I don't want to give a long introduction as I don't want to give too much away. All C&C is welcome. I hope you enjoy.
A Red Hand Weeps
For 10 cycles the Ilmaea, the captured suns of Commorragh, had passed overhead, while the doors to the private rooms had remained sealed. The pull cord which would ring for attention within the chambers untouched. Kabalite guards stood long hours, guaranteeing the Trueborn guests would not be interrupted.
A cacophony of tempting moans and enticing howls had spilled out onto the reception landing each time the doors had opened to admit yet another guest. Flickering lights revealed entwined limbs, soft tendrils of hallucinogenic pollen were carried upon perfumed air. All their senses tempted the guards to abandon their posts and join in the hedonistic delights.
Their Mistress, red handed Asuride, daughter of the Lord Archon and their sworn charge, had sealed the doors behind her last guest. Flecks of blood already upon her cheek, a smile played upon her wet lips; tempting the lowly, vat-born guards with the promised pleasure which she was reserving for their betters. Clad only in a pair of shimmering elbow length gloves, she had pushed the doors closed for a final time, enjoying the tease and denial of her poor guards. The reinforced armour locks clicked into place and killed all sound from within. Such demand for prolonged privacy was unusual, but who would question an Archon’s daughter and how she wanted to run her own orgy? What delights did she want to keep secret behind her doors, until she chose to reopen them and allow her guests to spread word of her spectacular depravity?
A reception landing, ringed with ornate chaise longues, played host to the guards. A large, circular table dominated the centre of the room and held the remnants of food and drink. A crystal skylight let the persistent twilight of the city fill the chamber. Games of chance had been played, mild narcotics ingested, but nothing had held the guards interest for long. A tense air permeated the landing, frustration had turned to boredom which had turned to dangerous restlessness. The slim hope that they might be able to vicariously indulge in some spill over from the orgy had been dashed. Not even a moan had escaped since those soundproof doors had closed, let alone a whiff of the soul nourishing debauchery that must be occurring. Splinter rifles rested against the walls, or lay on the floor. Discipline long ago abandoned by the Drukharii who waited; too fearful to abandon their duty entirely, but too disheartened to care about it either. This had become a very dull assignment indeed.
The sound of a human step echoed up the long stone staircase, heavy and plodding.
Gerad had served drinks and refreshments to those guards through the long cycles, working with the other human slaves to provide for their every need regardless of the hour.
10 long cycles of the captured suns above, by his reckoning something like 5 Terran days, they had striven to serve the increasingly hostile guards with no firm ending in sight.
“No, no!” He silently chastised himself, “Don’t think like that, there was no before, no Terran days, no imperium, no simple life in an agri-hab, nothing to remember. No world before this.”
It only made it hurt more to remember that there was a time before this life of service and fear.
Gerad refocused himself, taking care with the tray of drinks. The guards had grown more cruel as they had grown more bored, complaining about the dull task they had been set. Each of the slaves who had served them now bore new cuts, regardless of if they had actually failed in some way or not. It would not go well for him if he gave them any excuse to really torment him.
He could hear them before he saw them, speaking in their horrifically melodic tongue. He had learnt the basics quickly, although he had just as quickly learnt to never speak it. His crass pronunciation of their language had enraged the first, and last, master he had tried that with. He still couldn’t fully close his jaw where the bones had never healed properly.
“Here comes the little rodent,” one snarled to the other as Gerad reached the top steps.
Cold eyes turned to study him. Gastly, thin, figures that human eyes would struggle to separate from the shadows cast about them. Their jet back armour would have camouflage them well were it not for their unarmoured and deathly pale faces. Cold eyes just slightly too oval for human proportions, gently pointed ears and angled cheeks, they looked almost cruelly angelic highlighted in the dark.
The graceless movement of the slave was infuriating. The clumsy, noisy way it made space on the table for the tray of drinks. The crystal clinked against the carved metallic message cylinders that sat unopened amongst the remnants. The messengers who had delivered them had been barred from attempting to go further into their Mistress’s chambers by the sealed doors, and barred from ringing the pull cord for attention by the omnipresent guards. The collection of messages had grown, amongst them even cylinders marked with the seal of the Archon. The stewards of those missives had been the most belligerent of all, but their threats and complaints had gained them no special access. So complete and uncompromising had the instruction for privacy been that it extended even to her own father’s servants. Like all others they were told to leave their cylinders and begone.
Gerad kept his eyes down, staying focused on the task at hand.
“Gather up the used glasses and get back down the stairs,” was his only thought.
He only wanted to get back to the comparative safety of the servants paths which riddled this great tower. At least in those discrete pathways servants could be somewhat sure they would not be assaulted unexpectedly, the masters would never debase themselves by using servants paths.
All around him the whispering song of the masters language echoed, what he understood scared him. They were angry, frustrated that they were still here, bored.
Suddenly the atmosphere changed. Gerad glanced up despite himself as, with a sound like silk brushing against silk, the guards moved. Each snatching up their rifles from where they had been carelessly left and standing at attention. Gerad froze as he strained to hear with his thick human ears the sound that had caused the sudden response in these bored guards.
From some way down the great winding staircase he heard a rapid clicking sound, the sound of bone tips striking stone steps. Another click, Gerad grabbed his tray and shrunk as far against the closest wall as he could, another click, he felt himself begin to tremble, another click, he wanted to scream, to cry, to throw himself upon the floor. Gerad frantically swallowed down the bile that had risen in his throat as the sound of clicking bone came to a stop terrifyingly close to him.
The sound of exposed bone tapping on stone came to an end as the Court Haemonculus reached the landing. His ancient, frail form given unnatural hight by the eight protruding bone spurs upon which he walked. They ran in parallel down his exposed upper spine, reaching down to the floor. While the Haemonculus was of the same race as the Drukhari guards who stood silently watching him he had long ago shaped himself far beyond them.
Over long millenia he had carved and grown himself through multiple evolutionary surgeries into a figure of stunning beauty. In silhouette he might be mistaken for an arachnid grown to horrific size rather than a Drukhari. Long bone limbs he had carefully grown from what had once been his ribs, bending and stretching them back and down. Now, supplemented with joints and exposed iron muscle, they supported his restructured body. His internal organs relocated to a carefully crafted growth of muscle and armoured keratin on his back. This rearrangement of bones and organs allowed him to corset his waist down to disturbingly unnatural proportions. A few vestigial limbs hung limply from one shoulder, the inevitable result of numerous reincarnations, and long atrophied legs swayed beneath him.
Khanryq had heard them rushing about as he had ascended the stairs, leaping up from where they had doubtless been lounging, snatching up their splinter rifles, standing to attention. Even over the sound of the clumsy slave thing he had heard them. His naturally superior hearing augmented by three additional sets of auditory organs he had long ago grafted onto himself from some interesting hunter species he had once dissected.
He steepled the fingers on two of his sets of hands before his thin face and peered at the guards who stood before him. Reaching under his robes with another he produced a message cylinder, marked with their Archon’s sigil.
“Our Lord has grown impatient with his daughter's dalliance,” said Khanryq with a voice like paper tearing, “you will open the chamber at once.”
It was clear from his tone how far beneath himself he felt this task was. At his Lord's impatient insistence he had been sent to deliver, in person, this message and to return with his daughter, or at least a reply. Where lesser messengers could be ignored, someone as high ranked as the court Haemonculus could not.
“Sir, we cannot,” stammered one of the guards, a discrete ornamentation on his shoulder pad denoting him as a senior guard, a position he probably regretted holding at this moment, “it is sealed from within by Mistress Asuride herself, and we are forbidden from allowing her to be disturbed for any reason.”
With a sharp rap of movement Khanryq rushed forward on his bone appendages.
“This is not for any reason! This is for his Lordships reason! I am sent on his order to deliver his missive!” each sentence was punctuated with a sharp hiss through iron tipped teeth, “I do not have time for the games of children!”
“Good Sir, I cannot disobey her, b-but,” the guard stammered, “we would not dare obstruct you in carrying out your own instruction.”
Khanryq snarled, of course this coward would not risk his mistress' wrath by actually doing anything himself. However, he would allow Khanryq to debase himself further by ringing her chamber bell like a common messenger servant. He fixed the guard for a moment, committing his face to memory for later torment. Such a slight would not be forgotten.
“You would dare not obstruct me! Like you have obstructed our Lord’s other messengers?” Khanryq lent closer, “So you are the reason our Lord has been forced to send me. I shall remember why my time has been wasted.”
The guard knew there was no response to this, trapped as he was between the conflicting egos of his betters. He smoothly stepped to one side, hoping the Court Haemonculus would simply summon some response from within the chamber. At least that should finally bring this long, dull vigil to an end.
Khanryq did indeed reach past the unfortunate guard and pull firmly upon the long undisturbed cord. The sounds of a gong echoed through the landing, which would be mirrored by a similar sound within the sealed chambers ahead. He positioned himself in front of the doors, tapping one spinal protrusion upon the floor in a performative display of impatience. His simmering anger began to grow as time dragged. He distracted himself with thinking of the various ways he would express his displeasure upon the quivering nerve endings of the impudent guard.
No response was forthcoming, no sound of unlocking, the vast doors remained sealed, uncaring of the rising wrath of waiting Haemonculus. With a repressed sense of humiliation he reached for the cord once again and pulled. His anger had reached new heights as the echo of the gong faded away.
"I will teach this spoiled offspring what happened to those who waste the time of a Haemonculus,” he seethed to himself, “perhaps next time she finds herself in need of reincarnation she will find herself blessed with an unexpected complication, maybe a vestigial limb or a malformed leg.”
From within his robes Khanryq withdrew a crystalline rod, his mark of office. Inlaid with arcane technologies it was key to all the secrets of his Lord's domain, even to the very locks of his children's innermost chambers. His limited patience exhausted, he pressed the end flat to the doors before him. A shock of blue lines raced from it’s tip to the hinges themselves and a creaking sound was heard as ancient locking mechanisms were overridden, slaves to ancient code within the rod.
Locks cracked as they retreated from within and released the imposing doors. Now free of restraint they would open easily, so perfectly balanced were the hinges that with the slightest touch they would swing inward. It was to Khantyq’s surprise then when they failed to do so, and even resisted when he began to press harder.
“You guards,” he motioned towards the non-compliant doors. “force these open.”
Driven as much now by curiosity as fear of the arachnid figure commanding them they responded, first two, then four pressed against each of the doors before they slowly started to shift, pushing inward. A crack appearing through which the flickering light within could bleed.
With a stumble the doors swung open and the guards had to catch themselves, one fell forward onto his hands with the suddenness of the movement. The doors had shifted suddenly for they had overturned the mound of corpses which had been piled up against them from within. The guard who had fallen desperately crawled backwards as the viscous grey liquid which had pooled beneath the corpses began to seep into the reception landing.
The chamber beyond was lit by floating globes of blue and green fire which cast the scene in an unnaturally mockery of movement. Bodies of Drukhari lay about the inner chamber, and as far back into the private rooms and alcoves as could be discerned in the flickering light. All of them hung lifelessly, eyes glazed over, many with multiple, putrefying wounds. Some had clearly tried to run for the chamber doors, while others had been overcome where they lay by whatever had killed them.
Khanryq peered into the chambers as around him the guards clutched their splinter rifles and nervously surveyed the sight of carnage before them. Behind him he heard the slave thing lose control and retch onto the floor. He casually made a mental note to dissect the animal to discover if this was some sort of acid producing defence response.
“Well…” said Khanryq, “this is a problem.”