Hey, it's been a long while since I was last here, but I've been working on something recently I'd like to share with everyone.
I have 17 parts finished - but I'll post the first six... and then one or two at intervals... I hope you like it anyhow!
A Warhammer 40,000 story
I remember the first time I met Master Haledon. The long walk from my bed took me along chilly, wide stone corridors that made me shiver. I clasped my elbows with my hands, and rubbed at my skinny biceps. Flambeaux flickered along the length of the passageways, and cast my shadow across the red carpeted floor and cold, grainy-gray walls.
“Where are you taking me?” I asked a tall man wearing a dull brown simar who paced in front of me.
“To see the Master,” the man replied.
I cannot recall much of my early life, before the Officio Assassinorum took me under its wing and turned me into a killer. People refer to the Eversor as the Officio Assassinorum's hammer. It is an apt metaphor; we are weapons of brutal and ruthless destruction.
The Eversor guild is a place I grew to both fear and love, who gave me a purpose in life (but took that option away from me to begin with) and turned me into the bio-chemical monster I am today.
We reached a spiral staircase that rose to the heavens. I had never walked this route before. The other orphans and I had been confined to the lower echelons of the Eversor citadel. I knew where this would lead. Right to the heart of the citadel, to the master whom I'd heard whispered by the other apprentices who looked after us.
As I walked up the stairs with the tall figure pacing slowly in front of me, I stared out of the elongated windows, listening to the storm outside, and our faint footfalls on the steps. I could see the Vindicare Temple, with its many crenelated walls and minarets with golden domes. Lightning flashed and lit up bartizans spawning from the central spire. The cobalt sky sparkled with a thousand blinking stars above the Officio Assassinorum towers, and the broad mountain peaks on the horizon. My legs felt like lead weights but I could tell we were high up in the Citadel.
I remained silent for the remainder of the journey. We eventually came to stop before two ancient oak doors flanked by burning braziers. The man who led me stopped, held out his hand and knocked calmly on the great door.
Each knock echoed along the broad corridor, and I waited anxiously for a response. For a moment I was certain that the simar wearing man could hear my heartbeat, and perhaps the Master himself could hear it too.
Then the doors opened.
“Come,” said a voice. “Leave the boy with me, Merius.”
Merius, the man who had taken me up here, bowed.
“Yes, Master Haledon,” he said and gestured for me to enter the poorly lit room.
I of course hesitated. I could tell that the room was lined by tall, broad windows as I could see the glimmering stars. A figure sat bathed in the orange light provided by a solitary candle on his desk, hands arched so that his chin could rest comfortably on his knuckles.
“Come in, child,” said Master Haledon. His voice sounded like crunching gravel.
I did as I was told unconsciously, as though the Master himself had taken control of my limbs and I was merely a puppet. I paced forwards, feeling my bare feet sink into the soft carpet that stretched over the stone floor.
“What is your name?” asked Master Haledon as I neared, and stopped at the desk.
“I can't remember.”
“That is no bad thing. You shall earn a name here, little one. You have been given a rare opportunity to help save Mankind, Child, how do you feel?”
“Confused,” I answered honestly. “What is it you wish of me?”
“A great many things,” replied Master Haledon. “A great many things,” he repeated for effect.
I nodded, eyes adjusting to the darkness, and stared at Master Haledon. He was old, with pale corpse skin, and wore a white, stubbly goatee. Half his face beneath the shadow of his hood was alive with pulsating, coloured tubes and metal plates. He looked like a monster, was he going to turn me into one too?
I can only begin to describe how painful the days and years were that followed. One day, not long after I had met Master Haledon, we were woken early by Brother Talos. Talos was older than all of us, and we were his responsibility. He came in, as he always did, hands clasped together as though in prayer, flowing mud coloured simar skimming the stone floor. There was something in his expression that worried me as he rang the morning bell. I rose from my bed, which was nothing more than a tatty blanket with a hard pillow and a straw mattress set into a simple iron cot, but served me well enough, and yawned.
“Up,” he said in his strong, masculine voice.
I rubbed at my eyes, and found my feet. My friend Mathers gave me a nod, and whispered.
“What's this all about? Morning chores don't start for another watch.”
“Morning chores are cancelled today,” said Brother Talos.
“What are we doing instead?” I asked.
“Stop asking questions, novices, and follow me.”
We were led out of the room, and through many sparsely decorated chambers and corridors I had never seen, until we stopped at a black door. There were armed soldiers; broad shouldered figures wearing black skin-hugging fatigues and grim expressions. They stared at us like deadly statues, and I imagined them monsters about to spring upon us. I clenched my hands, turning them to fists just in case, no matter how foolish that was.
The door clunked as Brother Talos slid aside the iron bolt, and opened the door. We were led into a dimly lit room, where flambeaux flickered wildly on the four walls, casting orange cones of light onto a series of robust, metal chairs. Each chair had a visor on a metal arm folded in the air.
There were men in the room, one by each chair. They were dressed in black hooded robes which masked their faces with shadows. I could see the occasional white of the eye as Brother Talos led us through. I was guided to a chair near the front, and stared at a man with arms crossed who began to address us as we settled into the cold, uncomfortable seats.
“Welcome to your indoctrination,” he said coldly.
The silver bands locked over my wrists, and clamped my ankles to the chair. A few of my friends cried out in fear. Their calls were ignored, even though they thundered around the room. As I peered up, afraid, heart beating, I noticed one of the hooded men, broad of shoulder, thrust my head back against the metal rest, and slid the visor over my eyes. My world went dark for a few moments. My hearing became muffled, though I could still hear the man working on my bonds while I sat prisoner to the whim of strangers.
My sleeve was rolled up, and I could feel a firm index finger check for a dominant vein. There was a sharp sting, which I guessed was a needle, then my mind began to fog. The visor flashed to life, and sent me into convulsions as my eyes hurt, and I tried to get away. My hands and legs wriggled with what little room was left me in my cold bonds.
Then an image flashed before me, along with the gentle sounds of a voice.
'This is life,' it said. There was a picture of a green planet that looked like a glowing marble in the void of space. 'Death reigns here supreme,' the voice said again. A picture of a mutilated human corpse flashed briefly, and flickered to other dead animals and people.
I remember the first image that appeared from the white void of my visor clearly now, even after all these years. He was young, maybe a few years older than me, but still a child. His mouth was open, along with his dead eyes that had begun to rot, and had already been picked at by the birds. The flesh was decaying; the pallor of rotting milk.
Then the voice faded and was replaced by a screeching noise that attacked my ears like a virus attacks the body. I shivered, and clawed at the arm-rests of my chair with my hands, and dug my feet firmly onto the cold rest.
A series of images flashed before my eyes that made me scream. I was certain they could hear me, but I didn't care. This wasn't normal. The drugs began to calm me however, until I stopped screaming, and simply watched pictures and war-footage for the next few hours. This was the brutal truth of Indoctrination. What more was to come?
These sessions lasted for many hours, and many months. They told us the drugs they pumped into our system was preparing our minds for the struggles ahead, while the images were also a part of the reality of life. All they seemed to do was cause chaos and confusion. At times I felt like I didn't know the difference between being awake, and asleep. The drugs distorted my mind so that even when I checked my open eyes, and found them wide, I could not tell if I was in some evil warped dream. My very thought processes changed ever slowly to what they wanted me to become. As I stared up at the ceiling from my bed, fatigued and pale, stomach rumbling, I wondered just what was happening to me. For the first time since the Officio Assassinorum had taken me in, supplied me with a warm and 'safe' place to live with friends, I felt completely lost.
“Are you awake, Stone?” I heard my friend, Mathers, whisper across from his bed. His voice disturbed a few sleepers, though many of the other twelve children in the room were wide awake too.
They had nicknamed me Stone (as I couldn't recall my own name) for my great ability at the game we played against the wall with what little we could find to entertain us. The trick was to toss a small stone at the wall, and make it land on a target on the floor marked out by a small square of white chalk. My shots were uncannily accurate, and I recall a few harsh words from my jealous group that made me disliked.
Mathers pushed himself from his bed, and rested his head against an outstretched arm.
“I don't like it here,” he whispered.
“Me neither,” I replied.
He flicked over a modest piece of bread that landed on my chest.
“I stole it from the kitchen,” he replied, a mischievous glint to his eyes.
I could see the beam of light that stretched towards us from high on the wall, through our single window. I took a bite of the bread and found it stale. I chomped on it till I could managed to swallow some, and stared at the light with black-rimmed eyes.
“It is almost the first watch,” Mathers said. I could detect the trace of fear in his voice.
First watch, I was sent to the library on the lowest level of our tower. Brother Talos wanted a series of books for us to read, and had given me a list on a single length of discoloured paper. I could read Gothic well, having been taught by Brother Talos. The whole group would sit and listen and write in our bedroom as Brother Talos sat behind the desk, marking the blackboard with our next task.
I had never been into the library proper, though I had crept across the long hall upon my explorations. The walls were covered by hanging portraits of long dead men, wearing silly, elegant clothes and ridiculous feathered hats. I guess it was the fashion in this part of the Segmentum Pacificus centuries ago.
My sandalled feet slapped the cold stone floor, and echoed eerily up to the library doors. An inscription lay above the oak doors, fixed to the wall on a polished, golden plaque and read, 'Cave ab homine unius libri' – Beware of anyone who has just one book.
I knocked on the door with three swift strikes using my knuckles, and waited for an answer.
As I waited, I studied the golden motes etched into the surface of the wood that glowed against the lantern I held in my hand.
The door opened and revealed a musty room that smelt of old books and unwashed bodies. The library was a section left to Master Gale, an old member of the Officio Assassinorum whom had retired from busy life transforming children into beasts, and instead, chose to supply those willing to learn with a collection of books that had taken centuries to amass.
“What have we here?” muttered a stooped man in a dark purple simar. His hood was down, and revealed a shiny bald head, with stringy white hair falling from the level of his ears to his skiny shoulders. He studied me with gray eyes. “Ah, a child with enough left in his head to acquire books. Tell me, Child, why do you bother? The Officio Assassinorum will warp your mind till the only thing you're concerned about is the death of the Emperor's enemies. What good will books do you when you are pumped with enough drugs to kill a bear?”
I couldn't answer, and shrugged.
“I was told to fetch some books from you,” I said, and held out the list. “Can you help me find them?”
Master Gale snatched the paper from my hand.
“Hold up the light, boy,” he demanded, squinting his eyes as he studied the paper. “Ah, good books here. Come in, come in.” Master Gale stepped away from the door, turned his back at me and gestured the aisles and aisles of books that stood in shadowy lines across the length of the room.
“Principles of an Assassin, always good when that's the profession you are being prepared for. Litany of Faith, I'm sure you'll be needing this when you're clinging to your sanity.” He chuckled an unnerving laugh that flashed across the room as though the walls themselves repeated his mirth. “Now, where by the Damned Warp, did I put them?” He wandered about the floor, and I tried to follow him. I seemed only to become a new problem for Master Gale, as he entered an aisle, me in trail, only to quickly turn and find a small barricade of innocent flesh preventing his escape.
“Stand over there, and stop following me about like some sheep, though a sheep you obviously are,” said Master Gale.
I did as I was told, and assumed a statuesque position at the centre of the room, and watched him enter another five aisles before I heard a cry of pleasure, and Master Gale emerged with the four books.
He stopped before me with a smile, told me to blow out the candle and place it on the floor, and thrust the volumes into my arms. I began to feel the strain of the weight before I'd even moved.
“Get going,” said Master Gale.
Once again, I did as I was told, and left the chamber quickly. I heard the door shut behind me, and looked up at the plaque on the wall again. It was weird, I thought, the message had changed. Now it read, 'Corpus Vile' - Worthless Body. Had I just misread the Gothic in the dark, or was my vulnerable mind playing tricks on me? I rushed off to deliver Brother Talos his books.
There are a number of drugs that can be injected into the body with little pain. I could feel my stamina increase as time went by, not through simple exercise, which was part of my daily routine (I'd run seven miles a day circuits across the citadel) but through the drug called Spur, which was injected into my bloodstream via a long needle to my temple. The drug increases physical performance, though may cause injury, which I had seen on several occasions. To boost my strength outside of weights I was given Gamma Æ. For endurance, Satrophine and Rage, two cocktails that deposited blue and green toxins into my body.
I was a walking drug with wide irises like dark pools. Master Cobile, the instructor charged with our physical training, and Doctor Hexor, the resident dealer of poison, told us the dangers of these drugs the Eversor sought to use to improve combat effectiveness. For example, the drug Reflex increases reaction time, but also increases suggestion and vulnerability to psychic attack. The drug Psychon increases strength by adrenaline manipulation, though places the user in an uncontrollable rage. It was always give or take.
The drugs could be used in any order, though they suggested we only inject ourselves with five at a time. Out of thirty odd stimulants, we had a wide array of choice.
I was more curious than afraid when I was shown the effects of the drugs on a real field agent.
“My name is Eversor Adept Tyse,” said a tall man my class was introduced to on a particularly stormy evening. I remember the night well as it was to be my first glimpse of what I was to become. A first glimpse for us all. We stood in a small huddle along a cold, dimly lit corridor (as, it seems, was always the case in the Temple.) Brother Talos, now in his early thirties, stood behind us, his face a mask of grimness.
Tyse was tall and thin, but broad of shoulder. He wore a metal plate over his head which also covered half of his pale face so that he looked like a servitor, and stared at us with one red eye.
“This way,” he said, his voice a rough wind on the air.
He led us along a corridor that happened to be a bridge that spawned from the central Eversor Temple spire to a small minaret on the western side of our temple. The bridge had windows on the flanks so that we could see outside.
The night sky was a mixture of colour; of swirling deep purples, dark blues and depth-less blacks. The stars sparkled like faraway jewels set into an extraordinary canvas by the Emperor himself. And the clouds loomed across the rest, a heavy black squall line I almost mistook for the void of space itself. Lightning flashed atop the conical mountain peaks, and thunder boomed, rumbling our chests with vibration.
I could see the spires of our brother guilds nestled into the valley. The Vindicare Citadel was taller than ours and looked as straight as the rifle they were so famed to use. It rose from a solid base that was alive with twinkling lights. I could see another tower, whether it was the Culexus or Callidus Temples, I did not know. Their great walls rose like dark silhouettes lit briefly by the clash of lightning.
Adept Tyse led us through a door that slid open, and we came to a circular room where energy thrummed like a purring cat. Dim strips of lights on the ceiling illuminated the chamber. There were more armed men here, dressed in robes, pale hands on the grips of their lasguns.
“Come to show them the museum,” chuckled the Tower Warden. It wasn't a question, really, more a depressing observation. The Warden looked sickly yellow as he slumped on a desk in front of another sealed door. He was fat, with bulging, lumpy skin that hung from his face and exposed forearms. His hair was wispy bits of gray fluff that seemed to fall off even as he spoke. The Warden coughed violently, but didn't bother to cover his mouth. I felt some of his spittle strike my face, and I wiped it off calmly with the back of my sleeve.
“Come in, little assassins,” he said to us. He stared at me in particular and laughed.
I moved with speed, leapt onto the desk and grabbed his balding head with both my hands. The Warden screamed as I crashed the man's temple against the metal table. I did it twice more before Adept Tyse and Brother Talos pulled me from the Warden. He was still alive, but his eyes were shut and bleeding, while his pale forehead was now a colourful red.
If I had done such an action before my training, my Indoctrination, I would have screamed, and shivered at my rage, and violence. I felt no shame, and stared up at the eyes of Tyse. The adept smiled at me, and patted my shoulder.
“I think we shall leave you now, Warden,” said Tyse. “Come,” he said to us. “It is time to see what I must show you.”
I looked at my bloodied hands, and at the mumbling man I had attacked for merely insulting me with a laugh. Then I turned, and paced away with my fellow assassins, towards an open door that spoke of darkness.
We descended a long spiral staircase, steps sounding a staccato up the winding, narrow passage. We were swallowed by darkness and echoing noise. I entered this inky blackness anxious but not afraid. My eyes adjusted to darkness pretty quickly thanks to a recent implant that improved sight in the gloom. The room we entered was lit by small lanterns, though it was dim as dawn light. I felt a weakness overwhelm me, not unusual considering the hours I had spent in a test tube developing the organs needed to cope with the combat drugs. I shook the wearisome feeling, and studied the room.
Along the circular chamber walls were sealed freezer doors (in appearance but not content). Bold white numbers had been painted onto the doors, each numeral below a head-sized, sealed hole.
“This is the Hold room,” said Tyse, gesturing the chamber with his arms outstretched. He dramatically did a full circle, arms still out, and came to stop exactly where he'd begun the spin. “Please, take a look around, and remember, this could be you in time. This should, I hope, teach you to be careful when using them.” I chuckle at his words now. Surely it was safer not to use such a thing in the first place?
I did as was told, and moved off with Mathers and the youngest of our group, Boil, to the nearest door. I could sense the Adepts eyes on me. Little did I realise then that the brutal way I dealt with the Warden was to garner me more interest than the rest of the group.
I had to tiptoe to reach the bolt. I slid it across then took the sealed hole handle, and moved it aside. My breath instantly washed over the thick screen, turning my view to mist. I wiped it with my hand, and noticed the figure of an Eversor in the corner. He still wore his body armour, the complex black suit that hugged his muscled frame almost hid him completely, but quick movements of the head, much like the chickens they kept in the Citadel Gardens, betrayed his presence.
“What can you see?” whispered Mathers.
I didn't answer him for I was spellbound, my eyes transfixed on this nameless, anonymous killer who I was following in the footsteps. The Eversor darted forward and I lost him for a moment. The window steamed with ghostly mist again.
“Let me see,” said Mathers.
I ignored him and extended a hand to wipe the window. As soon as I removed it, moisture glistening across my palm, I thought the mist had stayed, but only for a heartbeat. I noticed it was the Eversor's white mask up against the window. The figure shuffled so that one dark eye encompassed the centre of the screen. He stared directly at me. An excited shiver ran down my spine. You might guess one would be afraid of such a sight, but fear had all but been programmed from my consciousness.
Then the Eversor screamed an inhuman cry I thought only possible could ejaculate from the very Eye of Terror itself. The eardrum shattering scream set the other drug-crazed Eversor's off too, and in moments I felt as though I'd been caged with banshees.
These Eversor's were still mad, blood raged and vicious. The stimulants from recent missions coursing through their veins had warped their minds to such a state they needed to be locked up, until needed again.
“Listen to their cries, apprentices,” said Tyse, a look of devilish glee upon his face. His thin, pale lips twisted into a smile, “Listen to the Cry of the Eversor.”
It is very hard to describe the sensation of being submerged in the tube. The first time I had seen them, I assumed I'd be unconscious through the whole affair of growing new organs, and strengthening current ones. That, wholly unsurprising, was far from the truth.
Imagine a dream disturbed by constant fits of wakefulness. I dreamt much during the months I spent in the tubes, floating like a weightless object in a pale, emerald world. I dreamt of a time I couldn't remember, and can't to this day honestly say it was a part of my past.
There were blue skies unperturbed by cloud or even the presence of the sun. Just a sea-blue sky that blurred into a ragged horizon that encompassed snow-caked mountains. I would run through grass fields, alive to the sensation of the blades as they stroked my bare arms and cheeks - then woke, bubbles streaming from my oxygen mask, to find I was in the tubes, staring out at Adepts keeping a close eye on us all, only to be swept back into the dream once more.
For a time I would get lost in these dreams, and all of reality would become blurred. I could not tell which was real. The life spent in the fields playing childish games with a young girl with shining blond hair, or the life in the guild of the Eversors.
When I woke from a three-week period in the tubes, I found I lay upon a cold silver bed, blurred sight staring up at a white light. I heard the ruffling of a simar, and gentle steps on the ground.
“You're awake,” said a voice. My sight focused on the figure. Brother Talos stood above me like an angel without wings, brilliant bright light his halo. “Congratulations, apprentice, you now have an extra kidney, and an improved liver. How do you feel?” It was odd he would ask me how I felt. One of the principles of an Eversor assassin forbade such a concept as 'feelings'. I still did feel, as I still do now, but the urge to contemplate how I was faded to the depths of my mind, reserved I guess, only for me.
I tried to sit up, but found I was still breathing through an oxygen mask. The tubing wriggled like a snake as I shifted my view to the apparatus at the side of my bed. Blinking green lights greeted me on the machine display that monitored my health.
An Adept moved forward, needle in his hand. The man was pale like most in the Citadel, and looked at me blankly, firmly flicking the point of the needle with an index finger. A line of liquid sprayed from the top, and disappeared from my vision. I saw his shadow fall upon my bare chest as he blocked the overhead light with his figure, then the sharp prick of the needle. My head swam briefly as he passed a dark crimson liquid into my bloodstream.
“It has been a complete success,” I heard the Adept state matter-of-factly to Talos. “The grafting of the new kidney to his left one has caused no problems I can detect.”
Talos nodded as he passed his eyes from the Adept to me. Before I passed out, I remember Talos saying, “Good, he'll need it.” The voice sounded like a gentle echo, and my world went black.