Was planning on taking a week’s worth of break from working on the Deathwatch novel, temporarily titled Project Salvation. It was fun procrastinating but things didn’t work out quite the way I had originally thought.
I ended up writing three Drabble entries, two of which you saw here, and an RiaR entry. RiaR is the monthly writing comp on the Bolthole, where you get a prompt and you have about 2-3 weeks to submit an entry (or more if you want) that is between 850 and 1,150 words. I have seen all the past entries since the new Bolthole opened and the quality is just awesome. Not to mention all the unique takes on the GW universes and the prompts.
So here you go.
‘You do know that they will call all of us heretics do you not?’ asked Athenaar. ‘We are committing a great crime against the Imperium, and the Inquisition will not let us go easily.’
‘I know, brother, but we have no choice, for Thulsa Kane has remit from the Chapter Master himself on this,’ answered Vanagar. ‘And in my office as a Death Speaker I answer only to him. What he has said must be so.’
‘We are the Executioners, and we always honour our oaths,’ said Athenaar.
‘Bring your squad Sergeant Athenaar; we depart aboard the Night Hag immediately.’
Fevered chanting filled the air as the worshippers called upon their terrible patron to bless the ceremony. Row upon row of warriors knelt before the altar as High Priestess Marin offered her eternal gratitude to her dark master. They were all dressed in blood-red robes for the ritual of initiation, except for the High Priestess and her entourage who wore white robes embroidered with gold and emblazoned with the mark of their order, a blood-red heart set within a black cross.
At a subtle gesture from the High Priestess, the curtains behind the altar were withdrawn to reveal the prize there, a group of ragged and frail girls cowering in fear of their captors. Ignoring their plight, Marin addressed the warriors gathered before her.
‘This auspicious day marks the start of a new chapter in the history of our Order. Look upon the uninitiated and observe,’ she said, pointing towards the captive girls. ‘Our war on Taipas Prime has reaped a great many spoils, not the least of which are these younglings, younglings who will swell the ranks of our Order in the coming days. Look upon them and observe!’
One of the warriors of Marin’s entourage hauled a young girl to where the High Priestess stood with a wickedly curved blade in her hand. The girl cried for her freedom but was silenced when the warrior smacked her hard across the face, drawing blood.
‘Silence, wretch,’ she warned. ‘Another sound comes out of your mouth and I will cut out your tongue and feed it to the dogs.’ The girl only whimpered, her body wracked by silent sobs.
‘My sisters, this youngling will be our first sacrifice to the great Lord of the Brass Throne,’ she cried, raising her hands towards the ceiling, still holding the blade. ‘May He accept this sacrifice and reward us for our service.’
The girl’s horror grew as she realized what was about to happen to her, and she became hysterical, fighting against the warrior who held her down.
The impassive High Priestess simply said, ‘Hold her down Sister Vatore, and bare her throat.’
The warrior did as she was ordered, tying the girl’s hands to the chains affixed to the altar and muffling her screams.
The chanting grew louder as the warriors all shouted their praises to the Lord of Blood, each one outdoing the other in their entreaties to the mighty Chaos God. Marin lowered her blade to the girl’s throat slowly, enjoying the scent of her horror and desperation.
As the fevered chanting reached its pitch, she cut open the girl’s throat with a swift stroke and a spray of blood splashed on her face. Licking the drops of blood, she once again raised her hands towards the ceiling.
‘O mighty Khorne, accept this sacrifice, our tribute to your eternal glory, and bless us with the presence of your herald,’ she yelled and the entire chamber joined her. ‘Send us your Horned Ones, so that they may feast on our offerings! I beseech you!’
‘Sister Vicus, bring out the rest of the girls,’ she ordered, addressing another of her entourage.
The warrior acknowledged with a nod and motioned to her sisters. The horrified girls wailed and screamed as they were all dragged before the altar where the first girl’s corpse still spewed blood, but their efforts were in vain. Their screams for mercy rewarded them with stern slaps to the face or vicious kicks to their abdomen and many of them simply collapsed. But they were all hauled before the High Priestess regardless of their condition.
Marin personally slit all their throats as Vicus and the others held them down, their blood mingling together into the depressions that dotted the altar, forming intricate designs. The chanting of the warriors continued unabated as they watched the slaughter.
Once the girls had all been sacrificed, Marin joined her sisters in the chanting, their words forming an unholy rhythm. The warriors swayed their bodies in concert to the rhythm, the blood of their sacrifices still pooling together.
‘Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull Throne!’ yelled Marin, her cries echoed by her sisters. Over and over again, they yelled the battle-cry, even though their voices became hoarse and some of them could only mumble along.
‘Khorne!’ called Marin once again. ‘Honour us with the presence of your heralds! Give us our reward! We offer these lambs to you in sacrifice, give us our wolves!’
As the High Priestess cried those words, the pooling blood on the altar began to congeal together, rising and forming a mass of blood and gore. Taller and taller the mass grew, resolving into the form of a hunched daemon grasping a sword.
The chanting suddenly stopped as the daemon was birthed into the material world and all the warriors bent their knee before him. Marin herself knelt and lowered her head, smiling at the success of the summoning.
The horned daemon screamed in the foul language of Chaos, yelling a challenge to Marin and her sisters. His skin was the colour of blood itself, in sharp contrast to its forked black tongue and horns.
‘Areth Marin,’ said the daemon, a Bloodletter of Khorne. The High Priestess looked up into his eyes that smouldered with controlled fury. ‘The Lord of Rage is pleased with your sacrifice. You have done well to purge this world of the followers of the corpse-god. Your tally of skulls before the Skull Throne has grown immensely and the Blood God has seen fit to reward you.’
The Bloodletter walked up to the High Priestess and gestured for her to stand up. As she complied with his unspoken command, the daemon turned to the corpses of the young girls upon the altar.
‘Children of the defenders of Taipas, how fitting,’ the daemon’s cackling laughter echoed all over the chamber. ‘A worthy offering indeed High Priestess, most pleasing.’
‘I live only to serve the Lord of Skulls,’ whispered Marin, awed in the presence of the exalted servant of Khorne.
As she watched, the daemon drew a symbol in the air with his sword, chanting in the language of the warp. And as they all looked on, the wounds on the corpses healed and colour began to return to them. One by one, the recently dead girls arose in answer to the daemon’s words, no mark of the violent death they had been subjected to visible on their flesh.
‘Here you are High Priestess Areth Marin,’ the Bloodletter said. ‘This is your reward for exceptional service and a token of Khorne’s favour. Train these pathetic mortals and continue your crusade against the Imperium.’ With that, the daemon’s form dissolved and it vanished from the chamber.
Areth Marin looked at the resurrected girls, reborn as warriors of the Order of the Black Cross and yelled another war-cry.
‘Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull Throne!’