Bellanus stared sightlessly down at the cold floor

Judgement

Bellanus stared sightlessly down at the cold floor. They had taken his eyes. They said he was unworthy to look upon the works of the Master. His chains – the same cold, burning chains that he had spent the past nine weeks bound in – rattled as he shuffled weakly.

He could hear voices again. The deep, booming voice was arguing with the thin one, the same as every day. In a few minutes, the other, the smooth, betraying voice, would come, and the argument would stop for a moment. Sometimes, he would hear screams afterwards.

He had been so long in this place that he could no longer put a face to that smooth voice. Faint flickers of a tall, well-dressed man ghosted around his thoughts, but the pain and the drugs were like oil atop his mind, a slick, slimy barrier stopping him from accessing memories and thoughts. Concentration seemed like an impossible feat, one that he hadn't the will to attempt. He would rather just hang from his chains forever. Unthinking. Uncaring.

Footsteps clicked on the metal floor, approaching Bellanus. He made no reaction as they stopped in front of him. He could hear breathing, and the faint whirring of an augmetic. The owner of that smooth voice had had an augmetic eye. He knew it, somehow, the thought floating up from whatever scraps of his subconscious still lived. The betrayer was standing in front of him. The thought took hold of him, filled him, and he struggled to lift his head.

A blow struck the side of his skull, and he went limp, head lolling sideways with the impact. Nausea overtook him, and he retched up blood. The taste was coppery in his mouth, and he spat weakly. A warm hand took him by the jaw, slender fingers pressing into his skin like knives.

"Now, wretch, you go to face your judgement." It was the smooth, oily voice of the betrayer, words sliding out beside his ear. Bellanus groaned hoarsely, the sound gasping past the bloody ruin of his tongue where they had ripped it out. The drugs were starting to wear off. The pain was coming back.

The betrayer's hand left his jaw, and the world turned upside down. Disorientation seized hold of him for a heartbeat, and then he hit the metal grating with a wet thump. Freezing pain flared in his side where he hit, red-raw flesh oozing blood and pus. His mouth opened in a silent scream. His body tried to curl up into itself, but his muscles refused to move.

The chains that were still around him, cutting into him, tightened, and he did scream this time. A howl of pure, unrestrained agony leapt from his throat as the cold, cold chains burned at him. They dragged him upright, and he almost lost consciousness. The only thing that kept him aware was that hot, blazing knot at the centre of his thoughts that held his hatred for the betrayer. He would find a way, any way, to strike back at the betrayer. He had to keep alive, keep working, if he was to do that. That thought replaced everything else in his mind. Had to keep going. Had to keep alive.

The chains tightened again, and he was dragged forwards. Searing pain lanced through him at every stumbling step he took, the metal grating digging deep into the ragged, fleshy mess of his feet. They had used electro-flails, he remembered, dimly, the thought floating up as though his brain was trying to distract itself from the senses. They had used them on his feet, on his hands, on his groin, on his face, on his legs. Then they had broken his ribs, and his arms, and his fingers, and then pulled out his nails, one by one. Then the fire… The memory was distant, as though he was reading from a historian's account. No sense of the agony came with it. Was that how this would end, he thought sluggishly, distractedly, as a statistic in an unread document? He thought he should feel regret at that, but nothing came. Just the blank, pain-filled nothingness that had been his only solace for two months.

The pulling stopped, and he stumbled to a halt. He heard the slack length that he had been pulled by clang to the floor, and then the betrayer's footsteps clicked away from him. A grating, metallic grinding moved behind him. It sounded like the gate of a cage. This was it, then.

The betrayer's footsteps faded, and then stopped. An old voice, frail and with the mechanical buzzing of augmetic vocal chords beneath it, began to speak the words that Bellanus had both dreaded and awaited.

"You are hereby found guilty of fifteen counts of heresy, thirty-two counts of blasphemy, three counts of sedition and twenty-seven counts of irreligious utterings. You have performed such acts against the Emperor and the Ministorum with maliciousness and selfish lack of regard for the faith and sanctity of others. You have shown no remorse or compunction about these acts. Are you prepared to show repentance at the last, and be gifted with a quick death?"

Bellanus opened his mouth to speak, to say yes, but only a wordless groan emerged. With no tongue, he could not speak even to end his own life.

"You are condemned by your own testimony. I therefore charge that you be taken from this chapel and placed in the hands of the Adeptus Mechanicus who will, with proper authority of Ecclesiarchal Law and with full consent of this court, administer the rites of Arco-Flagellation. May you serve the Emperor with your death better than you served him with your life."

The cage groaned open again, and the chains tightened once more. As he was led away, Bellanus made no sound. He never would again.