Rune-sigil of the Celandec
The Composite Multitude had seen many strange peoples in its time among the Celandec, yet knew that they themselves were the strangest of all. Wrought from the souls and bones of the hallowed dead, they spoke the native tongue of most every creature to roam these halls by virtue of shared heritage with nearly all of them. They had no ears carved into the bone of their head, but they heard and listened better than most. No heart beat in their chest, but they keenly understood the emotions of the living- for had not each part of them once been alive?
There was a cacophony in the voices and the minds of the Celandec, discordant variations on hope and desperation warring for prominence. They were afraid, for the last war had not gone well for them and this coming struggle carried the same notes of annihilation with it. And yet, every day new possibilities loomed. The Celandec were not as they had been a century before- perhaps between them and their innumerable allies, the coming war would not be a catastrophe but a crucible from which they would emerge like hot steel quenched in blood.
Every person in the Celandec court was an instrument plucking out these notes, but in Renaya Oathsworn the noise became a symphony, swirling and echoing like the celestial choir of Azyr itself. The Multitude was not ashamed to admit they were fascinated by her. The part of them that was an emissary of Nagash considered it their duty to learn all it could about her; the part that was a lover of knowledge, of truth, simply saw it as a pleasing challenge.
The sound of her approach drew them back to the present, standing watchfully in the shadowed halls of Renaya’s modest court. Ah, there she was, shepherding her flock of courtiers and officials, conducting the ever-shifting business of statecraft with a concert master’s hand. Always the delegator, the compromiser, playing the desires of many against one another in perfect counterpoint such that her disparate subjects could find harmony together. It was, they reflected, a trait that would be put to an altogether different test as the Satrapy mustered for war.
“Satrap,” They spoke in chorus, and the Soulmason’s bipedal throne-construct inclined in something resembling a bow.
“Equerry of the Undying King, recently deceased. When last we spoke you offered me Arkhan’s favor, yet now the liche too is destroyed. What, then, does the Ossiarch Empire bring to my table?”
If the Soulmason was taken aback by Renaya’s sharp tone, they did not show it. “Nothing less than what was promised, my Satrap. The regrettable absence of reinforcement means little; my kind require only the bodies of those we slay to replenish our ranks. The Empire stands by your side today and all days yet to come, Lady Oathsworn, so long as our tithe is paid.”
They were curious to see if Renaya would bristle at their implication; after all, an adversary easily provoked was an adversary easily misled. Even the Multitude could not imagine the plethora of devil’s bargains Renaya must have made to assemble her army, and no matter how righteous her people’s grievances, the Ceraphate at large would hardly welcome the horde which had answered her call. The Oathsworn smiled, and the Soulmason knew she had seen his feint for what it was.
“Life stands resurgent across all the realms. Nagashizzar wastes away on its deathbed, yet still you make threats against my people within my own walls? Do you not know your place? The thin ice you tread upon?” The Multitude watched her smile persist despite the seeming anger in her voice. She stepped back, then, and laughed. The tension fled the room like dark before the dawn.
“Then we are much alike. Worry not, Bonereaper, your tithe shall be paid. Do not let it be said that Renaya Oathsworn casts aside those who stand beside me through times of crisis!” and with that, away she swept, her gaggle of advisers and courtiers bustling to keep up. The Multitude watched her depart, amused; she already knew every word they had shared, but tactfully spoke them aloud anyway for the benefit of her people, of her cause.
Yes, the Composite Multitude mused, the tithe would indeed be paid.
This article was written by Alex P