A stupid idea that required exorcism in between working on something more serious.
Reality had grown thin in this place, the weight of atrocity and suffering having called to things beyond the Veil. When one was not quite looking snippets of unnatural colour or impossible motion could be seen at the edges of vision. When one was not quite listening snatches of whispered screaming or the distant giggling of children could just be not heard. Even taste and smell were affected, with invisible pricks upon the senses evoking memories both idyllic and hideous. The dangerous instability of reality leant the place they were in an oppressive weight that pressed on the soul despite the clean, utilitarian lines and bright lighting.
In fact, if anything the otherwise seeming normality leant the place an even more monstrous air, as if the horrors within could be repeated anyway, needing no particular mood lighting to occur. It was a sobering reminder that madness could take many forms.
The sight of blood upon the white tiles at long last was almost a welcome relief for the unlikely band of invaders to this surreally placid nightmare. Lurking along the edges of the sealed doorway in shadows that seemed too small to contain their armoured forms were the forward infiltrators of the attacking force. At their feet were the slaughtered, eviscerated forms of the men who had once guarded the door.
Concealed beneath an impassive, insect-like face plate the leader of the infiltrators reported in a distorted, half-alien voice, “They were dead before we arrived.”
“Xethon knows we have arrived,” the least subtle of the unlikely command triumvirate stated, once more lowering the opinion of his intellect in the minds of the other two.
“Of course he knows. Why do you think resistance has been so light?” The other being that had been born human replied contemptuously. He knew the third member of their triumvirate would find commentary beneath him, but he felt compelled to at least try to teach his more likely ally since the third would not.
To his credit, the giant considered the question before he grunted and said, “You’re right. I would expect alarms by now even if we had total surprise.”
The smaller once-man looked at the never-man in their group and asked, “Since this is so obviously a trap, I feel compelled to ask if it is indeed one, lest paranoia rob us of initiative.”
The eldest and most lithe member of the group considered the question in the manner it was intended and answered, “There are many dangers in this place, to which in this moment I envy the crudity of your senses; but there lays no danger beyond this door other than the monster that lurks at the centre of this labyrinth.”
“Then let it be opened,” the most inquisitive member of the trio commanded, to which his giant partner carried out the order with great relish, removing the barrier against their passage with a single great blow from the hammer he wielded.
The seal breached, the air around them seemed to grow thicker with unreality as that which lay beyond bled even further through without the physical impediment in the way. The warding upon the armour of the invaders flared with malign light and the most sensitive of the trio moaned in agony at keeping the horrors away from the minds around him. Even the most brutish of the warriors flinched away, the abomination within scratching at the armour of contempt about his mind.
Like a sickly spider sitting at the centre of a web that glittered with the shattered, iridescent shells of its victims, the pale emaciated once-man was waiting for them surrounded by his collection of terrible works. Attached to dozens of cables and tubes that kept his body moving long after it had died, he just smiled crookedly at them. The giant in the command trio did not let him open his mouth further before he raised his weapon and fired a shot designed to crack vehicle armour.
Instead of splintering the wicked thing into a crimson mess, the shot stopped short against a spherical fracture in reality that tore apart the material of the round and scattered it as light without nameable colour and the unheard screams of the damned. The spider’s smile grew broader in its crookedness, and the eldest of the trio said, “He cannot be harmed… yet.”
“Indeed not,” the once human thing cackled as he scratched a finger against a faintly glowing ruby gem hanging from a chain about his scrawny, metal reinforced neck. He gave a fake, unsympathetic pout and said, “I’m afraid your peer will not last much longer. I was actually almost worried for a moment that you might come too late. His power has not quite depleted that far yet though.”
The elder of the trio bristled before he said, “The protection afforded by your theft will not last that long.”
“True, but neither will your friend survive long after my passing,” the spider crowed wickedly.
“How long will his stolen witchery last, xeno?” The mediator of the three inquired.
“By your count, less than five minutes,” the seer replied, growing still as his senses started to take in the true depths of depravity to this place.
“Ah, more than enough time, more than enough,” the spider commented jovially.
“To do what, traitor?” The brute in the trio demanded.
“To let you bear witness to my life’s work of course! To let you see understand my magnum opus so that you might tell the galaxy what Lord Inquisitor Otto Xethon has done!” The madman declared, throwing his withered arms wide at the stolen and tainted treasure surrounding him.
“That title has been stripped of you, and your heresy dies here with you,” Xethon’s once-peer proclaimed.
“Oh, I’ve been dying for a long time now Malcolm. You don’t think I wouldn’t plan on my work surviving me, now do you?” Xethon chided. “I daresay that I may have achieved immortality with the quality of my work.”
Finally able to comprehend the full totality of what had occurred in this place, the eldest of the three invaders levelled an accusing finger and roared, “You befouled and destroyed them!”
Waving a skeletal hand dismissively, the once-man said, “Oh come now, they were merely a few hundred xenos souls. Much less of a sacrifice than the tens of thousands of humans I needed to improve upon them.”
“They were all heroes of my people!” The seer raged, the fire of the war god within him bubbling over.
“So were the humans. It was no easy thing to cull the best and brightest of humanity for my project. Especially since there were so many failures early on,” Xethon replied with a sad sigh.
“What did you do to my brothers?” The giant seethed even as he kept his enormous weapon levelled at Xethon.
“I did something useful with them in comparison to frittering them away stomping greenskins, captain. I daresay that they have actually contributed to the salvation of humanity with their contributions,” Xethon replied, to which the bolter barked again, and once more the round was scattered to the eight corners of the universe.
“That won’t make his shield fall faster,” Malcolm chided.
“No, but it beats listening to him impotently,” the captain replied.
“I am nearly inclined to agree with our bloody minded companion,” the seer seethed.
The wicked grin having never left his deformed, stapled over face, Xethon said, “If it makes you feel any better, the first batch of a hundred were closest to your kind before I was better able to purge the xenos taint.”
“Cutting your tongue from your decapitated head will not undo this abomination, but it will make me feel better,” the elder seer replied.
“Do what you must; it is not like you can undo that which I have done. Not now,” Xethon said. “Besides, you should be glad that I have suborned the weaponry of the Great Enemy to turn against them so efficiently. Perhaps the future my creations will make will have a place in this galaxy for your kind. Perhaps.”
Having taken longer for his material senses to absorb the information of the technology arrayed around him, Inquisitor Lord Malcolm breathed out, “These markings… they are…”
“Binding rituals. I am so glad that you have kept up on your daemonological studies Malcolm. I was afraid your years in Hereticus had dulled your learning outside its simple-minded purview. But you will notice that there are a few interesting twists, seeing as I was not trying to bind the immaterial to the material like some deluded cultist,” Xethon said in a taunting tone.
“He has sullied the souls of Eldar and Mon-keigh alike by binding them to daemons,” the Farseer almost spat in loathing and hatred.
“Not quite. I will admit that some of my earliest experiments involved daemons directly, but they are almost admirably in their purity of purpose. That makes them so hard to purge. Fortunately, as their own history shows, Eldar souls make excellent bases for the daemonic. Once I learned how from another old spider I captured in my travels, it was simply a matter of hollowing out their minds before they died so that their soul stones would be appropriately charged but free of cluttering things like memory or personality,” Xethon explained, and even the Inquisitor and Astartes captain shifted uncomfortably at the thought of such horror being inflicted upon a being, even a xenos.
“Your crude-” the seer began before Xethon cut him off.
“There was nothing crude about my art. I will admit to stealing knowledge I did not earn, to playing with the fire of gods, and I will even admit to being burnt more than once. But my creations are far from crude,” Xethon seethed. “Warriors, preachers, enginseers, spies, and traders. I took heroes from all walks of humanity, and I wove their souls together into something grand and transcendental. I dug the spark of the divine from the souls of ten thousand Astropaths so that I could breathe the warm light of the Emperor into my creations. My work is a holy thing that shall save humanity from Chaos and xenos alike.”
“The only things that would tear apart a soul – human or xenos – are daemons. I suppose that means I am looking at one,” the Astartes captain spat.
“Perhaps,” Xethon replied before he glanced down at the dying soul stone about his neck and sighed. “Not long for this world now.”
Raising the weapon he had brought especially for the occasion, Malcolm asked, “Any last words before he purge you of your taint?”
“Yes. You can’t stop me anymore. What you feel around you is just the after effect of the release of my creations. They are already free, and they cannot be stopped by the likes of you,” Xethon said with a smile.
“Then killing you shall have to suffice,” Malcolm said, just as the last light in the soul stone faded away. Three weapons fired all at once. Three struck physically and two struck spiritually. The former Lord Inquisitor exploded and burned, both physically and spiritually as bolter, holy stake, and witch-fire consumed him. Then the trio fired again and again, mostly for spite and somewhat for thoroughness. Finally the Astartes captain slammed his hammer down upon the molten slag and ruination that remained, blowing away the gritty metal ash with the concussion.
“So ends Xethon,” Malcolm breathed out in frustration that he had been able to track down the monster sooner. He glanced at his erstwhile allies and said, “And so ends our alliance. For honour’s sake I shall not start up our prior disagreements until later.”
“The Inquisition did not act quickly enough and my hatred of xenos remains unwavering, but agreed,” the Captain replied.
The Farseer tilted his head for a moment as if in contemplation before he said, “No, the skein remains too tangled by Xethon’s interference. I cannot say what the future shall bring of our conflicts, so I too shall let honour decide. Our assistance and need of assistance is at an end. We leave. Know that past association shall be no salvation in the future.”
“Same,” both once-humans agreed simultaneously. Then all three glanced about and decided that there was nothing in this place not worth burning with atomic fire from orbit.
Far across the galaxy on a feudal world, the son of a now dead peasant farmer faced down against a rapacious member of the Eldar with nothing more than his bare fists. The Wych gladly let him try, just to savour his suffering as she mockingly dodged his flailing before disembowelling him.
Abruptly, something in the equation changed.
It was hard to tell which of the two was more surprised when he effortlessly, impossibly caught the monomolecular blade between his fingers without drawing blood. By default the boy was more surprised by what happened next, seeing as the Wych only had a fraction of a heartbeat to notice that her head had come loose from her neck from being punched.
Across the galaxy the creations of unparalleled genius and madness began to perform their function.
I love learning. Teach me. I will listen.
You know, if Christian dogma included a ten-foot tall Jesus walking around in battle armor and smashing retarded cultists with a gaint mace, I might just convert - Noble Ire on Jesus smashing Scientologists