Led by Reikenor the Grimhailer and the Slann Starmaster Zectoka, the Perpetual are an alliance of desperation united against an inscrutable foe: the thing that was once the priest-king Mithridates Besh. Although his true nature is unknown to all save Zectoka himself, the servants of Nagash realize that Besh’s designs portend doom for even the Undying King.
Although any faction may join any Coalition, the majority of the Perpetual number among…
- Legions of Nagash
- Ossiarch Bonereapers
The events of the war in Amasya would precipitate the unlikely alliance known as the Perpetual. Where Reikenor the Grimhailer had accompanied the vampire Mithridates Alti’s attempt to reclaim his birthright, the Slann Starmaster Zectoka gathered armies of Idoneth, Sylvaneth, and the brutal children of Gorkamorka for the singular purpose of utterly razing Amasya.
Although it appeared Zectoka was largely successful with the destruction of the hallowed necropolis by means of a devastating celestial starstrike, the Slann’s true quarry eluded him. Likewise, Mithrdates Alti’s reclamation had failed: the son had banked on resurrecting his father Mithrdates Besh, interred five centuries earlier, who in turn would raise the countless dead buried in the city and carry the day.
These two circumstances would lead Zectoka to seek an understanding with Reikenor. Mithridates Besh, the Slann would convey, was not as he seemed. Reikenor was inclined to agree: impossibly, the ancient priest king still walked among the living, not the undead, even after suffering a mortal wound in battle at the dawn of the Age of Chaos and spending the last five hundred years entombed. His name was nemesis, the Slann said, and doom followed with him.
Constellations repositioned themselves among the stars according to Zectoka’s changing plan, and Coalesced emerged from the Ghyranic wilderness to heed the Slann’s summons. Elsewhere, Reikenor appealed to the Undying King, and just for the briefest of moments, drew almighty Nagash’s gaze to Amasya. With no more consideration than that, armies of the dead across Shyish looked toward distant Lake Bykaal and began their march to war.
Starmaster Zectoka is a Slann of the Fangs of Sotek. A survivor of the World-That-Was, Zectoka still vividly remembers the destruction of his temple-city at the axes of Khornate warriors. With the advent of the Age of Chaos, Zectoka has spent centuries avenging himself upon the worshippers and daemons of the Blood God.
The rediscovery of Amasya introduced an ill omen into his grand plan, an unacceptable aberrance that could bring ruin to all the Mortal Realms if allowed to fester. Seeking to excise this cancer before it can spread, Zectoka again serves his own ends, his impossibly vast intellect bending events to his indomitable will before they’ve even transpired.
Reikenor the Grimhailer
In his mortal life, Reikenor the Grimhailer was a sorcerer-king and mighty in the ways of death magic. Like the Katophranes of Shadespire and innumerable others, Reikenor sought to cheat Nagash of his due and instead earned the Undying King’s wrath. Where once he strove to elude Nagash’s justice, his soul now exists solely to enforce it.
Whatever Mithridates Besh has become, it is a singular affront to Reikenor’s purpose. Before his interment, Besh had been a loyal subject of Nagash; now, he must be punished, no matter the nature of his transgression. To this end, Reikenor has been granted mastery of Ossiarch Bonereapers, Nighthaunt processions and the very Legions of Nagash with but a thought of his deathless master.
Reikenor, known as the Grimhailer, Wielder of Fellblade, Rider of Kyallaron, had a cold eye. Mercy, compassion, curiosity- these were things he had once, but no longer. The Undying King had found no use for them in him, and as Nagash willed so he was.
To find himself here, in a perfect replica of the dimly-remembered palace he’d occupied as a mortal sorcerer-king, would have provoked awe from a different being. Wonder. Fear. For the Grimhailer, it merited only a cold dissection. Whoever put this together had expended a lot of mental energy, uncovering lore lost even to him. Had they been trying to put him at ease in a familiar place? No, because knowing him they would also know that no such social pleasantry was possible. It wasn’t a gesture of friendship, but one of power.
The architect of this mental monstrosity meant it to be known that they could research, build and maintain such a place without so much as an ounce of real effort. It was a blatant, shallow attempt to intimidate. It intimidated him anyways. Fear was an emotion he was allowed, for without fear how could there be reverence, and without reverence how could he obey?
The setting led clearly to the host- beings of such power as to remember and imagine this place so trivially were few, and fewer still had any reason to seek him particularly out. He was not imprisoned, Reikenor reasoned, nor was he to be turned- either eventuality would lead to Nagash unmaking and remaking him like clay. He was here for a conclave, and who would want to speak to him if not…
“Show yourself, Starmaster.” The Slann’s fingerprints laid heavy on the end of the war in Amasya- now it seemed one meant to make the Grimhailer a tooth in a gear. In response to his challenge, a figure appeared out of thin air- a concubine and disciple from mortal life, her soul now bound to one of his corpse-candles. There was that fear again.
‘Hail and well met, my lord. I hope you find your palace undiminished.’ She bowed low in false homage. Anger was another emotion he was permitted.
‘I find your games tiresome. Show yourself in truth!’
‘Truth?’ He did not so much spin as the scene spun around him, until he was face to face with the man who had once been his vizier. Another one of the corpse candles in his wake. ‘What is truth, my king? Truth is what it is made to be, especially here.’
‘Don’t play your head games with me.’ Reikenor gave a gumless, lipless grin. ‘You’ll find my skull quite empty.’ Humor was allowed. Maybe the dual ironies of life and death meant it was inevitable. Curiosity was forbidden, but he felt a certain strategic interest all the same. The Slann was right- here, truth was whatever it made it to be. Such a creature as could make this place was a gigantic brain with a vestigial body, a mind and spirit so vast that even the Undying King could not bend it to his will. And yet it sought him for an audience.
‘Let me show you something, oh King.’ The face was his court calligrapher- a forgettable man but an incredible talent. If he was in Nagash’s service it was not as a part of the Grimhailer’s panoply. The setting, though- the pictures showed an image from scant weeks ago, the towering tomb of Nagaskahip rising high above Amasya, high above the Ur-River. As Reikenor watched, it crumbled into dust- but there was a presence lurking behind it, a fugitive flying free from the ruins of Nagash’s mausoleum.
Regret was allowed. His master’s destroyed temple and the sight of the legions of the accursed God-King victorious in a centuries-old war burned in Reikenor’s memory unfailingly. As he watched, the pictures smoldered and lit, the sight mollifying him somewhat. As the paper burned, it fell away to reveal a mosaic of a lake, a frozen vista familiar even though he’d never seen it. ‘Shyish. Through the Realmgate.’
‘Yes.’ Now the face belonged to his old captain of the guard. The Grimhailer’s arm twitched with phantom pain, the memory of a blade carving deep into spectral flesh. He’d done worse to his retainer, and the man’s soul now burned at his side. ‘The lake boils with war, and what sleeps in the deep reawakens. And all around the shadow from Nagaskahip lingers, setting friend against friend and siblings at each other’s throats.’
He was allowed regret. More than allowed, he was almost encouraged in it now that he held up Olynder’s train. He felt it keenly as the scene changed again, and the face became another old friends’.
‘Do you know this man?’ Her hands held a tarot card, with the image of a man accoutered like a priest. Reikenor hadn’t seen him before, but the family resemblance was unmistakable.
‘Besh. Mithridates Besh.’ He had fought alongside his son in the campaign at Amasya, and it had been during that war that Nagaskahip fell. The son had been there to free the father, he knew, and had even succeeded- but Reikenor had never seen Besh or his son again. ‘What of him?’
‘He walks Shyish even now. What of these?’ The Grimhailer looked up, and immediately wished he hadn’t. Her face, her voice, the way she looked at him… the wave of grief threatened to boil into despair, and he busied himself with the cards she held. Each had a person of a different race and creed, but as he watched she flipped each of them to reveal a different, twisted version of themselves. He shook his skeletal head, uncomprehending.
‘He carries with him a radiant corruption, twisting and defiling all it touches. He has already turned many to his service- imagine if he can claim the lake for his own.’
The way she had looked when Kyallaron had come down upon her, how she’d fallen beneath Fellblade’s blow… regret without restraint was the Undying King’s way of punishing him even as he served, and he had to remind himself that this was just a figment of an ancient imagination. He would not react, not render the Starmaster this victory.
‘What do you want from me?’ A touch of Nagash’s power crept into his question, and the mind-palace flickered for the barest moment around him. So even here truth was not just what the Slann made it.
When the scene stabilized again, it was his mortal throne room- and atop it sat a dragon made of starlight. ‘The corruption Besh carries twists and kills, but what is twisted strains to twist further. And what is dead may not die again. This darkness will consume us all- unless we stand together.’ The drake beckoned to the Grimhailer with one clawed finger. ‘Will you stand with me? Or will you quarrel and be annihilated?’
Reikenor considered for a long moment. If what the Starmaster said was to be believed, there was a monster on the loose, desecrating the Undying King’s domain. As a servant of Nagash, it was, in its way, his duty to pursue it to its end. And a favor to a Slann, once rendered, would not be easily forgotten. He smiled again. True joy was far beyond him, but a grim satisfaction- that, he could grasp.
‘I will stand. Together, we are perpetual- Death will last forever, and our view is long as yours. Let the younger nations quarrel, but let us be united.’
As the palace faded back into a dream, though, the Grimhailer pondered. So this is what it took to frighten a Slann. Fear was the greatest weapon in the Nighthaunt’s arsenal- how might this knowledge change the Undying King’s wars to come?
More about Animosity II – The Burning Winter will be revealed soon.
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