The Birth of Decay
A pustule burst, rank ichor leaking out, leaving an ugly smear of pus in its wake. Flegmus grunted, rubbing a swollen finger over it. Immediately, a new infestation evolved in the open sore, bubbling outwards. The smell was horrendous, glorious. He allowed himself a rare pleasure, wafting the rotten aroma in, savoring it.
Overcoming his momentary self-indulgence, he acknowledged the other being occupying the small chamber, “You requested my presence, Blighted One?” He bowed as much as his corpulent frame would allow, his trim and muscular build long since replaced by a maggot infested mass of decay.
Horgal nodded lazily, as though noticing the plague marine for the first time. “Yes, I suppose I did.” His voice was a barely comprehensible gurgle, viscous fluids bubbling from his distended jowls with every word. “It has been brought to my attention that you want to conduct a mission into the realm of the Corpse God. Is this true?”
Flegmus nodded emphatically, droplets of ooze casting about with each movement. “Aye, Lord, this is true. The Lord of Decay has spoken to me.”
The champion of the warband regarded him, jaundiced eyes seeing into his soul. “If the Grandfather demands, so we must provide.” He leaned forward in his throne, pops from his putrefied flesh separating itself from the rotten dais echoing throughout the chamber. “Tell me, what do you require?”
Flegmus smiled, “Time, my Lord. All I need is time.”
The boy ran through the forlorn streets, abandoned of any signs of life. A fungus had taken hold, rancid green tendrils seemed to reach for him as he passed. It drooped from vacant balconies, climbed once resplendent pillars. Those same pillars were now rotten, crumbling. Rubble littered the alleys and thoroughfares alike; the very foundations of the hive were decaying.
Crunch. The boy had stepped on a dead bird, cracking the brittle bones beneath his feet. The crushed body clung on, the fetid seepage from the plague ridden avian sticking eagerly to the bare skin. Tears streamed down his face, streaking grime caked on his cheeks.
He scanned hollow eyes down a darkened alley, saw no indication of activity, and turned down it. The lumiglobes had gone out, days?, before. The boy could not tell for certain; the hive city had always been shrouded by perpetual smog, and the star hardly ever cast its light this far down. Time had no meaning, just an endless journey to nowhere.
A hanging vine brushed against his shoulder, polyps rupturing and spraying him with fetid ooze. There was nothing left, he had not been able to cry in almost as long as he could recall. He imagined that he had cried himself dry, and it had done him no good before. He remembered crying, but none of what he had once wept about seemed important. Nothing was important, just surviving.
He had to grow up, be like Papa, be a man. Frustration rose up within him, threatening to overwhelm him. He knew he was no man, just a small boy, lost and alone in the big city.
Papa. Leaping over a rancid, frothing stream, the boy thought back to his father. It had been a lifetime ago since he had seen the man, kneeling over his bed with his mother. He had been smiling, then, down at his son. It was morning, the boy remembered, and his parents had woken him as was their custom to prepare him for his day in the schola.
It had been morning, but the sun had not shined in through the windows. The morning had been dark, the sky had been sick. His father was smiling and his mother was beaming, lighting the dull morning with her love. Then it had all gone…wrong.
He paused to catch his breath. Although he was thin and wiry, quite in shape for a boy of his age, he could not run forever in this polluted air. It hung heavy around him, weighed him down. He could feel the moisture in the air, something that he had not felt, before. Before the morning without light, the last morning with his parents.
His lungs gulped greedily at the putrid air, filling themselves with airborne toxins that saturated the very atmosphere. He could feel them, fighting to get in, find an opening. He would not let them get in.
Mama. He remembered her face, crowned by her chestnut hair. It was a tainted memory, as the only thing he could remember was that day, the Last Day. The window in his room had been open, a warm sickly breeze penetrated it and permeated the house, filling it with a sweet, nauseating smell. His mother had looked towards the window, the dim green air tossing her hair gently in a breeze, as his father sometimes did with his fingers and they were getting all…kissy.
Her face…he remembered her face with horrifying clarity. Just as the wind, the unholy and tainted gust, touched her soft skin, it transformed her. Her pale complexion darkened, dark veins pulsing along her skin, pumping some unseen contagion into her. She had broken out into sores, expanding like bubbles and finally rupturing. She had turned back to him, her eyes wide with horror.
The boy remembered crying, then. Tears had streamed down his face, back when he could still cry, at seeing his mother like that. Her face began pulsating as it… transformed…
She had reached up, running her hand along her horrified features, only to have her fingers rot and fall off at the touch, leaving only brown nubs of decayed bones protruding from rapidly festering nubs. Her eyes widened as the orbs collapsed on themselves, oozing out of the sockets as a fungus spread, covering the undulating layer of skin.
He had torn his eyes from his mother, rotting from within, to his father. His back was arched at an unnatural angle, facing the ceiling and his mouth agape in a silent scream. Mold spewed from his lips, pumping gouts of spores into the air, an impossible amount… covering the room…
Leaning forward, the boy vomited. He hated thinking of that day, it had been hell. No, it had been worse. He had sworn to himself then to survive, at all costs. He had cast his thoughts to the heavens and beyond, swearing to anything that would just let him live, sparing him from the horrific fate of his parents.
The boy ran on, the phantoms of his own thoughts chasing him, gaining ground.
Flegmus strode at the fore of his retinue, glorious warriors of the Grandfather. The street sucked at his every step, glorious decay and the corpses of the rotten dead littered the roadways. His pestilence had struck this world without mercy or limitation. Not a single human, animal, or microbe had escaped its insatiable wrath.
“Blathius,” he instructed one of his henchmen, “gather the Fleshbearers, have them scour the streets. They know what to search for.” At this, one of his personal guard peeled off, marching to the mob of ghouls behind them.
Inhaling deeply, tasting the corruption in the air, Flegmus could not help but be pleased. The contagion had ripped this world to its very core, no living thing was untouched by the holy caress of Nurgle. His God was satisfied in his works, of this he was sure. Jellion Prime was a monument to the implacable and inevitable conquest by the forces of the Lord of All.
If he were human, or even Astartes, he might have felt hope then. Hope that his machinations had come to full fruition, and that this journey had not been for naught. This world served a purpose, for him, for the Death Guard, and for the Grandfather.
Now if only he could find it…
Sleep was a rarity. It was not for lack of fatigue, his every muscle was sore, his bones weary. It was not for need of shelter; in a deserted city there was no shortage of refuge.
The nightmares were what kept him awake at night, or during what he thought was night.
Images of his parents, morbidly coming apart before him as he lay in bed, haunted his every moment. During his waking hours, he was able to fend off the memories, to distract and distance himself from them.
They caught him while he slept.
Sleep was not an event he looked forward to, not anymore. Before, he had been tucked into bed by his parents, been given a kiss on his forehead by his mother before they turned off the lumiglobes. Now, he closed his eyes and he saw her, her flesh erupting in ruin.
Despite his apprehension, he hid now beneath a ground-car, its bulky form crashed into a wall even as its driver exploded in a burst of pus and fungi. A hand lay nearby, attached to a moss in the shape of a fallen person. A big person, by the looks of it.
He was hungry. A proper meal was impossible to come by, everything was tainted. Corruption covered everything; maggot infestations thrived in the food supplies and the grain stores. Nothing was left…nothing but…
No. He would not do that. It was unthinkable, a low that, even in his debased state, he would not sink to.
A growl rumbled through him as his stomach twisted.
Thinking of food had been a mistake. The knotting in his gut intensified, he knew starvation was close. He would die, and soon, if he did not eat. His eyes wandered again…to the hand.
Slowly, reluctantly, he reached out to it, grabbing a hold to the outstretched fingers. He pulled lightly but the hand would not budge. Another tug, harder this time, separated it from the sucking ooze it rested upon. Threads of rotting algae trailed below it, tendrils of decay grasping, seeking.
He whimpered, softly, as he brought the hand to his face. The smell of it was beyond nauseating, it was foul past any description. Fighting back the urge to vomit, he opened his mouth, bringing the hand closer… closer…
He sunk his teeth into it, the soft flesh easily giving way to his incisors. Again, his stomach tried to rebel against him, but he set his will against it and began chewing, feeling the wet popping of the growths as they burst in his mouth.
For the first time in…weeks? …the boy cried. But he kept eating, kept feasting upon the remains of the dead, because he had to live.
He was still immobile, curled in a ball, sobbing, when he heard it. A distinctive crunch, the sound of something heavy moving across the sea of corpses, echoed in the man-made canyon. Something was coming.
“Lord, the auspex is detecting a single life-form in fifty meters,” one of his coterie gurgled, “underneath the wrecked ground-car.”
Flegmus pointed a bloated finger at the vehicle, “Move the car, time to retrieve the prize below.” Anticipation would have filled him, were he a human. As a servant of Nurgle, he merely smiled in what some may have interpreted as a jovial manner.
His two cohorts moved swiftly to the wreckage, hoisting it easily overhead and tossing it aside. Below it laid a boy, a human child, no more than ten years of age. He was filthy, curled in a foetal position, and untouched by the plague that had so thoroughly ravished his world.
The Death Guard’s sickly smile widened as he approached the boy, revealing rows of jaundiced teeth, dripping with a rancid drool. The boy refused to look at the hulking Chaos Marine, tightening into his human ball. Flegmus laughed, a horrid bubbling rumble, and knelt at the boy’s side. “You,” he said, a slight whistle emitting from his fractured teeth, “how are you alive? How has my pestilence not smitten you like the rest of this pathetic world?”
The child still did not move, refusing to meet the pestilent gaze of the Traitor. Undeterred in his curiosity, in his hope, Flegmus poked a swollen digit into the boy’s shoulder, “I am talking to you, boy. How is it you have come to survive, when the very world around you decays into nothingness, into chaos?”
Finally, grudgingly the boy lifted his head, “I will not die.” Having broken his silence, the boy continued, his voice gaining strength, “My mama and papa died, they got sick and fell apart.”
Yes, the strength is in this one. A self satisfied shutter ran through Flegmus’s body, splattering effluence around him. “Tell me more, boy. Why are you alive?”
“Because I made a promise!” Stronger even now, the boy’s voice shouted out, resonating through the abandoned streets, echoing hollowly. “I heard the voice, and it said it would keep me alive! I told him I would do anything!” Tears began flowing freely now down the boy’s face, the realisation of his own heinous acts coming to the fore.
Flegmus felt the flutter of excitement building in his chest, I have found one. “Who was it? Who was this voice that came to you? What was his name?”
The boy halted a moment, as though he was unsure as to how to answer. “He called himself the Grandfather.”
Yessssss. He had succeeded, at least once. That meant there would be more. Flegmus stretched his hand forward, taking the boy’s, “Come with me, young one. I serve your Grandfather as well. I shall grant you the opportunity to repay his generosity.”
Staring into the twisted beauty of the Warp, Flegmus’s self-satisfaction did not fade. The world of Jellion Prime had died, and with it billions of people. All had fallen to his plague, his beautiful creation, his virus of utter perfection.
All but fifteen.
A world of over ten billion human beings, reduced to fifteen worthy souls. All fifteen had pledged themselves, either wittingly or otherwise, to the Grandfather, to the Lord of Decay. They sat now in the holding chamber, awaiting the beginning of their training, of their induction.
The Death Guard had its newest recruits.
Last edited by Boc; 05-26-10 at 09:14 PM.