Sotek Ozyras Hautep Saubekhar, the Unchained King, Phaeron of an entire and mighty Dynasty of the Necrontyr, surveyed the landscape before him; and had his metallic teeth been capable of the action, he would have gritted them.
Eight weeks. Eight weeks ago things had been progressing acceptably, for once. Queen Nepthys of the Sachemet Dynasty had taken a fancy to the gems used by the Eldar to store their dead, and he had actually managed to convince her to set some of her spoils and her treasure trove of exotic equipment aside for him to study. With any luck, he and Illuminor Thoth, his oldest advisor, would have been able to put them to good use furthering their research into engram preservation and the mysteries of bio-apotheosis.
But no, never mind that the campaign hadn’t fully concluded, that the Eldar pests weren’t contained; she had simply had to have her prizes at the soonest possible junction. And so against his judgement and advice, she had loaded it all into her smallest, fastest courier ship to be flown to their respective crown-worlds immediately.
The vapid, vain old fool. The Eldar were like shardwasps whose nest had been crushed when it came to protecting those things; her beloved courier ship had been ambushed and destroyed in transfer from the webway to a proper Dolmen Gate, and the wreckage had been spat back out into realspace.
Now the pieces were scattered over the surface of this abysmal nest-world of the lesser races, and an especially degenerate and bloodthirsty Eldar tribe –Thricedamn the meddlesome, self-obsessed leftovers of the Old Ones! – were seeking to steal Nepthys’ soulstone baubles back. More importantly, they threatened to spirit away his
research material! And so the twisted old witch had leveraged him to clean up the mess, instead of sending her own forces to take care of it. Typical of her, but the benefits of their alliance were useful enough to make up for this sort of nonsense. Generally. He had to keep reminding himself of it sometimes.
From his vantage point, atop a war chariot hovering behind one of many of the flimsy, ruined buildings the Humans left scattered everywhere, Sotek’s balefire eyes could spot the outlines of the Eldar vessels. Jagged and sleek in an impressively ugly fashion, they shimmered like indistinct blots of night sky, detatched from the predawn darkness above. They had realized his forces were here shortly before, and had the temerity to think they could ambush and ouster his legions. Clinging to the darkness like the cowardly, inferior beings they were, he supposed they believed their predawn raid would catch his forces by surprise, outmaneuver him, and swoop away with the prize. Peering through the darkness, he could just make it out; the absurdly, arrogantly aggressive positioning of their vanguard craft as they closed in on his position. He would have almost admired their gall, had they been Necrontyr.
He turned to Thoth, whose bevvy of Cryptek underlings had set up in one of the ruined structures, clustering around the cache of soulstones that had embedded itself in the roof. A nod was the only signal he needed to give.
With a gesture, Thoth took a small token from one of his aides and cast it into the air. It sailed far up above the ruins, before the stasis field imploded and the protofusion mass previously trapped within blossomed into a miniature star that hovered above the battlefield. It burned with appalling, nuclear fury; instantly turning the last vestiges of night to midday, and then brighter still. The photon pressure would be appallingly painful to organic eyes, closed or open; the thought brought him a smile.
“Now,” he ordered, indicating the leading trio of vessels with an imperious wave. “Erase them.”
At his words, lines of incandescent green light leapt forth. From the eldritch staves of his crypteks; from the skiffs mounted with heavy gauss cannon that had just eased out of their hiding places behind the ruined buildings; from the killers who hovered beside him, his Lifehunters, loyal warriors who had volunteered to have their bodies augmented with great thruster packs, targeting arrays, and gauss cannons. Leave employment of the psychopathic and insubordinate Destroyers to lesser Phaerons; he despised their sort, and with Thoth’s enhancements, his Lifehunters served their precursors' roles more than adequately. He watched them all with vicarious pride, for they executed his orders to perfection; each of the three vessels he had indicated was blasted apart, spilling wreckage and passengers across the battlefield. Most of the bodies did not get up again; such was the weakness of the Lesser Orders.
It was then that he spotted the telltale metallic-green glint of hull-grade necrodermis. One of the ship fragments had buried itself in the mire of a stand of trees to the north, while another had tumbled from the largest of the vanquished craft. Already, he could see the Eldar prodding a riotous herd of vicious and fantastical beasts into the woods near the sunken ship fragment. Metallic brows furrowed; the other stolen cache from the downed vessel was out in the open, and the remaining Eldar craft were hard on the heels of their former vanguard to reclaim it. He would have to push forward and keep it out of their hands, but his warriors would surely be subjected to horrendous punishment pushing out to such an exposed location… he had invested far too much effort in restoring their engrams to see them degraded by unnecessary resurrections.
Thinking quickly, he revised his battle plans, and silently conveyed new orders to his lieutenants amongst the two Warrior cohorts present. Each obediently marshaled their Warriors forward to seize and hold a respective piece of wreckage. Reaching his will out to the swarming construct-creatures accompanying his forces, he sent them forwards as a protective screen between the warriors and the Dark Eldar’s war-beasts. Then he turned to his High Illuminor.
“Thoth. I am marshaling the second cohort; you have my permission to try your latest adjustments. I require you to render them proof against the consequences of their exposure.”“As you will, my Phaeron.”
With a nod, Sotek gathered his Lifehunters to him, and sped off without a further word. He trusted his closest advisor to see the job done, and the second cohort’s path would need to be cleared.
Abruptly, the Lifehunter to his left disintegrated, a beam of darkness punching a hole through its torso big enough to turn the remainder into a shower of rent necrodermis. Similar blasts scourged the flying warriors about him, some melting off half of a torso or a thruster before their victims were able to piece themselves back together. Looking down, Sotek saw a small group of figures, one of them waving a multitude of arms wildly. He snarled in irritation; one of the aliens’ flesh-crafters had survived the destruction of its transport with a handful of its bodyguards intact, and was lurking in the shadow of the courier-ship fragment, coordinating fire from the remaining vessels against his honor guard.
It would not stand.
“Forward, sons and daughters of Saubekhar!” he rasped. “Occupy their gun-craft, forward and harry their lines – I will scourge the head from this serpent’s neck!”
Peeling off from his escort, the Phaeron sent his war-chariot screaming towards the foe. Recalibrating his sensory processors, he was able to perceive the enemy’s eyes widen in shock, able to see its disgusting lips move as it shouted at its gunships to Target that one!
Beams of utter darkness began to bloom all around him, and still he flew on. Between inky bolts, he could make out his Warriors scourging the alien beasts off of the sunken wreckage in the forests, supported by fire from one of his few cohorts of Immortals. It was almost a shame, really; Nepthys would have found many of those creatures fascinating, but right now they were more useful to him as ash.
Lance fire erupted anew and all too close for comfort, scourging great gouges out of the nacelles and aegis of his chariot. Still he flew on; their inferior weaponry could never end a King such as he, not while he commanded such a craft as his war-chariot. He had built and shaped it of his very own, labored countless months to endow it with control engrams fashioned after dusty memories of his favorite living steeds from the ancient Days of Flesh. It was a dear companion; nay, an extension of his will; and it had borne him to safety through hundreds of far heavier assaults than this.
Glancing west for an instant, he saw more lance fire tear apart his heavy gauss skiffs, and force Thoth’s crypteks off of their vantage point. The Eldar vermin would pay for that, too.
They were before him, now, so close before him. The world concentrated almost to a single point as his processing engrams went into overdrive in preparation for imminent combat; for the first time in decades, he could begin to feel the wind playing across his faceplate, his cloak rattling in the breeze of his passing, the chariot’s controls in his hand. The thrill as the chariot responded to his subtle touch, taking another blast but then juking away from three more, at the last possible nanosecond.
The ghosts of ancient chariot races rode at his shoulders.
For a moment, he felt almost alive again.
Drawing the specially wrought pistol at his side, a gift from Thoth some centuries ago, he leveled it at the haemonculus’ group and voided its power stores in a single, furious pulse; two of the alien leader’s escorts quietly vaporized under the force of a storm of viridian energy. With scant fractions of seconds left before contact, he grinned and leveled his arm accusingly at his chosen foe; a bolt of silver mist coalesced from the scarab-charm bracer on his wrist, as he unleashed his Mindshackle Scarabs in retribution for the attack on his chosen ones. The bolt connected, enveloping the alien figure as they sought to force their way within.
Sotek had seen the full-force effects of his scarabs at work many times before; thus he found himself rather surprised when the warped and twisted Eldar failed to oblige him and disintegrate into a spray of blood and dissolved meat.
attempt to usurp my body with your machines, Yngiract
?” the Haemonculus howled, silver mist visibly pulsing out of its pores as if forcibly expelled. “I will etch agony
onto every line of your engrams, rip out every circuit and wire you possess, and then I will melt you down
and wear your deathmask for a trophy!
Incubi, destroy him!”
The Necrontyr prince cocked his head to one side, as if considering; then sighed, reached out and clenched his fist with a yanking motion. The silvery mist condensed and shot forward, pushing the Haemonculus off balance.
It lurched into the path of the oncoming chariot with a sickening crunch, and then went very still.
“For my part, I would use your hide for a washrag,” Sotek told the corpse conversationally; “Except it would be a waste of good dirt.”
With a gesture, the scepter at his hip floated to his hand, and manifested an enormous sickled blade of emerald fire. He swung the great disruptor-khopesh through a fanciful arc, before settling into a two-handed guard stance, challenging the Incubi with his gaze. Warscythes had ever been the more fashionable equivalent amongst other dynasties; but Saubekhar royalty held its own martial traditions.
“Come, then!” Sotek sneered at the warriors barreling towards him, hot to repay the death of their employer in kind. “Show me how you mongrels ape true
Moving with predatory grace, the Incubi leapt up to perch on his war chariot, one to each side.
Blocking blows from both directions, Sotek found himself unexpectedly sorely pressed. These wretched Eldar were what passed for blademasters amongst their kind after all, and they were working in concert, attacking him from two directions at once. Whirling through nearly every defensive form he had ever learned in his thousands of years, he found himself barely able to fend off their opening attacks in exchange for a rent through one shoulderblade running partway down his back. He roared more in indignation than anything that could be called an ability to feel pain.
Lashing out unexpectedly with one arm, he caught one of the warriors in the chest; the unnatural weight and strength of the limb hurled the Incubus away from him. Then he howled again in outrage, as the other Incubus seized advantage of the Necron Lord’s distraction. The tip of the warrior’s klaive bit through the machinery of Sotek’s thigh, causing him to falter the half-step required for the incubi to bury its weapon nearly to the hilt in his chest.
Sensing victory, the Eldar moved to pull his blade free, but found he could not; the Phaeron had grabbed him with one hand, and his sword arm was locked in place by the Necrontyr’s implacable metallic grip.
good enough, wretchling,” the ancient construct hissed; wrenching his powerful metal fingers in a fashion that broke the Incubus’ wrist and shattered the Klaive’s blade at the hilt.
Pulling the arcing remnant of the weapon free from his slowly-reknitting torso, Sotek ran the warrior through with both blades.
He turned, letting the first incubus’ disintigrating corpse slide off of his weapon, and saw the second warrior bearing down on him again. Sotek just watched, impassively, as the last swordsman lined up a devastating stroke; as the murderous klaive began to swing in a blow that would cleave him apart from shoulder to hip. He folded his arms, ignored the charred rents still torn through his ribcage and shoulder, and uttered a single word.“Kneel.”
The klaive, and the incubus, froze midstrike; both limned in silver mist that soaked through every seam and pore. Reaching out, Sotek ripped the faceplate free of his opponent’s helm, reveling in the Dark Eldar warrior’s look of rage, consternation… and, ah, yes, there it was.
So the insect at least had the wits to comprehend its own doom. Excellent.
He locked gazes, the green corpselights of his eye sockets boring into his victim as he focused his attention on the microscopic scarabs suffusing the Eldar’s body. The scarabs were only the first step; second came the use of them to exert dominance, through the superior willpower of a King.
Shaking as if palsied, failing to overcome disobedient muscles, the Incubus dropped to his knees, head bowed. A smug, wicked smile spread across the Phaeron’s skeletal face.
“Good. Now then… Kill yourself, mongrel. Your breathing offends me.”
The screams as the incubus began slowly disemboweling itself with its own belt knife were quite satisfactory; Nepthys would definitely enjoy watching this later, once he retu-
His good mood lasted just as long as it took for the remaining Eldar gunship to finally blast his war-chariot out from under him, before the guns of his few remaining Lifehunters scythed it apart in turn.
Sotek picked himself up from the shattered remnants of his pride and joy, and cursed the lack of further Eldar to kill.
* * *
“I take it the lesser orders have been driven off then, my Lord?” Thoth inquired, seeing his master march back into view heading the cryptek’s cohort of enhanced Necron Warriors. They bore with them a number of fascinating and grisly specimens; Thoth beamed to see that his old student had not forgotten a mentor’s request to collect samples.
“Yes,” the Phaeron of Saubekhar replied, frowning and thumbing his war-scepter. “After the death of their leader, the vermin saw they had squandered their strength, and could not hold. So, naturally, they fled; as vermin will.”
“It is a joyous victory in the name of Saubekhar and its ally then, my Phaeron,” Thoth intoned, inclining his head and raising fist to chest respectfully. “Our casualties were primarily but servant-constructs. Your dedication to preserving the integrity of your vassals’ engrams does you great credit, sire.”
“Victory, Thoth? Yes. Joyous? Hardly,
” Sotek hissed. Nearby, the Warriors finished dumping the remains of the Homunculus and Incubi at the feet of Thoth’s remaining aides, and, having not received further instructions from their Overlord, began finding even more Eldar corpses to pile atop them. The crypteks quietly considered bringing the matter to their Lord’s attention; then noticed his expression, and settled for saying nothing and looking progressively more uncomfortable instead.
“…Nepthys’ latest lapse in competence, calculated or genuine, has just cost me my favorite war chariot. There will be words
, Thoth; and mark me, I will
have from her my due.”
“Yes, Phaeron,” Thoth sighed. “But please
, try not damage her gardens again; the last time, it took me a decade of missed research to retrieve her Deathmarks from the tesseract labyrinth.”
Sotek stood stock still for a moment, absolutely livid; Thoth found himself contemplating whether it would be more counterproductive to remain silent, or to point out that being disintegrated on the spot was a rather uselessly impermanent punishment for a High Illuminor. Silence won out.
“Fine, Thoth,” Sotek eventually begrudged. “I will try.”
“Thank you, my lord.”
“Yes, my lord?”“No promises.”