Vak’sanithar wiped the blue blood from the bottom of his pointed chin as he leaned against the wall of an entryway to the Tau central Dome. He stared in silent frustration at a series of terminals attached to a large view screen. These tau were proving tougher crack then he initially gave them credit. He folded his bare arms, not caring that they were stained blue and covered in wet chunks of grey flesh. Outside he could hear his motley crew of mercenaries, genoscum, and slaves busy tending to their dead, and striping this colony of any valuables. Vak’sanithar was growing impatient waiting for another group of captives. He had been anxious to find any survivor that could (and would) operate the colony main computer, in fact, it was central to his plan. He cocked his head back as two genoscum gangers struggled with a dead Gearak mercenary. Any kabalite force would have meticulously and swiftly striped a place of any valuables after making off with its entire population. He could not count on such a clean haul from this rabble. They were not the caliber of the Twisted Vine, or any lesser kabal for that matter. He and his brother, Gel’thran’vex, were another matter entirely. They had been part of the Twisted Vine Kabal for most of his childhood and all of his adult life. As youths they had handled poisons and chems in Kabal workshops, where many children never live to see their adolescence. Later they served in fighting pits. They slowly honed their skills with each kill, clumsy and struggling at first, but no path in Commorragh is easy or without pain. Together they had earned a reputation fighting side by side, and had gained Archon Kel’sparin’s attention. Vak’sanithar’s quick speed and razor wit and Gel’thran’vex’s physical prowess had uses outside the arena, it seemed. At the archon’s call, they became his butchers, his guard, and his spies. Vak’sanithar on several occasions had given the archon seemingly valuable information. Kabals had been destroyed from that information and the Twisted Vine’s enemies forgotten to the dust. However it seemed that the brothers’ meteoric rise had stagnated, for Vak’sanithar had seen his lessers pass them by. Elevated to higher position because their pedigrees were from more pure houses. Several lieutenants had died before they discovered that. It seemed the archon liked their talents well enough, but he liked them at their current stature, never to rise above “their place” in the lower echelons of the Kabal. So be it, thought Vak’sanithar. He would have his just rewards, but he would take it for himself, even if it was from Kel’sparin’s cold dead form. Betraying the Kabal would have consequences if they were discovered prematurely but if everything worked as he had meticulously planned, the Twisted Vine and Bloody Rose Kabal would destroy each other, leaving the strongest to pick up the pieces. First, he had to find out what the Bloody Rose had been up to. None in the Twisted Vine had even whisperings of the Kabal of the Bloody Rose’s latest machinations. Silent peace in the dark city was usually a precursor to an attack, so naturally Archon Kel’sparin was nervous. He ordered all his agents and spies out to root out the plans of the rival kabal. They had tried the conventional channels, the vulnerable elements of the Kabal of the Bleeding Rose had been tortured or given such pleasures that could be had, yet none had yielded anything of value. Vak’sanithar’s position had at least afforded one unique trait that the purer bloods were too aloof or stupid to think of. He had an ear to the Gutterdark. Denizens of the Gutterdark were the lowest rung in the hierarchy. Slaves and genoscum, their world was the labor force on which the city ran. It was utterly ignored and mainly for good reason. The genoscum gangs that fought each other for petty territorial gain, were little match for the trained killers of a kabal. Many more still lived their whole existence making parts and weapons for masters that they never would speak to or meet. However not all that dwelled there were wholly stupid or completely ignorant. These were Vak’sanithar’s informers, and he, their narcotic salvation. Most were slave workers, whom were just smart enough to remember task masters of rival kabals and what they said in passing. Ship crews needed fuel and food, kabalite warriors needed armor, weapons, and poisons and these were forged and delivered from the slave shops of the Gutterdark.
Whispers had led him on a chase all over the dark city and finally to a cargo ship. Kel’sparin was distracted, planning of his Reverie of Delights, social gathering for the heads of allied Kabals, so Vak’sanithar, Gel’thran’vex, and several hundred of the most desperate of the dark city, slipped out on a secret cutter frigate and made for the open webway. The whispers led him to a nexus city, where eldar from all corners of the galaxy traded with each other. He had almost lost the trail but some physical persuasion from Gel’thran’vex loosened tongues. While far from the whole raider fleet the Kabal of the Bloody Rose commanded, it was the only lead he had. Crates from the cargo ship had been delivered to several dark ships departing for Evening Gate of Sudden Midnight, a real-space portal, leading seemingly to nowhere. There was nothing of significance there. No mon’kiegh outpost, no exodite colony, or world of feral orks to plunder. Only a backwater colony of the weakling tau. Surely this insignificant colony had been beneath three ships of a raider fleet. However this was the only place they could go, so Vak’sanithar went too. His cutter undetected, entered in orbit, he stealthily deployed to the surface. There he felt the sickening after-presence of the Bloody Rose Kabal. Their stink was on the air. It perplexed him at first, for they had brought three ships with kabalite warriors, but a small colony of tau had seemingly repelled them. He could only conclude that they had hidden the size of their forces and significance of the raid. Whatever this colony’s secret was, it was keeping the Kabal of the Bloody Rose occupied, and Vak’sanithar had to know what it was. He observed the colony. They had two fearsome cannons facing skyward, but this was hardly the thing that deterred a kabal, or even the small portion that had come. The tau had erected some form of hydroponics. Contained in bulbous transparent containers, strange plants grew in vertical columns. Beyond that lay the domed buildings that must have housed the hundreds of tau and their equipment. On the other side of the buildings, he found his first clue, huge transports sat idle as tau were loading the bulbs with plants inside onto one of the craft.
“Its food supply, a large food supply, brother,” said Gel’thran’vex.
“Yes, this is an agricultural colony, but whom are they trying to feed?” said Vak’sanithar frowning.
The brothers looked at the colony, both understanding where they need to go. The Bloody Rose kabalites had left the colony intact, now Vak’sanithar just had to finish the job.
To call it a battle would have been mockery. Even his rabble of scum and slaves managed to surprise the isolated sentries the tau had posted. The swiftness of the attack robbed the tau of defense and initiative. While Vak’sanithar’s forces were poorly trained, they had brought many newly made dark lances and splinter cannons, stolen from the Gutterdark. They vastly outnumbered the tau and the sheer numbers and weapons made them formidable. By the time the tau commander realized the true danger, too many of his number had fallen. The colony did manage to hold out longer than he expected, but only just so. Vak’sanithar was currently standing where the last warrior fell. Unfortunately many of the remaining colonists died in the attack, making the slave prize low for when they returned to Commorragh. Vak’sanithar cared not. He needed to know what the colonists knew, and what the Kabal of the Bloody Rose was after.
A looming shadow suddenly covered the sun light and Vek’sanithar heard the shuffling sound of clumsy feet. He turned and was disappointed to see Naga and two of his genoscum lackeys just outside the dome.
Vek’sanithar began a slow walk out the building. Keeping his voice in a bored tone, he asked, “What do you want now, Naga?”
“You ssssee Naga, He is killing the captivesss. Why did we follow thisss fool? All he doesss is kill our quarry,” said lackey on the right.
All three towered even over Vak’sanithar. They had a bulk that would have been just a shade light of the genetically altered monkeigh warriors. It was clear that they were all spliced, most likely with some form of serpent or maybe even the Sslyth. Naga was the closest to Eldar. Unless you were close enough to see his scaly skin or slotted irises, he could have passed for a large kabalite taskdriver or even a pit fighter.
Now outside, Vak’sanithar could see others were standing close by; Sheenar’a and several of her Mavens were looking, along with the bolder slaves.
Naga bellowed waving his arms thematically, marching heavily toward Vak’sanithar. “I don’t sssee how you could explain yourssself, Vak’sssanithar. What of value would you trade for your life?”
Vak’sanithar smiled. In less time than thought possible Vak’sanithar pulled out his pistol, shooting left to right, and shot both of Naga’s lackeys in the face. Simultaneously with his left, Vak’sanithar unsheathed his shard knife and sliced lightly into Naga’s abdomen. The shard knife was a wraithbone weapon that broke off tiny sharp slivers in the flesh of its victims. Naturally, Naga reeled back in pain. Vak’sanithar followed with a swift knee to his stomach. Naga doubled back, clutching his stomach in agony, struggling to breathe. Vak’sanithar was not yet finished as he brought his pommel down on the back of Naga’s neck. Naga fell, writhing on the ground, as were his two dying lackeys, struggling and shaking against the poisoned shards embedded into their faces.
“How fitting that you should be moving like your ancestors, “said Vak’sanithar with a cruel laugh.
Vak’sanithar placed his boot on the Naga’s neck. He cried and whimpered, so craven it filled Vak’sanithar with a temptation to just drive the knife into this ‘snake’s’ throat and be done with him. Instead he kneeled and with his foot on Naga’s neck, moved close.
“Never has the phrase, ‘worm beneath my feet’ been more apt. Now understand the rules, Naga. You challenge me again, you die. Any of your rabble approach me in a way that displeases me, you die. I hear you complain at all, you die,“ Vak’sanithar said pressing his foot slightly harder at the end.
Naga was still jerking involuntarily from pain, but he nodded in fear. Vak’sanithar stood, smiled, and released Naga from under his foot. He instantly crawled away from Vak’sanithar. His fear palpable on the air, Vak’sanithar breathed it in as one smelling a pleasing fragrance. Naga struggled to his feet and pushed his way through the on-looking slaves.
Vak’sanithar scanned the huddled group, and in a voice loud enough to be heard asked, “Do you feel the same? I should think so, for I am killing our prisoners.”
He studied their reactions. Some were upset, others confused, but the Maven leader took him back. Her face almost impassive but he could make out the whisper of a curious smile. He tilted his head in acknowledgement and she returned the gesture.
“I am killing our prize, which is what Naga says. He is right, for my hands and face are colored in proof. However the meager pickings of this colony are hardly the bounty that we can bring back into Commarrgh with any hope of wealth,” said Vak’sanithar.
“But others are coming, in a futile attempt to save these poor wretches from us, and they will have a vessel filled with more of these weaklings. Thousands perhaps,” said Vak’sanithar.
The crowd was growing, he could see a lust in their eyes.
“All that stands between us and them are their worthless soldiers. I told you to follow me and I promised you a wealth of souls, all that I ask is that you be patient and follow me a little longer, the souls come to us!” Vak’sanithar yelled passionately.
The crowd satisfied, began to disperse, with Sheenar’a leaving only after giving him a lingering look. Approaching somewhat confused was Gel’thran’vex and two other former kabalites, with a group of short tau between them.
Gel’thran’vex had a bulk that was strange for their kind. While not as large as Naga, it was still enough to tell that he was not “pure.” He was a fraction slower, but strong and wielded his shoulder slung dark lance like other kabalites handled splinter rifles.
The tau froze when they saw Vak’sanithar covered in tau viscera and soaked in cobalt, that is until Gel’thran’vex cracked his whip behind them. They cried and bleated like cattle, the noise making the dark eldar annoyed, the tau’s fear however was like a feint ghost of wine. He smiled slowly as they struggled toward him.
“Trouble, brother?” asked Gel’thran’vex, his tone amused.
“None that required your aid, little brother. Now what have you brought me?” said Vak’sanithar smiling.
It was easy to see that they all feared him. They shook as they cowered in front of him. He made a feint to scare them and instinctively the largest one put itself between the others and Vak’sanithar.
“Ah, Gel’thran’vex, you always know just the right thing to get me. A family of my very own,” he said with an ever- widening smile.
He pointed to the protector in front and without a word; the two ex-kabalites yanked it violently away from the rest. The other tau screamed trying to grab for it, until Gel’thran’vex let his whip drop to the ground. The larger tau struggled as they pinned it to the ground and slapped a thought converter onto the side of its head. It had taken them several victims to figure where to place the device, as the 18 thumb length needles had to be punched through the skull. It was hardly painless and the tau writhed on the ground as they installed the device.
Instantly they could feel the tau’s torment. They understood that it was a male and could feel his screams as he struggled to reign in the pain. While not a true translator, they could understand the intention of his words, and surface feelings, and visa versa. His family was crying and yelling in the background, but the dark eldar were drawn to the energy rising from the tau’s pain. Blood oozed from the edges of the converter and the tau gripped the device on the side of his head.
“Don’t do that or you will die in a few minutes of painful bleed out. Do you know how to work the central Terminal, you grey skinless rat?” asked Vak’sanithar.
“I would rather die, than help you! You are the anathema to me,” said the tau struggling to his feet defiantly.
Vak’sanithar moved with a cat’s speed, snarling over the Tau. The tau’s seeming brave face vanished, but he did not cower as expected.
“Tau’va! Tau’va!,” screamed one of the other tau now huddled together.
Suddenly Vaksanithar smiled, and began moving toward them.
“No, stay away from them, they cannot help you, they do not have the computer access you want,” said the Tau.
Vak’sanithar continued his slow pace and said, “What I am not hearing is how you have access and that for the safety of your family, you will help me with the terminal.”
The tau looked desperate, torn.
“Tau’va!,” repeated the other tau.
Vak’sanither performed a sweeping kick taking the yelling tau off of its feet and onto its stomach. He put his knee on its back and put his shard Knife to its cheek, slicing a hair’s thickness into it. It instantly started screaming and struggled futilely against Vak’sanithar’s weight. He moved the knife near its throat.
“No! don’t hurt her,” yelled the tau, wrestling against Gel’thran’vex.
“Then do as I ask! Choose tau, your family or your “Tau’va,” yelled Vak’sanithar, pressing the knife against the pinned tau’s throat.
The tau looked desperately left and right. Vak’sanithar could feel his struggle, building like a pressure cooker overloading.
“You promise on your honor as a warrior, that you will let them go, if I help you?” asked the tau.
“Oh yes, if you help me you and your family will be free of us, I promise on my honor, “said Vak’sanithar, pulling back his blade and sheathing it as a show of good faith.
He stood letting the female tau up, who was shaking from the pain of the shards left in her cheek.
“To the terminal then, but know that the instant you displease me, your family and all the tau on this pathetic planet die,” said Vak’sanithar in a solemn serious tone.
They walked into the dome building, Vak’sanithar shoving the Tau onto the terminal.
“Now, my first question, where are those transports bound for?” asked Vak’sanithar