Neferata - By Josh Reynolds
IT IS A TIME OF LEGENDS.
NAGASH THE USURPER IS DEAD, BUT HIS LAST REVENGE HAS DEVASTATED THE ONCE-MIGHTY KINGDOMS OF NEHEKHARA. AS THE CITY-STATES TURN TO DUST AND THEIR KINGS MOULDER IN THEIR GRAVES AWAITING THEIR PROMISED REBIRTH, A NEW POWER RISES.
BEFORE THE FALL, IN THE CITY OF LAHMIA, QUEEN NEFERATA AND HER INNER CIRCLE LEARNED THE SECRETS OF ETERNAL LIFE FROM NAGASH’S UNHOLY TOMES, BECOMING THE FIRST OF A BRAND NEW RACE – THE VAMPIRES. THIRSTY FOR BLOOD AND POWER IN EQUAL MEASURE, EACH OF THESE POWERFUL CREATURES PURSUES THEIR OWN GOALS WITH SINGLE-MINDED FERVOUR.
NEFERATA, PROUD AND VAIN, SEEKS TO RE-ESTABLISH HER EMPIRE AND ONCE AGAIN REIGN AS QUEEN. W’SORAN, MASTER OF THE MAGICAL ARTS, DESIRES POWER OVER LIFE AND DEATH.
ABHORASH, A WARRIOR BORN, BATTLES TO SLAKE HIS BLOODTHIRST AND REGAIN HIS LOST HONOUR.
BUT FOR ALL THEIR PLOTS AND SCHEMES, THE VAMPIRES ARE NOTHING MORE THAN PAWNS IN ANOTHER, MUCH LARGER, GAME – NAGASH’S INFLUENCE WEIGHS HEAVILY UPON ALL THOSE OF HIS BLOOD, AND ONE DAY, HE WILL RETURN...
The Silver Pinnacle
(–15 Imperial Reckoning)
Bones rubbed softly together within tattered scraps of armour as the skeletal sentries shifted aside their spears. Eyes burning with witch-fire, Arkhan the Black examined them for a moment, and then stepped through the archway, one fleshless hand resting on the pommel of his sword.
The place had belonged to the dwarfs once, and it showed in the design of the thing, though modifications had been made since. The majestic sturdiness of dwarf stone was consumed by the sumptuous decadence of lost Nehekhara. Draperies of Cathayan silk softened the stern arches of the corridor, as tile murals from Sartosa obscured the stones of the ceiling and fumes of exotic incense spilled into the halls from quiet alcoves. The statues of long-forgotten gods from dead lands squeezed into the spaces once reserved for the mighty stone forms of Valaya, Grimnir and Grungni, their marble eyes watching Arkhan’s progress.
Dead men hovered along the path, toiling ceaselessly at labours that were beneath Arkhan’s notice. Somewhere behind him, the vast doors of the hold crashed shut, causing the smooth rock of the path beneath his feet to tremble. From the outside, one would not even know that this place existed, unless one was familiar with the rune-markings of its former masters. In days long gone, the dwarfs had boasted of their dominion of these mountains and the gates would have been not only visible, but impressively so. But the dwarfs were no longer the masters here, and the hold’s new mistress had a predilection for secrecy.
She had purged the routes and signs leading to this place in the intervening centuries since she had taken the throne. None knew the secret ways and means of Silver Pinnacle now, save those whom the hold’s dark queen wished to know.
How Nagash had known was up for debate, given the circumstances. Gone were the days of shared counsel between Arkhan and his master. Dim though it was, the single guttering spark of humanity that remained to Arkhan – that made him who he was – served only to illuminate the rift between him and what Nagash had become in his time in the deep dark. Arkhan, fleshless as he was and driven by dark magic, was terrified of the nightmare thing that his lord had returned as: all brass bone and balefire, the Great Necromancer was a force unto himself, self-wrought and self-empowered, owing nothing to anyone or anything.
Nagash had sent him here to acquire the fealty of this place’s mistress and her vassals, a task Arkhan was uniquely suited for, considering the connection between them. Or so Nagash had claimed. In truth, Arkhan thought it was because Nagash did not trust him. Not that he had any reason to. Arkhan had served Nagash well and faithfully for a stretch of time longer than his mortal life and had been rewarded with annihilation time and again.
In the thousand years since Nagash had last walked the land, Arkhan had tasted again the joys of independence. He chafed now beneath Nagash’s thumb, and he spun plots to free himself; all had failed, of course, or had never been implemented. Nagash was too strong and too in need of a lieutenant to let Arkhan return to Nehekhara and his conquests in the land of bones and dust.
Until such time as Nagash freed him, was destroyed, or was victorious, Arkhan the Black would serve him, however unwillingly.
The great stone gallery with its walls adorned by more murals and colourful tapestries from