Chapter 15: The Invitations
Having put on a form fitting, white, exercise suit, Obessa stretched out her stiff arm as she walked to the practice rooms. The work on her arm had been well done, reattaching the muscles and tendons that Kyssindree had sliced free from the bone, though it had left it feeling a little off. Obessa hoped a bit of time spent sparring would work out the last few kinks. The wealth of House Douraal made this easier, because his fortress manor housed many facilities to give warriors a chance to hone their skills. She paused to glance at a glowing sheet of ionized crystal that showed the workout routines and, with a tap of her finger, informed her who was in each room. A small smirk appeared on her mouth as she spotted one in particular.
Most of the rooms were occupied with visiting Wyches who had made some drastic requisitions of available sparring slaves. Knowing the Wyches of her Cult, Obessa sighed as she suspected few of the slaves would be returned in any shape to spar later. Many of the other rooms held young Kabalite Warriors in training sessions, a prospect that normally would bore her, but for the name of the instructor.
Zak Phaer’irr was out of his armor, wearing the loose black pants and tight black top of the Kabalite training uniform, nothing besides the silver streak of white in his otherwise dark hair differentiated him from the swarm of young Eldar hard at work. He walked around the room, offering comments and thoughts to dozens of dueling students, each of them dressed as he was. Obessa smiled when she saw that the students were practicing with naked blades, and not synthetic mockeries. A group of three Kabalites who had been discussing weapon choices in hand to hand combat looked up in interest as she arrived.
“Hello there,” offered one of them, his eyes drifting across her chest, “can I help you?”
“I have doubts,” she noted softly, “I came for a workout and to see Zak.”
“Master Phaer’irr is busy right now,” offered the young man as he leaned back against the wall by the weapon rack, “but if you’re looking for someone to work out with…” He lifted his eyebrows meaningfully.
Obessa paused as she considered him carefully for a moment, noting the way he rested, and his grip on the spiked dagger in his hand. Then she glanced at his friends, a broad shouldered youth with a scar under his left eye, and a willow thin blonde girl toying with a short hafted battle spear. She smiled as she shrugged.
“Okay, all three of you ought to do.”
She turned to the weapon rack, critically looking over the multitude of options from bladed gauntlets, barbed garrote wire, and more than a dozen varieties of short blades. She selected a dueling knife, its serrated blade and copper handle looking quite fine to her eyes and tested it for weight before striding out towards the closest empty training mat.
“All three of us?” The swaggering young man called out to her, “you want to warm up first?”
Obessa reached the center of the mat, turning around slowly as she lifted the blade into a guard position and fell into a loose battle stance. “This is the warm up.”
“Ah…” the youth glanced at his partners and smirked, “okay then.”
Despite the insult the three kept their heads admirably, and didn’t rush in like untrained fools. A mark in their favor. The braggart was the clear leader of the trio as he took up his knife and the center position. The big one readied a pair of thick punch daggers and slipped off to her left side, away from her weapon arm. The blonde shoved her hair out of her face and fell in beside and slightly behind the leader, ready to serve as his aide. A classic Kabalite combat approach, she noted, the primary threat to distract, the secondary threat to overbalance, and the tertiary strike to lay low the opponent.
A good strategy.
If your opponent was a fool.
She turned and sprang at the bulky youth. His position made him a threat, but also moved him away from the support of his allies. He’d also looked like a likely chance to be the best fighter, and having a two handed fighting style suggested this as well. Obessa fought almost equally well with either hand, but found it trickier to use both in tandem.
The youth was caught unready, but responded well. Her first lunge was blocked, and two blindingly quick slashes at his face were dodged as he backpedaled from her onslaught. Even as she struck she was trying to shift around his side, not enough to clue him in, but just enough to allow her to keep a slight awareness of the approach of the last two. She saw that the blonde was leading the rush, her short spear in her hand and ready to thrust. Obessa almost allowed herself a smile.
Her attacks continued towards his face, she had to work fast and hard to have him keep both of his arms high, blocking her attacks with the armored forearms of his punch blades. It was almost funny that his eyes, that up until then had been glancing behind her to see the approach of his friend, suddenly focused totally on her. It was funny that most fighters would make such an obvious bluff when they hoped to fool you into paying all your attention to them. Obessa did allow herself a very faint smile then, as she heard the slight pad of the willowy blonde coming to a stop and thrusting her spear out.
Obessa spun to her side, her right hand blade batting at his face one last time to keep his arms up, reaching out with her left hand to grab the spear and help guide it in. As expected, the blonde had been a bit too eager and had thrust wildly, lacking proper control. The spear plunged into the muscular torso of the punch dagger wielding male, just missing anything too vital. He howled in pain as he staggered backwards.
Wasting not a second, but appreciating the look of shock from the blonde, Obessa released the spear and promptly backhanded the girl across the face, following up with a knife thrust that the braggart just barely managed to step in and block with his own spiked dagger. There was a half moment of concern, as the spikes on that dagger were weapon breakers, so Obessa had to be prepared to move with the attempt and free her blade, but the youth clearly didn’t understand the weapon as he chose to use it simply to block. A heartbeat later and Obessa’s blade was free of any danger and she could dictate the pace of the match again.
The next few seconds were a blur of blade play. The blonde recovered quickly and had a dagger sheathed on her leg that she drew and quickly brought into play. Fighting the pair of them together was not taxing, though it did cause a few pangs of annoyance from her arm as she blocked some of their more strenuous attacks. They might have been able to put her on her back heels a bit, but they were woefully undertrained in fighting as a pair, which to a Wych like herself was criminal. All it took was a few steps to her left or her right and they kept stumbling around so as to avoid hurting each other.
Feeling her arm loosening up, Obessa ended it. An overanxious slash by the blonde forced the boy to shift away to not be hit. Obessa simply leaned back, her feet not having to move, to avoid the swing. Stepping forward sharply she caught a fistful of the blonde’s wildly sweeping hair, twisting her fingers in it as she wrenched hard. The girl squealed in pain and surprise as she was pulled off her feet. Obessa’s leg snapped up in a sharp kick, catching the girl right on the chin. Her jaw clicked together as her head jerked back, and the squeal was instantly silenced. Releasing her hair Obessa blocked an awkward lunge from the boy and proceeded to up the tempo on him, battering his blade this way and that, opening wide his defenses, before disarming him and placing her knife right at his throat all in one smooth motion.
Someone was clapping.
Obessa looked up to see Zak Phaer’irr, and, indeed, the entire rest of the class was watching. His dark eyes were locked on her. She nodded in thanks to the bragging youth as she withdrew her blade from his throat. He swallowed and stepped back, bowing slightly to her.
“A Wych of the Bloodied Kiss, an excellent specimen to see in battle,” noted Zak to the class as he stepped onto the practice mat to walk over and look at the stab wound from the spear. “Before we take you to the medic,” he said to the boy, “which you will need, would you like to tell me the mistake you made?”
“Separated too far from my unit in the face of an unknown enemy.” The boy’s voice cracked with pain but he spoke the words firmly.
“Not underestimated enemy?”
“Perhaps that too.”
“Good.” Zak motioned to two of the students who came forward and lifted up the wounded Dark Eldar. Zak then walked over to the braggart and the blonde. She had recovered enough to stand up, though she was still unsteady on her feet and her bloody face was already starting to swell up. “You’re going to need some dermal regeneration, but you’ll finish the class like that, it will be good to learn to fight through and to understand your pain in combat.” The blonde nodded. “What led to you two failing?”
“We were overmatched,” offered the girl bitterly through slurring lips as she glared at Obessa.
“We hadn’t trained enough in two on one combat to understand how to exploit our advantages,” the braggart answered after a bit more thought.
“Decent answers in their own way.” Zak glanced at Obessa. “What do you think?”
She paused for a moment, wondering if he wanted her to pander to him, or to answer with honesty. A look at his dark eyes made her suspect he was not a man who needed much pandering. “Lack of training in combat coordination, certainly. But from choosing to enter battle giving away advantages to your enemy like unbound hair, not knowing how to use the weapons you chose to equip, or splitting your forces and not being ready for an attack, suggests an inherent failure in the method of their training.”
“Indeed…” Zak nodded thoughtfully. “What would you suggest?”
“More comprehensive drilling in all the weapons here, for starters. You can’t fight unless you know what your weapon does. Then, more group drills, it will come up in combat more often than single duels.”
“You all heard that,” Zak intoned gravely as he turned back to the class. Pair off in groups of three rotating attackers and defenders. Use only a weapon you understand, if anyone sees someone using a weapon wrong, report it for credit and also sending them to an extra guard duty shift…make sure you can explain how they were using it wrong though.”
The class laughed amongst themselves, some laughing harder as a few students awkwardly returned to the weapon rack and switched out some of their more esoteric choices for simpler gear. After making sure they were getting underway, Zak turned his attention from his students to her.
“What are you doing here?” She blurted out.
“Practicing,” he answered simply, he didn’t smile, but there was, perhaps, a slight twinkle to his eyes as he glanced at her. She blushed slightly at his easy deflection of her rather inelegant question, unsure if she was doing so because she thought he was being dismissive of her, or coy.
“No, I meant…you’re an Incubus, why are you training Kabalites?“
“Boredom, mostly,” he shrugged. “I am stationed here, but am not on duty at all times. When I am not on duty I find myself looking for things to do. This is something the Kabal seemed to feel comfortable with me doing, as I won’t steal any of their precious secrets from trainees, and it at least pleases me to make sure most of them know which end of the dagger to hold…though perhaps I’m not as good of an instructor as I hoped.” His answer did little to remove the slight crimson flush on her cheeks. She hoped he took it for exertion from her workout. “I was worried about how well you’d recover from your injuries.”
“I’m fine,” she held up her right forearm to show him that not even a scar marred her smooth skin.
“Are you? I wonder.” He considered her arm for a moment, his lips pursing slightly. Then, with a turn, he walked over to the weapon rack and selected a pair of matched long knives, eyeing their blades critically as he tested their grip in his hands.
“What does that mean, exactly?”
“You taught my students about some of the possible failures on a battlefield, but not all of them.” His voice was as hard to read as his eyes, calm and modulated, she began to wonder if he ever yelled or cried out.
“Oh,” she smiled, “which did you think I left out?”
“Becoming emotionally involved.”
He spun around in a blur and came in at her, one of the knives coming in a looping overhand, the other snapping up underneath, looking to trap her blade as she blocked the first swing. Obessa rotated her arm quickly, dipping the blade of her weapon as she blocked the overhand, using the force of his swing to overbalance him. Her reverse slash at his gut almost connected, if Zak hadn’t backpedalled quickly she would have gutted him, instead all that happened was his shirt was slashed open, a very light trickle of blood seeping from a razor thin cut across his muscled abdomen.
“Ah…would you look at that,” he glanced down at the wound.
“I’m sorry you-” she began to apologize, and then caught herself. “Wait, no, I’m actually not sorry, what were you trying to do?”
“I was just curious if you even knew how to defend from that attack. Maybe the wreck left you very confused?” He then peeled off his shirt to reveal the tightly muscled torso beneath it, laced with dozens of half seen scars from various battles. He tossed the shirt aside, and this time as he rushed in at her Obessa could tell he was imitating the battle style of a Wych of the Bloodied Kiss. More specifically – he was imitating Kyssindree.
“What are you doing?” She spat the question at him as she batted aside his attacks, a flash of annoyance edging into her voice as she suspected she already knew.
“You seemed to crumble so easily to this.” Zak’s dark eyes were deadly serious now, black and menacing. “My plan was to just take you apart and have my way with you. That seems to be your response of choice.”
“Wha-?” Obessa snapped out a quick kick at his shin, but Zak spun away and redoubled his attack. Even using a fighting style unfamiliar to him, his hold of two blades and the blinding hand speed and near perfect footwork was leaving her on the defensive.
“Is that what you want, to be dominated? Many do prefer that.”
”Is that so?” Obessa feinted and cut to her right before spinning back to her left, catching at his wrist with her empty left hand before lashing out with a cut to slash open his arm with her other. He barely managed to get his knife in between, their hilts crashing together as he locked the blades.
“Wonderful,” he breathed softly. The stiffness suddenly left him as he pulled her towards him, rotating his hips to toss her off him. She spun in midair to land lightly on her feet, blade at the ready, but Zak had obviously finished, his matched blades now down at his sides as he regarded her with those annoyingly unreadable eyes.
“You don’t know anything about me,” she hissed between clenched teeth.
“I hope that’s true,” he said matter-of-factly, "because if it isn’t then you don’t know anything about yourself.”
Obessa snarled as she turned away, slamming the knife back into the weapon rack as she stalked out of the practice room.
The meeting was being held in a small shanty building set off the back end of one of the less reputable bazaars in the Market of Slashed Wrist. The owner had owed Ben’rik some favors, so they had been granted a small safe haven to finish some of their last minute planning. The other survivors of The Howlers came trickling back in small groups, bearing reports of which groups they had managed to convince to join the raid, and which had demurred, and which had been outright threatening.
Sitting in front of the small heater that barely chased the chill out of the air, his face cloaked in flickering shadows from the green flaring lights of the fire in the heater’s iron grille, Tael held a review of each and every message that came in. Standing at his side, a smirk on her face, and her arms folded over her chest, was Kyssindree. Her positioning was beginning to make it very clear to Ben’rik that his role as, perhaps, secondary advisor, was being diminished yet again.
For not the first time that day he regretted that he hadn’t managed to successfully kill the man.
Oh, it was no deep judgment on him at this point. He was being fair enough, certainly. He’d betrayed The Howlers and cost them ample wealth. But, at the same time, he really had been working on a deeper plan, and though it was clear he’d needed the deaths at the party to both lull the Kabal into a sense of security and to also serve as a polarizing event to unite many of the great Hellion gangs under one banner, he certainly held no individual grudges to the gang, and indeed had made them, to a man, prime lieutenants in the entire affair, well positioned to reap the most rewards from the raid at very minor additional risk.
“When you count in his slave holdings I suspect we’re safe to count his pledge as at least an additional fifty blades, bringing my total to four hundred and twenty seven blades.” The speaker was Dael’iis, one of the gangers who’d escaped with Wren during the siege, he was justifying the worth of the forces he was bringing to the affair through his efforts for later accounting when the spoils were divided.
“I count it as two hundred and twelve,” noted Kyssindree, “you can only count slaves as half a blade each.”
“They fight as well as anyone else,” he sputtered.
“No,” Kyssindree laughed at him, “no, they really don’t.” She waved her hand in dismissal, “get out of my face, you twit.” Her laughter followed him out the door, and Ben’rik was reminded again why he’d never liked her. Well, the attitude in addition to her chosen alliance with Tael, naturally. But she was always so full of herself and her training as a wych, as though that somehow made her better than the rest of them.
Ben’rik had killed wyches in his time, and he’d seen the proud popinjays dragged down by slaves as well. They were more flashy, certainly, and on average of a fine caliber of training, but he’d rather take a dozen bladesmen who’d survived on the streets of Commoragh for decades, scraping and crawling their way through life, then count on twelve wyches fresh out of their academies and proud of their ability to use a spinning decapitation move as though that was somehow superior to a simple gutting. More artistic, perhaps, but at the end of the day he was usually more concerned about the profit and the pain then in how artistically he’d accomplished them.
“We’re getting some interesting news from Shattered Soul,” Ben’rik said after he’d escorted Dael’iis out and informed the two street gangers guarding the door not to let anyone in for the next hour.
“A party of some sort, I imagine.”
“Yes…” Ben’rik blinked in surprise, he’d been with Tael all day and knew no one had told him about the gathering planned for House Douraal.
“Don’t act so surprised,” Tael laughed, “the old man always hosts a huge party whenever an important foe or raid is finished. I rather suspected I would count as such.”
“Indeed,” added Kyssindree, “we were planning on it, it will be the perfect cover for us when we sneak in to disable the fission generators.”
“I suppose that will indeed work out,” Ben’rik shrugged, “but we will need to figure out a manner of getting in still, because it’s not like security is going to be more lax on the outside.”
“I was rather planning to go as a guest in order to appreciate all the splendor The Shattered Soul could offer.” Tael, his smile flashing, reached out to put an arm across Kyssindree’s hips, “besides, we could probably do with some culture in our lives.”
“You need to wait to-“ The raised voice from outside was cut short as the door rattled inwards. One of the guards was sent sprawling onto the floor, another was gasping for air, doubled over on his knees in pain, holding his hand which was spurting blood from where two of his fingers had once been. Her ratty leather cloak tossing in the cold gusts of wind outside, Wren stood in the doorway, a feral snarl on her lips.
“I wouldn’t do that, if I was you,” offered Ben’rik casually to the doorman, “she likes having guns pointed at her even less than being touched.”
The guard was one of the recruits who’d shown up already, some member of a little street gang or other. He’d been going for his pistol, but Ben’rik’s raised hand halted the motion. Wren’s narrowed eyes considered the boy for a few moments, then she grunted as she turned away from him and walked up to Tael, her features instantly softening, then growing darker again as she noticed his arm possessively on Kyssindree.
“Wren,” Tael smiled sweetly as Ben’rik quietly hustled the guard back outside, “I wasn’t expecting you back…so soon. I’m guessing you have something important to tell me?”
The girl’s face flickered through a handful of emotions.
“What about the gangs you were supposed to recruit?” Kyssindree leaned against Tael, draping herself on his broad shoulders as she kept her gaze locked on Wren. “You were able to convince them to join us, I presume?”
Wren frowned, hissing at Kyssindree slightly, but upon seeing that Tael looked interested as well she shook her head slightly at his questioning eyes, but then hurriedly pulled out a small bone and stone necklace, smiling hopefully as she held it up for him to see. She nodded happily as she offered it to him.
“That is a necklace, that is not soldiers,” Tael spoke slowly to her, as one might a child. “I thought I made my intentions to you clear? Were you unable to understand them?”
“Pledge,” mewled Wren as she pointed to the glyphs on the necklace, “Beastmaster’s pledge!” She smiled again, desperately hoping.
Tael reached out to take the necklace, eyes narrowing as he considered it for a few moments. “Judging by the marks it’s one hunting band only, if I recall correctly To’kar’s band had…ten warriors in it.” He handed the necklace over to Kyssindree, who wrinkled her nose at the sight of it and promptly deposited it, with a toss, into a back corner behind the heater. “Mark her down for eleven shares.”
“Eleven,” Kyssindree smiled as she noted the number, “which puts her only about a hundred shares behind the next lowest performer.” She looked up to smile at Wren, “maybe next time just go and talk to the people you were told to? It’s complicated, but I understand it works.”
“Now, now.” Tael stood up and shushed Kyssindree as he reached out to cup Wren’s chin. “Ten more blades is still ten more blades.” Wren’s face softened immediately, a small purring coo escaping her lips. “Besides, she performed basically just as well as I would have expected her to.” He patted her cheek as he reached out to grab Kyssindree and head for the exit. “Ben’rik, I leave you to see to the invitations, I think we’ll need four, one for each of us.”
“Oh, of course, I’ll just nip out and pick up four invitations to an Archon’s gala the day before it’s going to happen, no problems.” Ben’rik stood up as well, collecting his gear as he mumbled a few curses about Tael.
As he made to depart he glanced back at Wren. She still stood in the room, one hand on her cheek where Tael had patted her, her brow furrowed as she considered his last words. It was perhaps worth puzzling on, in typical Tael fashion they could be taken as a defense of her, or a thinly veiled insult.
Tybalt had made about as good a living as one could hope for in the Dark City, at least as good as one could hope for while being a ‘Mon’keigh’ which is what most of the natives insisted on calling him even when he made it clear that his race was known as ‘human’ instead. He’d once got one of his friendliest Dark Eldar trading partners fairly drunk and asked him why that was. The answer had been clinical in its simplicity, and chilling in its honesty.
Do you care what your pet calls itself as long as it isn’t foolish enough to piss on the carpet or try to bite your hand?
Reasoning like that was rife in the Dark City. It was one of the things Tybalt respected the Dark Eldar for. They were right bastards, through and through. But they did it with such an honest expectation that the universe…owed these things to them. It was gratifying to know, that in the grand scheme of things, his own little criminal empire was probably likely to be looked upon as petty and almost respectable compared to the machinations of even the average Dark Eldar.
It was also why he’d hired Golt. The abhuman was all muscle and force, but he was a good way to keep negotiations peaceful. It hadn’t taken Tybalt long to figure out that the only way to even remotely ensure he was paid when dealing with Dark Eldar was to showcase his ability to bring deadly force to bear. Also, he’d learned, you were occasionally obligated to showcase that deadly force on a regular basis, because if you didn’t constantly remind the other denizens of The City how dangerous you were you’d end up dead in a second.
It was careful considerations like this that had made Tybalt’s Trade House a respected name in Port Heiden, and earned him a reputation as the most influential Mon’Keigh in the Dark City this side of the Spire. As such, when he approached the front door of his barter shop and found it ajar he motioned to Golt to lead the way. Obligingly hefting a massive hand cannon the hulking brute stomped forward, poking his head through the entryway and, after a moment, grunting to Tybalt that he could enter safely.
The inside of the shop was a wild mélange of goods for sale, ranging from bins of clothing, assorted pieces of armor, dozens of weapons, oils, unguents, poisons, antidotes, and other oddities plundered from across the face of the galaxy. Tybalt had done a decent business for himself because many of the alien traders preferred to deal exclusively with him, knowing he would charge them a premium but content to pay it in exchange for not risking their goods or their lives by sitting across from a Dark Eldar at a bartering table.
Waiting in his shop was a rakish Dark Eldar, sitting upon an ancient vellumwood chair and leaning back in it, the expensive and delicate wood creaking slightly at the abuse. His booted feet propped upon a unique wraithbone case that still bore some spirit stones within it. He was reading an alien book, or at least pretending to. He’d purloined a pair of spectacles and perched them upon his nose, even though, with one of his eyes hidden behind an embroidered eyepatch, it was fairly certain it was just for show. The Dark Eldar smiled as he entered the room and lifted up his hands, wiggling his fingers to show he held no weapons…for now.
“Don’t worry my friend, I am just here to talk, you do not need your bodyguard.”
He spoke in his native tongue, which Tybalt spoke somewhat fluently, at least as well as any outsider could master the intricate language which paired multiple inflections and fairly subtle body movement to impart dozens of alternate meanings to an otherwise identical word. It was a rough translation though, after all, there was no actual word for ‘friend’ in the Dark Eldar language, at least not one they had ever used in his presence. The more direct translation was, ‘ally whom I foresee no current need or desire to betray’.
“We’re closed.” Tybalt took off his cloak that he’d been wearing to keep out the misty damp of the lower Ports. He was wearing clothing that was cut in a style not improper for a man of means in the Dark City, but was notably not of Dark Eldar design. They may have just been bemused if he did that, but there was a decent chance they would have killed him for aping his betters, and so he’d seen fit to alter the design enough to still include touch elements of slave apparel. Just to be safe.
“Your door is open now. You are here, I am here.” The Dark Eldar smiled, it wasn’t a friendly smile.
“I don’t trade with thieves.” Again, the translation was simply the closest one could manage in the language. There was no real word for thief. The phrase more literally meant ‘someone too weak or foolish to successfully take what they desire.’
“I feel as though we have started on the wrong foot here,” offered the Dark Eldar. “For starters, I will admit to a certain amount of foolishness, simply because I could not find what I wanted before you returned. I believe now we should properly barter for the item.”
It sounded like an insane request, fail to steal something and then demand the right to barter for it. At least it would have seemed insane to most humans, but Tybalt had long ago developed a familiarity with some of the cultural oddities of the race. He sighed and ground his teeth slightly. He should probably at least barter with the fellow long enough to learn if he had many allies. If not, then he could have Golt put a round through his head and dump him out for the cadaver carts to pick up. He nodded in agreement.
“Excellent, my name is Ben’rik,” the Dark Eldar made a slight forward bow, though obviously done in a mocking manner. Even the lowliest of Dark Eldar was clearly above the mightiest of Mon’keigh in the social structure of the Dark City. “But I do not believe you’ve met Wren yet.”
The basket of clothes beside Tybalt suddenly surged upwards, revealing a thin slip of a figure with a blazing mop of spikey red hair. In its hand was one of the helmets from the shock troop armor set along the back wall. Even as Golt managed to turn around the figure grabbed his collar, smashing the helmet into his face repeatedly with meaty wet crunching noises.
Tybalt realized then that things were out of control, and his finely trained reflexes responded in the smartest method he’d devised for survival in this place. He ran for the door.
It was too late though, he could feel the painful jab of a blade slapping into his shoulder and he was sent tumbling to the ground. The thin red head was on him in the blink of an eye. Steely strong fingers grabbed his vest and hauled him off the floor to crash down atop the sales counter. Even before he could register the movement the figure was on top of him, only then seeming to slow down enough for him to follow it. A young, female, Dark Eldar. She held a bloody knife in her hand, the same one that she had thrown into his shoulder, she must have extracted it sometime during hauling him around. She smiled, her teeth had been filed into razor sharp points and glittered menacingly.
“Wren doesn’t like you very much,” offered Ben’rik as she slashed open Tybalt’s coat and tore it off him to reveal his bare chest. “Let me be honest with you, Mon’keigh, I don’t like you very much either. But the main difference between me and dear, sweet, Wren here, is that I think it is smart to at least leave you alive after we work our deal, and she wishes to kill you because she is not exactly having the most enjoyable week possible.”
Wren’s eyes gleamed with an unhealthy sheen of intensity as she hissed softly in the back of her throat. It sounded like a cat he had once owned, playing with a twitching rat it had caught. Tybalt found himself regretting making that connection in his head.
“You know of Archon Douraal’s Masquerade Ball this evening?”
“Yes, of course.” Tybalt winced as Wren began toying with his nipple using the pointed edge of the bloodstained knife.
“Word on the street is that you have some invitations for sale.”
“Yes. You want them? You can have them!”
“Oh, I know that, we all know that.” Ben’rik grinned as he leaned in closer. “Where are they?”
“Left vest pocket,” Tybalt indicated the coat Wren had cut off him. As Ben’rik leaned down to retrieve the invitations the hulking figure of Golt began to stir and push itself to its feet. Wren was suddenly across the room and on Golt’s back, moving in that preternatural burst of speed that the Dark Eldar just seemed to take for granted but always left Tybalt feeling as though he was moving in slow motion around them. Even as he registered she was off his chest she’d already resumed striking Golt repeatedly with the dented and bloody shock helmet. By the time Tybalt started to sit up Wren was leaping back atop him, her smooth legs straddling his chest in an erotic posture even as she leaned forward and growled menacingly in his face. He felt all color drain from it as he flopped back obligingly on the table underneath her, which at least made her grin that horrible fanged smile again.
“Two more of them, not bad, not bad at all,” said Ben’rik as though nothing had happened, “but we do have a problem. We need at least one more tonight.”
“One more invitation?”
“Yes, you are a clever one.” Ben’rik smiled like Tybalt would have smiled at a five year old pick pocket just learning the trade. “Time is growing a little short for us, so allow me to make the deal fair for you. You will provide us the name of someone who can allow us to procure one more invitation, in exchange Wren will be convinced not to try for a new skinning speed record. She’d have to move quite fast to beat her current time. “
Tybalt nodded slowly. It wasn’t a bad offer, he could even use it to steer these two lunatics towards a business competitor he wished to deal some mischief towards and…his eyes narrowed.
“You said two…more. That means you already visited someone?”
“Yes,” Ben’rik shrugged.
“And you only need one more after this…okay, I’ll provide you the perfect name and also provide you the name of the Guard Captain at the Portside gate of the house, if you mention my name it will expedite matters for you getting past security.”
“And why do we get this exemplary service?”
“Because you’re going to tell me the name of whom you visited before me.” Tybalt licked his lips nervously as he looked into Ben’rik’s one good eye. He knew he may have just assured himself some truly focused torture and pain from Wren, but he also knew that whoever these two had visited first had been trying to do him and his business much mischief.
Ben’rik suddenly let out with a deep belly laugh.
“Look at that, Wren, the little Mon’keigh is starting to think like an Eladrith Ynneas.”
Ben’rik had just said Tybalt was starting to think like one of the Eldar who Walks in Shadow – the Dark Eldar. It was the most intense compliment he’d ever been handed in all his years here. Tybalt let out a slight sigh, there was a fairly good chance he wasn’t going to be tortured any more now.
After some fine detail discussion the two left. Tybalt sat on his counter, quite pleased with the name he now had. He would see to this rival, and he would crush him like the gnat he was for trying to harm Tybalt. It was dangerous to sit across a bargaining table from the Dark Eldar, but sometimes the rewards, ah, yes, the rewards were sometimes well worth it.
With a groan Golt slowly pushed himself to his knees, blood drooling out of his nose, mouth, and one of his eyeballs that had swollen shut. Tybalt frowned down at him.
“You’re fired, by the way.”
As promised, a Saturday update, and it's decently beefy too.
Needless to say, I rather like Tybalt - plus it was fun to get a chance to clarify Dark Eldar a bit from the more 'common' perception of a human. I wanted to showcase the speed and the casual superiority a bit more, and other Dark Eldar would take both of those things as so commonplace it was hard to properly showcase them when the narrator was another Dark Eldar, so Tybalt served very nice for that role, plus, the idea of humans living and 'working' in Commoragh is fluff and also a rather interesting idea that I wanted to explore a touch.
Also, Wren probably needed a bit of a release.
Next Chapter we have a minor raid that might be quite important.
A bit of clothes shopping.
And, yes, they will finally go to the party, wherein the grand finale cannot be far behind.