Lord Raykel Aertsen-Avrae swore bitterly, an oath spat in murderous vehemence on the unholy names of the fallen Nemesis and Anathema, as he watched the quickly disappearing back of the runner norrjin boy. How dearly he wished he had split the craven child in half, but one should not simply kill the bearer of bad news; one is then liable to run out of news-bearers. He stroked the gilded pommel of his sabre absentmindedly as he reminisced about the good old times: - in this god-forsaken Age, there were simply too many 'feelings' to deal with, too many niceties and politicking. Give him a trustworthy blade, a worthy foe and the sun behind his back any day. A terror-inducing scowl flashed across his aquiline face as he brought the news to fore in his mind. The message had come from the Director himself, Ihsan Nessaja, Son of War, warning every Ephor of the worrying acceleration in the spread of that dratted mist. Like the Nogba's, this infernal mist had the same cloying sense of rot and decay within it, yet unlike the Nogba's, Raykel recalled exactly where and when this damned thing had appeared. While it was certainly necromantic in nature, the combined efforts of the adept Malignists and Deathknights had been unable to exert any form of control over it. Even as his military mind pondered the veritable boon of controlling the damned thing had they succeeded, a deepening sense of apprehension grew within the nine chambers of his scaly heart. His scowl contorted into a deeply-lined rictus, he drew his keening blade and strode forth into the mist to once again do battle, even as the events of the last six months replayed themselves over in his head like a broken harmonic capture. As always, this series of unfortunate events had begun and revolved around that nexus of power - the Lady Esmyrsia. The entire Ephorate were all gathered in the council room of the greatest city on Aetherius - Stavenn...
"Singularity." He strode into the chamber, embers flicking maliciously from his blackened footprints. Iniar nodded slightly at the graceful form of the athletic tanari who headed the oldest guild in the continent, the Singularity Ellarynth Lokrien. Theirs was a paradox of relationships - he had ever been like an adopted son to her, and she the strong matriach of the Noctusari - in a sense, they were family not of blood, but forged from and through it. She smiled graciously, leaning forward from her reposed position, "What news do you bring, Imperator?"
"She has agreed," he scowled. A wave of superheated air smothered the room as he turned to face the head of the Noctusari. "You know my concerns about what we will try to do here, don't you?"
"Of course we do," a silvery voice rang out, clear as a crystal yet harsh in cadence. Three ghostly figures materialised alongside the tapestry dedicated to the memory of Sons of Trez, those bloodthirsty caterwauling legion of legend. Dressed in a flowing robe of embroidered aubergine-coloured silk, a slight sylayan lady with an aristocratic bearing stepped into the room. Sparks danced between the tips of her slender fingers, scintillating in brilliance before fading away and lending the three newcomers solidity in appearance.
"Arcana," muttered the tall, yet lithe, soldier on her right, his discomfiture showing as his reptilian eyes flashed around the hall and his right hand resting on the pommel of a vicious looking sabre. "I never get used to it, Caitryn," he said, "You lot and your non-necromantic energies."
"You'll get the hang of it eventually, Raykel," she laughed liltingly, patting the large akrabi on his plated forearm.
“Are we all gathered? There is one who seeks an audience with us,” the Scorched mutters, displeasure evident on his parched visage.
Erupting from the chilled mosaics of the Tenebrum Sanctum, an unholy visage appeared. Black as the hearts of Lyncantha and as carmine as the pools of Scrag, luxurious hair cascaded down the back of the demon that appeared before them: the Lady Esmyrsia. Dressed in ethereal robes of Noctusari design, the demon lifted a single claw.
“Peace.” The demon smiled beatifically, expansive and beguiling.
“Say your piece, Esmyrsia. The Ephorate will make a decision, and I assure you we will not tarry when making these kind of decisions,” Iniar said quietly, the man deep in contemplative thought. A single tarot card danced along his spindly fingers, on occasion igniting briefly in a cerulean flame.
“Who is she, Iniar?” queried the third figure.
“My apologies, Lord Nessaja. I forgot you were away… This is the Lady Esmyrsia. She appeared to us when Lady Greyjoy attempted to have Cadmus’ curse reversed several months ago. She has been our guest up to this point, and she has a request for us, but I am talking too much. Esmyrsia.”
“Thank you, Imperator. As you said, I am Esmyrsia. I am here to ask for your assistance, Ephorate. I have made powerful enemies, but I also know that I am in possession of a unique knowledge.“ Her siren voice carried in the dead still of the chambers air. The demon laughed, her pleasure evident at having the full attention of Stavenn’s ruling elite. “I, however, have no recollection of what that knowledge is…”
“Really…” Raykel muttered, a histrionic smile on his face. “You would listen to this prattle, Imperator?”
“Pay attention, Avrae. There is always more than meets the eye.” Caitryn snarled in retort at the kohdon.
“Indeed, Lady Aertsen. I am in possession of knowledge that Golgotha, damned be his name, is pursuing me for. He has sent his elite beholders against my person, attempting to drain out my mind. Fortunately, I evaded capture, fleeing to the sixth realm and sheltered with the Crone for a while; though, as you would suspect, she sold me out fairly quickly. And now I am here, Ephorate, and I am requesting your assistance.”
“Assistance of what nature, demon?” The Singularity smiled gently, her eyes calculating and appraising the threat represented by the entity.
“Singularity. Let me say that I wish to retrieve my memories, and in exchange, I will share that knowledge with you. You Noctusari are singularly reknown for your inexhaustible thirst for hidden and forbidden knowledge. This, I can assure you, is such knowledge,” Esmyrsia said, as she sat herself down on an invisible platform.
“There is more.”
“In my time with Hecate, I learned that it was I who had slain the Eater of Souls. The Seventh was filled with fierce engagements and rumours about the demise of the Master’s Soul Keeper when I fled the beholders. Hecate laughed when she told me that her agents and Istria’s had seen me with Marduk right before he was murdered, and that my spoor lingered over his form. It is how, I suspect, I was able to lift the curse from the Lady Isadarr.”
“Perhaps I have his knowledge now. Perhaps I knew something only he had divulged to me. I simply do not remember.”
“I also don’t remember my station before I fled,” the demon creased her forehead in a gentle frown. Her amber eyes narrowed in concentration as she continued, “I no longer know why I killed Marduk, or why Golgotha is not simply dispatching the Fallen One against me. I don’t recall who I am, I don’t recall those I knew and how this all started and it is all becoming extremely FRUSTRATING.” The demon stood, a multitude of voices shouting out the last. Flames ignited all along the length of the chamber, leaping up to the ceiling in mirrored agony and searing the delicate murals. Runes flared in protest as the demonic empress flexed her power in frustration. Almost immediately, the Brethren rise to their feet, each incanting shadowy words of power and directing them at her power – in unison, Ellarynth, Caitryn and Iniar sealed the remnants of bleeding power with an ancient Hanyou spell. Light and shadow battled briefly before runes and flame extinguished, electric acridity now cloying the air.
“Calm yourself, Esmyrsia!” the Singularity ordered.
Raykel chuckled quietly. “Fierce, yes. A worthy ally.” His quiet bemusement seemed to defuse Esmyrsia, as the demon seated herself.
“Very well, we have heard your request. This is my deliberation: There is promise of unknown reward of which the Demon Emperor seeks. He has not as yet sought you out here, so we have time to attack your amnesia. While trust is still off the table, we, and if not we, then I as a private citizen, will proceed with assisting you – the potential loss of knowledge is worth the risk of a handful of lives, if that. What say you, Ephorate?”
“I concur.” Lady Caitryn murmured, her eyes lighting up deviously at the promise of secrets.
“As do I,” the Singularity said.
“I object, Iniar,” Raykel chuckled, “although she is indeed a fine specimen, finer than most of the things you deal with, Nullheart.”
“You may proceed with my assent, Nullheart,” Ihsan said. “We will see where this leads us, and I will behead you myself if it turns out badly.”
Iniar laughed, “Very well, Nessaja. Welcome to the Empire, Esmyrsia.”