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It is thought that there are nine Gaunt Summoners, though none but Archaon know for sure. The one called Xer'ger'ael, the Tyrant of Eyes, is often at the Everchosen’s side, manipulating fates or peering into the future at his master’s behest.
Even collared by Archaon’s will, the Gaunt Summoner instils fear in all who look upon his twisted face. Xer'ger'ael enjoys the taste of terror, especially when it flows from the strongest of the Dark Gods’ champions. Though the Summoner is careful not to invoke the ire of the Everchosen, others hold no such thrall over him, and many cold, eyeless corpses have been left in his wake. It is whispered among the minions of Chaos that when Archaon bested the Gaunt Summoners, he robbed each of them of one of their senses. Though magically conjured eyes peer out from Xer'ger'ael’s flesh-helm, he craves those that were scooped out of his head by the Everchosen.Template:Cite this The Summoner’s silver tower is a testament to this madness, for its corridors and walls are filled with mounds of dripping eyeballs tended by hundreds of blind slaves.
Under Chaos-tainted Skies
The Palladhor was a relic of ancient days – an arcane network of quicksilver spheres suspended over a sweeping expanse of grinding cog-works. As a portal to the Realm of Chaos, it was sealed during the Age of Myth and had lain dormant ever since. No servant of the Dark Gods had come close to breaching the fail-safes which bound the Palladhor’s might – until now.
Under the watchful gaze of the Everchosen, the Gaunt Summoner Xer’ger’ael wove a complex web of magic. Manipulating the gears of the Arcanabulum at the Palladhor’s heart, the sorcerer sought to bring the rippling globes suspended above it into alignment. As the Arcanabulum moved, so too did the broken landscape into which it was set. The Summoner had foreseen this. What he had not anticipated, however, was how the stars in the heavens seemed to shift in response to the movements of the floating, mercurial spheres.
In the distance, the slann Laumqa coalesced upon the Palladhor’s shiftingsurface in a beam of celestial light. Moments later, the air echoed to a lowgrowl, and from the light that spilled out of Laumqa’s eyes and mouth, an army of Seraphon took shape.
His mind held half within the Realm of Chaos, Xer’ger’ael could spare no thought for the seraphon as he wrestled with the magic of the spheres.It mattered not, for Archaon reacted swiftly to defend his servant.
Commanding his army to spread out around Xer’ger’ael, Archaon leapt into the air upon Dorghar, tearing the Slayer of Kings from its scabbard and holding the howling daemon blade aloft. The Everchosen’s gaze fell upon the distant slann, and he vowed to take the creature’s bloated head.
Laumqa was shrewd beyond mortal comprehension, however, and the fates were laid out before his mind’s eye long before he had journeyed to the Palladhor. In a thunder of beating wings, hundreds of ripperdactyls and terradons were summoned by the slann, darkening the skies as they swept towards the Everchosen.
Saurus slammed into the Chaos lines like a scaled sledgehammer, and scores of mortal warriors fell under the razors harp teeth and hacking blades of their foe. Archaon’s forces held under that ferocious impact, and iron-bound shields began to push back against a rising tide of savage reptilian footsoldiers. Every servant of Chaos fought furiously, either to prove their worth to the Everchosen or for fear of the consequences should they fail him.
As the two armies tore into each other, Laumqa began to weave his spells of unbinding, wresting control of the gateway from Xer’ger’ael. Both slann and Gaunt Summoner appeared motionless, beyond the concerns of the battle raging around them. However, the two wizards were locked in a sorcerous duel that transcended their physical surroundings.
Broken bodies fell like rain as Archaon scoured the skies of seraphon. Though the creatures disappeared in bursts of light before they hit the ground, their deaths still pleased the Everchosen. And yet, still the beasts came on. Even engaged in furious aerial combat, Archaon could read the flow of the wider battle – he knew he could not reach the slann by air before the odds were turned against him.
Swooping down into the fray, the Everchosen landed with a groundshaking crash, a dozen seraphon crushed beneath Dorghar’s mass. Taking in his surroundings, Archaon saw that the Chaos lines were being steadily pushed back as towering saurian war-beasts joined the battle.
Nearby, Xer’ger’ael was on his knees, dark blood gushing down his chin. If the slann was allowed to complete his spell, the seraphon army would not need to reach the Gaunt Summoner to end his life.
Dorghar carried Archaon close to where his Varanguard could lend their weight to his charge. United, the Everchosen and the Swords of Chaos forged a path of ruin towards Laumqa. At the tip of their attack, Archaon tore a ragged wound into the seraphon army, the air blazing as he sent the reptilian beasts back to the stars. Then,the battlefield shuddered and began to shift as Laumqa manipulated the Arcanabulum. The ground beneath the slann moved, carrying the Starmaster and his Saurus Guard away before Archaon could reach them.
The power Laumqa had sacrificed to move the Arcanabulum, however, gave Xer’ger’ael a fleeting reprieve. Amoment was all the Summoner needed. Hurling his last reserves of magic into the Palladhor’s spheres, Xer’ger’ael swung them at last into alignment, and the tides of battle changed immediately.[1c]
Azure stars turned the colour of freshly spilt blood, the ground groaned, and billions of maggots were spewed from between the cog-toothed workings of the Arcanabulum. The spheres merged, resolving themselves into a perfectly smooth, mirror-like portal from which a mutating gale blew forth, warping everything it touched with the power of Chaos.
Then, from the portal’s depths, a gnashing horde of daemons poured out onto the fractured ground of the Palladhor. With the daemons came the dark magic of their realm, and Xer’ger’ael’s sorcerous power returned to him a hundred fold.
The Gaunt Summoner shifted the workings of the Arcanabulum once more. The ground shattered and rocks were flung into the air, as warriors fel lscreaming into the gears below, ground to bloody mulch by their clanking mechanisms. As the landscape heaved, Archaon and the Varanguard were swift to take advantage of the shifting terrain, and thundered over a newly formed bridge towards the slann.
Upon a massive fragment of earth that hovered over the Palladhor’s spinning gears, Archaon and his Varanguard hacked their way towards Laumqa. Saurus Guard closed ranks around their master, their locked shields slowing the Chaos charge for a precious moments.
Sensing the Starmaster’s retreat, Xer’ger’ael wove spells of binding in an attempt to keep Archaon’s prey in place.To a slann, however, magic holds few mysteries. Before the Slayer of Kings could claim his soul, Laumqa vanished in a burst of light, leaving his army to fight to the last. The slann’s escape mattered not to the Everchosen, for the Palladhor was open, and his plans of conquest ever closer to fruition.
- 1: Battletome: Everchosen (2015)
- 1a: pg. 29-32
- 2: White Dwarf 98 (2015), The Gaunt Summoners - The Tyrant of Eyes