- Objectionable Content Warnings:
In which a bitter rivalry, born two centuries ago, is set to be bought to it's conclusion.
Commorragh. Many thought of it as the Eternal City, Archon Duhrvan Altrix thought of it as home. More specifically, his half of the spire he called home. Thankfully, he thought to himself, he had use of the upper half of the spire while a second Archon still stubbornly clung to the halls and deep-rooted tunnels of the foundations of the spire. Archon Kyramar Altrix; even the name of his bitter rival and irked Duhrvan, though he had a respect for the dogged oaf he once called Uncle. Two centuries ago Kyramar murdered his brother; the Archon at the time of the Flayed Hydra Kabal, and sought to claim sole control of the Kabal. The fact that his father was murdered would have usually been an event of joyous celebration for Duhrvan, but not for his Uncle's (not entirely unforeseen) treachery. His rival and relative had gathered about him a handful of Dracons, and nearly half of the Kabal's force of trueborn warriors and Duhrvan ensnared the other half. Since then the pair had been locked in a bitter struggle of plots, counter-plots, assassination attempts and several messy bouts of all-out conflict within the massive spire's halls, steps and docking rings.
And so, Archon Duhrvan Altrix sat upon his throne carved of obsidian set with massive rubies at it's base; a gaudy and ugly thing he thought. He drummed his armoured fingertips on the glass to a rhythm idly as he sat in deep thought, paying little heed to the petty entertainments that gathered in his court. Functionally nude Wyches acrobatically dodged swipes and feints from each other, leaving tiny kisses from their blades and barbs on the pale flesh of each other, eliciting single beads of blood to seep down and drip onto the floor, while slaves of many races were tended to by a Haemonculus hidden from sight by a massive feathered robe, creating a melodious symphony of agony and terror. Whatever lack of taste his father had, he was certainly no idiot. The throne was not simply a hunk of solid glass and gemstones. Beneath a thin layer of the obsidian was hidden a small, but potent forcefield generator, and he kept his finger upon the activation trigger at all times. Three times now an assassin from the very halls beneath his feet had stalked up the immense spire and into the Archon's sanctuary to attempt at his life. Two of those three times the forcefield built into the throne saved him from being forced to relinquish his control over the upper half of the Kabal's spire. The first, the forcefield generator was tested to it's limit as a Kabalite disguised as one of his own levelled a Dark Light lance at him. Half the room had been obliterated and he had to go through the tiresome and painful experience of having his eyes and ocular implants replaced. The second assassination attempt he was unsure whether it was his Uncle, or the Supreme Overlord, Asdrubael Vect. One could never rule out the Supreme Overlord when it came to determining the source of an assassination. Duhrvan had the distinct impression it was the Supreme Tyrant that had made an attempt on his life, as the assassination came in the form of a gift. A Craftworld made Melta-Bomb concealed and rigged for detonation upon delivery. Again, most of the floor and pillars had to be replaced due to the damage the infernal device caused to his home - but the forcefield held up quite well, and was proving an invaluable piece of technology. The third time his Incubi had been swift enough to counter the vile upstart Dracon seeking to plunge an ancient Aeldari spear into his chest. That was - by far - the most amusing assassination attempt he had dodged. Watching the young fool yell his intention and throw the spear from the arched doorway at the far end of the room would have been amusing enough - but watching his Incubi snatch the spear from the air and return it to the throat of the would-be assassin was a highlight he would not soon forget. He had since named that very Incubi warrior his personal protector and confidante; that stood at his side day and night, apparently tirelessly."Ar'ohis."
The Archon commanded. The Incubi stepped from the Archon's side to the steps of the throne, holding his Klaive in salute."Archon."
The Incubi spoke through the grille of his tall helmet, masking the true pitch of his voice. From what Duhrvan could tell he was young and virile, a prime example of an Incubi."Have the Incubi bar the door, and watch the windows. Bring me my Dracons. Have them meet me in the gardens. When you are done, come to me. You have a role of great importance in my upcoming plans."
Duhrvan let forth a wicked grin, drumming his fingers on the arm of the throne."At once, Archon."
The Incubi bowed his head, and stalked from the steps of the throne, and down the long hall to the door. The Throne room of the Kabal of the Flayed Hydra was designed with assassination attempts in mind. It was long enough that a keen-eyed Archon would (hopefully) have time to activate the forcefield before an assailant's projectile had time to reach them. The door at the end of the immense hall was an iris of overlapping plates that could withstand the blast of just about any weapon small enough to fit in the antechamber the other side. It was a full ten minutes before the Ah'ohis, the Archon's most trusted Incubi guardian, was out of sight."Haemonculus. Dispose of those slaves and prepare your instruments."
Duhrvan ordered, not caring to glance away from the iris as it slid closed rapidly behind the Incubi."Of course, Archon."
The Haemonculus turned away from conducting the musical choir of pain. Her face was beautiful, perfect and purely so. An unmarred, unblemished and perfectly formed face seeming to have been plucked straight from a portrait of the ancient Eldar Goddess Isha. Her plush and full lips curved into a kind and gentle smile, her eyes closed in mock-serenity. Her ash-white hair fell in a cascade of silk around her gently sloping cheekbones and slender, delicate jaw. Her porcelain coloured skin made the ash of her hair look positively dark. This was, however, the only beautiful thing about the female Haemonculus. Beneath the open-fronted robe the full horror of the female Eldar was revealed. From the neck down her body seemed to twist and contort like the stretched and withered body of a crone. Her spine had apparently been abberated and elongated to form a curlicue so that she stood bolt-upright, but her body twisted grotesquely. Bone jutted from her front where her ribs would be, on each protrusion a black gemstone set at it's tip. Duhrvan knew these to be functional ocular gemstones, so that the monstrous woman could keep her real eyes (if they were even her real eyes) closed to maintain the illusion of serenity in her face. From beneath her robe sprang several sets of arms; six in total, each with subtly different modifications and tools of her gory atristry affixed - save for the uppermost arms which still had hands somewhat resembling natural Eldar hands. He did greatly appreciate the Haemonculus' sense of artistry and irony. "Might I ask..."
her voice, also, was melodic and beautiful - though it did not come from her obvious mouth, nor voicebox. Again, these were circumvented to maintain the beauty of her statuesque bust. Duhrvan knew not where the Haemonculus' true mouth nor voice box were, and cared not to ask. "... what manner of service I will be providing for you, Archon?""Alterations of form. Nothing so extreme or artful as I usually allow you under my patronage. Minor, but important, adjustments."
He waved his hand sharply to dismiss her, and thus she bowed with great flourish and stalked away - several wracks seeming to leap from the shadows to cart away the wailing, sobbing, dying slaves.
The gardens of the Flayed Hydra's spire were a thing of true beauty. For all the ugly messes and dark horrors that were relished and sought after in the Eternal City, the denizens of High Commorragh were certainly known for creating beautiful works of architecture and engineering. A constant struggle to out wit, out compete, and out do each other in all aspects drove the Archons of High Commorragh to create ever more lavish domenses, and ever more deadly and cunning weapons and devices to defend these city-sized spires they called home. Archon Duhrvan leaned in to take a short whiff of a bright purple flower growing from a thin, coiling white vine that worked it's way around a pristine obsidian pillar. Paying no heed to the assembly of Dracons behind him. Usually he would not dream of turning his back to such a capricious group of individuals. However, behind the seat of each one of them stood an Incubi - loyal only to the Archon who employs them, and no higher power. In a circle the Dracons sat, and in a circle the Incubi stood, with Klaives held high, quite publicly instructed to bring them down into the skull of any Dracon that stood, drew weapons, or otherwise moved to threaten the Archon. Such precautions were overkill, perhaps, but Duhrvan wanted to make a show of force and instil a sense of fear and loyalty."Friends!"
He barked, twirling from the sights of his beautiful garden to the council of his Dracons - causing several of the younger men to flinch. "Do not look so nervous, I have no intention of killing any of you today. To the best of my knowledge, you are all my most loyal and trusted underlings!"
He threw his arms open, palms displayed, in a mock display of friendship and trust - a display more fitting of an craftworlder. He was testing them. "And this is a joyous occasion. We shall finally be rid of my treacherous uncle, and reclaim what is rightfully mine. The lower half of the spire, the two thirds of the docking ring, and our -dignity-. They laugh at us!"
He threw his hands in exasperation and turned again, stalking past the hanging vines of flowers towards the trees bearing sweet, deadly fruits and gurgling streams and waterfalls at the centre of the garden. "Our neighbours - our rivals and allies alike. While we sit here embroiled in a civil strife in our very own spire, they are plundering Craftworlder's ships, Môn-keigh planets, and raking in untold rewards - while we sit here expending resources just to cling to this... this... degrading strife! This should have been dealt with two centuries ago, not left to fester and undermine our authority!"
He stood, his arms folded behind his back as he stared across the vista of the Eternal City that the spiretop garden afforded him. Though the Flayed Hydra's spire was not the tallest in High Commorragh, it was certainly one of the widest and densely populated. The tallest spire he could see - jutting from the landscape of darkness - was the White Flames' Fortress. One of the last remnants of the great noble houses of Commorragh. He stared, long and thoughtfully at the proud, alabaster spire with a deep sense of envy and loathing. Interrupted from his silent rumination, he turned his head curiously at the sound of blade slicing through flesh, and something wet and fleshy thudding to the floor. He saw one of the younger Dracon's lifeless body flop to the floor, his head already rolling a short distance away. In his hand, a Lhamaean's toxin coated blade. A beautifully crafted blade, clutched in the twitching fingers of a foolish young Dracon who had likely been gifted it by his Uncle, or purchased it at considerable cost. No doubt a single lick from the blade would've ended in a painful, messy death. Not a true death, but a painful and unpleasant one. He let the agonizing silence drag for several seconds while the rest of the Dracons watched the Incubi set to dragging the corpse away. "Thank you, for the demonstration."
He nodded his mock-gratitude to the Incubi. "My father's brother seeks to dispose of me, and has likely approached many of you promising a place at his right hand should you succeed in killing me, and delivering the spoils to his waiting hands."
All of the Dracons sat perfectly still, meeting the Archon's eye as he scanned the council. To avoid his gaze at the accusation would be an instant death sentence, no doubt. Some of them were easy to read, some of them were better at masking themselves than others. The Archon did not need to read them to ascertain answers however. He merely wanted the measure of them. "Throw it over the edge. In a few hours when it reaches the foundation the Ur-ghuls will have a taste of something rare. A pure-blood traitor. Hrmph. Back to the matter at hand."
Archon Duhrvan turned his back, once again staring in silence across his garden and the sights beyond. He did not turn as he heard several bouts of hacking, crunching and lifeless thuds behind him - as well as a few vain cries and pleas of innocence. When he turned, several more bodies were being dragged away by the Incubi, and of the twelve Dracons that had sat at the gardens pleasant meeting circle, three remained with their skulls intact. "You three. My son, my daughter, and my son's son. You are the only three that have not had some manner of secret communication with my treacherous uncle. Trust is a word that means very little in this city, much less in this spire; and to say I trust you would be inaccurate. You would not be valuable to me if you had no sense of ambition, and lust for power; and I know each of you would sink a blade into my throat if you thought you may seize control. What I -do- trust, is that this is a lesson you will not soon forget..."
He turned his back, stalking away into the gardens with his long cloak billowing behind him. Almost out of sight among the bushes, ferns and trees his voice carried back, a sinister and black chuckle rolling through the gardens. "I hear all. I see all. Within this spire, I am your God."
End Chapter One!
Chapter two coming soon