Author's Notes: Hello, everyone I hope that you liked the last chapter and will like this one as well. GW owns Warhammer. WARNING: GORE AND TORTURE.
Crista clenched her teeth in an effort to not cry out in pain as the overseer's whip struck her. Her tattered uniform offered no protection and the whip bit deep into her back. She had wanted to deny the overseer the satisfaction of seeing her scream, but the pain was just too much and she let out a cry of pain. The overseer, a grotesquely fat mutant with eyes set on tall stalks which could rotate in complete circles, a fact which enabled it to observe the work of Crista and her fellow slaves, laughed a deep, phlegmy chuckle and bellowed at her.
"Faster scum, or you will regret it." With that he turned away, rotating his eyes to look for other slaves which failed to meet his standards. Crista sagged, fighting back tears of rage and despair. As she did so her mind went, as it always did, back to when it all went wrong.
After the Fury of the Lion fired on them Crista had thought that they were dead and for many on the bridge it had been so. She had lain on the deck, helpless and waiting for the treacherous Space Marines to finish them off, but the had not. Apparently satisfied that all abord the Divine Flame were either dead or soon would be they departed without further incident. Crista was not sure how long she had lain there waiting for death when she had heard footsteps. At first she had thought that help had come, but she had been wrong, so very wrong. It appeared that the Blood Phantom had had friends.
Raiders had come looking for plunder after the battle and in addition to taking everything that they could carry they had taken all the crew who were still capable of working, Crista among them. They were taken to a world, she did not know were and put to work. The raiders appeared to have a larger operation than they had thought.
Working with rogue members of the Adeptus Mechanicus they had an entire shipyard in operation and were constructing a new ship, a Murder-class cruiser if her memory of the briefings of enemy ships severed correctly. The ship was nearly completed and she had the feeling that when it was completed she and any else who survived its construction would be laboring in the lower decks. The mere thought of which made her want to die more than she already did and she found herself stifling a sob. This caused her to lose her footing and falling to the ground.
Instantly the overseer was upon her, lashing her mercilessly with his whip. Curling up into a ball on the ground Crista found herself hoping that the freak would finish her off and it would all be over. Even as the thought crossed her mind the beating stopped looking up she saw Hunter leaning over her and pulling her up. The overseer made a sound of anger and lashed out again with his whip. Several blows landed on Hunter and though he hissed in pain he made no other sign of discomfort. The overseer glowered at him, but then moved off. Hunter turned back to her and helped her to her feet.
"What is the point?" Crista demanded.
"We'll either die down here," she jerked her head upwards towards where the ship was being built above the planet; "Or die up there. So again, what's the point?" Though clearly in pain Hunter was clearly trying to be optimistic smiled at her.
"It is bad now, I will admit, but things will get better. Have faith, the Emperor will not abandon us." To Crista it looked as if the Emperor had already abandoned them, but she did not want to alienate her only friend she had, Hunter being the only other midshipman to have survived the attack on their ship. She did not know where his faith came from, she only two things. One, that it provided her with comfort during their trials. Two, it was a faith that she did not have.
She had never been a very religious individual and her current situation had taken stripped her of most of what little faith she had had. Hunter was the only thing keeping her going, him and his faith. Faith and fear of…
A laugh, deep and full of cruelty sounded behind her. She filched in fear, as did all those around her. Not even trying to hide her shaking she turned towards the source of the voice. Striding towards them was the lord of the hell which they inhabited, Lord Zhoxus a traitor Astartes. Despite his grand title the force he led was far from impressive. His warband consisted of only a score or so of his fellow traitor marines, who appeared to have been drawn from various chapters and the rest of his people were cultists and renegades from across the Imperium. While not terribly impressive they were enough to crew the ship and raid and pillage.
Lord she thought contemptuously; He is nothing more than jumped-up pirate. Even as she thought it fear shot through her as she realized that she had made a mistake for beside Lord Zhoxus was Varazra Viam, a former sanctioned psyker of the Imperial Guard and Lord Zhoxus's right hand man. The sorcerer turned his head to look at her, clearly reading her mind. All that he would have to do was tell what she had just thought to Lord Zhoxus and her life would be measured in seconds. He wore no helmet and she could see his cruel smile that he gave her. He was enjoying the situation, savoring her fear, yet he said nothing to Lord Zhoxus. She knew that, for now, he wouldn't. He would take pleasure in the knowledge that she would be living in fear of him revealing her thoughts to Lord Zhoxus. In spite of the size of his force, or perhaps because of it, Zhoxus was proud man and inclined to fits of temper.
To her relief they moved on, apparently, they had more important things to attend to. Despite this she still felt fear, something that she knew would please Viam. From the other slaves she had learned that Viam was a devotee of the Chaos god Slaanesh, the Dark Prince of Pleasure. In the case of Viam he took his pleasure from inflicting suffering those whom he had power over, a group which included Crista. No, he would draw out the fear, acting like he had forgotten it, then remind her now and again. It might seem pointless to torment one slave out of thousands, but they were the only ones he could torment with impunity.
Just thinking it about it made her want to cry again at the thought of a live full of nothing but pain, fear and back-breaking labor. How had it come to this? Why had the Emperor forsaken her?! Thinking that she heard the overseer was coming back she hastily returned to work. They seemed to work forever, but at last the signal that they could stop was given.
The slaves formed into a line to receive their ration of slop. The first three days Crista had been unable to eat it, now she wolfed it down and would quite happily taken it from anyone else if they had not already wolfed their own down by the time she had finished hers, everyone but one that was. The exception, as always, was Hunter.
He ate half his food and shared the rest with those who needed it, which was everyone. Crista herself had benefited from his kindness several times. It was not just the food though, it was his words. He had taken over the position of both priest and commissar in a way, taking on himself the duty raising moral and sustaining their spirits.
"Have faith, my brother and sisters. I know that it is dark now, but his light will not abandon us." They were words which they had all heard before they had come here and, to be honest, they had sounded rather trite to Crista before and if anyone else had said them in their current situation they would likely have for the most part been ignored at best and perhaps been the target of their suppressed rage at worse, but not Hunter.
Through his willingness to share his food and the help them with their labors during their shift had earned him great deal of goodwill, but it was more than that. It was something hard to describe, there was an aura about him. To him his faith was real, it was a part of him and the others could see it and that led to further credibly among the prisoners. Hearing his words she could see that the other slaves' spirits were raised and she felt a flicker of hope within her as well, though she knew the next shift would do its best to crush it.
This pessimistic prediction was proven true in very short order. They were awoken with blows and curses and driven back to work. Weariness and lack of food was telling and several slaves collapsed. Crista had thought that the overseers would simply kill them and have done with it, but she was wrong. It seemed that Zhoxus had been displeased at the pace of the work and had charged Viam with improving the pace of the work, a task which he took to with glee.
The workers who collapsed were dragged away for Viam to take his sport with and he took to it with a vigor. Soon the screams could be heard throughout the camp over the vox casters as he seemed determined to kill each of them in a new method, with each attempt he seemed to find new ways to inflict pay and draw out the deaths as long as possible. Their cries, which seemed to last forever drove Hunter's words from her mind and it seemed the others as well. Worse than that; however, was the way the guards, a collection of mutants and renegade humans, reacted. While the slaves were horrified and terrified by Viam's acts of cruelty the guards took delight in them and openly mocked the slaves and loudly speculated as to who Viam would take next.
Crista hated them, not just the hatred of an Imperial for Chaos traitors, nor was it the hatred for one's enemy. No, this was a different kind of hatred. It was raw, almost elemental in its nature. It burned in her like fire, threatening to overwhelm her. Looking at her captors she wished for the first time in her life that she was a pysker. If she were she was sure that she could burn them to ash with nothing but the power of her hatred. But she wasn't and that caused the feeling of helplessness that she had been fighting against crashed in upon her. The feeling was so overwhelming that when she stumbled and fell she did not even react when one of the overseers began to beat her with his whip.
In truth she barely registered the pain, in fact she rather welcomed it. The pain was a herald of the end and she welcomed it. Death, oblivion things which she had once feared now seemed welcoming, an end to her existence meant an end to the pain and an escape from all. Just as the blackness was threatening to overwhelm her the blows stopped and the sounds of a scuffle sounded out. Despite the pain she forced her eyes to open. Above her Hunter had tackled the overseer and they were now grappling.
FOOL! She thought; You should not have interfered they'll…That was as far as she got.
Other guards were rushing in to aid their fellow. Hunter had wrestled him to the ground and was on top of him, but that made him an easy target for the others. They rained down blows with clubs, whips and, in case, tentacles. Hunter reared up and lashed out on all sides. Several of them went down and around them the other slaves were looking on and it appeared that things could quickly escalate. Then Hunter's whole body went stiff and he appeared to be chocking. From the ground Crista looked around and saw Viam approaching, a cruel smile on his face and more guards at his back.
"Well. Well. Well. What have we here?" He asked in a slow drawl. He looked at Hunter for a moment and then smiled a cruel smile.
"Aren't you the preacher-man? The one who seems to think that the Corpse-god can help you and the rest of these wretches. Why don't we put this to the test?" He made a gesture and walked away, the guards hauling Hunter along with them. At a command from Viam the guards herded the slaves towards the central compound where a platform had been erected. On it stood Zhoxus, Viam and most of his officers. Behind them were two metal beams crossed to form an X. Hunter was there as well. He had been stripped naked and had been secured to the beams by having spikes driven through his wrists and ankles. Once the slaves were assembled Zhoxus looked down at them and began to speak.
"They say that this man," he gestured to Hunter; "Has been feeding you lies. He has told you that the corps-Emperor cares for you, that he will protect you, that he will save you. That he…loves you." This last was said in a tone dripping with scorn while his officers laughed. For a moment Zhoxus joined in, then he turned his attention back to the slaves his malicious mirth was replaced by a look of contempt and scorn.
"Let me tell you something, you worthless pieces of filth, he does not. He is nothing, a broken shell of a man rotting in statis as his empire dies around him." He paused and his face took on a look of cruel amusement.
"Still, unlike the fools of the Ecclesiarchy, I am not an unreasonable man. Let us put the power of the Emperor to the test." He turned to his officers, who from the look of them had known in advance what was to come.
Though she did not know what was going to come Crista knew it would not be good. She found herself silently begging the Emperor to aid Hunter, though she could not see how, but surely he would. Hunter was the most devout person there and the Ecclesiarchy had always told her that the Emperor valued and would protect those who served him faithfully. At the moment she found herself hoping desperately it was true. Her thoughts were interrupted by Zhoxus speaking again, this time addressing Viam.
"Begin." The pysker smiled and turned towards Hunter and he began.
It seemed to go on forever. Viam was a master of torment and for Hunter he worked his skill to the maximum. He used his powers to shatter Hunter's bones inside his body. Blood was boiled in his veins and skin pealed from his body. Worse, he was clearly using his powers to attack Hunter's mind. At first Hunter tried to resist, tried not to cry out, instead attempting to either pray or recite religious text, but in the end he screamed and the screaming did not stop. Around her Crista heard some of the slaves silently praying and she found herself doing so as well.
"Oh God-Emperor, You upon the Golden Throne, look down on Hunter. He has served you faithfully, even here in this hell-hole. So, please, please, save him, show these heretics your power." Before she could say more a scream, one more horrendous than any that had come before.
As she and the others looked on in horror Viam used his power to draw out all of the bone fragments. As Hunter continued to scream the shards tore through his skin, shooting out like bullets and causing blood to come forth like dozens of sanguine fountains. The screaming seemed to go on forever, but at last they stopped and Hunter slumped and went still. Zhoxus stared at the body for a moment, while Viam looked on, clearly quite pleased with himself. At last Zhoxus turned his attention back to the slaves below him.
"Remember this scum, the Corpse-god is just that, a corpse. He cannot save you. I serve the true gods and you serve me. Never forget this." This last was said in a venomous hiss which nevertheless carried to all listen.
"Now get back to work." Silently they did.
The work was the same, but now seemed so much harder. Their spirits thoroughly crushed their labors seemed ever harder and more crushing than before. Hunter's death had crushed the last shred of resistance and the despair that it induced made the work seem much harder, the time moved slower, items seemed to weigh more and the guards seemed to be even more brutal and cruel. Crista was the just as devastated as the others, perhaps even more so. She could not understand it.
Why had the Emperor not saved Hunter? He was the most faithful of his servants here, had kept faith and hope in him alive among the slaves. So why had the Emperor not saved them? She had always been told that the Emperor was all-powerful and could and would save those who were faithful in their devotions to him. So why had he not saved him? She tried to banish those thoughts, but they would not leave her, they stubbornly hung on and would not leave her. In fact, they began to grow.
Despair welled up within her and it slowly morphed into anger and then something beyond anger and she found herself thinking thoughts, heretical thoughts which she would never before have even thought of thinking. That night, though there was no one to lead them, Crista prayed again, a prayer like none that she had ever prayed before as she poured her anger and pain into it.
DAMN YOU! HE WAS LOYAL TO YOU! HE LOVED YOU! SO WHY DID YOU NOT HELP HIM?! DO YOU NOT CARE?! ARE YOU EVEN THERE?! ARE YOU NOTHING BUT A CORPSE ON A THRONE LIKE THEY SAY?! She stopped then, too exhausted, both physically and emotionally, to continue. She wanted to cry, but found herself feeling too numb and empty to do so. As her faith, which had been dying for some time, finally died within her she found a feeling of hopeless overcome her. If the fate of the universe was determined by cruel and uncaring beings then what was the point? It was all meaningless, an existence of nothing but pain and despair so that the gods might have nourishment and amusement. She had always hated the Chaos gods and she now found that she hated the Emperor as well. If she could, she would kill them all.
A most noble sentiment. She started at the voice she looked around, but all the other slaves were too far away and none were looking at her.
"Who said that?" She asked, keeping her voice low so as not to attract the attention of any of the others.
One who has seen your pain and waited for you to see the truth. The voice responded.
"Who are you?" Crista asked again in a firmer tone of voice. She was beginning to wonder if she was going mad, if so she would be far from the first.
You may call me Aid' Rok. Servant of Malal.
Author's Notes: Hey everyone, sorry that it has taken so long to update and I hope that this makes up for it. Malal is owned by John Wagner and Alan Grant. Yes, I know about Malice, but I think that name is silly, like calling Khorne Anger. The next chapter will deal more with how I see Malal and get things going. Till then stay safe, pray for those who need it and may Jesus bless you.