Disclaimer: I do not own anything I write about.
The Warhammer 40k franchise belongs to Games Workshop
( update: OK more than one person has complained about the parentheses, so I'll shift some to the author's notes below :)
That was the first thought I had after I switched on the TV and saw the setting and costumes shown on the screen.
It appeared to be some kind of dark throne room whose overall look and feel reminded me of the work of H.R. Giger. Pale purple points of light flickered among the contents of the room.
The focal point of the scene was great throne formed by a symmetrical set of long segmented spines which rose up from the middle bottom of a wall and then curved sideways, down and forward, giving the impression of giant skeletal wings spread and folded slightly forward. Black spines radiating out from the sides and skulls set into the top of the structure completed the macrabre spectacle. In the niche thus created at the middle sat tall figure wearing sleek, black, segmented armour which covered his whole body save his pale, weathered but dashing face, and his white flowing hair. Even his tall crown ( or what appeared to be his crown ) was segmented and tapered up before sprouting strange horns, spikes, and other dubious decorations. Similar spikes and regalia protruded and hung from his shoulders, shins, elbows, and wrists, and hinted at even more sinister devices hidden within his armour.
A pair of scantily dressed young girls kneeled, one on each of his side, their heads hung low. All over their pale skin were obvious scars and bruises. They swayed gently, as if stoned from drugs. Their long hair appeared to be tied up into ponytails, but the bands used for the tying were connected to the floor by loose cords. Just then there was an audible bang from somewhere else in the room, followed by approaching footsteps. The two girls were jerked awake and looked up at the source of the noise.
The black armoured figure, who until now had been sitting still with a frown on his face, stood up, walked down the shallow steps leading up to his throne, and spread his arms. What had appeared to be his shadow now fluttered behind him and flowed down, reaching the floor. A cape.
"Ah, my lady Malys, you still look ravishing as ever !" His voice was so calm and clear, as if he had practiced his speech for several lifetimes. It also had a strange metallic quality to it. As he forced a smile, his eyes were intently focused upon whoever he was speaking to. Wary, amused, calculating his next move.
Great actor, I thought. Where did they get this guy ? And what happened to Pinhead ?
The scene now changed to show the opposite side of the room, apparently from the POV of the previous character (1). Now I realized just how huge the room ( or should I say, hall ) was. The far walls were so distant they were as good as invisible given the poor lighting. Even large sections of the floor seemed virtually nonexistent, replaced by a boiling mist. Rising up from this mist at random intervals were pillars with numerous corpses at various stages of mutilation tied, pinned or sometimes set into them. These were then crisscrossed with beams and cables running through the air with even more horribly mangled bodies strung over them. Some of the bodies ( or body parts ) were still twitching, struggling, screaming …
Wow, they're taking the Hellraiser series to a whole new level of awesome ! Clive Barker would be proud ! … Yet, something was off. The guy's get up seemed really familiar to me, and I had a feeling it had nothing to do with Hellraiser.
A flickering dim white light shone in from outside the scene, casting long, web-like shadows and overwhelming the softer glows inside the hall. Its source was probably a doorway to a more brightly lit space outside the hall. From this unseen doorway, a broad pathway made of solid black stone led straight through the hall towards what I assumed to be the throne. A ghastly green glow shone out through the thin cracks in the stone, revealing the appearance of the group of figures who were now storming the hall and approaching the throne.
Most of the latter were dressed in black, segmented, spiked armour similar to the previous character, except they were less decorated, had no capes, and covered the whole body. Each wore a simpler helm which tapered gracefully upwards like the crest of an ancient Scythian headdress. The face was covered in a white mask stylized to give the impression of an elongated, angular skull. On the back was strapped a polearm which vaguely reminded me of Chinese war glaives, except this looked nastier.
Cool warrior costume, I thought.
In each of the warriors' hands he clutched a sleek looking rifle covered in that ubiquitous biomechanical design, complete with claw-like blades for melee combat. A science fantasy setting ?
And then I suddenly perked up in my sofa, eyebrows raised. I realized where I had seen such costumes before. "the hell ? Dark Eldar ?"
At the head of the procession was an elegant female figure, the "lady Malys", dressed in a lighter version of the Dark Eldar armour with swirling silver designs etched into it. The latter was covered over by a translucent black gown tied at the waist with another red robe whose ends draped over her hips and legs. In her right hand she carried a long black sword which upon closer inspection looked like several thin blades stacked neatly into one weapon. On her back was strapped another sword.
Her lustrous long black hair was tied up with a tall, bent and segmented clip which had curved spikes protruding from the sides, like a prehistoric arthropod fossil with a broad head shaped to fit around the back of the woman's head.
I crawled over the low table before me to get a closer look at the TV screen. Pointed ears, check.
Being the young man I was, my gaze soon drifted down towards her chest. There was some kind of tattoo spreading out from where her heart would be, but to my … disappointment, that part of her body was also covered in armour, so I could not make out the whole design.
Then she spoke. "And you, my love, … look aged, and exhausted. Just as well, we have come to relieve you of your … burden of lordship." She returned the previous character's smile. Like the latter, she was hauntingly attractive, pale, and weathered, with that glint in her eye which bespoke of a wicked intellect. Her voice also had similar qualities, but was more melodious and sensual.
The guy at the throne laughed. "Then I must decline your offer. I intend to rule Comorragh for as long as I live."
That confirmed it for me. Incredible, I thought, a decent Warhammer 40k movie, finally ! With Dark Eldar in it no less ! Immediately I stood up, jumped off the table, and spun several circles to work off the surge of excitement in me, before sitting back into the sofa and turning my gaze back at the TV screen, a big grin plastered on my face. Now, if I guessed correctly, this guy standing before the throne must be …
"Asdrubael Vect ! You have ruled long enough. Our people tire of you. Even your followers have forsaken you." Malys pointed her sword at Vect. "Take him."
The warriors behind her stepped forward, ready to subdue Vect as their mistress ordered. Once again I was impressed by the choice of actors. Their movements were so swift and calculated it was almost … inhuman.
Before the warriors could reach the throne however, the Archon of the Black Heart Kabal, and current Supreme Lord of Comorragh, let out another burst of laughter, this one more bone chilling than the last. It resounded across the hall, and caused the warriors to momentarily freeze in their tracks.
"So why haven't you declared that, my lady ? Malys, the new Supreme Lord of Comorragh ! You have not, because you realize that I still hold power within the city. To take complete control, you must first get rid of me." Vect shook his head and sighed mockingly. "That is, assuming you can …"
The Mistress of the Poisoned Tongue tilted her head. "We have you cornered, Vect. There is nothing left for you, but defeat." Then a corner of her lips turned subtly upwards. "Worry not, I have an eternity of miseries planned for you. A return gift for what you did to me."
For a short instant, Vect grimaced at that last sentence. Then his features relaxed again and he chuckled. "How thoughtful of you, my lady … but I'm afraid I'll not be able to appreciate this kind of gift as much as I used to. You see … at this age, I have come across every manner of extreme sensation that you know of, and much, much more. What you regard as the most painful tortures, the most decadent pleasures, the most exhilarating battles … all these things have lost their flavour to me."
He paused and glanced at Malys and her followers. The latter had not made a move. They appeared intrigued, but they kept their weapons pointed at Vect. Satisfied that he had their attention, the Archon continued.
"So I began searching, for something … FRESH ! Something … that no denizen of Comorragh has experienced … since shortly after the Fall. And I found it … not in some remote, exotic location or dimension, … but within me." Vect pointed two fingers of his left hand at the middle of his forehead. He frowned subtly in concentration, and his eyes began glowing phosphorescent white. His white hair began drifting up as if an invisible wind was blowing at it. White hot sparks crackled around his head, shoulders, and arms. Behind him, the two slave girls saw this and gasped in apparent recognition. They immediately wrapped their hands around their heads, and tried to crawl away from the Archon, their already abused bodies trembling in fright.
Malys at first narrowed her eyes in confusion. Then she took a step backwards and widened her eyes in shock as she realized what Vect could be doing. "Impossible ! Such a thing … is forbidden !" She snapped an order to the warriors around him. "Stop him, now !"
I, on the other hand, was happily applauding. Those screenwriters sure know how to take their liberties with the fluff !
The Dark Eldar warriors opened fire with their splinter rifles. Streams of venomous crystal shards shot straight towards where Vect was standing … and shattered on the throne behind him. Pieces of them ricocheted down and got embedded into the slave girls' exposed flesh. The latter collapsed to the floor bleeding and spasming, their screams of pain joining the noise of splinter rifle fire as they echoed across the hall.
Descending from his incredibly powerful jump, Vect landed noiselessly behind one of the warriors. I almost imagined that his cape helped him to glide like Batman. The Archon then immediately pulled the klaive from said warrior's back. The latter spun round to face Vect, only to get decapitated by his own sword. While his head rolled and the rest of his body collapsed, a deep red haze spurting out of his now headless neck, the other warriors drew their own klaives. In a blur of black and purple, they leapt towards Vect, intending to strike at him all at once from different angles. One of them detached what appeared to be a crystal skull from his waist and made to throw it towards Vect.
Instead of raising his klaive to physically parry all of their attacks, Vect spread his arms and once again frowned in concentration. The glow in his eyes intensified. Bolts of bright white lighting burst forth from his head, shoulders and arms, and lashed out at the warriors around him.
The Dark Eldar warriors were not prepared for a psychic attack of this level, and were halted in mid leap. In a flash, they dropped to the floor shivering in various awkward landing postures, their sensitive nerves mostly overwhelmed by the warp lightning.
The skull-like object clattered to the floor at Vect's feet and began to emit a purple glow. I did not get to observe what effect it might have, as the next moment stray bolts of lightning arced over past Vect's immediate enemies … and out of the TV screen.
"WTF !" I jumped with a start and stared, with jaws hanging, at the screen, in which Vect continued to channel his psychic powers. The glow in his eyes were now so intense it was almost blinding. More and more lightning whipped out of the TV. Where they struck the surrounding furniture, wall or floor, they created loud explosive cracks and booms, left smouldering craters, and threw bits of ceramics, wood, plastic all across the room. The area thus covered in craters was rapidly expanding towards me.
"OH SHIT !" I turned and tried to run out of the living room. "What kind of electronics malfunctioning is this ?" In my panic, I stumbled, and the lightning caught up with me.
At once, I felt as if boiling water was being poured all over me in sudden splashes. The boiling sensation quickly seeped through my skin and spread into my body, accompanied by terrible convulsions in the muscles, as a strange power rushed through me. If I still had my wits, I would have mused at how different this felt from a normal electric shock … but I was terrified, and had lost control of my sensory, motor, and reasoning functions. Something was ripping my consciousness out of my body, and it did not care what damage that could do to me.
And then everything became black and silent.
When I regained some coherent thought, I saw before me a strange mist with a blurry image projected upon it as happens in a slideshow. This image soon became sharper, and I recognized what it showed. My living room … from the POV of my TV. Craters, potholes, and settling debris strewn all over the place. In the middle of this chaotic scene rose the distinctive shape of my sofa, now belching smoke from where the lightning had torn and burnt into it. Besides it, half buried in the rubble was what appeared to be a charred corpse.
When I tried to see the details on said corpse, the whole image shrank as if withdrawing further and further away from me. The mist that contained it dispersed as well. At the same time the rest of my physical senses started coming back to me.
Soon the mist vanished, leaving a weirdly familiar background. At the same time, I regained all awareness of my body.
Immediately I gasped for air, and nervously turned my head in all directions like an insect who had just been rudely plucked from its hive by a naturalist (2) and placed in a lab container. It did not take long for me to recognize the location.
I was in Asdrubael Vect's throne room, and I was standing right at the spot where he stood in that last scene. I was even wearing the same get up he was, holding the same klaive in my right hand. Or was it me ? When was I this tall ? Around me on the floor were the Dark Eldar warriors, still reeling from the effects of the warp lightning. Further off, silhouetted against the light from the hall entrance, was the familiar figure of Lady Malys. I remember reading that she was immune to psychic attacks.
"Ah, lucid dream." Was the first thought that came to my mind. What else could it be ?
See, if I thought hard enough, I could even fly …
I threw my free hand up, tip-toed, and imagined myself lifting off the ground by an invisible force.
Okay, maybe I was not thinking hard enough.
I pointed the tip of the klaive I was holding downwards and assumed a standing "meditative" pose, clasping the weapon's hilt with both hands and holding it one foot's distance before my chest. Slightly lowering my head, I stared forward into the darkness and took a deep breath, and imagined that my weight was vanishing.
As I did so I realized that unlike in a dream, all my senses were functioning clearly as they do when I'm awake. In fact, they were functioning far better than normal. While I kept still, I could make out details in my surroundings that I never thought I could. Despite the dim light, I could see the designs etched into the far walls and pillars. I could focus my attention on a particular body transfixed on a nearby pillar, examine its disfiguring wounds and infer the manner of inhumane tortures it had gone through. I could hear its life fluids dripping away, and distinguish that from similar sounds that my ears were picking up. The momentarily scents that drifted past me now and then, I could somehow trace the general directions they were coming from, and guess roughly at the kind of substances that made up their sources.
And most strange of all was a new kind of sense which allowed me to feel … emotions from outside. It felt as if I was submerged in the middle of an endless sea, with waves and currents washing over me. Instinctively I knew that the sources of those disturbances corresponded to the minds of nearby sentient beings: the shocked warriors (3), lady Malys ( her emotion-waves appeared deliberately regulated ), the slave girls ( whose pain I now tasted as if sampling a dessert ), those torture victims still alive ( at whose suffering I found a momentary unexplained pleasure … ). Among these, I could tell that I was the one giving off the strongest disturbance.
Drawing my attention back to myself and my immediate surroundings, I realized my new body did not become weightless and "phase out" as I expected it to. I did feel lighter in away, but that was due to the fact that this body was far fitter than my previous one. My senses of touch and balance were now far more sensitive than before, and I could adjust myself instantly and precisely according changes, giving me near perfect control over my own movement. This I tested by jogging lightly on the spot, swinging my arms … random dance moves … yoga poses …
A somewhat exhilarating experience, and definitely not a lucid dream. Yet if this was not a dream … then everything around me was real … which meant that if I were attacked now …
I looked again at warriors around me. They were recovering from shock, and were steadily dragging their half-paralysed bodies away from me, while keeping their gaze on me and and klaives firmly held in hand. Occasionally they looked at each other, clearly confused by my weird antics, and towards lady Malys.
I watched them for a while, then waved my free hand, and forced a smile. "Hi … uh … why don't we all put down our weapons and talk nicely, K ?"
Hey, my voice sounded exactly Asdrubael Vect's. Cool ! Now if only I could get the tone right.
I looked over at Malys. She stood still and stared blankly back at me, not sure what to make of the drastic change in Vect's mannerisms and tone of speech.
Then, she turned her head slightly to the left and glanced down momentarily, while pressing the tip of her free hand onto a small device which extended from her skeletal headdress down over one ear. A communication device. She listened to the incoming message intently for a while. She then whispered something in reply, lowered her free hand, and shot me a stern gaze.
"Daemonic incursions at the major Webway gates of Comorragh." Gone was the reserved tone of voice which she displayed in her banter with Vect a moment ago. Now there was genuine horror, mixed with some hint of … awe ? "Was this … what you really meant by a 'new experience' ?"
Now it was my turn to stare blankly at her. I needed a moment to access my situation.
OK, what was happening now ? Not long ago, I was watching TV at home. Watching what I thought was a just a WH40k movie. Then some flashy stuff occurred, and I was knocked out. Next thing I knew … . Oh man, so complicated.
At this point I thought of the philosophical concept of Relative Reality. "Am I a man dreaming that he's a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming that it's a man ?" I muttered the famous saying by Zhuang Zi.
I chuckled at the absurdity of it all. Then chuckle became laughter. "Ah, screw it ! I'm in here now. An alternate universe ! Back in my own world I'm practically dead anyway. Might as well have some fun here !" I felt myself relax.
I bent down and picked up the crystal skull at my feet. There were now cracks all over its surface, and the purple glow from within it had dimmed, almost faded. I turned it over in my hand and examined it further. "Hmm, isn't this one of those soul-smashing anti-psyker devices ?" Apparently, one of the warriors had thought to use this on Vect. It should have worked … on Vect. Whatever had happened to the Archon's soul, it was soon replaced by mine, and to an outside observer it probably appeared as if the device had failed to perform any of the diabolical functions that its user had intended it to perform.
"For your own amusement you may have doomed our entire realm !" Malys's voice brought me back from my musings.
Annoyed, I turned towards her and shouted. "So what ? Don't you Dark Eldar enjoy slaughter ? Rejoice ! We now have slaughter all over the city !" I raised my arms in mock celebration.
"Besides …" I walked towards her, lowering my voice into a conspiratory tone. "This could just as well have been your doing. I know of your pact with the Laughing One. How you obtained that crystal heart of yours …" I pointed a finger towards the strange half-hidden tattoo at her heart. "… and the powers that came with it … especially …" I glanced back at the warriors behind me, both to make sure that they were not sneaking up on me, and to see that I had gotten their attention. "the power to foresee events such as this." At this, I could feel waves of confusion emanating from the warriors. It was actually composed of several conflicting emotions … but the important thing was, they could not decide what to do. Good.
As for Malys, her already pale face paled even further. She did well at calming her expressions, but I could tell that she was shaken. For a tiny instant, her grip on her sword began to loosen. The next instant, its blade flew towards my neck, while spreading out into the shape of a metallic fan with razor sharp tips at its outer edge.
That wave of killer intent I felt right before she struck was all the warning I got. Instinctively, I bent my knees, shot one foot forward, and swung my sword arm up, parrying her weapon arm upwards at the same time that her sword was transforming into the Steel Fan. I then swung my klaive down swiftly in a wide forward arc while pushing forward with my whole body, throwing her off balance and forcing her to bend over sideways. I yelped as part of the Steel Fan swung down and cut a gash into my arm. No matter, I had momentum on my side. Besides, the pain from the wound, rather than causing me to falter, actually motivated me to move even faster. "Power from pain." I recalled.
To my surprise (4), Malys planted her free hand onto the ground at the precise angle required to prevent me from taking her down. Using that as pivot, she did a back-flip, while at the same time taking advantage of her body's natural flexibility to aim a vicious upward kick at my face.
I brought my left arm up to deflect her kick. In doing so, the crystal skull which I had been holding on to was knocked out of my hand. It flew up a short distance through the air, then descended straight towards Malys's face just as she completed her back-flip. Of course, a falling skull poses no direct threat to a Dark Eldar Archoness. She swatted it with her Steel Fan, shattering it into a shower of tiny crystal bits which temporarily obscured her vision.
This momentary distraction gave me the time to search my armour for any secret weapon I could use. Immediately I found it. A rod of unknown length attached near the back of my waist. Was this the infamous Sceptre of the Dark City ? It had to be. Either it worked or I would be in big trouble.
Fumbling for the Sceptre's detachment mechanism, I closed the distance between us in one leap, and swung my upraised klaive down at her. She brought her Fan up to block my sword, and placed one foot a metre behind the other to absorb the coming impact, whose force caused her to hiss briefly from the exertion. Nevertheless, she managed to trap my weapon between the blades that formed her own.
Both of us made our next moves at the same time. I plucked the Sceptre from my waist and thrust its tip towards her throat. With her free hand she reached over her back and drew her second sword. She brought it down towards my neck.
We stared at each other in that position for a while, both our second weapons just touching their intended targets, but not doing any real harm. Actually, I was the only one in real danger, as I had no idea how to activate the Sceptre … but if I did not tell, who would know, right ?
Silence again, save for the sobbing of the slave girls, and the fading moans of the torture victims in the hall, and the beating of our hearts. Ah damn. My eyes drifted from her face, down to her chest, then back … Thankfully, she did not seem to notice, maybe because my eyeballs were glowing white so it was harder to tell where I was looking. Unfortunately, there were other things which she did notice.
"You fight differently now." Malys's bewitching amber eyes now had a look of curiosity to them. "You had no intention of wounding me, and I could only wound you once, unintentionally." She then narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "You're not Asdrubael Vect. Who … what are you ?"
Ah crap. Come on, I need a come back ! Change the subject ! lemme see …
"Baffled, my lady ? The Dark Eldar thrive on pain. Your fighting arts are perfected for killing, maiming, inflicting and absorbing maximal agony. What if we take that all away ? Subdue the enemy without injury to anyone, and in so doing, deprive you of those sensations you crave ? A new kind of suffering ! A wonderful spiritual suffering !"
Wow, did I really view Aikido in such a twisted way ? Good thing I quit. Still, I was grateful for the things I had learned from it. Thank you, Sensei ! I still don't like you, but nevertheless, thank you ! Thank the Bloody Handed One for muscle memory too. Without the strength and reflexes that Vect's body already possessed and honed through millennia of bloody conflict, I would have been killed by Malys the moment I got close to her.
Malys seemed to catch the gist of what I was saying, and was quite intrigued. She glanced at me sideways. "Another one of your … novel thrills ?"
Emboldened by my initial success, my next reply came quicker. "You learn fast, my lady."
Now Malys smiled and leaned forward, bringing her face slightly closer to mine, ignoring the fact that we still had weapons pointed at each other. She whispered seductively, "Show me more …"
OK, now it's your turn. A Dark Eldar crossover or a Dark Eldar self-insert, or a mix of both.
Make it epic, and have fun ! :D
( As always, my muse is very fickle, there probably won't be any update from myself anytime soon XP )
1. There were obviously more POV changes afterwards, but for convenience sake, I left out the "change of POV" phrase.
2. no offense to naturalists. David Attenborough is one of my favourite TV personalities …
3. were they normal kabalite warriors ? Incubi ? Or both ? For that matter, should they conform to a set army list at all ?
4. or rather, I should not be surprised, this was after all a Dark Eldar I was fighting …