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A Court of Metal

There was silence in the court.

Not the tranquil silence of a world at rest, nor the dusty, aeons-old silence of long forgotten tombs that had once reigned in the space. Perhaps even the tense silence of expectant judgement would have been preferable to what there was, because what filled the court was a silence born of endless boredom and inescapable consciousness. 

Once, the time in the court had been limited. The inhabitants might gossip, the lords would bicker, and the Phaeron would issue decrees from the high seat. When the urge called, however, the Prince and his courtiers would retire, they would feast, and they would take to their beds. The next day, the cycle might begin anew.

Undeath changed a great deal.

No longer did the courtiers need food. No longer did they require sleep. They had slumbered so long that species had risen to sentience, flourished and died while they yet slept. Now they had awoken, they could but stand, ready to enact the will of their master. All that was left to them was to attend in the gilded halls of power, and, when able to take their leave, to plot. Some of the more aware might question the point of coup d’etat. Temporal power was best enjoyed by temporal beings, and once the base urges of food, drink and copulation had been excised the mere use of power was paltry compensation. The simple truth was that anything, even treason with the eventual promise of civil strife and untold devastation, would be preferable to the unending ennui of the court of metal.

It was for this reason that war was so favoured. The Sonnokht were not, by the standards of their contemporaries, a particularly xenocidal or expansionist dynasty, but the release from tedium brought by conflict was nothing short of blissful. Fortunately, they were surrounded by enemies, who, while individually contemptible, when taken en masse proved a sufficient challenge that nearly half of the dynasty’s overlords could generally find an excuse to be absent from proceedings on the crownworld. War on the borders was constant, and if the enemy proved overly hesitant a lesser lord could always be directed to launch a raid to provoke a response.

Occasionally, of course, they bit off more than they could chew. Now was one such time. Merikhamen, emissary to the Phaeron and one of the key players in court, had launched a preemptive strike on a neighbouring world. The local savages had proved more numerous and better organized than expected, and her legions had suffered badly. The emissary herself was currently being rebuilt after being struck down by the barbarian warlord. Court life was thrown into a gentle, slow moving uproar. Gambits planned for centuries were being thrown out, alliances shattered and new plans made to take advantage of this latest development. A few of the nobles had started to quietly jockey for Merikhamen’s position, though they would likely never make a decisive move. Her disastrous attack was a mark of shame for the dynasty, and would impact her status for millennia to come. In the meantime, however, revenge must be taken on the victorious enemy. To suffer an unavenged defeat would undermine the dynasty’s position, encouraging further attacks and possibly even war with rival dynasties. There had been idle gossip of who might be chosen to lead the punitive force, but there was little real speculation. In the absence of the Nemesor Amenhotekh, who was occupied on the frontier world of Itjtawy, the Phaeron had but one favoured tool available to him. A herald stepped forward from the shadows surrounding the throne:

“The Prince Sebennytos, Phaeron of the Sonnokht Dynasty, High Protector of the Verekh Nebula, Favoured of the Triarch, Crusher of his Enemies, Master of…”

The assembled courtiers allowed the sound to be shifted to subroutines not occupying their main cortices. Sebennytos was not one of the more potent phaerons among the Necrontyr, but nonetheless his full list of titles could take well over an hour to recite. In the days of flesh and blood there had been the mild diversion of hoping the herald would foul up, stutter, or lose his place, inviting vicious retribution from the affronted prince. Biotransferance had stolen even that small pleasure. At length, the titles were concluded.

“…and Hegemon of Parthakh calls upon his devoted servant Khepherukh, called the Executioner, Warden of the Eastern Marches, Scion of Princes, Commander of the Lazuline Cohorts, Suzerain of Khareoh, Nomarch of the Eighteenth Precinct and Lord General of the Sonnokht Dynasty, to serve his lord faithfully and without delay.”

As expected by the court, Khepherukh shouldered his way forward to kneel before his prince. Even among the Necron nobility he was hulking, and the faience beads of his cloak clicked rhythmically as he advanced. Unlike the majority of the courtiers, who leaned elegantly on tall warscythes and sleek staves, he held his heavy axe by his side, its gilt blade reflecting dully in the thick light of the sepulchral throne room. Once he had taken up position at the foot of the throne, the herald spoke again – it had been near a century since Sebennytos had last used his own voice in public. All decrees were handed out through a succession of ever more paranoid mouthpieces, after each in turn was found guilty of some treasonous act.

“The Prince Sebennytos enjoins his servant to take such warriors and ships as are needed, withholding only his personal guard, and take vengeance on those who so recently caused such hurt to our beloved Merikhamen. All codes of honourable warfare are to be suspended, and all thoughts of mercy expunged from the coils of those who go in our lord’s name. Furthermore, the Prince would ask of his executioner the head of that savage who so grievously insulted the military might of the dynasty, delivered in such a way as might be pleasing to the Phaeron.”

The charge was delivered without emotion, the herald reading directly forwards despite the height of the dais placing him far above his audience. In the gloom of the throne, however, the shadowy form of Sebennytos was leant forwards, metal hands gripping his knees. Below him, Khepherukh raised his head, the baleful glare of his eyes lancing towards his master. His axe was laid flat on the floor beside him. Despite the force of the edict, and the obvious ire of the Phaeron at his defeat, this was not an unusual request. Khepherukh was favoured for his ruthlessness, and was perfectly happy to discard any pretense of honourable warfare, therefore he was frequently summoned to visit vengeance upon those unfortunate enough to defeat the legions of the Sonnokht dynasty. His reply was customary, an expression of assent used throughout Necron society from the earliest days.

“Your will be done.”

With all said that needed to be, Khepherukh rose, spun on his heel and stalked from the chamber. A twitch of his wrist summoned a handful of lesser nobles and crypteks, who fell into his wake as he passed. As the small entourage passed from the hall, the double doors of the horizon swung closed behind them with a hollow boom. As the echoes died away, silence returned to the court, and the burden of eternity settled upon them once more.

***

Nehebemaat strode down the corridor, his feet clicking rhythmically against the floor with a metallic ‘snik’ sound. It was vital that he caught Khepherukh before he departed. Too long had the Executioner monopolised glory with a clenching stranglehold. It was time for Nehebamaat, rightful lord and displaced claimant to the lordship of Hakhusaa, to make his bid for prominence, and if he must ride the coat-tails of a bloody-handed brute to gain the status he deserved, then so be it. Should he be successful in prosecuting the enemies of the Phaeron, Sebennytos might look more favourably upon his efforts to displace Aakheten as the Overlord of Hakhusaa, and that was a prize worth near any amount of undignified grovelling. 

He finally caught up with the other lord near the docks of the tomb world. Kheperukh’s Lazuline Cohorts were already largely embarked on his ships,  yet there were specialised elements whose embarkation he would wish to supervise personally. A synthetic menagerie of canoptek constructs scuttled and slithered towards the portal that would take them to the tomb ships, while Khepherukh himself watched from a raised ziggurat. 

“Khepherukh, old chap!” Nehebemaat enthused, false bonhomie dripping from him like oil. “Congratulations on your latest command! Heroism beckons once again, no doubt.”

Khepherukh did not turn, his head remained tilted resolutely downwards towards his forces. 

“Nehebemaat.” It was a statement rather than a greeting. “You want something.”

“Perish the thought!” Nehebemaat said, his tone unchanged. “I come not to demand, but to offer. It is a heavy task that the Phaeron has laid upon you. Should my services lighten your load in any way…”

“I have my own commanders,” The Executioner’s reply was blunt. “And there is nothing I need from you.”

If Nehebemaat still had true teeth, he would have ground them. This singular lack of diplomacy and tact would in any other Necron noble be put down to a flaw in the biotransferance process; unfortunately, Nehebemaat remembered Khepherukh from before they had lost their souls. His acerbic nature was legendary, and only his lofty position and considerable personal skill at arms protected him from the ire of dozens of slighted lords.

“Of course, old friend. Your warriors and lieutenants are doubtless legendary for their efficiency.” The effort required to force obsequiousness grated, and Nehebemaat felt a phantom itch sprout deep within his necrodermis. With an effort of will, he forced himself to walk closer to the Executioner, standing near shoulder to shoulder as they gazed down upon the parade of constructs sloping towards the ships. “Nonetheless I would be most obliged if you would consider bringing me along. I’m sure I can be most helpful, and doubtless Sebennytos would be grateful to you for schooling me in the ways of war.”

This was agonising. Nehebemaat had been forced to admit inferiority, and directly ask for a favour. No lord would ever subject a peer to such indignity, under normal circumstances. Silently, Nehebemaat vowed to subject Khepherukh to excruciating torments when he finally reached the elevated position that was his due.

“I have already said there is no place for you.” Grunted Khepherukh. “Unless there is aught else you would say, kindly depart.”

“My dear chap!” Sputtered Nehebemaat, affronted beyond words. “I…”

He never saw the blow coming.

The axe cleaved through his left thigh joint, looping to take him through the right thigh and continuing to lop off his right arm at the elbow. His staff clattered to the floor shortly after he himself hit the ground, spitting with rage. Sparks flew from his truncated leg joints as he vented his wrath.

“You ill-born, treacherous, son of a…”

He was cowed into silence as Khepherukh looked over him, his oil slicked axe held loosely in both hands. The other lord bent forwards, so that his faceplate was held but two hands distance from Nehebemaat’s. 

“Your services are not required.” The Executioner’s voice was a hollow, rasping whisper. “Attempt to force your way into one of my operations again, and I will melt you down and turn you into scarabs.”

He did not bother to check that Nehebemaat had got the message. He abruptly straightened, turned, and walked from the platform, leaving the other lord to his fury as he lay helpless on the ground. Nehebemaat swore to himself that Khepherukh would pay for this indignity. He was merely temporarily unclear as to how. Hopefully he would be found soon, so that his legs could be reattached. Until then, he would use this opportunity to plot his revenge. 

Who are the Sonnokht Dynasty?

About a year ago, I went to see the Tutankhamun exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London. This was not my first time looking at Ancient Egyptian artefacts – my degree was in Ancient History and Archaeology, and I was fortunate enough to spend some time handling artefacts from the Eton-Myers collection as part of that. While looking around the exhibition, I was reminded of how much I like the colours and textures of Ancient Egypt – or, to be precise, the remnants we have today. This, combined with a healthy dose of Brendan Fraser’s Mummy movies, put me in the mood for some Necrons. Many people have made fantastic Necron forces exploring Lovecraftian horror, slick android menace and even, recently, Sumerian history, but for me, especially since the demise of the Tomb Kings, Necrons are The Mummy IN SPACE. With this in mind, I picked up some bits and bobs, and created a suitable lord to lead them – Amenhotekh, Black Sword of the Sonnokht Dynasty.

I wanted to use as an accent colour the mottled blue-green-cream of faience. The Eton-Myers collection is famous for its faience, so I had seen a lot of it up close and personal. It can vary massively, but I was pretty happy with the shade I achieved. It embodied the faded richness of my favourite pieces, looking at once opulent and ancient.

A faience Wedjat held at the British Musem. Bluer than the shade I went for, but beautiful nonetheless.

That was a year ago. Now, looking back, I can see various things I would have done differently. The major flaw was in the depth of the metallics; I had gone for a simple coat of iron warriors with a coating of gore grunta fur. The resultant bronze was acceptable, but a little monotone, and rather too ruddy. It didn’t feel ancient. So when my Indomitus box (finally) arrived, I decided the time was right to reinvent the Sonnokht Dynasty. My armies are almost always based around a leader figure – they are the key personality in the army, and dictate what the force looks like. Using the Overlord from the box was a big no-no. I have nothing against the sculpt, but I like my commanders to have a certain individuality, not to mention the joy I take in converting characters. So I rifled through the frames in the box, settling on the Royal Warden as a basis, with some Lychguard parts added. I still wasn’t sure at this point whether I was going for a new lord or a new model for Amenhotekh. I had some ideas for a more wizardly vizier style of lord, but in the end what I came out with was a grumpy looking chap with a big axe.

I also used parts from the resin Destroyer Lord upgrade pack to make the weapon, which I had bought some time ago to make a lesser lord by putting the torso on a set of Immortal legs (this worked quite well, but I don’t have any photos handy). Obviously a chap with a large axe and a grim demeanour fits the name “Executioner” quite well, and so Khepherukh was born. When it came to painting him, I used the same colour ideas as on Amenhotekh, but the metal had more care taken over it (though it was still pretty quick – a mottled coat of iron warriors and sycorax bronze, with a coat of wyldwood mixed with contrast medium), and covered more of the body. The faience was reduced to an accent colour, and some lapis lazuli was added to the collar to evoke Tutahamun’s death mask. I much preferred the result to my original scheme – partly, to be fair, because the new Indomitus plastics are fantastic, with little details like the curved limb “bones” and the dents and scratches of aeons. I did my best to shave and hack the Lychguard arm to match, though it won’t stand up to close scrutiny. Maybe he had it replaced after someone lopped off the original. I also finished off the base with some deserty tufts, which I think add greatly to the feel of a finished model.

The faience ended up coming out a little darker, but I confess I quite like it. It’s also worth noting how big the new Necron nobility are. When placed next to Amenhotekh, Khepherukh is a towering monster – though in fairness I did gift him the scenic base from the Indomitus captain.

So next it’s onto some units. I’ve got to work assembling the Necron warriors from the big box, but, given his title, it didn’t seem right not to give the Executioner some Deathmarks.

They’ve been given Lychguard legs, as I’m one set of Deathmark legs short, on account of them being used by a lord. I rather like the extra height they have been given, though they don’t quite approach Khepherukh in height. Hopefully they will get painted up over the next few weeks – they’ve been sprayed, but Krognak’s Wraxia setting keeps distracting me. Be assured if I get anything finished you can expect an overly verbose update on whatever it is. Until then, farewell!

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