The Price of Power

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It is a word that radiates power. Even the slave races comprehend it, in a fashion. Not the intricacies of our tongue, of course. But they understand. With its sound comes the unshakeable promise to enforce one’s will upon reality. Upon them. To hear the word spoken is to know that you are a lesser. But I don’t need to tell you that, now, do I, my friend?

It is a title, true. But it is so much more. In the twilit streets of Commorragh, it is a state of being. To be Archon is to be judged worthy. No, to proclaim yourself worthy! There is no one left to judge the Archon. You stand above judgement. You are judgement. To be Archon is to become what every living soul in the Dark City strives to be.

Don’t struggle, my dearest. I shan’t bore you for long with my little tale. I admit, I always had a weakness for the theatrical. The dramatical. Perhaps I should’ve joined the Harlequins? What say you, Archon Metheníel? Not much I would imagine.

Before this day began, you likely never heard of me. I was amongst the billions of souls in strife. I was Dracon, a lowly one at that. Untrusted. Just barely useful enough to be worth keeping around for your underlings. Worth the risk. Like a Djinn in a blade I was – a powerful tool, carrying the risk to strike at its bearer. I negotiated the peace with the Bleeding Talon. I was behind the sudden fall – and surprisingly affordable acquisition – of the great race pits in the arena of the Crimson Cadavers. I am a negotiator. A deal maker. A talker, one might say. But you probably caught up to that by now. And a deal I made. A pact. I bought the aid of the devils that dwell in Aelindrach.

But you know that already, don’t you? You would’ve still had your tongue if I didn’t. And your eyes. I wish I would’ve been able to see your face when it happened. Struck down by your own shadow. I know, I know, it’s not the most imaginative as much as betrayals go, don’t look so disapproving. You are souring my mood, my Archon. My triumph. Envy does not become you. I know our kind prefers to carry the blade that does the deed. But you have to admit, my Archon. It is poetic, of a sort.

Shh, shhh. Hush now. Don’t struggle. There is only pain in it. It’ll all be done soon. Enjoy your last moments, my Archon. Only darkness awaits you now. Are you truly that anxious to meet my shadowy associates for a second time? I might not be the most tantalising of orators, but is your immediate future looking so bright you’d prefer it overhearing me recite my little tale? I know it is a bit sad to admit it – I don’t have much of an audience besides you. Yet. Or, not anymore. However one might see it.

But I am sure you won’t be telling on me, my dearest Archon. Your surviving Kabalites will hear it soon enough. Not many left, I fear. Quite a few of them had to depart early. 

By my calculation, you have been Archon for exactly 10,394 of our dreadful Commorrite days. Nations died at your will. With a simple gesture you could elevate a being to the highest heights of power … or condemn it to the darkest pits of hell. How poetic that Aelindrach now awaits you. You were what we all wanted to be. And now, you will leave us. You will become a cautionary tale.

But it didn’t need to end this way, did it? You were not born amongst our kind. You are of weakling stock. Born into the warm embrace of a Craftworld. That alone makes you despicable. But you’ve proven yourself worthy of the Eladrith Ynneas. You had what most of us who dwell in the Dark City would kill to get – and you gave it up for a chance to be more. I know it sounds a bit hypocritical to say this while playing with your eyeball on my dagger. But the truth is, I admired that in you. You were offered warm, boring safety – and you chose near guaranteed damnation for the chance of power.

Oh, don’t look so surprised. One does not plan a betrayal such as this, hastily. The Mandrakes are more than killers. They know things. And they ask a terrible price. Oh, now I got your attention, I see. Well, let me say as much – you and your men were part of the bargain. It is not Slaanesh you should be fearing.

I have one thing left for you, my Archon. One last service I have of you before I let you go. A simple question. Ah, don’t worry my Archon. A simple nod or shake of the head will do.

As I now go to tread the path you once walked upon I embrace the fact that I will inevitably await a fate not much unlike your own. For our kind, there is no other way. The Eladrith Ynneas look damnation in the eye. Embrace it. We force ourselves upon reality, and everything within it. It is our fate, our glory, our eternal truth.

Yet, still I cannot help but wonder, my beloved Archon, as you now stand on the precipice of hell. I think I know the answer, but tell me, still. You paid the price of power. You are Archon, still. Would you pay it again? Look back at your life and tell me… was it worth it?

About the Author

Drawn to the grim darkness of the 41st Millenium since he was a teenager, Sebastian has been following Warhammer for the better part of two decades. Dissatisfied with the official lore for his beloved Aeldari, he decided to pick up the pen himself.