Salachar traced the notes in the air with his clawed hand, like a conductor charming the music from musicians, his face intense, lost in the moment, body arching upwards with the crescendo, the chorus, the cacophony of noise bursting from raw throats that wailed against the crack of whips and creak of racks tearing limbs and laying open souls. Sweat poured from his brow as he revealed in the peak of ecstasy, the vast sprawl of muscles rippling across his frame trying to tear away and reshape themselves into a truer form. Oh he could feel it, the truth. Oh Mallack, my Lord, my God, grant unto me your vision!
He was there, a sea of blood carried the vessel of his meagre form to the edges of salvation.
‘Yes, my Lord, oh god, thank you…’
Yet as he could feel the earth beneath his feet did the tide began to pull back. He scrambled for the shore from the vessel. “NO!, NO!, NOoo!” His screams seemed only to hasten the departure, the tide drawing him away from the promised land, he raged as his spirit was torn back into the confines of his flesh, spewing forth a wretched and horrid howl that echoed through the corridors of the ship cowing even the strongest of his disciples.
His vision blurred, he stood disorientated, his hoofed feet struggling to find good purchase on the steel deck plates. “Why Mallack?” he whispered, holding his equine like head in a clawed hand as tears of molten lead bled from his eyes and settled in solid pools that clanged heavily on the deck. Salachar turned to regard the lifeless form suspended by hooks from the bulkhead, its eyes glassy and bulging in death, staring down on him with a face twisted by mind bending tortures that had flayed it open to rain in a quivering mass over its master.
The child of Randius had been difficult to acquire, several dozen slaves had gladly thrown themselves on him at their master’s command, sacrificing themselves with a sadists squealing peels of joy as the mage had ruptured their bodies with arcane magics. It was the sheer weight of death that had at last brought him down, Salachar had been so hopeful, a killer, one who bathed themselves in blood without thought or remorse had seemed to be the obvious key to his next ascension. But not enough, not enough blood, not enough carnage, not enough death, just not enough!
“Bastards, “ he raged as he tore the body from its hooks, shredding the vessel into ragged clumps that splattered the bulkhead and painting the floors with gore.
“My Lord.” a flat statement rather than a question, from a monotone voice of a slight and pale figure. Standing in the center of the room, pristine despite the efforts of Salachar to cover every surface in viscera. Salachar wheeled on his Lieutenant, suddenly looming with great leathery wings, while simultaneously looking down the broad expanse of his chest at this tiny woman. “Speak, slave.” snapped Salachar, addressing all his subordinates as such made life easier; his Lieutenant, Jasadi though integral to the workings of his flagship, was still a servant to even his most base needs.
Jasadi remained Statuesque, not a strand of raven black hair shifted from her pale skull, though at least she was smart enough to keep her eyes lowered when addressing him. “Ships sensors have detected a merchant vessel stranded by one of our beloved master Mallack’s gifts, a rather potent magnetic storm. Mallack’s Embraced her with his might, my lord, she’s been heavily damaged.”
“More slaves,” mussed Salachar, looking across at the bulkhead doors where behind lay his personal, and very depleted, stock of blood pets. He regarded Jasadi again, he did not like the set of her shoulders, they had squared recently, as if a spirit still lingered within that putrid corpse of a body she insisted on retaining. Salachar smiled, “Prepare the ship for a boarding action.”
Jasadi bowed and wheeled sharply, making her way through the gore with an confidant even stride, careful not to slip on the blood slicked floor.
“You’ll lead the first wave of borders,” watching her carefully to gauge her reaction.
Jasadi froze for the briefest of moments, Salachar read hesitation and doubt in her posture, even possibly a tiny hint of fear before turning to bow again to her master, “As you command my Lord…” She retreated without further comment, Salachar was confident that she had been reminded of her expandability, though he fully expected the vampiric bitch to survive unscathed.
Yes, she would be an obstacle soon, he’d even toyed with the idea of simply having her hanged from the hooks right now and head off her eventual betrayal. But that wouldn’t do, Mallack disapproved of such weakness, to show fear of a subordinate before they even had the chance to act, that way led to the path of the coward and the non-believer. It was the way of things, the nature of the true way, not like those pathetic Valadians, with their codes of honor and suffocating naval and social traditions. Power, strength, struggle, death, this was the true way, the path of life, the true path of Mallack.
The Mercenary fleet
It had been over a month since the Bloody Aces took a job close to the hazardous skies known for Outcast attacks, but the pay was high so they knew the risks when they set out to the escort six merchant ships. Two weeks into their journey all contact was lost.
The Black storms of Targus have been known to sink fleets in the matter of hours. Navigator beacons were dispatched trying to find the navigators of the Bloody Ace or survivors from the merchant fleet. Five days ago one of the navigator beacons found four of the mercenary ship’s running point with with three Outcast ship’s; their destination a well-known Alliance port.
‘Contact was made navigators confirm all is well, ran into trouble with Outcasts and bringing in bounties’ in the transmission.
Lord Marshall Garrison sat wearily, anyone not knowing him or his illustrious and sometime dark history would have seen a man cast adrift in a sea of paperwork, stooped and tired. Yet the mind was as sharp as a razor, and he’d earned his reputation as a renowned fleet commander. Still the hours drag, and still he pours over reports and itinerary the basis of the Alliance navy. Yet one report grabs his attention, some detail askew, a word a phrase, something.
The Lord Marshall of the Alliance his mind moving like a shark rereading the report, looking at others, tipping pages on the floor as he seizes older notes and reports, all the while forming a dark suspicion.
Grabbing the speaker horn and activating the icon for the Navigator. A tired female voice answers the call soft edges and firm authority.
“Yes Lord, Garrison?”
”I’m reading over the Bloody Aces debacle reports who took the call on comms, did they hear the transmission from the lost Merc fleet, or was it a wideband transmission?”
The tiredness gone she answers quickly ‘Yes I have, Hmm Sorry Lord Commander I mean I took the transmission it came on a late shift and we were doubling up roles, standard voice carrier no anomalies detected, their comms traffic suggested damage to the video feed network, possible due to their..”
“How did the voice sound, what’d you believe the health of the Comms officer?”
After a short pause she answers quickly “ I, I thought I heard traces of pain, but no trigger command word was offered Sir, I wasn’t sure so I didn’t want to make a fuss. Have I made some mistake? I followed Alliance Comms protocol” The Lord Marshall places his hands together cracking his knuckles, a ghost of a smile passed his lips. “No you followed protocol, However next time follow your instincts, bracket a sub-note. And Lieutenant well spotted on the call.” Garrison, a true lost relic of the Gods, was grinning like a maniac spoiling for a fight.
Striding through his office, past a startled clerk The Lord Marshall strides onto the bridge looks to the Deck officer “Cancel shore leave. We’re going active”
“But Sir half the crew is on leave, it’ll take us hours to get them all back, many have shipped home for the local festivals.” Garrison adjusters his hat thinking hard, “Well then guess we’re going to battle with a skeleton crew, anyone on their way out get em back, anyone on docks grab em, Battle Stations” The forward bridge is suddenly awash with activity, dormant consoles become active, holo displays light up, casting an ethereal quality to the wooden surrounds, crew are moving with purpose. lower in the armored deck, alarms blazon in the background as everyone available races to their stations.
“How many ships are out of the repair yard, or can be?” asks Garrison.
“serving Sir we have six ships,” answers the Deck Officer, “ But I must point out that they are not all up to full ship’s capacity with regards crew I believe.”
Garrison looks at him, “Too late, ready the fleet. Trojan procol”
Hours away the Bloody Aces fleet speeds towards the Alliance port, of Regent. As they approach closer Comms officers and Port officials are hailing the incoming fleet details and docking procedures to be passed on to the Navigators, the systems dumb A.I’s communicating authentication codes. They return very little chatter, what is communicated, just enough to not raise any suspicion in their entry. As the Alliance fleet scrambles to battle stations it becomes apparent they may be too late, as the mercenary fleet races in and the cold realization they have been ambushed by the Outcast.