An unofficial Warhammer 40,000 Short Story
Written by Mark Hamilton
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Archon Drarizar smiled indulgently at the spectacle in front of him. Commissioning the Harlequin Troupe had been costly, but the artistic grace unfolding in front of him could not have been matched by even the finest Wyches in all of Commorragh. A quick glance at the perfect face of Archon Araquesha confirmed that this notion was shared by his bride-to-be.
The Archon had been a piece of art herself. She had a subtlety to her that defied all norms of the Dark City, whose inhabitants were so prone to over-indulgence. Where other Drukhari had their fingers carved into hideously sharp claws, Araquesha stroked the grotesquely deformed hide of some pet creature absentmindedly with graceful fingers that were just a little too long, a little too small. Where others would carve crude scars or tattoos into their skin, Araquesha´s skin was illuminated by a strangely calming glimmer that one could – almost – mistake for real. She was so wonderfully above the almost childlike struggles for relevance of the common Commorrites. In her radiating, statuesque glory Drarizar had desired her the moment he had first gazed upon her. And as fate – or, perhaps, a few well placed assassins – would have it, the Kabal of the Poisoned Delight had practically fallen into her hands, whose tender caress Drarizar yearned for more than anything.
Drarizar wondered if the plethora of Medusae that were silently floating around his pleasure barge on their Venom crafts would be able to truly capture the perfection of this display.
Drarizar tensed, as the spectacle in front of him was drawing to a conclusion. The Troupe had masterfully dispatched the Mon‘Keigh, creating a sanguine work of art in the deep snow below them. Any moment now, the genius of his artistry would be revealed: While the Troupe had seemingly re-enacted a portion of the War in Heaven in their play, the grand finale depicting Khaela Mensha Khaine´s final killing stroke over Kalis Ra would reveal the blood pattern in the snow as the Rune of Araquesha´s Kabal, turning the whole display into a rendition of her most audacious raid, which cemented her status as an Archon in the Dark City. The final moment not that of Khaine shattering the Nightbringer with the Suin Daellae, but that of Araquesha vanquishing the Patriarch of these new Mon´Keigh warrior monks. Shattering not Necrodermis, but the defiant will of an entire planet.
It was marvellous. Drarizar felt the sudden surge of adrenaline as the Troupe Master lifted off the ground to deliver the final stroke. Some of it was surely due to the pheromonic dispenses of his Llhamaean courtesans, yet all hinged on this final moment – would it be a generic re-telling of boring old lore … or the roaring kill-shot of an artistic master?
Time seemed to stand still as the Troupe´s leader soared in the air, both hands gripping his curved blade in an overhead strike targeting the crude bipedal walking engine. The blade bit deep into the pitiful metal, creating a deep gash, bisecting the front of the thing. The Harlequin landed softly on the snowy ground, rolling under the collapsing metal form in a somersault.
Drarizar needed every bit of his not inconsiderable self control not to burst into tears. His vision had been executed flawlessly. When the Harlequins had named their price – sacks of looted Spirit Stones, scores of exotic slaves and some useless trinkets from some long forgotten raid – Drarizar had been fuming, consciously cultivating every fraction of malice in his black heart. Yet all of this had been forgotten now, wiped away in one perfect moment.
Lost in the moment, the squeal of delight from Araquesha had almost gone unnoticed to him. He gifted her a warm smile and courteous nod. Seeing their betters pleased, the rest of their entourages erupted into laughter and applause. Araquesha grabbed her misshapen pet for a joyous, impromptu dance. Drarizar signalled for his servants to prepare their narcotic dispensers, raising a hand to signal the underlings to be quiet.
‘My dearest Araquesha,’ he intoned in his silver tongue, ‘it would be my greatest delight to accompany you on a romantic stroll through this dreamy landscape?’
In truth, the planet had been an insignificant globe of dirt before he had commanded his Haemonculi to turn it into this virgin whiteness… and would most likely remain as such for the rest of the eons, its greatest moment passed with this performance. But – a gravitic nudge away from the system’s star, a few occult chemicals dispatched into its atmosphere… and the stage for his grand play had been set.
Doubtlessly, the surprised Mon´Keighs were unprepared for such uncharacteristic weather. Their soldiers seemed savage even by their archaic standards, clad in little more than rags, their faces hidden behind re-breathers stinking of crude narcotics. They had formed the rearguard for some conflict on this world, lacking the firepower to threaten his assault crafts.
Araquesha gifted him with a lustful smile and a courteous curtsy. ‘Oh my Archon…’ the sweetest poison dripped from her every word ‘how could I deny any request of such a hopeless romantic?’ Satisfied, Drarizar registered a subtle spike in the pheromonic discharges of his courtesans, registering their reaction as a sign of jealousy.
Moments later, a dark procession made their way towards the remaining stronghold of the helpless defenders. Drarizar enjoyed the soft crunch of the virgin snows, as he violated it under his wraithbone boots. The hand of his beloved clutched tightly, they followed their honour guards of towering Incubi, followed by a kaleidoscopic menagerie of sycophants, servants, warriors and mutated horrors. Refitted floating skulls were dispensing clouds of narcotics as the evening sun reflected scenes of unspeakable carnage off of the tenderly melting snows. Drazizar gave his bride a soft kiss on her blood red lips, as her night-black hair was gently waved by a far-off explosion.