(a small segment of a larger story I'm currently writing. This section written specifically to this prompt. 1098 words, by my count)
"Tell me, inquisitor," said her captor, his gravelly voice ringing down from above, "why do your methods diverge so greatly from those of your peers? Most inquisitors that I have encountered with whom I have crossed paths have been obsessed, to a degree, with a achieving… gracefulness."
Ediad shifted, wincing as her broken ankles flared into sharp sparks of agony. The raw pit of hunger at her stomach worried away at her as well. The raw, natural rock cell in which she sat opened only at the top, where her tormenter looked down on her. In the darkness, she could only pick out his hulking silhouette. "Why don't you shut up, you khelk-scrubbing heretic?"
The figure looming at the hole tutted with mock sincerity. "Come now, inquisitor, I've found myself rather starved for conversation these past few centuries, besides. You need must sing if you want your supper. It's not like I have anywhere else to go."
Ediad gritted her teeth and fought to clear the forefront of her mind. Centuries, eh? If her captor were willing to reveal more such details, she might be able to get a clearer idea of just who and what he really was. Still, the hanging mention was all too clearly bait, and she didn't care to think where he would reel her after he set the hook. "Can't say," she grunted. "It's never been my style."
A bark of laughter. "No indeed. Your approach had all the subtlety of a charging grox."
"Only a fool conflates the subtle and the graceful," she sneered. "You might as well lump in cleverness and claim all three rely on each other."
Another harsh laugh. "What is grace, then, but the subtle execution of cleverness?There are words for subtlety that is born from a lack of cleverness; a failure to conceptualize," her captor said. "Luck. Irony. I don't put my faith in such things."
"And here thought your creed professed a distinct faithlessness," she said.
"My, my!" crowed the silhouette. "How quickly you grasp for my identity and profess to know me!"
"You gave it away yourself," she replied. "Centuries. It's been three hundred and forty years since your kind orchestrated the Morrashar Insurrections, traitor."
Laughter, again. "How quickly I forget the joys of conversation. So easy to slip into a patterned life and let the years slip by, in this darkness."
A scraping at the entrance and the silhouette shifted, pooling forward to land heavily in the cell. His landing scattered a number of human bones across the chamber floor. One landed beside Ediad: it has been gnawed bare and split so that the marrow could be sucked out, and relatively recently. Pangs shot through her gut. It must have been days since she'd last eaten, by now.
The massive, muscular man came forward, and Ediad could see the profusion of scars that criss-crossed his naked skin--scars marked by regular impressions where the man, or superhuman, had apparently torn out the implants of his black carapace. His every movement that of the consummate predator.
"Yes," he said, all smiles with a mouthful of rotten tooth-stumps, "I am one of the Traitor Astartes that killed the Archbishop. A shame that we were scattered and I, my armor damaged beyond repair, was forced to hide in these tunnels. I have come to rather appreciate this labyrinth, though. There is a simplicity of predator and prey, here in this domain where I am king. No armies clashing; no ideological debates carried out with bullet and blade. The only thing I miss is the occasional… conversation."
"Why grace?" she asked. He quirked his brow quizzically, dredging the expression up from centuries of disuse and delighting in its rediscovery. "I'll bite. Why start a conversation by mentioning grace?"
"You must understand, there are many among my elevated kind--especially the fallen variety--who see grace as wholly unnecessary thing. They call it the frippery of civilization; the excrement of society, floating as ever to the top. They see the application of brute force as the only lever by which they can
"Among the Twentieth Legion, of course, we are taught… somewhat differently."
"The Alpha Legion," Ediad breathed.
"A vain title, admittedly, but over the course of the Long War I daresay we've earned it many times over, and more often than not without your knowledge of the fact."
"Your arrogance will always be your downfall," she hissed.
"Not for as long as you lack the subtlety, the grace, if you will to recognize the true course of events.
"But I tire of these weary old arguments. They were part of the reason I welcomed this new life, here in the tunnels."
"Go rot in the warp," Ediad spat.
"Oh," he said, "but I spent millennia doing that, and less satisfied than I have been of late. There are things you wouldn't believe that exist down here; things that are older than and have no conception of humankind. Things that I hunt.
"And besides, I occasionally have guests," he said, idly kicking the skull from among the bones on the far side of the cell. It cracked off the wall and rolled to a halt near Ediad, staring accusingly at her. A hole had been punched through its back--by, she suspected, the large, blunt fingers of the superhuman opposite her. "This one begged too much. He thought wealth would buy his escape; that he could offer me passage away from here. I thought that I would rather converse with his hunters, and you came to me all too obligingly."
"Why should I talk with you?" Ediad asked. "I'm only going to end up like Spume, here, or my explicator, eventually."
"The hope of survival, perhaps? The hope to unearth some weakness? Of course I don't fear you, but I wholly expect you to make some sort of escape attempt once you've healed enough. You can only do that if you're still alive.
"And before I forge, you must keep up your strength if we're going to continue our conversations. I do hope to convert you to my point of view regarding grace. Here, your mention of your acolyte reminded me."
He backed to the hole in the roof and hauled himself out, agile despite his great bulk. From there, he turned around and heaved a scrap of something wet back into the cell.
"Do eat to your fill, madam," her captor said as he rolled the stone that capped her cell back into place.
Ediad stared at the hunk of meat sitting on the floor, altogether too aware of its origin.
What sphinx of plascrete and adamantium bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? Imperator! Imperator!
Last edited by Mossy Toes; 02-23-13 at 06:58 AM.