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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
1,608
New Zealand
A charming tale about three young Druchii trying to make their names on a raiding expedition to Nehekhara.

The Sand Reavers - Visions of Sand

"Sister, wake up."
Virathia rolled over in her bunk to see Katherya standing before her. After a moment she also felt the gentle rocking motion of the ship, the mighty wave-cutting Soulblazer, sailing away from Naggaroth. She'd stayed up late last night watching the towers and spires fading away over the horizon, wondering when she'd return, and how much treasure and slaves she'd have when she did.
"I was already awake."
"No, you weren't. Now listen to me. Hekarti sent me a vision last night."
Virathia rubbed her eyes, looking at her sister properly by the light of the lamp the latter was holding. Katheria was, like her, a young Druchii with malice in her eyes. The similarities ended there. Her basically academic lifestyle had made her slim and not exactly overburdened with muscle, and she let her long dark hair fall down to almost her legs. Her skin was covered with tattoos and sigils of Hekarti, her patron goddess, lady of Dark Magic. They were clearly sisters, but shared little other than Druchii-dark hair and basic body proportions. Virathia was far larger and stronger, her warrior training keeping her fit. And she kept ehr own hair short enough to fit within a helmet, except when her parents forced her to grow it out for ceremonies.
"What did you see?"
"We should wake Aratheia first," Katheria said, looking at Virathia with one perfect eyebrow raised.
"Gods, if we must." Virathia didn't hate Aratheia, any more than the average Druchii hated their fellows, but she was suspicious of her. And that fact that Katheria insisted on going everywhere with her. "You wake her whilst I get dressed."
"She won't bother."
"I don't care for the mysteries of Khaine, sister. He's my lord in battle, but I don't feel the need to show my reverence the way the Albions do."

Virathia was fully dressed in her Master's uniform, with the three-headed dragon sigil of House Rethis, sitting at her seat in the command room, when Katheria and Aratheia entered, disrupting a deliicous thought about how she would be free to tear up this stupid uniform and get her Dreadlord's attire when she was done here.
Her companions seated themselves, and Virathia found herself sharing with Aratheia an intensely curious gaze at her sister. By Mathlann, she hated sharing anything with the Khainite. She was, Virathia was sure, not entirely there. She seemed to think holy sigils a suitable substitute for clothes - she wasn't inconsiderate enough to show anything she really shouldn't, though - and always carried more daggers than she could possibly need around her waist. She was slender like Katheria, but in a lean, coiled spring kind of way, rather than a merely not overweight sort of way.
"Alright, what's this vision of yours?" Virathia asked.
"Please tell us," Aratheia said.
Katheria's eyes glazed over, as always when reporting what she had seen. "I saw a land of desert and sand. Ancient cities and temples laying empty. A few humans of the Brettoni cling to the coast, and native desert dwellers live here and there. But there is a vast -"
"We all know about Nehekhara, sister," Virathia said. She wished her pet oracle wasn't so prone to stating the obvious. Although, it was better than the opposite, she supposed.
Katheria glared. "Mistress Hekarti also showed me one particular temple. We would have to get through the Bretonni to get to it. It is covered in sand, and may require my magic to unearth. But there is great treasure there. And not just gold. I cannot see what exactly it is, but I am sure with some more time, or perhaps some sacrifices, Mistress Hekarti would be obliging."
"Don't kill any of my crew. Half of them are bodyguards sent by Father, the rest are mercenaries who demanded upfront payment." Druchii weren't stupid.
Katheria looked hurt. "I wasn't suggesting anything, dear sister. Was I, Aratheia?"
Aratheia smiled. "No, you weren't." She looked at Virathia. "This sounds exciting. Mysterious treasure will certainly get you Dreadlord status. It cannot but help, at least." She laughed. "And I hear Brettoni love fighting as much as we do. I would love to meet them."
Virathia nodded. It would be quite the adventure. Surely the tale of the Norscans who stole a king's crown and got followed home by a tide of bones was just a fairy tale about pride and arrogance? "I shall speak to my officers. They want to know where we're going."
 
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
1,608
New Zealand
The Sand Reavers - On Deck

Virathia felt extremely regal as, accompanied by Katheria and Aratheia, she strode onto the foredeck of the Soulblazer. She had spent the last year saving up to buy it, wanting to achieve Dreadlord rank by as much of her own merit as possible. Only a few days after Naggaroth had disappeared from view, chill winds blew at her face and hair. The Soulblazer was surrounded by a fine mist, almost imperceptible to those within, almost impenetrable to those without, who would perceive it as a mere storm. Not for the last time, she was glad of her sorceress sister's talents.
Presently, Aratheia was watching the ship's crew and passengers with a sort of bored disdain. Whilst Virathia and Katherya had a certain amount of interest in nautical matters, she simply saw ships as modes of transport to the battlefield and found the total lack of points of reference frustrating. At least she'd been persuaded to wear a cloak.
Katherya walked in between the two in her initiate robes, inscribes with symbols of power.
Beside the three young Druchii walked Sheleden, one of House Rethis' senior officers, assigned to keep an eye on his lord's daughters and their companion, and report back to the relevant authorities. He had an air of menace about him, honed over a lifetime of carnage and slaughter. Most of Virathia's scars were from training with him, the only limit having been not to kill her, and even that had seemed optional at times.
"So, you've persuaded the officers to take you to Nehekhara," he said not in a less than applauding tone.
"Yes, Lord Sheleden. We will take great riches." It had been agreed only her sister and Aratheia were to know of the true purpose of the raid.
"Are you sure you're capable of this, my lady?"
Virathia snorted. "I need to prove myself." They had now reached the prow, and she took the opportunity to gaze upon her new love.

The ship was not exactly a Black Ark, being the product of what three young Druchii desperate to prove themselves could steal, borrow, earn or otherwise gain, but she was already proud of it.
In a nod to her House, Virathia had ordered the original figurehead cut away and replaced by three dragon heads. It was an impressive sight from afar, and surely terrifying to her enemies. Even more terrifying would be the front and rear artillery, huge bolt throwers nailed into place. Amidships, the two central masts flanked the command tower, from where Virathia ruled the ship with an iron fist. She'd found it was easy to rule a ship when a Witch Elf-in-training with a fondness for knives accompanied you everywhere. Cytharai, she hated admitting Aratheia had her uses. Below provisions, weapons and animals - both regular horses and Cold Ones - were stored.
Virathia cleared her throat.. Those not performing necessary tasks stopped and turned, whilst those who could not simply listened.
"Warriors of the Soulblazer. You know how much effort I put into acquiirng this ship, and refashioning it to my own liking. I prayed to Mathlann before leaving for a successful voyage, and I renew my prayer. If we succeed, all of us shall achieve great fame and fortune. And I shall no longer be Master Virathia, but Dreadlord Virathia. In Khaine's name."
That got a cheer. Good. A poor response to her first speech would have been fatal. And not just for her career.
"I have spoken with the officers, and we have agreed a target." She looked over the faces of the officers: Jaylis, commander of the corsairs who ran the ship, Vedethar, commander of the cavalry, and Ozarion, captain of the mercenaries. They returned her gaze eagerly. There was one officer who wasn't there, hadn't even spoken to her before. That would have to be addressed. "Nehekhara. Land of the dead. You may ask why raid somewhere that, beyond the Bretonni of the coasts, offers few living to plunder. We are not going to plunder the living, though I should very much like to fight the Brettoni on the way. We seek the tomb pyramids. The ancient cities, the buried wealth." That caused nervous muttering.
"Silence!" Sheleden ordered. "Your Master is addressing you. I have heard that Katherya wishes sacrifices to appease Hekarti."
Katherya looked viciously at the gathered Druchii, who quieted.
Knowing her former trainer could only intervene for her rarely, if not just once, Virathia steeled herself and continued. "Do not fear the tales of the walking dead. We are not children, to be frightened by any tale. We are Druchii! We fight, we kill, we take. I promise this - you will all receive enough treasure to do as you please for the rest of your lives."
That produced enthusiastic cheering.
 
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Unas the slayer

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Good!

PS: the phrase "Presently, Aratheia was watching the ship's crew and passengers with a sort of bored disdain. Whilst Virathia and Katherya had a certain amount of interest in nautical matters, she simply saw ships as modes of transport to the battlefield and found the total lack of points of reference frustrating. At least she'd been persuaded to wear a cloak." is repeated twice in 2 different paragraphs
 

Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
1,608
New Zealand
The Sand Reavers - The Sorceress' Den

Virathia slammed her fist on the table, making Katherya and Aratheia almost jump out of their seats. She drew momentary satisfaction from startling the Witch Elf initiate. Then she growled and sat back.
"By Khaine, It's been two weeks since I gave that speech telling everyone we're going to Nehekhara, and I still haven't seen so much as a good luck note from your teacher, sister. Not that I expecta good luck note, but you know what I mean."
"We of the dark convent do as we please," Katherya said in her best impression of an ancient, powerful enchantress.
"What's the point of coming on this ship and not doing anything? We're most of the way to Brettonnia by now, and I want to pillage one or two of their ships just to get some proepr exercise. And keep this one happy," she added, shooting look at Aratheia. The Khainite returned her gaze coolly.
"You don't need great magic to pillage a mere human ship, sister."
"Depends which one. And I want her to do something to justify her presence on Soulblazer. I'm not a Mathlann-granted tourist operator."
"My teacher has important work to do. Interrupting her now would be the height of folly."
"Unless she's found clearer visions than you, I don't care if she's figured out how to make Hellebron kneel to Morathi." Virathia shut her mouth a fraction too late.
Aratheia glared daggers. "Virathia! How dare you! Hellebron will never bow to that...that witch who is manipulating everything."
Katherya folded her arms. "Morathi is the oldest and greatest sorceress in Naggaroth. Hellebron should consider herself lucky she was shown as much of the secrets of life as she was."
Virathia slammed her fist on the table again. "Stop, both of you. I shouldn't have dragged your respective great ladies into this." She stood up, grabbing a sword from a nearby rack and placing it in her scabbard. "I'm going to talk to Lady Talthine now. You can come along if you keep your mouths shut until you think of something helpful to say."
Smiling at the submissive looks on her companions' faces, Virathian strode out of the command room.

Below deck was perhaps the most dangerous part of the Soulblazer. Here, ammunition, weapons and food were stored, innocently enough. But also the cavalry. Virathia had somehow persuaded her parents to lend her a small detachment of Cold One Knights under Captain Vedethar, who also commanded the regular cavalry, but preferred the Lustrian exotics. The beasts could be heard growling and snapping in their cages, which was unusual because they were normally kept docile by low temperatures when not being used in battle. Virathia herself rode the Cold One Tyrant. She did not particularly care for him, seeing him as a mere steed, and had only visited him once or twice to ensure he wasn't being mistreated more than necessary.
But far more dangerous than mere animals was the home of the sorceress Talthine. Even Aratheia walked slowly and looked about nervously as they approached the mage's abode. The door was covered in eye-hurting sigls and totems, and the immediately surrounding area was disturbingly empty. Virathia felt a sense of unease and unspeakable dread., and thought of her sister, only now beginning her journey into the dark mysteries.
Virathia swallowed her nervousness and kncoked on the door. "Talthine, open up. You must be claustrophobic by now."
"Go away, child," was the curt reply.
"I'm not a child. I'm Master Virathia, and the reason you're here. We're going to Nehekhara, in case you haven't heard."
"I know, by Hekarti. I'm working on something important for when we get there, so leave me alone."
Virathia decided to be polite, perhaps something that worked best when done first but oh well. "Your student Katherya wishes to speak to you."
"I can see and hear you, Karathya. What did you want to say?" A moment later, she added, "And don't 'By Khaine!" me, Aratheia."
"Have you seen any good visions of where we are going? What we ae to do there?" Katherya asked equally politely.
"Not at all. Hekarti defies me as much as, I suppose, she does you."
"We are nearing Brettonnia," Aratheia said. "I'm sure we'll get sacrifices for you when we pillage a few ships."
"Excellent. Now go before I lose my temper."

As they departed, Aratheia slung a sigil-covered arm around Katherya's shoulders. "Don't worry. You'll get all the bodies you need for a sacrifice to Hekarti."
"And to Khaine," Katherya replied sweetly.
"Yes, to Khaine. Without my teacher here I need to consult him directly."
Virathia wanted to vomit. The sooner they got into battle, the sooner an accident could happen. Maybe.
 
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
1,608
New Zealand
The Sand Reavers - Sparring

Mannslieb bathed the Soulblazer in pale light, illuminating the night crew, illuminating the three-headed dragon figurehead as it sliced through the Great Ocean as silently as a knife across a throat. An apt metaphor, for it would bring many knives to many throats soon.
"In Khaine's name, when are we boarding a ship?" Aratheia demanded, looking past the prow to the vast emptiness of Mathlann's realm.
"When we find one, obviously," Vorathia replied, standing beside her..
"And when is that going to be?" Aratheia pressed.
"When it is," Katherya said gently from her other side. "I'm not a Heavens mage who could filled the sails with wind. Isn't it relaxing, standing under the moon, feeling the waves break against the Soulblazer?"
Aratheia snorted.
Virathia needed to find a Bretonnni ship, and soon. Aratheia was growing more impatient every day. She wanted to murder something, and soon. But, she was sure she wouldn't snap yet.
"You have no appreciation for sailing." Virathia looked her over. "How do you not get a chill every night, anyway?" As usual, Aratheia wasn't wearing anything beyond her belt of daggers and that which was necessary for politeness.
"Khaine's favour, I suppose. Or maybe the fact that I've spent my entire life exposed to more dangers than just the cold. As have you both."
"Dangers we've survived together," Katherya said.
Aratheia looked between the two. "Yes, together," she agreed as if admitting she were part of something resembling a team was physically painful.
"Let's do some training, then," Virathia said. "We need to keep our skills sharp."
"You and me, at least," Aratheia corrected. "I do all the fighting for her."
"Someone standing right beside you is not 'her'," Karethya said firmly. "And I can fight With magic. But yes, I'll just have to enjoy watching you beat one another to bloody pulps. Just remember that vicious Druchii is my sister. So if you're going to kill her, do it properly."
"I'm a Witch Elf. I only kill people properly." Aratheia drew two of her daggers.
Virathia feigned shock. "Sister! How can your only concern be that she might not kill me properly?"
"What, you expect me to actually care about your life?"
"Well, no, but you'd be punished most severely for it."
"Stop being disgusting and fight me, Virathia." Aratheia's blood was up, her eyes burning and lips curled into a snarl that would have shamed a Hydra. All five of tis heads.
"Step back, sister. You've seen how we fight."

With Katherya at a safe distance, Virathia drew her sword and faced Aratheia, the duelists circling one another. Neither was wearing armour, but they were skilled enough to not hurt one another. Although sometimes Virathia had to fight the urge to maim her. She often wondered why the closest thing she had to friendship consisted of constant, often literal, fights with Aratheia, kept in check apparently only by their mutual fondness for Katherya and their fear of what she might do to one of them for hurting the other.
As they circled one another, a crowd gathered of corsairs, mercenaries and others. Sheleden was there, towering over the soldiers around him, his expression distinctly interested.
"Looks like we'll have a crowd," Aratheia said excitedly. "i do like to show my skills."
Virathia smiled. "Very well." She leaped forward, slashing at Aratheia.
The witch Elf initiate evaded the blow, and made a flurry of attacks with her dual daggers. Her assault was quick and hard to react to, Virathia feeling she were in sand. But she was used to the Khainite's style, and defended herself well. Then she smashed forwards, knocking Aratheia's hands back. Aratheia recovered quickly, however. She jumped onto the side of the ship, and beckoned Virathia to follow her.
Nodding at her sister's mouthed Be careful, Virathia followed her opponent. They battled among the rigging, taking care not to cut it apart. As a daughter of Karond Kar, Virathia knew ship fighting well, and Soulblazer was hers. She enjoyed fighting among the rigging, and after little encouragement had introduced Aratheia to the pleasures too. It was useful training for boarding actions.
Sword and daggers clashed as they jumped from spar to spar and rope to rope. It was most excitingly difficult to keep hold whilst fighting a probably deranged Witch Elf. And Virathia loved every moment of it.
Then Aratheia jumped down amidships. virathia went to follow her, but caught her sleeve.
"Take your time. I've got all night."
"By Mathlann, I'll have your head," Virathia muttered, untangling herself and jumping down. They resumed their fight, until, somehow, Aratheia was on the ground, Virathia's sword pressed against her stomach, not quite enough to pierce her skin.
"What? How is this possible?" Aratheia growled.
Virathia smiled. "It seems I still have the advantage in nautical warfare."
Aratehia clenched her teeth. "Thank Khaine you're her sister." She pushed the sword away and got to her feet. She then stormed off without another word.
"Try praying harder to Khaine!" Virathia shouted after her.
Katherya took her arm. " Aratheia's just upset she lost." Katherya smiled. "She's dedicated her whole life to fighting, whereas you also do politics and sailing."
Virathia was glad for her sister's reassurance. "Thank you. Go make sure Aratheia doesn't hate me more than usual tomorrow."
'I can't promise anything."
"Have you received any visions lately? Of Nehekhara or Brettonnia?"
"No. I think I'll need those Brettoni sacrifices."
"I'll get you the sacrifices. And Aratheia can kill as many as she likes." Virathia looked Katherya in the eye. "When Aratheia and I fight, who do you want to win?" It was an awkward question, but Virathia wasn't in the mood for politeness tonight.
Katherya blinked, then ran after Aratheia. "I'm sorry. I have to calm her down, like you said."
"Tell her if she kills me you'll smash her Khaine idol." Virathia rubbed her eyes.
She was tired, but the gentle rocking of Soulblazer wouldn't be able to send her to sleep tonight, so she toured the deck, ensuirng everythign was as it should be, exchanging words with the corsairs and complimenting Jaylis, commander of the corsairs, for keeping the ship in order.


PS. I considered having Virathia actually wound Aratheia, but decided that her overreacting to wounded pride fit better. Thoughts?
 
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Unas the slayer

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The Sand Reavers - Sparring

Mannslieb bathed the Soulblazer in pale light, illuminating the night crew, illuminating the three-headed dragon figurehead as it sliced through the Great Ocean as silently as a knife across a throat. An apt metaphor, for it would many knives to many throats soon.
"In Khaine's name, when are we boarding a ship?" Aratheia demanded, looking past the prow to the vast emptiness of Mathlann's realm.
"When we find one, obviously," Vorathia replied, standing beside her..
"And when is that going to be?" Aratheia pressed.
"When it is," Katherya said gently from her other side. "I'm not a Heavens mage who could filled the sails with wind. Isn't it relaxing, standing under the moon, feeling the waves break against the Soulblazer?"
Aratheia snorted.
Virathia needed to find a bretttoni ship, and soon. Aratheia was growing more impatient every day. She wanted to murder something, and soon. But, she was sure she wouldn't snap yet.
"You have no appreciation for sailing." Virathia looked her over. "How do you not get a chill every night, anyway?" As usual, Aratheia wasn't wearing anything beyond her belt of daggers and that which was necessary for politeness.
"Khaine's favour, I suppose. Or maybe the fact that I've spent my entire life exposed to more dangers than just the cold. As have you both."
"Dangers we've survived together," Katherya said.
Aratheia looked between the two. "Yes, together," she agreed as if admitting she were part of something resembling a team was physically painful.
"Let's do some training, then," Virathia said. "We need to keep our skills sharp."
"You and me, at least," Aratheia corrected. "I do all the fighting for her."
"Someone standing right beside you is not 'her'," Karethya said firmly. "And I can find. With magic. But yes, iIll just have to enjoy watching you beat one another to bloody pulps. Just remember that vicious Druchii is my sister. So if you're going to kill her, do it properly."
"I'm a Witch Elf. I only kill people properly." Aratheia drew two of her daggers.
Virathia feigned shock. "Sister! How can your only concern be that she might not kill me properly?"
"What, you expect me to actually care about your life?"
"Well, no, but you'd be punished most severely for it."
"Stop being disgusting and fight me, Virathia." Aratheia's blood was up, her eyes burning and lips curled into a snarl that would have shamed a Hydra. All five of tis heads.
"Step back, sister. You've seen how we fight."

With Katherya at a safe distance, Virathia drew her sword and faced Aratheia, the duelists circling one another. Neither was wearing armour, but they were skilled enough to not hurt one another. Although sometimes Virathia had to fight the urge to maim her. She often wondered why the closest thing she had to friendship consisted of constant, often literal, fights with Aratheia, kept in check apparently only by their mutual fondness for Katherya.
As they circled one another, a crowd gathered of corsairs, mercenaries and others. Sheleden was there, towering over the soldiers around him, his expression distinctly interested.
"Looks like we'll have a crowd," Aratheia said excitedly. "i do like to show my skills."
Virathia smiled. "Very well." She leaped forward, slashing at Aratheia.
The witch Elf initiate evaded the blow, and made a flurry of attacks with her dual daggers. Her assault was quick and hard to react to, Virathia feeling she were in sand. But she was used to the Khainite's style, and defended herself well. Then she smashed forwards, knocking Aratheia's hands back. Aratheia recovered quickly, however. She jumped onto the side of the ship, and beckoned virathia to follow her.
Nodding at her sister's mouthed Be careful, Virathia followed her opponent. They battled among the rigging, taking care not to cut it apart. As a daughter of Karond Kar, Virathia knew ship fighting well, and Soulblazer was hers. She enjoyed fighting among the rigging, and after little encouragement had introduced Aratheia to the pleasures too. It was useful training for boarding actions.
Sword and daggers clashed as they jumped from spar to spar and rope to rope. It was most excitingly difficult to keep hold whilst fighting a probably deranged Witch Elf. And Virathia loved every moment of it.
Then Aratheia jumped down amidships. virathia went to follow her, but caught her sleeve.
"Take your time. I've got all night."
"By Mathlann, I'll have your head," Virathia muttered, untangling herself and jumping down. They resumed their fight, until , somehow, Aratheia was on the ground, Virathia's sword pressed against her stomach, not quite enough to pierce her skin.
"What? How is this possible?" Aratheia growled.
Virathia smiled. "It seems I still have the advantage in nautical warfare."
Aratehia clenched her teeth. "Thank Khaine you're her sister." She pushed the sword away and got to her feet. She then stormed off without another word.
"Try praying harder to Khaine!" Virathia shouted after her.
Katherya took her arm. " Aratheia's just upset she lost." Katherya smiled. "She's dedicated her whole life to fighting, whereas you also do politics and sailing."
Virathia was glad for her sister's reassurance. "Thank you. Go make sure Aratheia doesn't hate me more than usual tomorrow."
'I can't promise anything."
"Have you received any visions lately? Of Nehekhara or Brettonnia?"
"No. I think I'll need those Brettoni sacrifices."
"I'll get you the sacrifices. And Aratheia can kill as many as she likes." Virathia looked Katherya in the eye. "When Aratheia and I fight, who do you want to win?" It was an awkward question, but Virathia wasn't in the mood for politeness tonight.
Katherya blinked, then ran after Aratheia. "I'm sorry. I have to clam her down, like you said."
"Tell her if she kills me you'll smash her Khaine idol." Virathia rubbed her eyes.
She was tired, but the gentle rocking of Soulblazer wouldn't be able to send her to sleep tonight, so she toured the deck, ensuirng everythign was as it should be, exchanging words with the corsairs and complimenting Jaylis, commander of the corsairs, for keeping the ship in order.


PS. I considered having Virathia actually wound Aratheia, but decided that her overreacting to wounded pride fit better. Thoughts?

Nah, i think you did well, it is better this way

Aratheia reminds me of certain 40k imperium assassins, that need to be sedated and kept in a sort of stasis, otherwise they would go in a death rampage. They are so over-the-top, tnx to drugs and mental indoctrination, that simply must be unleashed toward something, when awakened.

The growing need to kill is a concept i saw also in a old FS trilogy by Christopher Hintz (IIRC), where there were these bioengineered beings (the Paratwa) that every once in a while were basically forced to kill something, or they would have gone crazy.
 
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
1,608
New Zealand
Ah, yes, the Eversors (i think been a while since I read about the Officio Assassinorum). The Witch Elves and Wyches would love to be able to replicate those, I think.

The Sand Reavers - Shadowing

Virathia didn't know how long she'd lain awake, unwilling to go to sleep again in case she saw that face again. That face...a grinning, leering face that haunted her dreams. A skull wrapped in bandages, with glowing blue lights in its eyes. She was surprised her lifetime in Naggaroth had not inured her to horrors, but there was just something wrong about that face. In normal cirucmstance,s she'd have gone to Katherya for protection, for it must be some magical intrusion into her mind. But after Aratheia's petulant tantrum, she didn't dare visit the room her sister shared with her. The Witch Elf initiate was as likely to gut her as ignore her. Virathia smiled without humour, imagining how the two Druchii had behaved together during the night. She was sure Aratheia wouldn't take anything out on Katherya.
Her thoughts were interrupted by an excited call from the lookout. "Ship ahoy! Probably Brettoni!"
The call was followed by franctic orders to man the Soulblazer and wake everyone.
Virathia was dressed by the time Sheleden, her old trainer, found her.
"Your sister and Aratheia are already awake and in the command room with the officers."
"Talthine?"
"If I hadn't seen her board the ship when we departed Karon Kar, I'd not know she was here."
"Never mind." Virathia raised an eyebrow. "You went to Katherya and Aratheia first?"
"After last night I thought it prudent to prioriitise your sister's safety." Professional, tact, expository. Not apologetic. Good.
Virathia nodded. "And my dear sister is still with us?"
"For now."

Virathia put on the last of her armour and rushed into the command room, taking her customary seat between her sister and Aratheia. The Khainite glared at her, until apparently remembering the need for a united front and glaring at the assembled officers sat around the table on the other side. Sheleden stood behind the three.
"Report."
"The lookout saw a Bretonni ship on the horizon," Jaylis, commander of the corsairs, said. "I ordered Soulblazer to shadow them. They haven't noticed us through the magicla clouds."
The illusory storm clouds, almost transparent from within, roiled about Soulblazer, making observation impossible. "We think it is a merchant ship, but we can't tell.."
"See the lookout is rewarded," Aratheia said. "I - we - need this."
Jaylis smiled. "As you wish, my lady. My corsairs look forward to the challenge."
"Assuming there is a challenge,"Ozarion, captain of the mercenaries, pointed out. "If it's a merchant ship, it'll just be a slaughter. Not that I'm opposed to slaughter." That brought laughter, especially from Aratheia, whose eyes blazed with battle lust now. "But this may be less battle than exercise."
Vedethar nodded. "And my troops won't even get any exercise. Master Virathia, I respectfully request we pull into shore for some raiding to exercise the horses and Cold Ones."
Virathia nodded. "Good points, both. If they do not resist, take the first...10 prisoners for sacrifices. Do as you wish with the rest. I don't really want to be babysitting prisoners."
"Thank you, sister," Katherya said kindly. "I don't know what I'd do without you."
Suppressing a rude comment about Aratheia, Virathia smiled. "You'll never have to find out, I promise. Vedethar, I shall take your cavalry ashore once we have taken what we can from this ship."
"Yes, Master Virathia."
"I want to see this ship. Let's go to the foredeck."

The Bretonni ship, just visible on the horizon, unfortunately in the rising sun, appeared even at this distance large and squat, with sails that would be easy targets for the Reapers. Somewhere to port, in the distance, landed jutted out. It hurt to look.
Aratheia held Katherya's hand behind their backs. "Look! After we kill the Brettoni and get the sacrifices, we can land."
"Yes, we can."
For once, Virathia refrained from insulting the Witch Elf. For one thing, squabbling wasn't a good image, and for another, she was happy for how pleased Aratheia seemed. Hopefully it would take her mind off last night entirely.
"We should be careful," Sheleden said. "They may have cannons. Their honourbale notions that forbid them from using black powder don't apply at sea."
"Because it's not Brettonnian soil," Katherya said, amused.
Virathia laughed. "How clever of the navy. Not that it will save them. We'll be cloaked until just before we board. Only problem is, they're directly in the sun. But we're in no hurry. Let's shadow them until we can find a better angle."

Finally, Virathia could look at the sun without feeling like her eyes were goin to melt. Finally, the Soulreaver was within Reaper range of the Brettoni. Up close, it was clearly just a merchant ship, its speed crippled by its cargo. Its sails and flags proclaimed messages Virathia couldn't read. It didn't matter. The Reapers were loaded and ready to fire. Prayers to various gods, especially Khaine, passed down the ship.
"Mathlann give us treasure," Virathia whispered.
"Don't you like Khaine anymore?" Aratheia asked in a tone that wasn't quite friendly teasing. She was holding her dual daggers ready.
"I'm allowed to like as many gods as I please. But yes, Khaine grant me strength, too."
"Hekarti protect us," Katherya added, receiving no barbed response. She then, unexpectedly, grabbed Virathia's arm and pulled her aside. "Sister. You had nightmares, too, last night, didn't you?"
"Cytharai, how dare they?" Virathia glared at, but not to, Katherya. "When I find out who's been scaring my sister..."
"And Aratheia, though she won't admit it."
"And her, too," Virathia muttered. Sometiems she thought the only thing keeping her from gutting Aratheia by now was how Katherya would take it.
"I know you were afraid to talk to me because of Aratheia. But she'd never hurt you, for the same reason you'd never hurt her." Katherya's eyes softened. "Come to our room tonight, then I can give you both something to keep out the liches."
"The what?"
"I'll explain."
"Are you two making final battle plans, or just being disgusitng?" Aratheia snapped.
"We're sisters, by Mathlann. We're allowed private conversations before battler." Virathia strode back to the side of the ship, a too excited for the rather public squabbling to trouble her. "Don't worry, I'll let you be first across."
Aratheia's blood-mad eyes instantly calmed into a surprisingly intimate gaze. "Do you promise/"
"I promise."
 
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Unas the slayer

Moderator
Staff member
Jan 1, 2017
930
Northern Italy
I must say that you capture really well the weird and intimate ties between the DE.
I have never been too fond of them, but this insight into their psichology is really spot on. Kudos to you.
 

Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
1,608
New Zealand
The Sand Reavers - Boarding Action

Virathia felt her heart beating against her ribs, as if it wanted out. Her blood was rushing through her veins. She gripped her sword and shield tightly. She looked down at the waves crashing against the side of the Soulblazer as the ship approached the Bretonni. Mathlann would see her through this. And would protect her sister. And Aratheia. Probably. Shouts echoed through the ship as last minute preparations were made, weapons and armour checked, and the Reapers kept aimed. The two ballistae could tear through entire rows of elf-sized targets, but would need a good angle for that, and against a large, squat merchant ship the chances of a perfect shot for either were slim.
Soulblazer was close to the target. Virathia wanted to be close enough that after the Reapers fired Katherya could drop the cloud cover and the boarders would jump across before any cannons might open fire. Virathia smiled at the visions of slaughterr she imagined seeing, and wondered if this was how Aratheia always felt, and how Katherya could spend so much time with such a person without either going the same way or getting torn apart. Or maybe, just maybe, she was giving the Khainite too little credit. She then wondered why she cared so much about Katherya. Any other Druchii sisters would probably have killed one another by now.
Pushing aside such thoughts, Virathia focused on the rapidly approaching merchant ship. It was almost close enough to jump across once the Reapers fired.
Aratheia and Katherya stood beside her, the Witch Elf twirling her poisoned daggers, Katherya murmuring a prayer to Hekarti. Sheleden watched over them.
"Reapers! Now!"
A moment after Virathia spoke, two massive bolts leaped away from Soulblazer, slamming into some of the crew on the top deck of the Brettoni ship. The remaining crew, a mix of sailors and professional soldiers, ran about, excitedly pointing at where the bolts had come from. The clouds must be confusing them.
"Katherya, drop our cover. Aratheia, you may lead the charge. I'll go second. Katherya, stay here."
"But -" Katherya's eyes burned with desire for battle, and sisterly pleading.
"No. You can use your magic just as well here. Jaylis will keep Soulblazer out of danger."
"As you wish, sister." Katherya was unhappy, but not defiant. She spoke a word, and the clouds dispersed.
Aratheia laughed. "I'll leave just enough toys for us, I promise." She jumped across, no doubt her appearance causing confusion amongst the defenders.
Virathia looked at Sheleden. "You live as long as my sister does. Understood?"
"Understood."
Virathia exchanged a final reassuring glance with Katherya, then leaped across.

She landed on the solid deck, taking only a moment to steady herself. A small cluster of Bretttoni soldiers had gathered around a point on the deck. Within a few seconds, they had all collapsed, to reveal Aratheia grinning with bloodied blades in hand. She had no visible wounds.
"Oh, this is so fun, Virathia. I do love when you let me fight." She sounded for all the world like a little sister allowed into her favourite shop after a month's good behaviour.
Virathia smiled. "Indeed."
A Bretonni soldier came up to her, screaming something in a language she didn't understand. It didn't matter. She caught his blow on her shield, then with superior speed rammed ehr sword into his neck.
"You should take your time and play with them," Aratheia said, dancing away from an enemy's sword.
"I'm here to kill and win, not play."
Now the Bretonni ship's deck was full of corsairs and mercenaries, who corsairs, they methodically cut down resistance.
Virathia looked back to the Soulblazer, where her sister was chanting something. Moments later, a strong blast of icy wind sliced through the air beside Virathia, slamming into a half dozen Bretonni soldiers who had been charging at her. It did little more than slow them, butt hat was enough. Virathia leaped at them, cutting down the first two before they could recover. The remaining four spread out, trying to surround her.
Vorathia ducked and weaved through their attacks, countering where she could. But there were too many for her to switch to offence for too long, and she found herself being pushed to the side of the ship.
One of them lunged for her. She twisted aside and sent him flying into Mathlann's realm with a vicious grin.
The other three approached more cautiously.
Virathia parried a slash and ducked a sweep, then lunged forward. her blow was parried, but she extricated herself quickly. Humans were so slow. Then she ducked to the side, making them turn around and letting her fall back a little.
"Having trouble/" Aratheia shouted over the noise of the battle.
"To Khaine's halls with you!" Virathia replied encouragingly.
Focusing on her own battle, she unleashed a flurry of blows, driving them onto the defensive. Then she slipped killing strikes in, until she was left with only the last one. He was more ornately dressed than his fellows, and wore better quality armour. The prospect of slaying an officer excited Virathia. She prepared to face him.
Then a shadow flitted across her vision and the man dropped to the deck.
"A worthy prize for Khaine," Aratheia said.
"What - how- how dare you!" Virathia exclaimed. "I was going to kill that officer."
"I saw you needed help."
"No, I didn't, by Mathlann."
"Mathlann this, Mathlann that." Aratheia smiled. "It is Khaine's favour you should seek." The Witch Elf's disposiiton was most unsettling, if beautiful. She stood, blood-spattered on the now-red deck of the ship, daggers in hand, hair dishevelled, eyes wild. Virathia thought she could see what Katherya did. There was a certain...temptation to such unrestrained battle lust.
Virathia fought hard to control herself. She was no blood-crazed Witch Elf. She was Druchii aristocracy, with iron discipline and a reputation to maintain. And besides, a fight with Aratheia would ruin her reputation with the soldiers. And what would Katherya think?
At that moment, Katherya arrived on the deck, followed by Sheleden. The last of the enemy had been subdued, and a good number of prisoners secured.
"Aratheia!" Katherya exclaimed, looking over her beloved.
"It's not mine," Aratheia protested, the fire out of her eyes.
Katherya folded her arms. "Even if you don't need medical attention, which, all respects to your honour, I'm sure you do, I'm not having that mess in my room tonight."
"Oh, fine. But I'm still on my feet, and everyone's watching." Aratheia looked distinctly embarrassed. "And you, hush!" she snapped at Virathia, whose lips were as tight as a properly sticthed-up Khainite Assassin's.
Sheleden shared an amused glance with Virathia.

Jaylis approached, from the boarding ramp now connecting the ships, flanked by corsairs wielding handbows ready for any attack. She was an intimidating presence, with high cheekbones and a black sea dragon cloak. She surveyed the deck, then nodded to Virathia.
"I won't pretend you just conquered Ulthuan. But you did a good job, Master."
"Thank you, Captain Jaylis."
Aratheia and Katherya rushed to stand either side of their future Drachau.
"You look satisfied with yourself, Lady Aratheia," Jaylis said, amused.
"Humans are almost tediously easy prey. But at least it's good practice for later. Keep my daggers sharp and everything."
"If you want to...discuss things between yourselves, my crew and I can take whatever treasure there is, and bring over the prisoners."
Virathia made to reply, then shut her mouth. Was she being ordered off her prize by an inferior? On the other hand, there was nothing more for her to do beyond overseeing the haul of treasure and prisoners. And her authority had just been somewhat undermined by Aratheia's stealing of the officer. Not fatally, probably, given everyone knew Aratheia and how she interacted with Virathia.
But it was better to be in charge. "Thank you, Captain. But you should look after Soulblazer. I have loot and prisoners to oversee and distribute."
Jaylis nodded. "As you command, Master Virathia." She turned and with her corsair escort walked back to the Soulblazer.
"What is she tells them to just leave us behind?" Katherya asked.
"There's still corsairs aboard. Sailors don't leave anyone behind, as a daughter of Karond Kar should know," Sheleden answered. "And she wouldn't dare just leave all of us behind."
"If you have to worry so much, sister, take Aratheia...where she needs to go." All couples needed their quality time, Virathia thought, knowing if Aratheia had heard that she'd tear her guts out.
"Not you, too," the Witch Elf complained without much venom.
"I have things to oversee," Virathai said. She strode to the centre of the ship, accompanied by Sheleden.
 
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Disciple of Nagash

Oldblood
Staff member
Feb 12, 2008
27,732
I must say that you capture really well the weird and intimate ties between the DE.
I have never been too fond of them, but this insight into their psichology is really spot on. Kudos to you.
I agree, whilst I love undead stories, I'm enjoying this interlude with the DE and the presentations of the different paths/types.
 

Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
1,608
New Zealand
Always good to have a change. I'm actually finding the Druchii easier to write than the vampires.

The San Reavers - Liches and Old Soldiers

"I need the sacrifices more. I haven't had any visions since that first one out from Karond Kar."
"I need to talk to Khaine. How many sacrifices do you need to hear the Goddess of Magic?"
"Go ahead, see if the Lord of Battle cares about slaughtered prisoners."
"He's the Lord of Murder, you should know. I could always see how he likes a sorceress for dinner."
Virathia watched her companions at the doorway squabble - that was all it really was, she was sure - over their sacrifices, with her arms folded in irritation. They were in her slightly larger cabin, where she had invited them in the interests of neutrality and maintaining her authority, in anticipation of just this. It was dark outside, Soulblazer sneaking down the coast to find a good anchorage.
"Stop it, both you," she said.
Aratheia and Katherya turned to face her, as if they'd forgotten she was there.
"I need the sacrifices so we can figure out what we need to do in Nehekhara," Katherya argued.
"I have had no visions from Khaine either," Aratheia objected.
Virathia held up a hand. Managing these two Druchii was good practice for Naggaroth politics, if nothing else.
Katherya brushed a lock of hair out of her eyes. "I'm sorry, sister."
Aratheia shrugged.
"You may both make sacrifices. I'm sure both gods are eager to hear from their devoted children. If you leave one or two for me, I'd be happy to put in a word to Mathlann, too,:
"Very well," Aratheia agreed.
"But first." Virathia sat on her bed. "Sister, what was that face I saw last night?"
"Nobody saw a face last night. We were all stressed after Virathia hurt me."
"I didn't hurt you, except in your pride. Please, Aratheia, concentrate."
Aratheia frowned, an air of menace stronger than usual emanating from her Khaine-marked body. Then she relaxed. "Yes, I saw a vision last night."
"She didn't want to admit it at first," Katherya reproached, placing an arm around the Witch Elf. "But I persuaded her I wouldn't mock her for it and I could help." She produced a vial. "Drink this, sister. It's sleeping charm. It'll send you to sleep, and protect you from disturbances."
"What if something happens and I need to wake up?"
"If someone kicks you, you'll feel it.," Katherya assured her. "This is just to protect from visions. Aratheia and I have already taken ours."
"Why didn't you bring this to me before?"
"I'm sorry, sister. Aratheia made me drink mine first."
"Just on general principles. She's a sorceress."
Virathia growled. "You know Katherya. And you trust her. Otherwise you wouldn't be doing..." she looked at their held hands. "...this. Do not insult my sister."
Aratheia's eyes burned. "I was upset after you defeated me. I'm going to have to make up for that somehow." Her hands drifted to her belt of daggers.
Virathia gave an exaggerated yawn. "Later." She took the vial. "Is it knock-out, or just extra?"
"Just extra. Take it now and it'll calm you down, then protect you when you decide to sleep.
Virathia swallowed it. It tasted horrible, but she soon felt more relaxed. "Thank you. Now, what was that skull?"
Katherya's eyes focused. "A Liche Priest of Nehekhara. They are the custodians of ancient lore and magic in that dead land. Mistress Talthine taught me about them."
"She's been useful for someone, at least," Aratheia muttered.
"Don't," Virathia warned.
"They are ancient sorcerers of great power. One of them must have noticed us coming and decided to scare us. It may even be why I cannot receive visions from Hekarti."
"A corpse sorcerer has been in my head?" Aratheia asked, "Khaine help me, I'll tear its guts out. Assuming it has any."
"That's unfortunate," Virathia said. "We won't have the element of surprise. But we could regain it to at least some extent if it can't get into our heads anymore." Her jaw set. "No one hurts my sister and Aratheia without repercussions. I shall be as the Witch King shall be when he enters the Phoenix Palace."
Katherya smiled. "You are most dangerous, sister. I'm sure we'll be able to deal with this."

"A Liche Priest? What in the name of the Cytharai are you thinking?" Sheleden demanded, materialising outside the cabin.
"It will be perfectly fine," Virathia said, cursing herself for forgetting her old trainer was always there. Past him, she could see the dark shape of the Brettonnian coast gently slipping past.
"I understand wanting revenge on those who hurt your companions and you. But if they know you're coming..."
"Don't tell me this old warrior is afraid of a few corpses," Aratheia said, laughing.
Suddenly, Sheleden grabbed her by the shoulders and held her up so their eyes met. "Afraid? You would call me afraid? Do you even know why I am sworn to protect you and your companions' worthless lives?"
"Because their parents order you to."
Sheleden put Aratheia down. She rubbed her shoulders in shock., glaring at him. Katherya held her comfortingly.
Virathia had never been so terrified of her old trainer.
Sheleden returned the glare, making her submit. "Before any of you lot were anywhere near Morai-Heg's thoughts, I was a powerful Drachau who raided the Old World, Norsca and Lustria alike. I saw things your minds could not comprehend. During those expeditions I built a relationship with Virathia and Katherya's parents, and later they decided I was the perfect choice to guard their children.." He nodded to Aratheia. "You fall under my protection so long as Katherya likes you."
"I should not have questioned you," Aartheia mumbled apologetically, words Virathia had never expected from her mouth.
"So when I say you should not pursue this, I do not do so out of fear for myself. But surety that nothing good can result for you if you do."
"Lord Sheleden," Virathia said carefully. Anyone else, she'd have punished them severely for scaring, elfhandling Aratheia, but she dared not with this old warrior. "i understand your concern. But this is important for us. When we return, I'll be made a Drachau, my sister will be a sorceress, and Aartheia will be a full Witch Elf. Besides, once we make the sacrifices and ask Hekarti and Khaine what we must do, we will be prepared."
Sheleden looked as if he'd just been told Naggaroth was a little warm most of the time. "Such blind confidence of youth. Gods, I wish I still had it. I'm not here to give you orders. I'm your bodyguard, not your master. I hope you know what we're doing." He began to walk away. "For all our sakes."

Jaylis appeared, flanked by her corsair escort, with an amused smile on her face. "Everything alright, my ladies?"
"Yes," Virathia said with her best I'm going to kill you if you're still here after I blink look. Aratheia had been a willing teacher of that look.
"Excellent. We are all looking forward to the results of the sacrifices." She turned around, over-dramatically swishing her sea dragon cloak, and departed.
"How long was she there for?" Virathia demanded.
"Aneth Raima knows," Katherya muttered. "Aratheia, are you alright?"
"I'm fine!" she snapped.
Katherya stumbled back under the ferocity of the response.
Aartheia immediately looked ashamed of herself and hugged Katherya. "I didn't mean to scare you. I just never thought Sheleden could scare us. Me, anyway. We're still going to Nehekhara, aren't we?"
"You heard what he said," Katherya whispered.
Virathia joined the hug, again wondering why she put up with this nonsense. "Sister, it will be fine. You're the finest sorceress your age, same goes for our Witch Elf here. I would not be with any other pair of Druchii. We will punish the liches. We will take their treasures. And we shall claim our rightful titles."
"I love you, sister," Katherya murmured.
Aratheia broke away. "I hate you both. So disgusting all the time. Hurry up, the crew are waiting for the sacrifices."
Virathia could tell Aratheia was simply expressing her affection for them in her twisted way. A future Drachau, a sorceress, and Witch Elf? What dark humour Khaine, or Morai-Heg, had.
 

Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
1,608
New Zealand
That neatly sums it up. Young and foolish Druchii...

The Sand Reavers - The Tomb Queen

Flanked by her companions, Virathia strode onto the Soulblazer's foredeck where the few Bretonni that had survived stood chained in a mournful row, overseen by the corsairs. The young aristocrat savoured their looks of despair as she walked down the line. There was nothing better than crushing the hope from your victims, watchin them know nothing good will come of the last few moments of their lives.
"Excellent work, children."
Virathia spun in surprise, anger and disgust to see Talthine emerge from the bowels of the ship. The sorceress had finally deigned to break her isolation and join them on this expedition?
"Teacher!" Katherya greeted, kneeling before her instructor in the arcane ways.
"Pet of Morathi," Aratheia said.
"Hello, Katherya. It is a pleasure to see you after all this time." Talthine was tall and slender, with deathly pale skin, raven hair in perfectly maintained curls, and sorceress robes that matched her form excellently. Around her neck hung a golden chain holding an icon of Hekarti. She carried a staff carved out of bone.
"You, too, Teacher."
Virathia forced out a polite, "Lady Talthine, it is our pleasure to receive you at last."
Talthine smiled. "Master Virathia. You have done well protecting my student."
"She's my sister."
"Of course. I see we are heading into an inlet for the night. Are we landing?"
"Tomorrow morning," Virathia said, feeling she had to make it clear for her authority. "We have sacrifices to perform."
Talthine looked over the Bretonni captives. "Ah, yes, the sacrifices. That is what I am here for."
"We took the prisoners," Aratheia snapped. "They are our sacrifices."
"Even a daughter of Khaine must know that it is proper for the ranking sorceress to make the sacrifices and determine the Goddess' will."
"Have you had any visions?" Katherya asked.
Talthine looked at her fondly. "No, but my Lady Hekarti tells me what you've been doing recently. And with sacrifices, I'll be able to tell you what we must do to successfully raid Nehekhara."
"Yes, Teacher," Katherya said excitedly. "Shall we begin?"
Seeing argument would be useless, but determined to preserve some dignity, Virathia nodded. "Yes, sister. Talthine, do what you wish."
Talthine's first act was to rub holy oils onto the captives' foreheads, and then cut sigils of Hekarti into their arms. Then, praising her goddess, she slashed across the throat of each one in turn.
Aratheia glared when the last one fell.
Virathia whispered into her ear. "Later."
Talthine turned and spoke to the assembled Druchii. "Warriors! Lady Hekarti sends me visions of the futre, visions of sand and blood and death. I shall have to interpret them before delivering their meaning. I shall return at midnight." With that, she strode back to the stairs leading below deck.
"That was dramatic," Virathia muttered.
"Now we just have to wait for her to interpret Mistress Hekarti's messages," Katherya said.
Virathia placed a hand on her shoulder. "Don't you think, my beautiful, wise, clever sister, she would be most impressed if you received the visions yourself? Retire to your cabin, and see what we can see."
"Oh! She would be most impressed, sister." Katherya grinned.
"If this works," Aratheia hissed. "I won't make it hurt too much when I finally decide to kill you, Virathia."
"You're welcome."

Whilst Katherya saw what she could in her cabin, Virathia took Aratheia to hers. After a moment's awkwardness, they sat together on Virathia's bed.
"Did she just come up here to annoy us?" Aratheia asked.
Virathia shrugged. "She will have seen something. Otherwise she'll lose her credibility by morning. But yes, I think she was making a point. She does the sacrifices and visions, not us."
"Katherya seems to think she's Morathi herself." Aratheia said the Queen's name with utmost hatred.
"She's her student. Of course she does. I'm sure if Katherya met your Death Hag they wouldn't get along at all."
Aratheia laughed. "You're right." She shook her head. "Then why do your sister and I treat one another the way we do?"
"I'd kill you if you hurt her, so you may as well enjoy her company."
"Probably. Why do you take such care to defend her?"
"She's my sister."
"I know. But most Druchii wouldn't care. Family are just rivals. Especially among aristocracy."
Virathia shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe because, as a sorceress, she isn't looking to take the Drachau mantle, so she's no direct threat to me?" She smiled. "Or maybe because of something that happened when we were children, before we met you."
Aratheia looked intrigued. "Please, tell me."
"One night, we were outside in the palace garden, just two young girls playing, when I suddenly felt a knife against my throat and a grip around my waist. I screamed, and Katherya turned and saw me. The assassin - I'm very sure it was - demanded we let him in. I assumed Katherya would just run off and find someone, leaving me to die. I probably would have, at that point. But she stood her ground, and cast a small version of the artificial clouds that wreathe Soulblazer. Her best spell, I like to think. That confused the assassin enough for me to get away, then she cast Chillwind and everything else she could think of. Not very well, obviously, but it gave me enough time to find help. Afterwards, I was so proud of ehr I decided I had to protect her."
"How sweet," Aratheia said sincerely.
"It helped I had to sit in her room for the next few days waiting for her to recover from spell overuse. Thank Khaine and Hekarti a daemon didn't take her that night."
Katherya coughed at the doorway. "Shall I present my visions now, or do you need a few more moments to embarrass me, sister?"

Katherya's eyes grew distant. "The blood of the Bretonni ran strong. I could see where I could not before. I saw an ancient temple city. Streets of sand, many buildings dedicated to any gods. All in states of ruin, but filled with echoes of something that isn't quite life, nor quite death. Statues lined the streets, statues my mistress says are defensive as well as decorative. Then I saw within one building. A...chamber. A sort of sorcerer's chamber, I think."
"You mean sorceress' surely?" Aratheia asked.
""Nehekharan priests are usually male," Virathia whispered. "Now hush up."
"Within this chamber I saw a Liche Priest. A figure that resembles a man, or at least his corpse. Clad in rotten robes and rusted ornaments. He was holding a crystal of some sort. Hekarti called it the Eye of Tahoth, their God of Magic and Knowledge. The Priest looked at me, even though I wasn't really there. Then my vision shifted, and I was in another chamber, filled with coffins. Hundreds, surroudnign a central, most decorated, one. Hekarti allowed me to read the inscription."
Virathia and Aratheia exchanged an excited glance.
"Here lies Queen Aman-kate and her most loyal warriors. Do not trouble her sleep."
Virathia and Aratheia caught Katherya as she collapsed.
"Are you alright, sister?"
"Just shaken," Katherya murmured. "I can't believe half of what I saw there."
"Sheleden always said Nehekhara was a land of mystery and wonder," Aratheia said. "Let's give Vedethar and his cavalry the game they need tomorrow, then move on. I'm dying with anticipation."
Katherya stumbled onto Virathia's bed, groaning. "I hate sand."
Virathia and Aratheia shared a worried look. "Neither of us are getting any sleep tonight, are we?"
"If you get tired I'll punch you to sleep," Aartheia said.
 
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
1,608
New Zealand
I just thought I'd give amore detailed description of Katherya's vision in the previous chapter. More than just a vision, it would seem.

The Sand Reavers - Interlude - Katherya's Vision

Katherya woke to scorching heat and merciless sun that seemed, in its own way, just as bad as Naggaroth's chill. She couldn't even feel it, really, but her senses were screaming at her to cool off and get in shade, somehow. She hated it when he perceptions forgot she wasn't actually there. Talthine said she would get over it eventually.
She shook her head and looked about her. She stood under a cloudless sky in a desert that stretched further than she could see. Directly in front of her was a city, as large as any in Naggaroth, but there the similarities ended. Whereas Naggarothi cities, former Black Arks or built on-site, were places of murder, suffering and terror, this city was simply dead. Its huge walls and pyramid structures seemed empty. Its gate a lonely face staring out at ruins beyond. Forlorn, animal headed statues flanked a long entrance way to the city, but it all just seemed so empty.

Come, daughter.
Katherya heard the voice in her soul, deep where no one, not even unaccountably loyal Virathia or wonderfully ferocious Aratheia could see. She knew it was the voice of Hekarti, Mistress of Magic. Her voice was distinctly feminine, but deep and ancient and more a feeling than a voice.
Enter the city. A sleepless guardian awaits you.
"What guardian?" Katherya demanded. How could anyone await her? She wasn't here. Khaine's Hand, probably the Liche.

Katherya went to the gate, which opened as she approached, despite no crew or visible machinery. Well, it was a vision. She hurried inside, and was greeted by more desolation. No, not desolation. That implied a certain amount of deliberate destruction. This city wasn't desolate. It was just empty. As if one day everyone had just decided to leave. The streets, however, despite being sand swept, seemed clean, as did the building. It wasn't really ruined, just empty. It was becoming overwhelming. Especially what with the giant cat-like statues every so often.
Katherya passed a pyramid, a giant building somewhat reminiscent of descriptions of Lustrian structures she'd heard of, but without steps on the side. Not for sacrifices, then. Her gaze was drawn to the largest, central one. It rose up like a fortress. She clutched her head. Power resided here, almost more than she could bear to perceive. An ancient power, the echo of an ancient curse, stitched together by another power that needed to keep it together. Needed the curse it resented to buy time to find its own path.
The way Hellebron uses Morathi's blood rituals out of necessity despite wanting more, Hekarti said.
Katherya saw a door on the facing side of the pyramid. It gleamed with magic. Animal-headed statues stood watch - how silly! - beside it, wielding vicious, curved blades that somewhat resembled sickles.
Katherya felt drawn to the door, and as she approached, it opened to darkness. Magic rushed at her, almost knocking her over. She sensed dark magic similar to that used by Druchii like her, but corrupted, if such a twisted form of magic could call its misbegotten children corruptions. But there was something else there, too. Nehekharan magic, she presumed.
The darkness swallowed Katherya as she descended unseen steps into the pyramid, the door closing behind her. The sense of magic was overpowering here, but she hd to press on. For herself. For Virathia. For Aratheia. They needed to know what they would be facing.
How selfless, daughter, Hekarti mocked.
"My sister nursed me to health when I was badly hurt as a child. And Aartheia is always there for me."

A wall ahead was illuminated by flickering torches. It held an inscription in strange script, more pictures than letters.
Welcome, trespasser, to the pyramid of Queen Amene-kate. Step no further if you wish to live.
Katherya wasn't going to be scared by an ominous message. Nothing lived here anyway. She turned towards a faintly lit door, which opened as she approached. Within this chamber was a vast collection of statues, smaller than the ones outside. Animals of all sorts. They all seemed to be staring at her maliciously. She returned the stare as any good Druchii would.
Hurry up, daughter. You're expected.
Katherya next found herself in a chamber filled with books. Focusing her vision-magic told her they were instructions on surviving the passage to the Underworld. Perhaps this culture had offfended its gods? She was tempted to read the books, but felt hurried along. Visions were annoying like that sometimes.

Katherya stood above an old man who knelt before an altar. At least, she thought it was an old man at first. Then she realised it was a corpse, kneeling, clad in ceremonial robes. The altar it knelt before held a number of jars that emanated power.
"At last, the Dark Ones arrive," said the corpse in a crackling, sandy voice.
"How can you see me?" Katherya demanded.
"Tahoth grants sight to those who seek it." The corpse-priest turned around, revealing that it was holding a shining blue crystal in its withered hands. A crystal as blue as the fire in its eyes.
The Eye of Tahoth, their God of Magic and Knowledge, Hekarti explained. It can see all. They know you are coming.
"You can't hurt me here," Katherya said, with more hope than certainty.
The corpse smiled, a horrific sight with its desiccated flesh. "Do not presume, child of darkness. You hide the in the shadows beneath gods who care not for you. We bring light."
"How can the dead ever threaten the living?"
"The Day of Awakening nears. I can feel it."
"What is that?"
"When we claim what was promised to us. When we right what the Usurper made wrong."
They wish to recover living forms of immortal power. It was this hunger for immortality that drove them to this. Their Liche Priests - as you see before you - strove what they should not have.
"You wanted to live forever? Queen Morathi discovered that and gave it to the worthy few." Katherya laughed mockingly. "If this is the best humans can achieve, you may as well give up."
"Morathi!" the Liche Priest growled. "You know nothing of Morathi, child!"
"She is my queen. The Mother of the Druchii. Bride of Aenarion. True Everqueen of -"
The Liche Priest held up his hand. Katherya felt compelled to obey. Not magically, she thought, but because of a sudden terror.
"Chaos cultist! Betrayer of the elves! Sunderer! I know much, Druchii. The Daemons roam in the North, ever seeking to breach the world, and you skulk in ice hating the others of your kind."
"Don't lecture me. You skulk in Nehekhara. And why do you feel the need to lecture me? Why did you bring me here?"
The Liche Priest smiled, faux-politely. "I long detected your ship's passage. I am curious as to whether your teacher will discover anything I do not choose to show her. You, and those you love - don't argue, child - seek my queen's treasure." The Liche Priest's eyes burned brightly. "I cannot permit this. Allow me to show you the challenge you will face." Then he lowered his voice. "You of all people, Druchii, should understand the need to gloat."

The vision shifted again, and Katherya found herself in a huge chamber that must have filled the entire base of the pyramid. Rows upon rows of ornate coffins bedecked with gold. Inscriptions ran along the walls detailing feats of valour in battle. Her eyes were drawn to the central tomb, raised on a plinth, and more ornate than the rest. Its inscription spoke of Queen Amene-kate, ruler of this city. All the coffins here held her warriors, who would rise to serve her when the time came. Her death-form was imprinted onto the coffin.
"Do you see what you face? The Tomb Guard are the perfect warriors - eternal, tireless, easily restored, loyal beyond death." The Priest's voice echoed across the chamber. "The constructs are ready. You will not claim your prize. Tell your companions this would be a foolish venture."
"No! Druchii do not surrender. I will defeat you, Liche. I shall grind your bones to dust. I shall tear apart your crypts."
"Brave words, from a child."
Sand began to poor into the crypt chamber. After a short while, it rose about Katherya. She screamed and tried to run, but her feet were fstuck As the sand rose to ehr eyes, she thought about everything she would do to this Liche Priest. Then she began to choke, lungs absorbing sand.
Wake up, child! Hekarti urged.
Her eyes snapped open in her cabin. She had to report this.

Katherya barely managed to give scant details before the sand seemed to overwhelm her again, though she was on a ship, far away. She collapsed forwards. "i hate sand."
 

Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
1,608
New Zealand
I don't think young Druchii desperate to prove themselves - or Druchii at all - heed warnings.

The Sand Reavers - On the Prowl

Virathia was worried. Katherya looked so peaceful laying on her bed, eyes closed. But her sister hadn't moved in hours, except for the occasional tremor. It was nearing midnight, when Virathia would have to go out and listen to Talthine's report of her visions. She hoped the other sorceress got the same treatment Katherya had.
Aratheia looked at Virathia. "This is your fault."
"What?"
"You had her perform her own vision without waiting for Talthine."
"She was going to do a vision, remember. And so you were you."
Aratheia nodded. "I know. I just..." Her gaze fixed on Katherya. "She's hurt, and the one that did it isn't here for me to stab."
"I feel that way, too. maybe Sheleden was right."
"We are not turning around! We are not afraid of a corpse priest." Aartheia's eyes burned. "That thing hurt your sister. Don't you want to punish it?"
Virathia nodded. "Yes, i do. I really do. No one hurts what's mine without paying for it."

Midnight arrived, and, leaving Aratheia with Katherya, Virathia joined the rest of the crew on the foredeck where Talthine was waiting. By Mathlann, never be waited on! She noticed Jaylis cast an amused glance at her. The corsair captain held Virathia;'s gaze when it became a glare.
Sheleden appeared beside Virathia.
"It is good of you to join us, Master Virathia," Talthine said eventually. She raised an eyebrow. "Where is my student, Katherya? She should be here."
"She is indisposed," Virathia said. Did Talthine know why?
"How unfortunate. I shall have to deliver my vision myself."
Virathia felt a crackling of energy, an arcane fire rippling across the deck of the Soulblazer. The looks on everyone's faces showed they felt it too.
"I have performed the rituals." Talthine's voice was distant, ethereal. "I gazed upon the webs of the future, and the sands of time."
That wasn't funny, woman, Virathia thought.
"We approach a land of riches beyond anyone's dreams. But it will be a dangerous land. Scorching heat. Sandstorms. Little water. Massed ranks of the living dead. Giant animated statues. Anceint lords of bygone times. Mistress Hekarti has shown me this, She ahs also shown me how to defeat these obstacles. The city we seek is on the brink of civil war. Whilst the queen rests in her tomb chamber, forces within gather against her. A usurper is ready to challenge her. Lesser visions may not reveal so much."
She knew!
"But I am not deceived. War is coming to them, not only from us. We need only time our attack to exploit the confusion. Then, I will show you how to breach the pyramid's defences, and the treasures shall be yours."
Before this could get further out of hand, Virathia strode up to Talthine and stood beside her. "Thank you, Talthine. Your visions are most enlightening. With this knowledge we shall raid the desert kings and make our fortunes. We shall exploit their petty war. At dawn's first light I shall allow the cavalry to exercise. Then, best speed to Nehekhara. For Mathlann. For Khaine. For slaughter!"
The cheering satisfied Virathia, for now. But she was worried how much Talthine knew, and what she might do with that knowledge.

Even before the first light of dawn Vedethar had prepared his cavalry. A group of horses - twisted products of Naggaroth's chill and the Druchii - stood restlessly, snorting and stamping their hooves. Beside them the Cold Ones snapped and hissed, ready to tear flesh asunder. An impressive sight. The riders stood near their steeds, both the light armoured Dark Riders, and the heavily armoured, ornate Cold One Knights.
Virathia herself stood beside Tyrant, her Cold One. She'd chosen him for his unswerving loyalty to her, and the gleam in his eyes in battle. It was so exhilarating fighting atop him, riding down enemies. The only problem was the slime she had to coat herself in so he wouldn't murder her. But she didn't do it that often, and her senses still mostly functioned.
She cast her gaze to where Katherya and Aratheia stood, to see them off rather than join them. Aratheia of all people refused to let Katherya join the raid, citing her ill health and unknown effects on her mind. What if she suddenly collapsed? Good reasons, but Katherya was clearly unhappy. The Witch Elf had a hand on her shoulder, and a concerned look on her face.
Soulblazer rocked gently near the shore, hidden by Katherya's clouds. It would be a shame to depart, but even a child of Mathlann had to go ashore sometimes. At least the beach was empty, and the few houses in the distance would be no difficulty.

Water lapped at Virathia's legs as Tyrant bounded off the ramp into the shallows, leading the squadron. Vedethar followed just behind on his Cold One.
"Khaine willing, we will take many captives," Virathia said.
"Indeed," Vedethar replied, taking a flanking position.
Sheleden took up the other flank, on his horse. "Yes, Khaine willing. Be careful, Master. We do not wish to travel too far inland, and without Katherya or Talthine's magic, we would have no defence against one of their sorceresses."
"This will be a lightning raid," Virathia assured him. "In, out." She irritably thought of Talthine, who had disappeared to her lair again.

Virathia laughed as she pounded through the streets on Tyrant. It was a small, sleepy village, clearly not expecting trouble. That made it all the easier to run down villagers and do what cavalry did best - securing unprepared areas. Within moments, the location was surrounded, and Virathia was rubbing the blood of a few more brave, or foolish, Bretonni off her sword. Why did they defend themselves when there was clearly no hope?
The remaining Bretonni had been gathered up by the cavalry and now stood terrified in a square, surrounded by merciless Druchii. They all seemed common folk, dressed in little more than rags. It was almost disappointing. Virathia had wanted a fight.
A few of her soldiers stood about the largest structure, an adorned building hung with bells and symbols of devotion.
Virathia, flanked by Sheleden but leaving Vedethar to guard the prisoners, approached the temple.
"Can we get in?"
One of the soldiers nodded. "The doors aren't locked." She grinned. "You wouldn't believe how much treasure they have in there."
"We can make the prisoners carry it.."
Vedethar had soon arranged for the prisoners to carry their own treasures, and had his soldiers escort them away.
"A good haul," he said. "Not as much as I've seen in other temples, but enough to make this more than just exercise. My people will be happy with you for a while now."
 
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
1,608
New Zealand
The Sand Reavers - Onwards to Nehekhara

Leaving Vedethar and Sheleden to organise the prisoners and treasure, Virathia hurried to Katherya's cabin, where Katherya lay in the Witch Elf's bed.
Aratheia looked up from her vigil to see Virathia. "She's fine."
"I am not 'fine'. I was drowned in sand by a Hekarti-cursed Liche Priest." Katherya sat up, glaring.
Aratheia laughed. "See? Fine."
"I'm glad to hear it," Virathia said. "Did you see anything useful, or jus drown in sand?"
"I saw...gods, I can hardly describe what I saw, sister." Katherya's eyes were full of awe. "A dead city of sand and statues, tomb chambers filled with warriors ready to awaken. Ancient texts of lost knowledge."
Virathia brushed Katherya's fringe. "Very good. How much shall we tell the crew?"
Aratheia grinned viciously. "None of it, I think. Let it be a surprise."
"By Mathlann, they need to know what they're facing." Virathia smiled at the Witch Elf. "Whilst you were looking after my dear sister, I brought in a good haul of slaves and treasure. Have fun making a sacrifice."
Aratheia grinned. "Thank you, Virathia. You have some use after all."

The crew received Katherya's report of her vision with interest. Sheleden looked annoyed, Vedethar looked keen. Jaylis gave a small, amused smile. Ozarion, captain of the mercenaries, just nodded.
"You have nothing to fear from the Liche Priest," Katherya said. "Mistress Talthine and I will deal with him. And as my teacher said, they are having a civil war. We can slip in between the factions." Katherya coughed and scratched her throat. Virathia and Aratheia looked at her in concern. Who knew what a Liche Priest might have done? "Stop worrying," Katherya hissed.
"As my sister said, it will be dangerous but rewarding. We now make best speed to Nehekhara."
"Very good, master," Jaylis said. "Are there any visions regarding the Bretonni on the coast?"
"They are of little concern," Aratheia said. "I'll be glad of the practice before we get to the real target."
That brought laughter, but Jaylis looked undaunted. Was she challenging Virathia so openly?
But she wasn't stupid, and didn't argue with the future Dreadlord.

"To Nehekhara it is," Sheleden said, as Virathia piloted the Soulblazer that evening. It was a joy she occasionally indulged in, to take the wheel. Aratheia said it was beneath her, but that wasn't the point. It was so calm, so beautiful, guiidng the ship through the water, finding one's way by the stars. Morrslieb shone on the crisp evening. The wind played at Virathia's hair. She was a true daughter of Karond Kar.
"Yes, my lord. The land of treasure and sand."
"Lots and lots of sand." Sheleden flicked a gaze at Katherya, who was coughing again. "Are you sure you're alright?"
"Yes! Just a terribly itchy feeling. in my throat I must have eaten something I shouldn't have."
:If you're entirely sure," Sheleden said ominously. "I can't stop you from going."
"And nor should you," Aratheia said.
"But I can at least warn you that nothing is as it seems in Nehekhara. Any amount of sand could hide a legion of warriors. Statues can be animated into weapons of war. And pray they don't have a Casket of Souls ready."
"What is a Casket of Souls?" Virathia asked before realising she probably didn't want to know.
Sheleden smiled. "The Nehekharans' most terrible weapon. The souls of those who displease the kings are trapped within a box. On occasion they are released temporarily, to draw others within their prison."
Virathia swallowed. Looks of unease passed between Katherya and Aratheia.
"Sleep tight, girls," Sheleden said, marching away with an impossibly smug air. "Kill the priest operating it. See if that helps."
Virathia growled. "No one is turning either of you into a soul in a box, alright?"
Katherya touched Virathia's arm. "No, sister. And I won't let them do it to you, either."
"Sister," Virathia murmured. Was she deliberately being overly-emotional and sisterly just to irritate Aratheia?
"Khaine forbid," Aratheia snapped. "You both deserve worse fates."
 
Last edited:

Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
1,608
New Zealand
The Sand Reavers - Interlude - Aratheia's Vision

Aratheia drew her dagger across the Bretonni's neck, their corpse dropping to the deck with a satisfying thud. She held up her bloodied blade against the mirror in her cabin, likcing her lips as the red liquid dripped, and admiring the devotional sign inscribed onto her body. Then the reflection of her in the mirror smiled wickedly at her. Aratheia returned the smile, before realising she should be the one the mirror was following. Before she could wonder what was happening, her reflection pointed at her with its dagger, and beckoned her forwads.
Too curious to reject, and supposing this was part of the vision, Aratheia reached out to touch the reflection. Her fingers pressed against glass.
The reflection splayed its palm open, and Aratheia followed. SHe began to feel as if she were being drawn in, as if the mirror were quicksand. She welcomed whatever it was Khaine was offering through his vision. She had always been a most faithful daughter of murder.
Slowly, Aratheia was drawn forward, and slowly her hand disappeared within the mirror. The reflection continued to grin at her. It was becoming just a little disturbing.

Eventually, Aratheia's body pressed against the mirror, her arm fully submerged within the glass. Yes, submerged was the right word. It felt liquid-like, her arm thrust into a pool. Then she was fully drawn in.
She arrived in a reflection of her cabin, and, looking back, saw her actual cabin, except now it was all twisted up, the walls - bulkheads, that Khaine-damned sailor girl would call them - bleeding. She turned back to the reflection, which held her hand gently.
"Very impressive, my Lord. What do you wish of me?"
Suddenly a dagger was at Aratheia's throat. She didn't know if she could be hurt in this reflected world, but it was best to assume she could. The reflection's eyes turned deep crimson, and Aratheia felt blood dripping from the hand pressing the knife against her throat. The Bloody Hand! Asuryan's curse on her lord. Her own hand was dripping, too.
"Daughter of blood, I have great plans for you." That was her reflected form talking, but it sounded deeper, masculine. No, that wasn't the right word. It echoed it her head, a burning presence in her mind. "You should have defeated Virathia the other night. And your concern for the sorceress is...troubling."
"Leave Katherya out of this!" Aratheia snapped, much to her own surprise.
"Your fierceness of feeling is enough for me to overlook it for now. But remember whom she serves, and whom you serve."
Aratheia bit her tongue, not trusting it with a reply.
"I am not here to chastise your intimacies, daughter. I approve of your destination, and I know of the sorceress' vision. You would do well to heed it. There will be many, many enemies for you to fight. Do not underestimate the Tomb Kings." The Aratheia-shaped Khaine released her dagger - the pronoun just slipped into the real Aartheia's mind - and circled the initiate. "So young, so keen. Your devotion is most...visible."
Aratheia turned to follow her lord. "Thank you, Lord Khaine."
Laughter echoed through her mind, though the reflection's mouth was fixed in a grin that was becoming unsettling. "Perhaps in time you will persuade the young Dreadlord of the merits of ttoal devotion."
'I would very much like to."
"You know of the Eye of Tahoth. It is heavily protected, and slaying the Liche Priest is only the first step to claiming it. Even then, you will need powerful magic to breach his defences." The reflection plunged its dagger into Aartheia's shoulder. She gasped in surprise, but kept from screaming. Blood dripped to the deck, as power seemed to course through her. The dagger withdrew, and the wound closed. "You alone on this ship may do what is necessary now. Kill the Liche Priest, take the Eye for yourself. Hekarti must not claim it."
Katherya would hate that so much!
"The usurper has the support of a powerful vampire, of the Necrarch bloodline. Scientist-sorcerers," Kahine said with great distaste. "But they are blind in the mortal plane, and you do not register very much in the vision they do have."
Aratheia laughed.. "I must apologise in advance for the lack of blood to be spilled."
"Do not trouble yourself, daughter. There will be much Druchiii blood to spill afterwards."
Before Aratheia could ask if that meant the expedition would disintegrate before returning to the ship, The reflected cabin dissolved, and Aratheia found herself back in her normal one. It was still filled with blood, and her shoulder hurt, though there was no injury.
"Aratheia, you hag!" Katherya exclaimed.
Aartheia turned around, wondering why she hadn't noticed her. "Sorceress! You know I expect as much privacy in my visions as you in yours."
Katherya's mouth opened and closed a few times before she could say something. "I know. It was just...a whole day passed. I was worried. I'm allowed to be worried for you, aren't I?'
'No, you're not," Aratheia said, collapsing into welcoming arms before the world went dark.
 

Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
1,608
New Zealand
The Sand Reavers - Desert Shores

Virathia watched as the Soulblazer slowly sailed towards the coast under darkness. She had never seen so much sand in her life, let alone felt such heat. She could feel extreme temperatures coming in from the shore, even the relatively sheltered place they had managed to find. Fond memories of ice-covered fields and snow-blasted mountains melted away. This was Nehekhara, then, land of the dead, and sand.
If they shared her feelings about this, Aratheia and Katherya kept them to themselves, looking to the shore with anticipation that Virathia admittedly shared. Perhaps now they would find fights worthy of Aratheia's skill and bloodlust. The young Witch Elf had certainly been excited the past few days. Katherya was looking forward to testsing herslef against the liche priests, too. Especially that accursed one that had interrupted her vision.
Virathia placed a hand on her sister's shoulder. "We're here, then."
Katherya smiled. "Exciitng, isn't it? I wonder what ancient lore there is to discover here."
"Please yourself," Aratheia said. "I'll finally have something worth killing."
"Master."
Virathia heard Jaylis and her escort approach.
"We are about ready to anchor for the night. Shall we go ashore?"
Virathia considered. They had seen a Bretonni city further up the coast, slipping past under Katherya's magic, and gone to this out of the way cove to make plans. Virathia imagined everyone needed time to adjust tot he heat, and a daylight assault on a fortified position was not a good idea anywhere with the resources she had. "Drop anchor. Have Vedethar do some exploring with his beasts."
Jaylis nodded curtly. "As you wish, master."
"May we go ashore, sister?" Katherya asked. "I want to feel this place for real. Know its magics."
Virathia laughed fondly at her sister's pleading expression. "Very well. When Vedethar's returned with an all clear..."
"I want to kill something," Aratheia interjected, eyes flashing. It sounded almost like a joke.
"I know, I know. We need a scout report to make proper plans."
Aratheia put an arm around Katherya. "Don't worry, sorceress. You'll get your....feel for it soon enough."
Katherya laughed.
"Come along. if Virathia here is waiting for a report, we have some time to ourselves."
Katherya laughed sweetly. "We'll be in our cabin, if you need us. Although I hope you won't." Her cheeks coloured.
Virathia smiled. "Have fun."
Sheleden appeared seemingly from nowhere shortly afterwards. "You approve of it, then? Never thought I'd see a Witch Elf and a sorceress so...close."
"I can't deny my sister her pleasures. And beneath all her viciousness, I think Aratheia cares for her."
"Let's hope you're right. At least you're sending the cavalry first. First sensible thing you've said this whole trip."
Virathia only barely resisted her right hand's desire to become a fist.
Sheleden laughed drily. "This will be interesting, I'm sure. At least the Cold Ones will like it here."
Virathia suddenly understood why Aratheia always wanted to kill someone.
 

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