Haxshizah carefully studied the expression on her former master's purpling features as the old archon impotently writhed in her venomous grip.
"Even now, as the toxins bleed searing pain throughout your withered veins, you still do not fear me?" Her question was rhetorical. The old master's visage plainly did not betray any hint of fear; rather, there was a certain bitter satisfaction. "Ah, pedantic unto the uttermost I see? And what tedious lesson am I to learn from your death?"
She heard a petulant anger in her own voice, spiting her triumph and echoing long centuries of frustration. Her erstwhile mentor had never really taken her seriously. There had been the requisite rewards, of course: grandiloquent titles, supple and obedient slaves, treasure houses brimming with what passed for wealth among their debased people. But he had never taken a a single precaution against this day, the day when she would seize all that he had ever won. She knew he had never been behind any of the assassination attempts, the poisonings, the long list of betrayals among her inner circle. Killing him had been insultingly easy so far.
It enraged her, robbed her of her rightful delight in this masterful coup. And yet, perhaps now she might teach him a lesson even if it came fatally late.
He underestimated her iniative, she thought and the thought calmed her somewhat. He had desperately underestimated her and as she slowly crushed his venerable windpipe with her needle-tipped fingers, impatient of the Agoniser's thousand and one exotic toxins, she felt fulfilled. She could both hear and feel the subtle snapping of cartilage, fine wraithbone augments, and Dark Muses knew what else within the rejuvenated flesh of his throat. Now she was truly the master. The sudden crook at the left corner of her mouth might have generously been called a smile.
Shockingly, her vile contentment was mirrored in the old archon's dying features and she instinctively loosened her deadly grip. What ultimate treachery did his amusement belie? What terrible trap had she sprung even as she closed her fingers around final victory? Strangely, this fear particularly thrilled her. Perhaps the master had cared, after all. Perhaps he had thought better of her ambitions and capability than she knew and now she might finally have earned his notorious wrath.
"What is it, you decepit fool?" she hissed. He was beyond speech, she knew. The Agoniser had utterly destroyed his mind by now. But, seeing the perverse light shining from his innermost core, she finally understood. The barbarous mon'keigh, in their brutal oversimplification, might have perceived what they stupidly called "love." She knew better; her people were too far advanced for "love." She recognized the glint in his millennia-old eyes for what it was: malevolent pride.
"What is it?" she pleaded, her voice suddenly ragged and wavering. "What is it . . . master?" But she already knew. It was his last act of dominance over her, his last imperious lesson. Of course he had planned for this moment; indeed, he had engineered it. In an act that was decadently self-indulgent even for the Dark Eldar, he had intentionally left himself open to her treason to impart this crucial precept to her, his chosen successor. "I see it, master, I understand."
He exhaled and a hundred centuries and more of scheming and murdering and conquering was suddenly and absolutely over. Her mind opened like a blossoming black rose against the impossible, forever twilight horizon of Commorragh. The master taught her thusly: power, duplicity, all carefully contrived deceptions and feints -- these things count for nothing in the end. Before She Who Thirsts all are but one thing: a fragile breath.