Shackled: a Tale of High House Chains – Vol 2
“If you were to ask any Druchii what he desires most in life, the answer would be two-fold. Power and vengeance. The latter can be applied to any slight, imagined or otherwise – your spurned advances towards a paramour, the actions of a favoured rival and of course the need to punish our weakling cousins for their hubris. Power though…power is a strange and curious thing. For some it can be as simple as the strength of their sword-arm and their skill with a blade. For others, the Winds of Magic hold the key to moulding the world to their whim. Others simply seek the means to punish those who have transgressed against them and to torment the weak. Power can harden a man, can anneal him against the vagaries and hardships of life and make him strong. It will hone his viciousness and hate, like a fine blade. Yet power can also corrupt. The endless search for it can reduce a man to the basest villain or cut-throat. Even once it is obtained, power needs to be guarded jealously, paranoia will colour your every action and every shadow will seem to contain a knife. Every Druchii would do well to remember this – power is but a tool towards vengeance. To think otherwise is to become subservient to power, whatever its source. No Druchii should bow his head in subservience while he can still draw breathe and a blade. ‘Ware those who care not where they claim their power – often times they will find that the brief taste they receive will damn them for all eternity…”
Elim Rashan Meditations On The Blade
It is in the nature of Druchii to use every weapon at their disposal to ensure their continued good standing in society and to torment those around them. These weapons are, many times, purely mundane – a blade, a bow, poison and so on. Other times they will be more subtle – a whisper in the right ear, a certain look, a carefully worded missive. The constant dance of threat and counter-threat, the delicate balancing act of venom and courtesy, this is the daily routine for the Druchii fortunate enough to dwell in the great city-states of Naggaroth.
On occasion though, a Druchii may find him or herself on a path that leads only to despair and destruction in the pursuit of power. Cautionary tales abound of those foolish Druchii who over-reached and paid the consequences – one of the more famous is a famed son of Hag Graef, Malus Darkblade. Today, such cautionary tales are related to power-hungry young Druchii in an attempt to teach them the folly of compacts with daemons and other undesirables and the dire consequences of tasting power tapped from unknown sources. Unfortunately the importance of these tales seemed to have been lost upon Velrys Arkitaine during his fevered search for the cure to his lines ailing fortunes.
Velrys travelled to the far borders and reaches of Naggaroth, speaking to Autarii Shouldermen and consulting with Convent Sorceresses before his travels took him to the Necropoli – the ruins of the courts of Nagarythe that had made the long voyage across the sea after the Sundering. Amongst the remains and monuments to ancient times and age-old Druchii families, Velrys located the source of puissance alluded to in dusty tomes and the ramblings of the Autarii Shouldermen – an antediluvian line of Druchii known as High House Chains.
Much knowledge of High House Chains has been lost in the years since the Sundering. Certainly, no Druchii currently living claims lineage to this ancient line and no mention can be found of titles or lands in the courts of Naggaroth. What records do remain refer only to ‘The Lord-In-Chains’, apparently a sorcerer of some power, and make no further mention after the Sundering save that of a binding or punishment soon after the ragged survivors of Naggarythe made landfall on the new coastline to the west of Ulthuan.
Many assume that Velrys simply raided the mausoleums of High House Chains, claiming untold relics and riches for himself and funding his lines revival thusly. To these Druchii nobles, he is viewed merely as an upstart and worse – a kinslayer and tomb-thief.
The truth is far darker. Velrys did indeed find untold relics and riches amongst the cold marble and a source of fell power indeed. The truth is that Velrys found the Lord-in-Chains himself. Buried deep in the catacombs of the mausoleum stood a chamber, bedecked with curtains of hanging razor linked chains. At the centre, bound to a black iron throne, was a robed, twisted figure. Silver bladed links plunged into its desiccated flesh, binding it to the throne of iron and the stink of sorcery hung heavy in the air.
This then was the source of power that Velrys sought to claim – the body and spirit of the Lord-in-Chains. Once a powerful mage when living, he had extended his life through careful study of the Winds of Death and became something close to undead – a lich, a revenant. An abomination. Others amongst the nascent Druchii conspired against him and eventually cast him down. Unable to end his cursed un-life, they chose to bind him forever to his throne and bury all knowledge of his line and power, cursing him to an eternity of ennui and obscurity.
Entering the chamber, Velrys made a compact with the Lord-in-Chains – he would champion the rise of High House Chains once again in return for the means to avenge his lines decline. The spilling of Velrys’ blood upon the razored links binding the liche sealed the compact and damned Velrys’ soul.
Returning to Naggaroth, Velrys bore the armour and blade of the Houses ancient champion. In this way he has cursed himself, for the armour will never let him die while the Lord-in-Chains remains bound. Each time Velrys is laid low by blade or bolt, he returns to life – though each time he returns a little more broken and crippled in mind and spirit, his soul suffering endless torment.
The Lord-in-Chains has allowed Velrys to tap the power of his House under the proviso that he recruits others to fill the ancient titles and positions of High House Chains. Currently Velrys holds the title of First Sword and has promised his brother Hiroth to the title of Seneschal, against Hiroth’s will. The Lord-in-Chains has sent forth his Herald, the Emissary, to locate suitable claimants to the final titles – Vaulkhar, Consort, Executioner and Reaver – while he has claimed the title of Magii, source of the Houses power. As to what will happen once the Lord-in-Chains has assembled his court, none know, not even Velrys. Though truthfully, nothing good can come of compacts with ancient liches so crippled and hungry for vengeance…