Chosen of Khaine
Joined: Sun Aug 17, 2014 7:35 am
A quick posting of additional Veysha fluff from December's story competition, just to keep all the fluff in one place. This one has a few 18+/R sections, so please be advised. Thanks to everyone that voted in a great competition!
The lesson of Naggaroth
It would be like her first dance. All over again. Seven. Blood. Perfection. Death.
When she had outlined the plan, Tyrion - no, Khaine - had simply met her eyes. The naked stare of a living god. "Can you do this?"
"Yes," she stated. Only the truth could survive such searing scrutiny. "So long as they torture me."
There had been a momentary ecstasy when it began. It had shocked Veysha; how she arched and gasped like a whore as the pain took her. The joy of sudden feeling so intense. Yet shortlived. Then there was only the vice like grip of darkness. She gave herself over to instinct, to howls, whimpers, convulsions and spasms. Her poise was shattered. The smooth flow of probabilities gone; signal overwhelmed with noise, with animal reflex, grief, terror.
Fear swilled within her like vomit. These people were fools, after all. What might they do to her, in error or rage? They had emptied her stomach, in torrents of acid and bile. Blasts of urine. Blasts of filth. It clung to her in a grotesque curtain, like wax on a gutted candle. Hung from her manacled arms, her naked toes grazing the floor as she shivered in unwelcome release.
Hours became days. Her every moment became a shuddering wasteland of anguish and fumes. Occasional snapshots seen through a drunken haze of pain, hunger and abuse; still just six. Six men; shadows watching as each in turn leered close to clutch her neck, bark or whisper foul threats, twist a silver pin into muscle or bone. The Druchii twins and the shrill play of their needles across her singingly tender nerves. Two Asur, talking of mercy, but in their eyes only arrogance, hate, self-loathing and lust. The impassive gaze of the Asrai; a mage and acolyte, watching, learning, keeping their counsel.
Yet, the pain seared through her with the constancy of a waterfall. Like standing naked beneath mountains, in a pillar of meltwater. It thundered like a cavalry charge. Through and over, stripping away all noise. Purifying. Refining her.
Still six shapes seen through darkness, still six. She could not beat six. Only seven.
Witchbells. It was like nothing she had experienced since she had paused to gather witchbells.
From the ice-rimmed ridge two dark horses surveyed the Wastes to the north. Snow choked mountains, vast spires of rock spinning up into a leaden sky of warring clouds. The world below a pale slope of frost. Waiting in awed silence. The storm rumbled in a wave of power. When it struck, nothing would live. It would hit like the fist of God.
"Naggaroth, Veysha," her father noted, "is not a land. Naggaroth is a process. What do I mean by this?" Their horses gave a rueful shudder as the storm cracked another mountain.
"It is a catalyst, father. It tests us. Some live, many die. The distribution is not random. The strong, the fierce survive the weak. So we rise."
“And to what end, do we rise?”
Veysha paused. She knew the conventional answer; to reclaim that which had been taken. Reclaim Ulthuan, reclaim the throne. Yet she paused, testing and discarding theorems a hundred a second. The logic was flawed. Why rise above, only to reach back down, only to return?
“What treason do you frame in those dark thoughts, Veysha?” her father frowned.
“I examine the logic, father. There is no treason; I refine the truth."
There was wrath in his growled reply. “What truth?”
Suddenly a husky roar from below. A ruddy stain on the snow had slipped around the spur of the hill. Marauders on stern ponies. Their war cry boomed again; coloured by lust. They wanted more than her blood; her flesh, her soul. She'd turned Midnight to charge, thrilled by the wet slosh as they plunged their ragged mounts into the frozen stream to reach her. Down the slope, she could plunge like a falcon, like an angel of murder.
"Six," she whispered, eyes bright with mischief, narrow with desire. "I shall give them to Khaine."
Her father grasped her reins. "Three battles, Veysha," her father had said. "Can you win them all?"
The maruaders. The storm. What was the third? The war of truth? Defiance warred with reason for a heartbeat, and the chance was gone. Too late to charge now. The Druchii turned together and half shadow, half wind, they were gone.
Like black comets they fell through the breakneck maze of winter pine. Racing through nightfall. A glimpse from the corner of her eye, and she wheeled Midnight to stop in an explosion of white powder. Her father snarled, gave a shout, his breath like a taloned spectre in the cold, but the tinkling lullaby of the stream, the pillows of snow about its banks, demanded that she stop. With a grim stare and disgusted bark, his horse gave a rumbling stamp, then rearing, flashed into renewed gallop and was gone.
She was alone. A winter clarity hung in the air. It reeked like steel, like cobalt. The water slid and bubbled beneath like a miracle through the frigid oasis she had found. Clustered like obsidian along its course the flowers winked. Icy fractals tumbled over them; the first breath of the storm. She should leave. Yet she could not. Gleaming in the blue shadow of the winter twilight, like the shadowy eyes of a mistress, beneath a halo of snow-cloaked pine, just looking upon them summoned an airy thrill to her chest.
The storm rumbled again. Or was that hooves? Somewhere in the dull glow of the coming night, dark clouds piled on dark clouds, and maruaders galloped nearer again.
Swiftly she cut the blooms one by one, and dreamt on the night ahead. The shutters thrown upon to the howl of the wind. The shouts of dismay beneath her spire as the storm hit and the weak were purged. She would lie upon silk, the witchbells scattered about her, and as the North-men screamed and perished, she would smile. Her fingers would tiptoe down, into deeper dreams, seafaring, into sleek perfection.
Veysha remembered the velvet drum of Midnight's hooves as he bore her back, his hot musculture rising and falling like a lover beneath her. She threw him breathless forward, relishing the wet lash and slap of leaves across her face as they hurtled through the dark labyrinth. An instant later, the world burst in a dazzling expansion as she flew from the forest across the frozen sweep before the walls.
When she pushed harder to the sealed gates, and they did not open, and Midnight skidded on the frosted cobblestones, smeared his flanks across the cold wall of iron that blocked her path, shrieked in outraged panic, nearly threw her... that was when she realised. She was suddenly alone. The witchbells lay scattered like a funeral offering, black blooms beneath the silent citadel that loomed above. A cold spear of terror rose like nausea through her throat. Her father had commanded the gates shut. With maruaders at your heels, with a winter storm breaking on the horizon, one did not dally to gather witch bells. This was the lesson she would learn. Naggaroth would be her tutor for three nights.
Snatches haunted her tortured dreams. Broken moments; the gruff shouts above the blizzard as they stalked her. The lewd, chuckling groans of their warhorses as they cornered her amidst the stands of pines. The hopeless odds now that they were the hunters. A sudden blow, and the tumbling impact of the ever thicker snow. Midnight and the world, turned upside down above her. Rough skin. Tresspassing hands. In turns and in a mob. That it was so mundane, predictable, relentless the process of their assault.
The virgin snow squealed beneath her, but worked hard soon gave itself to slush. It swilled about her thighs, splashed, soaked through torn clothes; raspingly tactile, searingly cold. The first slashed her belly open, disembowelled her, or so she thought in terror. When she reached tentatively down, her fingers skittered through the slick, sticky mess of heat. There was no wound. Only another to take his place, hot tears of fierce hate, and another sudden lance of heat; saluting and falling against her.
As they hoisted her by manacles, she remembered the horrible realisation; that six men was both too many and too few. That her shrill threats, fear of death, horror, bargaining, pleading, pain, disgust, retching, tears... that it was meaningless to them. The blizzard lashed about her like ghosts fighting for her corpse. She remembered the clash of emotions. How the relentless pressure of abuse and storm and hatred and terror somehow fused together. How only when she had plumbed the grimmest depths, did she find the strength to climb. A new level of being crackled into life. Finally she saw.
They spoke. Their tongue was like fighting hogs. Decoding it was trivial; the puzzle gave her an anchor. They waited for a seventh. The seventh would save them from the storm. He could not, however, save them from her.
Most of all, she remembered Midnight. His joy as she staggered across the seven corpses. His concern as he nuzzled her ruined arm... His scream of betrayal as she cut his throat. Though she was empty, frozen, on a razor edge between life and death, it was more than shelter. Such power as Khaine had shared, demanded sacrifice in return. It deserved her greatest love. Not as trade, but as worship.
She remembered how he thrashed amidst the swirling sparkle of the storm; blood like black ink in the colourless night. The foul, grinding crunch of her fractured bones, crushing against each other, as she forced herself into the disemboweled cavity. The sting of acid stripping her throat as she sheltered within his ruptured organs. How the hot, wet, eely caress of his intestines on her face would not let her sleep, never let her forget.
"You were taken by steel, not by cold. You are with Khaine now." There was something bizarrely pathetic about her words, spoken from within the ruined corpse. "I love you. Henceforth, we ride together... always."
When the gates opened and she limped barefooted across the frost, she did not need to speak. He noted her missing steed, the smell of its bowels upon her, the scars of scrapes against frost-barbed bark on her back, the crusted sheen of blood and fluid streaked across her pale thighs, the dark bruise of manacles on her wrists, the improbable angle of the broken arm. Seven severed heads rolled to stop at his feet and he met her eyes. No words were needed. She had learned the lesson of Naggaroth.
Did he understand, however, that she had also learned the truth?
That was the last dream that was her own.
Thereafter they were the nightmares of others that haunted her. The Asrai clung to her. The Spellsinger. Lithe fingers clutched her shoulders like a falcon, whilst lips brushed against her ear, whispering darkness and filth. For a moment it was exquisite, like the desperate touch of a lover, then the dreams would come flooding into her. Moments stretched like years. Such density of information, such raw, undiluted pain; it wracked through her with the vicious intensity of orgasm. Deaths lived over and over. Centuries of hate thick and staining as oil. The madness of the deep wood took her into its coils and dragged her thrashing into the very depths of hell for a millenium of abuse, compressed into a blaze of data.
An impact snapped her sharply to - as if thrown from battlements upon a frozen lake. A cold sheet of water swept the filth from her. Another blast of ice slapped against her. Now there were would be seven. The haze, the noise had gone.
"Hello, father," she breathed, opening her eyes. Seven.
"Hello, Veysha," his voice was level. It was five decades since she had heard her true name on her father's lips. She had worn her sister's like a curse. "You have your seven now, Veysha. Perhaps, then, I shall finally see how it was done."
He took in hand the runic blade she had claimed that day, and let it catch the light as he strolled towards her. The green glow of witchlight pooled along its satin silver curves. It had sheltered with her in Midnight's corpse. She knew it as intimately as a lover; more intimately than many.
"I apologise for your treatment so far. They told me of your capture, but probability suggested you were still your sister. Five decades lived under the cloak of a false death is the outlier in this analysis." His cold, appraising eyes swept across her naked body. “Our enemy camps near the citadel. I did not have time to verify an outlier, and your sister would not have survived a week of such cruelty. Congratulations, Veysha. Now you have my attention.”
He met her eyes; a glossy infinity of hate and sparking, fractal logic. It was like touching a mirror. Mad spiralling brilliance; Veysha suddenly realised this is what her victims saw as she took their lives. She had forgotten his genius. An equal. An atom’s margin spelt death.
Her father addressed the High Elf. "Your torture so far has been futile. You heat, bend, beat and quench - you forge a stronger, sharper blade. I shall continue the interrogation."
In the silence a low snort signaled the words had hit home. Chain's clinked. Somewhere distant, the hushed roar of a winter storm. He studied her, pale skin gleaming with the wash of water. Dark wet hair, thick as blue paint, looped like a dragon's tail over one shoulder.
"Who struck her?" Her father half turned to the six shadows behind.
The High Elf took an unrepentant step forward. "I did. I was provoked."
"She boasted of... an act."
"She killed my son... ate him... alive."
"Ate him?” Her father’s head turned smoothly, like an owl to assess her. “How depressing. It rules out madness."
"Surely it confirms her madness?"
"No.” A brief pulse of calculation. “It confirms her sanity. It confirms her plans.”
Noting the grim fury of the High Elf’s glare, he turned back to him. “Her hair, do you not see? You have knocked it loose.”
The Asur broke with a roar. "Your daughter eats my son; and you complain I have left her hair out of place?!"
Still affecting to study her blade, he let the silence reinforce his control.
"A wise first step in such interogations is to shave one's captive,” he noted without emotion. “Show them Veysha."
Veysha reluctantly relaxed her grip upon the breached manacles. Though she descended merely from tiptoe to heel, such was the impossibility that she moved against steel, that they now gasped, as if she was a crucified succubus, suddenly floating pristine from the cross.
She drew her hair back and twisted it carefully behind her head. Revealing a long silver needle in one hand, she deftly plucked its twin from her other shoulder. Twisting them together, Veysha fixed her hair back in place.
"Pinning the suprascapular nerve cluster offers both utility and risk," her father offered to the would be inquisitors. "Certainly, in terms of the discomfort caused, it offers significant application. Yet the enterprising captive, if desperate or determined enough, can reach a pin with their teeth. Of course, their tormentor would notice that it was missing... unless concealed. Hence my suggestion that in future you shave your captives."
"However," he turned his attention to his daughter. "Genius, Veysha, describes only our potential. If we are horses, it is the fastest we may gallop. Yet it is not the speed at which we choose to. A flaw found in even greater minds that ours is that we choose only to outpace our immediate pursuers, whatever our potential. Why race lightning when you are only pursued by wolves?"
"It is a failing found often in daemons undone by mortals," noted Veysha.
"Good. Yet has your frame has been limited by the company you keep. You have outpaced these wolves, no doubt, but not lightning - not me." Her father slipped closer, witch light sliding across his angular profile. "I appreciate you needed to provoke this wretch to strike you. The truth, however, was a poor choice. Eating a prince, Veysha, it is far to rich in data."
He shifted in the cool green glow, calling over his shoulder. "When was your son lost?"
The Asur's voice was choked with hate. "Ten years ago."
"Now I know you have a force of Shades, and that you have led them for some years; two decades I would conjecture, but perhaps ever since your escape from Ghrond. That you lead Shades tells me too that your capture by patrol was every bit as planned as I suspected, and that tells me exactly how your allies will strike next. I will take care of them shortly. First, I shall deal with you."
He stood a sword's length from her now. So poised and seemingly calm. She sensed it though, the coiled reflex, as a serpent lurks beneath a mirrored pool. Not yet.
"I have interviewed a dozen traitors now, and heard a dozen versions of the same pathetic rhetoric. Malekith is a king, Khaine is a god. Is that your logic too, Veysha? Did I not better instruct you in semantics? Surely you must recognise; god... king... they are the same."
"No," Veysha intoned slowly.
"It disgusts me, Veysha, to think you missed this." It was a statement, not to depress or intimidate. He did not shake his head or ruefully tut. He stated fact; he was disgusted.
"No father, you are wrong. Lightning and wolves... Now it is your turn to see how fools have constrained your thinking."
"Like a daemon, father. You too are blinded by your frame. God and king are only the same if you frame them as entities. How else could one frame them, though father?"
"Continue," he commanded, when she did not.
"Certainly, Malekith is a man, an entity, an individual with its own selfish schemes and desires. Khaine, however, is not. Khaine is a process. Khaine is a catalyst, father. It tests us. Some live, many die. The distribution is not random. The strong, the fierce survive the weak. So we rise. Do you not recognise him now?"
A significant pause. A nimbus of implied meaning surged in the air. The secret, dueling language of intellect matched.
"Imagine a staircase; spiralling upward to infinity. How far we have climbed since we were first cast on Naggaroth's bitter shores? Struggling onto the broken, frozen rocks. Shattered there on the beach we left the remnants of our wretched past. The Phoenix Crown left amidst the shipwreck. We bent our backs to the challenge, and climbed. Many fell; frost and hunger, tooth and claw. Many were unworthy of the climb. Yet reaching above us..." She conjured the heavens with a gesture, "...an infinity still to climb."
"My eyes, father, have stared into the soul of a living god. It burns to raise us. What do you see in Malekith's eyes? What is his ambition, now he wafts his pathetic, trinket crown? A petulant score settled. What passion remains, for this people?" Rage had crept into her voice, coloured it with passion. Now it fell to a dark whisper, "Malekith has bid us stop. Stooped from high to pick the Phoenix Crown from the flotsam so far below. To what end?"
No one spoke. "To what end, father?"
A voice from the six shadows broke the silence, a call from the gallery, one of the Druchii twins. "It was his birthright."
"Filth. I care nothing for his birthright."
"You speak of the Phoenix Crown," the Asur shadow barked in outrage.
"What of it? A metal hoop. Another title to wear alongside 'coward' and 'wretch'," she lashed them with the truth, soared above the cries of protest and anger. Her own deeper wrath flared like lava in the green of her eyes, flashing now like brass "Self serving obsession. Father! Do you not see? He has stooped to gather witchbells. Abandoned Naggaroth, abandoned all we built, wrecked the foundations, and all it could become. Betrayed an infinity of futures to come. Why? Chasing selfishly back to the past, like a geriatric princeling chasing the only maid servant he never fucked as a boy."
"I'll gut you for this treason," snarled the Asur, snaking forward, blade naked.
"Ha! Why not gut the ten thousandth prime that it ends in 9?"
"Malekith is king! He stands above us all."
"He can stand where he likes. Hold him as high as you like. Still he is nothing. A fixed point in an infinite series."
"A fixed point in an infinite series," her father echoed. His eyes flashed to hers; a black furnace of thought.
"Khaine is not an entitiy," Veysha restated with finality. "Khaine is a process. Khaine is the act of climbing. Caring nothing for birthright. Caring nothing for title or rank or petty claims. Caring nothing for that which was promised. Caring nothing for tears. Caring only for the intensity with which we live. Caring only for progress. Khaine is the process of ascent."
The lesson of Naggaroth.
A tense silence stalked each of those present. Blood was inevitable now.
Her father drew himself up. "The discussion is at an end," he stated abruptly. She looked at him hard. The others watched too. Steel glinted in the feral green light. Even the walls watched. Wet stone glimmered like a black mirror in the dark. A dull nimbus of energy flashed and pulsed around the Spellsinger's paws.
"Veysha. When I heard of your death, I cried. In front of my court, I cried."
Veysha recalled the heads upon the ramparts; opportunist fools that took his tears for weakness. Remembered in pristine detail watching from the shadows, as he caught the would-be assassin's blow and twisted the doomed man into a arm-wrenching lock. A single, utterly fluid sweep of motion. Her father had continued speaking, "I did not think I could feel such pain. Until I discovered of your betrayal.
He gathered himself. "Your logic fails, as you have lost the gravity of truth. Without that anchor to hold your course, you have found only treason. I took you for an equal. Now I learn you are just another gifted fool, aping genius. Perhaps to please me, perhaps to please yourself. It matters not." The six shadows relaxed slightly. They had not been wrong. He had not been turned by this vixen. Perhaps, all would be well.
"Now, apprised as I am of your mental deficiency, let me restate the facts in simple terms. Malekith is king. His agents demand the knowledge you hold, and you shall share it with them." He spoke with a severe pace. She could not read him. Was it theatre, or a death sentence?
"There are two things you value, Veysha. Your beauty, and your intellect. I shall take your beauty first, without negotiation or further discourse. In minutes you shall be flayed, and burned. Your flesh I shall seed with worms, and you shall see them grow to flies on the moist harvest of your body. Your skin will seeth with their fat, droning forms. You will keep just a single eye, so that when I hold up a glass you will see your ruined face and rotten, half unravelled organs. Thereby, once you fully understand what it is to lose a part of yourself, you will be equipped for me to begin the interrogation in earnest. For then, you will have a single chance to reveal all that Malekith demands. I will ask you once, and deliver you a clean death if you comply."
A brief, dour pause. "If you do not, however, then just as I broke your beauty, I shall break your mind. I shall open your head with a vice, and all it contains I shall pull apart - piece by piece. I will let you keep your senses for the first few days. You will understand what is happening at first, as your logic, your numbers, your words are lost to you. I will give you enough light to search for them, but all you will find is growing darkness as your world folds upon itself. You will be swept through nightmares on a tide of terrified confusion and dismay. Until you understand nothing except the horror that swallows your soul. Until you wink out... and tumble finally into the gibbering void that was there before I taught you all you know."
Knowing her father's speech patterns, she had swung for him on the seventh syllable of his second sentence. As he settled into a pace, whilst his mind framed the closing rhetoric and juggled the burden of the words to come. With that came the greatest reliance upon instinct and rote reflex. So as she swept the heel of her palm to drive his nose into his brain, he caught her one handed and twisted her. A single, utterly fluid sweep of motion. Muscle memory, as she had conjectured. Even expecting it, it felt like falling from one horse, into another at gallop. For a thrilling splinter of a second she was weightless, lashed almost inside out. And yet his speech continued, allowing him to finish each word.
There was a calming void here, in the eye of the storm, held fast in his esoteric arm lock. An urgency pulsed and ticked in the air, as if they stood in the moist, charcoal heart of a thundercloud, seconds before it flared into storm. The current shivered through them like ozone. The sleek curve of her rune blade flashed in and out of vision on the other side. If she could just reach through her father...
"Strain all you want, Veysha. There is only one escape from this hold."
No, father, there are two. She did not voice it, instead she spoke a challenge.
"Let us test my theorum, father."
Marshalling her entire being, every fibre of pain-purified fury, she bent against his grip.
"Your Malekith against my Khaine."
She had met his eyes, touched the soul of God. All distractions had been washed away; like meltwater blasting through the mountain.
"Your fixed point against my infinite series."
Building in pressure, as a volcano before cataclysm, she forced herself against the locking hold upon her elbow, the strain like a billon tonnes of liquid fire against a single wall of rock. Her father set his strength against the juggernaut of force summoned against him, straining to keep her. He could not restrain her longer with one hand. Both were needed. He released her sword from his grasp. It fell, but did not touch the ground.
A crystalline roar of power rose from her throat, from the core of her being, like a siren, a herald screaming the end of time. Suddenly the world stopped, compressed into singularity.
Now Veysha was standing in the wrong place. The sword flickered across her father's back and he exploded into the Spellsinger. Lightning erupted, but collapsed back upon its source, flowered over the tumbling pair as they collided. An azure burst of warping force. A dull boom of power, and all the room was floating, as if all were lost to the sea, floating in the dim turquoise equilbrium of flooded Nagarythe.
And Veysha flew through it, as might a living saint, her feet flickering, skipping across the stone like hawkmoths. Her blade swept in geometries so intricate, the very mathematics of reality bent about them. Arcs and wheels, weaving the air with axioms of blood so perfect that even as their bodies fell from beneath them, even as they fought to parry, to live, they could only fall apart, and watch with horrified wonder at the serenity of her dance.
So quick was the assault, so sudden, they had a moment to glimpse the truth before darkness swallowed them. Veysha standing, one arm wrongly forced upon itself. Splintered bone shone from the elbow, like the ruins of a wizard's citadel, or the foul curve of a shattered minotaur's horn. She had turned somehow. Not against her father's hold, but with it. She had simply rolled through her own elbow joint. A second way.
Blood rained down in a soft looping splash. Veysha's senses collapsed upon themselves. She had touched eternity. Through the numbing pulse of drained perfection, she looked for him again. A wide bar of blood and ash curved away from the Spellsinger's ruined corpse. The mage was dead, eyes hollowed by redirected energy, the black vengence of the inheritance hung around her father's neck.
A ragged breathing drew her gaze and she found him. Wreathed with smoke, he had slithered some six feet. She closed with him. One arm sleek perfection, pale flesh and runic steel. The other a ruin of smoking blood and fractured bone. The pain seared like a beacon, as if it burned.
"Look at us both," she breathed. "What a sorry metaphor we are."
Had he grasped her truth, seen her second way? A father and daughter conspiring through love that she might break her body, to destroy their kin, to take his life? Perhaps. The tragedy of it would have knocked the wind from her. Were she not already empty. If the war had not already shown her a hundred such scenes of pathetic, terminal irony. A dying race. Perhaps nothing would be left. Nothing would be strong enough to raise itself from this test. Perhaps.
"Do not cry," she whispered, even as bright tears danced across her own cheeks. "I love you, father."
She slipped the black amulet from his neck, and over her own. "Henceforth, we ride together..."
He turned slowly to face her, rose to his knees. Perhaps to speak. There was no time, however, to gather witch bells. And such power as had been shared demanded recognition. It deserved her greatest love. Not as a trade, but as worship. So with a single cut, Veysha gave her father to Khaine.