As war encroaches upon the hallowed necropolis, Varanpact figurehead Irkut “the Spineless” seeks advantage in the coming battle by any means… and reveals more than even a disciple of Tzeentch can comprehend.
Eight of flesh, one of tree
From the gods of earth and sea
Four almighty hear our plea
Chaos’ grasp shall set us free
The music of Slaanesh rose above the Varanpact encampment, the rhapsodic, animating, maddening harmony of a thousand servants of the Chained Prince all rendering worship through voices and bodies and instruments of immortal bone and sinew. Even as the symphony swelled, it was met and matched by the constant, lonely wind of the valley that had dogged their path and filled the quiet moments for a week or more. Desire and despair, sensation and emptiness combined, all set in counterpoint in a perfect fugue of Realm and Empyrean to which the camp inexorably danced.
For Irkut Thousandeyes, it was all noise. What use was the dance, when the center was all that truly mattered? Mounted on his war-steed, he need not spare a glance for the daemonettes, nor the gibbering horrors that added their own insistent hoot-chirp-grumble to the mix. Like the carpet of vermin that swirled about their feet, the dancers would move or they would be crushed. The center was all that mattered.
And what a center! Flesh and bone, shoot and stem had been woven together, such that they who had entered his unwilling service as ten prisoners taken from the Skoga Grakk had become a single oracle, channeling counsel and warnings direct from the lips of the Gods. There were orbs of warpstone where their eyes once lay, and he wondered what it was the amalgam now saw- but only briefly. What was important, he would know soon enough, what was particular, he need never know. The center was all that mattered.
Let us see, let us see
Past and future your decree
All that is and what will be
Truth beneath reality
“Oracle!” His voice echoed over the camp, and he was pleased that the ever-present noise still muted somewhat. The center was what mattered. “Show me the future. Tell me what lies ahead in the city.”
The construct heaved, individual parts writhing around the great wooden beast that made up its center, before one of the creatures suspended on the periphery opened its mouth. “Seneschal, they call her. Starhammer and Commander and Queen, they honor her, but she bears only steel, and what she wields hangs by a single thread.”
“Yes.” The warhosts of the God-Who-Failed were as conniving as a sorcerer’s palace. “Tell me more.”
Light flared in another pair of empty eyes. “He strikes, and he hears, but where he strikes once he hears twice, and it drives him mad. We heard and we followed, but now we hear and follow the same voice but a different master. Coming, they are coming, earth and sea and green, coming to destroy.”
Irkut smiled. Had the beasts known that what he took from them would be their undoing? “More. What more do you see?”
A third struggled to escape its fellow parts, as though some remnant of individuality remained. “The great foe beheld a vision once, but he did not see this place. What is painted has become real, but what is real is just a memory. But memories stand grander than ruins, and this one towers. It was a hall, but now it is hollow. Yet even empty things may hold secrets inside, and this one is rife with them.”
Was this how Khornates felt, when they scented blood? He urged his mount to circle the oracle, peering into its distant gaze, waiting expectantly.
“What is known can be false, and what is closed can be open, and what is forbidden can be free- and so it has become. Once it was whole, but now it is crumbled, once it stood tall, but now it is stooped, once it was white, now it is stained. Drink a little, and it will teach- drink deeply, and it will damn, but damnation is only a danger to the weak.”
“And I am strong.” He bared his teeth, and despite himself his heart pounded in anticipation. “Continue.”
“Sixth and last.” This part was smaller, and had perhaps only been a child when it was fused in to the greater whole. Irkut had to lean in to hear its fading voice. “From Heaven, his line fell, but death swallowed him willingly- and to what end? Only power, but he names it righteousness. He waited from dawn to dawn, and now he comes in darkness, blood within and blood without, and in darkness he will be met at last. And yet-”
“-not all who fall can rise.” The next piece of the oracle took up the phrase seamlessly. “Tombs within tombs, houses on houses, living stone to contain dead men. Once many voices sounded, but now only one is heard, and silence lays thick within the earth. He will emerge, and when he has come he will reap, and the last shall know joy and despair in equal measure. Know it to be true.”
They were speaking faster and faster now, and the words had barely entered Irkut’s mind when the seventh piece of flesh spoke.
“In darkness they have waited, and in darkness they shall be met- earth and sea, earth and heaven. A palace it is called, and a palace it remains, no longer fit for a king but perhaps enough for a priest- but which priest shall take it?”
“Enough!” The piece’s voice came to a halt. “Tell me of something else, something besides long-dead holy men.”
“Earth and sea, yet he is stone.” The eighth and final had an almost… sly look to it, and Irkut knew better than to believe he was seeing things. “He speaks, and they laugh, they speak, and he laughs, and yet they follow him the same. Why should they vary, when he has the gods’ voice? Wrath and ruin, he is coming, they are coming, but he comes in blindness and in ignorance.”
“Ha! Oh, Sarn… Aptly described.” His thoughts were drifting elsewhere when the Oracle spoke again.
“The center bends until the whole breaks.” The bound tree-beast holding up the other parts flexed and shook, and the whole oracle shook with it. “The center bends and strays, and the whole is lost. He sees all but cannot see himself, for he has not vision. Thousandeyes he calls himself, but he will be named Spineless, for he bends, he bends, he bends as he searches, and he hates, he hates, he serves what he hates…”
“He hates! Spineless, he serves, spineless, he hates!” All the parts cried out in unison, echoing through the camp, and like a thunderhead boiling out of a blue sky Irkut’s mood fouled.
“Tear it down!” Daemonette and horror alike leaped at his command, and the oracle burst into flame- but even as it died, it screamed after him-
“Spineless he bends, spineless he strays, spineless he hates!” But it was all noise, in the end. Let the accursed thing spit its invectives and curses. The center was all that mattered.
What will be, what will be
Truth will bind and set us free
Through fiery animosity