Sometimes you don't want to write anything serious, or read anything too serious. In 40K where everything is over-the-top, grand plans to destroy worlds, and epic battles, it's also important to remember the more mundane moments. Like Typhus and Lucius eating between a Black Crusade's battles.
Many champions of Chaos have highly particular predilections. Kharn the Betrayer had a fondness for killing anyone within range of Gorechild; Ahriman had a penchant to collecting arcane knowledge; Lucius had a preference in searching for the next fulfilling sensation and, most relevant to this story, Typhus had a tendency at eating in low-budget restaurants found at the edge of the galaxy.
It was because the Champion of Nurgle could not taste many things – in part to his ravaged taste buds – that he sought out eateries where potent spices filled many of the dishes. When another Black Crusade was called and the Herald of Nurgle answered, Typhus deplored the ‘culinary arts’ of the head chef. The pasty substance paraded as food was little more than glue, the meat questionable, and the beverages little more than sludge taken from the ship’s bilks. Typhus found himself eating out more often than not. To stretch out his income, he dined at a dingy restaurant where the concept of ‘good food’ still stood.
After regaling Lucius with a story how intoxicating spice brought tears to his eyes and left a burning sensation down his esophagus, reminding Typhus he still had one, the Champion of Slaanesh decided he would try out this restaurant the next time Typhus went.
“They have a mixture of grated flour, onions, shredded cabbage, and some off-coloured meat which is baked on a skillet. While it appears entirely unappetizing, I vouch for the flavor. It brings visions to my mind.”
Lucius, convinced by the description but almost undone by the smell of Typhus’ rot in the shuttlecraft, grinned and endured. If the warrior who constantly complained of gout and athlete’s foot forgot about those things while he was eating this food, then it had to be good.
“This is it?” Lucius raised an elegant eyebrow at the tiny, grungy-looking restaurant. Its name was crudely painted in blue, with drawn rainbows and hearts added on as embellishments to cover the rust in the metal siding. Broken window panes were covered in oily brown paper and a metal chimney, jutting out from the side of the hut, puffed out streams of black smoke.
“The Makchang Shed,” Typhus declared with open arms. A baseboard read in Low Gothic and Kroot: Come in, we’re open! off to the side.
“You have eaten here before?” Lucius was unimpressed by the restaurant’s standards. Then again, for a restaurant to accept someone like Typhus as a customer, the criteria would have to be pretty low.
“Plenty of times,” Typhus replied. He opened the door and beckoned Lucius inside. “You’ll find it irresistible. Say any different and I shall put a plague on you the likes that even your god will weep at.”
“I shall take your word,” Lucius muttered as he entered. He stopped almost immediately, staring with skepticism at the interior decoration. Strings of coloured lights dangled haphazardly from the water-stained ceiling, looped around lamps and the single ceiling fan that spun limply. The walls were off-coloured lime-green and lemon-yellow, posters tacked onto the cracking plaster in an attempt to hide enormous holes. The single bathroom door, more of a stall, had a sign taped onto it, instructing the customers to bring their own toilet paper.
Nauseated, Lucius made his way over to a table, clutching his chair when it tipped precariously under his weight. He refused to touch his beautiful armour to the stained tabletop, and tried not to think of the last time the floor had been cleaned. Typhus had gone over to the counter to select from the menu. The Kroot chef behind the counter snapped its beak and hissed its guttural language to the other short-order cooks. Several minutes passed, and with it, the aroma of the food gradually grew in intensity.
Despite the restaurant’s… matchlessness, Lucius admitted to himself the smell was rather appetizing. Typhus returned to the table, sitting down heavily in his chair and drinking pineapple juice from a cup.
“Are you sure,” Lucius said in a flat voice, “that it’s not dangerous to eat here?”
Typhus squinted at him over the rim of his cup. “What do you mean?”
“You have Nurgle’s blessing,” Lucius pointed out. “You won’t be affected if you get a case of food poisoning.”
“If you wish to talk about food poisoning, talk about that food Abbadon has his kitchens prepare for us. At least here, what they cook is edible,” Typhus thundered, putting his cup down on the grease-covered table where it slid across the surface before being stopped by a pile of crumbs.
Lucius rolled his eyes and crossed his arms, waiting for their order. It arrived boiling hot from the kitchen, emitting an enticing, exotic aroma with mouth-watering intensity. The olfactory impression literally kicked a portion of Lucius’ brain into the roof, and he found he liked it. The Kroot waiter gave two stone bowls to the corrupted Astartes before returning to the kitchen.
Like Typhus described it; the food consisted of a large stew boiling in a black pot, where vegetables and the spine of some animal bubbled to the surface. Surrounding the stew pot were two smaller dishes, one of them holding the pancake Typhus went on about and the other holding the most foul-smelling pickled cabbage Lucius ever had the misfortune of inhaling.
Typhus called it “Haejangguk” or something, where to articulate it correctly the upper cleft of someone’s mouth would have to be caved in, and dumped half of the pickled cabbage into the stew. Then Typhus added some red sauce which looked like blood mixed with sand. Lucius tentatively lowered his spoon into the mixture, wrinkling his nose and raised the soup’s contents critically before his eyes.
Typhus’ sore-covered face gave an affronted look. “What are you doing? Eat the food!”
Lucius doubtfully looked at him; a mite unsettled to see Typhus had drunken half of his toxic-looking soup and was slathering the red spicy paste over the pancake. Giving into peer pressure, Lucius opened his scarred mouth and was about to eat the soup when Typhus stopped him.
“Wait a moment.” Typhus took a bowl containing grated salt and dumped it into the soup bowl, shaking out every last grain before ladling a portion for Lucius. “Now eat it.”
“What’s in this soup?” Lucius demanded, paranoia kicking into high gear. “What is it made out of?”
“What does it matter if it tastes good? Just eat it! The Kroot are better cooks than any menial every employed by Chaos.”
Giving a dark glare to the Champion of Nurgle, Lucius relented and put the soup in his mouth.
Several things happened at once.
The red spicy paste, which happened to be red chili combined with Kroot seasonings and a bit of Catachan toad, combined with the pickled mixture, generated a smoldering, sizzling sensation so intense it razed not only Lucius’ entire mouth but the entirety of his throat and esophagus. His enhanced auto-immune system began screaming as it tried to compensate. Typhus raised his head, lips pursed around his spoon, staring uncomprehendingly as Lucius made a choked, rasping noise as tears welled in his eyes.
Then, in a dramatic display worthy of a Slaaneshi drama, Lucius clutched his chest as his primary and secondary heart simultaneously underwent cardiac arrest, sending him toppling off his chair and on to the garbage-strewn floor. Maybe it was an allergic reaction. Maybe the spice elevated the Emperor Child’s blood pressure. It could have been the simple fact that the ‘healthy’ food, mixing within the unhealthy confines of Lucius’ flesh, won a war never thought possible. Whatever the actual cause, it compelled Lucius’ hearts to groan, “Screw this” at the same time and simultaneously crap out.
Miraculously, or perhaps Slaanesh was getting kicks from watching this, the heart in the lower left half of Lucius’ body started up again when Typhus stood and kicked him in the side in a half-hearted attempt to fix the problem.
“Lucius, by Nurgle’s pus, what’s the matter with you?” Typhus demanded. He looked alarmed at the sight of tears trickling from the marine’s black and purple eyes. “You moron, if it was that bad you could have said so!”
When Lucius attempted to respond, he realized he was completely paralyzed. His single, feebly beating heart was helpless to supply enough blood to the parts of his brain controlling speech and movement. His gene-enhanced and thrice-blessed body simple would not move. Motionless and flat on his back, staring with blank, wide eyes at the spinning ceiling fan and the tacky decorations hanging from the walls, Lucius the Eternal looked, more or less, completely dead. Typhus toed him in the ribcage a few more times, his acerbic expression morphing into one of actual shock when Lucius remained motionless, gaze set unblinkingly on the ceiling.
“Oh, grox shit,” Typhus said. He never swore.
Check my pulse, you idiot! Lucius thought heatedly. Stop staring and check it!
To his relief, Typhus knelt near his side and reached out; close enough for Lucius to inwardly puke at the smell. Typhus stopped short of the chest plate, patting along Lucius’ belt until he found his wallet. Lucius tried to see what Typhus was doing. A moment later, Typhus stood up and shook some Thrones from the skin-sewn wallet. He moved toward the pay phone, dated M35, on the opposite wall.
Oh, good, Lucius grinned inwardly. He’s getting help.
Typhus inserted a quarter-Throne and waited. A few rings later, someone on the other end picked up. “Yes, this is Typhus. Accept the charges and let me talk to Abbadon.”
Excellent, Lucius praised silently. Hurry up and get an Apothecary. Fabius Bile, a Tech-Priest, anyone with first aid experience.
Typhus’ voice drifted loudly though the interior of the dingy restaurant. “Just accept the charges, Ahriman! Let me speak to Abbadon! No, I care little of the overfee – I’ll pay it with my next wages.”
Getting help… any minute now, Lucius reassured himself. Slaanesh wouldn’t let it end here. Not staring up at an unerotic water stain which reminded Lucius of that one night back in a bar with a Night Lord.
“Are you even listening? I need to speak to the Warmaster. He is never as busy as he appears and you of all people know that. …finally.” A pause. “Yes, it’s Typhus. Umm, Warmaster Abbadon, Lucius the Eternal’s dead.”
Lucius would have screamed if he could have.
“I have no idea, he just collapsed… I have no idea! What, how? Lucius just started choking. He grabbed his chest and started crying like an Imperial Guardsman and,” Typhus glanced around. “Yes, we’re in a restaurant. No, no one is under any form of possession.”
Had Lucius been able to move even a fraction, he would have hurled the disgusting remains of his food at Typhus’ head.
“What should I do? The weekly meetings never brought up what’s to be done if a champion suddenly dies. What?! I refuse to give him CPR! Nurgle only knows what I might contract from that STD-ridden corpse of his!”
Jackass! Worm infested idiotic, useless grox sonofabitch! Lucius raged. Check! My! Pulse!
Heavy footsteps shook the floor as Typhus approached, and suddenly Lucius’ view of the unerotic water stain was obscured by the Nurgle worshipper’s ugly face. The Plague Marine stood over Lucius, tilting his head contemplatively to one side, scrutinizing him with narrowed eyes.
Get help, Lucius tried to psychically send the message. He prayed his eyes contained a spark of life, something to show Typhus he still breathed. I’m alive. I’m not dead!
A moment later, Typhus returned to the pay phone. “He is quite dead. Of course I’m certain, I’ve seen many corpses and I am staring right at--“
Lucius wanted to scream. If he possessed the ability, he would have made a Noise Marine cry with pride at the sound.
“Yes Milord, I shall return with his body.” Typhus lamented the fact, hanging up the phone. “Asinine prick.”
Typhus was truly irritated to have sworn twice in the same day. Although Lucius felt like throttling the Nurgle worshipper, enduring pus and other viscous fluids to coat his armour, hope remained. Typhus would rush him back to the Eye of Terror and Lucius could be seen by the finest medicae experts, his beautiful body restored and pumped with proper, lethal doses of toxins and drugs…
Wait, where’s he going? Lucius panicked as Typhus’ heavy tread moved away. A moment later, his phlegmy voice reached Lucius’ ears.
“Foul xenos. Yes, you. Your soup and doenjang just killed an Astartes over there. Yes, the one lying under the table. However,” Typhus’ voice lowered to a conspiratorial whisper. “Will I be able to have my next meal free if I don’t use your refund policy?”
Lucius finally blacked out.
One week later
“As I understand the situation,” Abbadon said, fingers forming a steeple beneath his chin, “seven days prior, your hearts suffered simultaneous heart attacks.”
Lucius quietly nodded from where he stood.
“You regained your health after Fabius Bile operated on you,” Abbadon continued, “only to experience yet again another series of heart attacks yesterday.”
Lucius nodded again, trying to slink back from the Warmaster without being obvious.
“And,” the Warmaster paused, contemplating the information staring up at him from the data-slate. “This is because you indulged in the same behaviour which caused the first series of heart attacks.”
Lucius slowly nodded once more, praying the floor would open and deposit him anywhere else in the galaxy.
Abbadon stared at him.
“So you are petitioning me to rid Typhus from my campaign because, and you undoubtedly believe this, he is taking advantage of your weakness to follow new sensations. Typhus compels you to dine at a disreputable low-price restaurant managed by Kroot mercenaries’, and thus, devised a plot to slowly but surely, kill you via lethal doses of Kroot kimchi and haejangguk.”
The chamber was as silent as a sepulcher for a moment.
“…yes,” Lucius agreed.
Abbadon slowly unlaced his fingers. He gave a soul-withering look at the Slaaneshi champion. “Lucius.”
“Get out of my office.”