Inside the Black Pyramid
A great lot of dying had been done inside and out of the Black Pyramid. The Gates at the poles had put out energy long before the pyramid was built and while the energy was not as plentiful as at higher latitudes it was always there. Like a miser the pyramid had taken that energy and stored it in its very structure. It had lain fallow for more than a thousand years, despised, feared and ignored in equal measure. Now its master was back, having grown so much stronger in lore and weaker in body and spirit.
Nagash had used the Black Pyramid again to increase his powers, to recharge his batteries and to gain insights otherwise occluded from his sight. Until a few days ago he had done this at a serene pace, had taken his time and contained what magic he wrought within his edifice. Then he had learned that he had been watched for some time, that his enemies were already on his tail and that he had foes unlike any he had faced before.
Ever since then he had been in the ritual chamber. His current body was fixed inside a gibbet-like enclosure and his mind was certainly not in there. The energies that had taken millenia to accumulate were expended in the course of mere days in the search of something, anything, that would allow Nagash to achieve his destiny.
The bones and artifacts of his body were under an immense strain by the energies that were put through them. Some of the bones would convert to mere dust if a feather would touch them, some of the amulets had changed color for the heat they were exposed to. Nothing of that meant anything to the Necromancer who had sent his mind, his soul and his essence through this world and the next one in a frantic search.
He had entered Usurian`s realm, the god with the many names: Usurian, Morr, Death. He had long planned to usurp that entity, to make the power, the souls and the lore his own. Nagash thought he knew rituals and sacrifices that would bring him closer to this goal, and if he had indeed been able to absorb Valaya`s powers the realm of the afterlife would have been his. Even with all the determination that only desperation will bring, with a willingness to expand all the might accumulated so far it was not to be. He had a look, one look only at Death in the raw and knew he was lucky to escape with the hurts he received.
He was reeling from that failure when he became aware of the "real". He saw the assembled might, he saw the doom that was crafted to bring an end to him and he knew it was time to go down the path he had sworn never to take again.
Nagash knew there were universes besides this one, as many of them as Nekehara`s desert held grains of sand in fact. He had glimpses at some of them in the past including the one the never-to-be-sufficiently damned Germans hailed from, but nothing held the promise to help him in the short term . Some of them might offer solace, a refuge and safety, but he was Nagash. He had no knees left to fall on and he would live upright or die that way.
There was one Universe he had seen was different than the others. Where others held strangeness and were often dead to the Empyrean this one was familiar and strange at the same time. There were great beings in thewarp that resembled those he was familiar with, as much as a rock resembled a mountain. There was so much life there, so much glorious mayhem and so much despair. Armies marched on a scale literally unimaginable, forces so titanic that they could sear worlds were commonplace and there was a lore that would overwhelm even his mind in seconds.
At the same time this universe seemed grotesque, like a picture in a warped mirror, like a fever dream of all he knew. This was a place where unimaginable power could be had, the most terrible secrets be learned and where madness was just a hair`s breadth away. He would not be a shark in the waters of this world, he would be a minnow and would have to look for scraps. Yet these scraps might be worth it, or were they not?
Something had burned against the pyramid, against his creation, challenging him, showing the dangers and the need. Opening the sluices that governed the reservoirs of power his Pyramids held to the fullest he was seared by the powers. And while his body dropped to the floors like so many black snow flakes his mind entered the most dangerous place he knew.
He entered the strange place between universes, a place so far from all he knew that his senses were next to useless. He saw and heard such things but had no names, nothing to compare against so they were useless. Yet even here he heard something, saw something and understood. It was so familiar, so hungry and so full of pain. It was the cry of a being that was not in his chosen realm, one that was consumed by it bit by bit, but one that would fight to the last of its abilities while its soul was etched away.
There was power, there was opportunity, there was danger, there was the place to go and the time to be. He pushed with powers he did not know he had against a barrier that was harder and softer than he expected. He reached the limits of what he knew he could do, halted in despair and then pushed on. And at just the moment when he knew he had to give up he broke through to something. A region of blackness, a region where the Empyrean was absent even when it pressed in from all sides. A place where a being was pushing with all its might against a warp it could not bear and which had the force of and hardness of water. It could be pushed back with ease, but not everywhere at once and not at all times. Soft as it might be, it etched its way in and Nagash could sense that the being was at the end of its reserves, it had nearly nothing left to give.
But while this might be a morsel of a great banquet for the universe Nagash was in, it was a gourmand's meal for his own. Here was the power and the lore he needed, all he had ever dared to dream of and he had something to offer. There was no way to communicate with the being before him as it screamed in ways that nearly overwhelmed Nagash. He did the only thing that he could do and opened a tunnel from this place to his own. He sent a mental picture of the pyramid and the forces outside and hoped that the being before him would understand before his own reserves were used up.
For a second and an eternity he found himself watched, weighed and evaluated. He felt the contempt, the hate for everything and everybody including the being itself. For the longest moment of his life he feared that the being would refuse out of spite and then it moved. Moved to him, though him and into the tunnel he had made.
Nagash immediately followed, closing the connection to another universe.
Now that he was no longer exposed to the warp the segment of sanity that had been cut into the Eye of Terror started collapsing, leaving a weakened Chaos to reclaim it.
The C`tan, known as the Dragon, terribly weakened by its ordeal in the warp had left this universe and had entered another one, one with a Black Pyramid in it.
Günter Koch´s kitchen, just a few kilometers away from Kaiserslautern, Germany 2530 IC
Günter Koch was enjoying his breakfast. Scrambled Eggs with bacon, spring onions and Grünlauch, a Warhammer spice. Bread with cold cuts, cheese and tea. The peppermint for the tea was from his own garden, one of the few things he planted there. Günter had little time and interest for real gardening, so he simply planted some herbs and stuff which grew practically on it´s own. Problem solved.
He was munching on a bowl with chocolate cereals, the cereals swimming in a sea of warmed milk, as he liked it best, when the doorbell rang.
Günter looked at the clock. "Hm, this school class is quite early, rare, but a nice thing."
He sat the bowl down, wiped his mouth and walked to the door, greeting the school class and the accompanying teachers.
It was a Wandertag, the German version of class outing and Günter´s study was one of the places this class from the Sickingen Gymnasium (Grammar School) would visit a few years now the magical community of Germany had been asked by various school officials if class outings could visit sorcerers to educate them on magic outside normal classes.
The Magical Order of Germany, the head bureau for the various subgroups, decided that good PR was needed. While wizards in Germany never had as many problems with public opinion as the Imperial Orders had until Germany arrived, there was still the gap between those really talented and the broad masses to bridge.
In theory, everybody on Warhammer could learn magic, the energies of the Empyrean were plentiful. But in reality, it depended much on your personal talent for magic. Without talent for magic, learning it was very hard, needed massive personal investment into the Art and what you could do was limited.
Still sometimes people with few or no talent for magic chose to enroll in the courses at school, university, in corporations or adult education. These often became assistants and archivists at the various magical divisions in Germany, for instance the magic department of the BASF had not only fully talented wizards, but made good use of a large number of "lesser" or not talented people with magical knowledge in various roles. Be it assistants, specialists with a tightly focused field of effects, teachers of magic theory, even researchers.
In some cases, people had no talent, but liked magic so much, they still tried to learn it and if the little they could achieve was for them, that was great. Just a few towns away from Günter Koch´s house, there was a plumber who could only cast two spells. It had taken him years to learn them and the two spells were far from being powerful, but they were very useful for his work.
And stories like that were far better than seeing grumpy people turn to strange cults or worse to learn magic.
Anyway, the class visiting Günter held both talented and not talented kids, but a majority took advanced or standard courses in magic. He greeted the teachers and the class, then gave a little, very figurative introduction speech.
"Ok folks, is this your first time in a sorcerer´s study?"
"OK, it might be a truism, but when you visit other colleagues you will see that no two studies will ever be alike, still there are some themes depending on the field of magic. Members of the Gold Order often have studies looking like a workshop or an apothecary, while with Amber mages you get a feeling like in a zoo or at a veterinarian.
Then, in cases like me, sorcerers who work fully or part-time for the Army, you might find rooms like this."
Günter led the class into a room stuffed full with memorabilia. There were pictures, weapons, books, uniforms and more on the walls and stands to be found. A lot was under glass or plastic.
"This is the 'war stories room'. Things I found, bought or confiscated during campaigns I took part in."
"Wow, a Doombull skull!"
"A Druchii uniform, in perfect quality!"
"Yes, but Persil is responsible for that. When I took it, the uniform was black with soot."
"That machine is Skaven - What does it do?"
"I could tell you a story like the 'Zumsel-joke', but to be honest, this is a 'simple' tool. I know it is not dangerous, neither magically active, but looks quite impressive, does it?... I found it when we cleaned out level 403 in Skavenblight. It was in a workshop. It is some mushroom cutter - so no Doomsday device to be found here!" Günter´s amusement clear to see.
"Skavenblight - that was where you invented a new method to help soldiers and helpers deal with traumatic experiences, right?"
"Yes, Skavenblight was an unending nightmare. A nightmare which had unfortunately to be dealt with, I am glad that I could find something to help my comrades and myself."
"They named the principle after you, how do you feel about that?"
"I would lie if I said that it does not flatter me a bit. But over the years specialist sorcerers did much to refine the treatment even more, so it is the effort of many wizards at work. Still it is definitely nice to see your work recognized."
Günter told the enraptured listening class some stories about the things in this trophy room, then they moved on into another. Here distilleries worked, electric arcs sparked, it gurgled and wheezed, colorful liquids flowed through glass pipes, Bunsen burners were firing, littered workbenches standing around...
"Cool, this looks like Frankenstein´s laboratory! Oh, sorry... but it really looks like-"
"Yes, this is where I plan to take over the world! Muhahaha! But joking aside, let me show you something..."
Günter Koch went to a button at the door and pressed it. The burners turned off, the monitors and gauges went to zero and off, the arcs stopped and the distilleries did likewise, the sounds went out. Günter explained to the astonished class.
"As you can see, I do not need such a workshop. I furnished this room just for visiting classes or other interested people. Most of the things in this room could be used for their intended use, but as said, I do not need it. This room is just for showing visitors what they can expect when they go into the work area of alchemical specialists or Gold Order mages.
I have an alchemical workshop in another room of this house wing, but not on the scale seen here. I hope you had fun in this room, but let´s walk further."
Walking down the floor, one girl piped up. "Hey, this door looks like the entrance to a surgery room or ICU in a hospital! Why is that?"
"Well, because in a certain way it is. I help my wallet with some part-time healing and beauty stuff-"
"I do not want to insult you", came from another voice in the group, "but with your specialty I cannot see the healing aspect."
"I have to tell you that Amethyst and Necromancy sorcerers can be quite good at healing. It is just the nimbus surrounding the Death Order and the selfishness of most necromancers, why that aspect of their arts is not well known. The Jade Order, the Shallya priesthood or the medic specialists might be more versatile in healing, but we can do some things they can´t , they can do things we can´t. Everything balances out and that´s OK, because we have other fields to research."
"Yes, I heard that you and some other sorcerers are among the advisor staff of the Army, which is rather fitting, I might say, but one question: magical Beauty operations? From someone who researches Death?"
Günter Koch gave an amused chuckle. "Those wizards specializing in magical Beauty medicine normally have long waiting lists, which I don`t have and you underestimate the number of Gothic fans who like nothing more than a fitting paleness. Something I can give them far easier and better than even the Spitzohren elite from the Tower of Hoeth!
Besides there are 'standard' procedures like fat removal or movement, for which I do not need special knowledge. That is why I do only a limited number of things, would I like do more, I would need to study some medicine, since some procedures are difficult even with magic on your side."
"Actually Necromancy is a real misnomer in my case and that of some other sorcerers. Necromancy at the base level is communication with and summoning the Dead and spirits. For some strange reason, those researching life, death and the in between got lumped together with the 'true' necromancers.
But it is not really the same. I can summon and rebuke spirits, but far less and less easy, except sending back which is something I need for the Army, than a default necromancer. On the other hand, I know more about life, death and undeath than the typical necromancer does. There should be another term for our subgroup of 'necromancers', but it seems we have to live with being put together with the other necromancers.
But enough of that for now, here we are in my study. As you can see, this room is more or less a special library/living room combo and behind the door over there is my workshop for physical applications of the Art..."
Two hours later, the class, happy with what they saw and learned, left Günter`s house. When they were away, he took a stairway down into the cellar of his house. And from there into a secret workshop driven into the rock of the hill beneath. Günter had a number of dispensations and while he did not violate them, he pushed the borders quite a bit. Additionally, he did some top secret research for the _.
Black Pyramid, close to Khemri
When Nagash was still a live human in a live Nehekhara he had never been given to fishing, be it for food or leisure. But as a kid he had heard the story of a fisherman who tried to bring in a big catch to feed his family and after fighting valiantly with the river`s denizen brought up a monster to feed on him. He had not thought of that fable for thousands of years, now it was very present in his mind. He had set out to find something to aid in his fight, to add to his power and knowledge. He had dared his life, soul and sanity and had retrieved something. Something vastly powerful and very likely having exotic and powerful lore to share. And yet, while he had set his sight to rob gods themselves of power, of surpassing the four Gods and replacing them he found the being he had brought a daunting task. Was he really up to this? He decided that he had no choice, none at all.
A lot nearer to the ground Ku-Tan entered the hole that had been blasted by these strange humans. He was a Tomb Guard, as much elevated above his brethren in unlife as he had been when still alive. Equipped with a kopesh and well-maintained armor he led a column of guards into the darkness as the end of the still-hot hole.
Pain, endless pain. Mag`ladroth, the Void Dragon, the being that feasted on stars, had been in pain for so long that he could hardly remember anything else. When the treacherous Eldar had nearly killed him with their Warp weapons he had been in pain. When he had tried to hide on that world of primitives and been beaten by one of their number it had added to that. When his body was put in stasis, but his mind refused to do the same the pain had been his constant companion. When he was finally released from the stasis there had been more of it. The warp had burned him like a flame, removing him one bit after another and he had seen the inevitable end the very moment he had been ejected from the stasis field. He had fought every second regardless, had endured the unendurable despite knowing that there could not be a good end. He was the Dragon, he could do no less.
And now there was an incredible sensation, one that burned through him, confused him and left him befuddled. He took seconds, an eternity for a mind like his, to solve the riddle. Nobody and nothing attacked him, he was no longer in the warp. There was no more pain. And while he was in a dark room with serious shielding he still could feel a sun outside. It would be a nice, light snack that would start its road to recovery. And when he was fully recovered he would show this universe what he had learned about pain, yes he would.
Nagash was at a loss when he inspected the being before him. As it was inside his pyramid he could inspect it in so many ways and nothing could escape his gaze. If he would know more about the being he could compare his finding to something, but simply nothing was available. The being`s body was made of a matter he had never encountered before. It seemed normal enough, it was not the condensed magic that was warpstone for sure. And yet the being before him changed colors through all shades of grey, black and red like an oil stain on water and while it seemed like metal it moved like being alive. What he could see of the being`s mind made any curiosity about his captive`s body moot. It was mighty, of an unfathomable age and held memories that made Nagash cringe. It seemed disorganized and dazed presently, best to do what needed to be done right now.
The Void Dragon had been free from the eternal pain for a few minutes when something changed. There was something like pain, like a pressure and a persuasion that felt minute compared to the tortures he had endured for so long. But they were the signs of a threat and any threat had to be removed as quickly as possible. Mag`laroth was very conscious of his vulnerable state, he needed to get out soon and feast. He had not fought for so long that he had to get back to the basics, controlling the machinery around him so that he could kill or distract any opposition. His mind and the picomachines that made up most of him reached out and searched for such vulnerable constructs. The more advanced they were the easier to subvert them, at least up to a point. The electromagnetic signals he received indicated a primitive technology, it would have to suffice. So he looked and found nothing. There was no powered mechanism within his reach, no electronics, but for a few bits used to collect data without any use for him and apart from that, nothing. His surroundings were so primitive that he found literally nothing that he could use. A battle of minds then obviously.
He could do that, nearly any consciousness had a physical focus that analyzed sensory inputs, held memory and computing power. Such foci, mostly organic brains, squishy, slow, haphazardly organized brains were mechanisms he could control or destroy. His mind reached out and looked for that. He found a mind that was intriguing for such a tiny thing. Maybe he would have a look at its memories when he was done. So where was that focus, in these bones, in these bits and pieces of metal, wood and stone that radiated so much in the warp? None of them seemed to qualify, there was nothing in there that should have any capability to compute. He had seen such things before, there were beings that formed the Empyrean in such ways that they could perform similar functions to more physical constructs. These were difficult to fight, he remembered that much. And even that memory was not so much help as it could have been, there were subtle differences that hinted at something that was probably connected to those forces governing life and death. In all this was not good, he was in an unknown domain, his surroundings inimical to his chosen battlefield and the enemy the one hardest to fight in his present form. It would not matter much, the one before him was some sort of former mortal and he was a star god.
The Void Dragon started to move inside the chamber he found himself in, applying huge physical forces against the constraints. At the same time he probed those quantum fields mortal minds operated in and send energies at the mind that belonged to his enemy. His real attack was something else though.
Nagash found himself with a frightful monster, the source of hope and a riddle at the same time. The powers he had set out to rob were like demons written large, children of the warp and while they were cunning and powerful they operated on a set of rules that he knew. The being before him was very different. He might have pulled him from the warp, but it was more than obvious that the Empyrean was not his chosen domain, his pain had transcended any interspecies barrier there was. He was physical, immensely so in size and power and at the same time able to project his mind in ways Nagash did not even understand. The great Necromancer would be unable to absorb the being`s powers as he simply did not understand them, at least for now. That left him with few options: Subvert the being to do his bidding, subdue it enough to learn from it or simply kill if the other options were unavailable. Nagash never doubted he could do the latter. His "guest" was obviously hurt, was in a world he did not know and inside Nagash`s focus of power. There were very few things he could not do in here, he just had to do it fast as otherwise he had to leave his decaying focus.
Well, if the being had been hurt by the warp that was probably the force to use. Nagash took one of the spells that opened a vortex leading into the warp and dropped one into the chamber that held the captured being.
Mag`laroth`s scream could be heard outside of the pyramid; it was present in the warp and sent such a shock through many spectra that two of the drones used by Manfred`s specialists simply dropped from the sky. He had enough of this, more than enough. Parts of him burned with the same pain he had to endure so long, he had to regenerate parts of himself constantly, move others and discard those the Warp had corrupted beyond redemption. This was getting annoying; gnats do not attack dragons. He managed to move parts of himself from the attack and reformed others into a different configuration. Two green beam of energy burst from his body and hit those parts of the wall which were closest to the pest that wanted to best him. The stone hit dissolved into fine gas and vented into the chamber that held the Void Dragon. Any mortal in there would have died then and there when the temperatures rose to those of an oven in seconds and the air changed into something that would coat the insides of lungs into uselessness.
The beams made progress but even the Dragon had to slow down when the walls began to radiate heat that would damage him. It would dissipate soon enough, sooner if that fool dropped more vortices into his confinement. And all the while his best strike was on its way.
Ku-Tan had progressed a couple of dozen meters into the pyramid when the first tremors hit him. He swayed on his skeletized feet like a sailor during a storm before resuming his march. He had lost a number of his guards already to the traps that protected the great Necromancer, but for Settra`s glory Ku-Tan would succeed in his mission. A minute later the tunnel his guards had been using ended in a crossing with a larger tunnel. The Temple Guard leader chose the branch that led upwards and his men followed, marching up the incline in good order. They had progressed for a few meters when the seams between the stones of the tunnel`s left side began to seep a silver liquid. The single drops combined into small streams, more gaps gave more of the mysterious fluid and a small stream of it ran down the floor of the tunnel. Ku-Tan had no way to avoid it and neither had his Temple Guards. The fluid started to flow upwards on each and any of them, covering them in a silver cocoon within seconds.
Nagash was so connected to his great edifice that he felt the damage to it like he had felt pain when he still had a mortal body. Whatever weapons his catch employed they were murderously effective and had drilled through several meters of dense stone in seconds. After the first attack there was a pause and Nagash used that to relinquish control of one vortex, leaving it to wander on its own, and employ two new ones directly between his enemy and himself. He established the rifts into the warp just in time as the assault was renewed. This time the green beams were swallowed by the warp without much damage to anything. Where the darkly-glowing spheres touched the pyramid`s stones were cut as cleanly as with a knife and parts of them left a universe where sanity counted.