- 13.02.2018
THE CRIMSON CONNOISSEUR
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My Queen Neferata, first-blessed and most exalted lady of darkness and splendour. I pray that this missive finds you well.

Be assured that the reach of the Nulahmian Court extends ever further into the heart of the Twin-tailed City. My blood-children are scattered all across this ugly place, from the courts of the Twelve Lords to the parade grounds of the Acadamae Martial. Courtiers, foppish noble duellists, ash-sweepers and dull military men – all are turned to stuttering fools beneath my gaze, consumed by a desperate longing that has them risk death or worse for the slightest hint of my favour. I have agents, willing or otherwise, embedded in nearly every stratum of Hammerhal’s ruling bodies.

They feed me such sweet whispers.

This very eve, for instance, I arose from my velvet-lined sepulchre to the news that fifty-four regiments of Hammerhalian foot have received their marching orders, and by the time this missive reaches you will have arrived at the Realmgate of Sanctor Armalis. From there they shall travel to Port Valadan, in Athanasia. What could the goldjackets possibly be planning that requires such an enormous reserve of manpower, I wonder? Needless to say I have delicately plucked the strands of my web here in Hammerhal, and my little spiders now rush and scuttle about in the shadows, seeking answers. Doubtless, Eternal Majesty, you have already turned your scintillating mind towards unravelling the enemy’s intentions, but I shall nonetheless endeavour to assist in my own humble manner.

There is an air of tension within the city. A smell of dread upon the wind. The fall of Blackcliffe has only exacerbated the mortals’ unease. It was an entertaining diversion to round up and slaughter the inhabitants of that miserable fortress, and a fine opportunity for Lord Helvir’s Blood Knights to indulge their lust for carnage. The mortals fell in droves, crushed and broken beneath grinding hooves, or spitted by bloodlances. I surveyed the carnage from my palanquin, opening throats every now and then as the mood caught me. Unfortunately the soldiery were a rather grubby band, quite lacking in grace or good breeding. After draining the blood of several fleeing humans I was left with an unpleasantly bitter aftertaste, a hint of smoke and ashes that did not abate for several hours. In my irritation, I ordered the Blood Knights to crucify the remaining living about the fortress walls, and raised the rest as Deadwalker thralls for their comrades to discover at a later date. After some remonstrating and grumbling, Helvir and his warriors acceded to my demands. Honestly, my Queen, while I admire their martial skill, I continue find the order’s obsession with honour and ‘proper duty’ most tiresome.

Our little surprise for the goldjackets was discovered several days later, and I hear it caused much consternation amongst the ranks. This fear and confusion swiftly carried to the populace of Hammerhal. Though the agents of Azyr have spread word of extended regimental drill and emergency postings throughout the populace, few believe these obvious and amusing lies. The people know that the city has suffered a grave loss, and they obsess ever more vociferously over tales of ill omens and deathly portents. Predictable, but no less amusing for that.

A spate of gory killings across the Cinderfall District (I pray you forgive this minor indulgence, my beloved Queen) is the latest subject of tattletale and gossip, though other equally delicious rumours are spreading as swiftly as the weeping plague. I hear whispers of entire border-towns disappearing overnight, of a grinning skull-moon rising in the east, and tales of the recently dead scratching upon the doors of their living relatives at midnight, begging to be allowed entrance. The sense of fear and confusion all this has whipped up is quite intoxicating.

Of course, the city’s wardens are greatly concerned, and they worry and scheme within their golden towers. Infiltrating these secret sessions is a delicate task; the noble districts are rife with the witchfinders of the Stormcasts and their wretched Gryph-hound beasts. Yet, even with my limited access, it is clear that the armies of Hammerhal are mustering in numbers not seen since the last days of the Realmgate Wars. They sense something, my Queen, though their dull little minds still cannot grasp the true scale of what is coming. Nevertheless, I would advise caution – the tremors from Nagashizzar have not gone unnoticed.

Regardless, I continue the important work you tasked me with. I have a new enterprise, which is proving most rewarding. One of the richest mortals in the city – Lord Juvis Arcona – is now a plaything of mine, and under my subtle guidance his rise to political prominence is the talk of the noble districts. Arcona is an old and well-respected Azyrite name, and it opens doors the tedious creature could never breach with his imbecilic glad-handing and paltry intellect. There are already rumours that Lord Arcona may earn a seat upon the Council of Twelve. It seems to me sometimes as if these mortals take a perverse pride in their mediocrity.

As soon as I know more regarding the Sigmarites’ plans I shall write again, my beloved Queen. It is my fervent hope that one day the groundwork I lay will be fit for another to inherit, and I can once more return to your wondrous court.

My heart aches to see Nulahmia again, to dance beneath skies of darksome violet, and to partake in the great revelries of the Scarlet Fountains at your side. To once again lay eyes upon your immortal beauty would be a taste far sweeter than any I might sample within this soot-smeared slum the God-King’s whelps presume to call a city. Yet be assured that although I pine for the magnificence of your unholy grace, my resolve is unshaken, and my commitment to our cause as firm as invictunite.

I remain eternally in your service,

Doyenne Dalvia, Red Widow of Toursonne

Addendum – Along with this message I enclose two echo-crystal vials of my finest vintage, a sweet-spiced and piquant blend drawn from the veins of the Seven Saints and blended with a few drops taken from the firstborn progeny of Houses Arcona and Demetron. I am assured by my favourite antiquarian that the echo-crystal will ensure my concoction reaches your lips in as fresh a state as when it first seeped from my victims’ unwilling bodies. Please do let me know if this is not the case, so that I may have him excruciated.