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Thor665
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Wed Mar 19 2014, 15:42

@Barking Agatha wrote:
I've just finished catching up. First of all, sorry to hear about that job crashing and burning Sad. It's a terrible time for it, but you'll be fine. It probably wasn't worth it anyway, and something better will turn up soon, and you'll be glad that you didn't waste your time with that other thing Smile.
With the way my job works I get hired and dumped a lot, so I'm pretty immune to it - you are correct that better things often show up.

@Barking Agatha wrote:
Secondly, brilliant stuff. Your writing actually seems more self-assured in these past few chapters than when you started! Does it feel that way to you?
I go through phases, and some chapters flow out easier than others. I do like to think I get better every chapter I write because, hey, practice.  pirat 

@Barking Agatha wrote:
'The Unan Angau' is a well-timed change of pace, returning to Obessa's character progression. There's never any doubt that she will pass her tests, but I like how the gauntlet format of her testing reflects the steps of her own evolution, like a precis in microcosm of her character arc up to this point. That was really, really clever!
Thank you for noticing that, there were a couple allusions I worked in there because as with the Eldar, I do figure for the DE certain things are as much a spiritual journey as a physical one. Glad it worked!

@Barking Agatha wrote:
Firstly, Mor'osez just isn't the most interesting character for me. She's a bit one-note: she's dour and invincible and doesn't particularly want anything; she is only mildly curious about who killed Irbreena and why, and anyone who gets in her way gets splattered anyway, so why shouldn't she indulge her mild interest? It isn't as if she has anything better to do. I think that she works better when she is a wall for the other, more involved characters to bounce off of.
I don't disgaree fully with this (well...I do, because I love Mor'osez, but I see your point).
I think what you're noticing is something I mentioned earlier - the story kept getting drawn out. Mor'osez very much has a character arc and some issues to work through...but as the story ballooned out bigger than I originally anticipated her character development ended up being pushed further back into the story and as a result she's been spending a lot of her time in the 'invincibly curious' stage of her arc.

The next few chapters should (hopefully) give her a few new challenges, and also as we move forward hopefully she'll reveal that she stands on perhaps some feet of clay of her own. I hope you get to enjoy her as much as I do on that journey, you'll have to let me know Wink

@Barking Agatha wrote:
Secondly, Klarz'ay's attempted assault of Obessa. That was especially disappointing to me because after all the ingenuity of the previous chapters, we slip back into trite and discredited gender tropes. I don't begrudge the Dark Eldar their sexual violence (they should thrive on it!), but in this case it seems as if Obessa has been singled out for it because Klarz'ay is a 'cad' and she is 'the girl', and specifically 'Zak's girl', as an act intended to hurt him more than her! It's as if the story suddenly decided that Obessa is a 'badass girl', rather than 'a badass who happens to be a girl', if you see what I mean? If Klarz'ay had defeated Tilt, Tymeon, and Welv, would he have gone for their pants with the same enthusiasm? There isn't even any passion in it, just a cretinous act of bullying, as if Klarz'ay were flashing back to his days as a Pie Beta Guppy from Brosville University...
I think you have a lot of brilliant and well thought out points here.

I'll openly admit that Klarz'ay is a shallow and bully-like character. He went to the lowest common denominator because...well, that's who and what Klarz'ay is. I'll admit I may have had him attempt sexual assault on, say, a Tilt if Zak was emotionally connected to Tilt (I do recall getting some comments last story for another sexual assault that was a female assaulting a male, so I do think I'm at least [sadly] an equal opportunity writer for this stuff...not that I'm sure that's a good thing).

I would note, that in the context of the story, they are treating her this was *specifically* because they are trying to get to Zak. I understand it is simplistic, but it is also their goal. To Xulfryn, Obessa truly is meaningless one way or another except as a tool to deal with Zak and "get him". There are also characters (like Kyssindree) who have made vows to hurt Zak to "get Obessa" and other characters (like Mor'osez) who have a grudge with Obessa alone. So, i will agree that this aspect is simple and baseline, my only defense is that I'm presenting other and varied aspects and I do not think I'm coming across with this as the only motive to abuse Obessa.

As far as the 'badass girl' vs. 'badass who is a girl' I...I think that's maybe a fair ding. I would note that a character you find more boring (Mor'osez) certainly qualifies as a badass who happens to be a girl, because she is practically the most successful fighter in the story, and has a lot of fear and respect of her, and happens to be female and comfortable with that. I'd like to think that the reason this moment bugged you is because I've gotten you to care about Obessa (which, I'll admit, was my goal) and then also did something rather vile to her (again, my goal...well, Xulfryn's goal, but I was involved in the plotting) and my goal was specifically to get the reader to rather detest Klarz'ay and Xulfryn.

If I did that then my reaction is 'yes, it was horrible, that you noticed is just a good sign about you and (hopeflly) my writing'. If all I did was make you feel I weakened Obessa as a character then...hurm, I screwed up at that point. I'll happily listen to any advice to improve it. I could always take out the sexual threat, but it seemed the best way to make it clear how personal this was intended to be. Any thoughts?

So, anyway, yeah... bit disappointed about that. Otherwise, great writing, and the arena scenes ruled. Smile

@Barking Agatha wrote:
There is a lot that I like there, but especially Kyssindree's and Luaae's sexy time of an afternoon together, with the casual torturing of a slave, catty fighting, and fondling of bare bums. It's my favourite bit since Chapter 8.
I'll give you points for the rump comment, maybe I should adjust that (I'll admit I'm not as adroit a sexy writer as I'd like to be, i suppose, and your reading had me going 'ack! not as intended!'

I did like writing that scene though. It's very deliciously sexy and evil (and a bit manic insane) all at once. It's a good look into the sort of mental games Kyssindree plays, and also how she can be a charmer when she wishes.

@Barking Agatha wrote:
The bath scene with Obessa and Zak is vivid and tangible (again, great writing!), but I felt that it sapped Obessa of some substance. If Obessa is a badass in her own right and a self-sufficient woman then her own lust for Zak or lack thereof should matter more to her, rather than just succumbing 'despite herself' to his irresistible manliness! It's very cool that he somehow sensed that she wasn't up for it, but that adds to his credit, not hers. She was already 'girding herself'! Is our badass incubus-in-training at heart a young and unexperienced girl who doesn't really know what she wants and yearns for the guidance and protection of an older, worldlier, father figure and lover? Please, no....
Hurm... You may be inspiring me to re-write that scene. My intended goal *was* to suggest that she got a bit titillated, but seeing how you read it I think the 'despite herself' line would not indicate that. I also was hoping to convey some strength of the character insomuch as she refused allowing him to solve the problem for her because she wished to. I'm guessing I failed to convey the needed strength there - do you have any advice on what I could change to accomplish that?

I will admit that, actually, yes Obessa does have some dependency issues. It's something I've mentioned before. What I hope to show with her and Zak though is that it's a healthier relationship because he doesn't wish her to be dependent and is rather attracted to her independence.

The failure lays on me to convey what I wanted, as clearly it didn't come across that way enough/functionally. Don't blame Zak and Obessa, they are but slaves to my limited skills.

I'd love some thoughts from you on how I could make it better. My intention was to show that she was negatively affected by what happened, was annoyed at him for shielding her from it (unsuccessfully, I'll add - a pretty big derp from Zak) and that she decides that Klarz'ay is now "hers" and also that what she wants supersedes what might be most convenient for Zak, and that he trusts her enough to allow her to do what she is planning even though it puts his life in her hands.

Those were the points I want to hit - where did I whiff it?

@Barking Agatha wrote:
So, I hope you didn't mind my ranting too much!
I love feedback, and I will admit I love thoughtful and constructive feedback like this quite a bit. I'm maybe going to get better by myself - but I'll definitely get better if people can put into words where I'm failing so I can correct it. I'm very flattered you cared enough to take the time to type this up for me.

@Barking Agatha wrote:
In fact, I may give up on the story that I've been writing here. It just pales too much by comparison! Wink
 No 
Don't do that. You should see some of the stories I've written (oh gawds...some of them...)
I think it was Robert Rodriguez who said 'every filmmaker has 100 bad movies in them - try to get them out of the way quickly' and I think the same applies to writing. The more you do it, the better you become. The more you plot, and write dialogue, and try difficult emotions, the better you'll get at it (unless, maybe, you're Mat Ward).

The stuff of yours I've read is good stuff, and if you're aware you're not writing at the level you want to; that just means you're good enough to understand how to get better, and that you're striving to become better - both very healthy perceptions to have all the time about everything.  Very Happy 

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Wed Mar 19 2014, 18:28

@Thor665 wrote:

As far as the 'badass girl' vs. 'badass who is a girl' I...I think that's maybe a fair ding. I would note that a character you find more boring (Mor'osez) certainly qualifies as a badass who happens to be a girl, because she is practically the most successful fighter in the story, and has a lot of fear and respect of her, and happens to be female and comfortable with that. I'd like to think that the reason this moment bugged you is because I've gotten you to care about Obessa (which, I'll admit, was my goal) and then also did something rather vile to her...

Not exactly. My feeling is more kind of... imagine if Wonder Woman came home from a day of killing a thousand Nazis, only to jump on a chair and scream because there's a mouse, so that Steve Trevor can go 'Ha, ha! She may be the world's greatest hero, but she's still my girly woman gal!' Here the timing is unfortunate, because Obessa has just finished being all badass and competent and independent in the Unan Angau - top of her class even! - only to be put immediately after that in the classic 'Damsel in Distress' situation, with 'Fate Worse Than Death!' added to boot.

@Thor665 wrote:

If I did that then my reaction is 'yes, it was horrible, that you noticed is just a good sign about you and (hopeflly) my writing'. If all I did was make you feel I weakened Obessa as a character then...hurm, I screwed up at that point. I'll happily listen to any advice to improve it. I could always take out the sexual threat, but it seemed the best way to make it clear how personal this was intended to be. Any thoughts?

It's not that it's horrible. These are dark eldar! It's the damsel-in-distressing. I do get that it's not intended, but there it is. It's the context. Maybe if Klarz'ay said something to the effect that what he was doing to Obessa was something that he really wanted to do to Zak instead?  That's pretty personal.

@Thor665 wrote:

I'll give you points for the rump comment, maybe I should adjust that (I'll admit I'm not as adroit a sexy writer as I'd like to be, i suppose, and your reading had me going 'ack! not as intended!'

No, I like the bum fondling! Erm... All I meant was that 'a crevice' seems to suggest that there might be more than one down there, or that it's somehow unusual that Luaae has one. 'The crevice' would be better, because of course there's a crevice between Luaae's legs and Kyssindree really shouldn't be too surprised to find it there. But the bum fondling is great! I wish there were more of it, and maybe a little more of the squirming too. Smile

@Thor665 wrote:

I'd love some thoughts from you on how I could make it better. My intention was to show that she was negatively affected by what happened, was annoyed at him for shielding her from it (unsuccessfully, I'll add - a pretty big derp from Zak) and that she decides that Klarz'ay is now "hers" and also that what she wants supersedes what might be most convenient for Zak, and that he trusts her enough to allow her to do what she is planning even though it puts his life in her hands.

I may have made it sound worse than I meant to. She is right to be annoyed, Zak is being disrespectful. At that point she is either up for a shag or she isn't: if she isn't, then she should push him off and say 'no', instead of leaving it up to him to sense her mood; and if she is, then she should just climb his muscular arse and hump the lights out of him, reclaiming her right to hump because she wants to hump, and not because a master wants to hump her! That's just a thought, mind you. When it comes to revenge she is eager to take care of it for herself, but sex seems to be something that just happens to her.

@Thor665 wrote:

I'm very flattered you cared enough to take the time to type this up for me.

I'm flattered that you're flattered! Very Happy It's sincerely meant.

@Thor665 wrote:
@Barking Agatha wrote:
In fact, I may give up on the story that I've been writing here. It just pales too much by comparison! Wink
 No 
Don't do that... (unless, maybe, you're Mat Ward).

My goodness, no. I admit that I'm a bit disappointed, but I never thought it could be that bad!

I dunno. I really poured a lot of blood into 'Ascent', and yet it seems to have gone largely ignored. With 'Unicorn' I'm finding it a bit bloodless myself. Maybe I'll just leave it alone for a bit. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Thu Mar 20 2014, 03:38

@Barking Agatha wrote:
Obessa has just finished being all badass and competent and independent in the Unan Angau - top of her class even! - only to be put immediately after that in the classic 'Damsel in Distress' situation, with 'Fate Worse Than Death!' added to boot.
I suppose my counter there is twofold.
Firstly - top of her class is still not a Master of the temple. To some degree I did want to indicate that however deadly Obessa is, the Masters are still...well, a cut above the rest.

Also, that said, on the badass scale, I would note that Klarz'ay functionally ambushed her while he was ready and she was not, and for the record she prevented his intent and wounded him *before* any men rushed in to help her - I did want that to be clear but maybe it wasn't enough.

@Barking Agatha wrote:
Maybe if Klarz'ay said something to the effect that what he was doing to Obessa was something that he really wanted to do to Zak instead?  That's pretty personal.
No doubt - though that's a different relationship then they have. I might steal that idea sometime though, it's very DE.

@Barking Agatha wrote:
I may have made it sound worse than I meant to. She is right to be annoyed, Zak is being disrespectful. At that point she is either up for a shag or she isn't: if she isn't, then she should push him off and say 'no', instead of leaving it up to him to sense her mood; and if she is, then she should just climb his muscular arse and hump the lights out of him, reclaiming her right to hump because she wants to hump, and not because a master wants to hump her! That's just a thought, mind you. When it comes to revenge she is eager to take care of it for herself, but sex seems to be something that just happens to her.
I think I get your vibe. I'll see about going back and re-reading the section with this as an idea and see what I can adjust to make her emotional state better. I think there are some character issues there to a degree, as Obessa is more comfortable with herself on the battlefield than the bedroom, but I don't want her to come across as too hapless at that stage either.

You might need to wait to get more sexy fondling time though, as the hot springs there are assuredly just for cuddle time.

@Barking Agatha wrote:
I dunno. I really poured a lot of blood into 'Ascent', and yet it seems to have gone largely ignored. With 'Unicorn' I'm finding it a bit bloodless myself. Maybe I'll just leave it alone for a bit. Smile
I liked Ascent, I haven't read any of Unicorn simply because I haven't really had the time (heck, I'm still trying to find a time to finish formatting and cleaning up the next chapter here. If you'd like I can take a look at it and offer some thoughts when I do get the time - but sometimes if you aren't feeling the vibe...well, you just aren't. I do have a solid collection of never finished stories, and some of them will likely never be finished because they proved to not be what I wanted them to be.

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Thu Mar 20 2014, 15:16

Chapter 12: The Hunter


‘Black’ Ghyvia, the Shadowed Smile, Succubus of Bloodied Kiss, sat on her throne, a look of mild curiosity on her angular face. She was a legend amongst the Cult. She had started as a street ganger, who had petitioned for entrance to Bloodied Kiss. Failing her entrance exams due to, likely, lack of funds to properly bribe the judges, she had entered into a general melee open to the public. Equipped with little more than a dagger and her wits, Ghyvia had carved her way out of her first five battles not just as a survivor, but a winner. Her fame had grown and she had been accepted into the Cult proper, for only a foolish Cult would allow success and fame on the sands to be overshadowed by a matter as trivial as birth.

She now sat as one of the ruling Succubi of the Cult. The swords on her waist were held in place by a sash made of the skin of the former Succubus, Cleos, who had stood in her way of ascension. She was called ‘Black’ due to a rather fearsome story involving her hosting a large party where some of her rivals had poisoned her with Lotus Breath. While under the effects of the deadly poison, her skin turning from white to black, she was said to have still cut them down with consummate skill and grace before allowing her attendants to see to a vaccine. Her swords were forged from soulsteel, and each cut she made with them caused them to wail in agony as the souls melded with the black blades let their torments be known.

She also had, at the very least, two reasons to hate Mor’osez considering the insult that had just been dealt to her on the sands, not to mention a certain incident during an ascension duel for the position of Bloodbride.

“My dearest Ghyvia, it has been too long, I trust all is well with you.” Kyssindree smiled brightly as she swept a deep bow. She was wearing some of her finest gilded armor, inlayed with greenfire gems that caught and held the light. Luaae had worked on her makeup for over an hour, and her long black hair was tied up in a warrior’s braid and held in place by bone trophies from some of her latest victories. The sheerest thong of Shaa-dom shadowsilk and a few gilt chains on her legs completed the affair. Ghyvia’s guards had certainly paid notice to the expensive and fine attire and her perfectly sculpted body that was barely concealed. Ghyvia herself, as was usual, remained taciturn.

“What do you want, Kyssindree? You should be well aware I am publicly backing Cluuvia.”

“Of course you are,” Kyssindree laughed, “but Irbreena is dead and Ayasha is backing no one, which means you are clearly backing either me or Mor’osez if you want someone likely to win this affair…and I don’t think you’d be backing Mor’osez after that display last night.”

“No…I suppose I wouldn’t.” Ghyvia’s eyes were an eerie shade of orange and almost glowed out of her face, outlined in the black khol markings that showed her allegiance to the Khaine sects. Kyssindree had never had much use for the gods, they were almost all dead now anyway, and so often they seemed to ask for more than they ever bestowed; an exchange rate that Kyssindree was unimpressed by. “But I’m still not certain why you sought this audience.”

“I need advice.” Kyssindree shrugged as she began pacing around in front of Ghyvia’s throne. The tall and lean-limbed Succubi had crafted her main chambers to more resemble that of a ruling Archon than those of a Succubi, and clearly fancied herself some sort of noble. Kyssindree almost sighed at the thought, another tubeborn with delusions of grandeur for the noble houses, sort of pathetic really. “I want to teach a certain someone a lesson about insulting me and calling my actions into question.”

“A noble purpose,” Ghyvia steepled her fingers in front of her face.

“The problem is this someone is…difficult to easily injure. There are matters of decorum and precedence to consider, and even beyond that a certain amount of reputation to overcome even if the reality is probably rather a bit less than the overblown fiction.” Kyssindree smiled again as she looked up at Ghyvia. “So, I had a few thoughts, and supposed that I might challenge this particular someone to a bit of Nhal’doc.”

“The selection of poison?” A steely smile crept onto Ghyvia’s angular face. “For that to be allowed during this time period you would need-“

“The approval of a Succubus,” Kyssindree finished for her, “and Mor’osez will know it, and will know who helped orchestrate her shame. Does that qualify as payment enough for you?”

“How do you possibly hope to best her on the sands though? I cannot recall the last time Mor’osez failed in any engagement.”

“Well,” Kyssindree beamed at her own cleverness, “there are more ways to hurt someone than to simply stab them directly.” Ghyvia considered this a moment, and then nodded slowly from behind the concealment of her steepled hands.

“Tell me more.”


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


The temple of Khaine rang with the morning benedictions. A fresh batch of Grays had been brought in, each of them looking about with barely hidden amazement at the ancient temple they now stood within. At the front of the temple, standing atop a podium carved in the likeness of the Bloody Hand, stood Xulfryn Hierarch as he spoke the morning prayer to Khaine. In front of him sat his fellow Incubi, beyond them the small sea of Black robes and the thin line of Purples. The new Greys were still acting like foolish children, though Master Ryldnar passed amongst them, and where he trod silence followed in his wake.

Obessa sat respectfully amongst her fellow trainees. Each of them had been drilling with Zak Phaer’irr on the proper use of a klaive. They would practice movements and listen to philosophy, but then, every day, he would bring out the practice klaives and let them hold them, allow them to move the perfect weapons around in battle katas. Occasionally he would even grant them the chance to duel each other. Tilt still probably remained the best amongst them, but Obessa knew she was getting better every day, and even Welv and Tymeon seemed to be progressing nicely.

So lost in her own thoughts was she, that it took Obessa a moment to realize the morning prayers had stopped. She looked up to the sight of one of the Blacks walking down the aisle towards the main altar, his arm hanging limply at his side, clearly broken.

“You interrupt the Benediction of Blood,” Xulfyrn’s oily red eyes narrowed slightly as he considered the Black. The young man bowed in apology, his face feverish from the pain of his injury.

“Most humble apologies, Hierarch, but there is a visitor who is…insistent on seeing you.”

“Who is the visitor?” Obessa was, for a moment, surprised at Xulfryn’s mellow reaction, but then it occurred to her that the usual clientele of an Incubi Temple could range from over enthused diplomats to Archon Vect himself, so she supposed it was actually a wise Hierarch who had adaptable meeting strategies.

“A wych of Bloodied Kiss, she says her name is Mor’osez and she has a lock chip.”

Mor’osez, Obessa grimaced at the thought, she’d fought Mor’osez once before, on the very day she’d been fully cast from Bloodied Kiss, and she doubted the woman had much love in her heart for that memory. Obessa glanced up at Xulfryn and started in surprise when she realized he was staring right at her. His eyes were deadly focused on her and his brow nettled in thought as he considered her carefully.

“If she has a lock chip then I must meet with her.” Xulfryn rose to his feet. “Ryldnar, Klarz’ay, attend me. Master Phaer’irr, the benediction is yours, please finish it.” Zak bowed his head to Xulfryn as he rose and moved up to the podium. Xulfryn, Ryldnar and Klarz’ay strode back up the center aisle, the wounded Black trailing in their wake, cradling his injured arm. As Xulfryn drew up alongside her he glanced over, a small sneer forming on his face. “You also, girl of the gutters, you are coming to this meeting as well.”

“I…” Obessa cut off her confused question before it could even properly form, and instead bowed her head in understanding. She spared a quick glance over her shoulder at Zak as she followed the other masters from the altar. If he had any emotion she could not read it on his face, but his dark eyes watched her till the very last second that the doors swung closed and blocked them from each other’s sight.


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


Mor’osez had been left in a small courtyard filled with small paths of carved bone weaving amongst a gentle miniaturized forest hedge maze, delicate footbridges arcing over the burbling stream that wound through the display. An elegant pavilion of polished dark red, almost black, wood sat in the center of the courtyard, it was here that she awaited the Hierarch. The black robed attendants flitted around the outer edge of the garden courtyard, nervously keeping an eye on her. She’d already broken a few of them to make sure the meeting happened efficiently and was starting to toy with the idea of breaking another one if they made her wait much longer.

The doors leading into the temple swung open even as she was starting to pick out her next victim. Four figures walking out of it. The one in the lead was clearly the Hierarch. His tabard was marked in gold thread with his symbol of rank. He wore no helmet, his sharp angular face and deep red eyes already staring intently at her, his long black hair pulled back into a severe widow’s peak. A handsome specimen, though clearly wound up tightly at the moment.

The rest of his party was interesting as well. Two of them were full Incubi, wearing their battle plate and helms. Still, Mor’osez spotted the old style punisher battle sword hanging on one of their backs and recalled the old Incubus who had requested her gene sig outside the bar where Fay’rezza had met with some Incubi, she well had remembered him and his tabard which marked him as a member of Obsidian Lethe. The last one was a shapely female in a purple robe. Her hair was the same shade of purple, cut into a functional short-cropped bob. The female’s face was lush and attractive even though she wore no makeup, full lips, wide eyes, and elegant cheekbones slightly marred by a bit of bruising. Mor’osez grunted as she recognized Obessa, a one-time Kyssindree loyalist who had been cast out of the Bloodied Kiss.

“I see you know each other.” The Hierarch smiled softly as he bowed in greeting to her. He and his entourage advanced through the garden and up the gentle slope to the pavilion. One of the Incubi, a set of braided scalps hanging from his belt, seemed to vibrate with tenseness, his hand resting on the large hilt of his klaive as he stalked about, trying to look intimidating as he kept his eyes on her. The older Incubus also kept his eyes on her, but Mor’osez suspected for other reasons. His pose was more relaxed though still measured and well-balanced, and she knew if it came to a fight he would be deadly and ready probably even quicker than the other. Obessa seemed unsure in seeing Mor’osez here, the young wych clearly having a bad habit of wearing her thoughts plainly for all to see. “You may call me Xulfryn Hierarch,” the Hierarch said as he settled down to sit on one of the finely woven mats on the floor of the pavilion, motioning for Mor’osez to join him. “This is Master Ryldnar, the Laughing Death and Master Klarz’ay, the Scalpel.”

“I am called Mor’osez,” she answered as she remained standing. She reached down into the neck of the sheer micromail top she was wearing that did nothing to hide what was underneath it, and drew out the key she had received from Fay’rezza. She held it up on the length of leather cord still keeping it hanging from her neck. “I’ve come for access to your vaults, you hold something in trust to my Cult. I am here to collect.”

“Indeed.” Xulfryn nodded as he held out his hand for the key, his expression bored. She took off the necklace and passed it to him. He glanced over the markings with a critical eye before turning to the old Incubus. “This is one of yours, is it not, Master Ryldnar?”

Ryldnar leaned forward slightly. “That it is. It bears my mark.”

“Will you fetch the item for us?” Ryldnar bowed and departed. Xulfryn handed her back the key and sat quietly, carefully considering Mor’osez as he did. “How fare matters in your Cult? It has been a while since I have had the opportunity to visit, we have long had profitable business together.”

“They fare well enough,” Mor’osez glanced at Obessa critically, considering her purpose here again. “Do you follow our Cult’s actions often?”

“I choose to follow many things, it is good business. I understand that one of your Succubi was recently slain.”

“Yes.”

“I understand that you are campaigning for her position,” Xulfryn smiled, though the gesture didn’t seem to reach those oily red eyes as they stared intently at her. “I suppose that makes the death advantageous for you?”

Mor’osez glared back at him, saying nothing but now quite certain he knew more about the situation then he was letting on. Master Ryldnar chose that moment to return with a small sealed box, almost small enough to be held comfortably in one hand. Mor’osez eyed it covetously as Ryldnar placed it on the low table in front of her. Inside it doubtless would contain some answers. Xulfryn leaned forward, eyeing it, and then paused as he pointed out a glyph upon its surface.

“It bears the mark of exclusivity,” he glanced up at Ryldnar, “is this the person you made the contract with?”

“She is not. It was a different wych of Bloodied Kiss.”

“Ah, well then,” Xulfryn smiled like a snake, “I’m afraid there is nothing I can do, Obsidian Lethe was contracted to protect the item and with an exclusive mark on it we are only allowed to release it to the contractor herself.”

“There are ways around that.”

“There are,” Xulfryn shrugged, “do you have any of them?”

Mor’osez considered him carefully for a moment. He was involved in it all somehow, she was certain of that. Between her reputation and that of her Cult it was unlikely that many Hierarchs would be difficult in a meeting like this, and even if they chose to be based on a matter of honor it would be unlikely that they would take such obvious pleasure in stymying her. She frowned as she glanced at Obessa, wondering what she could be doing here, and suspecting it had something to do with Xulfryn’s loyalties as well.

“What if I decide to take it by force?” Even as she asked the question Master Klarz’ay half drew his klaive. Master Ryldnar glanced at him slightly and shook his head in apparent embarrassment. Obessa had tried to remain stone faced but kept glancing around nervously, either clueless, scared, or both. Xulfryn had simply smiled, an eager glint in his red eyes.

“You are welcome to try. I have heard stories of your skills and feel we could paint such a picture of destruction together.”

“I’ll be back,” she finally said as she turned and headed out towards the exit gate, the black robed attendants fluttering around in consternation as she did so.


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


Master Ryldnar walked alongside her, having been instructed to escort her back to her chambers before returning the box to the vaults beneath the temple. She was still uncertain why Xulfryn had brought her to the meeting, nor what it had really meant. Did he know that she had spied on Ryldnar and Klarz’ay picking up the package from Fay’rezza? And if he had, why did he want her to see him deny it to Mor’osez, and, indeed, why had he denied it to Mor’osez? The Bloodbrides had been there to capture or kill Fay’rezza, was there some sort of political struggle in her old Cult that Xulfryn had taken sides on?

“This is good.”

Obessa glanced up at Master Ryldnar’s comment. The two of them stood in the Grove of Vaul, large sculptures of black iron decorated with spikes and chains littered the courtyard. Master Ryldnar was moving over to one of them to retrieve something hidden underneath it.

“Shouldn’t I return to my room?”

“No, girl, I don’t think you should.” Master Ryldnar glanced up at her as he stood, he now held a sheathed klaive in his hands. “My instruction was to kill you, you will be accused of trying to steal the box from me, and I will cut you down in response.”

Obessa took a breath as she considered this bit of information. “Why tell me that?”

“Because I am not some common assassin.” He held out the klaive towards her. “Take it.”

“You still intend to kill me, but you want me to be armed?”

“It serves a dual purpose, first off it will help justify my action to Master Phaer’irr, unlike Xulfryn I am not fond of having that man as my foe and I intend, to the best of my ability, to distance myself from any vengeance he might choose to undertake. I am old enough to remember what happened to Master Uiviir in the Ysbella incident. Secondly, if I am not good enough to kill you in open combat, then I have little right to kill you at all.”

“You’re a strange man, Ryldnar,” she offered as she reached out to accept the klaive, making sure to do so in the manner Zak had taught her. “I have been instructed that the first draw of a klaive should be for cleaning and inspection, never combat, do I have your leave to verify the lir and the blade?”

“Clever girl,” Ryldnar’s expression was unreadable behind his mask, but she heard the odd mix of amusement and annoyance there. “I don’t have to offer you anything, you are not an Incubus of this Temple.”

“But you also know my request is reasonable, even if it increases the risk of someone walking in and disrupting your plan.” Obessa smirked at him. “Which is more important to you, your veneer of honor, or your mission from Xulfryn?”

“My veneer,” he answered without pause, shrugging somewhat. “Inspect the blade.”

Obessa began working over the blade, Ryldnar providing her the tending equipment from a satchel on his belt harness. He knelt in front of her, watching her moves carefully and occasionally even nodding in appreciation. He had certainly done her no misdeed with the klaive, it was finely forged, held an unblemished edge, and the lir was solid and un-notched from any impacts. Obessa regretted that her delaying tactic wasn’t doing her much good though in having someone walk into the Grove. She strained her senses to their limit, trying to hear or spot anyone coming. It was only this razor sharp awareness that alerted her to the slight rustle of cloth on metal. Her gaze darted over to the spot on the wall where the sculpture and a nearby bronze roof awning allowed students to slip in and out of the temple.

Ryldnar apparently hadn’t heard the noise, but he stayed quiet as well, following her gaze while also shifting slightly to allow him to keep her in his field of view as well, apparently conscious that it could just be a trick. They sat there in silence for a long time, the pair of them staring at the sculptures of the grove.

“I’m being foolish,” she finally said as she stood up, readying her klaive, “let’s settle this.”
Ryldnar simply gave her a gesture to hold her tongue and position, his gaze not leaving the far corner of the grove. He then motioned for her to lean in towards him. She shifted her grip on the klaive to allow her to use it as a short bladed dagger in case this was a trick, and paid careful mind of where the tormentor gun on his helmet was pointing as she leaned forward.

“Walk, but do not run, back into the temple, when you are out of sight of this courtyard raise the alarm as quickly as you can. Nod if you understand.”

She nodded. Ryldnar stood up slowly, and even as Obessa took her first step backwards towards the temple a shape stepped out from the sculptures. It was almost like it appeared out of nowhere, but Obessa realized with a start that it had simply been standing so perfectly still and so well positioned that between its brown robe and the shadows of the sculptures it had been nearly invisible. The figure was tall, wrapped heavily in its robe, its face hidden within the shadows there.

*Zzzrt*

“This place is not for you or your kind,” said Ryldnar as he stepped forward. “What do you want here?”

The robed figure pointed to the box lying by Ryldnar’s feet.

“That I cannot allow.” Ryldnar’s punisher blade swung up into his hands in one effortless motion. Without taking his eyes off the robed shape he spoke. “Girl, shouldn’t you be going somewhere?”

*Zzzrt*

A crackle of blue electricity coiled about underneath the hood, and then the shape lunged forward. Jagged forearms extended from the robe, like the forelegs of a giant insect, and it took Obessa a moment to realize that they were, in truth, saw-toothed chain sabres. The blades whirled to life, silent and smooth as the brown robed figure attacked.

Ryldnar and the attacker moved with perfect grace, fluidity, and speed, and Obessa felt herself frozen in the moment, just watching the two battle, each clearly a master of his combat style. One thing became apparent to her very quickly with the way they were fighting, whatever the outcome of the duel she and any help she could possibly find, would arrive too late. Either Ryldnar would be dead and his opponent gone with the box, or the old Incubus would stand triumphant. With that realization her course became suddenly clear to her. The klaive found its way into her hand as she advanced on the melee.

Her first cut was perfectly parried, the robed figure apparently having somehow known of her swing even though she had come from behind. His blade squealed as the teeth ground against the edge of the klaive and Obessa was forced to move back as he pressed his advantage. He brought his other sword around, having escaped Ryldnar for a moment, and quickly assaulted her. Obessa managed to block each of his attacks, but it was a near thing, and she was forced to continually retreat before him. Ryldnar was suddenly there again, his Punisher blocking one of the robed figure’s attacks, then a sharp backswing cutting at its legs and forcing it to retreat.

“You do not take instruction well, Purple.”

“If we live through this you can feel free to discipline me,” she snarled as she spun around a sculpture to circle for the robed figure’s flank. Ryldnar let out a noise that might have been a chuckle as he advanced, his Punisher blade moving in wide sweeping arcs. The robed figure paused, quickly glancing from one of them to the other, and then made its decision. It quickly charged forward, bypassing Obessa to assault Ryldnar in a blur of furious blows. Sparks flew as the energized blade of the Punisher met the whirling teeth of the chain sabres. There was a pulse of energy as Ryldnar fired off his Tormentor Helm, the burst of psychoactive energy a beam of purple luminance. With speed that seemed almost unnatural, and near perfect footwork the robed figure spun under the attack, pressing its advantage. Even as Obessa rushed forward she saw a flash of blue energy.

*Zzzrt*

Ryldnar staggered and went down. The robed figure wasted no time, sliding one of its blades back under its tattered brown robes it grabbed up the box from the vaults with its free hand. Obessa quickly moved to cut it off, letting out a snapping back hand slash before reversing it into a quick lunge. The robed shape almost danced in front of her, twisting and turning, its feet always perfectly underneath it as it retreated from her blows. Its sword remained at the ready and she quickly realized that the figure had assessed her swordcraft and found it wanting, and was simply looking for an opening to end her life, dodging her blows rather than even bothering to parry them. To the perfect dance of an Incubus, this was probably a proper tactic, but Obessa had been a wych of no small skill, and she well understood the concept of a feint and showmanship.

It was simply a loose pebble that made her foot slip out of its proper angle, a small happenstance that threw off her lunge and left her side exposed. The robed figure made an almost conciliatory tilt of its head as its blade swept in for her, a mark of honor to a foe that the figure clearly expected to be dueling it with an equal veneer of honor.

But it was not dueling an Incubus, it was dueling a wych.

Obessa smirked as she shifted her lunge into a defensive parry, her other hand appearing from behind her back with the knife she’d been carrying there in case she had been given an opportunity alone with Klarz’ay. The robed figure sensed the danger, saw the movement of her shoulders, and parried with its hand, dropping the box to do so. It caught her wrist while their swords locked up for a moment. There was a pause as Obessa strained against its strength, the two each attempting to hurl the other off balance.

She looked under the hood at a set of unblinking red eyes, blue lightning seemed to curl around its maw as she realized what she was looking at was a mask.

*Zzzrt*

She rolled backward, almost more on instinct than anything else. A volley of gleaming needles hissed through the air above her, followed in short order by a burst of blue energy. As she fell she twisted the klaive to lock it tighter with his chainsabre, and gripped at his wrist with her hand. Her foot rose up, planting on the chest of the robed figure, feeling the hardened armor underneath. She let out a shout as she pulled him off balance and kicked out with her leg, tossing the robed shape through the air as she fell to the ground. It crashed against one of the sculptures, tangled up in the barbed chains there as it struggled for freedom, finally being forced to use its blade to tear apart robe and chains to work its way back to its feet.

“Eldar,” she said, now able to place the shape and movements as not alien, but rather kin.

“One of the student’s weak brood,” noted Ryldnar as he walked up to stand next to her. There was a charred patch on his shoulder and blood seeped out of the damaged armor from dozens of tiny needles embedded therein, but he held his Punisher in his hands as he eyed the shape in the sculpture.

It stood up slowly, green segmented armor glinting dully in the light of the captive suns. It unhooked its second chain sabre from its belt as it eyed them through gleaming red eyeslits, long braided dreadlocks hanging from the back of the upward curved war mask, a glittering red soulstone set in the armor over its heart.

It was a Craftworlder, one of the Fleeing Kin, an Aspect Warrior of the Striking Scorpions, one of the most deadly enemies of the Dark Eldar in general and the Incubi in particular.

“Fallen ones, slaves of the Dark Father,” The Scorpion readied itself, “surrender her,” he gestured to the box that now lay on the ground between them, “or you will die here.”

“What are you doing here, son of the student? Your kind are not welcome.”

“I’m hunting.” The Scorpion went from motionless to a full leap at them in the blink of an eye. Obessa barely had time to bring up her blade to parry, and Ryldnar received a burst of shuriken pistol fire from the inbuilt guns in the swords as the Scorpion battered past both of them. Even as he reached down for the box though, tossing his extra blade to his other hand, Obessa spun, readying her knife and hurling it with pinpoint accuracy into the palm of his hand, piercing through the brown leather gloves and the thin bit of psychoreactive armor there. The Aspect Warrior didn’t even cry out in pain, though he jerked back his hand and then was forced to retreat as Ryldnar moved forward, his Punisher sweeping in wide arcs. The Aspect Warrior fired, but his pistol’s firepower, tiny monomolecular blades, were of little threat to Ryldnar’s incubus warplate.

That was when the bells started tolling. Obessa glanced up to see a few Blacks and another fully armored Incubus running along the upper walkways, clearly having been drawn to the sounds of the battle. The Scorpion considered their approach, and even wounded he seemed to ponder readying himself for more combat, until Master Jarrow also appeared, his klaive already drawn as he exited the temple and moved to join up with Ryldnar. The Scorpion’s head darted about, considering each foe in turn before eyeing the box, the tension and anger in him almost palpable. He motioned at Obessa and Ryldnar.

“You shall pay for this, on my honor, your deaths are mine.”

So speaking he turned and ran for the exterior wall. Though his heavy battle plate left him slower than the Incubi, a few bursts of his shuriken pistols slowed them enough that he was able to spring up the wall, pausing to glance back one last time, his red eyeslits seeming to lock gaze with her, he held up his bloody hand, her blade still pinned through it, and then sprang off the wall and down to the back alleys below.

“Are you kidding me, old man?” Jarrow glanced back at Ryldnar, leaving it to the lesser Incubi and students to see about the foot chase. Apparently already convinced of the slim chances they would have of hunting down the Craftworlder. “Really, an Exarch? You go walking through the gardens and end up dueling an Exarch? Some people have all the luck…”

“Some do,” Ryldnar glanced over at her as he was retrieving the wooden case the Scorpion had tried to steal, “though it is not always luck.”

“Where did you get that klaive?” Jarrow seemed to notice Obessa for the first time, “no Purple should have one outside of practice, the punishment can include up to-“

He stopped speaking as Ryldnar raised a hand. “It is mine, she took it up at my request, and she fought as well as half the pups currently donning a skull.”

“As you will,” Jarrow shrugged, “come, we must inform Xulfryn of this breach of security, an Exarch loose in Commoragh! Who has heard of such a thing?”

“Yes.” Ryldnar started walking, then paused to glance at her, holding out his hand. Obessa bowed slightly as she handed him back the sword. She could not read his face behind his skull mask, but he studied her for some time. “Tell Zak that I have rarely been proven wrong,” he finally offered cryptically before turning after Jarrow, “and get back to your chambers, you need to clean up for your afternoon klaive practice.”


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

Okay, so, a few things. First off, this chapter finally lets show a somewhat secret by revealing the Hunter, though I think most of you will have seen that one coming a mile away, just consider this confirmation.

Also, we get a bit more of some of the Incubi's motivations, as well as seeing Kyssindree making an important (And dangerous) alliance. Plus, y'know, the obligatory bloodshed, violence, and backstabbing one expects at all time in Commoragh.

On a bookkeeping note - I went back and altered 'The Klaive' chapter slightly on Agatha's advice. In the end minor edits, but probably important ones to convey what I wished more appropriately. I think Obessa's playfullness is clearer, and her boundaries more set by her than him. Which is good.

Also, also - in good(?) news, it looks like I'm not traveling for work for the next few weeks (albeit that can be scheduled to change at the drop of a hat) so I'm planning to try some more aggressive updating for a while to clear my backlog and also to force me to keep writing. So, expect a new chapter once a week for at least the next 4 or so weeks. If I'm able to keep that sort of pace maybe we'll get even deeper in, I'd rather like that, and I think the next few chapters should flow easily for me so I'm reasonably confident about managing the schedule.

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cbosw5
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Thu Mar 20 2014, 19:45

YAY! More lovely chapters.
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Barking Agatha
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Fri Mar 21 2014, 18:37

@Thor665 wrote:

Okay, so, a few things. First off, this chapter finally lets show a somewhat secret by revealing the Hunter, though I think most of you will have seen that one coming a mile away

No! But I think I know what's in the box now Smile

@Thor665 wrote:

On a bookkeeping note - I went back and altered 'The Klaive' chapter slightly on Agatha's advice. In the end minor edits, but probably important ones to convey what I wished more appropriately. I think Obessa's playfullness is clearer, and her boundaries more set by her than him. Which is good.

Wow? I'm super extra flattered. I like how it turned out - although I half wish you'd gone the other way and have Obessa bone Zak dry, but that's just me probably getting too worked up! Wink As you said, cuddles, not pokey. Cuddles are good.

@Thor665 wrote:

Also, also - in good(?) news, it looks like I'm not traveling for work for the next few weeks (albeit that can be scheduled to change at the drop of a hat) so I'm planning to try some more aggressive updating for a while to clear my backlog and also to force me to keep writing.

That makes me kind of ashamed of what I said before. I suppose I'll force myself to keep writing too, and brave the indifference. I'm having trouble at the moment finding what I call the 'blood', though.
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Wed Mar 26 2014, 03:59

Chapter 13: The Challenge

“The Hierarch, Xulfryn, he is part of this.”

Mor’osez was doing one of the few things that always helped her think, she was exercising. Currently she wore only a loose white shirt that left her abdomen bare, and grey ashsilk shorts that hugged her like a second skin. Heavy black orbs hung from straps on her ankles, the self-contained gravity-sinks capable of being programmed to almost any weight. She hung from a straight iron bar, gripping onto two coils of black rope attached to it as she did pull ups in rapid succession, bringing her knees up to her chest with each one.

“What makes you so certain of that?”

Faeth’lyn didn’t wear any exercise gear, instead she was wearing one of her usual high necked and ankle length robes, this time in golden yellow and pale cream ivory. Crushed amethysts decorated her eyelids and sparkled slightly in the light whenever she moved. She was holding a rather light weight and absently curling it as she spoke, but had seemed disdainful at the idea of working up too much of a sweat.

“He took pleasure in inconveniencing me,” she answered, grunting slightly between breaths. She could remember a time when this workout wouldn’t have even begun to wind her yet and was also having to focus sharply on her grip, as the pain in her left hand was making holding onto the rope more difficult. Was she going to have to kill slaves before exercising now? She wasn’t sure her budget could handle that.

“I hate to spoil your opinion of yourself, but there are probably a number of people who would like the idea of causing you trouble,” Faeth’lyn offered with a half shrug, though Mor’osez thought she could already sense the sharp-witted wych starting to consider the problem despite her dismissal of it. She hated to admit it, even to herself, but she was almost growing fond of Faeth’lyn, the girl was smart, canny, and surprisingly willing to speak her mind and stand by her actions. Many other wyches in the Cult, Mor’osez included, had long thought of her as rather over proud and weak, but strength was not just about how much one could lift, after all, and her pride seemed to come more from general disinterest of many things rather than any particular malice. “Obessa being there doesn’t surprise me, she and others were there at the meeting with Fay’rezza, it does suggest this is more than simply business on the part of the Temple, they have a deeper connection to Bloodied Kiss, and it’s strange that we are high ranked wyches here and know nothing of it.”

“I thought Incubi tried to stay out of political games?” Cordus grunted as he eased the gravity bar he had been squatting with off his shoulders. Mor’osez had taken note of the setting he had programmed and had been mildly impressed with his chosen weight. He was built like a statue cut from stone though, so she hadn’t been surprised. He picked up a cloth and toweled at himself a bit as he walked over, wearing only the briefest of shorts his expansive musculature was on full display, sweat bouncing off his curling golden locks as he approached Faeth’lyn. “Why would they get involved in this?”

“If we knew that, we’d already have the puzzle half solved,” she answered with a shrug and a very tiny smile at him. To anyone else Mor’osez would have expected Faeth’lyn to issue a barb questioning their basic intelligence, he was asking a rather simplistic question after all. But the girl definitely had a mild spot on her acidic tongue for the handsome male. Foolish young pups, she thought, as she smirked to herself, so young.

“So what are my options, short of kicking in the door and killing every last one of them?” Mor’osez dropped off the ropes, landing on her feet softly though the gravity weights made sharp booming sounds as they hit the floor. She unhooked them and went to get some gauze to wrap her hands with. “There are obviously ways around an exclusivity contract.”

“There are two that spring to immediate mind considering that, since she missed her rendezvous with you that Fay’rezza is best assumed dead at this point.” Faeth’lyn spoke as she helped Cordus towel off, her supple hands lingering slightly whenever they ‘accidentally’ slipped off the towel and ran along his smooth musculature. “You could either forge a document from Fay’rezza adding you to the exclusivity contract, or you could arrange for one of the Succubi of Bloodied Kiss to intercede in the name of the Cult, since all members of the Cult are, theoretically, considered in fealty to the Succubi, any contract entered into by a lesser Wych is thus supposedly in the name of the Succubi themselves, and therefore either Ghyvia or Ayasha should be able to claim the item.”

“Not Ghyvia then,” chuckled Mor’osez as she finished tightly binding her hands in the gauze and approached the punching field. A solid light hologram with physical resistance formed in front of her as she pressed her hand to a small glyph studded panel, quickly adjusting the difficulty level to the maximum. “Do you think it is less risk to contract with Ayasha or with some back alley dealer?”

“I have no strong opinion there,” Faeth’lyn shrugged, “the dealer will cost more and be more risky, Succubus Ayasha would be excellent and less risky…if we’re correct that Ghyvia is the one behind the killing.”

“How can we be more certain of that?” Cordus shrugged, “it’s not like Ghyvia is likely to clarify that for us.”

The door to the exercise room was kicked open even as Mor’osez began sparring with the hologram, unleashing a series of brutal body shots to its ribs as it tried to counter her assault. She glanced up and what she saw made her pause enough that the hologram was able to score a sharp jab to her chin, sending her staggering out of the practice field.

“Getting old, Mor’osez…oh, well, I suppose I should say, getting even older, right?”

Kyssindree sauntered into the room, Luaae at her side and the Klaviskar Twins drifting along in her wake. Kyssindree smiled like a sabrecat smelling blood as she watched Mor’osez stand up. Luaae fingered the splinter pistols strapped to her hips, fingers running along the polished bone handles with eager glee. The Klaviskar Twins glowered at Mor’osez as well, O’che still bore a few lingering scars along her face from where the razorvine had torn chunks of flesh from her. Noi’celfer, her sullen sister, checked the secureness of a barbed claw on her cybernetic arm as she glared, clearly neither forgetting nor forgiving what had happened on the sands when last they had met.

“You look old, old and tired.” Kyssindree was wearing a uniform that only barely was there, leaving her perfect skin and leanly muscled body on fine display, the flesh gleaming with the sheen of youth and vitality. “It’s so laughable that you’re opposing me, considering I’m in my prime.”

“If this is as good as you’ll ever be, then Mor’osez has ample room to back slide while still being far superior to you.” As usual, Faeth’lynn seemed unable to resist showing off her rapier tongue, and also as usual, Kyssindree scowled at the insult. Luaae leaned forward, pointing a finger at Faeth’lynn as she spat angrily.

“You should watch your mouth you high-born twit, or someone is likely to shut it for you!”

“When someone capable of shutting my mouth arrives, make sure to alert me that it has happened, I do bruise easily.” Faeth’lynn yawned slightly, raising her left hand to delicately shield her mouth, apparently at full ease and fully disinterested. However, Mor’osez noted that she had allowed one of her long sleeves to slip down over her right hand, hiding it from view, and she suspected that already it held a number of throwing blades.

“What do you want Kyssindree?” Mor’osez rubbed at her sore jaw slightly as she walked forward, “I have better things to do than to listen to Faeth’lynn showing off that she’s wittier than you dullards.”

“A verbal barb from the great Mor’osez, be still my heart,” Kyssindree smiled, but it was brittle with a sneer to it, her voice vibrating from barely checked anger. “I came here because I wanted to see your face when you received this message.” She reached out to Noi’celfer, who held up a message scroll and handed it to her. Kyssindree proffered it to Mor’osez.

“A message…from Ghyvia?” Mor’osez frowned as she glanced at the seal on the scroll, confirming it came from The Shadowed Smile herself, “what does it say?” She knew better than to trust all was well with the poison laced gene seal of a message from a Succubus she had somewhat crossed during her last battle. She would use a slave to open it later.

“It is just a little missive to clarify that she has dictated the games for tomorrow eve. You and I are to compete in Nhal’doc.”

“Really?” Mor’osez smiled a bit, “Nhal’doc means each of us is allowed to arrange a single arena match as though we had the full authority of a Succubus, are there any limits to what we can do?”

“We’re not allowed to place each other into a match, though we can place ourselves, and also I have the main event, your match goes on before mine.”

“I look forward to it.”

“Savor this moment, Mor’osez,” Kyssindree smirked as she backed out of the room, “your momentary lead in the votes is just a dream, and you’re about to have a very painful awakening.” She laughed as she exited, Luaae joining in with her merriment. O’che and Noi’celfer remained quiet, giving Mor’osez icy cold stares as they shut the door. Kyssindree’s laughter could be heard for a few moments afterward, even past the sealed portal.

“Well,” Faeth’lynn gave a sidelong glance at Mor’osez, “this should be pleasant.”


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


Cordus, known as The Whirling Wall, knew that he was not considered the most cunning of the Bloodbrides. He was okay with that, in a certain sense that meant people underestimated him, and though he would agree he wasn’t brilliant, he certainly wasn’t as dumb as some took him for. Also, he had been fortunate enough to become involved with a wych who was often thought of as the most politically clever of the Bloodbrides, which certainly eased some of his problems…if adding others. He reached out one of his hands, his broad and strong fingers ever so delicately massaging at the small crease that formed on the bridge of her nose when she was thinking too hard about something.

“Cut it out,” Faeth’lyn batted at his hand, her hazel eyes flashing stormcloud blue at the moment, gray and troubled.

“You think too hard, it upsets you.”

“You’re starting to sound like Mor’osez,” sighed Faeth’lyn. She stood up from the bed he had just lured her to and started pacing her room again, small bare feet padding through the rich carpet, delicate white teeth biting at her thumbnail as she started thinking again. “Kyssindree is going to strike a blow against us with the Nhal’doc, and Mor’osez is too simple minded to stop it.”

“I like Mor’osez’s plan,” Cordus shrugged. “It is a good fight, and should please the crowd.”

“It’s a wasted fight, she should have used my plan!” Faeth’lyn had wanted Mor’osez to drag Cluuvia into the ring in a fight for each other’s votes. Mor’osez could have easily bested Cluuvia, and also further strengthened her position as Cluuvia withdrew and tossed in all her support to Mor’osez. It would have been a masterful stroke, and would have left whatever Kyssindree had planned next to meaningless. Cordus was happy to admit that it was a shrewd pairing, but he also had agreed with Mor’osez when she had called it a boring fight. Cluuvia was no unskilled lout, but her arena record compared to Mor’osez’s left no doubt as to how the battle would have ended. Faeth’lyn had promptly noted that was the entire point, but Mor’osez had disagreed.

“You need rest,” he announced as he stood up, blocking the path of her pacing. “You will be of no help to Mor’osez if you fray yourself out all day and arrive at the games tired and worn.”

“I can rest later.”

“You could also rest now.” Cordus reached out, taking hold of one of her hands, gently massaging the delicate digits. “You have been up for almost three straight cycles now. You have been politicking on Mor’osez’s behalf, making deals, wrangling votes, and working hard to keep her campaign going. Now you are going to get some sleep. Mor’osez can survive a few hours on her own, I am certain.”

“Are you?” She tried to pull away from him, but it was a token effort as she knew he was right. He picked her up with ease, she weighing little more than a feather, and carried her to her bed. It took a bit of time to undress her, but that mostly due to all the hidden knives and blades, and he had always enjoyed the game of trying to find them all, even if he often insisted on searching places she was quite adamant about lacking blades. There was no such fun this time however, for halfway through the process she had already fallen asleep, though the small crease had reappeared, even in slumber she was doubtless considering all the options.

Cordus smiled down at her, massaging the bridge of her nose gently until it smoothed out and her breathing became more rhythmic. She would begrudge him this rest, his little princess would doubtless stamp her foot and complain of the lost time. But he was confident he could weather that storm, when it came, he was capable of enduring much worse. He was her wall, after all. He stood up quietly, collecting his wargear before slipping out the door and engaging the privacy locks.

Some pastries and rare fruits, that would please her when she awoke, even if she would pretend boredom. Seeing that small smile on her face would please him in turn. Cordus set off down the winding hallways of the Cult, as a Bloodbride Faeth’lyn had been given a tower room, which allowed quick and easy access to the merchant levels of the Arena of Bloodied Kiss, and there he was certain he could find the right treats to sweeten her mood. He passed by fellow wyches, many greeting him warmly, only a few having that look of covetous desire for his position. One advantage to being the dim Bloodbride was that he had never much developed political enemies of his own, indeed, he could only think of a handful of fellow wyches who held him any ill will. It also didn’t hurt, he supposed, that though he was considered a bit of a dullard, no one questioned his ability on the sands, and few seemed to desire doing open battle with him.

A few moments later he was contemplating some needle fruit, the poisonous barbs of the tartly sweet yellow fruit glistened bright and red, assuring him of its freshness and that its flavor would be sharp. The shopkeeper was excitedly crooning about his wares and Cordus was just starting to consider telling the man to be silent when he felt a hand pass with overt familiarity across his backside. Suspecting it was just another overeager fan, Cordus glanced over his shoulder, but was slightly surprised and rather annoyed to see Luaae standing there, her long silver hair held back in a loose ponytail, her slender body barely concealed by a wispy silk outfit wrapped tightly around her sleek curves, and a wicked smirk on her impish face. He considered her for a moment and then glanced to either side of her.

“I don’t see Kyssindree here, so it’s strange to find you.”

“I don’t always go everywhere with her,” Luaae laughed, “indeed, some of my finest moments remain rather Kyssindree-less, as you should well know.”

“I know it was a long while ago, and I know I made it clear that I had no more interest in that regard.”

“Clear, was it?” Luaae reached out, coiling her fingers in his leather battle harness, toying with his exposed muscles a bit as she pulled herself in closer to him, pressing one of his legs between her shapely thighs. “I don’t know, parts of you don’t seem to be so certain about dismissing me,” she grinned at him as she tilted her head to the side, “I certainly don’t recall you finding any displeasure at the time.”

“I didn’t, you were a wonderful bedmate, but I did not see us as likely to go beyond that.”

“And why is that?” Luaae continued grinding against him. “I remember us being quite athletic.”

“It’s because I met her, and learned the difference between a bedmate and a lifemate.”

Luaae’s entire body language changed in an instant, as it always did concerning Faeth’lyn. She shoved away from him, her silvery eyes going dark and glowering, her impish face twisting up into an ugly snarl. “That stupid uptight b’tatcha isn’t half the woman I am! Is that what this was about for you? Is that what you wanted, a lifemate with noble bloodlines so you could elevate yourself further?” In almost an instant her expression softened again, her voice becoming pleading. “I’ll be able to advance your position soon enough, I will. Kyssindree trusts me, when she wins, and you know she will, I’ll be the right hand of a Succubus, think of what could happen to your career then.”

“It is almost sad that you think you can trust Kyssindree to reward you one iota beyond the limit of you being useful to her,” Cordus said as he shook his head. “It is even sadder that you think any lineage of birth is the reason I left you for her.”

“So maybe my solution is just to shoot her between her pretty noble-born teats?”

Cordus was often accredited as the strongest of the Bloodbrides, and his impressive musculature had garnered him no small amount of admirers amongst the noble ladies and lords who lusted after it. But he was rarely called quick, his detractors sometimes even going so far as to label him as ‘lumbering’ on the sands, though Faeth’lyn had assured them that anyone who thought that was a fool. Certainly, if anyone had seen how quickly his hand found Luaae’s throat they would no longer have questioned his speed. With an effortless twist he hauled her off her feet to smash down atop a table laden with rare fruits. The merchant wailed in dismay at the damage to his goods even as he proved he had half a brain since he also quickly retreated, leaving the arguing wyches to sort out their disagreement on their own. A few eager fans crooned in excitement, pulling out imaging devices to preserve the moment as they circled around.

“If you dare to harm her,” Cordus pressed the needle fruit up to her face, one of the bright red barbs almost piercing her eye as he held it transfixed there, “then there is nowhere and no one in this city that will take you beyond my vengeance, is that understood?”

“Such passion,” Luaae writhed in his grasp, but did so in a playful way that just infuriated him more. “Is that tepid wallflower able to get your blood flowing this hot?” Her hand slid along his ribs and down to his crotch, she smiled wickedly at him as she tilted her head up, nimbly angling it to avoid the spine as she took a small bite of the fruit, squeezing it between her lips, juices leaking across her lips, even as her hand squeezed him in turn. “Yes, it’s pumping quite well, I see.”

“Rargh!” He spun, hurling her away from him. She tumbled across the ground lightly, bouncing up to her feet in a smooth recovery, her hands dancing now near her waist where her matched dueling pistols were holstered. Cordus slid his Impaler out of its sheath on his thigh, with a slight twist of the handle he extended it out to the length of a short stabbing spear, the two foot long blades on the end of it glinting sharply as he pointed it at her. “Don’t cross me, Luaae, you would not like the results.”

“Cross you?” She laughed and then sneered. “Cordus, you beautiful idiot, I’m the only thing keeping your stupid if well-shaped backside in one piece, maybe it’s you who should be worried about the results. Maybe it’s you who should pay attention to warnings about who you’re choosing an alliance with!” She slowly started to back away, blowing him a quick kiss as she did. “Tell the princess I said hello, I expect to see her soon.”

“You better pray not, Faeth’lyn would end you.”

“Hahaha! Throwing knives versus guns? That’s hilarious, oh, Cordus, so blind sometimes. Don’t worry, you’ll wake up from this dream soon enough, and you’ll come crawling back!” She spun on her heel and stalked off through the crowd. Cordus watched her go, shaking his head slightly. Luaae was dangerous, her beauty only equaled by her piques of rage. Still, he would protect Faeth’lyn from her, just as he protected her from everything, and would until the day he stopped breathing. He was her wall, after all. He glanced over at the shopkeeper and shrugged.

“Women, what can one do? I’ll still take some needle fruit and that delicacies basket, the one with the chocolate pastries and cheese.”


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


The crowd was at a fever pitch, and Mor’osez couldn’t help but smile to herself. She glanced sidelong at Faeth’lyn, whose impassive face still bore a look of mild disdain as she picked idly at the piece of fresh needle fruit in front of her, her glass of tear ale untouched. Cordus had been more willing to partake of the drink and the charred ghell worm, and was happily gnawing on part of the spicy and savory meat, a look of pleasure on his face as he watched the dance on the sands below. Mor’osez shared the meal with him, ripping apart the spiced meat with her bare hands as she enjoyed every bite.

“The crowd seems pleased,” Mor’osez finally offered, unwilling to contain a bit of gloating.

“I don’t recall suggesting that the fight would be uninteresting,” countered Faeth’yn a little too sharply.

“I think she might actually win it,” Cordus offered, not taking his eyes off the quickly escalating duel.

“She might, Cali’q is a proud popinjay, and far too full of himself, I have my soul chits on her.” Mor’osez smiled as she looked at her offering of Nhal’doc. It was a straight fight. Only bladed weapons allowed. No gimmicks. No tricks. No games. Just two participants on the red sands, skill to skill, blade to blade, blood for blood, like in the old days.

Cali’q, Syren of the Bloodbrides, known as The Counter circled around slowly, a look of mild consternation on his face. He was renowned for predicting the precise number of moves it would take him to defeat an opponent. He had never been proven wrong, though there were a few matches where there had been some debatable ‘moves’ considered. Still, his skill with his razorblades and his bravado and masculine charms had kept him as one of the most profitable stars of the arena for ages. His face had been painted like a deaths skull, and the blood and sweat that dribbled down his body mixed with the rare unguents he had been massaged with prior to his battle.

Across from him danced The Bloody Mirror, Grexel. She wore a mirrored battle mask, the featureless reflection simply showing Cali’q his own face. Her body was near naked otherwise, save for some sparse armor littered with spikes. For this battle she had also oiled herself with the same unguents Cali’q favored, and her lush body gleamed red. She also wielded a pair of razorflails, for her combat technique was to mirror and mock an opponent’s every action before delivering the final death blow. She had long lived in Cali’q’s shadow even though, in Mor’osez’s opinion, she was the superior fighter. After all, Cali’q’s trick of predicting moves was hardly any more difficult than Grexel’s ability to read actions and duplicate them at nearly the same instant, indeed Mor’osez felt Grexel’s style more impressive simply because she had seen her fight with all manner of weapons and styles with always dazzling skill. The only thing holding Grexel back from true stardom, was her own inferiority complex which made her choose to hide in other’s shadows, too scared to advance her own style outside of her playacting.

“It is an interesting match because the two have never fought each other in this way,” admitted Faeth’lyn as Cali’q erupted into a quick series of blows. “But it doesn’t advance your votes as well as it might have.”

“The purpose of a Succubus is to strengthen the Cult, and that includes putting on matches that are long overdue and that have only been held off due to politically expediency.”

“Yes, congratulations on having two of Succubus Ayasha’s main supporters do battle, risking both their reputations as well as potentially harming her power base. You have masterfully managed to arrange to offend the only wych in the Cult who hasn’t tried to kill you this week.”

Mor’osez grunted, not caring to wade into a battle of wits with Faeth’lyn’s razored tongue. She supposed the girl had a point, of course, but the battle was still a good one, and the cheers and rapt attention of the crowd proved that as much as anything. Razorflails clanked and snarled as the two wyches danced, snapping out their whip swords occasionally and at other moments engaging in furious close quarters battle. Then, it was over. Cali’q made for a quick thrust to Grexel’s body, and she replied in turn. He was forced to abort his move and sidestep, but in so doing left himself an opening that allowed him to lash out with his sword, brutally cutting Grexel across the back. Mor’osez frowned as Grexel fell to the sands, she’d wagered a fair amount on the Bloody Mirror’s victory.

Even as cheers erupted across the arena, they were met with other cheers and even amazed whispering. It took Mor’osez a moment to realize it, but then it became clear to her as well, Cali’q’s count had been off, Grexel had taken him one move past his prediction. Down on the sands Cali’q was breathing heavily, his face flushed and angered, visible even under his makeup. His perfect record had been broken. He looked up at the Succubi, and raised his blade over Grexel, awaiting their decision.

Both Ghyvia and Ayasha glanced at Mor’osez, ceding the decision to her. She stood up, the arena echoing with cries of what the crowd wanted. Mor’osez took it in for a moment, though she knew the decision was clear, and offered a thumb upwards as the crowd cheered. There would needs be a rematch for this battle, the crowd would demand it, and it would sell out seats to even the most jaded of Archons to witness such skill again.

“Oh, brava, Mor’osez, brava.” Kyssindree was sitting in the next booth, the better to facilitate the holo cameras that had been filming them both. “You have mastered the art of figuring out the most basic of battles, the generic duel.”

Faeth’lyn was already opening her mouth to reply, but Mor’osez held up a hand to forestall her. “I am certainly willing to learn from anyone who has the ability to teach me something new, is that what your chosen fight will offer?”

“Oh, it shall,” Kyssindree grinned as she leaned forward, whispering to Mor’osez, “I’m going to rip the throat out of your miserable campaign, and watch as you flounder and bleed out in front of me, too stupid to save yourself alone.” She fell back on some cushions lining her box and motioned to Luaae. “Announce the battle, please.”

Luaae stood up, pausing to lock eyes with Cordus for a moment, a wicked little smile flittering across her lips as she turned to the cameras. “My mistress, Kyssindree of the Flensing Laugh, has, at no small personal expense, arranged for a true showing of glory on these sands. She has purchased one IllMureead war beast.”

Mor’osez blinked, mildly impressed as a hidden elevator rose up to reveal the creature. Known across the galaxy by many names, The Great Devourers, The Tyranids, The IllMureead. The creatures were fearsome beasts, built only for battle and the consumption of their foes. Kyssindree had purchased one of their great heavily armored war bugs. It stood nearly fifteen feet high, its body covered in massive blood red armored plates. Four of its limbs ended in huge scything talons, capable of cutting through steel and stone with casual ease. Its legs were huge and muscular, capable of propelling its nine ton frame forward like a terrible and unstoppable juggernaut. The beast howled, its screeching roar echoing through the arena like a death knell as it thrashed its spike covered tail about in barely restrained bloodlust. Only the gravity coils lashed around it held the creature in place as it strained to leap to the attack against the whole arena. Mor’osez had seen entire squads of Wyches torn apart by one of these beasts and wondered how many were about to do combat.

“To stand against it,” Luaae couldn’t help but laugh a bit as she spoke, “will be the well regarded combat team of Cordus, the Whirling Wall, and Faeth’lyn, the Demure Demise.”

Cordus dropped the meat he had been chewing on, his face suddenly grim.

Faeth’lyn remained seemingly unshaken, though she did glance at Mor’osez and shrug her slim shoulders slightly. “Using the battle to advance your vote count or kill off allies of your opponent, wish I’d thought of that…oh, wait.”

But then they needed to get ready, for due to Nhal’doc Kyssindree had the authority of a Succubus, and could make any match she pleased. Mor’osez had helped them prep. She’d participated in a few kills on similar big bugs before, she’d even killed one in a single combat once. She had offered everything she could think of about the creatures and their weaknesses. Faeth’lyn had quietly been going over her knives, a look of placid calm on her face, though Mor’osez could spot the slight stiffness in her motions that indicated it was all an act as she worked over a small handful of blades with a delicate brush and a strange black ichor. Cordus had been a bit more confident, as he had helped kill one of the large bugs himself once.

“You’ll stay on the outside, your blades will distract it.” He had held up his Impaler, “when I run up along its back and sink this into the beast’s eye, it will reach the brain and that will be the end of it.” He placed a hand on her shoulder, locking eyes with Faeth’lyn. “I am your wall, you are safe behind me.”

“You’re a fool,” Faeth’lyn chided him, batting his hand away, but Mor’osez saw the small glance they shared, and knew Faeth’lyn had appreciated Cordus’ words.

Eventually Mor’osez had been obligated to return to the stands. The buzz of anticipation from the crowd was palpable, they knew they would likely either see a display of true skill from the two Bloodbrides, or they would see the creature slay and consume them, for there would be no question of the thumb with a mindless beast battle like this one. Kyssindree had partaken of some recreational drugs and seemed quite pleased with herself. She whispered some instructions to Luaae who scampered off while Kyssindree waved at Mor’osez to come and join her.

“You will want the best seat possible for the bloodletting, won’t you dear Mor’osez?”

Soon enough the announcer indicated the start of the main event for the evening, and the great IllMureead monster was again lifted up onto the sands via a hidden elevator. It was still bound with grav snares and would remain as such until the battle was called to begin.

Faeth’lyn entered next. She wore her usual concealing robes, in the Cult’s colors of green and black. Her liquidsilk bodysuit could be seen underneath her entire body covered from her neck all the way to her feet. As usual, the Demure Demise hid her skin from her fans, revealing only her face, cold and immutably disdainful, and her fingers, poking out from the gloves that covered the rest of her hand, already a set of knives gripped in them.

Cordus should have entered at the same time, and Mor’osez frowned as she looked down at the portcullis where he was due to make his entrance. It was still sealed shut, and she could see Cordus pressed against it, struggling to try and lift it. He shouted out something to Faeth’lyn, who looked up, a flash of concern now visible on her normally unreadable face. Mor’osez turned to Kyssindree, who was staring back at her, smiling.

“What a shame, it looks like the little knife thrower has to fight this one alone.” Kyssindree turned back to the crowd, standing up as one of the holo-cameras flew in closer. She raised her hands. “We have no time to wait for dear Cordus to learn how to operate a door, let this battle commence!”

The grav coils fell away from the IllMureead, and it rose up to its full height, bellowing in rage.

Faeth’lyn stood alone in front of it.

The crowd cheered.




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I looked forward to this chapter largely in part because it let me play around with Faeth'lyn and Cordus a bit more. Like Grexel and even Mor'osez, they were really just bit players in 'Trueborn' but I fleshed them out a bit mentally in my head in the writing, and had a couple of aspects I really liked about them. Of course, I've discovered as a writer I sometimes hurt those I love, so of course their sweet little romance had to come back and hurt them someway, and Kyssindree is exactly the sort of person to go for the heart first.

I've still got two finished chapters before we hit the chapter I'm working on, which is nearing completion itself, so I maybe foresee another 3-4 weeks of managing to keep this pace, we'll see how that goes...

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Tue Apr 01 2014, 23:02

Chapter 14: The Knife



Faeth’lyn had often been a bit of an enigma amongst the Bloodbrides. She had achieved her position mostly after Succubus Irbreena had watched her fight at a private showing for an Archon and had instantly declared her fit to be a Bloodbride. Irbreena was, by that stage, considered a foppish drunk more than anything, and Faeth’lyn, It had been presumed, had wheedled and plied her with gifts of various sorts, and had basically bought herself the position of Bloodbride. This was widely accepted because few had ever watched her fight, her lineage was of high birth, and her family well positioned to allow her to access vast wealth for bribery.

The attitude continued after Faeth’lyn achieved the position of Bloodbride, for she quickly allied with Cordus, the two becoming a quite effective pair on the sands. Cordus would protect her with his shardnet and impaler, allowing her freedom to hurl her blades from behind his broad shoulders. Cordus himself was an exemplary warrior, and few opponents could stand against him alone, much less with well-aimed knives being hurled at them. For, though there was much question of her overall skills, none could deny that, yes, she threw a knife accurately.

Still, it was widely known that, of the Bloodbrides, Faeth’lyn was by far the least threatening. She was clever and quick, certainly, and well connected, a noble, and wealthy beyond question. But it was often said that without Cordus she would be an easy victim for half of the wyches in the Cult on the red sands. After all, how deadly could a few thrown knives truly be to combatants who often fought with pistols? So Mor’osez believed as well, and as the lumbering IllMureead started forward she suspected she was about to watch one of her single most useful allies die.

Faeth’lyn went still for a moment, still shocked at the betrayal that had caused Kyssindree to arrange for Cordus to be locked out of the arena. Then she turned to the charging beast, pulling open part of her robe to slide away the knives she had been holding and to draw out five blackened ones. She started slowly walking backwards, studying the lumbering gait of the creature. Her face had gone dead calm again, once more an emotionless mask, and her eyes glittered sharply as she considered her foe.

The one advantage Faeth’lyn had over the creature was that it was truly mindless, and though it fully intended to crush her to pulp beneath its thunderous charge, its true goal was to attempt to smash out of the pit and into the stands where it could kill and maim the thousands in attendance. Its footfalls shook the arena, vibrating the sand and rattling the decanter of Tear Ale in front of Mor’osez.

Then Faeth’lyn struck, suddenly sprinting forward herself she neatly ducked under one of the huge talons as she sprang upwards to land momentarily on the beast’s knee. No sooner had her feet made contact than she was back flipping away, one hand catching at a barb on one of the taloned arms and using it as a lever to launch herself up to the IllMureead’s shoulder. For its part, the creature barely even acknowledged her, considering her little more than a gnat, its charge remained focused on the wall of the arena.

It noticed her however as she sprang across its shoulders, passing directly in front of its face. Her hand was a blur of motion as her knives cut through the air, embedding in the creature’s eyes, nostril, and throat, and then Faeth’lyn was grabbing its other shoulder and vaulting off it to flip through the air and land lightly again on the sands, her entire journey having taken but a heartbeat.

The IllMureead slowed, roaring in anger as it shook its head vigorously, knocking some of the slim throwing daggers off itself. It turned around slowly, its damaged eyes preventing it from seeing as it let loose another horrible wail. Faeth’lyn meanwhile stood up slowly and demurely began to walk away from it, not even looking back. Mor’osez felt an urge to laugh as she remembered the virulent poisons that Faeth’lyn had been working on prior to the battle.

Sure enough, the IllMureead staggered, one of its tree-trunk like legs giving out underneath it. It let out another roar, but this one gurgled and black bile foamed out of its mouth, the poison vitrifying its flesh, rotting it away in moments. Even so, the creature’s regenerative abilities still might have saved it, except that Faeth’lyn had chosen well her impact points. Even as its brain dissolved into mush the head separated from the body. The towering creature toppled to the ground as Faeth’lyn finally turned around, her placid mien in place as she reached up and fastidiously fixed a bit of her hair that had come out of place from her braids before raising her hand quietly to the crowd in a reserved victory motion.

Mor’osez rose to her feet, applauding, she had not seen a cleaner kill of an IllMureead of that size in many decades, and certainly never by a Bloodbride as lowly regarded in battle as Faeth’lyn.
“Hold!” Kyssindree was on her feet, her face flushed with anger, “I don’t recall saying that this battle is over!” The crowd’s awed applause of Faeth’lyn turned into excited cheers of pleasure as they realized the show was not yet over. Kyssindree pointed down to one of four main gates, gesturing at the one on the far side of the arena, “release the Blade Packs!”

Blade Packs were the name given to gangs of untrained warriors due to enter a Suinmash battle. Their purpose was to hopefully use their greater numbers to wear down a more skilled set of opponents. Those warriors who performed well enough could potentially aspire to be a Wych even without a patron, those who didn’t…tended not to live long enough to matter.

The gates opened and multiple packs emerged. Mor’osez frowned as she easily counted forty armed opponents. Faeth’lyn considered them quietly, probably counting up how many knives she even had on her. Where brute threat and betrayal hadn’t worked, Kyssindree now clearly intended to have raw numbers wear down the Demure Demise, and leave her dead at the hands of some common street bravo’s blade. A holo camera drifted by, getting a close-up on Faeth’lyn, who gave it a sidelong glance of boredom before waving it away from her face with a flick of her wrist. She drew her hands up into the arms of her robe as she considered the advancing mob. They were a motley assortment, bearing a wide variety of gang markings, but all held their chosen weapons with casual familiarity, though untrained by a wych’s standards, each of these Dark Eldar was a killer tried and true.

Faeth’lyn’s arms shot forward, knives flashing out across the arena, and before the advancing bravos even knew what was happening six of them were down, four dead, another howling at the knife embedded in his eye, and a sixth laying on the ground blubbering in confusion as blood spewed out around the blade sticking into her femoral artery. Faeth’lyn immediately offered a quick bow.

“Such apologies…I missed.”

And then the showmanship was over as the remaining rabble charged and there was no more time for mocking. Mor’osez’s hands gripped the edge of the railing as she watched, wishing she could leap down onto the sands and intervene, but knowing that interfering in a Nhal’doc match in that manner would be an unwise decision. Faeth’lyn moved gracefully though. Darting and weaving amongst her attackers. Sometimes she would keep a knife in her hand, using it to slash at an exposed throat, or deflect a blade. Often she would then follow up by turning and hurling the blade in a seemingly meaningless direction, that always left it embedded to the hilt in another attacker, sending them sprawling to the ground either already dead or howling in pain from a mortal or incapacitating injury.

She was poetry in motion. Her billowing gown swept in circles about her lithe body, almost giving her the appearance of waltzing with her opponents. Her long, looped, and braided hair seemed to move in counter point to her flowing black and green dress. Her moves were fluid and all had deadly purpose, Mor’osez watched in glee and applauded a move where Faeth’lyn had thrown a knife into one attacker’s throat while charging him, dodged a stab, deflected a slash, and then plucked the knife back out to spin around and send it hurling back across the battlefield into a chain wielding brute who had been chasing after her screaming about what he’d do when he caught her. Even in the heat of the combat she found the time to send that particular toss squarely between his legs, and paused to flaunt her hip at him, one hand resting on it as he howled in agony.

Later, in passing, she slit his neck as she went by, a disdainful look on her face, as though she was stepping on a bug.

The Blade Packs tried hard, hunting her, trying to hem her in, and attacking her with all their fervor. Mor’osez saw at one point a young ganger hurl a throwing blade of her own at Faeth’lyn, who snatched it out of the air and, spinning it about in her hand to grip the tip delicately, returned the toss with far more accuracy, hitting the young female square in the chest, impaling her heart.

Mor’osez glanced over at Kyssindree as the outcome started to become more clear. “Well, I suppose it is now safe to say, the reason Irbreena became entranced enough by her to endorse her as a Bloodbride had less to do with bribery and more to do with seeing her fight, fancy that.”
The last two Blade Pack members died the sweetest. One, dropping to his knees and trying to beg for his life, the other turning and starting to run through the field of mewling wounded and corpses littering the sands. A hurled dagger caught him in the back of the head, punching through his skull to have the tip of the blade burst out of his eye socket to the loud approval of the crowd.

Faeth’lyn approached the begging man last. Her face was flushed from the kills and the exertion. She was actually sweating, and splatters of blood stained her flesh and gown, but even so she fastidiously lifted the hem of her robe as she made her way across the body strewn field to stand in front of him. She lifted her gown a bit higher to reveal the blood and dirt on her foot and issued a very simple request. The cowering warrior nodded as he quickly dropped down and began licking the grime and gore from her boot. Faeth’lyn waited till he was done, and the crowd jeering their loudest, before a knife snapped into her hand seemingly from nowhere and she promptly slit his throat, turning his body so the blood sprayed across the sands and not a drop landed on her.

“Brava,” Kyssindree stood up, clapping in her box as she surveyed the carnage. “You have truly put on a show worthy of your status, dear Faeth’lyn, and your fans are well satisfied with this incredible showing, I am certain.” Faeth’lyn offered a slight bow to the stands as they erupted in cheers. Kyssindree waited a moment, and then Mor’osez saw her smile turn into a sneer. “Of course, I imagine a true champion will be ready to give them one more thrill.” The gates at the far end of the arena opened once more. Faeth’lyn turned to regard her new opponent, and Mor’osez saw her stiffen in concern.

A Donorian Clawed Fiend was ambling onto the red sands.

Eight feet tall, with arms down almost to its feet and a razor sharp tail, the Donorian Clawed Fiend’s most notable features were its filthy gray coat of fur, the six gleaming eyes in its head that could see in dozens of different spectrums, and the massive claws that could rip a person in half with contemptuous ease. Also, they were known for another trait, a focused berserk fury upon scenting their own blood, that would make them move faster and faster till even a Dark Eldar would start to feel slow in comparison.

Mor’osez had never killed one in single combat in her entire career, she could only think of a handful of wyches who had even attempted the feat.

Faeth’lyn looked small and tired as she considered the Clawed Fiend. It watched her carefully, its eyes gleaming, despite appearances the creature was dangerously cunning and aware, unlike the mindless bug creature, the Clawed Fiend knew exactly who it was here to kill and also understood combat. The Clawed Fiend killed not only for sustenance, but was one of the few creatures in existence that killed for pure pleasure. It began stalking forward slowly, watching Faeth’lyn intently.

There was a commotion in the stands. Cordus had apparently given up on trying to break through the gate and had instead headed up to the viewing area to leap down into the sands. He had clearly fought his way here as his impaler was stained with blood and he bore numerous small wounds. His progress was halted even as he sprang up on the railing as a whip lashed out, wrapping around his throat. It flared with energy, eliciting a scream of pain from him as he was dragged backwards, fighting against the agony as his nerve endings must have felt like they were on fire. The wych holding the agonizer was one of Kyssindree’s loyal lapdogs, her bright white mohawk and the stylized blue face paint around her eyes marking her as Thessa, The Lash. Luaae was there as well, with a few others, they strolled out to Cordus, kicking him, and stomping him down as they ensured he was brought to heel and unable to interfere on Faeth’lyn’s behalf.
As was their wont, the crowd cheered all of this as the cameras showed it happening.

Faeth’lyn began undoing the silk belt around her slim waist as she watched the Clawed Fiend approach. As it came undone she rescued a trio of throwing blades hidden there before tossing the belt aside. With a shrug of her shoulders she slid out of her robe as well, and the audience let loose with sounds of their approval on getting to see more of the Demure Demise. Her black and green liquidsilk uniform hugged her lithe body like a second skin, leaving little to the imagination though still denying the crowd a true view of her flesh. It also became clear how heavily armed she still was, as she wore bandoliers for throwing blades on her wrists, biceps, thighs, hips, and crossed across her chest. She palmed the three blades from her belt and claimed an extra three from the bandolier on her chest as she watched the Fiend approach.

Her first toss caught even Mor’osez by surprise, so fast was the motion of her hands. The Clawed Fiend barely got one arm up to deflect, and was a bit late as one of the blades managed to pierce its rightmost eye, though the blade was not long enough to reach the brain and kill it. The Fiend roared in indignation as it tore free the knives stuck in its arm, the scent of its blood already clearly outraging it.

It charged forward in huge bounding leaps. Faeth’lyn quickly reached to her bandoliers again, sending another flurry of blades at it. Though every single one hit home, most only caused small scratches against its tough hide, and the few that managed to sink deeper just seemed to enrage it more. Then the Fiend leapt high into the air, Faeth’lyn darted out of the way as it came crashing down in a lashing blur of claws and snapping teeth.

The small wych ran along in front of the Fiend, barely evading its blows, missed strikes tossing up clouds of sand or tearing apart the feebly twitching bodies of the Blade Packs that still lay upon the ground. Occasionally Faeth’lyn would spin around and send a small flurry of hurled blades at it, still to little seeming effect.

“How do you like the show, Mor’osez, you don’t seem to be applauding her anymore.” Kyssindree laughed in glee as she sipped at her wine. “You have to admit, I wore her down perfectly, the first robbed her of her deadliest tools, the second of most of her excess weapons while also exhausting her, and the third…the third she has no chance against!”

“This battle is little better than awkward murder,” Mor’osez replied darkly as she turned to Kyssindree, “and you shall regret it.”

“I’ll regret it with you not having your little politico to hold your hand and handle all the business you’re too dense to,” Kyssindree giggled, “it’s too beautiful, Mor’osez, “between the two of you it barely created one worthwhile rival, and now I’m removing the head.”

The Clawed Fiend seemed to be becoming faster and faster. Faeth’lyn seemed to be slowing down from exhaustion as well. The crowd cheering and begging for her blood by this stage, aroused by seeing the proud little noble ground down in this way, and roiling still in pleasure from all the exquisite killing up to this point. Faeth’lyn twirled away from the Fiend, fleeing it as she ran towards the fallen remains of the giant war bug creature. As she reached it she spun around, hurling a last handful of blades at the Fiend as she pressed her back against the hardened carapace. The Fiend rushed in, its form a blur due to the raw speed it was moving at, one clawed hand lashing forward in a tremendous lunge.

Faeth’lyn deftly sidestepped it at the last minute, and the claws slammed deep into the carapace, cracking it open to tear at the flesh underneath, but also, momentarily, trapping the Fiend’s hand there.

Faeth’lyn seemed almost confused then, actually turning away from the Fiend and grabbing at the body of the dead IllMureead before turning back to the Clawed Fiend. The momentary distraction cost her, for though she was on the blind side of the creature, where her knife had injured its eye, it was so enraged that while trying to tear its claw free it took awkward swipes under its own arm at her while doing so. It was likely only the bad angle that prevented her from being torn in two, but she had stayed close to it for too long, and the Fiend’s claws struck home.

Even the glancing blow sent Faeth’lyn tossing through the air to crash down awkwardly to the sands in a painful landing as she cried out in agony. Her side had been torn open, liquidsilk shredded away to reveal oh so pale flesh, now ripped asunder and splattered with her rich, red blood. The fresh burst of pain and the cries of the normally reserved Faeth’lyn set the crowd to cheering again, frothing for a sweet and final kill, they would accept no less at this point.

With a bellow the Fiend ripped its claws free, and then turned to its fallen victim. It sprang forward, landing over her, already drawing back its arm for the strike, opening its mouth in a victory roar, its face splattered with blood as two knives protruded from its eyesockets.
Mor’osez felt a moment of confusion then, two knives? Where did the second one…

The Clawed Fiend paused, looking around stupidly as though it had forgotten what it was doing. Black bile began bubbling out of its mouth then, as part of its head caved inward slightly, its brain clearly already rotting away from the same virulent poison that had claimed the IllMureead. With a start, Mor’osez realized that had been what had made Faeth’lyn pause by the corpse, she had been retrieving one of her poisoned blades, the only weapon in the arena that would have the ability to kill the Clawed Fiend. She’d probably even blindsided the Fiend intentionally, to ensure the important toss. She’d planned the entire fight perfectly from the very instant the creature had appeared.

As the Clawed Fiend collapsed Mor’osez rose to her feet, applauding, and even cheered, something she hadn’t done for almost two centuries, as Faeth’lyn staggered to her own feet, raising one blood soaked hand in recognition of her victory, the other clutching at her bleeding side.

“NOOOO!” Kyssindree was on her feet now as well, leaning over the railing to leer down at Faeth’lyn with a face twisted in hate and anger, “it is not over yet, not yet…” she looked around wildly until an idea struck her, “Luaae! Faeth’lyn will now face Luaae, the Splinterborn!”

Luaae had been kneeling next to Cordus as he slumped helpless in the grasp of the agonizer, she’d been whispering to him and laughing at some private amusement watching the battle unfold. Now she stood up, biting at her lip slightly as a look of pleased excitement came across her features. She turned to Cordus, blowing him a kiss and saying something to him that made him strain forward, trying to attack her, though his struggles were quickly halted by a flare of energy in the Agonsier. Luaae laughed as she bounded over the railing, vaulting down into the arena, landing and springing up into a triumphant pose as she eyed her victim.

Mor’osez looked at Faeth’lyn and knew the young wych had reached her limit. She had maybe only six blades still strapped to her body. Blood gushed out of the holes torn in her side, leaving her pale and feverish looking. And she could barely even stand straight. Faeth’lyn looked up, catching Mor’osez’s gaze on her. Her expression remained unreadable, though laced with a bit of pain, and she simply shrugged slightly before turning around to face Luaae.

She had done everything she could, and it was clear that Kyssindree would just keep throwing opponents at her until she finally failed. No, there was no way to save her except to end the match, and no way to end the match except though…politics. Mor’osez frowned, wracking her brain in thought, trying to come up with what she could say to convince Kyssindree to stop the match, and coming up with nothing short of ceding the competition for Succubus…and even then Kyssindree might kill Faeth’lyn simply out of spite.

No, Mor’osez had to make it impossible for Kyssindree to continue, had to make it so her only option was to stop the match. She glanced up, searching for inspiration, and then smiled as she saw one of the holo cameras still trained on she and Kyssindree, doubtless curious to watch their reactions.

Down on the sands Faeth’lyn fumbled with slightly numb fingers, managing to draw a throwing knife. As Luaae walked forward she quick drew a splinter pistol, shooting the blade out of Faeth’lyn’s hand before snapping the pistol back into its holster in nearly the same instant. She laughed as she motioned for Faeth’lyn to pick up the knife again. “Come on, princess, I’ve been waiting for this for some time now! Why don’t you explain to me how you’re going to win bringing a knife to a gun fight!”

Mor’osez pointedly turned her back, picked up her bottle of Tear Ale and started to walk away.
“What’s this?” Kyssindree laughed and the holo cameras, as expected, tuned to her, projecting her face and words across the arena. “Has the mighty Mor’osez no stomach for the battle anymore? What sort of Succubus turns away from a bit of bloodsport,” she gloated.

“Battle? Bloodsport?” Mor’osez turned around slowly, painting her face in a mask of confusion. “I thought you were killing her because she is one of my lieutenants? Did I misunderstand?”

“…what?” Kyssindree’s expression of uncertainty pleased Mor’osez to no end.

“Oh!” Mor’osez looked shocked then as she started walking back towards Kyssindree. “You thought this was a true arena battle then, did you? This is what you would present to a visiting Archon? This is what you would arrange to showcase our skills at an Olympiad? This is the type of battle you, as Succubus, would put on and charge people soul chits to see?”

“Is it not to your liking,” Kyssindree sneered.

“No, it isn’t.” Mor’osez kept walking, entering Kyssindree’s viewing box as she walked right up to her. A few of Kyssindree’s lackies were there and sort of vaguely made motions to suggest Mor’osez should stop, but none were brave or foolish enough to actually bar her path.

“You see, what I see here, is only the most crass and poorly planned of battles. I arranged for a match of consummate skill, that produced pain both physical and cerebral in the participants, I arranged for a battle that will be spoken of for decades to come, and that will have a highly profitable rematch in it. What you have done here is some tactless bloodletting, releasing a few showy beasts, and then, as you actually have a wych of our Cult, a Bloodbride of our Cult, one of the elite of our Cult, a valuable asset and profitable commodity, you have her arrange a showing of her skills and talent in battle which she does in a performance that, I at least, thought nothing short of amazing. I feel we should be chanting her name and dreaming of the matches to come for her, but you want to continue this one at a stage it is clearly finished, and the clever reason to do so, your master-stroke of a finale is…so your daft, addle-pated, lackey can shoot her in the head while she’s barely strong enough to stand on her feet?”

By now Mor’osez stood almost nose to nose with Kyssindree, her eyes angry as she let her frustration at the state of the Cult roll out of her.

“What a brilliant show! What a masterful plan you have made. The Cult of Bloodied Kiss, known far and wide as the Cult of constant mass melee and beast baiting, which kills its top performers every showing. Why, I can’t imagine that will have any trouble remaining popular, it sounds so much like what the ditch arenas do on a nightly basis, and they pull in the slave markets so effectively. Archons are well known also for not favoring performances of skilled fighters who are familiar to them, and I suppose it’s a good warning to others that, if you become Succubus and they ever opposed you what you intend to do to them. I elevated my performers, Cali’q now has a blemish to be avenged, Grexel has fought the best fight of her life, and they will earn us countless soul chits at future performances much less the rematch. You have mastered the art of elevating childishness to a performance piece and acting like you’re clever to have done so or that it is an art that is remotely worth my time to sit and watch. If I want a mindless killing I can hire a slave and do it myself at half the cost and for twice the personal enjoyment.”

Mor’osez poked Kyssindree in the chest, and the other wych actually flinched away.

“But, no…I don’t have a stomach for your entertainment. So, yes, I am leaving now.” She turned and walked away.

It started slowly, and Mor’osez had almost been certain that she had misjudged, but it was there, and it spread in noise.

“Faeth’lyn! Faeth’lyn! Faeth’lyn!”

The crowd started chanting her name, their voices growing louder and louder with each passing moment. Mor’osez glanced up to the holo viewers, seeing the cameras sweeping across the multitudes. In the vox populi they were stamping their feet and cheering, offering the upraised thumb. Even cameras scanning across the elite pleasure barges of the lords and archons in attendance showed the ancient lords there nodding in agreement, most even offering their own upraised thumb.

Luaae stood nervously on the sands, looking up at Kyssindree. Faeth’lyn slumped on her knees in front of her, too wounded to even put up a fight. The crowd booing the boring execution, they wanted her to live, to fight and entertain again, and perhaps, yes, to die horribly, but let her die horribly and in pain on her feet, struggling to the last, desperate to survive, in a dance of beauty and desire, not as a broken down and exhausted afterthought. Kyssindree’s eyes glanced over at Ayasha and Ghyvia, both of the Succubi looking expectantly at her.

Kyssindree muttered something under her breath as she turned and offered…the upraised thumb.
Mor’osez returned, passing by Kyssindree as she headed to the railing to leap down and help Faeth’lyn. Already Cordus had struggled free and was running across the sands to Faeth’lyn’s side. As Mor’osez passed Kyssindree she couldn’t help but smirk and whisper to her.

“Well now, the thinker just out fought you, and the fighter just out thought you. I’ll be curious to see if you can manage to convince yourself you still have any chance of winning.”


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

So this chapter was practically just a love song to Faeth'lyn sure...though it also let me play around with a bit of wych-ly politics and also forced Mor'osez to deal with a problem that she couldn't just ignore or headbutt to death, which is not her usual comfort level. I think my favorite bit from it was expressing the betrayal properly. For us, a functional murder like this would be something to downplay and hide, but for the Dark Eldar, it actually rather amuses and titillates them to realize that Kyssindree is just trying to murder Faeth'lyn, and overtly preventing Cordus from helping well...that's just amusing, rather than concerning. It was a fun mental process to consider for them.

So, my posting is continuing apace. The next chapter is finished, so next week should be a lock. Also, the chapter after that is...mostly finished, so it is probably also a lock. The third one is...well...looking dicier. We'll see how that pans out for me. I'm hoping to keep the schedule for that one too. After that I suspect I'll end up breaking the schedule because I will be unlikely to complete a fourth in time. We'll see though.

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alexwellace
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Fri Apr 11 2014, 16:33

That was orgasmic. There are few words i could use to describe that fight and i think that describes it best, I always loved Faeth'lyn and to see her 'pwn' all that while keeping in character and showy was amazing to imagine. I have to admit after i finished reading this i went through the battle again in my head, few pieces of fiction can do that, have such imagery and well described characters and fight scenes that you can run through each knife throw in your head and it still have the same effect as the original reading. This is far and away the best fight scene i have seen in a long while, Brava Thor, Brava.
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Sat Apr 12 2014, 20:13

Wow, thank you very much for the praise, it is well appreciated. I'm glad I'm not the only Faeth'lyn fanboi around Wink

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Sun Apr 13 2014, 21:52

It was awesome!

(Says she who does fight scenes poorly, )

you really captured the arena at its best there.
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Mon Apr 14 2014, 05:30

Maybe I should do a Writer's Roundtable on writing fight scenes? Everyone seems to like mine, and I've had multiple people comment that they have trouble with them. Hurm...

The red sands are a fun place to be...there's probably a chance we're not done with them, natch Wink

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Fri May 16 2014, 22:32

Considering this is a Wyches arena would it be out of line to 'crack the whip'? I love this story and check back here every week to see if anything has popped up, don't you dare go George R. Martin on us!
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Sat May 17 2014, 00:46

We shall try not to. I do have the next chapter or two basically ready to go, though I'm in a bit of a writing slump and (oddly for me) a painting panoply so I'll admit that's where my focus has been lately. I'll promise you a new chapter prior to the end of the month though - pinkie swearz!

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Tue May 27 2014, 17:09

Chapter 15: The Interlude



The two warriors slowly circled each other in the dark chamber, lit only by flickering green flames from the copper torches. The older of the pair was grim faced and severe. Oily red eyes shimmered in the torch light, a wry and dismissive smirk on his face. His posture was one of calm balance, each motion razor sure. The younger of them glided across the floor, his movements causing a beautiful ripple across his smooth muscular skin, his head shaved bald, a smile on his face matched that of his opponent as he readied himself. For all his confidence though, there was a touch of imbalance to his positioning, an uncertainty to his stance.

“The scorpion stance,” the older warrior almost chuckled. “It is his favored one, is it not?”

“It is. He is confident that it is the superior style to all others, and the perfect start to any battle.”

“I know,” the older warrior did laugh now, “he is as predictable as the bug he emulates.” The older warrior’s position shifted slightly. The younger one paused, uncertain at this new stance. “But I have assessed him, and found his weakness, I have painted his death a thousand times, and it goes like this.”

The older warrior struck with a speed that defied description, sweeping and lashing almost from two directions at the same time. The defensive base and quick footwork of the scorpion stance stumbled before the onslaught, being torn and picked apart in moments before the younger warrior was sent sprawling to the ground, helpless. The older warrior stepped forward, the edge of his blade just resting on the throat of the downed younger warrior.

“You have used his methods, and have been defeated.”

“Yes.”

“I am the superior warrior.”

“What do you call it?”

“Dragon style. It is about speed and power, overwhelming force and ferocity while still maintaining deadly control of every action, just like a rampaging megadon.”

“Will you teach me?” The younger warrior smiled eagerly.

“You presume much about your position in this life.”

“That is not a no.”

“…no, it is not.” The older warrior reached down, offering a helping hand to the younger and pulling him to his feet. He considered him carefully for a moment. “I see so much of her in you. I am not sure if that is a compliment.” The younger warrior shrugged and bowed his head slightly in acceptance. The older one sighed as he took a step back and fell into his combat pose. “The beginning stance, you are the hunter, assessing your prey. There are now three primary movements to master from his stance…”


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


Succubus Tin’driel, known as The Barbed Snowflake stood naked in her bathing chambers, slaves of a dozen different races, each in the most budding and fresh moment of their youthful beauty rubbed moisture lactating loam sponges across her nude body. Overhead, hidden from view, a choir of young boys, permanently altered to maintain their sweet high voices, sang an ancient song of beauty and renewal. Other members of the Succubae, and various sycophants and high ranking officials lounged around the chamber as well, enjoying its rich wonders and indulgent delights.

“You wish to be a Bloodbride?”

Tin’driel was known as the Barbed Snowflake for a number of reasons, but her icy blue eyes and immaculate features were certainly part of it. She was known behind her back as ‘The Frozen Queen’ and other, less flattering, titles. She was rumored to never appear to grow angry, and her imperturbable calm was one of her calling cards on the red sands. But it was certainly true that though she might never truly burn with hatred for you, she would never so much as sweat to slake your thirst unless she could see an advantage in it for herself. She was an indifferent and calculating ruler, but she was a ruler who would hopefully prefer reason to disdain.

“I do.” Ghyvia il’Thuslin, known to most as Ghyvia the Shadowed Smile, knelt on the cold stone floor, her head bowed.

“Sisters?”

Tin’driel spoke to two of the other women reclining in the vast bathing chamber. One currently lay upon a silken divan, being massaged by four muscular pleasure slaves, their hands slick with warmed and scented oils as they worked over her body with rapt attention. The other still wore her battle harness and weapons, if nothing else, and was entertaining herself in cleaning a splinter pistol while she kept a slave submerged underwater kissing and sucking on her feet, threatening to shoot him between the eyes if he came up for air prior to her allowing it.

“She has an excellent record,” noted the one being massaged, Irbreena, the youngest of the three sister Succubi of the Cult, “I have seen her dance with that sword, and she is no small talent.”

“But she’s crass and foolish,” countered Cleos, as she finished with her weapon and began reassembling it. “Really, to come here and request to be made a Bloodbride? What sort of idiocy is that?” Cleos smirked as she looked at Ghyvia. “You’re talented enough, but you have no backing, and no true talent on the sands to make the crowd sing for more. You’ll never amount to anything more here than what you are, and happy enough you should be for that.”

“What more backing do I need than the word of the Succubi?” Ghyvia worked hard to make her voice sound sweet, even though she had the urge to stride across the room and throttle Cleos for her perfidy. “I am loyal, and I am talented, and I think it would behoove you all to see the ranks of your Bloodbrides swell with such as me.”

“Promises of loyalty in Commoragh are a bit like promises of ice in a volcano, they are unlikely to be delivered upon.” Tin’driel smiled as she glanced over her shoulder to Ayasha Indrinel, known as ‘The Symphony’ and Syren of the Bloodbrides. The noblewoman reclining in the waters, purring with pleasure as a slave combed out her long hair, was arguably the fourth most highly ranked and honored wych in the Cult and the nominal leader of the Bloodbrides. “What say you, Ayasha? You usually seem to have such…opinions on potential new Bloodbrides.”

Ayasha opened her eyes slowly, pausing to glance over at Ghyvia. A small smile plucked at her lips as she looked back at Tin’driel. “I see a young and capable wych, well on the rise to power. I think it would be foolish not to include her in the Brides, and would happily welcome her into our ranks if you but gave the word.”

“You would, would you?” Tin’driel gazed for a while at Ghyvia, the slaves still soaping her immaculate body. “What about a test, to see if you’re ready?”

“What sort of test?” Ghyvia cursed herself for a weak fool as she realized she’d allowed a hint of eagerness to slip into her voice.

“A duel in the arena, a small matter I am certain, but one you should be able to handle.”

“Oh…sister,” Irbreena shook her head at Tin’driel and sighed as she took a sip of wine from a chilled glass nearby, “must you play like this?”

“Bah, it’s all in good fun,” laughed Cleos as she fished the gagging slave out of the water and kissed him passionately. “I support the offer.”

“I think it is unneeded,” offered Ayasha guardedly, “but certainly defer to the judgment of the Triumvirate.”

“It is settled then,” Tin’driel smiled, her icy eyes burning into Ghyvia’s and we’ll see whether you earn or learn respect and your proper place.”

“Mistress?”

“Mistress? Kyssindree, the Flensing Laugh still awaits your pleasure.”

Ghyvia blinked slightly, coming out of her memories. One of her maidservants stood nearby, an uncertain look on her face. Ghyvia sat in her throne, a Succubus, powerful, in control, master of her own destiny now, so far away from that poor fool who had knelt before others. Proud and distant Tin’driel, untrustworthy and cruel Cleos, and even foolish and daft Irbreena were all dead now. But she remained, she was a Succubus, and she still had much to take care of.

“Show her in.”

Kyssindree, despite her failure and slipping votes, still managed to walk in as though she was the clear winner of the whole debacle on the sands this evening. Ghyvia frowned at the imperious tilt of Kyssindree’s chin as the Bloodbride dipped into a low bow, still somehow acting as if she was relevant anymore.

“You are aware that you failed, are you not?”

“A minor setback,” answered Kyssindree, waving off the admonition, “I shall settle the matter soon enough.”

“No.”

“…pardon me?” Kyssindree’s expression was puzzled.

“No, I’ve had about enough of you and your plotting.” Ghyvia stood up and walked off her podium to approach Kyssindree, her golden eyes glittering sharply as she considered the Bloodbride. “Your payment to me for my help was that Mor’osez would be shamed and embarrassed. You have failed to deliver your end of the agreement.” Ghyvia hooked her thumbs into the sash of flesh belted around her waist, all that remained of Cleos, a reminder of what happened to those who crossed her. “From this point on, you are going to do what I say.”

“But-“

“Are you mistaking this for a negotiation? I feel like you are operating under the belief that I am making you an offer.”

There was a long silence. Ghyvia stood at casual ease, her whipcord thin body balanced delicately on the balls of her feet, her hands resting on her belt just a few inches from her soulsteel blades. Kyssindree was young and ill-tempered, and doubtless also heavily armed. Her pride warred with her common sense, and Ghyvia’s golden eyes watched carefully as she waited to see what the younger wych would do. Finally Kyssindree bowed her head in defeat.

“No.”

“Good. Then, here is what you are going to do. Tonight you will go and talk to Cluuvia, you will inform her that I have withdrawn my support from her and that it is her job to now pass her votes and support to you. She will do this unless she is a greater fool than you are, and the new votes shall put you back in the lead.”

Kyssindree smiled at that one.

“Next, you will, upon the very crack of the solar cycle, find yourself at the gates of The Temple of Obsidian Lethe.”

“Why?”

“There is a package they are holding in trust for our Cult. I desire it, I desire it to such a point that now it is your job to desire it as well.” Ghyvia drew forth a sealed scroll and pressed it into Kyssindree’s hands. “This gives you my authority for the collection of the package. You will not accept anything less than claiming the package. You will use any means needed to claim it, and will allow nothing to stop you.”

“Incubi can be difficult,” noted Kyssindree, “their old rules can cause delays…”

“Any means.” Ghyvia snarled the words. “Expect difficulties in this matter, perhaps from the Incubi, perhaps from Mor’osez, but do not allow anything to stop your mission. Do you have an inability to complete this request?”

“No,” Kyssindree bit back her anger as she bowed again, “it shall be done as you request.”

“Do not fail me in this matter, Kyssindree.” Ghyvia reached out, running her fingers along the soft curve of Kyssindree’s chin. “You have such beautiful skin, I imagine you wish to remain attached to it.” She reached into a pouch on her belt and extracted a small signet ring. “Take this, requisition whatever troops and resources you will need. Bring me my prize, or else.”

“You say that as though you’re expecting me to kill everyone in the temple to get it.”

“Bring me my prize, Kyssindree.” Ghyvia slapped her slightly as she turned away, dismissing the foolish young wych. She eased herself back into her throne as Kyssindree departed. Things seemed slightly out of control right now, but she would drag them back into place soon enough, if only by sheer force of will. That was what she did, after all, she was a survivor, and minor setbacks didn’t stop her. She’d proven that on the sands. She’d proven it to those three despicable Succubi. She would survive and overcome this trial, no matter the risks or cost, just as she had done that day.

Ayasha had tinkled as she walked, small golden bells attached to her armor chiming out a tune as she sashayed along. Ayasha Indrinel, The Symphony, Syren of the Bloodbrides, Scion of House Indrinel, Lady of the Laceraae, and holder of enough other titles and honors as to make Ghyvia’s head ache. She was a beautiful creature to behold, a voice as sweet as honey wine, and the soft song of the bells on her armor drifted around her in a reverent cloud. Ghyvia had been hard pressed not to like her from the first, Ayasha had that sort of charisma, though Ghyvia had known it could be dangerous to succumb to its spell.

“They are going to make you fight one of the Unbreakable. It will be Mor’osez.” Ayasha had leaned up against the door frame, watching as Ghyvia checked over the edges of her swords and prepared herself for battle.

“Which one of the sisters is that? The Unbending or the Unwavering?”

“The Unwavering.”

The Unbreakable were a fighting duo, two sisters who each held fearsome arena records. They had fought together or alone on the sands and almost always emerged victorious. They were of prime interest to hiring Archons as well, and their feats when on realspace raids were the stuff of legend. Both sisters stood taller than most Eldarith, their muscular bodies lean and beautiful. Their grim faces adorned in war paint, and their moppy shocks of white hair puffing out around grim and serious expressions. Their only joy seemed to come on the sands as they finally broke their foes, they were considered amongst the deadliest of the Bloodbrides, and the most loyal to Tin’driel.

“I’ve seen The Unwavering fight,” Ghyvia said as she ran an oiled cloth along her longsword, “I’m not afraid of her.”

“Perhaps you should be.” Ayasha shrugged, the bells of her armor pealing sadly. “Tin’driel has arranged this match to punish you, that should be clear, you are not expected to win.”

“I have never lost in single combat. My record is unmarred, The Unwavering cannot say the same. She is just a woman, like any other, she can bleed, and she will fall like everyone else ever has.”

“Mor’osez has a way of…disrupting perfect records.” Aysha smiled as she placed a hand on Ghyvia’s shoulder. “I just want you to know, no matter the outcome, I find this battle a sham, you are well worthy of being a bride of the blood.”

“I appreciate that.” Ghyvia glanced up, her golden eyes staring out from her black khol makeup, “be prepared then, for I shall be a Bloodbride soon enough.”

She had been confident then, and even later when walking out onto the red sands, she had felt confident. But it had been the look in her opponent’s eyes that had robbed her of some of that assuredness. The Unwavering had stood there, still as a statue. She wore a sleek liquidsilk thong and brassiere, and an armored shoulderpad, but no other clothing. Her muscular body on full display, and a striking and beautiful thing it was too. Though it was marked by scars, they were almost artistically placed, seeming to add to her savage beauty rather than detract from it. She was armed with a falchion and razorsnare, the huge sword balanced on her shoulder, and the coiled chain and hook of the razorsnare ready in her left hand. But her eyes, those dark eyes, that had been what had robbed Ghyvia of her confidence. They had looked on Ghyvia, a wych of renown, and had done so with an almost bored indifference.

Tin’driel herself had called the battle to order, and Ghyvia had drawn out her sword and charged forward, The Unwavering still seeming almost bored by the affair. But, once the fight had started, that stoic figure had come to life. There was a deadly grace to her movements, not an ounce of wasted motion as she would always just ease aside from an attack or step forward just enough to allow her blade to hack at Ghyvia. Her dark eyes had even lit up slightly, burning with a small glow of pleasure as they had danced.

It was the razorsnare that finally did it, The Unwavering hadn’t even been using it, instead focusing on her swordsmanship. But suddenly that snare was there, snapping off the Bloodbride’s wrist as it shot out and hooked Ghyvia’s lead foot. With a sharp tug Mor’osez had hauled her off her feet, and even as she crashed down to the ground that huge falchion had dropped down, the pommel cracking across Ghyvia’s temple.

Her vision blurred, blood dripping into her eye, her body weak and unresponsive, she had felt herself lifted into the air like a child. The Unwavering held her in those terribly strong hands, easily lifting her overhead as she paraded around the ring, presenting her ‘prize’ like a slab of meat at auction.

Tin’driel had smiled as she had motioned with the downward thumb.

Mor’osez had nodded, and then promptly dropped Ghyvia down, smashing her back across Mor’osez’s upraised knee and shattering her spine.

The crowd had cheered.

Mor’osez lifted her arms in victory, and Ghyvia and been left, twitching and helpless, to lie on the sands. Her record broken, her hopes dashed. She had watched her dreams slip away as easily as Mor’osez had strode from the arena.


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


Faeth’lyn lay on the slim platform as the slicers worked her over. The medical specialists wore robes of sleek red and bore the sigils of the Cult of Bloodied Kiss marked on their faces to show who owned them. The slave surgeons were of respectable skill, no true artist like a Haemonculous, but certainly talented enough to save a performer from all but the most permanent of wounds. Currently they were carefully peeling off her liquidsilk uniform as they inspected the damage caused on the sands.

Faeth’lyn’s hand reached out, grabbing hold of one of the slave surgeon’s arms as he reached for a dermal stitching wand. “If I have any scars when this is done, any at all, then I will insert that tool down your throat to see what happens.”

“A touch vain, are we?” Mor’osez smirked as she watched the surgeons go to work. “As long as you are artistic with your scars I feel they can help enhance your image, rather than detract from it.”

“A drunkard insists that their inebriations make them a more clever and functional individual.”

Mor’osez waved her hand up in a gesture of surrender as she shook her head. “So much to hoping that a half foot of bone slicing open your side would curtail your tongue for a moment.”

“Not likely,” offered Cordus from where he sat nearby, drugs being administered to him for the strain to his system from the agoniser’s brutal treatment. Another slave surgeon was also working over the half a dozen minor wounds and injuries on him. He was not as injured as Faeth’lyn, but his wounds were not minor either. “Kyssindree is getting serious, this was a blatant attempt against you.” He frowned as he glanced at Faeth’lyn, “is that a good thing?”

“Desperation in an enemy,” she paused with a slight wince as a sliver of fragmented talon was slipped out of her, “is often a good thing, it makes them sloppy…well, in Kyssindree’s case I suppose the situation is rather that it makes her sloppier.” Faeth’lyn considered something for a moment, “did you place guards at the entrances to this room?”

“No,” Mor’osez let her answer string out for a moment and then smirked, “I arranged for them to secure the entire wing. I have more than a few favors to call in, you and Cordus will be undisturbed.”

“Good.” Faeth’lyn yawned slightly as the drugs the surgeons were administering began to take effect. “I don’t want to be seen like this.” She paused, considering. “I wanted to tell you something else, you…need to wait for me…I,” her eyes blinked slowly as she tried to focus. “I need to come with you to the Temple, wait for a little while.” Her head eased back onto the pillow, the small lines of worry disappearing from the bridge of her nose as she succumbed to sleep.

“Odd girl,” Mor’osez smirked as she turned to Cordus. “What happened down in that tunnel?”

“Kyssindree loyalists, no question of it, also a few wyches who I am fairly certain work for ‘Black’ Ghyvia, the two factions might be one and the same now. They tried to inconvenience me when I made it clear my intent to enter the arena. If you pay attention you should be able to figure out a few of them for certain, I assuredly killed no less than six. They’ll either have resurrection contracts or be stricken off the annals soon enough.” He waited a moment, glancing at Faeth’lyn to ensure she was unconscious before speaking. “I’m going to kill Kyssindree for this, make no question of that.” Cordus often looked serious, but there was an inner focus to his words now that left no doubt in Mor’osez’s mind that he meant what he said on the deepest level. “You have my aid in anything you plan or wish to do that will harm or hinder that woman, my only request is if you intend to kill her let me do it, and if it does not happen then you, as your first act as Succubus, place me in a match with her.”

“You are,” Mor’osez was still smiling, “…very young.”

“Do not question my desire, I don’t care if you find it laughable, but she tried to kill Faeth’lyn, and now I am going to kill her for the attempt.”

She nodded as she stood up to leave. “I have no desire to stand in the way of your vow, and I bear no love for Kyssindree, it is agreed. Now, you and Faeth’lyn need rest and medical attention, I suspect it will become a busy day tomorrow, and I still have other matters to attend to.” She handed him a small comms crystal. It was a simple communication device, able to be tracked if you had the code or to simply signal an alert beep. “I’ll keep the other, if anything odd starts to happen here, let me know.” It was quite possible that Kyssindree might send some assassins to finish what her attempt in the arena had started, and Mor’osez preferred to make sure her allies were protected.

Cordus nodded in agreement, easing his muscular body back down onto the platform as the surgeon continued to try to knit up some nasty gouges on his shoulder. She exited the room and made her way through the halls, a number of thoughts in her head. Coming to a decision she hunted through the medical wing until she found what she was looking for. Grexel, known as the Bloody Mirror, lay on her belly reading a book of poetry while a slave surgeon finished its work on the slash across her back. Grexel glanced up, smiling and waving as she saw her enter.

“Mor’osez! Did you see me dance, did you hear the crowd’s cheers?”

“I did, you performed well.” Grexel accepted the slim bit of a compliment with a wide grin, well aware that Mor’osez rarely offered a positive word towards anyone’s arena performance. “You did, however, get sloppy at the end. You overreached that last thrust, you were too confident you had him and that was what left you open for the cut that ended the battle.”

“It was his final counted move, I expected him to be too confident to be ready to counter,” Grexel offered glumly.

“Cali’q is a fool in many ways, but he is a superlative duelist. You made an error and paid for it with your loss, your wound, and cost me far too many soul chits.”

“But I have a rematch, that is near certain, and I’ll train harder, and I’ll be faster.” She picked up her helmet in her hands, looking at herself in the mirrored reflection. “Maybe people will see…”

“Just don’t get overconfident again,” Mor’osez chided as she walked up to get Grexel’s attention again. The girl was sadly distractible outside of combat and it was best not to let her start becoming lost in herself. “I do have something to ask you.”

“Me? What?” Grexel tore her gaze away slowly from her mask.

“I need you to set up a meeting between me and your master, I need to speak with Succubus Ayasha in private.”


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


Tilt always moved so smoothly. Obessa had been dueling him now for many cycles off and on, from that first day in knife training up till now with a klaive in hand, and she still had to admire his supple maneuvers. The two of them circled around each other in the training yard, bare feet moving over black gravel in soft, crunching, motions. A slightly chill breeze moaned through the courtyard, causing their loose purple exercise clothing to ripple around their limbs. Off in the distance she could hear the sounds of a new class of Grays hard at training, and could almost swear she heard Master Ryldnar’s soft voice asking someone if they knew a sword.

“You’ve been training, Obessa,” Tilt smirked, the motion causing the scar that Zak had given him in the Unan Angau to twist slightly on his otherwise smooth cheek.

“As have you,” she replied. It was certainly a true statement, Tilt had clearly trained with a klaive before ever taking the Gray, and he was getting better at perhaps the same rate she was, and she was fairly certain her training with Zak, however distracted they occasionally became, should have kept her near the head of the class.

She stepped in sharply, a quick four pattern cut in the Sabrecat style driving Tilt back. As expected he shifted to Razorwing stance, using his klaive like a spear as he fell back before her. Obessa drew up, slipping into Scorpion stance. It was a slightly unpopular style, but since Zak favored it she had been given extensive lessons in it as well. It featured solid footwork, to emulate the broad stance of the scorpion, a close blade to body defense style, like the large claws held tight to a scorpion for protection, and lightning fast counter attacks, the striking tail. In Zak’s opinion, it was the finest of the styles, and he argued it was rarely an incorrect form to take while battling a foe.

“You give away a bit too much about your private lessons,” offered Tilt with a small grin as he circled around her, looking for an opening in her defenses. Behind him she could see Tymeon and Welv dueling. Both of them seemed to have grown into their role as potential Incubi. Welv’s size, strength, and surprising speed made him a deadly duelist. Tymeon, meanwhile, had taken whole heartedly to the Scorpion style, weaving a deadly web of defense as he lightly mocked his opponent until they grew enraged enough to make a blunder, and then his klaive would slip out whip fast to score a deadly blow.

Tilt sensed her momentary lapse of focus and struck, a powerful Ambull form rush, power and ferocity from within a heavy guard position. The Ambull, however, always left too much of your vision obscured, and Obessa used the opportunity, lightly leaping into the air and cartwheeling over Tilt’s head. As she landed she executed a near perfect rear riposte. Tilt barely managed a parry, his blade shoved near blindly over his back to prevent the blow he knew was coming, his feet still off balance from his charge. He sprawled to the ground and before even his quick reflexes could send him bounding to his feet Obessa had her practice klaive resting lightly between his shoulderblades.

“Pah!” Tymeon was sent staggering to the ground, coughing up some blood as Welv stepped back from him, offering a slight salute.

“Not every slip is always a true error,” the large warrior offered with a grunt and a very quick flash of his boyish smirk. “You’re so clever you forget other people can occasionally be clever as well.”

“I submit it is quite reasonable to have not expected cleverness from you,” offered Tymeon with a laugh as Welv helped him to his feet.

“You fought well today,” Obessa said as she pulled back her sword and offered Tilt a hand. He looked up at her, and then past her to the walkways overhead, then snarled as he tossed some gravel up at her. She stepped back in surprise as he sprang to his feet and stalked off.

“You are starting to win against him more often than not,” noted Zak as he walked up to stand next to her. Like them he wore only loose exercise clothing, his klaive strapped to his back. Unlike Ryldnar, Zak felt no need to stay within his armor when teaching. She suspected he didn’t feel a need to try to intimidate the students. “It is a burden for someone like him, who was so used to winning.”

“I suppose.”

Obessa glanced up at the walkway, following where Tilt’s gaze had gone, and saw Xulfryn was there, watching. His oily red eyes glittered darkly, his arms were crossed over his chest. Like Zak he did not wear his armor, and his arms were slightly stained with splatters of paint. His gaze seemed to follow Tilt as the young man stalked around the yard, swinging his klaive through half practice motions tinted with frustration and rage. Xulfryn scowled. Klarz’ay stood with him, as usual clad head to toe in his armor, he fingered one of the cured scalps hanging from his belt, his gaze focused on Obessa. She matched that gaze, longer than protocol would dictate, before turning her back to him as she resumed talking to Zak.

“What could I have done better in my duel?”

“Besides keeping your focus on the person trying to kill you?”

Obessa blushed slightly, feeling a hint of warmth on the tips of her ears. “Yes, besides that.”

“Your Sabrecat style slashes, you bend your wrist too much when making them, it robs you of power and allowed him too much time between strokes to counterstrike.” Zak pulled out his own blade, slowly going through the motions of the slash. Obessa followed suit, recognizing where her positioning was off and adjusting for it.

“Let’s go again.” Obessa and Zak glanced up to see Tilt back in front of her, his klaive in his hands.

“You lost the duel and-“

“I can beat her,” he said, cutting Zak off. Tilt wasn’t even looking at either of them, his eyes were up on the walkways. “I can beat her.”

“Tilt…” Welv walked forward, he placed his hand on Tilt’s shoulder, but the young man quickly shook it off.

“Come on, Obessa,” Tilt was smirking, but his usual calm mien was clearly shaken, there was a fervor to his eyes that was unusual. “Or are you scared?”

“I’m not a child to be goaded,” she remarked coldly, “but if you really wish another duel, I am not against it.”

With that it was settled, the others fell back to give them space. Tilt became calmer, a cold stillness overcoming him as he slipped into his battle pose, one that she did not recognize. Obessa found herself mildly thankful that they were fighting only with dulled blades, because he was clearly taking this quite personally all of a sudden. She had even beaten him before in practice, albeit rarely, so she was unsure why this time bothered him so. Her eyes flicked up to Xulfryn and Klarz’ay, could it be because those two were watching…?

Tilt sensed her distraction and was on her in a flash. His moves were quick and smooth, as he used his slightly different battle style, one full of sweeping motions, and blurring counterspins. Obessa found herself slowly giving ground, her Scorpion style managing to barely keep him at bay, but she was forced to roll and retreat from each blow. Every time she attempted to press her advantage out of the combat she was met with a punishing blow that sent her staggering back. Obessa weaved in front of him, managing to use her footwork to retreat further. Tilt was fighting full out now, a small smirk back on his face as he lost himself in the combat. She felt one of her legs buckle slightly from an overhand chop, and his quick reverse underhand cut tossed her klaive from her hand.

“Tilt wins,” intoned Zak as Obessa fell backwards. “The duel is ended.”

Tilt didn’t even pause, his klaive sweeping back into an execution position as he stepped forward, clearly intending to end it.

“Obessa!” Welv’s klaive sailed through the air, and she managed to nimbly catch it and just barely bring it around in front of her to prevent his klaive from cracking her skull open, dull blade or no. Tilt had overbalanced himself though, and her foot shot out, her heel slamming hard into his knee with a sharp crack! He hissed in pain as he staggered back and Obessa rolled up to her feet, klaive once more at the ready.

“The duel is ended,” intoned Zak as he stepped between them, “I will not repeat myself a third time.”

“Pah!” Tilt spat on the ground as he turned and hobbled off. Xulfryn and Klarz’ay were already nowhere to be seen on the walkways overhead.

“My thanks.” Obessa walked over and returned Welv’s practice klaive to him. “I wasn’t expecting him to fight like that.”

“Nor I, don’t hold it against him though,” Welv shrugged, “he’ll be his usual cheery self by the time we break for low peak dinner.”

“I didn’t recognize the style he was using,” she glanced at him, “did you?”

“I did not,” Welv shrugged as he glanced after Tilt, “but I get the feeling every day that I don’t recognize enough things happening around me.”

“Smart words,” chuckled Tymeon as he sidled up to them, his usual knowing smirk on his face. “I, for one, find it is often best to leave certain stones unturned. People with a mindless sense of idle curiosity tend to end up dead in Commoragh.”


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


Grexel tapped Mor’osez’s shoulder and pointed down to the spire where the Temple of Obsidian Lethe stood. Currently the two of them were hooked onto a Raider that was circling the spire as it made its way in for a landing. Below them the Temple spread out in a blocky series of open courtyards set around a large inner building that housed the temple itself. It was a temple built in the old style, dark, foreboding, and lacking many of the more flamboyant flourishes the younger temples chose, but there was an austere and lethal beauty to the building all the same.

‘Do you want to go alone, or should all of us come?’ Grexel asked the question in a quick flutter of sign language, at the speed they were moving the noise of the wind made regular conversation impossible.

‘I suspect a show of strength would be beneficial at this point, the Hierarch can be difficult.’ Mor’osez motioned back to the pilot, instructing her to make their landing with all haste. The young navigator nodded, quickly nosing the craft down and accelerating to full combat drop speed. A certain amount of near suicidal psychotic attitude was a beneficial skill to a Raider pilot, and only a mix of superlative skill and disdain for danger combined could have allowed anyone to cut through the spires at the blinding pace she now set. Only at the last minute did she re-enable the antigravity ribbing, pulling up sharply and firing retrofire jets to slow their descent. The Raider howled, the rush of wind over its bladed prow and then the sudden strain of the inertial shift pulling hard at its joints as it nearly crashed to the ground but pulled up short in the last few feet.

Mor’osez, Grexel, and the other wyches Ayasha had sent with them didn’t pay it any heed, however, they were already unlatching their tether hooks and springing to the ground. Mor’osez landed heavily on the worked marble paving, dropping into a short combat roll before popping back to her feet, working hard to refrain from showing any pain from her knees at the impact. Grexel had catapulted herself higher, executing a spiraling series of mid-air pirouettes to absorb her momentum before she almost lightly dropped down next to Mor’osez, the youthful girl casually at ease with the whole motion. Mor’osez grunted softly.

There was a bit of the usual rigmarole with the guards at the gates, though a few remembered her from last time and they at least stayed impeccably polite with her to avoid any additional broken arms. The black robed apprentices finally ushered her and her retinue into one of the inner courtyards, once more taking her to the tiny miniaturized garden. Sitting under the gazebo was Xulfryn, not in any armor this time, but instead a simple off-duty tunic, its sleeves rolled up, splatters of paint staining his hands and forearms. Standing behind him were his two aides, Masters Klarz’ay and Ryldnar.

“Welcome back, Mor’osez, I see you brought friends this time.” Xulfryn glanced over the other wyches coldly, his eyes critically assessing their stances and weaponry.

“Do a few of my friends coming along bother you?”

“What about the Striking Scorpion, is he with you?” This was a question from Ryldnar, a scowl on his face.

Mor’osez glanced at Grexel, whose mirrored face plate reflected her own confused face back at her. Both of them shrugged at the same moment. Mor’osez frowned and tilted her head slightly, Grexel mirroring her perfectly.

“You’re no help,” she offered as she turned back to Ryldnar, “and I don’t know what you’re talking about. I hold here a scroll bearing the mark of Succubus Ayasha, The Symphony, releasing the property of Fay’rezza, the Mistress of Spears, to me, and I also bear the key.” She held out the scroll and key together.

“Honor dictates that we must comply,” noted Ryldnar darkly.

“I say we just cut them all down now anyway,” countered Klarz’ay.

Grexel didn’t say anything but turned her full attention to Klarz’ay. Behind her Mor’osez could hear the other wyches shifting as they prepared themselves for battle. She turned to Xulfryn and smiled.

“This is about to escalate rather out of control, what say we talk it over?”

It was at that point that the roar of screaming jets could be heard tearing through the sky. Mor’osez looked up at the sight of ten Raiders and nearly two-dozen Venoms dropping through the dusky dim morning light. Each of the craft bore the sigil of Bloodied Kiss and all were thickly packed with Wyches armed for battle. She turned back to Xulfryn whose face had gone icy cold as he stared at her.

“So, it is to be compliance or war, eh, wych?”

“I didn’t-“ she began, but even before the words could leave her mouth Xulfryn sprung lightly to his feet.

“Klarz’ay, sound the bells, if you would, the call to battle.”

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Sat Jun 14 2014, 15:06

Thor, Thor! I had a dream about Zak being in an underground prison complex and flirting with a Striking Scorpion and killing guardsmen! What could that mean?
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Mon Jun 16 2014, 15:38

Too much pizza in your diet?

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Sat Jun 21 2014, 04:26

I've been reading this story over the last few days and finally caught up. I just wanted to say wow...masterfully done work of art. It was a pleasure to read and I can't wait to read the final few chapters. Your portrayal of the dark eldar race and the Dark City are amazingly sharp and inspiring. These have really given me some inspiration for my own Kabal background.  Very Happy 
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Sat Jun 21 2014, 18:52

Wow, thank you very much for the kind words!

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Thu Jul 03 2014, 19:35

I have just caught up with this story. I've read it the last couple of weeks while waiting for my kid to fall asleep (and no i didn't read it out loud)

I am a big fan. Probably the best fanfiction I've read, and then about my favorite race. I am really looking forward to the ending. (Let it be soon)

My favorite characters are by far the wyches. I'm in love with Faeth'lyn. Would totally fight Cordus for her. (Feel free to insert that in the story ;-) Just make sure I die a worthy death)

My only critique (if you could call it that) is that your characters are sometimes too "human". Especially Obessa. Dark Eldar are in my mind all psychotic killers with no love for anyone save themselves. And Obessa just doesn't have that psychotic killer feal to her. She feels love, affection, mercy, compasion and empathy. I know it would be boring and twodimensionel if every character was like a shallow version of Kyssindree and I have no idea how else to make it. Obessa just feels more "craftworldy" than commorite. I don't know how else to explain it. Sorry if its to vague, it is by no means ment to draw away from my original statement: This is a frak great story!!

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if it be not now, yet it will come:
The readiness is all: since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes?

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Fri Jul 04 2014, 01:09

No, I think that's a fair and very proper critique. My only counter to it is that I somewhat disagree that all DE are psychotic killers with no love for anyone but themselves. The fluff actually doesn't support that.

What all DE are, are hedonists. DE care first and foremost about what brings them passion, that makes them feel alive and indulged, and important. It is also noted int he fluff how Eldar of all stripes tend to have the ability to experience all human emotions on a much deeper and more consuming scale.

If you then look at my characters I think you're find that all of them have certain drives; Obessa is doing immense and dangerous acts to allow her to seep fully in her enjoyment of love. She has changed her lifestyle, killed people, betrayed 'friends', and is doing everything she can to achieve full focus on that experience. Now, yes, I certainly am choosing to paint it in a way to have it play out as more...heroic, if you will. But I would note that most of the heroic acts she has done have the self-serving end of seeking her own enjoyment. She also is not exactly squeamish about a number of situations she is shown, besides perhaps finding them crass or in poor taste. (A personal favorite of mine is a scene from Trueborn wherein Zak basically murders a guy that Obessa didn't want dead, and functionally they just flirt about it - which is a little messed up if you really stop to think of the situation).

I will admit it's a tricky line, and one I often worry about how I'm dancing around it. I do agree with you that DE are not "nice" by any stretch. I just do think that they can be presented as protagonists without, as you say, making "every character like a shallow version of Kyssindree" Very Happy

Hopefully the future chapters will not fail you in what you hope/expect from DE.

Also, you totally have my sympathy for the Faeth'lyn love, she keeps trying to run away with the story and I do have a hard time saying no to her. I will inform Cordus to meet you on the red sands at peaksun though - come armed Wink

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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Fri Jul 04 2014, 01:45

@Thor665 wrote:
No, I think that's a fair and very proper critique. My only counter to it is that I somewhat disagree that all DE are psychotic killers with no love for anyone but themselves. The fluff actually doesn't support that.

What all DE are, are hedonists. DE care first and foremost about what brings them passion, that makes them feel alive and indulged, and important. It is also noted int he fluff how Eldar of all stripes tend to have the ability to experience all human emotions on a much deeper and more consuming scale.

If you then look at my characters I think you're find that all of them have certain drives; Obessa is doing immense and dangerous acts to allow her to seep fully in her enjoyment of love. She has changed her lifestyle, killed people, betrayed 'friends', and is doing everything she can to achieve full focus on that experience. Now, yes, I certainly am choosing to paint it in a way to have it play out as more...heroic, if you will. But I would note that most of the heroic acts she has done have the self-serving end of seeking her own enjoyment. She also is not exactly squeamish about a number of situations she is shown, besides perhaps finding them crass or in poor taste. (A personal favorite of mine is a scene from Trueborn wherein Zak basically murders a guy that Obessa didn't want dead, and functionally they just flirt about it - which is a little messed up if you really stop to think of the situation).

I will admit it's a tricky line, and one I often worry about how I'm dancing around it. I do agree with you that DE are not "nice" by any stretch. I just do think that they can be presented as protagonists without, as you say, making "every character like a shallow version of Kyssindree" Very Happy

Hopefully the future chapters will not fail you in what you hope/expect from DE.

Also, you totally have my sympathy for the Faeth'lyn love, she keeps trying to run away with the story and I do have a hard time saying no to her. I will inform Cordus to meet you on the red sands at peaksun though - come armed Wink

That is....an extremely insightful viewpoint about the dark eldar. I am very glad I read this before getting too far with my kabal background as it gives me a lot to think about....once again you have both inspired me and given me much to think about good Thor. I tip my tormentor helm at your magnificence good sir.
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Jehoel
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Fri Jul 04 2014, 18:58

You have in no way failed to meet my expectations about the DE. Your story is some of the best DE fluff/fiction I've read. (including black library)

To elaborate on your thesis. What you are saying is that, just as craftworlders strickly follow a path of skills excluding all else, the Commorites do something similar, and simply try to follow a path of fullfillment. They seek the most extreme emotion/experience (which often is associated with an act of violence) and in Obessa's case that just happen to be love.

It makes sence, but I still would like to bring up some points from the codex (Be aware that I am not complaining about your work AT ALL, I just enjoy a good debate)
"Feeding upon the suffering(!) of others is the only way they can stave off the slow death of their own souls"
So they need the pain. It is repeated several times, that although they indulge in sensation and hedonism, the key to their power and survival is pain and death.

Regarding Incubi: "No shred of virtue exists in their bloodstained souls .... their true goal is to kill as often as possible" "The weak (aspirants) are cut down and burned in an offering to Khaine"
Zak doesn't really fit here I think. He is more like an Exarch in my opinion. Too much honor and samurai-ish where he should be more driven by a need to kill. I get that he may use Obessa as a way to live out some sensations he seems to care for her, to a level that may be unheard of, for an incubi.
expecially in the trials, there could have been an emphasis about "you win and live, or you die". It felt as if some of them made it through even though the incubi they faced off against clearly were the better fighter. (Maybe I read it wrong though)

An idea I had, while reading, was to try to include these tendencies along your primary story. When For instance, when Obessa and Zak are taking a bath together, why not have a slave strung up in the ceiling with his artieries punctured, bleeding down in the tub, so it becomes "cosy" DE style

I hope you do not take offence to these remarks, I have the deepest respect for your work.

I havn't read trueborn, but I will certainly be looking for it.

I am really looking forward for the last couple of chapters.

P.S.
Have you though about becoming a black library author. You could totally do that!

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if it be not now, yet it will come:
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Tengu
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Fri Jul 04 2014, 19:30

I was wondering that too.

in my failed Mandrake fic I was concerned that they were becoming too much of a cute family. (but Mandrakes if they do no have tubeborn logically must have some family values...)

and the scene where they were cutting up and cooking a victim (Who had gone from `guest` to `breakfast`) wasn't horror, it was domesticated.

I see DE as having normal emotions too, only CWE try not to feel (coming out like Star trek Vulcans, maybe?)

I don't see `Evil` as being something that in itself can have a functional society (like Commoragh) it would be more anarchic individuals (like Aerlindrach in the Trilogy, Kheraruakh is against the Mandrake kings, as he believes that the ideal is a lone hunter against the universe, like him. However canonicaly Mandrakes form packs, so they must have some modicum of civilised behaviour...and yes, they are literate, so this means they must have culture, teachers, communications.)
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PostSubject: Re: Incubi    Sat Jul 05 2014, 18:32

@Amornar wrote:
I tip my tormentor helm at your magnificence good sir.
santa I tip my santa hat to you Wink

@Jehoel wrote:
"Feeding upon the suffering(!) of others is the only way they can stave off the slow death of their own souls"
So they need the pain. It is repeated several times, that although they indulge in sensation and hedonism, the key to their power and survival is pain and death.
I agree, but consider that two facets.

The reason they need pain is to stave off She Who Thirsts.
The reason She Who Thirsts is after them, is because they explored the deepest reaches of excess and debauchery.

So, excess, hedonism, et al is what DE are about.
They need pain and suffering in order to stay alive so they can still have their hedonism.

Now, for many of them, they like to blur the lines, and I enjoy that aspect of the DE, however it is not, I believe, a given that they must. I will note that even some of my more restrained characters still seem to be invigorated by causing pain/death and certainly do not treat it as a bad thing.

@Jehoel wrote:
Regarding Incubi: "No shred of virtue exists in their bloodstained souls .... their true goal is to kill as often as possible" "The weak (aspirants) are cut down and burned in an offering to Khaine"
Zak doesn't really fit here I think. He is more like an Exarch in my opinion. Too much honor and samurai-ish where he should be more driven by a need to kill. I get that he may use Obessa as a way to live out some sensations he seems to care for her, to a level that may be unheard of, for an incubi.
expecially in the trials, there could have been an emphasis about "you win and live, or you die". It felt as if some of them made it through even though the incubi they faced off against clearly were the better fighter. (Maybe I read it wrong though)
A couple of thoughts happening here.

First off, I will happily admit my Incubi are a bit of a blend of the old Incubi (from the original codex) and the new Incubi. I enjoy both iterations of Incubi, and choose to believe that both exist. It is one of the reasons I refer to the Punisher blade still, and also make comments about the old style skull masks and the new style bladed masks of Incubi.

Basically I choose to believe that there are 'old school' Incubi like Zak or Ryldnar who are still about the twisted code of honor they held in the old dex, and that there are also 'new age' Incubi (like Klarz'ay) who represent the more generic super trained killer mentality.

Also, yes, many students were defeated and still allowed to advance in the trials, you read that correctly. The point was not to see who could beat an Incubus, but rather to see who had mastered all the skills needed in order to be able to be trained to become an Incubus. Certainly some students died (basically, any that engaged a master and showed not enough talent with a given weapon) but as long as the judging panel thought they had showed talent with the weapon, they were spared and advanced on the path. Defeating a master was just an assured way to show that you deserved to advance Wink

@Jehoel wrote:
An idea I had, while reading, was to try to include these tendencies along your primary story. When For instance, when Obessa and Zak are taking a bath together, why not have a slave strung up in the ceiling with his artieries punctured, bleeding down in the tub, so it becomes "cosy" DE style
It's a good idea, I think I do use it sometimes (take, for example, Kyssindree and Luaae flirting and joking while throwing knives into a captive, or a certain Haemunculus' methods of re-stringing his harp while chatting up a wych) and will admit sometimes I do not (the aforementioned bath). My basic idea is that the Incubi Temple in this story is still a bit 'reserved' if you will, and chooses to focus on martial discipline a bit more than on having slaves around to butcher. It is mostly a toss back to my idea that the Incubi from the old codex still, functionally, exist in Commoragh.

@Jehoel wrote:
I hope you do not take offence to these remarks, I have the deepest respect for your work.
No offense taken, I LOVE getting feedback like this!

@Jehoel wrote:
Have you though about becoming a black library author. You could totally do that!
I wouldn't even know where to begin to get that sort of job.

@Tengu wrote:
I don't see `Evil` as being something that in itself can have a functional society (like Commoragh) it would be more anarchic individuals (like Aerlindrach in the Trilogy, Kheraruakh is against the Mandrake kings, as he believes that the ideal is a lone hunter against the universe, like him.  However canonicaly Mandrakes form packs, so they must have some modicum of civilised behaviour...and yes, they are literate, so this means they must have culture, teachers, communications.)
It is a fine line to walk. The DE have a society, and though they are self-serving at heart they also appear to have the ability to form semi-functional alliances (even if only for mutual benefit until a better opportunity arises).

I prefer to think of them, mentally, like criminals. Criminals have many levels of organization, but even though they are basically in it for themselves, a look at pirates or mobsters shows the ability to form into cohesive organizations and even to abide by the rules (again, unless a better opportunity presents itself). DE, to my mind, can and will have 'loyalty' and I also think the books do a semi-decent job of showing that they don't really consider themselves evil - to them all other non-Eldar species are just vermin/food/entertainment. It would be like asking me if I thought it was evil to eat carrots - because it's mean to carrots. The idea might be whimsical and amusing for a second as I considered it, but I would never take it seriously. So, amongst themselves they're Mafia, and everyone else is a carrot - that's how I view them.

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