The jeweled gate caved in under the abuse of the trespassers, who swaggered in over the broken corpses of giant, two-headed Warforms and nameless guards. The intruders fanned out and strode down the extended corridor leading to the steps of the dais of the throne of Ashur-El Artashumara. They were mindful of booby-traps, having lost fellow conspirators throughout their coup d'état to a number of diabolical mechanisms. Every few steps screaming supplicants in robes would rush from darkened alcoves and colonnades, and silent guardsmen in baroque armor. None proved a match for the rebels and soon their leader stood at the base of the dais, looking up at his one time master and his cringing interpreter. The Gossamer Liege was aptly titled: pale and still as a porcelain doll, eyes closed, his person and his throne wrapped in silken webs and crawling with alien arachnids. "Your day has come oh Prince. Your captains have aligned their futures with mine, we cast off the shackles of your dreams and will take the Twisted Tree for our own! Behold, I have seen her darkest roots and most distant branches and the weapons of an age were bequeathed to me. Face me and fall upon my claws!"
The rebel gestured, pointing at History's Final Hero with a long claw of matte, dark grey metal, glowing with an unlikely black radiance. The shaking interpreter looked to his motionless God for a moment and then down to the assembled traitors. "Our King, our All-God congratulates you and acknowledges your valor. He will confer upon you great honors and the full measure of His forgiveness if you were all to slit open your throats without delay."
The rebels looked unsteady for a moment, and then their captain slashed the air before him with such divisiveness and incredulity as he could muster. "He is no god of ours, and soon none will bow to him ever again." The interpreter looked pleadingly at the rebel, but it was too late. Ashur-El opened his eyes, which immediately began to run red with tears of bright red blood, staining the webs as they ran first down and then up, dripping towards the ceiling. With a crack of breaking stone, His lips parted and his shallow exhalation billowed white in the chilled air. The rebels found themselves unable to look away, unable to step away and one by one they fell prone. Their faces frozen in the terror of waking nightmare, their screams stuck in their throats. Only their leader remained, the leader of the Arbor Gate, who had rallied the other factions to his plot and destroyed those who had remained loyal. He too was unable to move, but he yet stood tall, watching as the interpreter descended the steps and stood among the throne of rebels. "Sweet Master, for whom each moment I am able to serve is as generous and delightful as ever I could hope for. With these acts, Iteration X is complete. This is the third time Coreish of Arbor Gate has organized such a revolt, as you surely recall. At your pleasure, I shall have the Cabalists restore them to a prior state to resume their responsibilities. Yes Lord, I understand and shall commence with your instructions at once. Coreish, our Magnificent and Unconquered Master tires of you and bids you dispose of yourself before we begin Iteration XI."
Coreish the rebel's mind worked furiously, this was his third attempt to overthrow Ashur-El? Surely he should recall such momentous acts. He pondered and pondered, but he tore himself apart with his newly acquired claws before answers came.
- "At the summit of the Tree's boughs is perfect tyranny, the union of divine and worldly dominion over a vagabond empire. Beneath this dark throne is a monotonous repetition of passion plays and intrigues, actors doomed to die and take each others roles again and again."
One of the larger factions of Shemal-Lilitu, its membership believes that Ashur-El Artashumara is not the final keeper of the Twisted Tree, that its full potential will not be unleashed until the final keeper is found. The White Gatekeepers are Ashur-El loyalists, who think that his bloodline will produce the final keeper and concentrate on finding a way to induce Ashur-El to produce some kind of heir. The Red Gatekeepers believe whoever has the power to take Shemal-Lilitu from Ashur-El must surely be the final keeper.
- "A secret revealed possesses neither power or value."
- —factional adage
Shemal-Lilitu's power is tied directly to its mystery: this is the core belief of this faction. They use assassination, blackmail, sabotage, and theft as their primary weapons in order to remove lore and mythology regarding the mighty edifice from circulation. They're regarded as a lesser faction for their lack of an agenda beyond ensuring ignorance of Shemal-Lilitu reigns, they've always proven vulnerable to being used by their own leadership for whatever vanity projects they desire.
This small group is what remains of Ashur-El's creators. They slave away in fear of Ashur-El's attention, performing the same kind of research and experimentation as they did when they controlled Shemal-Lilitu, though on a much smaller scale. Only a few Cabalists are active at any time, Ashur-El arbitrarily shifts several of them in and out of stasis, with no discernible pattern.
The handful of Eldar tricked into communion with Ashur-El believe that Shemal-Lilitu may be of Eldar origins, or come from a contemporaneous ancient race. They lead a group of minions dedicated to finding some method of bringing Shemal-Lilitu into the Webway, where they believe the Twisted Tree would have complete mastery. Though there are disagreements on specifics, the general notion is that Shemal-Lilitu is the long displaced "brain," of the Webway and only its reinsertion into that dimension can repair it.
Nitimur in Astrum
- "As the flower bends to the light, the tree twists towards its native star."
- —factional adage
Shemal-Lilitu was surely not created in transit. Its creators had a home, and that home surely orbited some lonely star. What wonders might be hidden there? What power might be harnessed? This is what this faction seeks
- "The Tree shall eclipse the Eye and blind the Adversary."
- —factional adage.
Chaos is the Adversary of Shemal-Lilitu, thwarting it should be at the forefront of all efforts. The Umbral Fellowship is certain that the power of the Twisted Tree could strike a great blow against the Adversary if it could physically plunge into the Eye of Terror. Such an adventure must be meticulously planned however, for the Eye is inadvertently guarded from such an attack by the Imperium, who would unleash the full measure of its power and wrath against Shemal-Lilitu if it made such a direct approach. The key to making this happen is to work through the Imperium and its most influential agents: the Inquisition. The Umbral Fellowship strives to plant evidence and suggestions for Inquisitors to find, hoping to lure them into drawing the conclusions the Fellowship desires and clearing the path for Shemal-Lilitu's approach.
The ideologies and the theories of the factions were invented by Ashur-El Artashumara, who with few exceptions also crafted its leadership personally. As he is often quiescent and prone to let his mind drift away for years at a time, he required more vital appendages for the day-to-day management of his dread empire of tech-heresy and death worship.