Heavy iron bootfalls echoing through the great witchlight chamber, the board-snouted scro pulled his gauntlets down on his wrists, pulling them tight as he ascended the spiral staircase. When Admiral Korgesh had been given the command of the base, made inside the giant hollow body of a dead gammaroid space turtle, one of his first acts had been to place the staircase here. Any allies trusted enough to deserve a private audience were forced to travel through the large, bone walled room that housed the dormant yet frightening witchlight marauder. The sight of the outer temple was typically enough to put the fear of Dukgash into most spacefarers, but here lay the undisputable proof that the scro would win this second UnHuman War, proof that was also echoed by the fall of Krynn to one of the gigantic, invincible worm-bodied beasts.
That the two he was about to meet had not seen these spectacles of the scro armada’s might annoyed Korgesh, forcing his stout muzzle to twitch in a very typical sneer unconsciously. Straightening his breastplate and stretching his shoulders, several quiet cracks escaped his joints and the layers of armour and regalia he wore. He considered grabbing whomever it was by the back of their neck and hauling them down in front of the statue of his god, demanding they beg his forgiveness in circumventing the terrorizing temple, but decided against it. Firstly, it would mean he would have to walk past the warpriests again, and despite his rank he still felt uneasy around them, and secondly, anyone with the ability to enter his outer cloister undetected may prove a useful ally.
Either that or interesting sport.
Closing the large heavy iron doors to his inner sanctum, Korgesh watched the two visitors. The taller of the two had said nothing, a robe covering most of its body, but from the way it walked and smelled the scro commander guessed it was a human, or maybe even a half elf, and male. The night-black skinned elven woman, on the other hand, had introduced herself as Shae Nae’ress, formerly of House Mylyl, and was obviously either banished or simply an outcast – she showed no similarity to the other drow, dark elves, that the Admiral had met previously.
Walking past the pit, the combat arena deep into the wooden floor that had often been the locale of sport for the commander and his guards, he casually observed the man throw back his hood – revealing his truthfully half-elven ears – and appraise the collection of trophies along the back wall. Weapons, bones, pieces of armour, even several holy symbols and wizard’s spellbooks stood either on shelves or in racks against the back wall of the huge chamber, a testament not to the scro’s pride in his own ability – far from it he was more modest than many of the elven priests he had taken several of the holy items from – but a collection of tools he used to reward those under him, and strike terror into the hearts of his non-scro allies. The drow woman, meanwhile, walked to the large black iron throne in the center of the raised platform holding the display, and casually slipped up on it, running her dark skinned hands down her barely covered legs and shivering in delight as she became comfortable, obviously feeling as much of a sense of power from the thing as had the lizardman king Korgesh had taken it from. The Admiral managed to remove the sneer from his muzzle, reminding himself to keep control.
“Nice chair, a little big for me, but I could get used to it”, remarked the drow. She continued, “Do you use it much? Let me guess, from what I’ve heard of your kinds hatred for elves you throw their best warriors in the pit and sick those horrid beasts you call dogs at them for sport. I expect you meanwhile sit here drinking the wine you took from their cellars, perhaps even having it served to your by their women in chains?”
With a smile at the woman’s typical preconceptions about the orc related race of the scro, Korgesh grunted, and shook his head slowly. While walking towards a small cabinet hidden in a dark area of the room, he replied “No, I prefer my sport not as a spectator, or even a referee, but as a combatant. The dogs you see”, he motioned towards the large cages holding dozens of sleeping, savage looking two headed dogs, “are for hunting, and occasionally they taste elven flesh – but more often it is a pleasure I allow myself, and my guard. As for my wine, I serve myself, and drink not the swill the elves create, but the deep rich blood of my homeland”.
Taken aback at his remarks, Shae raised an eyebrow at him. She flicked her head, her white haired pony tail flipping back over her shoulder from where it had been resting near her cleavage. “Mmmm” she almost purred “A man who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty, I could get used to that”. With a sidelong glance at the half-elf she continued, “the man part I mean, although I do much prefer the beast in all of us.”
Opening the door of the cabinet, Korgesh withdrew a large iron goblet, made to compliment his black iron armour, and poured some wine from a large glass decanter. Taking a sip as he turned back to the two, he wondered about the true nature of the apparent half elf, whom normally he would have been able to smell from the staircase, not missing at all her implied hint. At the same time the half-elf turned from his inspection of a particularly vicious looking two-handed sword and spoke for the first time, a calm, yet strong voice, quiet in the hall.
“Enough dearest, we are here to talk about more than your own sexual appetites. I am known as Targis, or at least that is who I am to you scro. While I find your record of achievements here interesting to say the least, I realize you are a busy admiral, and I myself have places to go, and people to kill, so I’ll make this quick. While my companion here is drow, to her blackened foul heart” this earning a smile and a blown kiss from the woman, “I am not entirely what I seem to be. I propose an alliance of sorts between myself and you – I can offer you various services and knowledge you may otherwise not have access to, and require only small payment in return. Safe passage upon your fleets ships, if they head in the right direction, and perhaps the occasional help with some pests, and a bond between the two of us so that we can both be assured of our... our continuing kindred spirit shall we say. I offer you magical aid, scro, aid that does not need to be used only for official fleet business, and need not go through the warpriests I know you so despise. Do not look shocked, you are a smart scro, you should know anyone with the ideas in his head like I have would do a little research of their own before approaching.”
Taking a long sip of his wine, Korgesh eyed this “Targis” as he slowly walked towards him. Even though the half elf was on the foot high platform, Korgesh still towered at least a foot over his head, and he began surmising how best he could kill this person – something he did anytime he first met someone, an old habit picked up from his schooling. Having suspicions confirmed about the man’s magical aptitude was nothing he did not expect, again the thought crossed his mind of the wards the warpriests had placed to prevent the man entering exactly as he had, while he also considered the use of a magic user whom didn’t require him to fill out requisition forms, or question his loyalty to the armada and Dukgash at every turn. “I am interested, half elf – but I warn you not to attempt trickery. Deception is something I leave to our crimson blades, our assassins, and not to possible allies. Tell me what it is about you that I do not appear to know, and show me this bond, show me your proof that you will not betray me. It seems to me, as it is you approaching me for this alliance, that you have reason to convince me, and not the other way around – so do so.”
Targis fingered the hilts of the longswords at his belt, smirking at the scro’s truth. “Indeed, you are right, it is I who will benefit most immediately from this, but you will have your own information as well, and your own immediate power. I know of spies among you, their plans, and that none of it has yet become apparent to your intelligence network. As for my identity, I will merely say I am a true inhabitant of wildspace, not simply a groundling born, raised, or traveled here, and that part of my knowledge of you comes from encountering one of your Mantis ships, and reducing it to so much twisted metal. My heritage? Well, my father was a knight of solamnia, truthfully an honourable, pathetic souled man, and my mother was an inhabitant of krynn for a time, during their war of the lance for the most part, and a part of the armies of that world.”
“Armies that I am sure you know are colloquially known as the Dragon Armies.”
A dragon? An interesting idea, and having spent enough of his time in the library on Dukgash Prime, Korgesh knew that while some of other spheres could, the dragons of Krynn could not breed with their non-draconic countrymen and women, unless they sacrificed their scaly heritage entirely and became mortal humans for life, as Ansalonian legend held in stories. Obviously Targis’ mother was not of krynn, and from the man’s – correction, the dragon’s – speech, she was most likely one of the few of dragonkind native to space. Scro knowledge on many such space creatures had dwindled since their retreat in the UHW, and so Korgesh made a mental note to have his aide travel and research them more. If this one wildspace dragon proposed an alliance, maybe many others would, and this would give the scro armada a huge advantage over the IEN, an advantage they had recently prevented their enemies from achieving with the fall of Krynn.
“There is a groundling saying – talk is but coppers. You say you are part krynnish human? Then perhaps you will recognize another saying – put your steel where your soul is. I will agree to this alliance, mostly for the sake of the scro armada, especially if what you say about spies is true. There is a saying in the teachings of Dukgash, ‘no fear’, something taken very deeply to heart by myself and my guard. If this is trickery, I assure you they will right your wrong, but if it is not, you will your boon of the bargain. Unlike the Imperial Elven Navy, we honour our debts, and live by our word, and my word is that I will honour my end of the bargain,” Korgesh took a long pull of his thick wine, and placed the goblet next to the throne where the drow woman sat, herself watching him and obviously thinking seductive thoughts.
“Of course, you also have my word that if you ever attempt to betray the scro armada –in my view it is the armada you make this alliance with, not myself – I will feast upon the immense amount of flesh your must have in your true form, and carve a rack from your bones, to torture your dark elven wench upon”.
This last brought a wry smile from the drow woman, in response to the cold hard look given her by the scro himself. Targis, meanwhile, seemed totally uncaring of the threat upon her, knowing her well enough to know that death threats merely aroused her, and walked down the three steps from the platform to stand facing Korgesh, who kept his gaze on the drow.
“When powerful allies like this come together, there is never any bickering, never any long discussions of terms or who gets what, but merely a good understanding of not to fuck with each other. I sense this from you scro, and know that you sense it from me as well. Neither of us obviously cares about life or death, we truly are kindred of a sorts – you are devoted wholly and truthfully to your armada, and to your gods teachings, while I myself am devoted to none other than my own clichéd quest for power, something that unlike those before me I shall succeed in. Come, scro, let us formalize this.”
Standing from where he had knelt forward, one foot on the platform, Korgesh slowly grinned and turned away from Shae. He turned not towards Targis but away, and walked a short distance. Cracking his head from side to side he turned back, pulling his ritual icon, his torgkesh, out from under his breastplate, and spoke in a deep, and menacing voice. “I shall add of this alliance to my torgkesh, dragon, but I will keep it secret from the armada for a time. If the warpriests knew, the armada would loose some of what it gains through this – a highly magical ally who, as you said, is not concerned with their own internal power gains over us – but I assure you my most superior, the Chosen of Dukgash himself, will know when I see him next. I expect the same in return, my warpriests have no idea you are here, so we shall keep this discreet.” During the speech Korgesh had returned to stand in front of Targis, and now looked down at the halfelf visage of the dragon, letting his torgkesh fall against his heavy black iron breastplate. “Show me this bond, this agreement, and I will sign, or clasp hands, or whatever else you will have me do – my statement of addition to my torgkesh is stronger than anything that it could possibly be.”
“Oh, my dear scro, I do appreciate your sentiment, but you know what?” Targis snapped his fingers and the scro, suddenly very surprised, dropped to his knees before him via a magical push, and continued “You are so terribly, terribly wrong”.
Unable to move, Korgesh sneered at the dragon, knowing full well he had spoken the truth about his life meaning nothing, and his guard keeping his promise. The scro’s ears prickled at the thought of the touch as Targis’ elven boned hand descended towards him, which also held on it a ring with a small purple gem on top of it. In Targis eyes the scro saw magic and power, and felt a pressure like a migraine, an unbearable weight, come across his brow as the hand came closer. Gritting his teeth, he swore to dukgash he would not cry out at the pain, the one thing he had always been able to withstand better than any other scro in the entire armada. The hand touched his forehead and ignited the pressure there in a sharp, lightning like pain. Targis said but one word, as the pain flared out all over Korgesh’s head and down his muzzle, making it feel like his teeth would burn out of his gums. He vaguely smelled burning hair, assuming that it was much of his own from the sheer magical power, and dimly heard the drow woman cackling in delight.
Targis watched as the scro’s eyes rolled back in his head, and felt the surge of power in his own hand as his magic enveloped the scro’s body and mind, and the magic of his ring enveloped the black furred warrior’s soul. He felt the fissure like crack begin to form in the scro’s skull, and the mirroring pain in his own head which he ignored without a care. He called out to the mind of the warrior, to the heart, and to the essence that was Korgesh, calling the one word that would sum up the magic and enable the bond between them, while his face grimacing from the intensity of the magic while his mouth also formed the word.
The power continued to pulse through them both, detatching them from the world, as both their souls coiled together and lost wisps of self within each other. Time disappeared, a strange concept from a distant dream, and pain, clarity, and purpose became one simple notion to them both, knowledge passing between each both of spirit and of mind. Slowly drifting apart again, but with a tangible link between them, they felt themselves falling back into existence, back into reality, Korgesh still kneeling on the floor in front of Targis, the former his eyes closed, his slowly unclenching from the fists of pain he had made, the latter rolling his head slowly down to look at the scro, feeling the magic subside and sect itself in a corner of his own power.
The dragon pulled his half elven forms hand away, and slowly let his control over the ring also fade. If all had gone as planned, the scro would have no idea of the ring’s enchantment upon his soul, not until it was first used to bring the warrior back to life – if it was ever required. Such an item would never work on a creature with a soul as pure or magical as a dragons, but he knew with certainty, from previous experimentation on a certain mantis ship, that it would work on that of a scro.
Slowly Korgesh stood, glaring again into the eyes of his kindred, feeling the bond between them that told not only of feelings, but of existence itself, of direction, of distance, of health, and of hunger, a hunger for power that Korgesh had never once himself harboured. What he didn’t know, another advantage to the dragon, was while he could feel Targis’ in this way, the dragon could read his mind like an open book, and even use him as a vessel for his magic. This was nothing that Targis had claimed would not be part of the bargain, and in fact it allowed the dragon to do it all much more the easier – but with benefits the scro would never know of.
Targis had always been good at deception, even in magical bonds such as this. He had bonded with a kindred once before, a lowly draconian, believing the beast to be not only poetic justice for a kindred but a grand choice, until the draconian took a lightning bolt to the chest and exploded on his dragon master’s back, almost killing him.
Turning to the throne, ignoring the angry phosphorescent glare from the scro’s eyes in the dim light of the sanctum, Targis saw that perhaps two hours or more had passed, the candles in the room and most of the torches almost burnt out, and that Shae had fallen asleep upon the throne. After viewing much of the pain and torment on the scro’s face, and feeling the intense power of Targis’ magic, she had apparently lost control of her own lusts, her right hand barely showing down the front of her leathers. With a simple cantrip Targis slapped her awake, something he knew she would repay him for later. He turned his gaze back towards the scro who seemed to be in a mix of contemplation over the bond and its magic, and rage over the pain, which had made him scream from the soreness both men felt in the scro’s throat. Targis felt the outrage over the broken oath to dukgash, but knew without a shadow of a doubt that the scro would honour the bond incredibly.
And of course, if he didn’t, Targis could always kill him and bring him back under his power.
For only a moment while the drow stretched and wiped her hand off on the plush cushion of the throne did the two bonded stare at each other, and then as one they turned away, Korgesh grabbing his goblet and returning to his cabinet and its wine, while Targis held out a hand for the drow and helped her up from her seat. Holding her hand still, he began to walk with her across the sanctum floor, crossing the pentagram by the platform, walking around the battle pit, and then crossing another larger pentagram by the main doors. With a gesture of his hand, and slight exertion of his will over a ring of that hand that controlled his seemingly natural power of telekinesis, the large iron doors swung open leading to the antechamber. Shae spoke softly, her hand in Targis’ other while she leaned her head on his shoulder, and asked “don’t you need to say goodbye, and tell him when we will return?”.
Targis stopped, and turned to look at the scro who was at the exact same moment turning the same to look at him. The two stared, the low light level still causing the scro’s eyes to glow with green phosphorescence, the dragons merely twinkling with his own lust for power. Targis replied, patting shae’s other hand on his arm, “oh, there is no goodbye now, and he will know when we will return.”
Korgesh watched as the drow giggled on the dragons arm and the two walked out, and took a long swig of his thick wine as the doors slammed closed again with a wave of Targis’ hand. He listened for the telltale thud of the second set of doors, but when after a time he heard none, he made a mental note to check the antechamber for some entrance, magical or otherwise. Refilling his goblet he also thanked dukgash for the brief psionic training he had received as a child on the homeworld, just enough that when this day came, as it had been foretold by the Chosen Oracle, he would be able to hold back enough of his mind for himself, and keep the illusion that the dragon controlled him.
But that ring had not been spoken of by the oracle, and he wondered of its place in all this, if any.
Back aboard his small black damselfly, Targis and Shae set the sails on course with a brief check of the navigation charts, and the curled in her lovers lap as he sat down to have a bottle of the same wine his kindred was now drinking – a bottle he had stolen from the cabinet in the sanctum. He knew full well, even as she began to stroke his chest through his tunic, that Shae was thinking about the scro, and that likely she would lay in his bed the next time their paths crossed. Of course, Targis cared little for the woman beyond her brief pleasure value, and her excellent fighting skills, and of course the fear and intrigue placed within curious minds when they saw a drow and a plain robed figure together. He had taken dozens of lovers since she had joined with him on his ship, leaving her own house for the sake of his quest for power, and her own lusts, so all in all it bothered the dragon very little.
Chuckling to himself as her hands continued to roam, Targis began to relax in his chair fully, drinking the strange thick wine, and merely allowed his mind to clear, athe developing pleasure to overwhelm him.