andygorn - Unveiled
"So, how would you describe my effigy to our latest triumph, Brother Feran?"
Halex watched his comrade in arms for signs of trepidation or fear.
Casting a critical eye over the piece, Feran responded: "The shading is crude and too basic - there are areas too touched by darkness...that should not be with a figure of our glorious Primarch."
"Good, you seem to grasp the essence of the work...it is unfinished of course, yet I always seek critique from my peers. How proceed your own travails?"
Although genuinely interested, Halex could no longer keep an acid tone from his voice; the deadline approached and pride was everything...to be "second" meant "being last".
Casting aside a dirt-smeared cloth fascia from the nearby table, Feran revealed his own art: Halex could not contain his discomfort at the work and baulked at the sight of the offal-pile presented to his eyes.
"You would...gift this..this thing...to our Lord?"
Halex inquired incredulously, coughing as the stench assailed his nostrils, even through his autosenses.
Feran snorted arrogantly: "Of course, Halex! This is the artifice of many years, each item arranged alphabetically and then in order of size. Can you not see it's perfection?"
It was one of the most debased things he had ever seen (let alone for it to be classed as any kind of gift apart from to swine). This would be a sheer insult to their Lord and Master.
Trying to cast an objective view over the steaming piles of meat, Halex used the brief lessons he had overseen in the apothecarion to judge the "work".
Perhaps it was his inner competitive nature, or maybe he was just looking for any excuse to avert his gaze, but he seized upon the opportunity to discredit his fellow entrant: "If they are alphabetically arranged, you have got some of these incorrect; 'eyes' should go after 'cranial sections', not before...even a novitiate should understand that concept....your usual standards are slipping, Brother."
Feran gave a toothy smile in return "You mistake the point of the organisation altogether, Halex, but you will...one time soon..."
and walked away, leaving the cuts to dribble redly onto the once-pristine marble of their crafting chamber.
Seeing no other option, Halex put the covering back over the remains, yet the sight had troubled him deeply. That night, even the somno-inducers could not assuage his restlessness: no stranger to gore, there was something "other" about his comrade's offering that set his teeth to grinding and unbidden shapes to flit at the edges of his vision.
Unable to rest, his memory kept replaying over and over the bloody mass which had been so casually heaped before him:
'What could possibly be thought of as a gift? How could anyone in their right mind appreciate such gobbets?'
Then he suddenly felt a twitch of realisation: there had been a glint of metal in amongst the mound of entrails...perhaps Feran had mislaid it and even now walked the corridors in search of it?
Returning to the artisan quarters, he lifted up the grime-stained covering.
Although only several hours had intervened, the pile now seemed to be bigger than before, but he paid it little attention, sinking his fingers into flesh, thankful the armoured gauntlets prevented him from feeling all the sensations of being wrist-deep in body-parts.
Scattering several pieces to the floor, his fingers finally found purchase upon hard metal..wiping off most of the detritus, he pulled out a small metal disc engraved with two heads.
Astartes had no need for money, so perhaps it was an item crafted by Feran between battles? Surely such an item was valuable and worth returning?
He found his friend's dormitory uncharacteristically bathed in shadow; calling out the name, Halex heard a somewhat unwelcoming reply from the darkness: "I am in session with my muse, who goes there?"
"Feran? This is Halex, I think you left something behind and need it returning.."
the voice enquired, uncharacteristically dispassionate. "Bring it here and I shall peruse..."
Halex was unused to attending inside other's chambers...this was something which always seemed to be 'an intrusion too far', especially amongst their Legion, who valued their supremacy and individuality, even (and perhaps especially?) when measured against comrades.
His footsteps clomped across the floor, then suddenly there was a *squish* at contact with something yet unseen.
Halex had strangled Ogryns with his bare hands, yet something about this room made even him fearful to look down at the unnameable thing which he had trodden in.
Concentrating upon the task in hand, he passed the coin to his friend, eager to do his duty and be away from the place.
Feran turned on a lamp and his outstretched gloved hand glistened. His eyes widened ever-so-slightly in recognition at the proffered disc, then displayed a feign of ignorance.
"Where did you find this trinket?"
"You mislaid it in your 'artwork' my friend."
Halex replied quickly, the speed of his voice betraying his eagerness to be away.
"No, I didn't discard it, but I have seen it's likeness somewhere else..."
"Where? Upon that last claimed world? Those savages possessed no metal"
Halex laughed deridingly.
"I love you like a brother, Halex, but I cannot say."
Feran paused, as though expecting a reply, yet Halex seemed confused at the lack of further explanation.
Feran shook his head, turning away to hide his sorrowful look:
"It pains me, but my muse calls once again, please leave. Now!"
Turning slowly, still confused, Halex slowly left the dormitory...perhaps now sleep could return and his friend would be sufficiently recovered in the morning to resume their conversation?
He did not hear the squelch of quick footsteps behind him, nor did his brain register threat until his head was pulled back and serrated blades delved into his carotid artery; no time to even gasp in pain.
Hauling the corpse to his workbench, Feran continued his artistry.
Later that month, Feran revealed his latest work to a baying crowd who revelled in their depravity; little more than beasts-in-armour than formerly proud Astartes.
At their centre: a Living God, basking in adulation and delighted screams...one whose fall abased him even more than those of all the lesser minions combined.
Picking up a selection of oozing morsels, Fulgrim's soul-spearing voice enquired: "...and these? What are they supposed to be?"
Feran's voice trembled with barely-suppressed delight:
"I call them gifts of obedience worthy only of your majesty. In order, I name those particular ones: Acastus Ultramarine, Bellegeren Iron Hand, Garen Salamander, Halex Emperor's Child."
The Astartes howled in triumph once again; Legionnaires and Primarch.