“The destruction of society in Ancient Terran cultures such as Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent.” – extract from an ancient Terran Void Agency report.
Lets be honest, it was a shit hole of a hive, the “crown jewel” of dystopian heap of a planet called Tarantus. An industrial ruin, a reflection of our failed race, a futile attempt at law and order and a life worth living. That was before sections of the cursed ship tore through realities and made it a bit hairy. The hive infrastructure failed catastrophically setting off all that hatred, all that powerlessness, all that despair and turned it into marvelous opportunity.
Like all such opportunities, this one came with more than enough collateral. Martial law for one. Massive fires and toxicity. Armies of Arbites. And yes, the inherent risks involved in trying to capture the cursed witches, capable of making ones blood boil.
But you know what? The biggest pickle, worse than blood boiling bitches, was the summon. The Masked King wanted me to go see him. In person. Down there. Effective immediately. Working for him had been outrageous. Dangerous, near impossibly hard, but gloriously rewarding. However, no-one met him and came back. Well technically some did, in macabre displays of dissatisfaction, very much dead.
Running really wasn’t an option either. Some had tried. He’d been even more thorough and comprehensive in his showmanship. So I decided to go. With a small army. The best money can buy. Hard wired loyalty. Ridiculous amounts of fire power.
He was fething hard to find. It cost us. A deadly labyrinth of riddles eventually led us to remote marshes outside of the hive and my small army had been reduced to a handful. The toughest ones. I no longer fancied our chances but going back through the hell was not an option was it. So in we went, bid welcome by his butler, servitor with a shrine for head, a chillingly soulless void. Shrine face spoke with an unnervingly soft and realistic voice and near comical dialect of old nobilitae. The King’s “palace” was equal parts lair and court. Thousands and thousands of masks covered every wall of its expansive halls and dark corridors. Masks from hundreds of cultures, lost civilizations and xenos species. The pariah butler led us to a library. Our muddy, bloodied, pissed off lot. Fully armed we stood on an exquisite ivory floor, surrounded by thousands of venerable grimoires.
And then we met him…