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Lady Malys
She Who Must Be Obeyed
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Tue Jun 04 2013, 11:18

That's understandable Smile From here though there's no way of knowing if the story is still being written without asking you Smile I'm very happy that it is!

Stories take as long as they take, no more no less Smile

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Thor665
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Sun Jun 09 2013, 17:55

Chapter 3: The First Thing


“There is a danger to your plans.” The slave spoke the words in a soft whisper, bloody bubbles of froth leaking from her lips as she slumped in her chains.

“What danger do you see?” The Master of The Slave spoke sweetly as she coiled up the long black whip in her hands, drops of crimson blood dribbling off of it to splatter on the floor. The Slave had become combative of late, unwilling to reveal her mysteries, but The Master didn’t worry about such matters, after all, peeling the secrets from her by force was infinitely more pleasurable.

“People know the edges of your secrets…”

“Seeing the edge of a knife is hardly protection from its thrust.”

“There is danger.”

“What is the danger, how do I prevent it?”

“There is a black scorpion in the sands, and you do not realize it yet holds the treasure you seek, but though it seems so small, its tail is full of poison, deadly poison, it will burn, it will kill, it will hurt that which tries to take the treasure from it. Beware the poison…”

“Is that all?”

“There is also a warrior, covered in old wounds both visible and hidden, scars on the outside and within. If she throws her knife into the sands of the arena, then you face a great danger indeed.”

“Did you see anything else?”

“I saw…” The Slave paused, licking at dry lips, a tongue stained red with her own blood. For a moment The Master thought she might try to resist, but then The Slave’s shoulders slumped and she whispered even quieter than before. “I saw…that there is no way she will throw her knife.”

“Then that is hardly a danger, is it?”

“It is a danger if her knife is thrown.”

“But she will not throw it?”

“…no, I see she will not.”

The Master smirked, reaching out to stroke The Slave’s cheek. “A shame then, for you, I know how much you wish to see me fail, even if only this way.”

“I do.”

“Now,” The Master’s hand gripped The Slave’s chin firmly and forced her face up. “Tell me about the black scorpion. Tell me everything you saw.”


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


The death of a Succubus was no small matter within a Cult.

With Irbreena’s death there became an opening at the topmost level of the Cult, a new Succubus would need to be found, for it was poor luck for a Cult to lack the full three brides of death. Of course, a new Succubus would most likely come from one of the already politically powerful Hekatrii, and consequently leave an opening in her own wake, even beyond that, as the political blades turned it would unquestionably leave many vacant offices.

It was an exciting time to be a Wych of Bloodied Kiss.

Normally Mor’osez would not have been bothered to care. But that was before her meeting with Irbreena and the Haemonculus Rasp’fel. Now she found her mind abuzz with many concerns. The primary concern was what Rasp’fel had shown her, and why Irbreena had needed to die. She could still see the body floating serenely in the liquid filled vat of nutrient fluid. A perfectly grown and restored body, ready to receive a soul, yet no soul was forthcoming. The machines around it had sparked and churned, activated upon Rasp’fel receiving word that the regeneration contract was due, but though they ran, he claimed, flawlessly, they couldn’t seem to get ahold of the soul.

‘It is as though it is…missing.’ Rasp’fel had smiled apologetically when he said it. ‘Quite strange, quite fascinating, it does not happen often, this.’

But it was the body in the tube that had caught Mor’osez’s attention. A body that belonged to only one woman, Succubus Tin’driel, the Barbed Snowflake, the last Succubus Mor’osez had ever sworn loyalty to. The soul catches still had hummed with power, suggesting they could feel the soul, that it had not been consumed from beyond by She Who Thirsts, that Tin’driel was still, somehow, alive.

Just lost…

Mor’osez’s thoughts were interrupted as the door to the room opened slowly and clicked shut. The lights were still out, but a faint glow glittered through the arched windows of stained purple glass to illuminate the slim shape that now strolled across the soft carpets towards the bed. A long sash was unbound and tossed casually onto the dresser as the layered robes slid off the svelte body. Mor’osez could see the smooth and pale skin well in the dark as weapons and silken undergarments were carefully removed. Her body was muscular, to be certain, but much more slender and womanly than was the norm for a Dark Eldar Wych, probably due to a fighting style that emphasized fluidity and coordination more than raw power.

Which, naturally, would make Mor’osez’s job easier.

She waited till the young Wych had fully disrobed and was starting to remove the clasps from her hair before she stepped out from her hiding place. She slipped up behind her target, one hand reaching out to grab one of the long plaited braids, looping it quickly around the girl’s willow thin neck as she pulled back tightly on it while at the same time grabbing her roughly off her chair and hurling her to the ground.

“Who else did Irbreena talk to?”

“Wh-…?” Faeth’lynn, Bloodbride in service to Irbreena managed a shocked and confused gasp before she half choked on her lack of air.

“Who else did Irbreena talk to?” Mor’osez asked the question again, her voice slow and soft as she tightened her pull on the braid of hair choking Faeth’lynn’s throat. The young Wych, normally so demure, now looked frantic as she struggled for breath. Her thin body writhed weakly underneath Mor’osez as she pinned her to the ground. She had chosen to attack from behind to make the chokehold easier, and with her greater strength and size had fairly ably incapacitated the young girl.

“I don’t-…” the rest of the answer was cut off as Mor’osez pulled back on the braid again, robbing the girl of air for a long moment before easing her grip again.

“You do. I heard her ordering you to kill slaves because of what they heard, but she didn’t kill you. That meant there were people she trusted with information, the same as me. You’re one of them. Who are the others?”

“…you’re….killi-…me.”

“No, I’m not. Not yet.” Her voice remained calm and casual. Mor’osez leaned down to whisper in the young Bloodbride’s ear. “Who else?”

“..ezza…Fay’rezza.”

Mor’osez paused to consider that name. Fay’rezza, a wych sworn in service to Irbreena who had ended up in the political dead end of training new recruits in the use of various spears in battle. Mor’osez had been a fan of the other woman’s work in the arena and had always considered her one of the finer wyches in service to Irbreena. An unlikely suspect, she thought.

“Who else?”

“You…don’t…to…know…”

“Do you really think you’re in a position to suggest what I do and don’t wish to know?” Mor’osez knotted her fingers in the braid and twisted her hand as she pulled back. Faeth’lynn gagged and gasped for air, her pale white face turning an unhealthy blue shade as she emitted a whine like a small animal, delicate hands beating against Mor’osez’s muscular thighs as they pinned her to the ground. Mor’osez waited three heartbeats and then eased her grip. Faeth’lynn sobbed as she sucked in lungful’s of air, her small chest heaving as she drew in the ragged breaths.

“Ghyvia,” she finally hissed quietly.

“You’re lying.”

“Not…”

There came a knock at the door.

Mor’osez glanced up as it opened to reveal Cordus, another of the Bloodbrides. He stood there for a moment, perplexed by what he saw. Then he was dropping the bottle of sweetwine and the small case of candied oils in his hands as he reached down to his belt and drew forth a dueling dagger. Mor’osez stood up slowly, keeping her eyes on him as she planted her foot in the small of Faeth’lynn’s back to keep the smaller wych pinned to the ground. Cordus was broad in the shoulders, and his thick and muscular arms held obvious strength and power in them. He was the only one of the Bloodbrides who she thought might actually be physically stronger than her, so she didn’t like her chances of just bullrushing through him, and though she was certainly better with a knife than he was she didn’t fancy the idea of having to kill him for no reason.

“It’s okay, Cordus.” Faeth’lynn looked up at him from the floor, raising an arm to ward him off. “Mor’osez was just leaving.” Mor’osez glanced down at Faeth’lynn who was glaring up at her from the floor. She returned her gaze to Cordus who had stepped away from the door and motioned to it with a nod of his head.

“If you’re going, now would be the time,” he noted coolly, his deep voice rumbling with an unsubtle threat to it. Mor’osez smirked at him as she looked back down at Faeth’lynn.

“Thank you for the information, we’ll talk again.”

She slowly stepped off the smaller wych, keeping her gaze calmly on Cordus. She wasn’t armed and he was, but he looked uncertain and Mor’osez felt cold assurance that she could kill him if needed. . She walked out of the room carefully, ready at any moment to have Faeth’lynn go for her throwing knives, but nothing came of it and Cordus simply closed the door behind her as she left.

Ghyvia…that was not a name she had wanted to hear.


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


The horns sounded a crescendo of almost deafening magnitude as a wave of Reaver Jetbikes swept over the stands, skimming mere inches from the crowd, with a few of the more playful pilots using their bladevanes to split a topknot off or reaching down to pluck some morsel of food from their plates. Plumes of colored smoke sprang from the vents around the blazing turbo engines as the bikes roared overhead. The stands erupted in applause at the spectacle, for Bloodied Kiss had long been known for the consummate skill and excellence of their Reaver squadrons. The bikes surged down towards the red sands, splitting into a spiraling corkscrew pattern as they swept in and around each other, their bladevanes gleaming and flashing razor sharp, the bright warpaint and colored hair of the riders flickering like flashes of light in the darkness, all to the wailing of the trumpets and the screeching howls of each individual Reaver engine and rider.

The Arena of Bloodied Kiss was a vast structure, as befitted their reputation for Jetbike performances, a long stretched oval shape with a domed ceiling that served as an additional part of the racetrack so that the Reavers sped through the audience and above them with each circuit, raining blood down on the crowds during their gory matches. Also overhead were many floating platforms, the finest seats in the arena, personal flotillas for the elite of the Dark City, each featuring the finest views, elegant seating, dining, and boasting a formidable array of shield generators to protect the patrons from any unforeseen accidents…or, hopefully, intentional ones.

Below the floating seats were the upper seats, set into the balconies and ringing the front edge of the arena in cordoned off viewing boxes with lush cushions, slave menials circulating with food, wine, and other delicacies, and viewing monitors linked into the holo system for up close viewing pleasure and enjoyment of any needed replays. These seats were fit for lesser warriors of the Kabals, powerful merchants, and those who preferred their viewing experiences to boast the visceral pleasure of arterial sprays of blood splattering them. Finally there were the vast swaths of seats in the vox populi, chair upon chair pressed into narrow rows to achieve the maximum occupancy. Here would sit those unable to afford a place of honor, but still eager to enjoy the grandeur and spectacle of the performances of the Wyches of Bloodied Kiss.

It was a grand celebration day, and the seats were filled to overflowing, even the vox populi had become standing room only. Mor’osez herself sat in the upper seats near the sands, like many of the other powerful and famed wyches of the Cult, meanwhile the floating seats were filled with famed Archons and powerful pirate lords who had long standing contracts with the Cult, each highly interested in the affairs being settled here today. After all, it was not every day that a Succubus died, and the celebration and performances in her honor were scheduled to last twenty power cycles of the captive suns.

There would be games in the arena each peakcycle, many of them honoring the greatest and best achievements of Irbreena in the Arenas. Already Mor’osez knew there would be a recreation of the Race of Shattered Glass, which Irbreena had won in her first Deathcycle championship. It was also near certain that some wych would attempt to recreate the elegant reverse castration maneuver with a barbed agonizer whip, though Mor’osez suspected few would be able to do it on an opponent as worthy as one of the vile Champions of She-Who-Thirsts. Then, as the suns began their daily diminishment to darkcycle a feast would be held, and the tally of the votes would be counted.

Ah, yes, the votes. Mor’osez frowned at the very thought of them as she reached out to tear off a few steaming, bloody strips of the roasted Ghell worm in front of her, the spicy meat burning pleasantly as she slurped it down. At the opening ceremonies an important matter would be brought to question; who would stand to replace Irbreena?

Bloodied Kiss didn’t partake of some of the cruder and untrustworthy habits of other, lesser, Cults. It practiced a very democratic method; any Wych of the Cult could throw her knife into the circle to signify her desire to compete for the position. The Cult would then vote for her, casting in their lots at the end of each day of the games to show which applicant they most favored, at the final end of the games the tallies would be counted, and the next Succubus would be chosen. This was supposed to be able to showcase a single Wych, capable of fielding grandeur in the arena for multiple days, and also holding at bay political and physical threats off the sands at the same time. It would, theoretically, produce a Wych with skills in battle, canniness in avoiding murder attempts, and cunning in being able to hold sway over enough votes to prove she could lead the varied whims of the Cult entire.

In practice, generally the only question was which applicant the other two Succubi allowed to survive, for few Wyches would cast their lots for any applicant that the other two Succubi did not approve of, so the only real question was which of the other two Succubi would get a new catspaw. Most of the other applicants either dropped out of the race quickly, or met with untimely deaths from a variety of sources.

The opening ceremonies began with a roar as the Reavers flocked to the starting line and began their race. This competition would be a simple hundred rotation speed race, blades allowed, all explosives and ranged weapons disallowed…unless it was ruled artistic enough. The winner would earn the right to play the role of Irbreena in the Race of Shattered Glass on the morrow. Popular betting was wagering that it would either be Kyssindree, the Flensing Laugh, or Y’issithyian, the Jealous Jade. Though there was a reasonable amount of supporters for the young ‘Headsplitter’ Mynx, who had just won the last Deathcycle series of races, albeit with Kyssindree not competing due to her duties as a Bloodbride, and with Y’issithyian hired out to a Kabal participating in a real space raid for almost half the races, strongly affecting the number of points she could earn.

“Are you here for a list of suspects?”

Mor’osez glanced up to see Faeth’lyn standing slightly behind her, the young wych attired in one of her usual long red and black robes, her gleaming black hair bound up in looping plaits and held in place by silver needles. Her pale cheeks were highlighted with red rouge, and her eyelids were anointed in an identical shade. She held a slim parasol of black and bronze, and wore an engraved bronze choker around her slim neck, so no bruising was apparent. Mor’osez considered her carefully for a moment, noting that she held no weapons and was hardly in a ready battle stance, she grunted and nodded her head to one of the empty chairs in her private box, inviting her to sit. Faeth’lyn did so demurely and with practiced grace, her back straight, her posture perfect, she folded her hands on her lap and smiled back at Mor’osez.
“What suspects do you think I’m hunting?”

“After this race, the Succubi will be coming out to offer the circle of knives.” Faeth’lyn shrugged her shoulders slightly, her voice was whisper soft and bored sounding, and she seemed to be paying more attention to the race than anything else. “One might think that, if someone were to murder a Succubus, that one would have plans in store for the newly vacated position.”

“One might think that,” agreed Mor’osez. Mynx had taken an early lead in the race, splitting apart one of the heads of another rider as she roared into the principal position. It was a foolish move born of youth, to take too early of a lead simply marked you as a target. “Though a smart murderer would be unlikely to actually present themselves.”

“A prime agent, then, at the very least, it’s a place for a clue.”

“One might think that.” Mor’osez took a sip of her ale, the brackish green liquid was one of her favorite vintages, distilled from a rare berry and mulled with salt from the tears of only the finest slave children, its bitter tang bit at her tongue pleasurably. “Why are you here?”

“To help you.”

“Really?” Mor’osez smirked as she looked Faeth’lyn over again. “Do I look like someone who needs help?”

“Irbreena was right about you, you are a stubborn old wych.” Faeth’lyn lifted one perfectly manicured eyebrow as she continued to watch the race that was speeding by overhead, stinging droplets of blood sprayed down from above, hitting the crowd like tiny pinpricks. Faeth’lyn shifted her parasol to prevent any blood from landing on her. “Your biggest weakness is you think you’re so skilled at reading other people, when the reality of the situation is you get by simply because you’re so very good at cracking skulls.”

“I was surviving as a Bloodbride while you were still a fetal smear in your birthing tube.”

“I was born True, and did you survive by being clever at politics?” In the race above, Kyssindree came cutting in from above Mynx, a darting slash with her bladevane tearing open the younger wych’s arm, leaving her unable to properly steer her jetbike as the pair of them approached a dangerous backswitch curve with bladed spike traps. Kysindree smiled at her wounded opponent, blowing her a kiss as she waved her farewells. The crowd roared in approval.

“I survived, isn’t that the important matter.” Mor’osez’s hair ruffled slightly as the explosion of Mynx’s jetbike roared across the arena. She hoped the young wych had been wise enough to invest some of her race winnings with a Haemonculous.

Faeth’lyn went quiet at that point, as the race reached its conclusion. Kyssndree roared overhead, unleashing her signature undulating victory howl as she raised her arms to bask in the exhalations of the approving crowd. She was very popular with the rabble and the younger wyches, ad her delicious cruelty in the arenas always assured her greater glories.

As the other surviving Reavers eased their bikes down for the presentation of the awards the two remaining Succubi of the Cult were stepping out onto the red sands of the arena.

Ayasha Indrainel sauntered to the center of the arena with the proud walk of a champion of champions. Her list of battle honors and arena awards was without question in their glory and beauty. Her skin was of the purest alabaster. Her eyes were pale sapphires. Her long hair fell in artistic swirls, glittering black with blue highlights that sparked like winking stars around a face flush with youth and vigor, doubtless gained from some last minute executions of dozens of slaves. Her body was lean muscle and delectable curves, wrapped in skintight gold and green armor that left very little to the imagination as it showcased large swathes of bare flesh, tantalizingly offered out to be caressed or cut. On the armor were tiny crystal bells that hummed and chimed ever so softly as she walked, each movement creating a very specific sound. A whip was coiled at her taunt waist, its platinum handle wrapped in the cured leather flesh of some mighty opponent she had slain.

Next to her strode Black Ghyvia, The Shadowed Smile. A long black cape fluttered from her muscular shoulders, and her black and gold liquidsilk suit hugged her spare muscular curves like a second skin. Her eyes were dark, ringed with deep kohl markings to show her veneration of Khaine. Her lips were accented bright, bloody, red, her long emerald green hair was wound through with golden wires that sparked and glittered in tiny explosions of light. Her matched pair of dueling sabres rested at her waist, belted in place with a sash of pale flesh taken from the body of Cleos, the Succubus Ghyvia had replaced after cutting her down in the arena during a private duel.

“So, there is Ghyvia,” Faeth’lyn offered, “do you think she is a suspect for killing Irbreena?”

“I don’t know yet.” Mor’osez frowned as she considered the Succubus. “Does it really matter?”

“I don’t know, does it?” Faeth’lyn glanced over at Mor’osez, her face a mask of unreadable neutrality, “Irbreena seemed to think you would make it matter.”
“Irbreena was a drunk fool.”

“There you go again,” Faeth’lyn shrugged, “thinking you know more than you do.”
Ayasha raised her hand for silence, her voice amplified throughout the arena was resounding and clear, dulcet tones that rang with confidence. “I am honored to see so many of my sisters here this day, too long has it been since we sat together to settle the question of who amongst us is the finest. Now,” she motioned to Ghyvia, “we wait before you and ask, who amongst you stands ready to be venerated, who amongst you is as one with the art of the kill and the power of the Cult, who amongst you is a Bride to Death?”

“You’re saying Irbreena wasn’t a drunk?”

“Oh, no, she was.” Faeth’lyn leaned over to pick up one of the decanters set in front of Mor’osez. She eyed the vintage thoughtfully and then sniffed at the bottle neck. Her face remained very calm but she firmly placed the bottle back on the tray and made no move to pick up one of the spare glasses nearby. “But, do you think I am a fool?”

“You probably think you’re more clever than you really are,” Mor’osez shrugged, “but that is normal for a young pup like yourself.”

“Very well, and do you think I would serve a fool?”

Mor’osez frowned as she considered that. “Irbreena was a fool. You served her, so, yes. I do.”

“What is a fool, then?” Faeth’lyn looked over some of the bloody hunks of meat on the meal trays nearby and frowned again, finally reaching out, one hand holding back the sleeve of her robe, to delicately pluck a small fungal paste coated fruit from the steaming platter. “There was a time when three sisters ruled our Cult, do you recall?”

“Of course.”

“Tin’driel, whom you served, Cleos, the famed raider, and drunk, foolish, Irbreena.”

Down on the field a few younger wyches had already cast their blades into the sands. This was normal, young upstarts who wanted to gain some recognition. None of them would win, but it was important to be seen that they wished to compete, to show that they desired leadership and thought they were capable of it. It wasn’t until this point that a real contender stepped forward. Kyssindree sprang off the champion’s podium, casting aside her winner’s laurel and silver crown as she drew a long bladed dagger from her hip and sent it spinning to plant into the sands right in front of the two Succubi.

Kyssindree raised her arms to the rest of the arena as it filled with the raucous cheers of the masses. It had long been expected that she would seek the position of Succubus, and she wielded a compelling talent in the arena and a shockingly potent cult of personality about her. She was a strong favorite, the only question was if either of the other Succubi would see her as a likely ally.

“Tin’driel was no fool, in your mind, was she?” Faeth’lyn took a small, demure bite from the fruit. “She was a forceful battle commander, and highly honored in the arenas as one of the most deadly duelists in High Commoragh. Cleos was no fool either, a deadly raider she set entire worlds to the torch. Irbreena, though, she you call a fool.”

“Is there a point to all of this?”

“Tin’driel was slain during a raid, I suppose we could call it bad luck, but…” Faeth’lyn shrugged. “Then we have dear Ghyvia down there on the sands, she actually wears part of Cleos as her belt, because Cleos challenged her to a duel right after Tin’driel’s death, and Cleos lost.”

“Are you saying the two deaths are connected?”

“I’m saying the timing is suspect, do you disagree?”

Mor’osez considered that for a moment. The two deaths had happened in close proximity to one another. Tin’driel had died under unusual circumstances on the raid, cut down amidst her Bloodbrides while not even near the front lines. Cleos had often been prone to fits of rage and pique, had her demands to duel Ghyvia been borne of a desire to avenger her sister? Ghyvia meeting with Irbeena, had it been about the deaths of Cleos and Tin’driel? Mor’osez took a sip of the bitter ale on the platter next to her as she frowned, her head already hurting from all these thoughts of politics.

“So…after both of her sisters were dead, and the ruling power of the Cult shifted dramatically, Irbreena, the one you call ‘foolish’ survived for two centuries. Survived in the position of Succubus, with hordes of eager knives all around her wanting the position. Survived, while brave Cleos and mighty Tin’driel lay rotting in shallow graves. Survived, and learned something about her opponents that, perhaps, pushed them to this point where Irbreena considered them weak enough that you would be a threat to them.”

‘I know three things that you don’t know’

Down on the sands Cluuvia had just tossed one of her envenomed knives into the sands. The Hekatrix, famed for her brutal use of toxins, dipped a low bow as applause rang through the arena. Her gaze turned murderously to Kyssindree, knowing that they were the two most likely contenders. Most of the other knives were from minor applicants. It would be a two-way race then, Cluuvia and her potency on raids, and Kyssindree’s flashing fame and showy arena exploits. The Succubi called for a final offer of knives, not wanting to draw out the ceremony much longer.

“Cleos was strong, and fearless, and she fearlessly died. Tin’driel was cunning and lethal, and she was cunningly destroyed. Irbreena was a drunk fool, and she drunkenly…survived? Maybe you are only seeing exactly what she wanted you to see, I know that I never thought she was without cunning.”

“You want me to believe that Irbreena survived so long because she was clever? Maybe she just survived because she wasn’t a threat.”

“Maybe,” Faeth’lyn nodded in thought, “but I think you already know that’s not true. Still, there is a way to find out, and also to draw out the people who sought her death.”

“How?”

Faeth’lyn’s arm snapped out, a knife suddenly arcing up through the air. Mor’osez was caught a little surprised by the speed of the motion and that she hadn’t realized the girl had drawn a blade. Thinking back she realized it had been slipped loose when she had taken the fruit. Mor’osez, begrudgingly, adjusted her read of how dangerous Faeth’lyn might be in a fight. She was, at least, clever and subtle.

The knife arced up in the air and then dropped down sharply, plunging up to the hilt in the red sands of the arena, perfectly in the center of the circle. There was a pause as all the contenders and the two Succubi glanced around, looking for who had thrown the knife. Faeth’lyn turned to look at Mor’osez again, a very small smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.

“You will consider my offer to help you, I hope. I am adroit, and I could be of use to you in surviving.”

“Surviving what?” Mor’osez shrugged, “I can’t recall the last time I was fearful of any challenge.”

Ayasha flicked a finger to one of her handmaidens who darted forward to the knife, pulling it out to look at the markings. The handmaiden then scuttled back, speaking a name. Ayasha blinked, a look of odd confusion on her face. Nearby Ghyvia frowned, shaking her head in uncertainty. Kyssindree smirked, though her eyes darted up to the stands, flicking about nervously. Cluuvia clenched her fists and followed that gaze, an angry scowl on her face.

“Well…” Ayasha shrugged and then smiled brightly. “This is unexpected, but hardly uninteresting. We have our final applicant. Mor’osez!” She motioned up into the stands as streaming lights turned and focused in on Mor’osez in her box seat. She sat up in surprise, knocking over her decanter of ale as she did so.

“You’re not the only one capable of breaking into other people’s chambers.” Faeth’lyn stood up and bowed slightly as she backed away from the lights. “Don’t worry, the challenge of becoming a Succubus is easy, after all, even a drunk fool like Irbreena could do it.”

The crowd roared in approval.

Mor’osez felt a cold chill seep through her, something she hadn’t felt for a few centuries, it was so unusual it took her a moment to even recognize it for what it was.

Fear.

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Siticus the Ancient
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Sun Jun 09 2013, 18:41

A wonderful move from young Faeth'lyn, very cunning. Poor Mor'osez really didn't see it coming, lulled into an illusion of safety from Faeth'lyn's knives, when she should've been on the lookout for hers as well. Ah, and veiled prophecies, to get the truth, they have to be interpreted more than just what they seem at the beginning. Very well done, Thor, this is captivating as always - can't wait for the next chapter!

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Mon Jun 10 2013, 22:58

Faeth'lyn is definitely a character I'm hoping to get to spend some time exploring. She certainly has come a long way getting by on being cunning - we wonder if that's enough?

As far as the prophecies...oh, yes, there will be some more issues with them soon enough.

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Lady Malys
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Mon Jun 10 2013, 23:28

Quote :
“Surviving what?” Mor’osez shrugged, “I can’t recall the last time I was fearful of any challenge.”

And eating those words in 3, 2, 1 ... Very Happy

An interesting development and worth the wait! I will be very interested to see what Mor'osez does about this one ...

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Tue Jun 11 2013, 00:35

Cracks a few skulls?

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Lady Malys
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Tue Jun 11 2013, 01:03

Including her own if she thinks too hard? Razz

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Tue Jun 11 2013, 21:59

Yikes, smart move
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Wed Jun 12 2013, 20:15

I've officially given up on trying to make the timelines of the Mor'osez/Obessa arcs line up. They are backtrack-able to a point once the two stories start to intermingle, but no other effort on my part is going to be spent there. silent

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Wed Jun 12 2013, 20:57

Save your brain, Thor. We need you to keep it for writing. Aspiring Incubi probably don't have that strong a grasp of time passing in the outside world anyway Smile

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Thu Jul 18 2013, 07:01

Haven't forgotten this - was just slogging through some tough stuff.
Looks like I've finally battered the next chapter into a shape I want. Fireworks should start going off over the next few chapters also.

Plus, I am now in love with Faeth'lyn.
Not to mention Kyssindree's new henchwoman who hasn't even shown up yet.
I need to stop doing that.

Note to self: just have the pair of them battle to the death for the amusement of myself and others and to keep other characters from getting out of line.

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Thu Jul 18 2013, 20:47

Quote :
have the pair of them battle to the death for the amusement of myself and others

Ancient Rasp'fel always appreciates a show like this!

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Sat Jul 20 2013, 05:13

Chapter 4: The Test


The small brass buckets swung about on their chains in smooth arcs as she sprang from one of the raised stone pillars to the next in line, her sword humming through the air as she performed the movements of the battle kata. The chains for the buckets were attached to her wrists, forcing her shoulders, wrists, and arms to strengthen in order to still wield her blade. At the same time she had to manage to keep her movements smooth and fluid, for any spilling of the water in the buckets would be seen as a failure. Finally the exercise was a lesson in equilibrium, as her poise on the slick and narrow stone pillars was unsteady at best, and made worse by the swinging of the brass buckets and their liquid cargo.

“Balance, footwork, precision, control, these are not meaningless concepts,” Are’zhai Ryldnar walked along the side of the rods, lecturing as he often did during the many strenuous exercise regimes the students had to overcome each day. “When life is not intellectually and therefore consciously conditioned but left to the inner working of the Unconscious, it takes care of itself in an almost reflex automatic fashion, so it is with a blade, with a sword, a knife, an axe, a spear. Who are you to judge the moment and the intent? It is your duty to be prepared beyond preparation, to understand your weapon beyond your thoughts of it. Do you know yourself? Do you know your blade?”

“Do you know a sword?” Obessa murmured Ryldnar’s question to her as she advanced the next step of the kata, already shifting her hips as she prepared to move on to the next pillar. She had proven good at this stage of the training, it being very similar to many Wych battle drills which required acrobatic mastery as well as the ability to wield a weapon. Her transitions were smooth, and she allowed the swinging buckets to flow with her as she practiced the kata, not fighting their weight, but allowing it to guide her. Her toes would grip firmly, yet delicately, to the well-worn stone pillars that had seen so many students before her and would likely see thousands after.

Ahead of her she could see Tilt moving along with casual grace, his face bore a look of intense focus, but his motions were near perfect, the sweat glistening along his muscular shoulders as he kept his movement across the pillars smooth and elegant. Behind her she could hear Tymeon cursing under his breath, he had already spilled water at least twice, and was nearing the seventy-ninth pillar that he had never managed to cross, as he almost always mistimed the leaping reverse backthrust. Welv’ghar was already down in the practice yard, having failed on the forty-sixth pillar. He was having to balance his sword on his feet while standing on his hands. The muscles in his arms bulged with strain, but she suspected he would, as usual, hold the pose until the exercise had ended.

Students who had been unable to either cross the pillars or hold the punishment pose long enough to allow the class to finish had slowly been weeded out. The same went for those who hadn’t managed to show at least passable competence in the various weapons they trained with, or the other strange exercises. Obessa was uncertain where they had gone, usually they went to bed at night, and simply were no longer present in the morning. Tilt had suggested they were sacrificed to Khaine as an apology for failing in proper veneration of the Bloody Handed God. Tymeon held that failure was punishment enough, and that likely those with no future had been sold as slaves while those of nobler parentage would have been sent packing.

“To know one thing is to know ten thousand things, to know yourself is to know your blade, to know your blade is to know yourself, for you are the blade as the blade is you. But you must not allow yourself to become complacent, or to think you know all things.” As Ryldnar passed by her post while she was finishing a thrust and turning to leap to the next pillar his hand snapped out, grabbing at one of her buckets and jerking it to the side as it was swinging back to her. Obessa snarled as she twisted in midair, managing a sloppy, at best, landing and failing her thrust. The only bit of pride she had was that she had rolled enough with his interruption to prevent any water spillage. Ryldnar motioned her off the pillar. “Misstep, go to the punishment pose.”

“But-“

“Are you going to tell me something is unfair, that your opponent must follow a certain set of rules?”

“This isn’t a battlefield,” she retorted hotly as she dropped off the pillar to allow Tymeon open space to pass. He slightly shook his head at her, trying to issue a warning, but then he was moving along, intent to finish the kata.

“It’s all a battlefield,” Ryldnar’s voice, as always, remained slow and soft. He motioned casually with one hand for her to head to the center of the courtyard where the other students held the pose, his other hand remained ready at his side, in easy reach of drawing his Punisher. Obessa bowed deeply to him and backed away, knowing her pride was not worth risking her chance to become an Incubus, and certainly not worth risking Zak’s life.

She flipped her sword up into the air as she tumbled forward and kipped up into a handstand, her feet delicately catching the sword as it plunged back down. She straightened her arms and steadied her breathing as she held the punishment pose.

“You are both potential highly talented failures,” Ryldnar walked in front of Welv and Obessa as they held their poses. “One of you does not know a knife, and one does not know a sword. What am I to do with the two of you?”

“Teach us,” offered Welv with a grunt, “you’re supposed to be our Are’zhai.”

“Do you suggest I am failing at my duties?” Ryldnar crouched down in front of Welv, his skull mask gleaming as he stared at the large man’s scared face. “Perhaps you think yourself a trainer of some sort?”

“I do not have a past anymore, I wear the Grey, I am no longer alive or dead, I am walking the path of wisdom to see which fate I deserve.”

“You always manage to repeat my lessons, yet rarely sound as if you understand them.” Ryldnar glanced over at Obessa. “And what of you, joygirl? Were you expecting a pretty face and ample assets to be enough to make you worthy of the Purple? Or do you think your petulance and glowering stares will win you greater knowledge?”

“If I know my anger, then I will know ten thousand things, I cannot ignore it or I will know nothing.” Obessa knew that was a good enough answer, but for some reason she felt some more words spring from her mouth, “and if I decided to offer up any assets I may have, I know I could do better than you.”

Ryldnar’s expression could not be seen from behind his mask. He stood up slowly, his gaze never wavering from her. He then motioned to the two of them. “Sharpen yourselves, or shatter alone.”

“What’s that mean?” Welv called out to Ryldnar’s retreating back, but the Incubus didn’t turn around. “What does he mean?” Welv glanced over at her, Obessa frowned, watching the retreating back of the weapon master. “He’s no worthwhile teacher,” grunted Welv darkly.

“You think you could do better?”

“Could hardly do worse, I’ve trained enough weapon drills in my day.”

Obessa considered that a moment, and then a small smile spread over her features, “think you still could?”


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

“This is idiotic,” noted Tymeon as he stood next to Obessa in the practice yard. “Your plan counts on Welv cooperating with you, and as far as I can tell he’d as soon stab you as look at you.”

“Let me worry about Welv.”

“It’s not like I was offering to help you out if things went bad,” Tymeon noted with a shrug and a smirk. “I’m just saying my days would be less amusing and I think you haven’t thought through all the ways this thing could go wrong.”

They’d slipped out of their rooms early in order to get through their morning chores with enough time to get in some extra practice. A few other students were with them, other applicants who’d been struggling with some aspect of the training. Obessa considered them all, she knew Welv seemed to do well with sword training, and she with the knife work. Tymeon had seemed to master the spear quicker than most. Amongst them all, could they improve one another? She realized most of them were looking at her curiously, clearly wondering how to start.

“Look,” she began, “I am not certain if any of us are what they are looking for in an Incubus. Each of us struggles with some part of the training, and I don’t think Ryldnar cares.” She left out that she was fairly certain that Ryldnar was in service to Xulfryn and was specifically attempting to make sure she failed to pass the upcoming Unan Angau. “We aren’t competing for a limited number of slots here though, all of us want to advance to the Purple. So it stands to reason that if we can learn from each other, train where we are weak with someone who is strong, then we all stand a better chance.”

“Who is to say we can’t do it by ourselves?” Welv was leaning up against a wall, his muscular arms crossed over his broad chest, his lip curled up in a sneer.

“I would imagine you would be able to guess your own chances,” she announced,” I’ve seen your knife work.

“Incubi fight with swords,” he stubbornly growled. The sword clattered down in front of Welv as he finished talking. He paused, his scar-lined face twisting up in a scowl of confusion. He looked up at her, Obessa stood with one hand on her hip, and the other holding a sword at rest over her shoulder. Welv frowned as his eyebrows lifted uncertainly.

“You said you trained others with a sword.” Obessa shrugged.

Welv leaned back to look her over fully, a small smirk appearing on his face. “This isn’t going to be some little dance with Ryldnar there to call me off as soon as you get a small scratch on me.”

“I’m not scared of you, and I need to know a sword.”

“If you were smarter you would be.” Welv started to pull his gloves on, lacing them tightly. He stood up slowly, towering over her as he slid his foot under the blade on the ground. “Knowing a sword? Is that a euphemism? Because, if so, I can think of easier and more enjoyable ways to ‘know’ one.” Some of the other applicants laughed softly at his jest. Obessa frowned as she glared at them, taking her eyes off Welv for a critical half heartbeat.

His foot kicked upwards, sending his sword into the air where he caught it and, in the same motion, attempted to gut her with a blindingly fast slash. Obessa was thrown off balance by his lascivious remark, and surprised by the speed of the strike, but still managed to sweep her sword off her shoulder and deflect the attack, the force of the blow sending her feet sliding over the loose gravel. Welv was on her immediately, his motions all sharp, jagged, and deadly. It was confusing, because the fluidity of her own style, the battle methods of the Wych Cults was certainly more appealing and graceful, but she realized there was a crude but deadly artistry to his Kabal-style swings. He was hemming her in, battering at her defenses, pushing her to the limit to see if he could crack her open. Her feet danced backward, attempting to slip out to either the left or right side to allow herself some breathing room, but he pressed on, cutting off her attempts with wide steps, his stance always ready to send another withering blow at her head or side.

Suddenly his fist lashed out, striking hard at her face. Obessa managed to roll her neck with the impact, preventing the hard punch from knocking her senseless, but it still left her staggering away from him. He came roaring forward, his face grim and focused, as he let out a massive double handed overhand chop that would split her in two. Obessa sprang to the side, sprawling to the ground as she narrowly avoided the hit. Even as she started to roll to her feet his sword was there, the tip pressing against her throat. Obessa spat out a bit of blood from her mouth as Welv’ghar looked down on her, his stony expression becoming a small grin.

“You’re terrible with a sword,” he said finally. He reached down, offering her a hand. She accepted it and he effortlessly hauled her to her feet, pulling her in tightly to his muscular chest as he smiled even more. “Now, let’s see, as the victor I do believe I have the right to the spoils.” He moved in closer, his lips heading for hers. It took Obessa a moment to realize what he was doing, but the instant he tried to kiss her he suddenly grunted in pain and staggered back, wincing as he half doubled over from the knee she had landed between his legs.

“Oh bother, now you’ve brain damaged him,” quipped Tymeon as he looked up from the growing betting pool.

Welv rose up slowly, scowling again, his face flushed in anger, as Obessa readied her sword, she smirked. “You better be a lot more impressive in performance than that if you think I’m going to be awestruck enough to let you sweep me up in your arms.”

“Seemed a prize worthy of the risk,” he grunted, a tight lipped smile flitting across his face before he lunged in once more, “besides, it should be easy enough to take you down again.”

He snapped forward with a quick double-step lunge. Obessa blocked again, but this time took a step away from him as she did, the technique was similar to how she used her daggers, allowing the blow more to roll off her guard rather than firmly block it. At least this time her hands didn’t ring with a shocking numbness from the impact of the blow. She kept moving that way, trying to weave and dance around his outer strike range, unsure how to deal with his greater power and size.

“You learn quickly, I’ll hand you that,” he offered as he stepped in with a backhand slash that left her wide open again as it battered her sword out wide. She spun with the blow, dropping to one knee as she twirled around, avoiding his return slash and sending a brutal cut to his knee. He barely managed to smash his sword down in time to block the blow, the point ramming into the ground right in front of his leg, her swing sending sparks flying as it rang off the edge of his sword. He was on her again then, grabbing hands locking onto her throat and sword arm as he drove her backwards to the ground. Obessa snarled as she slid her knees up into his chest and kicked upward as she rolled back, launching him head over heels through the air to crash down to the ground. She flipped back to her feet in one smooth motion as he turned and scrambled back to a standing guard position as well.

Both had dropped their swords, and combat instinct took over as they drew their daggers in a flash of motion. Obessa was on him first, her weapon draw a fluid motion honed over the years in the arena, cutting in fast from the left and right to push him away from his sword. Welv’s draw was slower, as though he rarely counted on his dagger, he lunged out with a clumsy chop that was poorly timed, she paused a half a heartbeat to allow it to pass and then stepped under his guard, cutting a few quick and shallow cuts across his abdomen as a lesson to him as she ducked and slid back from his return slash.

He grunted in surprise at the speed of her attack even as she twisted her blade around and slashed his wrist on the hand holding his dagger, he had swung too widely for some reason and was slow to bring his weapon back into a guard position. She continued the forward motion by ramming her shoulder into his chest, sending him crashing backwards to the ground with a growl of annoyance, the dagger flying from his numb fingers.

Obessa drew in  a few calming breaths as she looked down at him, blood still dribbled from her lips where he had punched her, and she could see the wounds she had caused him were painful but not life threatening. She cocked her head to the side as he sat up on his elbows and looked at her.

“You’re terrible with a dagger,” she finally said.

“That’s why I use a sword, of course,” he snarled as he suddenly kicked out at her knee. She sprang backward to avoid the impact and he rolled back to his feet again, his hands digging across the gravel to come up with her fallen sword in his grip. He smiled as he motioned her to come at him again. “Scared?”

She flipped her dagger into the air, catching it in a reverse grip as she charged in again. His initial slash at first seemed one of his clumsy ones again, but then he managed a sharp reverse. She had to check her instinct to try to duck under his first swing and was forced to defend from the reverse, rolling with the blow knowing her dagger couldn’t hold up to the strength or speed of his sword swings.

She feinted left and then darted right, heading towards his sword arm side, knowing if she could shift the fight into closer quarters his longer blade would become a disadvantage. He knew this as well, and threw out a quick elbow at her head to try and gain room. She ducked underneath it, bringing herself up behind him. He sprang into the air, spinning about with a wild slash of his blade in a defensive arc, almost taking her face off before she managed to backflip away from it. She landed in a crouch, with Welv already darting in for her, quick thrusts now his plan, realizing she was too quick for his powerful slashes to connect with and wanting to try to force her to keep her distance.

Obessa caught one of his thrusts on the guard of her dagger, the sword seemed to shriek, sparks flying off it as she moved forward, dragging her hilt along the sword, as she moved in under his reach. He, wisely, released his sword, already recognizing the danger, his arm chopping down in an attempt to club her across the head, but she twisted away from the blow and brought her dagger up to his neck, two quick taps on either side of his throat raised very delicately small cuts as she wheeled around and moved away from him.

“Okay…” Welv reached up, feeling the small cuts and sighed as he raised his hands in surrender. His face lost its dark glower of frustration and he smiled, an almost boyishly amused expression. “How about I don’t try to kiss you till you want me to?”

“You…” Obessa was left at a loss for words.

He rose to his feet, leaning down to pick up the fallen sword, “I’ve not met many people who can beat me when I have a sword in my hand.” He bowed slightly to her. “Even less that made it…enjoyable.” He saluted her sloppily as he backed away.

“What did she do wrong?”

“Eh?” Welv glanced over at Tymeon who was pocketing his winnings as he considered the two fighters carefully.

“If she was your student, what would you tell her she did wrong?”

“Well…” Welv paused as he considered her, running a hand through his short buzz of dark hair. He thought about it for a long moment, his words slow and thoughtful. “I guess her big issue is that I punched her,” he nodded as he glanced at Obessa, “that was the biggest mistake you made.”

“My biggest error in swordfighting is that you punched me?” Obessa frowned.

“It’s true.” Welv shrugged. “Look, I only fought you with a sword the once, how much brilliance do you expect here?”

“About as much as I ever would expect from you.”

“Yeah,” Welv smiled again, that boyish grin, as he chuckled. “What did I do wrong with the knife?”

“You…you swing it too hard, you treat it like a meat cleaver when it’s supposed to be a tooth, a small and quick tooth and you act like it should shatter stone.” She stepped forward, offering him her dagger. He took it and she frowned as she eyed his grip. “You hold it like a meat cleaver too.” She reached out, repositioning his grip deftly to a more appropriate hold. “How does that feel?”

“Soft.”

“It should be a little loose-“ She paused as she glanced up at him, his eyes were intense as they regarded her carefully, that boyish grin still on his face. Her hands were resting on his and she quickly moved them away. Obessa swallowed slightly and frowned up at him. “You have a lot to learn.”

“I like a challenge,” he noted, the grin never leaving his face.


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


Obessa stepped into the room carefully, almost reverently. Zak wasn’t exactly smiling, but he was doing that odd quirk of the corner of his mouth that told her he was trying not to. The room was no bigger than her own sleeping cell, the cot was the exact same sparse framed type she slept upon. He had a simple footlocker at the base of it, and a shelf with a weapon rack at the head of it, the rack was empty. The weapon rack was the only decoration on the walls, which were otherwise bare. She stepped further into the room and spun around slowly before sitting down on the bed as she gazed up at him.

“I expected…”

“More?”

“No,” she shrugged, “actually, I suppose this is exactly what I expected from you.”

“Have I become so predictable?”

“You’re cute when you’re upset.” She smiled as she motioned him to step into his small sleeping cell, which he obligingly did. His first action was to unsling his klaive from his back and begin carefully inspecting it for any wear or damage, even though all he had probably done with it all day was walk around with it in its sheath. He then carefully, almost reverently, placed it upon the weapon rack.

“So,” she lifted up the small bag she had been given to bring to him, “they told me I had to deliver this to your room. What is it?”

“Gannon nuts.” Zak took the bag from her and opened it up to reveal a collection of rough looking blackish-grey shells.

“You eat those?” Her nose already was wrinkling at the pungent smell.

“No, I practice with them.” He reached into the bag, pulling out a nut, tossing it up in the air and catching it again. “Take one, try to crack it.” She did as he asked, pulling out a nut and grinding at it for a while. The hard shell was damnably tough. She shrugged in defeat and looked back at him. He nodded to her, a small smile slipping onto his face as he dropped into a battle stance, acting like he was play drawing his sword. As he did he flipped the nut out of his hand, slipping up his middle and forefinger to catch it firmly between his knuckles with a sharp *crack* sound. Obessa blinked, impressed at the speed of the move and the power of the grip between his knuckles.

“You’ve mastered a move heretofore known only to small wooden mallets,” she joked. “I don’t see the value of that training.”

“Maybe someday I’ll show you, when you’ve mastered the basics of the klaive.”

“That presumes I ever manage to know a sword, of course,” she sighed.

“To know something is a process of many small steps, few of them taken alone. You should worry less about what you know and more about what you can learn.”

“Oh, very well said, it’s not like you even want me to graduate, you’re clearly more interested in having me run around fetching you your training gear.”

“A common practice, Greys who are not at work often serve as messengers or servants to the Incubi of the Temple.”

“So, you desired my services…” She smiled as she tossed the bag back to him, “does that mean I should go now? I would think that I’m to return to my own sleeping cell, not stay here till my duties in the morning.”

“It is not…forbidden for a student to be somewhere other than their cell during their sleep time.”

“I see.” She shrugged and glanced around slowly, rubbing her hands across the rough spun cloth of the sheets. “There seems to be only the one bed.”

“So it seems.” Zak began removing his armor, piece by piece, doing it almost painfully slowly. Obessa bit her lip slightly and smiled as she watched him. Even so, when he opened his footlocker it still caught her attention, for suddenly she discovered his room wasn’t as bare as she had first thought.

“What are you, a fresh faced tubeling?” She giggled as she leaned over the edge of the bed and looked at the odd collection of knick-knacks. A small silver harp pin, a green and blue bead, a cracked and blood spattered wax seal and parchment, a piece of shattered black rod, a rusted shiv made from sharpened metal and tightly bound twine. “What is all this?”

“Memories.” Zak shrugged. “Things from my past that I do not wish to forget.”

“So, want to tell me a story for some of them?” Obessa snagged up a silken cloth, embroidered with consummate skill, and stained with a splash of brown stains that could only be old blood.

“They do not make for the right type of stories for this time.”

“What about Xulfryn? Do you want to tell me the story about him?”

“What story would that be?” As usual, Zak’s measured tone and expressionless face served him as well as his mask ever did, but Obessa wasn’t willing to give up that easily.

“He wants you dead, he wants you very, very dead. Why?”

“Why indeed?” A ghost of a smile flicked across Zak’s face as he circled around the bed towards her. She smirked as she leaned back, lifting one leg to place her foot firmly on his bare chest. Her toes dug slightly into the sleek muscle there as she halted his advance. His, very well trained, hands reached up to grip at her calf, feeling the shape of her leg beneath the shapeless grey training clothing.

“I don’t think that’s an answer.” She reached down, sliding her hands along her sides as she then lightly fingered the clasp for her belt, her eyes intent on him as he focused his attention on her fingers. She toyed lightly with the release clasp. “Why does he want you dead?”

“Your wychly wiles are…as effective as always.” He tried to shove past her leg, but she forced him back again. That ghostly smile flicked across his face again as his eyes gleamed. “How do the Cults decide upon a leader?”

“There are many different ways, but it is generally done by spilling the blood of one of the former leaders upon the red sands. When there is a vacant slot it is filled, usually by winning the most votes during the funeral celebrations. It’s a lot of politicking and backstabbing, literally and figuratively. I don’t think you’re answering my question.”

“Perhaps I just lack incentive,” he offered.

Her belt clicked open with a snap as she released the clasp. He began eagerly drawing the pants down her legs, those finely practiced fingers dancing lightly across the exposed flesh. “Most positions in Commoragh are filled by slaying the former holder of the position, but most organizations have their own special rules for how this is done. The Incubi of Obsidian Lethe are no different.” Her pants fell to the floor as he kissed at her exposed ankle, eliciting a small smile from her as she reached up and began unlacing her gray blouse, still keeping her foot up and holding him at bay.

“So this has something to do with advancement in the Temple?”

“It does.” Zak’s eyes watched as she slowly toyed with the laces, his fingers still massaging the muscles of her calf. She had to admit she wasn’t sure how much longer she cared to hold him back, and it was clear to her from a quick glance below his waist that he was certainly well past the point of waiting himself. “As an organization based on the art of the duel, we are very serious about making sure all challenges are handled cleanly. There are certain times and certain methods to earn the right to challenge a given rank of Incubi for advancement.”

“Like how a student needs to master the klaive to earn the right to challenge, and then needs to defeat an Aspect Warrior of the Craftworlds for the right to be called Incubus?” She began to worm out of her blouse, pulling the cloth over her chest and head and casting it aside. She’d worn nothing underneath, and Zak’s eyes glittered in the darkness as he looked upon her. She loved the way his eyes seemed to almost devour her every time he saw her like this. She stretched out her arms above her head, smirking at him as her toes played with the muscles of his chest. “So what does this challenge have to do with you and Xulfryn?”

“To earn the right to challenge the Heirarch an Incubus needs to achieve the title of Master, and then defeat all of the other Masters of the Temple at some point in single combat. Only then can he earn the right to challenge the Heirarch, and even then only at certain times dictated as fortuitous by the Priests of Khaine.”

“And, who are these masters with a right to challenge Xulfryn,” she asked, already suspecting she knew the answer.

“There is only one, and for the longest time he indicated little desire to ever challenge, and he also staved off other challengers, because none were able to defeat him.”

“But that changed…”

“It did, the one master with the right to challenge Xulfryn made it clear to the Heirarch that on the next fortuitous holy day he would issue challenge.”

Obessa relaxed her legs, allowing Zak to approach her, drawing him down on top of her as she reached up to hold his face. She looked into his serious, dark eyes, and frowned.
“What changed to make you want to challenge now?”

“That is a longer story,” Zak leaned forward, his lips brushing against hers as those deadly delicate hands of his continued their journey up her legs, darting along her thighs and slightly shifting them open as he worked his magic. “And I somewhat feel you have already used up your trickery for one evening.”

“Really?” She bit her lip a bit and giggled as his fingers found a softer and more delicate spot yet to play. She had to admit, she wasn’t sure she wanted to hold him off any longer in any case. “You are a talented warrior, to be certain, and perhaps a worthy challenge, but I have been trained in the Arenas of the Wych Cults, and I know secrets beyond your simple skills.”

“If it is a challenge you offer,” Zak intoned, deadly serious, “then you will find I have never backed away from, nor lost one.”

“Well then,” her hand slipped away from his face, fingers dancing over sleek chest muscles and tickling along his lean abdominal muscles as she searched for his weapon. “Perhaps it is time to see exactly who is the student, and who is the master?”
He didn’t complain.


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


Tymeon circled to his left, trying to feint a bit to get a reaction out of her. He always did that though, he’d feint twice more, both on the left, and then he’d attack on the right. Sure enough, he did exactly that, his dagger snapping out in a sharp, and not poorly executed, thrust. Obessa shifted her back foot slightly, rolling out of the way almost casually. Her elbow snapped up, clipping him on the chin as she spun away from his attack, sending him sprawling to the black gravel, blood spraying from his lips.

“Do they never teach the sons of Port Lords how to wield a knife?”

“Clearly not as well as they have taught you,” he offered as he rolled up to his feet, dabbing at the blood leaking from his lip as he did so. “Xulfryn keeps coming by to watch our practice sessions.” Tymeon stretched out his back as he took a sip of water and glanced up at the balcony walkways above the training yards. “I keep wanting to think that he senses greatness in me and wants to watch my progress, but…” He shrugged as he glanced over at Obessa, “I don’t think it’s me who his eyes linger on.”

“He feels like a hunting beast,” grunted Welv as he laced on his gloves, the fingerless gray cloth gauntlets were pulled tight across his palms as he knotted them securely in place. A few of the other applicants were around him, already looking grim-faced at the prospect of the coming practice with Welv, who seemed to think half the purpose of a teacher was to repeatedly knock his students around.

“Maybe he’s coming to watch me?” Tilt lounged lazily on one of the benches nearby, one leg crossed over the other, his hands pillowed under his head, his eyes closed as he serenely rested. The star pupil had started to come out to the early practice sessions as they had gained popularity, but he never trained with the others, instead just dozing, watching with seeming boredom, or offering snide remarks at the progress of some of them. Welv cast a dour glance at Tilt, and Obessa noted Tymeon paying careful attention to the reaction, a soft smile on his mischievous features.

“What about you, ‘Bessa? Think he’s coming by to watch you?” Tymeon smirked as he turned to her, lifting up his dagger in mock salute.

“I could care less.”

“Liar.”

Obessa looked up to the walkways herself now. Xulfryn stood there, his face hidden behind his skull helmet. Ryldnar stood with him, standing right at the side of his master, a third Incubus was there as well, this one sporting a series of preserved scalps hanging from his belt, he seemed to be discussing something quietly with Xulfryn, occasionally motioning down to the students below and, Obessa felt, to her specifically.

“Who is that?” She asked Tymeon as he finished his drink.

“Klarz’ay, a decorated Incubus, he served in Xulfryn’s squad when the Heirarch was still a Klaivex. He is known as The Scalpel,” Tymeon smirked as he motioned at the scalps hanging from his belt, “as I understand it, all of those belong to political enemies of Xulfryn Heirarch. Not a fine end, if I may say so.”

“What about Ryldnar, does he sometimes kill off Xulfryn’s political enemies?” Obessa’s gaze flicked across to the weapons master as he stood there quietly, head bowed, hands folded in front of him, as he stood there like an obedient dog while Xulfryn spoke to Klarz’ay. She still well remembered their duel in this very courtyard and she remained unsure if it had indeed been simple practice or something more.

“It would not surprise me, The Laughing Death is known for enjoying a good kill.” Tymeon set down his water bottle and turned back to her, saluting with his knife.

“They mean to do Zak harm.”

“I would suppose so, he did open himself up to that threat when he made you Dathedi.” Tymeon paused for a moment and then frowned. “Are we dueling again, or are we trying to figure out what Xulfyrn is thinking by staring at his mask?”

“Not by staring at his mask…no.” Suddenly Obessa was grinning to herself as she looked at Tymeon. His face grew slightly pale at the eager gleam in her eyes. “But I think you just gave me an idea.”

“Why does that not fill me with hope for the future,” Tymeon sighed as Obessa raised her blade and saluted him.

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Sat Jul 20 2013, 11:39

Having finished Trueborn and gotten to this point, I have to say that I find this story to be far more enjoyable.  While Trueborn was full of twists and turns (and graceful literary pirouettes) in its plot, this is far more focused, which means that the fewer characters we see here are more fleshed out and individually appealing.  And their motives, for now, are clearer.  I would go so far as to say that it is easier to, as you say in the Roundtable, "believe as much as your character does that they are ‘correct’ and present it as such."  It is far easier (for me) to accept Obessa, Zak, et al. because I (maybe) understand what each is trying to achieve.

Obessa - to please Zak and find a renewed purpose and direction (and perhaps a renewed sense of belonging following her abandonment by Cult and "friend") for her existence.

Zak - to bring out the true potential in Obessa and bring new strength into the Temple.  And in his bid to become Hierarch, a loyal and talented lieutenant.  I won't say partner since that implies equality and it does not seem overly apparent that they view their relationship as wholly equitable.  Yet.

Truthfully, the easiest one to for me to relate to, insofar as you've portrayed him is Ryldnar. He is a teacher and I work as a teacher for K-5 kids.  There is a certain level of cryptic hinting in teaching and I think you've got it down perfectly.  Though, I certainly don't have kindergarteners dueling each other with pairs of sharp scissors to figure out how to cut paper.  Nor do I kill the principal's political rivals.

In Trueborn, I saw no relation to any professional authors.  Here, the style mimics Simon Scarrow's Eagle series.  The relationship are similar, though decidedly more deadly.  The juxtaposition of former-Wych-turned-aspirant and Klaive is stark and the defining theme I've noticed.  Not saying it's the only one but it's the clearest and most repeated one, to the point where it's (or should be) at the front of every reader's mind.  Trueborn lacked that same obvious theme from the beginning, partly because of how close Tael played his cards that we never truly got into his head to understand the juxtaposition between him and everyone else.

I knew little enough of the Dark Eldar before coming here but this has been a most helpful resource to understand how their minds work.  Reminds me of HBO's Rome, actually.  Keep it up!
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Sun Jul 21 2013, 02:43

Very well thought out praise, and very appreciated by me (though i admit I haven't read any of the Eagle series).

Trueborn was a story that was basically about outcasts and betrayal.
Incubi is a story about advancement...and...well...probably betrayal Wink

I do agree that more of this story operates on a surface level because none of the main characters are being secretive. In Trueborn there was always a dance because Tael was a very focal character, but I refused to use him as a narrator at any point in the story and so his motives were always seen through the eyes of others which left more unclear. While this story has a mystery to it, it is not a blatant mystery, but more a general one, and you don't feel like anyone has all the answers and is just refusing to say them.

I will admit that I actually feel like I'm juggling a larger cast in this story, that said I'm fighting hard to keep them under control and am introducing them slower because the opening chapters of this story are paced slower which has been nice for that purpose, I'm glad that's coming across.

I'm immensely happy that you like my portrayal of the DE psyche - walking the line of villainy and empathy is my favorite part about writing them.

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Sun Jul 21 2013, 03:54

I am enjoying the way the three trainees are working out their own alliance. Of course, I won't necessarily get too attached to the concept, but I am enjoying it nonetheless Smile

Quote :
walking the line of villainy and empathy is my favorite part about writing them

It's also a large part of what makes them interesting to read about, and one I believe you capture well. I also found the descriptions of the fighting itself very readable, something I know I am a little bit hard to please over. You managed to make them interesting and not seem superfluous, because they also showed us something about the people involved. Nicely done!

As an aside, having complicated political conversations on the way to having sex is now called Thorplay. You brought this on yourself. Razz

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Sun Jul 21 2013, 19:36

@Lady Malys wrote:
I also found the descriptions of the fighting itself very readable, something I know I am a little bit hard to please over. You managed to make them interesting and not seem superfluous, because they also showed us something about the people involved. Nicely done!
Thank you for that one quite a bit - it's something I actively work on.

@Lady Malys wrote:
As an aside, having complicated political conversations on the way to having sex is now called Thorplay. You brought this on yourself. Razz
I'm not sure I care to be held accountable for any puns.
That's a burden and shame you have to shoulder yourself for bringing it into the world.

Should probably be able to get another chapter up in about a week or two.
I may even try to hold myself to a two week schedule...though I'm not sure I'd be able to maintain it. I dunno, let's make it a plot and see what happens - currently I think the writing is flowing really well as I've pretty much finished all the setup now and can accelerate into the reaping of the consequences.

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Thu Aug 15 2013, 06:45

Chapter 5: The Spear



“Do you think you’re more clever than I am?”

The question was asked, but no time was given for an answer. Pain was delivered instead, sharp, quick, and without remorse. The Slave screamed, screamed till she was hoarse, until all she could do was unleash a pitiful whine noise as the pain continued, continued and became worse and worse. Even as it began to overwhelm her, even as the edges of her sanity began to fray and the blessed escape of madness loomed before her, the pain suddenly stopped.
“Did you think you could get away like that?”

The Slave shook her head ‘no’ quickly. She remembered what had happened the last time she had tried to drive herself insane. The punishment had been even worse than the times she had tried to kill herself by starvation or biting off her own tongue. She didn’t even remember if this was her third or fourth tongue, but the punishments became worse and worse every time, of that she could remember with unquestioned clarity. The pain came again, sweet and subtle, but then growing in agony. There was no need for it except to remind her, remind her of what she was.

She was The Slave.

“You have lied to me.”

“No. Ne…never.”

“Lies by omission are still lies.” The pain stopped. “When you lie it makes me angry, wouldn’t you rather have me happy with you? Wouldn’t you rather have my love?”

“…yes.”

“What do you see?”

“I see a shadow, a shadow that killed what you did not, a shadow that ate what you did kill, but is yours no longer in either possession or claim of kill. It plots against you from beyond the realm of shadow, killer, mastermind, defeated on a path to victory, trapped between worlds, it still reaches out to pull all the strings. I see a hidden serpent in service to Irbreena, unseen by you, it clutches the prize that was stolen from you. I see a dozen sharp diamonds, so clever, so quick, they play their game and strike with sudden accuracy. They seem so fragile, so tiny, but I fear they are deadly and fast. So fast…a statue will break, torn asunder, and the diamonds will fill the sky, sharp, fast…sharp” Dry lips were licked by a tongue that was not hers anymore. “I also see that the Trap is a trap, and the game is not what we think it is anymore. The serpent will meet the scorpion, the scarred one will explode in fire. We are all bound within the web now, a web borne of changed chains, the chains entwine each other, changing, not the same, they are the trap in the Trap, they spin in a helix around us, mocking, changing, the shadow knows, it knows and it laughs, but we cannot know, not until it is too late.”

“More riddles?”

“The scarred warrior stands against the serpent, and also for the serpent. The serpent is cunning and deadly, but so alone, so very alone. It wraps its coils around its prize, but you desire the prize as well. I see blood, the serpent plans for blood, quick and deadly. The scarred one is willing for the kill, but her true goals remain uncertain.”

“Uncertain?”

“Her future is on a line, it could serve either you or your foes.”

“Explain.”

Lips were licked again, blood dribbled out of them as The Slave shook her head. Pain was brought anew, rich and in full flavor, the smell of her own flesh cooking filled her nostrils and the slave almost managed to fall into the blissful escape of unconsciousness, but fresh drugs were injected and the doors of that escape were slammed closed.

“Tell me how she can serve me.”

“She wonders about Irbreena’s death, she wants to know. For her to know is to reach her goal, she is like a fire, it will spread and burn, and will keep coming till it feels it has reached the end of its fuel. She will stand in the fire, and will the fuel be burned away? She…she will help your plans if she is left unmolested. She seeks the prize you do, though she has no idea of what it really is, and no idea of its true purpose to you. She will love you twice, and twice will love your foe, but thrice shall not come, for she will grow tired of the game and…” The Slave shook her head, but enough pain was brought until she wept and spoke. “She will hand your prize to you herself, from her hands to yours. The shadowed prize that is no longer the prize. The Trap is a trap. I see it so clearly.”

“There, was that so hard?” The Master’s fingers reached out, delicately brushing hair out of The Slave’s face. “The serpent, does she hold the prize here? In the Cult Arena?” The Slave shivered, shaking her head, not wanting to say this, but forced to anyway.

“It is here still.”

“See? You try to hide it all in your riddles, but you are a book, and you will serve me until I grow tired of ripping your pages from you.”

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


Mor’osez walked with grim purpose through the halls of the Arena. The vaulted ceilings loomed hundreds of feet over her head, and the polished red tile floors cast her scowling reflection back to her. All around her other wyches of the cult glanced up to offer smiles or nods of encouragement, though a few of those smiles were tinged with icy cold eyes narrowed into suspicious slits. Ever since she’d been entered into the running to replace Irbreena as a Succubus she’d been receiving even more pointed looks than normal. Mor’osez ignored them all as she strode through a towering pair of doors and into a sandy practice yard. Sweet scented flowers ringed the atrium, and cushioned viewing seats attended by ready pleasure slaves cluttered the encircling viewing patio. Mor’osez paused under the awning, looking out into the sands at the reason she was here.

Fay’rezza, Mistress of Spears, the Flashing Blade, one of the last people to see Irbreena alive.

She was a slim slip of a woman, her gray hair spiked up around an angular face with piercing green eyes and a pinched mouth. Her limbs were long and supple, and her movements slow, yet made with measured grace. She wore full arena battle armor, half of her body protected underneath partial plate, the other clad only in a skintight liquidsilk body suit, cut back in multiple locations to show off her athletic body underneath. Her muscular abdomen was completely exposed, bearing a tattoo of a coiled green serpent around a blazing spear that stretched up till it slid beneath the liquidsilk and armor again even as it approached her tightly pressed breasts, a curious invitation to the viewer to wonder where else the tattoo, and most certainly the extended tongue of the snake, ended.

She stood in front of a triple line of young wyches, each garbed in only wychsuits with no armor, and all holding long bladed spears with polished darkwood shafts. The young trainees bore looks ranging from grim determination to bored indifference, but at Fay’rezza’s barked commands they all responded with perfectly executed maneuvers, their spears snapping through the air, and lunging forward in sudden strikes.

“Do you think a spear is a club? You wield it as though you’ve never found a man willing to let you touch him, and with gawkish moves like that, I am unsurprised. A spear is an elegant tool, a means to impose reach and control onto a battlefield. Do you think speed with a knife can create the kind of control a spear gives? Would you rather face a Carnifex with a barbed flail to flense helplessly at its outer armor, or a spear to plunge in deep and sure to one of its vital organs? The spear is one of the single finest weapons you louts will ever be lucky enough to hold, you would do well to learn this, if nothing else.”

Fay’rezza’s sharp green eyes flicked over, spotting the tall and ominous shape lurking in the shadows. She neither smiled nor frowned at the sight of Mor’osez, but simply returned to the training of her class. Mor’osez wasn’t affected, if Fay’rezza wished to annoy her by making her wait then she was welcome to try. Mor’osez was content to study her for a moment.

Fay’rezza was a legend of the Cult, and without question the finest spear fighter in Bloodied Kiss, famed for a jumping double decapitation versus two Reaver Jetbikes that had been trying to cut her down. She had been a feature in the arenas for almost four centuries now, and had never lost a one on one duel in all that time. It was said she had a mind like a steel trap, and was always planning four steps ahead of whomever she was fighting. Mor’osez had watched her on the red sands many times, and was well aware that it was simply politics that had blocked the amazingly talented spearwoman from entry to the Bloodbrides.

Her students were becoming distracted by the sight of Mor’osez watching them though. Some preened a bit, wondering if she was here to admire them. Others became nervous, fearful they were being judged and found wanting. A few tried hard to act as though it meant nothing to them, but their constant half-glances towards her paid lie to their attempts. A few even simply looked like excited fans, slightly star struck by the sight of the famous wych. Fay’rezza was unamused by her students’ lack of attention, reaching out with the butt of her spear she sharply smacked it across the thigh of one of the more fawning wyches.

“Your feet, they’re supposed to move. A thrust is not done by the arms, nor the shoulders alone. It is the experience of the entire body. If you control where your feet are you will always have maximum ability to inflict damage or to avoid it. Control of yourself, your opponent, and the battlefield are the three goals to winning every fight. If you cannot even control yourselves how can you ever hope to accomplish the other two? Should I simply submit you all for the next Suinmash competition? Are you little better than slave chattel with knives and clubs? You move like them, maybe you should die like them, for the momentary amusement of your betters.”

Mor’osez had always thought Fay’rezza had been foolishly loyal to her Succubus, it was certainly those sort of politics that had helped block her ascension to higher honors within the Cult. Had it been simple desire for better position that had made her kill her mistress? It didn’t seem to make sense, she could have merely forsworn Irbreena and changed loyalties to Ayasha or even Black Ghyvia. Why would she have anything to gain from killing Irbreena?

“Dismissed.” Fay’rezza finally waved to her class, sending them scuttling off to their next training session.

One of the younger Wyches scampered up towards Mor’osez, producing one of those small fandom crystals that had become so popular with connoisseurs of Arena battles. She flicked its activator and brushed it quickly to a display of Mor’osez rendered in glittering holographics with information about her battles and records. The young wych smiled hopefully as she bowed politely, holding the datacrystal up. Mor’osez frowned as she spared a glare at the girl, but dutifully reached out and pressed her thumb to the crystal, allowing it to record her genetic makeup. In moments the holograph pulsed and an image of Mor’osez’s signature and genetic sequence appeared, making the data crystal a bit more valuable now by whatever the going rate for a personal gene-signature of Mor’osez was going for on the streets at the moment. The young wych burbled a meaningless platitude as she bowed repeatedly and then scampered off.

Fay’rezza had surveyed the whole interaction with practiced boredom, and frowned as she watched the young fan dart away. She turned around slowly, sharp green eyes considering Mor’osez carefully as she walked over and picked a spear off the wall rack nearby. “Did you come for a lesson, Bloodbride? I have a bit of time yet, and perhaps could teach even someone with such a more valuable gene-sig than mine a thing or two about sharp points and maneuvers on the red sands.”

“You met with Irbreena before she died.” Fay’rezza’s expression went more neutral at the question as she readied the spear and idly went through a few half steps of a battle kata with it. “What did you talk about?”

“Not much.” Fay’rezza paused in her practice, glancing down the length of the spear critically as she considered its straightness. “You are not very subtle. You are like that crude mon’keigh chain blade you insist on wielding, loud, powerful, and a blazing unsophisticated cutting edge. A spear is better, don’t you think?” She nodded thoughtfully as she executed a blindingly fast thrust. “Sharp, sure, silent, hard to predict, and deadly accurate in the hands of one who knows the weapon.”

“I wasn’t aware I needed to be subtle.”

“I suppose not, considering how sloppy you have been thus far in this coup.” Fay’rezza glanced up, dimples showing as she smirked knowingly at Mor’osez’s shocked expression. “Oh come on now, do you take me for a fool? Irbreena dies shortly after meeting with you, and you toss your knife into the circle and, on the first round of voting gain the second most votes? Do you really expect me to think you didn’t plan that out?”

Yes, the votes…Mor’osez’s fists clenched tightly, and she felt the uncomfortable stiffness creeping into the joints again. It had caught her totally by surprise how well she had done in the votes, she had done no campaigning, she had attempted no bribes or alliances afterwards, yet, somehow, she had received a touch more votes than Cluuvia, who had blatantly been attempting to buy every vote she could. Kyssindree had still emerged the clear vote leader, but it bewildered Mor’osez that she had ranked so high.

“I didn’t…” The protest died on Mor’osez’s lips, the truth was almost so comical, she wouldn’t have believed it if someone had told her, and she doubted Fay’rezza would believe it was all an accident.

“They say you are a woman who likes to be upfront with people.” Fay’rezza grinned as she stepped forward, her gaze not wavering from Mor’osez’s dark eyes, her bright green eyes deadly serious despite her casual tone. “Then hear this; Irbreena still has loyal soldiers here.” She shifted the spear in her hand, fingers turning it around slowly. “You might find you bit off more than you can chew.”

“What does that even mean?”

“You’ll find out.” Fay’rezza laughed as she backed away, not taking her eyes off Mor’osez for a moment, “soon enough, you’ll find out.”

“You’re a pompous ass who can’t say what she really means!” Mor’osez snarled out the insult as Fay’rezza walked away leaving her alone in the practice yard. Mor’osez’s fists clenched tighter and she lashed out, slamming one into one of the stone pillars, feeling a slight surge of satisfaction from the pain, but not enough to clear away her headache or frustration.

“I hate politics,” she rumbled as she turned and stormed back into the Arena.


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


“You’re in my seat.”

Mor’osez crossed her arms over her chest, the sleek black bustier she was wearing straining at the seams from the motion. She stood in her reserved box seats for the Arena of Bloodied Kiss. As requested, she already had a roasted Ghell Worm waiting, the spicy sauce popping and hissing from the heat of the freshly seared meat. There was also a chilled bottle of Tear Ale and an offering plate of whatever odd pastries the kitchen had decided to serve up this evening. One of the male pleasure slaves she had ordered for the event stood there nervously cooling the air with sweeps of a two-handed, scented, fan formed from stretched mon’keigh hide leather, the other one was oiling up his hands as he prepared to give a foot massage.

“Am I?”

She lay stretched out across the seat, legs kicked up over the armrest, her head resting languidly on a pillow. Her long coiled and bound black hair was tossed back from an immaculate face of proud cheekbones, and elegant lines. Her lips were colored blue, with similar lowlights around her dusky blue eyes, while her trim and muscular, though still femininely curvaceous, figure was snugly squeezed into a wychsuit, portions of it strategically cut away along her upper thighs, and the zip pulled down almost to her naval to expose an inviting view of her cleavage.

“What are you doing here, Kyssindree?”

Kyssindree, the Flensing Laugh, the current frontrunner for Irbreena’s vacant position laughed merrily to herself as she kicked away the slave who was reaching up to slide her boot off so that he might begin her foot massage. She reached out with one hand, pointed fingernails shimmering with some reflective coating, as she picked up Mor’osez’s bottle of tear ale and eyed it critically.

“You actually drink this slop? I always thought they bottled it up just for slave chattel or as a joke or something… Seriously, I knew you had almost no taste, but that’s just embarrassing.” Kyssindree smiled as she turned to regard Mor’osez, her eyes twinkling from the drugs she was doubtless already on. “I thought I’d come by and check out my competition, after all, the second most votes, I suppose people see something in you that I’ve never noticed.” She sat up then, squinting slightly as she gave Mor’osez a discerning look. “But…no…no, you still look a little old, a little saggy, and a little dim-witted.” She laughed again. “They should just award me the Brideship now, and save us all a rather boring display of having to endure your strategies.”

Mor’osez became sharply aware that almost all the conversation around them had died away when Kyssindree had started speaking. Of course, that made sense, in the Arena barbs of wit and blades of scorn could cut and kill almost as assuredly as any knife-edge, and Kyssindree was looking to earn some points early by showing up and basically insulting her opponent to her face to show that she was more clever and unafraid of her opposition. It all seemed remarkably boring and silly to Mor’osez, who already found herself wishing for them each to have a blade in their hands and about five minutes on the red sands of the arena.

“Oh, am I intruding? I didn’t realize you’d invited other guests.” Mor’osez glanced over her shoulder to see Faeth’lyn stepping up beside her, a long robe of green and gold hanging off her slender shoulders, a matching parasol held delicately in her hands. Her eyes were hidden behind smoked glasses, and a small smirk was on her normally expressionless face.  “I can go if this is an important…oh, wait, it’s simply Kyssindree.”

The quiet of the nearby crowd grew more noticeable.

“I see you’re keeping fine company, the aide and advisor of a drunk fool,” Kyssindree smirked.

“What’s that?” Faeth’lyn glanced up at Mor’osez, leaning in as though something had been said.

“What are you doing?” Mor’osez whispered down to her.

“Oh, yes, I quite agree, Kyssindree is well aware you were given the better viewing box due to your ranking in the arenas. It is only natural that she would want it. Somewhat sad, really, reaching beyond the extent of her grasp.”

“You had best reign in your trained squawking bird, Mor’osez,” Kyssindree glowered as she slid to her feet. “Or I might do it for you.”

“Is she resorting to physical threats? To you?” Faeth’lyn hid her mouth behind her hand, not laughing out loud but acting as if she might. “Now, that is funny, how long did it go the last time you two fought? I seem to recall blinking and missing most of it.” Kyssindree’s face flushed as Faeth’lyn acted like she was leaning up to hear a whispered comment from Mor’osez. “Oh, my apologies, I suppose it makes sense that you wouldn’t even remember it, after all, for her it was one of the most important and defining battles of her career. For you it was…an evening performance.”

Faeth’lyn went dead quiet then, a serene and innocent look on her face as she stood next to, though slightly behind, Mor’osez. All around them the audience was filled with murmurs as the eager wagging tongues of the wyches gossiped and spread what had been said. Kyssindree walked up slowly, a wicked snarl on her face as she grinned through it.

“Look at that, between the two of you it’s almost as though you equal me.” She pointed at Mor’osez’ chest, “you want to make a war of this, old woman? Fine!” Her gaze drifted over Faeth’lyn as she sauntered out, “and you, I’m going to crush you under my heel as an afterthought.”

“As long as my promised demise comes after Mor’osez’s I imagine I will have plenty of time to prepare for the crushing.” Faeth’lyn waved farewell to Kyssindree’s departing back as she turned back to Mor’osez, all humor leaving her face as she did so. “Now, I can already see in your eyes you’re thinking of doing something stupid, like throttling me again, but let’s remember that there are a lot of eyes on us right now.”

Mor’osez had been about to reach up and at least break a wrist or something, but she forced her hands into tight fists instead, the arthritic joints grinding on each other unpleasantly. Faeth’lyn motioned for her to take her seat, and then slipped into a chair next to hers, handing her parasol to one of the slaves.

“What game are you playing here,” Mor’osez grunted as she poured herself a drink. “I don’t want to be Succubus.”

“Would you rather it be someone like Kyssindree?” Faeth’lyn considered some of the sweet pastries and reached out to take one, holding back the sleeve of her robe to keep it from trailing into the lightly puffed frosting. Mor’osez eyed the motion carefully, cautious for any hidden movements. Faeth’lyn caught her watching and smirked. “Be at ease, I have no hidden tricks today.”

“Fay’rezza thinks I killed Irbreena.”

“I am unsurprised.”

“Why?”

“Because when she came and threatened to kill me if I didn’t tell her who else had seen Irbreena I gave her your name.” Faeth’lyn pulled off her mirrored shades to reveal a purplish-blue bruise around her left eye. “She was…rather insistent, though not quite as violent as you I feel.”

Mor’osez leaned back in her chair for a moment, gauging the other wych carefully. Faeth’lyn was obviously adroit on some level of politics, else she never could have achieved the position of Bloodbride while so young and with such a meager arena record. She had said she could help, but what endgame did she have in mind for herself? Mor’osez debated how to ask that question cleverly for a few moments, and then figured it wasn’t worth the bother.

“Why are you doing all this?”

“You’re very clumsy at this.”

“That’s what Fay’rezza said, I suppose I’ll carve that on both your tombstones ‘was cleverer than Mor’osez’. I don’t think it will do you much good if I decide I want you dead. Tell me a lie or tell me the truth, but answer the question.”

“I swore loyalty to Irbreena, I take that oath very seriously. In the end I know she was doing something, something to try and trap or kill whoever was trying to kill her. I know that she considered the information she had learned to be of deadly importance to the Cult. I know that she considered you and Fay’rezza important to that goal, because she gave each of you some part of the puzzle.”

“Did she give you part of the puzzle?”

‘I know three things you don’t know.’ Irbreena had whispered the words with a laugh. Three wyches, each told part of the puzzle, perhaps?

“No, I don’t think she trusted me.”

“And I should?”

“Not if you’re smart.” Faeth’lyn took a cautious bite of the spicy chocolate treat she had selected, chewing slowly and carefully swallowing before she spoke again. “I don’t know why you are looking at me with such suspicion. Of all the Wyches in service to Irbreena I was the one most highly ranked and visible as her aide, if a new Succubus were to arise who did not think much of me and had perhaps helped kill Irbreena-”

“A Succubus like Kyssindree?”

“Exactly like that…what do you think my chances in the immediate future would be?”

Mor’osez grunted a bit to herself as she finally relaxed into her seat, reaching out to peel off a piece of Ghell Worm, savoring the tangy hot meat as she tore off a mouthful. Faeth’lyn’s words made sense as far as they went, it was true that she would, politically, be in a precarious position if whoever killed Irbreena became the new Succubus, or even if a catspaw did.

“Do you think Kyssindree killed her?”

“She has the skill and the desire,” Faeth’lyn shrugged her slender shoulders, “and she is not without a low, animal, cunning to her.”

“What about Fay’rezza?”

“I would be quite surprised if the Mistress of Spears did the deed. But then you already don’t think she did it, do you?”

“I don’t think Fay’rezza had motive, no.” Mor’osez found her eyes drifting over to the luxurious floating palanquins where the Succubi Ayasha and Ghyvia watched the battles in the arena from. Ayasha had slain one of Irbreena’s sisters in a bid for power, and Ghyvia had slain the other. Each of them also seemed a likely suspect. Kyssindree as well, she supposed, young, hungry, full of herself, she would have sensed weakness in Irbreena and sought to exploit it surely enough. “But there are enough who did.”

“There always are,” offered Faeth’lyn as she took another small bite of chocolate. “That’s what keeps life interesting.”


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


“Where are we going?” Faeth’lyn asked as the pair of them walked through the halls of the Cult. The performances had been excellent today, and Mor’osez was particularly pleased by the beast battles where some Wyches had fought with only punch blades and nothing else on their bodies against a variety of lesser creatures.

“I am going to figure out something and you appear to be following me,” Mor’osez grunted.

“We appear to be headed towards some of the dormatories,” Faeth’lyn offered quietly as she glanced at some of the runes etched into the walls. “One might think you are going to Fay’rezza’s quarters, which is odd as she should probably be training students at this time. I take it you’re planning to root through her room?”

“I was considering it,” Mor’osez snarled slightly.

“Murderers rarely leave signed confessions laying around,” Faeth’lyn dryly said. When Mor’osez offered nothing in reply the girl continued, “you should let me manage your campaign.” Mor’osez glared over at her as they walked, Faeth’lyn’s expressionless face held no sense of humor or jest about it, she actually seemed serious. “You are likely to maintain a strong enough showing just due to your reputation, but you’re going to need to play the game if you want to get elected.”

“Why would I want to be elected?”

“Someone killed Irbreena, someone killed her to keep a secret, and you want to know that secret. It’s a secret I don’t you’ll learn by going through your fellow wych’s undergarment drawers. Don’t you think it would be wise to be able to face your hidden opponent from a position of strength?”

“I already have a position of strength,” Mor’osez smirked as she glanced down at the slender wych. As usual, Faeth’lyn’s face bore only a look of vague ennui at the whole situation, but she shook her head at Mor’osez’s bravado in any case.

“You need a position of threat. If you enter the race and they don’t think you can win then whoever this hidden killer is will draw back into the shadows and consider you of no threat at all. You need to convince them you are dangerous enough to be worried about.”

“And then?”

“And then hope they’re daft enough to reveal their position and motives when they try to deal with you. Consider that you are in war with an unseen adversary, and at the same time the adversary is uncertain of you. If you want to be able to kill them you need to feint, to convince them they are in a position where you are a threat, but that they can still cut you down. Doing better in the polls is that feint. If they think you have learned Irbreena’s secrets as well, so much the better.

“You say that like I’d ever even stand a chance in the votes.”

“Is this play acting, or are you truly that dense?” Mor’osez scowled as she paused on her way down a flight of broad black marble steps, Fay’rezza’s door at the base of them. She rounded about on Faeth’lyn, who even though she was standing a few steps higher still barely was eye to eye with Mor’osez. Her face remained eerily calm as she shook her head again and kept speaking. “You saw the votes yesterday, and today will be little different, you are practically able to win this election off strength of your name and reputation alone, do you understand what that means?”

“That the people voting are all idiots.”

“That the people voting, your fellow wyches, want you as their Succubus.” Faeth’lyn shrugged, “all you need to do is give them the push. Do you really think you’d be so bad at leading others?”

“I don’t thi-“ The words died in Mor’osez’s throat as she saw Faeth’lyn’s eyes widen in surprise at something she saw behind the older wych. Centuries of battle instinct took over and Mor’osez sprang to the side, tucking into a quick combat roll as she came up on her feet facing the direction of the threat. Even as she had sprung away a short javelin had hissed past her ear, out of the corner of her eye she could see Faeth’lyn spinning and stumbling backwards, as though she had been hit hard in the side or shoulder by the weapon. The younger Wych had not cried out in pain though, which was either a good sign or a very bad one as far as her chances for survival went.

Below Mor’osez was the entrance to Fay’rezza’s room, the door had been opend and now, charging up the steps, came five Wyches. All of them armed and with weapons at the ready. The leader of the attackers had a bandolier of short bladed javelins strapped to her thigh and was already drawing out another. Two of them were armed with daggers and splinter pistols, another wielded a pair of dueling daggers, and the last bore a short-bladed sword and spiked buckler.

Mor’osez was, as usual in the halls of the Cult, unarmed.

She didn’t waste any time considering that, or the odds, or even whether Faeth’lyn was or was not dead. All of those things mattered little in this instant, what mattered was the battle. Mor’osez charged forward towards the closest wych who was already raising her pistol to fire. Mor’osez’s gaze met that of her opponent, and she saw the uncertainty there. The wych was young, probably only a few decades into her time on the sands. Doubtless since the moment she had first taken up a practice blade in the training halls beneath the arena she would have heard the name ‘Mor’osez’ she would have heard the crowd chanting it like an anthem, she would have heard the tales of beasts slain, enemies crushed, battles won, odds overcome, records shattered. For a moment the young wych realized where she was, who she was pointing her gun at, and what her odds of survival were.

By the time she had recovered enough nerve to try to pull the trigger it was already too late for her. Mor’osez weaved around the shot, the range being far too close to allow the pistol to be truly deadly. One long arm reached out, fingers clamping down on the young wych’s head, a thumb being driven deep and hard into an eyesocket. Mor’osez’s free hand batted the pistol from the wych’s grip as she continued her charge, driving her opponent back, half lifting her from the ground, to crack her skull against the black stone wall behind her. Blood and gray matter splattered onto the floor as Mor’osez snatched the dagger from the dying wych’s grasp and spun around, trying to ignore the painful spasms of pain in her hands and that annoying sprain in her knee that seemed to never go away anymore.

The two knife wielder was there first, a blur of quick blows. Mor’osez feinted up with her knife and then kicked out sharply, shattering the girl’s kneecap with her foot and sending her sprawling face first onto the steps. Even as Mor’osez stepped over her to engage the next wych she sharply stomped on the knife wielder’s back, hearing a satisfying crunch as her back broke and ribs splintered.

The third wych managed to cross blades with Mor’osez twice, and forced the older wych to dodge another pistol shot when the swordswoman then joined the fray. Mor’osez parried and weaved around a few more quick strikes, assessing their styles and finding them wanting. Both of them were seasoned fighters, well trained to work together, but they were allowing that to let them feel comfortable. It was silly, neither of them had even come close to hitting her yet and they were already resorting to standard Cult attack routines…some of which Mor’osez had helped develop a few centuries ago when she had still helped train new wyches.

She came in with a high swing and slashed downward with her knife for the sword and buckler wych on the shield side, which, predictably, rose up to meet the attack. But Mor’osez had already dropped the dagger, and thus grabbed the shield in her iron grip. Using her greater size and strength she pulled the wych off balance, catching her shoulder as she snapped up a sharp knee to the young woman’s midsection, cracking a rib and crushing her liver painfully against the broken bone.

With a contemptuous shrug she heaved up the battered wych and treated her like a battering ram as she drove her forward into her ally, sending both sprawling to the ground with Mor’osez falling atop them. She rose up from the frantic scuffle a scant moment later, a dagger again in her hand, dripping red with blood, neither of the two wyches would be getting up again.

The javelin thrower stood at the base of the steps, her weapon primed to throw, a look of concern on her face. Mor’osez grinned at her, her hands didn’t hurt anymore.

“You have one toss. Use it wisely.”

A quicksilver blur hissed past Mor’osez’s ear and suddenly the javelin thrower was dropping her spear, hissing in pain as she clutched her shoulder where a thin throwing javelin was embedded in her pale flesh. Mor’osez glanced over her shoulder to see Faeth’lyn walking towards her, hands tucked into the sleeves of her robes, a placid look of mild annoyance on her face, no apparent injury from the javelin that Mor’osez had been fairly certain had hit her moments ago.

“Do you want to interrogate that one?”

“I already left one with a broken back who ought to be able to answer enough questions for me,” she answered with a shrug.

Faeth’lyn nodded, she drew her hands out of her sleeves revealing a slender throwing knife in one hand, delicately pinched between her thumb and forefinger. The javelin wielder had dropped to one knee, her bloody hand scrabbling for her javelin as she snatched it up and made good to throw it. Faeth’lyn seemed to wait a half moment, perhaps aiming, perhaps just wanting to give the other woman a glimmer of hope before snatching it from her. Faeth’lyn’s arm snapped forward, her knife spiraled through the air and struck sure and deep into the javelin-thrower’s neck. The other wych let out a piteous gurgled whine of protest as she tried to breathe through a throat filling with blood. She slumped slowly to the ground, twitching.

“Who?” Mor’osez snarled the comment as she stalked back up the stairs, she tossed aside the bloody dagger and crouched by the wounded, yet still alive, wych on the stairs. She flipped her over and glared down at the younger wych. Her face was paler than was healthy, spotted with sweat, splattered with her own blood, and her breathing labored. “Do you know who I am?” The younger wych nodded. Mor’osez held up her hands, stained crimson with the blood of the attackers. “I will rip you apart, slowly, piece by bloody piece, and it will seem to take a lifetime, I promise you this, do you believe me?” The younger wych nodded again. “Who sent you?”

“They would only likely know an intermediary, not the actual person who really hired them,” offered Faeth’lyn as she daintily stepped around a pool of gore spreading out from the crushed skull of one of the attackers as she stood nearby.

“Then she can tell me who that is, and then I’ll go talk with them too.”

“I’d hate to see what you describe diplomacy as.”

Mor’osez spotted an odd shift in the wych’s jaw as she clamped it shut. She cursed, her fingers flying to the wych’s face as she peeled back her lips and pried her jaw open, but it was already too late, the poison capsule she’d bit down on was fast doing its work, and it was doubtful that Mor’osez was going to be able to find an antidote quickly. She growled in the back of her throat as she considered the dead wych in front of her.

“That seems somewhat intense. I wonder what they were doing in there?” The two wyches stepped forward, glancing into Fay’rezza’s apartments. They looked like a warp storm had hit them, drawers pulled out and emptied, the armoire tossed open, the bed slashed open to allow searching inside of it. Mor’osez paused, looking back at the bodies sprawled on the stairs.

“They were looking for something,” she grunted suddenly as she turned and started running back up the stairs.

“Looking for what?”

“Something Fay’rezza has.”

Mor’osez charged through the hallways towards Fay’rezza’s training chambers, where she should be at this time of the day. Lesser wyches of the Cult and assorted guests were forced out of her way as she charged through, a wild sight with blood-stained hands and eyes burning with bloodlust. She batted aside an offered data crystal, the fan shouting out in horror as their precious gene-sig recorder clattered away across the floor. Behind her she could hear Faeth’lyn’s soft voice purring out quick apologies as she darted along in Mor’osez’s wake like a Razorwing dancing after a charging Clawed Fiend.

She could see the crowd already forming around the entrance door and redoubled her pace, her knee twinged in protest with each sprinting step, but her strides didn’t falter. She shoved her way uncaringly through the crowd, practically tossing aside the onlookers as she bull rushed through them onto the practice field.

Fay’rezza’s students stood there, looks of surprise and shock on their untrained faces. Blood stained the sands of the practice hall and spattered some of the wall. Mor’osez’s gaze fell to the corpses flitting from one to the next with a practiced eye. A slashed throat, a perfectly speared heart, a clean hole puncturing through the eye and into the brain, the Mistress of Spears had reaped a deadly harvest here.

“They tried to arrest her, they said she was under arrest,” offered one of the students as Mor’osez walked up to crouch by one of the dead bodies. She recognized the dead woman, a trained veteran of hundreds of arena battles and two dozen raids. There wasn’t a drop of blood on her blades, and she had been felled by a delicate slash across her throat and a deep puncture to her inner thigh that had left her to bleed out in seconds. She knew this wych, one of Succubus Ayasha’s chief lieutenants.

“What did they try to arrest her for?”

“Murder, they said she had conspired to murder Succubus Irbreena and that they had evidence.”

“Well,” Faeth’lyn shrugged her shoulders slightly as she crouched next to Mor’osez. “I didn’t see that one coming.”


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Barking Agatha
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Thu Aug 15 2013, 22:04

Quote :
“Do you think you’re more clever than I am?”
Well, that's an interesting question, isn't it, from a Master who apparently needs to ask questions of a Slave who seems to hold all the answers? So far, the Master's power over the Slave seems to hang upon the fear of pain, which is a flimsy hold at best. Perhaps the Master should tread carefully? They always seem to forget that Vect himself was once a slave. (Please forgive me for speculating.)

Not to put down Trueborn in any way, but I have to agree with others that you have achieved an even higher level of tension here. I love the pacing, although I kind of wish I hadn't started reading it until it was finished, instead of having to wait for the next chapter. I did wince a little bit at the whole 'they don't take girls' bit in Ch 1, but that's just me being nitpicky, and it does work in the context.

Anyway, you've got me hooked. I really want to see where all these threads tie up!
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Siticus the Ancient
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Sun Aug 18 2013, 19:37

Finally caught up with the story so far. Amazing work, Thor, your skillful descriptions really illustrates the scenes. You're also succeeding marvelously at making me forget that these fellows are sadistic killers one and all.

I am growing very fond of Faeth'lyn - she's quite the brains to accompany Mor'osez's brawn, and I'm starting to hope she'll stay smart enough to not get brutalized by Mor'osez later on when the inevitable (or so you'd like us to think!) betrayal comes.

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Mon Aug 19 2013, 01:58

@Agatha - well, there may be some deeper levels of threat that are not clear yet. But, yes, the DE do tend to believe that they have such control over pain as to control others. Will be interesting to see if this holds true for the master ;)I appreciate the other thoughts and hope I mostly avoid any other wince moments.

@Siticus - thanks for the nice words. Our resident knife thrower is due for some interesting moments in another few chapters, and we may get to see if she is clever enough to walk out the other side or not. I do agree that she and Mor'osez make an excellent odd couple, I have become fond of their interplays and am glad you have too. Both of them probably still underestimate each other though.

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Fri Sep 13 2013, 06:08


Chapter 6: The Following



“Do you have any idea how much trouble we could get into?”

“Hmm?”

“They’d probably just kill us, I suppose that would be if we were lucky. It would be worse if they decided to keep us alive for a while and get creative. I suppose I might get a certain amount of amusement and satisfaction from it if they kill you first, of course.”

“Mmm.”

“Have you heard about the altars to Khaine on the lower levels, buried deep under the temple? They’re not the pretty tourist examples like what we have in the main altar, there are things that happen at those temples, secret things, secrets formed in blood, sealed in murder, and hidden down in the depths away from even the eyes of Commoragh. Can you imagine what sort of acts they would need to be to be hidden from the eyes of Commoragh?”

“Hmm.”

“…you’re not listening to me, are you? You’re just making noises.”

“Mmm?”

Tymeon jabbed his elbow into Obessa’s ribs, catching her attention. She glanced over at him with a frown, wondering what he was on about. The pair of them were currently crouching in the shadows of one of the long inner hallways of the Temple.

The structure of the Temple was like some maddened anthill. On the surface it seemed such a small and simple thing, a few interconnected square courtyards around a squat square structure of black rock. But, underneath the surface, it was a winding maze of hidden tunnels, buried vaults and altars, and massive training chambers. It wove like a secret web, curling itself around the very roots of the city. She shuddered at the thought of having to lead an assault on a place like this, shooting firepower and bombardments would quickly become useless and you would be forced to send out footsoldiers into the tunnels, trying to claim the dark hallways and winding corridors from the deadly blades of the Incubi defenders. Not an easy task or one to be undertaken lightly.

“What are you on about,” she whispered to him.

“You haven’t been listening to a word I’ve been saying,” he sulked as he crossed his arms, “I have no idea how I let you talk me into coming on this mad endeavor.”

“Because,” Obessa actually had more than a few side theories about why Tymeon wanted to come along with her, despite the way he complained and whined about it she had been certain he had desired to accompany her. That said, most of those self-serving opinions she had were unlikely to calm him down so she settled for a slight bit of flattery instead. “Who else could I have trusted and who else could actually have been helpful to me? You know more about this temple and the Incubi than all the rest of the applicants combined, and you know that is true.”

Tymeon smirked a bit, his chest puffing out in pride, “well…that is true, still,” he paused to lean forward, pressing against her slightly as he peered around the corner and considered the doorway they were watching. “I didn’t think you were actually going to try to spy on Xulfryn Hierarch.”

“I can’t expect to waste our time spying on anyone less important, can I?”

“Well…I suppose…”

“Shhh.” She reached out, placing a hand over his mouth as she sensed and heard movement beyond the door. She strained her ears to their limit, trying to pick up anything from the conversation that she could. It was difficult both because of the distance, and also because, lacking visual sight, she was missing out on the body motions that would add important inflections and meanings to the words.

“…unusual…as protocol goes…” The slightly grating tone belonged to Master Ryldnar.

“…agree…waste…our talents.” The sibilant and sneering remark unquestionably came from Klarz’ay, the Scalpel.

“…she…important enough…relationship,” here the door swung open, leaving no doubt that Xulfryn was speaking. Obessa edged her head back around the corner, more clearly able to pick out the words now. “So I am not against humoring the request, and the two of you as my representatives should show that I take it seriously enough.”

“As you wish it, we shall recover the item.” Ryldnar again, stiff, pompous, probably trying to fashion a way to say what he meant in riddles.

“And when we return with it, I would think we can discuss a more important matter.” She could hear Klarz’ay grip at his klaive as he spoke. “There is a master here who needs to stand a foot shorter.”

“I still say it is best to sit back and wait on that score,” intoned Ryldnar, “his Dathedi will see him to his doom soon enough, I suspect.” Obessa felt a surge of anger pulse through her at that comment, and only Tymeon’s quick hand clamping onto her shoulder prevented her from making a sudden move to burst around the corner and confront the trio.

“Are you so certain?” Xulfryn’s quiet words hissed out, slow and as deadly as a poison blade.

“She bewitched him with wide hips, large breasts, and a doubtless athletic performance in a pay-bed,” Ryldnar insisted, “if you would watch her wield a sword you would have no doubt in your mind that Zak has made yet another in a long line of misjudgments.”

“I agree,” cackled Klarz’ay, “if you’d like, when we return with your promised treasure I will happily pay her a visit in her sleeping cell and settle the matter of her worth as well as her athletic performances before bringing you a new braid.”

“I have seen her fight with a dagger as well as a sword,” offered Xulfryn slowly. Obessa heard a slight creak that was probably him starting to close the door to his chambers. “I wonder if I have grown paranoid, or if the pair of you have grown blind. See to the meeting, bring me back the item, then we shall discuss the Dathedi matter at more length.”

“As you wish,” came the response from both Incubi Masters as the door clicked shut.

Obessa and Tymeon shifted slowly back from the corner and deeper into the shadows of their hiding nook as they heard the two Incubi start down the hallway, heading not towards their own rooms but taking the upward path towards the surface and the practice yards.

“I worry that our dear Hierarch is proscribing too much brilliance and skill to his opponents,” sighed Klarz’ay as he sauntered by.

“And perhaps you proscribe too little. Zak has never struck me as a fool, just too rigid and likely to let his emotions take him over occasionally in rash ways.” Ryldnar was already reattaching his helmet as he passed. Obessa stiffened up as he paused briefly, glancing down the side passage into the shadows where she and Tymeon lurked. The skull mask hid his expression, and his body language gave no indicator of him spotting them even as he looked straight at the shadows. Behind her she could tell Tymeon had held his breath, and she realized her own hand had dropped to her side where her dagger was sheathed. Then the moment passed and Ryldnar finished hooking on the helmet, perhaps the glance had just been him turning his head to better manage one of the magno-locks? “But then again, I suppose foolishness is rife in the younger generations these days,” Ryldnar noted as he continued after Klarz’ay.

“Are you mocking me, old man?”

“The day I desire to mock you, you will be well aware of it, I assure you.”

“Come on.” Obessa rose to her feet, slipping quietly after the two masters. Tymeon muttered something under his breath but trailed after her in any case. Ryldnar and Klarz’ay were making their way up and out into the Temple grounds at a casual pace, still quietly chatting about various matters. Obessa and Tymeon followed them at a careful distance, close enough not to lose them, but not so close that they could hear all that was said. Finally the two masters stepped out into the main practice yard, heading for the exit.

“Well, that about finishes that,” Tymeon noted happily as he wiped his hands together, suggesting an end to the affair.

“I’m going after them,” Obessa said after a moment’s thought.

“You’re not supposed to leave the temple until you’re a Purple, it’s against the rules.

“It’s not…forbidden,” offered Obessa, a small smile cracking her lips as she mimicked Zak’s voice slightly. “Besides, they’re up to something.”

“Oh, really, what a shock, Eldarith Ynneas who are plotting something, that almost never happens.”  Tymeon managed a smile but his exasperation was clear in his eyes. “Let them go, ‘Bessa, it’s not worth it.”

But she just smiled at him as she turned and darted off after the two departing Incubi Masters, running in a low hunched over stance as she slipped from shadow to shadow. She could see the two Masters heading for the Khainesblade gate, a smaller side gate that served as an access point for pilgrims who wished to attend temple services while not being Incubi adherents themselves. It was also a gate that any Incubi would be quickly waved through with no questions asked and few prying eyes paying notice. Indeed, the two Blacks standing guard barely even glanced up as the masters passed.

Obessa took a roundabout route, slipping through the Grove of Vaul, where arched and spiked metal sculptures bore chains to bind those who broke the laws of the temple. Near the back of the Grove was a spot she had oft heard the other students speak about, where a sculpture on this side of the wall and a corroding bronze rooftop nearby could provide an agile and non-risk averse student the ability to slip out of the Temple unseen. Even as she approached it she realized two figures were already there. She quickly slipped behind some sculptures, but too late realized Tymeon was following her and his slightly awkward scramble to her side alerted the two figures ahead.

“Who is there?” A voice snarled out the question as a soulsteel blade was drawn. Obessa sighed slightly as she stood up.

“It’s me and Tymeon, what are you two doing here?”

“Isn’t that obvious?” Tilt was perched atop the wall, below him stood Welv, sword in hand. Tilt smiled at her. “We were going to go out for some wine, women, and song…but what are you two doing here?”

She and Tymeon glanced at each other. “We…well…”

“We’re going to tail Masters Ryldnar and Klarz’ay and spy on them,” offered Tymeon proudly, “so get out of the way, we’re in a rush to not lose them.”

Welv’s face went slightly blank, though he did lower his sword. Tilt smirked to himself, eyeing the pair carefully. “That seems…unwise,” offered Welv slowly, in what almost sounded a concerned tone.

“We could probably tell the Masters about this,” Tilt suggested, the lazy smirk on his face growing wider, “I wonder what benefits we would reap?”

“Not many,” suggested Tymeon quickly, “besides, I think we both know that the possibility that there is a value to why we’re following them. Perhaps a clever man could use that information, and gain power from it, if he were the type to desire long term power.”

Obessa spared a glance at Tymeon, the young Port Lord’s son had a confident glint in his eyes as he looked at Tilt. On a battlefield she knew that Tilt could cut down a hundred like Tymeon, but with but a few words and a slight suggestion she had just watched him be outmaneuvered and roped into potentially helping her and Tymeon’s efforts. When she glanced back at Tilt and Welv she realized the idea had struck home, Welv was looking up at Tilt, a frown on his face, and Tilt’s smirk had disappeared to be replaced by a thoughtful expression as he studied Tymeon.

“Okay, so get up here, let’s see what this gets us.”

Tilt smiled as he turned to Obessa and motioned her up the sculpture first. “After you, m’lady.”

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


There was a knock on her door, an odd pitter patter with its own echo. Standing up, Mor’osez walked over and opened the door, unsurprised by who she found on the other side. The Klaiviskar Twins stood there, their faces each painted half black, a small red mark of the Cult done on each of their pale white cheeks to mirror their personal sigil done in white on the black half of their face. The only two things that separated the identical beauties were that each had painted the opposite side of their face from each other, like a mirror, and also their bio-mechanical arms. One had lost her left arm in battle with an Incubus, the other had severed her right arm herself in order that the sisters would still mirror each other properly. Both missing limbs had been replaced by Haemonculi surgeons, sheathed in metal and tightly wound sinew, the replacement arms had multiple deadly weapon attachments that could be hooked into them.

O’che smiled at her, “greetings, we have been told that it is our duty to let you know that The Bloodbrides are gathering.” Her voice was sing-song in pitch, her eyes glittering happily as she beamed.

Noi’celfer was deathly quiet, she simply nodded her head for Mor’osez to follow them.

The Klaiviskar Twins were Bloodbrides in service to Black Ghyvia, one of the two remaining Succubi of the Cult. They were a famed dueling duo in the arenas, and Mor’osez had fought with and against them many times over the years. She considered O’che a bit of a fool, but Noi’celfer was not the sort to ever turn your back on, and was decidedly dangerous and probably a touch insane. Still, they fought with such fluid synchronicity in the arena that they were a crowd favorite and a very deadly opponent. Mor’osez paused a moment to take up her chainsword and a fresh injector of some of her favorite combat drugs as she followed the pair towards the hanger where the Bloodbrides would mount up on their Raider after receiving their orders.

There were very few matters that called for a collecting of the Bloodbrides. A major raid, a special performance paid for by a powerful donor, or for the distinctive enforcement of Cult law. When the Succubi decided some member of the Cult had committed a singular crime that deserved special sanction, it was the Bloodbrides who served as the executors of the order.

“Mor’osez! Dance with me!” Grexel, The Bloody Mirror bounded forward as Mor’osez entered the main hanger of the Cult of Bloodied Kiss where they stored most of their vehicles. The vast chamber stretched almost beyond her perception, filled with vehicles ranging from personal pleasure craft, to sleek battle vehicles, though most of the array was comprised of Raiders, jagged prowed transport craft that delivered their payload of Wyches on the battlefield with blinding speed and sureness.

Grexel spun around, pirouetting as she smiled, grabbing at Mor’osez’s arm as she capered with glee.  “A mission, Mor’osez, a murder avenged, a battle, glorious!” Mor’osez managed a small smile as she twisted her arm free. Grexel almost always had a smile on her face, a laugh on her lips, and an excitement for any mission, she loved the action and danger of being a Bloodbride. “I’m going to dance with them all, and it will be beautiful, and maybe you’ll dance with me, and the Twins too, I could mirror them and make us triplets, wouldn’t that be funny? Or I could be your twin…” Grexel suddenly slipped in front of Mor’osez, her face rapidly taking on a grim look as she flexed her hands as though they were uncomfortable. “Do I look like I’m scared of anything?” Her voice was a near perfect mimic of Mor’osez’s own grim tones.

“Last time you did that impression I broke your arm, as I recall,” Mor’osez noted, though she couldn’t help but smile slightly. Grexel was a bit of a ham and enjoyed the arts of acting, dance, and song, and could rarely be asked to pass up a chance to poke fun at someone, even, or perhaps especially, at the risk of life and limb. In another life Mor’osez was fairly certain the girl could have walked in service to The Laughing God, but the Cult had found her first, and she had discovered that there was a thin line between play acting, and the deadly artistry of the Wych, a thin line that she had crossed and mastered with seemingly joyous ease.

“A broken arm is nothing but a temporary inconvenience.” Grexel cum Mor’osez grunted, “I stopped breaking arms twenty decades ago in the arena when I became bored of it and invented the idea of breaking legs…I also invented breaking arms too, back before you ever hatched from your tube.”

“She does about have you down, though I think she’s making you sound too intelligent.”

This comment came from Kyssindree, who sauntered into the hanger. Walking beside her, with Kyssindree’s arm around her shapely hips, came Luaae, one of the newest Bloodbrides, her head resting contentedly on Kyssindree’s shoulder, her knee length silver hair still slightly mussed from whatever the two of them had been up to together. Grexel broke character and glanced over her shoulder at Kyssindree, her hazel-green eyes going slightly darker.

“They say when one looks at a mirror that you project upon it your own thoughts about yourself,” Grexel offered innocently, though she clearly had intended the barb in her words.

“And if you don’t like it, you simply break the mirror and buy a better one,” Kyssindree countered with a yawn as she shoved Luaae off her. A move doubtless intended to allow her easy access to her knives if needed.

“Fight!” O’che happily clapped her hands. Next to her Noi’celfer mirrored the action perfectly, though her face remained deadpan and emotionless.

“Must we?” Luaae smirked as she slipped down to sit on a nearby supply pod, her long and delicate fingers working dexterously at her hair as she began braiding it, “the last three times have all ended the same, and even I’m growing bored of watching Kyssindree best a hopeless girl-child again.”

“But, my dear,” offered Grexel with a wink, “we’re not discussing your bedchambers, we’re discussing a matter involving guns and knives.” She popped up, her eyes a’twinkle as she considered Kyssindree. “I would love to cut your face off, you know, should we?” Her bright eyes sparkled and her bouncy bright red hair curled around her face as she reached down and unhooked her mirrored battle mask from a clasp on her belt. “I would so love to hear you scream my name as I dance in your blood.”

“Sure, I have enough time to make you famous…for a little while.” Even as Kyssindree was reaching for her own matched dueling knives a harsh metallic crack echoed through the room as the whip-snap of a bladed Razorflail snarled sharply. Cali’q the Counter, Syren of the Bloodbrides appeared, walking along with both Succubi, Ayasha and Black Ghyvia together.

“No duels today, save them for profit in the arenas,” he sneered, a press of his thumb on an activation stud withdrawing the razorflail from its whip configuration to a hooked sword, the segments snapping together in a blur with a sharp, metallic, hiss. “Heed the Succubi, we have a mission.”

Cali’q was the highest ranked male in all of the Cult, holding what was likely to be the highest rank he could achieve, the leader of the Bloodbrides. In all the many centuries of its existence Bloodied Kiss, much like most Wych Cults, had never allowed a male Succubus. Cali’q was handsome though, in a sharp and dangerous way. His body was perfectly proportioned, his features pleasing to the eye, his lips were full and oft quirked into a grin that begged for them to be kissed, his smoky eyes had lured many a young Wych into his wiles. But he was cold on the inside, like a machine more than a man, all hard calculations set to provide him the most pleasure and his foes the most pain. If he hadn’t proved to be so talented Mor’osez was certain someone would have rendered him down to protoplasm in the flesh pits by now, as he was a bit pompous and insufferable.

“My ladies,” Cali’q turned and bowed to Ayasha and Ghyvia, “your Bloodbrides await your command.”

Black Ghyvia’s eyes lingered on Mor’osez as she considered the assembled Bloodbrides, her darkly painted lips curling in anger at the sight of her. Mor’osez met her gaze evenly, unafraid, and wondering if she was looking at the woman who had killed Irbreena. Ayasha noticed their glances, and shook her head slightly as she stepped between them.

“A witness has come forth on the distressing matter of Irbreena’s demise.” Ayasha motioned to the Klaiveskar Twins, who both stepped forward. O’che, as usual, had an inane grin plastered on her face, and Noi’celfer maintained her usual quiet demeanor. Mor’osez frowned slightly, not liking the way this looked. “Go ahead, dear,” Ayasha spoke gently, “tell them what you told us.”

“Noi saw the killing,” announced O’che proudly as she placed a hand on her sister’s shoulder. “And has identified the murderer.”

“And who did she see,” Kyssindree asked as she toyed with one of her knives almost nervously.

Noi’celfer glanced around carefully, when she spoke it was a rasping whisper that they all had to strain to hear, but there was no doubt what she said. “Fay’rezza, the Mistress of Spears.”


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


Masters Klarz’ay and Ryldnar had stayed on foot for their journey, not bothering to hail down one of the many grav-chariots available for hire. This was, to Obessa’s mind, a good thing, as it would make them easier to trail. The pair had wound their way downspire and Portward from the Temple, heading across one of the elegant connecting bridges between spires to enter the Shlaereen district. It was an unpleasant place, the narrow streets and walkways thronged with side street peddlers and grubby handed sneak thieves. Glaring glow signs proclaimed all sorts of promises from the assorted merchants wealthy enough to afford actual roofs.

Obessa found herself envious of the bubble of space the Incubi were afforded, the crowd parting for the two black armored figures to avoid giving insult. She and the other three students were a different story, despite the late hour the streets were thronged and Obessa had to continuously shove and elbow her way through the mass, keeping a careful hand on her dagger as she did so to prevent it being stolen.

“Enough of this,” Welv grunted as he forced himself towards the front of the group, brushing past her as he positioned himself in the lead. His broad shoulders and scarred face did a better job of clearing a path than she had, and he forcefully brushed away any who did not immediately stand aside. His hand resting on the hilt of his sword and a dangerous look in his eyes prevented anyone from raising much complaint.

“They went down that side alley,” Obessa noted as Welv herded them towards a different one.

“I saw.”

“Then why-“

“Blind Betrayal alley has a sharp curve in it, perfect for spotting anyone following you and lying in ambush for them. Besides, if they’re taking it then it means they’re headed for somewhere in The Gutters, and this will get us there a bit faster.” He dropped a soul chit into a battered brass cup and made a small hand sign to a nondescript figure in a tattered red and yellow patched robe that sat begging at the entrance to a small passageway between two large support struts. The figure shrugged as it motioned them through.

“You know these streets?” Obessa was surprised as Welv led them quickly down the narrow passage. She could see other figures in yellow and red robes crouching in murder alcoves overhead, eyeing the quartet suspiciously. They emerged into a small garden courtyard and Welv kept the lead as he wound his way through the hedge maze, making his way up a damp pathway dribbling with rivulets of water running down its slope.

“Grow up around here?” Tymeon pressed forward to ask Welv the question.

“Maybe, or maybe just when I sneak out at night I chose to learn my way around, which would be more useful for you to believe?” Welv shoved Tymeon back as he offered Obessa that slightly boyish grin that she realized actually came easily to his face when he wasn’t trying to intimidate others. “Does he always pry so obviously?”

“It’s a habit of his, you’ll get used to it.”

“Welv usually doesn’t bother to ‘get used’ to people,” offered Tilt with a smirk as he moved up alongside them. “So, tell me, why are we following two masters of the Temple?”

“A number of reasons,” she answered guardedly.

“Which one of them is the one making this jaunt valuable enough for us to go along with?”

“Depends what you’re able to get out of it,” cut in Tymeon, “we agreed to let you accompany us, we didn’t agree to hand feed you how to make the information you learn valuable.” He smiled unctuously and Obessa shot him a quick nod of thanks. Tymeon may have some questionable habits, but his tongue was silver and his mind razorwing fast when it came to out-talking others.

Welv motioned for them to come to a halt as they reached the end of the hedge maze. In front of them was a wide piazza formed from a handful of broad support beams connecting together. It was also clearly a run-off area for the spires above, as a near constant stream of moisture rained down in sprays of mist or dripping streams to splatter into the wide open area before running off into nearby gardens or being siphoned down other run-off paths that would send it falling to a level even further below this one. Much of the piazza was aglow with various luminescent fungal growths that flourished in the moist conditions. A few haphazard shops and businesses had been built in the shadows of the support columns, the ramshackle collection of structures doubtless catering to questionable clientele or meetings that did not wish to be noticed.

The most prosperous seeming building was a two story structure whose markings identified it as a place to hold meetings, purchase food or drink, or to arrange a pay bed, though the rates were by the hour making it clear it wasn’t a sleep house. A few vehicles were parked in the front of the building, a few hovering skyboards watched over by one of the Hellion gangers who had, doubtless, ridden them in. Nearby were a collection of steelbikes, primitive combustion powered vehicles that lacked anti-gravity coils and rode upon the ground, their only claim to fame being their speed and affordability. Standing out in stark contrast to all of the other transports was a sleek black, green, and gold Venom. The small transport craft was in perfect repair and even had a bonded pilot waiting patiently in the cockpit, a splinter pistol in his hands as he surveyed the broad expanse of the piazza for any approaching dangers. A second stood in the cab leaning casually upon the pintle mounted splinter cannon there as he also kept watch.

Obessa pulled back into the shadows a bit, her eyes widening in surprise as she noticed the markings on the Venom. Welv glanced over at her, confused at the reaction. Before she had time to explain she saw motion across the piazza and the two Incubi appeared. Ryldnar and Klarz’ay strode with purpose towards the building with the vehicles parked out front. The Dark Eldar manning the splinter cannon nodded to them as they approached and motioned them inside. Obessa bit her lip slightly as she watched them enter.

“So what now,” asked Tymeon, shrugging slightly as he glanced at her.

“We need to get inside and find out what the meeting is about.”

“Why?”

“Because,” Obessa motioned to the Venom and the markings it bore, the mark of the Cult of Bloodied Kiss. “They’re meeting with someone from the Wych Cult I used to belong to.”



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

So, Chapter 6 is up! I rather enjoyed writing this chapter as I got to play with a lot of the lesser characters. Grexel, for example, had been originally created just as a cast-away opponent in Trueborn, but the basic idea of her was always interesting to her, and something made me make sure to note she had survived the events of the story. She returns now and will get to be a bit more fleshed out - she is, as so often happens with characters in my stories, trying to demand more of the spotlight than I maybe have time for. Same with the Klaviskar Twins, they're an interesting pair, and thankfully they're actually important to the story. After all, Noi was a witness to the murder thst started this whole affair...at least she says she is, a Wych wouldn't lie...right...?

Xulfryn, Ryldnar, and Klar'zay also got more time. All of the masters of the Temple will have their moments, but this trio has plans and plots that involve Zak and poor Obessa, so it was nice to get a chance to showcase them.

You'll also note this is the first chapter since the first that has Obessa and Mor'osez both appearing in it at the same time.

Indeed, up to this point, to a certain extent, I feel I've been establishing the backstory for the story I wanted to tell. I'd originally intended to do it in about 2 chapters...instead it took me 6. Neutral I'm not sure what that really says about me...I guess 'weak at controlling his own plot' In any case, needless to say, things will be picking up from here forward. The long awaited Unan Angau is actually going to happen, Mor'osez and Obessa's stories will actually start to mix properly, and the mystery can hopefully be solved.

Should be able to keep to a chapter every 2-3 week schedule for the foreseeable future unless I get a job I'm hoping for around the end of the year, in which case things may slow down, we'll see. Hope you enjoy this chapter and what is to come.

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Barking Agatha
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Fri Sep 13 2013, 18:41

Yay!

Thor, if your story grows, it grows. Letting it breathe isn't weakness, it's good judgement. You don't hear anyone complaining, do you!

I like Grexel. Sheesh, Mor'osez, could you lighten up? Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Fri Sep 13 2013, 19:27

@Barking Agatha wrote:
Thor, if your story grows, it grows. Letting it breathe isn't weakness, it's good judgement. You don't hear anyone complaining, do you!
I suppose not, though at the same time there is such a thing as literary pacing.
Eh, maybe I am over thinking it, time will tell. Thanks for the thoughts Wink

@Barking Agatha wrote:
I like Grexel. Sheesh, Mor'osez, could you lighten up? Smile
I think Grexel might be a good dark horse candidate for 'most appreciated character' this story.
Mor'osez tried 'lightening up' once.
Once.

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Fri Sep 13 2013, 21:02

Quote :
Mor'osez tried 'lightening up' once.
I'm guessing that was the one time she put down her chainsword.

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