinking, can a holo clone be made to look like it was itself cloned, or is that a clue that this one is more likely the real one? You should have so much experience with clones at this stage, real and imagined, certainly you should have an opinion.”

“You liked that clone I let your men kill at my camp, didn’t you?” Tael retreated still, his icy blue eyes watching each of the Douraals as they started to encircle him. His fingers twitched slightly on the haft of his weapon as he shoved it out in small feints to try to keep them at bay. If the real one so much as scratched him with the venom blade it would be all over. “Did it fool you?”

“Not as much as you would hope,” The Douraal clones spoke in a chorus. “When I heard how you had died, blithering and rushing to a memorable if pointless end, I knew something was wrong. But I held my victory party anyway, just like you did.”

“And,” Tael grinned, “just like me, you expected this attack, didn’t you?”

“It’s what I would have done,” admitted Douraal as suddenly his clones all rushed in. Tael ducked and weaved, being forced to dodge all the blades as he could not know which was the real one that would grant him painful death from its lethal mix of poison. Douraal pressed the attack though, pushing on and in, his gleaming green blades glinting brightly as they flashed around in deceptively lethal and quick thrusts. Tael kept retreating, moving faster, getting all three clones side by side again, a small grin forming on his face.

Sharess was breathing quicker, her smile growing wider as she realized he was up to something.

Tael suddenly spun around, his grip on his hellglaive sliding all to one side of it as he twisted in a tight circle and unleashed a single mighty sweeping swing against all three Douraals at the same time. In a flash of sparking light two of the clones blinked from existence as the hellglaive crashed into Douraal’s breastplate. He was sent sprawling across the floor from the force of the impact, his venom blade skittering away in a spinning arc across the polished marble. Tael’s hellglaive’s shaft had cracked apart from the force of the impact.

Tael tossed aside the broken blade and drew forth a jagged dueling knife as he stalked towards Douraal. The Archon coughed as he sat up, his breastplate torn open and bent unnaturally. He undid some of the clasps and peeled it off, revealing his pale and muscular torso underneath.

“Is this what you think it’s about? Is this what you think it will take?” Douraal stood up as he went to draw his own dagger, only to find it missing. His fingers clenched at the sheath as he hissed a curse under his breath at Obessa. He pressed a small decorative sworl on his gauntlet and a blade snapped out of its hiding place to protrude over the back of his hand. “It takes more than being marginally clever and winning a few battles to be Archon of a Kabal.”

“Does it take being frightened all the time?” Tael smirked as he came in, a few broad and sweeping strokes of his knife leading the way. Douraal actually slid under his guard almost immediately and slashed him across the chest. Tael frowned darkly and pulled his guard in tighter.

“You call it frightened, I call it prepared.”

“Prepared? You break yourself up, like a nervous child trying to hide his candy in multiple locations, yet watching as he loses each in turn and being left with almost nothing of his original self.”

“You think that’s true, boy?” Their knives sparked and squealed as they locked them together straining against one another. “Then why do I see fear in your eyes, you know as well as I do that you cannot defeat me.” They broke apart again, and now Douraal reached up and removed his mask, tossing it aside to clatter on the floor. Filled as he was with the youthful sheen of all those sacrificed in his name he looked much as he had as a young man.

Thus, he looked exactly like Tael.

“You are nothing more than a copy, boy,” Douraal smirked at Tael, “infused with a tiny shard of my soul so that I need never risk any danger from She-Who-Thirsts when I am regenerated. How can you be so certain of victory, when you are a raindrop…and I am the ocean?”

“You are the ocean?” Tael laughed as he came in again, their blades gleaming as they slashed and parried and dodged around each other. “You are not the ocean, you are a roast animal at a feast, carved up into portions, each as savory and large as the next.”

“You mock what I have done, boy? What I have done is redefine the entire process of regeneration!”

“What you have done is ape our Craftworld brethren, revealing yourself to be as weak and fearful as they are, splitting up your soul, hiding it away, hoping to keep it safe in backup containers. We’re the Dark Eldar, we have surpassed our forefathers, and certainly surpassed those of our race who cower in distant planets or hidden fortresses. We don’t need to hide from She-Who-Thirsts. We live in the very realm she claims power over, and we drink even faster than She does. But you are too scared to see if you could match her.”

“If you really want to discover that,” snarled Douraal as he let out a sharp backhand cut that tore a gash on Tael’s broad chest, “I could arrange an audience for you with Her quite easily.”

“I went all over the City, cutting down your little hidden clones one by one,” announced Tael, “until now there’s only you and me left.”

“So you think,” laughed Douraal.

“So I do,” smirked Tael, “I guess we’ll soon find out which of us was more clever about it, won’t we?”

“You couldn’t have found them all,” snapped Douraal, “I know you couldn’t have.”

“Where do you think I got the fake clone from? Did you really think you could trust the Little Tailor to keep one of your clones safe?”

“I don’t believe you, he would be too amused by owning me to ever risk letting anyone destroy it.”

“Be that as it may,” Tael lashed out with a kick that buckled Douraal’s knee slightly as an upward cut opened up a painful gash along Douraal’s chest and sent the Archon stumbling backwards, “but I’m not the one who looks frightened and uncertain.”

Then all the talking was done, and just the two men battled, two mirror copies of each other, each sharing the last broken shards of the same soul. But, yet, so much were they alike it was clear they were different too, and Sharess began to suspect that Douraal had been wrong in thinking he could shatter his soul and spread it around like he had. He was being bested, and was being defeated because what he faced truly was his equal in every way that mattered. Even an infinite thing, broken in half, is less than it was. The two of them fought and snarled like hunting cats, springing forward, their bare muscles gleaming in the flickering lights of the fires and battles outside. Sweat bristled upon their brows as blood leaked from their wounds, and still they fought on.

Then it happened, a wide opening was left and Douraal went for it spearing his knife into Tael’s side. But in so doing he left the opening Tael had invited, and a blade was plunged deep down into Douraal’s shoulder. Both men staggered back, but it was Douraal whose blade arm drooped down helplessly at his side, nerveless, useless.

“I win,” said Tael softly as he backed away from Douraal, a smirk on his lips, “who is the ocean now?”

“You are a foolish boy, who doesn’t know when he is beaten,” Douraal sneered as he he began struggling with his bracer, trying to pull it off to use with his good arm. Tael laughed at him as he turned and walked over to the fallen venom blade. He picked it up and saluted Sharess. She smiled at him, and then her eyes flicked up as she noticed that behind Tael, on the floor, Douraal was smiling as well. Sharess felt her breath quicken and her cheeks grow warm as she realized there was more to come.

“You stand upon my sigil, boy. You hold my blade, the blade I have used to cut down all of my opponents I thought were worthy.” Tael glanced down at the symbol for the Shattered Soul which was engraved upon the floor where he stood to retrieve the venom blade. He smirked again and made to wipe his feet on it. “Unwise.” Douraal stood up and spoke one word, “Eliath.” The Eldar word for ‘ending’.

Tael jerked. The venom blade slipped from his hand and Sharess could see the small needle now protruding from the handle and the matching drip of red from Tael’s hand. He stumbled a step, then two, but then sank to his knees with a grim finality. His eyes grew wider. Douraal walked towards him, reaching out with his off hand to reclaim his venom blade, carefully pulling out the needle barb from its hidden catch.

“I knew you would come, and I also knew you would wish to settle the accounts with me. You’ve proven to be smarter than the others, so I knew I had to let you be drawn out.” He smiled as he pointed his blade to Tael’s throat. “I allowed you to attack my holdings. I didn’t take it easy on you, naturally, but I always had an endgame in play. I knew as soon as you set up that party of yours that it was a trap, and when you faked your own death I knew you’d be coming for me. All I needed to do was have a few new defenses installed that you didn’t know about. You are so much like me, a failed copy, to be certain, but enough like me to allow me to know you as well as you know me. You use my strategies, you claim loyal lieutenants, you allow your opponent to think he has won to lure him in, you attack during parties and celebrations, and…you always claim the life of a worthwhile foe with your personal blade. My blade!”

He raised the sword into the light and smirked as he backed away from Tael slowly.

“You thought you were so clever, so capable. But you are a child, filled with many of my better aspects, to be sure, but lacking my experience, and the true me. You are a failed copy, a mummer’s farce, a puppet without a master. You needn’t worry though, the poison will not kill you, it will simply…detain you for a moment.”

Douraal walked over to his fallen mask and reclaimed it, smiling at Tael over his shoulder before snapping it in place.
“And the funny part is I’m going to be able to step out those doors, claim command of your hard fought for army, use your loyal lieutenants, and do whatever I wish with it. Meanwhile you’ll be stuck here, helpless, until I decide what it is I’m going to do with you.” Douraal smiled.

Tael’s lips quivered as he shifted them, and then it happened.

Tael smirked.

“Last…chance…sur…ren…der?”

Douraal laughed. “Ah, such spirit, reminds me of…me.” He saluted Tael and then glanced up at Sharess. “Enjoying your seat?” He asked the question in an off-hand and joking manner, but there was an icy undertone to the query.

She smirked as she immediately rose from the throne and hastened to his side, her arms wrapping around him. As they moved to exit the room she glanced back at Tael as he knelt upon the floor.

He was still smiling.


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Sharess walked back into the throne room slowly and looked at Tael, who now sat sprawled on the throne, one leg drapped over the arm, a knowing smile on his face. She was splattered with Douraal’s blood and even now the Hellion gangs were starting to become more disorganized individual units than a cohesive fighting force as they splintered apart as word of ‘Tael’s’ death spread.

“You knew?” She had to ask the question.

“What? To prepare myself with a number of antivenoms if I was planning to…be energetic with you?” He smiled easily. “Of course I knew that, seems rather silly not to do. Of course, if I perhaps prepared myself also against a number of venoms and concoctions I knew the old man favored, well, that probably wasn’t a bad idea either. Though, I always figured if I guessed wrong you would be willing to offer up an antidote at this stage.”

“Not that,” she waved her hand to motion out into the entry foyer, “out there, Douraal, how he died, you knew?”

Tael smiled. “Well, I strongly had laid the groundwork for it. Tell me, which of them did it? I had pretty much every single one of my lieutenants hopefully prepped to do the deed. You can never be sure in the vageries of battle who will actually make it out. Was it Ben’rik? I rather suspected it would be Ben’rik.”

“Which one is he?”

“One eyed, thinks he’s more clever than he is.”

“No, it was the bird girl.”

“Wren?” Tael clucked his tongue and laughed. “Well…I suspect she wasn’t pleasant about it if I finally got her to snap. I was beginning to think it couldn’t be done.”

“No, she was not pleasant.”

“You seem to have my sword.”

Sharess nodded as she walked forward, lifting up Douraal’s sword as she knelt in front of Tael. “Did you really kill all of his clones,” she asked. “If not, he’ll be back, you know he will.”

“Yes, I rather think I got them all, and if I didn’t then he was more clever than I thought when he branded us all with numbers and admitted I was the most recent.” Tael smirked as he tapped the space behind his ear where the number ‘six’ was emblazoned. “His ace-in-the-hole was the one he asked The Little Tailor to keep, and that was the first one I had killed. Besides, if he does come back, I get to be Archon Tael’athyian Douraal this time, and I won’t be as likely to underestimate a clone.” He looked down at her carefully for a few moments. “It was rather unusual for one of the clones to awaken from their suspended sleep.”

Sharess smiled softly at him. “Douraal had the technicians skinned, but it appears to have been an unexplained software error that awoke you like that.”

“An unexplained software error that left me armor, wargear, and a keycrystal to the palace lying nearby?”

“What is my lord suggesting?” Sharess smiled at him sweetly, certain that he had figured the answer for himself.

“That you are too beautiful, clever, and dangerous by far.” He smirked at her, “be mindful of any software errors in the future, I’m apparently grown uncomfortable around them.” She smirked back and nodded her head slightly. He stood up and offered her his arm. “Come, let us bring the rabble to heel. I need to command my troops.”

“Which troops are those?”

“The Kabalites, of course, do you really think this Hellion rabble has any chance once the shock and awe of their surprise attack is over? I suspect my Trueborn are sweeping them from the grounds even as we speak. Come, we shall supervise, and then tonight…” Tael smirked, “there are many spoils of war to be discussed.”

“Of course.” Sharess smiled back at him sweetly, “and begging too, as I understand some were promised.”

“Yes, that as well.”


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It was Glyvius who found him, and Ben’rik was not much surprised by that.

He had fled the entry hall after Wren and her Beastmaster cohort had departed, but his grand plans for fleeing the battlefield had all been stymied. He had no skyboard to ride out. The outer wall was held by Kabalites. The core of the palace was held by the Kabalites as well. Indeed, it became rather clear that the Hellions were more trapped than they were invading.

With that as an idea Ben’rik got a growing certainty about the situation that was to come. He’d run back into the art hall and hunkered down in a small nook. He’d collected up all the treasures he’d gained from his looting and put them into a single purloined sack which he nestled behind his back as he eased down into a slump. If everything went perfectly maybe he could be mistaken as a guest, and be allowed to slip out with them in a horde. If things went poorly…he gripped at his blast pistol and debated his chances of shooting his way out alone.

He wasn’t fond of them.

He had taken one other precaution though. He’d torn down the painting, peeling it out of its frame, and rolling it up to slide into his vest. That painting that had allowed him to realize how bad of a situation he was in, that grim-faced painting of a young Archon Douraal resplendent in his Kabalite finery. That painting had a special value…if Ben’rik could think it through enough to spot it.

When Glyvius appeared in the far end of the small hallway he was hiding down Ben’rik was not surprised, the Scourge Lord would have wanted to make sure to account for him. After all, he and Ben’rik had shared a long running feud for almost two decades as the Hellions and Scourges had battled. Plus, Ben’rik had been the one to first talk the Scourges into coming along for this raid. Glyvius’ expression couldn’t be seen behind his golden, snarling, bird helmet, but his bloodstained armor and the splinter carbine he was currently pointing at Ben’rik spoke volumes.

Ben’rik fingered his blast pistol with one hand while his other hand fell to rest on his bag of loot protectively. He bit his lip as he sneered at Glyvius.

“So, it’s just you and I now, huh?”

“It is,” Glyvius nodded slowly, his gaze noting Ben’rik’s hand on his pistol, “and it’s your move…”


-------------------------------------------


The rout had started suddenly, they would say in later days when speaking of the raid.

The Scourges showed their true colors first. One moment they were sweeping through the sky in wild disarray, laughing and firing indiscriminately at the palace. In the next, at a single order from Glyvius, they formed up and turned on the Hellions en masse. The Hellions were forced to flee from the skies as their blood poured down on the palace like rain, the wicked claws and flashing guns of the Scourges claiming dominion of the air.

The Trueborn came next, as though coordinated with the Scourges. Their bronze helmets and black armor glittered ominously, and their red capes fluttered in the breeze as they began their march. They had been holding the outer wall and suddenly it became clear to the Hellions that they were trapped inside the palace, and it had become like a spider’s web waiting to embrace them.

By that stage the forces of the Kabal rose in fury. Thousands of Warriors were released into the courtyards. Their spiked blades dripped crimson as they tore apart the lesser gangs that opposed them. The Hellion gangs were made of sterner stuff and managed fighting withdrawls, but one by one they were isolated, overpowered, and offered the choice of surrender or death.

Archon Douraal sat in judgement over them from his throne of polished bone. His Trueborn stood around him, armed to the teeth. Warriors of his Kabal thronged the upper balconies, their weapons trained on the captives. Glyvius, Master of the Aerie was currently stalking up with one more. Ben’rik stumbled along in the chains he had been bound in, and the Scourge shoved him down amongst the other Hellions with a smirk of contentment. Archon Douraal steepled his fingers as he considered the captives carefully. Beside him, his Lhamaean courtesan leaned down to whisper in his ear.

“Is that the last of them?” Douraal’s voice was steely.

“I believe so, my lord.” Glyvius bowed deeply, blood still dripping off his furled wings and splattering his golden armor. “We found him hiding amongst your art chambers. I still have many of my flock out searching for others, but suspect it to be fruitless.”

“I have men still searching through the corpses for any other bodies of high birth,” offered a Trueborn Dracon, glancing over his mailed shoulder as he still leveled a shredder at a group of Hellions, “I could pull off half a century and proceed on a room by room search.”

“Later,” Douraal waved off the suggestion, “decorm dictates we must do our best to return the corpses for regeneration procedures in order to prove we had no part in seeking their deaths.” His golden mask glinted as he glanced over the captives, pausing as he considered the unwashed horde of conscripts from street gangers, press gangs, and second story murder mobs, all the dreck of the lower city that had been poured out to aid the Hellions in their attack.

“Execute the lot of them, hang their bodies from the outer walls.”

Kabalite Warriors stormed forward, grabbing up bound men and shoving them out the entry way as the still surviving party guests politely applauded the choice. Such scum as that deserved immediate death, it was unwise to allow them to believe for one moment that such behavior as attacking their betters was to be allowed.

“Bring me the leaders of the Hellion gangs.”

His Trueborn stepped into the crowd, pulling out the high ranking representatives of dozens of gangs. A red haired wild woman was pulled screeching and kicking from amongst her like attired female gangers. A sorely wounded Hellion, his face painted with gleaming green war paint was dragged forth. A man clothed in a suit made of flesh. Another with long braids of other people’s hair coiled in with his own golden locks. An older man with a glittering mechanical eye and black jagged teeth, a sobbing wretch of a woman begging for mercy, all this and more was presented to him.

Douraal smiled at them. “I understand you were all hired for this endeavor?” He spoke politely and even with a burr of amusement to his voice, but the icy eyes looking out from behind the mask spoke deadly volumes.

The Hellion leaders made vague agreement by nodding or grunting, though a few just spat in his direction, and the sobbing girl swore to tell him all if he would but spare her.

“What price, to attack my home?”

“Shares of loot, hostages, whatever we could carry off,” announced the red-haired Hellion. She shrugged and laughed a bit to herself. “Carrying off less than we expected now, yeah?” Most of the other Hellion leaders didn’t seem as amused as she.

“Do they still have loot on them?” Douraal glanced at Glyvius and the Trueborn Dracon. Both of them shrugged and nodded, not having bothered to strip them of anything besides weapons before bringing them in.

“Kill one in five of each gang, and let the others leave unmolested with what loot they still carry. I have no wish to offended the other Hellion Lords, but I trust we shall not see a repeat of such…unwise action in the future.”

The assorted Hellions seemed eager to agree to that, and praised his wisdom while they bowed and scraped their heads as their captors led them and their gangs out. All that left behind was a rag-tag grouping, the remnants of The Howlers, the gang that had started the whole affair. The other guests in the throne room smiled in eager anticipation of the coming executions and torture.

“Glyvius, you have done me and my household excellent service this day. You have found the payments to be in order, I trust?”

“Most in order.” Glyvius dipped his head as he bowed, his predatory bird mask seeming to smile eagerly, “but…there is a bit more I would ask.”

“Speak.”

“That one.” Glyvius pointed at where Ben’rik lay bound on the floor. “My flock and I owe our old friend Ben’rik a certain debt, and I always repay my debts.”

“I suppose I will be as well served with him decorating the spires of your Aerie as I would with him decorating my towers here.” Douraal’s expression was impossible to read behind his mask, but he seemed to exude a certain humor as he looked at Ben’rik. “Safe travels…old friend.”

Ben’rik let out a sputtering curse as he was dragged to his feet by the Scourges and pulled from the chamber as many of the remaining guests cooed and called encouragement out to him on his future endevors.

“What about us?” The wych known as Kyssindree, the Flensing Laugh glared up at him from where she lay wounded and broken on the floor.

“Yes.” Douraal glanced over them carefully. “What about you.”


-------------------------------------------


Cali’q walked alongside Succubus Ayasha as they descended the ramp of their Raider. Ayasha was a vision, as always, her softly tinkling armor ringing from the dozens of bells attached to it, though the armor barely covered any of her flawless alabaster white skin. Behind them came the Bloodbrides. Mor’osez stalked along, all lean and lanky muscle, that ridiculous mon’keigh blade strapped to her back. Faeth’lyn and Cordus walked to his rear, Cordus all alertness as he stomped along, Faeth’lyn directly behind him, her hands tucked into the arms of her robe, her head bowed. The Klaviskar Twins brought up the rear. Both of them now had bio-cybernetic arms in the place of their missing limbs. One was missing her left arm, where the Incubus had cleaved it from her body, and her sister was missing her right arm…because the crazy bint had decided to mirror her sister’s injury and had cut it off herself so they would still ‘match’.

Cali’q glanced up at the heads displayed over the gate. He couldn’t speak for who they were, so distorted and bloated were they now, insects crawling over them. It was odd that Douraal had not opted to have them stasis treated for preservation, but some Archons preferred to allow their trophies to rot away, a further insult to the memory of their opponents. Cali’q supposed he wouldn’t much bother preserving some Hellions who had attacked him either. But his understanding was that all of the rebel leaders were there, a final reminder of the price of assaulting Shattered Soul.

The Incubi that met them were not members of Archon Douraal’s old Temple of choice. These wore scarlet and gold armor and bore temple markings of Crimson Judgement, their tabards marking them as in service to Shattered Soul though. Their Klaivex saluted Ayasha and turned to escort them to the Archon’s presence.

The pleasure gardens no longer looked the same, burnt out as they were. Cali’q could even see ample evidence of bones amidst the charred remains, though oddly all of the bones looked to be Eldar, he couldn’t spot anything that looked like it had once been a wild predatory animal. That was unusual to his mind, as he had certainly noticed a wide variety of beasts in the gardens when he and the Bloodbrides had fought their way through the swirling melee that had filled the outer gardens.

They found Douraal in his courtyard, overseeing the reconstruction of the arena. He wore an obsidian and silver mask of Khaela Mensha Khaine in addition to his gleaming black armor. At his side stood the Lhamaean he always seemed to favor, and he was discussing aspects of the construction with her. The Incubi Klaivex broke away to approach his lord, saluting and informing him of his guests. Douraal turned and walked over slowly, eyeing Ayasha and her retinue carefully.

“My Lord, Archon.” Ayasha gave a very slight bow, her bells softly chiming, Cali’q dipped lower, and the other Bloodbrides bowed fully. Archon Douraal simply inclined his head, though his Lhamaean dipped a deep curtsey.

“Incubi,” Douraal motioned to the armored guardians. “Very useful beasts, I pay them in advance a full year before their contracts expire, it seems a wise precaution. They do tend to stay loyal that way, and even stay during battles as opposed to scurrying off into the night.” Cali’q ground his teeth slightly, but fought hard to show no reaction to Douraal’s veiled insult. Douraal glanced at the Bloodbrides again. “Your numbers seem…lessened, I hope it was not a result of servce to my house.”

“Our service to you certainly affected my numbers, Lord Douraal.” Ayasha shrugged casually. “Sadly, we were unable to regain any of the bodies of the three fallen Bloodbrides here, I had hoped your work would unearth them.”

“I’m afraid I burnt most of the bodies after returning the fallen nobles to their respective Kabals and Houses, the smell was unpalatable over breakfast.”

“So it is.” Ayasha shrugged again. “We are cloning Grexel a new body and she’ll rejoin our ranks, but we will need to consider our options to restore the unit to proper fighting form.”

“I was afraid of that, but I came up with a solution. Since you were so kind as to lose wyches in my service, I think it will do well to return one to you.” Douraal snapped his fingers.

She strode out of the crowd, proud and fierce. Her armor glinted in the murky light of the three suns, and the blades strapped to her waist and thighs shone sharply.The tabard hanging from her shaply waist marked her as a Hekatrix of Bloodied Kiss. She paused then, hands on hips as she struck a proud pose, her long black hair coiled up into a braided topknot on her head, her lips quirking in a knowing grin.

“Kyssindree?” Ayasha smirked, “isn’t she supposed to be dead?”

“Not at all, many saw her in battle in my arena on my rejuvenation day, and I will say the crowd’s response was…excellent. Naturally you only disowned her so she could work as an infiltrator on my behalf, and now I am returning her to you.”

“Very fortuitous that you have an extra Hekatrix at a period my Bloodbrides have been so unfortunately culled.” Ayasha smiled as she inclined her head to Douraal, clearly understanding why certain bodies had been lost. “I had always thought her worthy of being a Bloodbride, what do you say, Cali’q?” Ayasha glanced at him.

Cali’q smirked at Kyssindree as she smirked back. She was going to be coming for him, he knew, looking to take his position as Syren. He had lost to her in open arena combat, and many had witnessed it. Her new role would reinstate her in the Cult with full honors and give her a chance for more glory, but it would put him at considerable risk Of course…he mused thoughtfully, it also meant she would be at risk from him, and he could pay her back in full if given the chance. He smiled at Ayasha.

“I think the Bloodbrides would be a perfect chance to allow Kyssindree to become famous.”

He glanced at Kyssindree and their gazes were murderous even as they smiled.

“It is done then, I have no problem taking her back if you are content enough with her actions, she always earned well enough in the arena for my tastes.” Ayasha bowed in thanks as Kyssindree walked over to join the Bloodbrides. As she passed the Lhamaean the two of them shared a very careful look, Kyssindree’s gaze full of venom, the Lhamaean’s almost imperceptible smile not shared in her eerily blue eyes. The courtesan raised up one hand, twiddling a few fingers lightly as she waved goodbye to Kyssindree, and the new Bloodbride’s back stiffened in anger as she stalked away.

“Welcome back to the fold,” Cali’q said to her as she approached, “when did you start wearing your hair bound?”

“Oh shut up, Cali’q,” she hissed.


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She stretched out across the ash silk linens, her arms coiling about languidly as she reached out to her sides. She found a noticible absence as her hand went to a place that should have been warm and was instead cool and unoccupied. Obessa frowned to herself and groaned in displeasure as she opened her eyes.

Zak stood by a pile of gear that he had fastidiously organized and arranged on the small side counter. She was certain that none of their gear had been left that way after they arrived and she couldn’t help but smirk at him. He was currently attaching a vambrace to his wrist, fastening the dull black armored piece carefully as he socketed it into its groove and moved his fist around carefully to test the freedom of movement there.

“What are you doing?”

“Dressing myself.”

“Now that’s just odd, I thought you went out of your way to take your shirt off around me.”

Zak paused and glanced over his shoulder at her, his dark eyes gleaming slightly in the light though his face remained expressionless. “I don’t think I do that.”

“Oh, right,” Obessa smirked at him as she rolled over onto her belly and kicked her bare feet slowly in the air as she rested her chin in her hands. “I suppose it’s some sort of official combat doctrine in the Temple, obligating you to remove your shirt when practicing?”

“I am fairly certain it is not official doctrine,” Zak offered simply as he attached his other vambrace.

“Just a personal quirk in general, then?”

“I would simply suggest that certain…sparring matches call for certain attire.”

“We have a few more hours yet,” she motioned to the timepiece on the bed stand, “you paid the proprietor for a full night.”

“I did, but despite wishes to the contrary, I can not stay here much longer.” He turned and walked over to the bed, kneeling down so he could speak to her. “My duties lie back at my Temple, I must return there shortly.”

“Oh,” Obessa frowned. She had known that would happen, of course, but had been allowing herself to forget it. His hand found hers then, dull black metal wrapping around her pale white fingers.

“You could come with me?”

She smirked. “For sparring practice?”

“For…many things.” Zak frowned as he motioned over his shoulder to where her slave clothing was bundled. “You have no Cult, no Kabal, no ties anywhere now, except perhaps as an escaped slave. I do not know if Archon Douraal will seek you out, but…”

“I could make a living on my skills still,” she noted, “there are many who would pay for an attractive bodyguard or enforcer.”

“And I could leave you enough soul chits to buy decent clothing and gear to get you started, yes,” Zak agreed.

“But you want me to come to your temple?”

“Honor, duty, the clean kill, the focused slaying.” Zak stared into her eyes. “You are an Incubus, Obessa, though you may not know it yet, you are meant to wear the skull.”

“And I could be accepted, just like that?”

“No,” Zak shook his head. “You would have to go through the training. Day in and out of grueling work to learn all styles of combat, and to learn and master the weapons of the Incubus; the Punisher, the Tormentor, and the blade of blades, the Klaive. You will be doubted, insulted, thought of as less worthy due to your gender. You will work harder than you’ve ever worked, with almost no offer of praise, and you will kill or be killed in a desperate bid to advance in rank while all those above you watch you carefully for any sign of weakness.”

“You don’t recruit for your temple much, do you?” She smiled at him. “Why do you think I should go through all of that?”

“Because you would be excellent at it, you would see yourself as I see you, and you would do me the pleasure of staying close to me.”

“Indeed?” She reached out, grabbing the tabard that hung from his hips and tugged at it, pulling him up to her, “well, perhaps you should make sure to convince me that would be worth it then?”


-------------------------------------------


He walked out of The Aerie, battered, bloody, his clothing torn, but it had all been worth it. Oh, yes, Glyvius had put on quite a show as they carried him off, and more than a few of those Scourge bastards had gotten in cheap shots. Still, they had upheld their end of the bargin. When Ben’rik had offered them everything he’d looted and twice as much afterwards as long as they would make sure his head was not one of those to adorn a spike on Tael’s wall.

From what he’d heard a few of the old Howlers now worked for ‘Douraal’. Though quite a number had not been so lucky, Ssinssilla, and poor, foolish Jorik. Those true believers, they would have had to have been put down, because the only way they would turn sides was if they knew who really sat on that throne, and Tael could clearly not allow that. Ben’rik supposed their heads looked well enough atop a spike. Of course, he had heard about Kyssindree, and that made sense. She would have flipped loyalties in a second and counted herself lucky for it. Ben’rik almost wondered if Tael would have let him live afterwards…still, best not to consider that too much, it would have been too risky to try.

A few ragged youths finally approached him as he began to exit the blood stained square in front of the tower. They looked like desperate boys, and readied themselves as they brandished small shivs at him. Yesterday Ben’rik would have simply overpowered one of them for a blade and murdered them both for their clothes, money, and weapons.

Yesterday.

Yesterday he didn’t have information about the real identity of an Archon, or the rolled up painting tucked into his vest that proved it to be true. There would be enemies for Tael now, new enemies. The Hellion leaders might be interested to know what had really happened, and certainly the Kabal had enemies, other Kabals, Wych Cults, Covens, many of them might be quite interested to know about this little leadership shift. There were more ways to topple a Kabal than just going to open war with it. Dirty, sneaky, underhand ways, the ways of the back alleys and streets that Ben’rik knew so well.

He owed Tael a debt, and Ben’rik liked to repay debts.

Ben’rik smiled at the two young bladesmen. Still children, wearing ragged clothes, but with that little spark that said they desired more and beleieved themselves fast, smart, and sharp enough to take it. Ben’rik remembered how Tael had smirked that first day he met him and he smirked now as well.

“How would you two like to sleep on ashsilk, consume a soul a day, and have men and women fear and desire you?”

The two youths paused, blinking uncertainly as the glanced at each other and then back at him. Ben’rik raised his arms in surrender.

“I am tired, wounded, unarmed, and totally at your mercy, but I can offer you so much more than you’ve ever had, if you’ll help me. Or, you can just kill me now for a moment of pleasure and stay in your current situation. Here, I’ll make it easy.” He slowly turned around, presenting his back to them, his hands still raised in surrender. Ben’rik waited a breath, wondering if he was going to feel a blade drive into his back. Then another breath. And then…

“What do we need to do?” One of the young bladesmen asked.

Ben’rik smirked as he turned back around.

This looked to be a promising beginning.




The End...for now


====================================================
====================================================
====================================================

And that is a wrap.

The final fight scene came out about as nicely as I had hoped, and I trust answered (most of) the unanswered questions of what Tael had been up to all through the story. Some of you had dropped me PMs with various theories and it was actually rather interesting how many of you got quite close to the truth even from the get go. Clearly I dropped enough hints that the answer could be seen, but not so many that it was silly obvious, which is nice to know.

I had originally intended to have a higher body count amongst the principals then I managed here, after all, life in The Dark City can be brutal. That said...well, I fell too much in love with most of them and wanted a chance to tell further tales featuring them, so I sort of wimped out and left them mostly alive. I wasn't even wanting to kill Ssinssilla, but then again most of her interesting story is probably backstory, so I can always revisit it if I desire. Both Kyssindree and Ben'rik were going to end up dead, but Kyssindree managed to live just be being so awful of a person that I felt letting her live was worse and Ben'rik, well, he became possibly my favorite character and I just couldn't off him.

Another random revelation - I had originally intended to leave the Tael/Douraal battle much more vague about who was sitting upon the throne (Sharess would have conversations with 'the man' sitting there and the specifics of plans would not have been discussed. Mostly that changed as Ben'rik became more important to me, as him now having the foil of Tael is more interesting than Douraal (who would have basically just not even cared about Ben'rik at all).

Probably going to take a while before I undertake anything again, though I already have a few semi-started stories. Maybe I'll steal a page from Cavash and do a poll asking about my next tale. Hurm...

Until then, the story is over, so feel free to assess away Wink

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Devilish
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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Wed Dec 19 2012, 20:18

Wow, great story. I really enjoyed reading the whole thing and I can see myself re-reading this many times.
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Nomic
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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Wed Dec 19 2012, 20:28

It's finally over. To be honest, I'm a bit sad as I've been reading along since the very beginning and now it's all done. Hopefully you'll write some new stories soon, as this was without doubt one of the best pieces of 40k fiction I've read (better than most BL stuff for sure).

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Lady Malys
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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Wed Dec 19 2012, 20:30

So there it is. Wow. Finally at the end. It's been an impressive journey and I was very pleased with the way things turned out, and how my guesses were or weren't right, and that you did tidy up loose ends (so many stories used to leave me with a feeling of "and then what?") Smile You did indeed provide enough to speculate with and not too much to give the plot away, a tricky balance to strike, but you hit it spot on Very Happy

Which one wins, Tael or Dourall? Sharess.

Ben'rik has grown on me (I understand a good topical cream will clear that up), he's got no class, no taste and the morals of a ... Dark Eldar but yes, seeing what he does next would be interesting Very Happy

Last word / favourite ending / resolution goes to Obessa:

Quote :
“Now that’s just odd, I thought you went out of your way to take your shirt off around me.”

Zak paused and glanced over his shoulder at her, his dark eyes gleaming slightly in the light though his face remained expressionless. “I don’t think I do that.”

“Oh, right,” Obessa smirked at him as she rolled over onto her belly and kicked her bare feet slowly in the air as she rested her chin in her hands. “I suppose it’s some sort of official combat doctrine in the Temple, obligating you to remove your shirt when practicing?”

“I am fairly certain it is not official doctrine,” Zak offered simply as he attached his other vambrace.

Incubus Cheesecake Style. Not official doctrine. Yet.

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Thor665
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PostSubject: Re: Trueborn - completed   Wed Dec 19 2012, 20:36

Wink I did toss that in just as a shout out for you, Malys. I think your conclusions were more often correct than not as I recall it. I do know most of the time when I read your musings I'd be smirking and thinking 'oh, she got it' happily to myself.

@Nomic - Despite some of BL's issues the thought is vastly appreciated. Thanks for reading, and, yes, I'll probably write other stuff.

@Devilfish - thank you very much!

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