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TVC - Chapter 50 - The Black Pyramid

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#26
“Rang-and-Bones here speaketh the truth,” exclaimed Varia cheerfully as he kept a brisk saunter. As he walked, he gestured absently with his hand, apparently not noticing the blue-gray mist leaking from his sleeve.

“I mean, the best way to set off a trap is to… spring it!” As he spoke he finally noticed the cloud coming from his wrist, which had now gathered into a leering crocodile head of mist. As punctuation to his statement he drove his hand into the crocodile’s maw and grabbed its misty tongue. The crocodilian mist reacted as any crocodilian apparition would and snapped its jaws shut on the vampire’s wrist. Varia in turn reacted like any semi-sane vitality-challenged sentient being would when faced with appendage mutilation:

He yelped quite loudly and started vigorously shaking his hand and the offending reptilian cloud attached to it.

After a moment of forceful waving the cloud dissolved, revealing the sleeve of his shirt, but bereft of its hand. He scowled it quite perplexed until finally the hand popped up out of the sleeve, seemingly unharmed by the reptilian mist-construct-apparition-thing…

He said, “Assuming, of course, we are quick enough not to get caught in it.” He wriggled the fingers on his unharmed hand at the others with a delighted smile, before strolling onward.
 

Disciple of Nagash

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#27
Rowhaine barely had the chance to shake his head at the newcomer's parlour tricks as Arkhan's trap was suddenly sprung. Suddenly from the ground beneath them something lanced upwards, striking Varia with enough force to slam him into a pillar. Where he had been struck in the shoulder blood spurted forth, but none of the others where in any shape to notice.

The Tomb Scorpion clattered from it's well placed hiding hole, one massive claw sweeping both Necrarch's off their feet. Rowhaine finally gathered his senses, dodging the other claw with speed granted by his Goddess and striking into the constructs armour. The blade sheared through, only for the wound to be healed by darkness a second later.

"Don't waste your time with the toy Champion," the merciless voice of Arkhan spoke, "it is only here to keep your friends amused. There are other things you should be worried about." With all his skill Rowhaine moved, trying to dodge the hidden strike he knew was coming. Only barely was he fast enough, the Tomb Blade scoring the ground before twisting expertly. Arkhan pressed his advantage, lightening fast blows driving Rowhaine further and further away from his allies,

"Now a true test to see if your gods have returned," he hissed, "can their powers keep your head on your shoulders?"
 
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#28
“Ah,” exclaimed Varia gutturally looking down at the bleeding wound in his shoulder, “That wasn’t supposed to happen.” A slightly shaky hand clamped onto the fronts side of the wound going clean through his shoulder, the other hand trying and failing to support himself on the column at his side.

He fell to his knees, the bloods running freely down his fine clothes and onto the sand. He stared down at the blood and the sand, seeing all that spilled crimson go to waste. Or maybe not. There is power in blood, and more so in a vampire’s. The strength in the growing puddle at his knees was not his anymore, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t draw on its strength as a foci.

He let himself fall forward onto all four, sinking his hands into the sand, sending out tendrils of both Ulgu and Dhar, connecting the elegant strings to the blood soaking through the sand. It answered it as it once had, spreading out through the sand.

“We seen your kind before,” muttered the vampire absently as he gave the skeletal scorpion the cold-eye. The bloody sand grew upwards in several mounds, infused with Ulgu and Dhar, pulsing with the power of his spilt blood. “We have seen them in the flesh, with life running through them.” The mounds grew limbs, arms and legs and a head. “We have fought your ilk in the deep deserts.” Details formed, the bloody statues forming into Varia’s Vermin, the group of young and foolish raiders who had followed him all those eons before. The stood still as stone, weapons forming in their hands. “We have killed them, eaten their flesh and used their remains as armor, weapons and tools.” Now the bloody sand seeped up Varia’s own arms and legs, covering eventually his entire body.

He rose to his feet as the old Varia, the raider, the crimson sand-mask over his face smiling softy as it said, “And we shall do so again.”

As one the blood drenched sand-constructs moved, quickly encircling the undead scorpion. The scorpion struck time and again, but the forgotten raiders moved with the speed of the Lahmian blood running through them. The slid under the sweeping claws, sidestepped the striking tail and held it surrounded. But as they struck the mighty construction, they left only bloody smears upon its carapace. They might appear it, but these were not Varia’s Vermin, only another illusion to hold the undead construction.
 

Trevy the Great

Vampire Progenitor
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#29
The devastated defenses of Khemri had proven little obstacle to the armies of its king, as Settra had predicted. His warriors swarmed over the devastated edifices, ancient weapons stabbing and cutting at the meager defenders until none remained. Standing atop the shattered walls, Settra raised his great blade to the heavens, willing his warriors onward into the city to scour it clean of the filth of Nagash.
 

Disciple of Nagash

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#30
Finally Rowhaine managed to regain his footing, catching Arkhan’s sword with his own. With a monumental feat of strength he managed to push the Liche back, but only for a moment. Sheathing his bone blade Arkhan drew something black from his side. It appeared to be made of black marble, similar to the material the Pyramid was made out of. Sparks of energy flickered off its knifelike edges as the Dreadlord flicked it to his right hand. Then the moment passed and attack began once more.

****
Skittering over the stone path the scorpion lashed out with claws and tail alike, striking again and again at the illusions that plagued it. Its limited intelligence did not seem to realise that its foes were not real, providing a moment for the vampires to recover their thoughts. The abomination before them was more powerful than normal of similar creations, no doubt due to the dark arts employed by Arkhan.To defeat it was not going to be easy, and as the scorpion moved past the annoying distractions in search for easier prey it seemed they had to decide fast.

****
Rowhaine’s veins burned as Asaph’s gifts flowed stronger than ever before through him. It seemed that the Nehekharen gods hatred for Nagash and his followers was increasing his powers, and he put them to use with relish. Little more than a blur he parried time and time again, the enchanted khopesh striking sparks where it met Arkhan’s dark blade. Everything seemed to have slowed around him, sounds dimming. In a moment of clarity he could see what was going to happen, see the minute movement in foes body and guess how he was going to move.

The champion reacted instantly, moving sinuously to one side and striking a gash across Arkhan’s chest. From the wound black liquid spattered to the ground yet Arkhan only smiled. Another strike from Rowhaine missed the Liche’s head to smash into the black weapon. Runes flared brightly in the khopesh for a second then Arkhan’s weapon shattered. At this Arkhan’s smile disappeared, arcane syllables spewing forth to summon a torrent of dark magic that blew Rowhaine off his feet.
 

Voltaire

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#31
A pair of carrion flew over Arkhan the Black as the syllables of power erupted. One landed perfectly next to the Dread Lord and began cackling. Not paying any heed to the creature, Arkhan moved to press his advantage over Asaphs holy champion. Taking a step forward, the back of his thigh was nipped by the creature. As Arkhans head turned slightly, forming the same syllables again to blast away the momentary annoyance, the carrion stopped cackling and let out a ripping screech. The sky blackened for a moment as hundreds of the buzzards flew overhead, singing a single word in chorus.

Valda

The birds seemed to land on top of a nearby sand dune as they continued their mocking screechs to Arkhan. He replied with a single word of his own.

"Dead."

Of course he was dead, Arkhan had given the dwarfs of zhufbar the recipe to trap him in their keep until he withered away into nothing. He had gifted their runesmiths with knowledge of how to bind a vampires powers with their crude ways. Valda was dead, of that there was no doubt.

The carrion stopped for a moment then cackled more, as if sensing Arkhans thoughts. As one they resumed their screeching cries of the name of Arkhans oldest nemesis and a second word was added to the mix. Turning his attention back to Rowhaine, the dreadlord finally made out the second word.

Returns

There it was, clear as the sky. These carrion were mocking him, that was all. Trickery of the Council to try and un-nerve the dread lord by tapping one of his few weak points. Idley flicking his hand, a swift gale threw up a tidal wave of sand in the direction of the carrion. Their piercing wails finally stopping as the desert engulfed them. Stealing a momentary glance, Arkahn looked in horror as on top of the dune stood a man in black, much in the same way he normally was. Trying to not get distracted, he could taste the sparks in the air from the being approaching. The sensation was one he had felt only briefly in recent times. Dread. Ironic for a Dreadlord. Snapping himself out of it, he returned his gaze to Rowhaine and continued on once more, barely registering the being on the sand dunes walking closer to the ongoing duel.
 

Disciple of Nagash

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#32
Valda’s appearance had unsettled Arkhan for a moment, not for fear of his unlife, for that he was confident he was more than a match for the vampire. However what he represented was still something that could illicit a spark of momentary fear, and that was something that could ruin his plans, plans that had taken centuries to enact and were just now coming to fruition.

The Dreadlord could barely control the hiss of anger through his rotten teeth, mind barely registering has he automatically blocked another attack from Rowhaine before kicking him back down to the ground. All the pieces he needed were here, but Valda was not one of them. He contemplated for a moment whether to turn and annihilate the unwanted intruder before dismissing it. He ran the risk of either scaring off the champion who for the moment actually thought he could defeat him, not realising Arkhan was simply playing with him, and that would not do as he need the champion. Then there was the very slight, but still possible chance that Valda might get lucky and actually best him.

No, he could wait no longer. He would have to proceed faster than he wanted to, but far better than run the risk of further interference.

”Do not think that just because you have wounded me champion, the you can actually defeat me,” Arkhan said, stepping back, ”you are a plaything, nothing more.” The flash of anger in Rowhaine’s eyes at the taunt was all the Dreadlord needed to see, and with a cold smirk he disappeared into a whirl of shadows once more. Slowly getting to his feet Rowhaine watched as the darkness flashed towards the Black Pyramid, seething inside that his foe had escaped him again. For a second he was tempted to simply run after him but the sounds of battle reminded him his comrades were still in danger, and there was also the fact of who the mysterious stranger was that had appeared.
 

Voltaire

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#33
A roar erupted through the desert as Arkhans shadows lapsed and whirled into the Black Pyramid. A massive arcing bolt of lightning flickered from where the stranger in black stood. He was furious, rage filling the air around where the lightning had struck, the same spot that Arkhan had been standing moments earlier.

The man in black swirled into a mini cyclone of black cloth and reappeared next to where Rowhaine was standing. His hood barely obscuring his burned face, the man addressed Rowhaine.

"I am Amadeus Valda. The man in Black is mine...MINE!"

The air suddenly filled with a flick of electricity.

"Little champion is foolish to fight the Man in Black. Little champion's friends need help."

Turning to where the scorpion was assaulting the cavalade of vampires, Valda began laughing loudly. Thrusting his hands through the folds of his cape, a blanket of the raw energy of magic began detonating the fields that Rowhaine had encroached through. Valda was destroying each foul trap set by Arkhan.

"Futile champion is still brave. Valda admires this. Go help."

Valda continued his cackling not paying too much attention to anything.
 

Disciple of Nagash

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#34
Rowhaine was cautious about turning his back on the man he knew to be a vampire. As soon as the name had been spoken he had recognised him from previous encounters and knew he was not to be trusted. However the fight with the Tomb Scorpion did not seem to be going well. Hesitating just for a moment Rowhaine raced towards the fighting, feeling his back itch as he imagined Valda turning that deadly magic on him from behind. He had barely made it half way when an explosion knocked him back to the ground once more. For a second he was sure that his fears had proved to be true and that he had been attack when his back was turned.

As his senses returned he realised that blast had actually come from the front, and a cackle that sounded through the smoke confirmed that Nehklior had been the most likely cause. Indeed as the smoke cleared he saw the two Necrarch’s looking smug at the broken shell of the Scorpion, smoke wafting from the older vampires hands. The blood constructs created by Varia melted away as the Lahmian strode forth to offer and hand to Rowhaine, a cocky smile on his face.

Ignoring the offer Rowhaine clambered to his feet, quickly turning to see what Valda was not doing. The vampire was still stood where he had left him, seemingly staring into space.

“Who is your new friend?” Nehklior’s voice spoke from just behind the champion, “he has a most….interesting aura.” That was an understatement though Rowhaine as he looked at the darkness surrounding Valda. He could see the runes that seemed to cover every inch him and whoever made them had put much evil intent behind them.

“He is Valda,” Rowhaine replied, “a vampire who once worked for the Council and also opposed it…..” As he spoke Valda’s head snapped up to look at him and Rowhaine’s voice trailed off and he waited to see if he would say anything.
 

Voltaire

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#35
A volcanic torrent of laughter burst through Valda at the mention of his past deeds.

"Council never did anything for me." The look in his eye became distance "...Now though, the Man in Black. The MAN IN BLACK. HE...is...mine" The inflection in his voice becoming furious and mellow in as many seconds.

The aura surrounding Valda seemed to spike again as he launched a volley of pure magic at the shell of the broken scorpion, disintegrating it instantly.

"He is tricky, he is near, his time comes."

As the last words escaped Valda's burnt lips he turned around and glared in the direction of the Black Pyramid. Valda felt a fleeting moment of sickness and was sure the sword at his side burned a little. He was that way, the man in black, of that he was sure. A rare moment of clarity struck Valda.

"Inside that pyramid is one of Nagashs few means of returning and the source of many of his servants strength. We need to destroy it along with Arkahn so your friends have a better chance of besting Nagash. The pyramid is an abomination." The faintness returned to his eyes "Revenge is served cold, even in the desert. Fear my counsel for I speak only truths. Truths are all I have left."

Slowly he began to take steps towards the Pyramid, flickers of electric energy wrapping around Valda as he paced towards the deserts eyesore.

"Come little council-friends. Doom awaits."

With that, he erupted into more insidious laughter, nothing outwardly appearing funny, but Valda continued to laugh anyway.
 
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#36
Varia swaggered closer to the Asaph-bound, carefully tiptoeing around the scattered fragments of the Tomb Scorpion. He clasped a hand on the other's shoulder and leaned closer, shielding his mouth as he said in an exaggerated whisper, "I think he's craaaaaaaaazy!"

With a flash his demeanor changed and he gave Rowhaine a hopeful smile. "Can I keep him?"

He didn't wait for a reply, only let go of the Chosen's shoulder and skittered after their newcomer, humming softly to himself.
 

Disciple of Nagash

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#37
Events were starting to spiral out of Rowhaine's control and he was quickly becoming uncomfortable with the situation. The two Necrarch's walked past him with evident disdain, and both the newcomes seemed unstable to say the least. Yet there was nothing else he could do. Arkhan was somewhere in the monstrous structure in front of him, and the words Valda had said rung true. The Black Pyramid was indeed something that aided Nagash and its destruction would no doubt hinder him.

Yet no one has ever managed to gain entrance to the inner chambers, Asaph's voice spoke to him, even when He was first defeated the Nehekharans could only access the outer chambers. It has also resisted all attempts to destroy it.

Another trap most likely thought Rowhaine, though why had the Dreadlord had not finished him off there and then? Perhaps it was something to do with Valda......

His stride overtook the Necrarch's as Rowhaine drew up to the seemingly insane vampire, warily watching him as he resisted the urge to grasp his Khopesh.

"Why are you trying to help me?" the champion asked, "the last I saw you could not be trusted, perhaps this is just another one of your schemes? And the Black......you mean Arkhan? It sounds like you have something personal with him?"
 

Voltaire

Master Necromancer
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#38
Valda's neck spasmed for a moment as he turned towards Rowhaine. The distant look in his eyes sharpened suddenly as he bit at invisible flies in the air.

"Fear of the past makes him messy." The mad eyes narrowed "The man in black knows he throws weighted dice in a room of dogs."

Valda crackled and for a moment disappeared, Rowhaine looked about and felt the gibbering madmans words enter his ear as a whisper.

"I am the man in blacks past. I know him." Valda reappeared where he was standing previously. "Knowledge is power. It is why he hides so close to it."

The gaze of Valda turned once more to the Black Pyramid. His head shuffled and his gaze was lucid again for a moment.

"I betrayed your council when they afford to be betrayed. I have helped them more than hinder them. I helped out entire race. She did too. She helped me. She is with the Man in Black now."

Valda eyes began to well up in fear as a gargling scream ripped through the desert. He roared and the wind followed . A second bone scorpion revealed itself almost nonchalantly as it skittered up through the dunes. Valda saw it too.As the great beast lunged out of its cover at the lunatic in the sandstorm, Valda ran towards it. The surprised look on the faces of the other vampires lasted only a few seconds as the scorpion grabbed Valda in a single pincer.

"I don't want to play."

A raw surge of magical current ran through the bleached dead arachnid as the wind itself began to disintegrate the creature. Valda had broken it without so much as a sweat. As he landed in a heap, he began rolling on the floor, side to side, cackling away. Standing, he let the cackle become a giggle as he gazed once more at Rowhaine.

"Trust is something you do carefully, yes? Von Carstein betrayal, yes?" The tone was too sarcastic to be simple madness "You keep those you don't trust close, especially in the council. I should be near your centre really."

Valda began rocking backwards and forwards, eager to find the Man in Black.
 

Disciple of Nagash

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#39
It was clear the that Valda was insane, a far cry from the arrogant vampire that had once betrayed the Council. Still there was no question of his power, a power that may be useful in the upcoming battle, especially if he had a score to settle with Arkhan.

*********

A few hours later and the vampires had finally reached the entrance the the Black Pyramid. Nothing else had hindered their advance, and before them lay the dark entrance the in the inside of the forbidding construction.

"Asaph protect us," Rowhaine muttered, a wry smile crossing his face as he heard a reply,

Of course

The air of death and gloom of Nagash's creation even seemed to affect the other vampires and they had been quiet and sullen, and their mood did not improve any further as the finally entered.

"Be careful," Rowhaine whispered, aware of how his voice carried and echoed down the cramped stone tunnels, "this place will no doubt be riddled with traps," A derisive snort from one of the Necrarch's made it clear his warning was not needed, but he shrugged it off. Better to warn them needlessly than to assume they already knew.

"So you decided to follow me after all whelp," a cold voice echoed down the tunnels. Though distorted it was clearly Arkhans and looking up ahead Rowhaine thought he caught a glimpse of a dark shadow,"well then boy, how fast truly are you, can you keep up?"

The Dreadlord's cackling laughter followed as he disappeared.
 

Disciple of Nagash

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#40
With a roar of unarticulated rage Valda charged after the taunting Dreadlord, Rowhaine following close on his heels. The air took on a greasy texture as Valda’s potent magic gathered itself before unleashing in a concussive blast.

When Rowhaine awoke he was not sure how long he had been out. His head was thudding and either he had gone blind or he was in complete darkness. There was also an insistent buzzing in his ears which as he focused on more seemed to be a voice.

Finally you have a waken! Asaph’s voice almost seemed to be concerned for her chosen one, Valda’s assault on the Black triggered one of the traps. You are unfortunately lying at the bottom of a pit

Rowhaine groaned as he staggered to his feet, for once wishing he had his vampiric body back. At least being undead stopped all the aches and pains that came with being alive. Looking upwards he could see the square opening far above and he realised it was a miracle he wasn't dead.

Not a miracle, simply my blessing

"A blessing that was most welcome then," Rowhaine muttered, "although the question is now, how do I get out of here?" Blindly he staggered forward with grasping hands, expecting to feel the wall in front of him, yet as he kept on walking he could feel nothing. Glancing upwards again he realised the opening far above had disappeared which could only mean that he had walked out of the pit into a tunnel or room.

"Why would they have a tunnel though?" he murmured to himself as he continued walking hesitantly forward. The tunnel began to slope sharply downwards and with nowhere else to go, Rowhaine was forced to follow it.

*************************

Arkhan could barely resist a cackle of triumph as he swiftly ran down through the labyrinth like tunnels that filled this level of the pyramid. His plan had gone better than he had expected. He had known that Asaph's champion and Valda would pursue him, but the bonus of Valda unleashing a magical attack at the exact moment Arkhan had activated the trap floor was most welcome. The blinding flash had meant that no one knew what had truly happened to the champion, and to all intents and purposes it looked like the magical attack had annihilated him.

Valda of course had known none of this as he had charged at the Dread Lord and thus Arkhan had retreated. Now was not the time to be fighting, if there was one thing he had learnt in his many years it was to know when to strike and when to stay his hand. Everything Arkhan had be working on was finally coming to fruition, and his death at the had of a vampire was not part of that plan.

So he had lead the vampire on a merry chase through this tunnels he knew so well, always just staying slightly ahead, defending himself against Valda's magical assaults as well as unleashing some of his own. After all it paid to keep up appearances. He only had to wait a little longer, wait for that telltale sign and then finally.......

**************************

For Rowhaine it had seemed like hours has passed on the darkness, though at least he had still being moving. That in itself worried him though. As he had progressed slowly through the pyramid he had felt pressure plates click under his hands and feet, plates that were normally linked to deadly traps. Yet every time he had paused in fear nothing had happened. It was like all the traps were faulty or had already been sprung. He had even asked Asaph if it was her doing, to which she admitted she had no knowledge about.

All in all the entire situation was making Rowhaine uneasy. He felt like he was being lead somewhere, a fact reinforced when the tunnel split and in every instance every archway apart from one was blocked by what appeared to be rubble. But with no where else go he had been forced to follow and hope that wherever this lead him there would be another exit.

Suddenly in the distance he realised he could see. No much, just the outline of an arch, flickering in dark purple lighting. Something ahead was giving off the eerie light, and whatever it was Rowhaine doubted it would be friendly, not down here.

Drawing his blade he stealthy sneaked forward, only to knock into something that cracked in the darkness like a pistol. Reaching down he felt what appeared to be a skeleton. Years of experience quickly pointed out to him that this was no normal corpse, and as he ran his hands over he realised it was elven. So the ancient stories were true he thought to himself, remembering the tales he had heard off Milosh and Lesa.

Placing it carefully back down Rowhaine started forward again, taking care to step round the body. Finally he saw what was casting the light and he lowered his weapon.

The core! Asaph's voice almost shouted in his mind. Stepping into the chamber Rowhaine was presented with a black crystal the size of a man, the sickly purple light emanating from inside. The chamber was almost perfectly round except for the entrance, with the crystal placed in the centre on a pedestal. On the walls a language the Rowhaine didn't know yet seemed familiar was engraved, thousands upon thousands of words.

"What do you mean?" he asked, "what is the core?"

"Something which one of the Dark Lords followers revealed many years ago under interrogation, but was never found. After the covenant was broken, we could still watch and listen. We saw many confessions and one was that which told of the core of the Black Pyramid.

For many years this blasphemy has stood here, drawing dark magic and every attempt to destroy it has met with failure. Its outer skin cannot be damaged in anyway, and its inner structure although destroyed seems to rebuild itself. Traps reset themselves causing a constant death toll, and in the end the decision was made to seal the pyramid.

The only clue that was revealed was that the source of the its protection was its 'core', a powerful artefact which was placed in a hidden chamber. It was never located though many attempts were made. This is the place.


"How do you know?"

"I suspected when I sensed the power of the crystal, however the scriptures on the wall confirm this. They are ancient Nehekharan.

Rowhaine looked anew at the crystal and a thrill ran through him as he realised what opportunity he was being presented with,
"With this destroyed we could bring down the Black Pyramid," he almost shouted, "Nagash would have no way for returning!"

That is true, but things are not that simple. Some things do not make sense, such as why this chamber was unlocked-" Rowhaine interrupted, too caught up in the task he had before him,

"Sometime things are just that simple," he replied, fingering his blade. He knew what he had to do and before a moment of doubt could come along or Asaph could say anything he swung his blade hard and true.
 

Disciple of Nagash

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#41
The devastation of the Black Pyramid of Nagash was felt and seen for miles around. The potent magic that had been coursing through its stones for the many years tore loose, literally ripping the structure apart. Into the sky a stream a violet energy surged, turning the white clouds black and making the day into night.

Half a mile a way Arkhan stood and watched as the monument he had helped build was finally brought down. Nothing showed in the black of his eyes as stone by stone in crumbled, arcs of destructive energy lancing out. He had known as soon as it had happened and he had fled as fast as the wind, not knowing or caring if the insane vampire was still on his trail. In reality he had no idea what would happen once the core was destroyed, or how long he had to escape, but his gambit had paid off.

Suddenly he turned, bone sword drawing faster than the eye could follow as he blocked Valda’s attack.

”So you managed to keep up then vampire,” Arkhan hissed, eyes narrowed, ”unfortunate for you as I do not have the time to play.” There was shriek as Arkhan pushed forward, enchanted sliding on Valda’s blade. With a twist Arkhan sidestepped, smashing the pommel into Valda’s nose. If the vampire felt any pain he gave no sign, only a grin as he grabbed Arkhan’s wrist and wrenched back his sword arm. As the Dreadlord bent backward it was followed up with a powerful kick to his midriff that sent him skidding into the dirt.

”Why?” Valda asked, seemingly lucid, ”why do you help them?”

Arkhan laughed sardonically as he got back to his feet, a flash of dark magic answering Valda’s earlier attack. This time it was the vampire’s turn to kiss the desert sand as the Dreadlord loomed over.

”Help them? Are you truly so stupid? You really think I about such pathetic whelps, Vampires are an inferior creature of death. An animal who must feast on the blood of those they think they are better than, and I would gladly cleanse this world of their presence.” A second later Valda retaliated, both exchanging lightening flows that would have slain a mortal man in an instant. Moments later the broke apart, watching each other warily.

”Your words say one thing, but your actions speak another,” Valda, ”The champion may have been blind but I am not. I know you Black, I have known you for too long. You tricked him into destroying the pyramid for you, why?”
 

Disciple of Nagash

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#42
”That is not of your concern,” Arkhan said, ”none of this is! Why do you not slink back the shadows where you belong, instead of interfering with things you do not comprehend.” At the Dreadlord’s words surprise registered on Valda’s face, which quickly turned to suspicion,

”You would let me leave?” he asked, ”oh no. If you want me to leave that I have all the more reason to stay. I came here for one reason, and that is for you Black. You will die by hand this day!

”Die by your hand?!” Arkhan roared, pure rage showing in his face, ”no, I will not die by another’s hand this time. This final time will be by my hand, and my hand alone. Finally I will have control back, control over my own destiny”

”Control? Destiny? Is that your way of trying to make excuses? You have always had control over your actions.” Valda spat, ”as do we all” Arkhan’s reaction was surprising as he jerked his head back, laughing loudly. Finally stopping he looked Valda in the eye, and as he spoke the vampire knew what he was about to be told was the truth,

”None of us have control. We are all puppets on strings, strings that are pulled by those far stronger than us. I have lived this existence for long enough and I will not live it any longer!”He paused as if unsure whether to say anymore, but here and now, for some reason, Arkhan the Black decided to reveal his secrets.
 

Disciple of Nagash

The Perverted One
Staff member
Joined
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Messages
27,916
#43
Arkhan stared at Valda, as if unsure what to say before he finally spoke.

”He knew. He always knew. I thought I had had succeeded, that I have left no traces when I betrayed Nagash to save myself during the first war against the Nehekharans. I showed them the secret entrances to the pyramid, to where his scrolls, his documents had been stored. At the time I did not know how to breach the core chamber but it was enough. The Nehekharans not surprisingly though did not keep to their word and I was slain for the first time on the steps to the pyramid whilst Nagash escaped. It was this act that spread the story that I was his most faithful, that I fought until the end so he could flee. I only fought to save my own life.

How He knew I never found out, but somehow he came by the knowledge of what I had done. My death was not enough for him. He wanted to make me pay, make me suffer, and he can make people suffer like no other.”
Arkhan went silent for a moment, Valda’s impassive face staring at him, watching to see what he would do next. Suddenly the Dread Lord started pacing, anger distorting his withered features.

Time after time I was brought back. However many times I died in His name, however many times I lead his armies to victory it was never enough. Nagash never forgives nor forgets, and He was never going to let me rest for betraying him. Have you any idea of what it is like, to know that your actions will never be your own again? For all the power I have, it is naught to him “

”And what?” Valda sneered back, ”you expect forgiveness? Pity-“

”I want no ones pity!!” Arkhan hissed, ”I tell you this so you understand, so your limited mind can comprehend what happened next. Lesser men would have broken, gone insane through these thousands of years. But I did not forget, and I never stopped trying to find a release.

I finally came to understand that I could never be free in this world. Necromancy ultimately belongs to its creator and whilst I was here I would always be His to command, to be at His beck and call. Even in death I could not escape. There was only one way to be finally released and beyond his grasp and this was if He was no longer around to bring me back. If He had been destroyed.”


At Arkhan’s words Valda’s eyes narrowed as an inkling of what the Dreadlord was about to say trickled through his mind. Seeing the look Arkhan laughed softly,

”I see you are finally starting to connect the dots. He who is Supreme Lord of the Undeath , who has cheated death by his own hand twice cannot be easily killed. But who better to attempt this than someone who he believes is worthless and that he controls, that knows him better than anyone else? So many years ago I finally devised a plan and then waited until the tools were in place to enact it. You were one of the tools.”
 

Disciple of Nagash

The Perverted One
Staff member
Joined
Feb 12, 2008
Messages
27,916
#44
Valda stepped forward as if to strike but instead walked past Arkhan, stopping at a rough boulder and slowly lowering himself until he was seated upon it. His sharp eyes never left the Dreadlord and it was clear he was ready to fully hear what Arkhan had to say.

"The Supreme Lord of Undeath. He who can never be killed," Arkhan finally spoke once more, "He who was a god himself. How could even one begin to plan to kill Him?

For years a hunted down every piece of information. When I was killing for Him I was also looking for anything I could use. As I tore apart the bodies and souls He deemed fit to die, I also grasped whatever information out of them I could. Many times He came close to realising my true intentions......but always I managed to avoid revelation.

One day finally I had it. Ironically enough it was one of His rages that confirmed the final key. Cold, calculating He may be, but He can also have a temper like the very depths of Hell itself. He needed to make Himself whole again, to stop His spirit being spread across the ether and thus weakening him. Moments before He was killed for the first time He infused His dark soul into every part of His being including His armour and even His crown. He knew at the time He could not stop Alcadizzar and took precautions to ensure He would be reborn as fast as possible."


Arkhan paused, chuckling coldly,

"How He has come to rue that mistake. He did not anticipate the man-god and His second defeat at the man-god’s hands, nor the powers in this world that would grow before His second resurrection. With His spirit in such a state He could not regain His full power and thus was unsure whether He could take what was needed by force. Yet without being made whole again He could never be stopped, never be fully destroyed.......and I could never be free.

I knew what needed to be done."


"Make him whole. Bring back his crown and his claw. Valda said, not a question but a statement.

"Yes, but it had to be done in a way not to arouse suspicion. He has been on this land for long enough to see many things, and such is His foresight for a time even I wondered if he could truly read minds or see into the future.

I needed to enlist one who could work outside the confines I did. Then one day a vampire arrived, one who was truly arrogant enough to think he could test the Dark Lord, and yet surprisingly did indeed manage to pass the many tests laid in his way. You even surprised me Valda."


OOC: For those who had not read Valda's history, check here: https://www.vampirecounts.net/Thread-The-Chronicles-of-the-House-of-Valda

For a moment a flicker of surprise came over the vampire's face, which disappeared just a quickly though not before Arkhan noticed it.

"Oh yes Valda," Arkhan said softly, "do you think the Dark Lord is in the habit of allowing a vampire to rampage through his castle? Did you not wonder why you were not attacked all at once instead of facing increasingly difficult challenges?

By this point I had regained some standing with the Dark Lord. Whilst some of the other Dread Lords had come and gone, I had been there the longest and He seemed to finally think I had learnt my lesson. My words had some influence and I persuaded him to test you rather that destroy you outright. As one of the undead perhaps He could use you......but in the end you were my pawn more than His."


There was silence, both knowing that Valda was thinking of what happened after he defeated the Supreme. The agreement he had come to with the Dark Lord.

"He always knew you want to destroy Him. Even as you looked into the pits that were once His eyes and lied to him," Arkhan's cold voice cut into Valda's thoughts, causing the vampire's head to snap up and stare into the Dreadlord's cold eyes, "oh yes, did you really think He could miss something so obvious, though you thought you had hid it?

Did you really think He has not known what else you have been up to? Your meetings with the Dark Elf King? Tell me you are not so naive?"
Mocking laughter followed, soft like the shifting of the sands.

"You were allowed to leave in His service, following His instructions, hearing His words whisper in your head, guiding you finally to the claw.... that is what you thought, yes?

You were wrong.

He is much more subtle than that, something which those who are twisted to His cause normally find out too late. Those who work for Him in the world do not even know they do so. No, though the voice you heard sounded like Him, the commands you heard were mine.

All the time you thought you was using Nagash, taking His advice and turning it to your own use, it was I who was using you. And you performed perfectly. You recovered the claw, you somehow managed to break the Crown out of Altdorf, a feat even I had thought almost impossible. The pieces of the puzzle were starting to come together.

Now it was time to enact the second part of my plan."


Throughout all this Valda had somehow managed to remain calm, though his tense fist betrayed the anger within him. Still his thoughts were clear enough to guess what was coming next.

"You needed someone to destroy Nagash when He was whole once more."

"Well done," Arkhan said mockingly "yes if He was made whole, I needed a powerful force that could truly challenge Nagash and finally destroy Him.

But this could not be any ordinary force. It needed to be one that could overcome the terror of facing the Supreme Lord, one that could fight the battle of attrition, one whose commanders could match one on one those who lead the Legions of Nagash.

Only one of those could I easily control and manipulated above all others, and so like the gardener my father had been long ago, I tenderly cultivated my fragile flower, until it grew into the might that is now the Vampire Council."


At this Valda shook his head,

"No," he said, "you may be right about me, but I have fought both with and against the Council. There is no leader for you to manipulate, they are more fracticious than a horde of greenskins. You truly try to claim you created the Council?"

"I did not say that," Arkhan snapped, "the Council came about of its own accord, but I am not one to let an opportunity pass by. But along the way I watched it grow in power, pushed it in the right direction, tested them." Seeing Valda's face still remaining unconvinced Arkhan shook his head,

"You still do not believe. Perhaps you will think different when you see past events from a different point of view……


Milosh and Lesa. Of course as far as the Council was concerned when I kidnapped them it was purely to recover the Claw, which was partly true. I of course need to make Him whole again.

But I knew of the Sentence's plan as well. You knew him better as V'azrin, the insane piece of filth Necrarch. A disgusting creature as most of your kind are, but his brilliance cannot be denied. The plan was quite masterful and what the Council do not know is that has it run its true course it would have succeeded, of that there is no doubt. Originally when the ritual was due to be completed, Milosh would not have turned straight away. He would have secretly gained control of the Carsteins who would have them positioned themselves near key Council members. Then with a combined attack of Reapers those members would have been slaughtered.

I could not allow that plan to come to fruition. Did no one think it odd that I actually left the Lahmian to live and took her husband? Shewas by far was the bigger threat, any revenge would have come secondary to removing her. But more important to my own plans was that the Council was not destroyed, so Milosh was taken and V'azrin's plan was interrupted to a fashion......oh yes he truly cursed me that night.

However the Dark Lord was more forgiving once he realised the potent tool Milosh could be turned into. As the Innocence he was truly a devastating force and….well let’s just say the part he played was more of his own accord than some would think.


The Destruction of the Violet Citadel Not a battle I was personally involved in, but one that could have been the end for the Council has it succeeded, even without my presence. After you pursued me in attempt to gain the Crown you will no doubt recall of the Dreadlords that came assist me, half of which returned with me to Nagashizzar whilst the other’s rode on to the Violet Citadel.

But that was not their orders. All of them were supposed to continue onwards whilst I returned with the Crown alone. Yet I knew at that point the Council were not ready....nor would they ever be. Even now they would not be able to fight the all of the Nine Dreadlords of Nagash at once. So I commanded half to return, and yet again you proved to be useful Valda, as your unexpected presence ensured I had a valid reason to demand an escort.


The Battle at the Border Princes The first time the Council faced the power of Nagash, and even then they came very close to losing everything. Eventually it did dawn on them it was nothing but a test, or was at least intended that way.

You of course know the result of the battle, but there were some questions that the Council should have asked.

Such as why were not all the Dreadlord’s present? Perhaps it was because there were rumours that a large army of the Nehekharan’s was mobilising? Completely false of course, but whilst I may have created it, it was not I who relayed it to the Dark Lord, thus I was saved his wrath when he found out how false it was.

Or why did the army suddenly retreat when victory was sure? It may have had something do with the report that a large support force for the Council was approaching, and by that point the rumour of the Tomb King army had not been disproved. Again it took just the right word in the right ear.

Perhaps most unusual of all, is why the Innocence did not flee the field with the rest of the army? Why did he remain isolated, easy pickings for the Council? Was it to tempt them into a position to take control of the Council as it looked like? I will tell you know it was not, although that is one secret I will reveal last.

At any rate, the battle did what it was intended to do. It was I who originally suggested the “testing” of the Council. Admittedly it nearly backfired as I had overestimated the Council’s strength and tactical abilities. However it did what was necessary. It gave the Council the bitter taste of defeat. It made them realise there were not indestructible, and that if they were to stand a chance of winning they needed push harder.

The Insurrection in Nehekhara How convenient at the same time that the Council were fighting against Nagash, that an insurrection started with the city states of the Tomb Kings? That instead of the Tomb Kings staying out of the War against the Dark Lord as they intended to do, they were in some way forced to act?

Convenience had nothing to do with it. Nagash had for many years slowly twisted scores of the Liche brotherhood to His cause. Some of the city states were more successfully in combating this, Khemri for example due to Settra’s ruthlessness. However it was never His intention to use these secret sects so early, the last thing he needed was to push the Tomb Kings to support the Council. No, as far as He knows somehow the secret commands were miscommunicated and the cabal leaders started a revolt the Dark Lord never ordered. I had to remove no less than twenty-eight of the Liche’s myself to ensure it could not be traced back to me, but I was successful.

Once again some of results were pure luck, the arrival of the Council and the rise of a new champion blessed by the Nehekharan gods. Oh at that point I did indeed wonder whether those worthless deities realised they were giving me exactly what I needed. A focal point to spur these rotting and senile kings into action.

Which lead to my last and final act.


The Black Pyramid The Dark Lord ordered us to quash the threat of the Champion once and for all, and I assure you if I had remained with the Jailer that would have been the case. But the fool of a Dreadlord, for all his smug honeyed tones did not even think to question when I divided our forces into two and left him with a force far too weak to stop Settra’s army. My reason that securing the Black Pyramid was paramount was enough for him.

I was not fully lying though. The final piece in the puzzle that is the resurrection of Nagash. Even if he is fully destroyed, even if his claw and crown are rendered down to their base elements along with the rest of his body, he would have returned. The Pyramid was his ultimate keep-safe. As long as it existed he would always come back in one form or another.

Finding how to breach its core perhaps took longer than anything else. Hundreds of years and countless trips from beyond the grave, yet I secretly visited it constantly, working tirelessly until I finally found how to bypass its locks. In there I found the dark crystal He created so long ago to power the structure, a baneful creation that collected the power that the pyramid drew, and used it to power the wards and other arcane uses.

I could not destroy it. Potent magick or an artefact was needed, but the sort I can use was only sustenance for its terrible hunger. It needed something pure and clean, and that is when I realised the Champion could be useful once more…..and so you know what happened next. Without me none of you would have found the entrance inside, and of course who do you think released the trapdoor under the Champion to take him directly to where he was needed?”


The silence was deafening as Arkhan finished. The fact that was Dreadlord had infact been secretly supporting and helping the Council all this time was something that even Valda needed a few minutes to digest. To the vampire deceit was almost second nature, and he had spent many centuries mastering the arts of lying, of subtle manipulation. Yet it was nothing compared to what Arkhan had managed to achieve.

Under the nose of Nagash, the Dark Lord himself, he had managed to control and manipulate the greatest enemy his master had ever faced. He had managed to make Nagash whole once more, to remove his power of resurrection and even ensure the enemies arrayed against him were powerful beyond imagining.

One point nudged Valda’s thoughts, and he glanced up at Arkhan.

”What of the Innocence? You said his secret would be told last.”

”Ah yes.” Arkhan replied, ”quite possibly the most daring of all the subterfuges, that even I was unsure of.

As far as the Council was concerned Milosh was taken, was broken and was turned into the Innocence against his will. He was then set upon the Council as one of Nagash’s hounds. Correct? That was not the case.

What would you say if I told you Milosh knew what he was doing the entire time, that the only time he was truly controlled was when V’azrin took over his mind along with all the other Carsteins?”


By now Valda had thought that he could not hear anything else that could have surprised him, but this was something else.
”I would say that you lie, even though no doubt you will prove me otherwise. He loved his wife like no other, he would not willingly harm her.”

”True. Very true. His love for his wife was indeed a potent force albeit sickening. But think for a moment……


The Infiltration into Nagashizzar. Entirely unexpected. When Milosh was taken I have never considered that they would have the gall to infiltrate the lair of Nagash. However again they came close to death when most of the Council were caught, over powered. They were easy targets. Yet they managed to escape…..how? Not by their own skill, that much is certain. They were quite lucky that I managed to have Milosh intervene. Whilst they momentarily fought against him he was constantly eroding the wall behind them. By the time he slammed them all against it, it was weak enough to push them into the river beyond, and thus lead to escape Nagashizzar.


The Battle of the Violet Citadel. Seemingly he was intent on destroying the Lahmian. She had always been a key target of Nagash, especially when she destroyed Mannfred. But apparently he failed in that task? Or could it have been that by taking the task on himself he could ensure that whilst he hurt the Lahmian to keep up appearances, he could make sure none of the other Dreadlords actually succeeded in destroying her?

Then there was the “accident” where his attack collided with the Sentence’s, saving some of the Council from certain destruction. Need I say more?


Vekarin’s escape from Nagashizzar. Banespke awoke after his interrogation to find his bonds had mysteriously been released. Of all the Dreadlord’s there was one that could bypass the arcane wards the Sentence placed on his domain, by funnelling himself through a vent into the room.

Then later, when confronted by no less than the Verdict, Guilt, Sentence and the Judge, again it seemed a stroke of luck came when the Innocence lost his temper and attacked, which was deflected by the shield Banespike has stolen. Had Banespike thought for moment he would have realised that the Innocence’s attack, as an elemental force, would not have been deflected like normal magic. Still it was not questioned and once again Milosh’s actions allowed a member of the Council to escape certain death.

Standing Alone Finally we come to the question, why did Milosh pretending to be the Innocence separate himself from the rest of Nagash’s forces when they retreated?

To tell you that is to tell you what happened when I took Milosh from his wife. He was prepared to die for his wife, but I saw the worth one of his abilities could have to my cause, and asked him if he was instead prepared to live for his wife instead?

I gave him the option, that I would turn him into a tool, a potent tool but too nonetheless, to be commanded by Nagash and do his bidding. But instead of wiping his memory as Nagash expected, Milosh would retain it and use his position to protect his wife and the Council as discreetly as possible. At first he was more than wary, but after I explained a few key points, similar in some ways to how I speak to you now, he soon realised there was no other way. He knew it was either this or torture and death at the hands of the Dark Lord. So he accepted and proved to be a more valuable ally than I could have ever expected. He knew what I did was for my own purely selfish reasons but he did not care, he could still help his wife this way.

But there was one thing even I was powerless to stop. V’azrin’s plan was carefully watched by Nagash, and there was nothing I could do to stop the rituals that were carried out to slowly turn him into the puppet master that would control the Carstein bloodline. All that could be done was warn him when the time drew near to its completion.

It was before the battle that my spies confirmed that Milosh was ready. It was then he decided that he had done what he could, and so when the battle ended he made himself an easy target, in hope the Council would destroy him before he could be used.

Unfortunately that was not the case as V’azrin managed to get to him, the result of which nearly tore the Council apart. Again it was fortuitous I had indeed let the Lahmian live, as it was she that destroyed her husband and V’azrin and saved the Council”


”So what now?” Valda questioned, back on his feet once more as he looked at Arkhan’s back. The Dreadlord was looking into the distance , to where somewhere in the distance Nagashizzar stood, ”Do you go to fight at the Council’s side?”

Cold laughter echoed around the sands from Arkhan, the Liche turning to look at Valda,

”Did you not listen to what I said? You think I did all this to help? To help your wretched kind, or indeed anything else on this world?

I did it for myself and nothing else! I do not care if this world rips itself apart trying to destroy Nagash, all that I care is that I am free of him. To face him now is to risk that he uses his powers to place my spirit in eternal limbo, something that cannot be undone even if he perishes.

No, as far as the Dark Lord is concerned I fell today, trying to protect his precious pyramid. He does not have the time to summon me back now, not whilst he is preparing for battle. But this will be his last battle and after that he will never return, and so will neither will I.”


”You are so sure the Council will prevail?” Valda said, ”they may yet fail.”

”Perhaps, but that is why I have one last task for you Valda,” Arkhan said, his blade twisting in his hands, ”something that will give the Council the edge they need.”
Valda looked as it to argue for a moment, but even he realised that if this task was one that would truly help destroy Nagash, it was not something he could refuse, however much he detested being used once more. He listened intently as the Dreadlord spoke, and realised Arkhan spoke the truth. With this information he truly could help turn the battle, but the question was whether he could succeed. He was after all now only one vampire.

”You will not help?” he questioned. Arkhan’s dead cold gaze simply stared back.

”No. This is where I finally rest, where my path ends, as it should have done all those years ago. I have told you all I will, now it is time for you to leave.”

The two arch-enemies stared at one another for a moment longer. Each hated the other, but there was also begrudging respect there for the skills and iron will each possessed. It would be the last time the two warriors ever met.

”I said leave. Now for the last time I will die, by my hand alone.” Arkhan snarled, his cold voice brooking no more argument. Finally with a dip of his head Valda slowly walked away, the last thing he saw as glanced back was Arkhan fulfilling his last words, plunging his own sword deep into his rotten heart.

The Black had finally been released.
 
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