Bile the Eviscerator looked up from the glowing Hololithic map of the Haxtes battle front, projecting from the chart table and turned his attention to the Death Guard who had entered the command post.
T’kin knelt at a respectful distance his bare head bowed, sloughs of leathery brown skin hanging limply and exposing portions of yellowing skull beneath. The kiss of the Blight Grenade he had used to fell one of the bastard sons of the false Emperor, a Librarian no less had left him some pleasing trophy scars.
“Have they secured the item?”
Bile enquired taking up a rusting iron goblet from the table and swilling its thick curdled contents beneath his nose.
T’kin looked up at his new commander with milky cataract eyes.
“Indeed they have M’Lord and all preparations have been made as prescribed by the heretics.”
Bile snorted a laugh and took a gulp from the goblet.
“Our new friends unsettle you Brother?”
T’kin considered his words carefully before replying.
“I do not question orders M’Lord, your will is that of our blessed Fathers; the brief pact with the sorcerers was a sound tactic and enabled us to make planet fall. But these hedonistic wretches offend me; they know nothing of discipline and seek only to further their own depraved pleasure.” T’kin almost spat at the thought.
Bile finished his drink, swallowing the wriggling bloated maggot nestled in the dregs and setting the goblet down; he strode over to T’kin who still knelt in observance.
“Your loyalty does you credit Brother, but you must learn to think bigger.”Bile placed his massive clawed hands upon T’kin’s pauldrons.
“These harlots have their uses and if we secure their patrons power to ours we will be a force like no other. Remember the pure truth is that Death smiles on all mortals. With the boon these cultists of the Prince of Excess have brought us, we will sow such destruction as to bring great joy to the Plague Father and be placed foremost in his affections.”
Bile lifted T’kin to his feet; the massive frame of the fallen Astarte was still dwarfed by his commander’s ogre like bulk and he craned his neck to meet his eye.
“I personally charge you with overseeing this mission Brother; go now and see it done.” Bile rumbled.
T’kin nodded his assent, turned and made his way out of the command post.
Bile returned to the chart table ordering a mangled servitor to refill his goblet and tugging idly at the new gold ring piercing already tarnishing in the necrotic flesh of his chest.
The ground was churned mud, pock marked with craters brimming with stagnant water; here and there lay the bloated, rotting corpses of the bastions defenders. Many more were strung up around the walls, their festering and ruptured skin carved with chaotic runes; grim offerings to the Lord of Decay that swayed slowly in the wind or danced a macabre jig as carrion birds flapped and tugged at their remains. The constant drone of flies filled the air, punctuated by the squawk of the bickering birds and the dull rumble of far away guns.
Near the blasted gate house sat a Mk I Rhino, its rusting hull decorated with vicious spikes and heavy chains bearing the skulls and armour of many different enemies, trophies from countless conflicts. As T’kin approached its lowered rear boarding ramp and donned his helmet; the Rhino’s engines coughed to life and thick black smoke belched from its quad exhausts. His squad of fellow Death Guard was already seated inside checking weapons and stowing equipment; his second Virchow lent against one of the ramps grease encrusted pistons, playing his serrated bayonet across the forehead of a decapitated human head.
“Orders?” Virchow asked looking up from his grizzly work.
T’kin paused on the ramp, one hand resting on the upper hatch sill.
“We allow the perfumed freaks to activate they’re damnable device.”He replied dejectedly.
“Hmph.” Was all his second mustered in response.
T’kin turned his visor towards Virchow and then looked down at the head.
“Anyone we know?”He asked absently.
“The local Imperial Commissar, stubborn to the last, not like these weak willed PDF cattle.” Virchow finished carving an inverted Aquila in the sallow flesh; he then reached up and thrust the head onto a spike with a sickening crunch.
“Hail the Emperor.” T’kin laughed coldly and ducked inside the Rhino, Virchow followed chuckling and the ramp groaned shut securing with a dull clang as the Rhino shuddered forward on its clanking tracks.
An hour’s jarring ride through the shattered rural remains of north east Haxtes District brought T’kin’s squad to the sprawling Octus Chemical Plant. Its ochre stained Manufactorum’s consumed miles of the Haxtes countryside; a forest of cooling towers and soot encrusted chimneys sprouting like cancerous growths from the contaminated wasteland caused by the plants presence.
The shattered outer habs of the plant workers were being fortified by chained slave parties of their former residents. The wretched lines of dust covered, emaciated prisoners worked silently under the heartless gaze of their Chaos task masters.
The Rhino entered the plant proper and was soon swallowed up amongst the labyrinth of overhead pipe work and walkways. It came to a halt at the base of one of the massive cooling towers that curved up over eighty levels into the fume filled sky.
“Already they think themselves equal.” He hissed to Virchow on his Vox as the lead cultists beckoned them inside.
They entered a low arched tunnel in the base of the tower, constructed of bare red brick, caged sodium lamps set at intervals along the right wall cast a sickly glow and patches of algae glistened around cracked mortar. The automated noise from the plant outside was soon silenced by the thick dripping walls; only to be replaced by the faint sounds of music and revelry from up ahead.
After a few minutes brisk walk the group reached an iron hatch, streaked with rust and furred yellow crystalline growths. The music, if one could use such a word to describe the cacophony, was much louder now; the lead cultist placed his bejeweled hand on a wheel mounted in the centre of the door and cocked his shaven, tattooed head a moment to listen. He looked gleefully around at T’kin and licked his lips with a forked tongue.
“We are ready.” He crooned, grasping the wheel with bony fingers sporting long painted nails, he turned it three revolutions, causing the metal to screech.
The locks of the door clunked open and the door swung inwards; a throbbing nonsensical wall of sound washed over the group, knocking the fetid breath from them and causing their senses to swim. T’kin noted through watering eyes that grubs were squirming from beneath his armour and pattering to the floor where they joined a living carpet showering from the rest of his men, which rippled away back along the tunnel.
They stepped out onto an iron walkway that curved away in both directions around the inner circumference of the tower; several feet below them was the stone floor of the tower, but this was hidden by the writhing mass of human flesh as hundreds of Slaanesh cultists cavorted upon a tide of silk throws and mountains of cushions. Amongst them caged slaves were subjected to unspeakable agonies as the frenzied pleasure seekers sated themselves; blazing braziers lit the scene and cast giant leaping and dancing shadows up the tower wall’s, the air was thick with cloying incense and the aroma of spiced wine.
At the very centre of the drunken and drugged revelers stood a white marbled pyramid rising ten feet from its base and capped with gold, it functioned as a suspensor device holding aloft a black obelisk a further six feet in height and two feet across. The obelisk’s surface was etched in intricately woven silver channels. Their snaking patterns merged and coalesced in multi dimensions, floating about and through the device but at the same time remaining solid and carved in its smooth surface which was as dark and cold as Old Night. Both ends were capped in silver pyramids engraved with corrupted Eldar runes which writhed and transformed as they recounted blasphemies. For a mortal to barely glance upon this ancient and powerful device was to invite madness; T’kin regarded it with a mix of awe and revulsion, doubts about Lord Bile’s orders once again surfaced in his mind.
The gathering seemed to be reaching a crescendo, the music and cries surging faster and faster to fever pitch; T’kin’s head span and he grasped the rail to steady himself.
To his left the lead cultist was grinning at him lasciviously, his right hand inside his flowing robes and the glint of metal from within the folds.
“Arms!” T’kin bellowed through his squads Vox link.
His hand flew to his bolt pistol, whipping it up and leveling it at the leering face; at the same instant the cultist lunged at him drawing a long curved blade and thumbing a control stud on the hilt. The blade barely had time to hum to life as the bolt pistol barked, delivering a single high explosive bullet at point blank range. The cultist’s face was monochrome for a fleeting moment, lit by the white muzzle flash and then it exploded in a bloom of pink mist.
As the last echo of gunfire subsided, T’kin noted that the music had ceased; his attention turned to the silent masses below, all were looking towards him, a crazed hunger in their eyes. A low almost inaudible hum was issuing from the obelisk and it had begun to turn very slowly on its axis. A darkly glinting droplet floated by his visor, then two more, then a dozen or so; he glanced down and saw that the freshly smeared blood of the cultist was flowing up the dented metal of his breast plate; dripping away in defiance of gravity in slowly spinning gobbets towards the ancient device. All around blood from the other bodies was doing the same.
Virchow suddenly gave a shout of warning and his bolter blazed, punching into a group of revelers who had climbed the gantries railings. Another Death Guard was not so alert and flailing hands grabbed at him pitching his armoured bulk off over the walkway and into the crowd below. The frenzied mass tore into him and despite felling many, his struggling form was eventually lost beneath the baying mob.
“Orders?” Virchow echoed his question of earlier that day.
“Kill them! Kill them all!” Snarled T’kin without hesitation.
As the hordes of Slaanesh advanced the Death Guard spread out along the walkway, creating a crescent wall of explosive, fiery death that wave after wave punished and broke themselves on; seemingly eager to meet their deaths. The chamber was now filled with the beat of battle, the booming report of the bolters and the rapid clack as their actions recycled; the almost delicate jingle of ejected casings as they cascaded smoking to the floor.
Bodies ruptured and blew apart in a gory dance lit by the strobe lighting of the muzzle flashes. All the while tides of blood washed back through the smoke wreathed air and onto the now rapidly spinning obelisk, the crimson rain pattered on its surface and formed rivulets that ran along the silver channels, feeding its dark power.
As the last of the cultists died upon the ramp of mangled flesh that had formed under the Death Guard’s firing positions; the obelisk emitted a thunderous hoot, like the war horns of a Titan, the noise shook the very foundations of the tower and caused dust to cascade from the inner walls.
The top and bottom caps of the device began to open like the metal petals of a music box and golden lightning arced across the chamber exploding brickwork and slicing through metal railings; a tendril caressed one of T’kin’s men and he was instantly turned to fire.
“Fall back!” Ordered T’kin and they began to back out into the tunnel.
T’kin was last out, pulling the heavy door closed just in time as another lethal bolt of energy crackled towards them. The door buckled and a molten scar marked the lightning’s course across its far side.
They hurried up the tunnel, its lamps flickering, pieces of masonry falling from the ceiling and clanging off their armour. Another hoot shook the ground as they stumbled outside; as one they turned to gaze back up at the cooling tower, even the blood daubed symbols had been greedily sucked through the brickwork by the device, leaving only a faint brown stained outline of dried remnants.
“Nurgle’s breath. What have we done?” Virchow rasped.
T’kin continued to watch the Warp distorted sky.
“Completed our mission, Brother....as we always do.”
Pictures featured 'Death Guard' by PabelBilly, 'Thuropsis Warlock of Nurgle' by Graphite Dream, 'Cultist of Slaanesh' by Mark Molnar, 'Chaos Cult' by Skirill