“Is this all that remains to me, then?” Mithridates Alti looked down at the shattered skull with disdain. “Scraps and skeletons. We were born for greater than this, our line and our city, but the heathen hordes are ever-tenacious.” He sighed, and cast the bone away to join its brethren littering the field.
Every day, the Khornate dogs dug deeper and deeper into his flanks, leaving scenes like this one as monuments to their passage. When they had marched from Shyish, the ranks of naked bone had seemed unending, the wreckage of a dozen civilizations fueling his war effort- but days upon weeks of encounters like this had left his still-mighty host somewhat reduced.
It was only to be the Sigmarites. If even them, this early. As he had originally conceived it, this was to be only the first step in his revenge against the mewling hosts of Azyr. Once the seat of his father’s power was reclaimed, then his hosts would fall upon the God-King’s poor, deluded sheep like the Undying King’s own sword. And now...
“It never goes according to plan, does it.”
“You would know.” Mithridates’ ally had learned humility at Nagash’s own hands, long ago, and now Reikenor taught the same lesson to any who sought to challenge the Lord of Death’s dominion over the hereafter- such as the same storm-forged warriors that now marched to claim his prize. His own objective, Mithridates reflected, was at best secondary in the wraith’s eyes- Nagash’s reaper was doubtless just as happy to reclaim Sigmar’s pawns sooner than later. But they had to reach the city first. “So tell me then, sorcerer-king, how are we to break through?”
“Armor means little and less to my chill touch. Let me ride out with my hosts against the Khornates- there will be a great slaughter, but not a drop of blood spilled.” If the wraith had had any face beyond a death grin, he would have sworn he was smiling.
“The Lord of Rage would go mad with it,” Mithridates admitted. “And yet, these are bold words coming after your humiliation by Nurgle’s chosen, and they march in step with the
Bloodbound. All Sarn would have to do is turn aside a portion of his host, and you would be stalemated until the end of time... and his hounds would still be free to bite at our heels.”
“Do you admit defeat, then, fallen priest?”
“Never.” Mithridates smiled. “I only think that this is a poor battle for either of us to fight... neither of our hearts lie on this field, and we ought to save our strength for the real wars to come. It’s time for someone else to bear our burden. Come.”
It was not far, by foot or by nightmarish steed, from the edge of the battlefield to where the priest-king’s retinue had made camp. In the center stood his own splendid gold-and-turquoise tent, and inside there was a woman. When he was a mortal man, Mithridates might have thought first that she was beautiful- now that he had transcended his mortality, he saw instead that she was deadly, like a masterwork Duardin blade or a howling tempest. Her posture bespoke utter ease concealing absolute awareness, and her hands were clear paragons of the murderer’s craft. He dipped his head in greeting.
“Well met, Queen Aorii.” She smiled in turn. “I have a task for you.”
“Honestly, I wondered if you had forgotten us.” The Hag Queen appeared artfully unconcerned. “Even under the God-King’s thumb, my sisters have given more sacrifice to the Lord of Murder than we have since we joined your march.”
“Then it’s good that you are here now. I have a task worthy of your mettle.” As Mithridates explained the Khornate threat, her eyes widened, and her cultivated nonchalance couldn’t hide her anticipation of the battles to come. “Can the Daughters of Khaine put the foe to flight?”
“Gladly. The cauldrons will sing with our victory.” And she left the tent without a further word for man or wraith- but when she was gone, Reikenor turned to his companion.
“When I asked to fight the enemy, your concern was that I would break myself on Nurgle’s warriors. And yet you spoke not a word of the Plague God to her.”
The last hierophant of Amasya shrugged. “I told you because I wanted to stop you from plunging into a battle that would tie you to a single point. I was silent with her because she can and will plunge as it pleases her, and I have no intention of dampening her enthusiasm. If she succeeds against the odds, she and her warriors will have proven their
worth. If not, we have lost nothing but a noisy distraction- she will expend herself against the Horde, and when there is nothing left they will die. As do we all.”
“And in the meantime-”
“The march can continue.” Mithridates smiled grimly. “You will shepherd the Deathrattle and the Deadwalkers forward. Guard the flanks, and make sure that no one else can worry away at them before the host reaches the city proper.”
“Will be leading the van. It’s only right, that my Blood Knights should have the first taste of combat against the usurpers.”
“Mannfred’s Blood Knights.” Again, if Reikenor had had a face to smile it might have been smirking. “Not yours.”
“No.” Mithridates thought of all the motley forces he had begged, bribed and stolen for this army, none of whose loyalties were to him. “Not yet.”