The Star Chamber is bathed in the cold light of the silvery constellations in the floor. On the Throne of Thorns the Queen of Sorrow sits, magnificent, cold, terrifying. Half hidden in the shadows between the ancient pillars that line the circular chamber hooded figures stand, immovable, as if in silent vigil.
The silence is broken by the sound of heavy boots, the echoes travelling ahead -- every step, some even say every stray thought, within the walls of the Citadel of Broken Dreams can be heard from the queen's throne-room. The queen herself seldom leaves the Star Chamber these days. Her court carries out her will on three continents, her every whim is seen to with devoted, unquestioning obedience. From her throne she can reach far away, to punish or reward.
The steps are drawing closer. They are those of a large man, a man who rarely treads on solid ground. It is the steps of one who comes to pledge his existence to his queen. It is the steps of Captain Radoslav the Undying of the Black Ship Sepulchre.
The great, bearded mariner is heralded by a gust of foul air, like from within the rotting belly of an ancient tomb. The queen's smile is like a poisonous dagger unsheathed. She knows her audience comes unwilling, and that he has no more choice than any slave summoned before his mistress. He is a brute, but he is now the First of the Black Mariners. Armand's demise was a blow, but she has other servants to take the place of those who fail.
Captain Radoslav enters the Star Chamber, his pace steady, not stopping before he is thirteen paces from the throne. He kneels on the constellation called The Enemy by the Erians. His gaze is defiantly held on the queen herself, but within moments he casts it to the floor and mutters in a deep, coarse voice, "Majesty, Your servant awaits your pleasure."
"Tell me, captain, have you carried out your instructions?" The voice of the queen is melodious and terribly cold.
"Aye, Majesty, that I have. The Leviathan and the Despair are in possition, awaiting orders. The Drachen is gathering the ships of Forlorn Hope, and the others are still maintaining the Blockade. All as I was commanded, Majesty."
"Good, good. I trust you will not disappoint me, captain."
Silence. Then, "A question, if it please you, Majesty."
"By all means, captain."
"The Pius Cabal. What do you wish me to do with them?"
The queen laughs. "I have no doubt that in the unlikely event of their survival they will seek you out, my dear Radoslav."
"Good. The Exalted owes me a hat."
The queen laughs again and rises from the throne. As she does, her silvery robe slides off her with an inaudible sigh. She stalks towards the kneeling undead, gracefully, her hips and breasts swaying as she moves, her fiery hair in sharp contrast to her flawless, alabaster skin. She moves behind her captain, letting her slender fingers caress the decayed fabric of his coat.
"It is time we consummate your new position, my dear," she whispers into the ear of her new admiral.
"Your wish, Majesty," Captain Radoslav says as he rises. His clothes fall to the floor as if compelled by an invisible force, revealing scarred, tattered and torn dead flesh that barely covers the wicked bones of the Black Ship Captain.
Soon the queen and the undead are copulating madly on the field of stars -- he silent, relentless, she loud and wild.
The hooded figures stand silent, their vigil uninterrupted. Outside of the Citadel the bells of Mūr-Chadrac are tolling.