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VII, 152. At the height of the Season of Decadence, when the rites of Atharti, Goddess of Pleasure, were at their excessive peak, the Witch King brooded in his tower. Desire for vengeance had long ago burnt away his desire for gratification, and Malekith spent the eve plotting his next masterstroke. However, as the minutes passed, the Witch King became aware that something was amiss. The screams were now somehow more desperate, the laughter darker and even more tormented. Walking to his chamber's iron balcony, the Witch King looked down into the tangle of dark streets and saw what he had suspected - the anarchy was no longer that of revelry, but of battle.[1a]

Daemons were loose in Naggarond, drawn by the night's indulgences. No, that was not quite true, the Witch King corrected himself, catching sight of a broken-horned Keeper of Secrets. This was an attack borne not of opportunism, but of revenge, for none other than N'kari led the host. The Witch King drummed his fingers on the balcony's edge and watched the unfolding battle with interest. Hordes of Daemonettes capered in the Greater Daemon's wake, laughing merrily as their wicked claws lashed out, but now there was slaughter on both sides, for the city guard had mobilised. Daemonettes tumbled to the cobblestones, ichor gushing from spear- and bolt-wounds. Only where N'kari strutted did the Dark Elves known defeat, for no shield could offer defence against this elegant brute. Malekith watched with approval as, little by little, the Dark Elves yielded the streets, seeking more favourable ground. Each withdrawal left a tidemark of dead and dying where a spearwall had made its stand.[1a]

There was still no end to the Daemons, the Witch King saw - though he could not determine from where the reinforcements came. Presumably, the mansion of some foolish wretch whose observances to Atharti had gone too far, Malekith supposed. The spearwalls now held the entrances to the ground concourse directly below the Black Tower, and Malekith noted with approval that Kouran had taken command. Minutes earlier, the Captain of the Black Guard had been praising Atharti with as much joyous abandon as any of Naggarond's folk, but this would have been impossible to guess from his clear-eyed demeanour. At Kouran's order, the spearwalls threw the Daemonettes back from their shields then turned and fled into the concourse. Sensing victory, the Daemonettes let loose a shriek of pure joy. The Daemons dashed forward into the concourse, only to be scythed down in their hundreds as the war machines upon the palace walls opened fire.[1a]

Now the Daemons flooded into a three-sided trap. On the far side of the concourse, the spearwalls reformed, their ranks thickened by fresh troops. Along the concourse, from the nine gates of the city, rode Dark Riders and Cold One Knights, their spears and lances gleaming darkly under the stars. Down the great basalt steps of the Witch King's tower swept the Black Guard of Naggarond.[1a]

Daemonettes were skewered by lances and beheaded by halberds, but still they came on. Fiends skittered across the concourse, only to be obliterated by doombolts cast by sorceresses hidden in the serried ranks. Mounted Daemonettes, too swift to target, vaulted over the ranks of the Black Guard and onto the steps beyond. As they did so, Assassins appeared amongst the Black Tower's colonnades to end the Daemons' threat with poisoned blades. Yet still the Daemons came on.[1a]

N'kari hung back, but two other Keepers of Secrets now joined the battle, scattering the Dark Elves like broken dolls. High above the fray, Malekith's fingers cease their play. He had allowed this charade to continue out of amusement, and so that the weaklings might be purged from his warriors' ranks, but it was now well past time that he intervened. Gathering his cloak, he stalked from his chamber and began the long descent to the streets. He did not run. Bad enough that the Witch King was forced to intercede - he would not also be put to the indignity of haste.[1a]

Malekith did not so much as break stride as he joined the battle. With a flick of his fingers, he sent a wave of black fire through the Daemonettes who beset the spearwalls, filling the air with the rancourous stench of charred Daemon-flesh. After another few steps, Malekith pointed his arm towards a Keeper of Secrets and clenched his iron fist - the beast bellowed in agony as every bone in its unholy body snapped at once. With that, the momentum of the Daemons' attack was broken, and the Black Guard pushed deeper into the concourse. There, they trapped a second Keeper of Secrets against a statue of Khaine and hacked it apart.[1a]

It was then that N'kari bellowed and charged directly at the Witch King. The Daemon cared not for the outcome of the battle - he had engineered this slaughter merely to claim's Malekith's corrupt soul. Without a word, the Black Guard moved to block the Keeper of Secrets' onset, but N'kari was the mightiest of his kind and would abide no obstacle. A glancing blow sent Kouran flying; other Elves were trampled to bloody ruin beneath the Daemon's hooves or pulverised by the impact of its monstrous fists. With a triumphant howl, N'kari pushed on through to personally confront Malekith on the steps of the Black Tower. As the Greater Daemon closed with him, Malekith laughed for the first time in many long centuries. When he had last fought N'kari, it had been beneath the walls of the Marcher Fortress in the Realm of Chaos. There, the Daemon had been at the peak of its power, whilst the Witch King had been near death. Now the tables were turned, and Malekith was determined to take his own revenge.[1a]

The Keeper of Secrets did not slow as he approached Malekith, but lowered his head and charged, seeking to impale the Witch King on his remaining horn. In response, Malekith sent dark fire to stagger and blind the Daemon. As N'kari thundered past, Malekith darted to one side, a savage backswing from the Destroyer cutting deep into the Daemon's flesh. N'kari bellowed in pain and turned to face his prey, claws slashing out. Malekith retreated across the steps, the Destroyer flashing as he parried each strike. Again and again, he sent black flame against the Greater Daemon, but this time N'kari was prepared and the fire spattered off hastily raised magical defences.[1a]

Malekith now fought with his back to the colonnade. N'kari struck out once more, but the Witch King ducked low. The blow shattered the ancient stonework behind, sending rubble flying in all directions. Taking advantage of N'kari's momentary confusion, the Witch King hefted the Destroyer's black blade and pressed the attack with a flurry of knife-quick blows. With each strike, the Destroyer glowed dully as it sapped the Daemon's magical lifeblood. Weakened, N'kari stumbled and bellowed in pain as the Destroyer lunged to pierce his shoulder. With one last effort, the Greater Daemon rose to his feet. His lower arms whipped out once more, and this time Malekith was too slow - N'kari's vice-like hands clamped about the Witch King's shoulders, pinioning his arms, and the Destroyer, to his sides.[1a]

N'kari leered with sadistic joy as he heaved the struggling Witch King from the ground. His serpent-tongue flickered out to caress his captive's armoured cheek, leaving a trail of foul-scented drool in its wake. When a handful of Black Guard charged up the steps to their master's aid, N'kari gestured lazily with a claw and sent a cloud of magical shards to tear the flesh from their bones. As their lifeless bodies crumbled, the Greater Daemon brought his other claw up and clamped it around Malekith's armoured throat.[1a]

With a last, lingering smile, N'kari began to squeeze, but the Witch King was not yet done. For the last few moments he had marshalled his sorcery, and now he unleashed it in a single display of devastating power. A bolt of black lightning arced from the sky and smashed into the Greater Daemon, shattering his defences and wreaking ruin upon his flesh. As N'kari staggered with the impact, Malekith burst free of his grasp. Before the Daemon could recover, he brought the Destroyer around in a might two-handed blow that severed N'kari's foul head.[1a]

Thus did Malekith deliver Naggarond. Though the Daemonettes would surely have fought on, N'kari's death upset the balance of magics that allowed their reinforcements to reach the mortal world. Seeing their foes' numbers slacken, the Dark Elves found fresh strength. Shouting praises to Khaine and to Malekith, they swept through the bloody streets and did not rest their blades until all the Daemons were slain.[1a]

At the battle's end, Malekith stood before the Black Tower and proclaimed that, in victorious celebration, the Rites of Atharti would continue for another day and night. The Witch King then strode to the temple and gave N'kari's headless corpse as offering. He could think of no greater tribute to the Goddess of Delights than the body of a vanquished pleasure Daemon.[1a]

Source

  • 1: Warhammer Armies: Dark Elves (8th Edition)
    • 1a: pg. 30

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