W’soran silently observed Grand Marshall Rollo’s administration of the sailors and crew aboard “The Dread Master”. Even with ropes and ladders mooring three-score smaller vessels on every side, each emptying ships some older than empires, their rotting feet scarcely covered a fraction of the dreadnaught’s sweeping deck. This process would take hours.
In the meantime he would distance his mind from reality and turn it to further realms, for W’soran was scarcely a creature of one realm at all anymore (even his name was hardly his own, stolen at it was from another, long forgotten). Some of his fellow Mortarchs had adapted to their telepathic link better than others…
…~Rollo,~ Ziegfried had once said, I have balanced the dumb elf god’s rack on a cow! Come look!
WE CAN ALL HEAR YOU, came the chorus of replies….
…but his time as the Dread Master of Liches had prepared him for the mental sequencing of disembodied voices. Speaking to only one mind instead of broadcasting to all of them was the first skill he had learnt. It was an ancient mind he sought this night, distant, one tinged with a simmering rage that threatened to boil over at any moment, but as cunning and brutal as any he had ever touched.
Vashanesh, first of the Von Carsteins, I have a most palatable offer for you.
A pause of hesitation. The link allowed the Mortarchs to instinctively know who sent these intrusive thoughts. Still, he sensed that his target mistrusted this link, as well he should. Then,
I am Vlad Von Carstein. Speak, young scion of W’soran. Your name is as transparent as your offer.
He bristled a bit at this response. The ancient vampires had a knack for piercing the veils of lies and intrigues, a knack “W’soran” had not yet developed. Of course Vlad would have known the actual W’soran personally, perhaps even felt affronted at this attack on his revered past. Struck but undaunted, W’soran continued, The capitol of the Empire was a prize I had once prepared for a lesser Count, but if you seek it, I can put your army directly behind the walls.
Such a gift does not come cheaply, Vlad spat, Make your demand. You have my attention.
The vaults beneath the University and the Colleges of Magic. The Bright Tower. There are secrets in their depths that I must plumb.
The response was impressively decisive, Done.
I would estimate the nearest circle to you is Deiter Helsnicht’s fortress in Ostland. Lead your armies there and when we have finished rendering aid to Luthor Harkon, we will be along to see your boots on the stones of Altdorf.
….so be it. Do not tarry long.
W’soran felt a certain satisfaction with this bargain. His mind tumbled at the thought of what ancient truths may be buried in the Empire capitol’s vaults. And what traps. If the forces of this world would not cooperate voluntarily, they would be brought to heel and Nagash would see to that, if not one greater still than he?
The Mortarch of Shadows dipped his deformed hand into his bag of holding and withdrew a simple, pinewood box. His taloned finger gently caressed the lid once before lifting it. Within, a single preserved human finger nested within folds of velvet.
“My little prize,” he whispered to no one, “The fulfillment of your purpose has come.” He close the lid, retuned the box and traveled into The Dread Master’s hold to begin scribing the permanent ritual circle which would travel with the dreadnought and allow it serve as the mobile headquarters of their war effort.