“Hear me, my sisters, and I will tell you the one truth that matters: power. It matters not where or how we acquire it, only that we do so. Rise, my Scathborn, for you are my will…”
Klarieth heard the words in her mind as clearly now as she had then. She heard her voice dripping on them.
That was ever her way. All those lies that you believed, yet when she finally spoke the truth you did not listen.
The shadowbeast sprang forwards, its mercurial mass resolving into an inky tiger-like form with a long, striking scorpion’s tail. She moved like water, ducking beneath its lunge and slashing daggers of midnight black across its underbelly. It was barely enough. Claws meant for a decapitating blow instead scored long, bloody rents on her bare shoulders, and the tail punctured a deep wound below her ribs. The beast’s lunge carried it past and she spun with it, her shadow blades shifting and reforming into a bow. Three quick arrows darted after it, but as the beast landed it splashed into a puddle of darkness. Quicker than any mortal creature could shift its momentum, the darkness again took a new form, this time as a snake’s spade-like head. It struck out with viper speed, yet its shadow-fangs found no mark. Klarieth had stepped through a shadow of her own, and appeared above the striking beast, plunging down with a long, viscous spear. Again its form dissolved before the blow could land, dissipating into inky strands of shadow that hung in the air.
Power was all that ever mattered to her. Not her people. Not her creations. Not even her god.
The shadows congealed again, this time taking the form of a tall aelven man. Broad-shouldered and barechested, his head was crowned in long streams of twisting shadowy hair and two curling horns. With a flourish, a rapier blade appeared in his hand, and he thrust towards her. Klarieth’s daggers flashed into a web of defense, parrying the strikes but caught on the defensive. He moved with the flicking speed of the darkness around a guttering candle, attacking from impossible angles.
So much she promised, but you never saw her like we did. Alone. Broken. Consumed by ego and jealously.
Klarieth felt her guard slipping, and the mircath, the shadowmark branded into her shoulder, flared with pain. Her foe’s blade slipped through in quick succession, scoring three deep cuts across her face and chest.
Still she grasps at you covetously. Yet the power she used to bind you was not hers. Try as she might, she does not own the shadows. They are ours. She does not own your blood. That is yours, to give to your true god.
Klarieth could feel the blood trickling down, through the fingers of hands clenched on blades of darkness. She could taste it in her mouth, in the hissing, ragged breath of a punctured lung. The room swam red, and in a moment the flickering shadowform before her seemed as slow as a gentle snowfall. She felt the warp-fury of Khaine upon her.
Gathering her coiling form beneath her, Klarieth surged forwards, trapping the long shadowy rapier between her own twin daggers. She drove the creature backwards, then with a wrenching heave shattered the thin blade. Her daggers wove a widow’s web of crimson strands through the air, shadow and blood, scouring the creature and trapping it, preventing the strands of shadow from dissipating again.
She has broken you already. You will need power of your own. You will need…
“Enough!” Klarieth roared.
Taynara burst through the door, her serpent glaive held at the ready. The meditation chamber looked as though a hurricane had passed through, sand scattered and rocks and walls splashed with crimson blood. Klarieth stood alone in the room with her back to the younger melusai, bleeding deeply from dozens of wounds. Though the blood flowed bright and freely, yet Taynara could see an inky blackness welling beneath.
Klarieth straightened from her fighting pose, then carefully pulled a cracked mirror mask from her belt. She slipped it over her face, then turned to face her disciple.
“My lady, I heard you yell. Is there…”
“Recite the Red Invocation.” Klarieth said, softly with no room for disagreement.
“‘For the blood to speak it must first flow. Ten cuts is better than one, save for the deft slash that opens an artery. For almighty Khaine, let your blade drink deeply, and often…’”
As Taynara spoke, Klarieth drew in a heavy breath, then let it out slowly. As she did, the wounds across her body began to close, sealing together with traces of black fire until they were little more than pale markings across her skin and scales. The blood remained, staining unbroken skin.
“Good. We offer blood to Khaine to find clarity, shed from others and offered from ourselves. Never forget.”
“Yes, shroud queen. I shall leave you to your meditations.”
“No. Gather the cell. We have a new journey ahead.”