Time and blood. And blood. And blood again. Anathema to mortals, time is my ontogenesis. In the Immaterium, I manifest on the edge of a bronze knife, in an age when girl-children are a curse to the apes eking out their short existences on this planet. Ripped from her mother’s breast, the father puts the blade to his infant daughter’s neck. Her crimson lifeblood wells up from her throat, coating the knife. The first drop hits the ground, I am born, and this earth is marked. This is the seed of my genesis, delicious but not nearly enough to earn my corporeality. No matter. The primitive desires of humans to dominate, destroy, and punish, are as endless as my thirst. These first drops of newborn blood are not enough.

The pit of sacrifice is forgotten and replaced with a quarry where rock and suffering are mined in equal measure. Mortals waste their miserable lives in the humid, salty dark. The unwanted of this world scrape the bones of the planet for the salt and stone that flavour their food and push their crude edifices skyward. Many of them die of exertion, their bodies coated in the choking stale air, the tunnels becoming their graves. This unshed blood displeases my lord. The ceaseless drudgery and backbreaking labour wear down their limbs, but the isolation and hopelessness wear at their souls. The sound of screams wakes a slave, as it does so many nights. The screams claw like my talons in his mind, and he knows the spilling of blood will quiet them. This slave is as good a champion for the Lord of Blood as any. He pries a femur from a dead companion left rotting in the saline dark and sharpens it against the stone. It is a worthy blood spiller, and he slashes and stabs the life from prisoners and guards alike. My not-flesh thrills at the first press of porous bone into a throat. Rending skin, punctured organs, and spilt blood call to me. This salt-spiced sluice is not enough.

The people of this world pull themselves out of the darkness. Technology is a bandage over their cruel past. The corpse emperor brings them the lie of enlightenment and they hearken to it, as fools do. A sanatorium for the dead, the dying, and the mad grows where the salt mines had been. Its foundations weighted by the miasma of lives lost. It is this spectre of malice and decay that taints the minds working there and makes them cruel to their charges. The essence of my nascent form engenders rage in the hearts of doctor and patient. An ill-intentioned night maintenance worker finds an easy target for his impulses, her mind long-lost to trauma. It is fortunate that despite her inability to articulate the feeling, she has a surfeit of wrath in her heart. She has secreted a syringe, intending to end her suffering, but it becomes a weapon. The would-be violator succeeds only in becoming an outlet for her anger and anguish. My un-being shivers when she plunges the needle into his eye as he sits astride her. The wet spray of arterial blood and her attacker’s surprised howl of pain opens a well of violence in her and she fills it impressively. She visits a storm of ruin upon the ward. When she finds the chirurgeon suite, the tools of her slaughter are legion. Slinking through the lightless halls with bloodstained instruments of death, she is an apparition of madness, a flesher in an abattoir. Flesh is cut, stinking viscera is ripped from screaming bodies, and blood runs thick and fresh. Still, this tributary is not enough.

They can never escape their nature. Generations are born and die, rulers rise and fall, and the galaxy is in flames. This tiny planet is in the inevitable throes of war. The last of its defenders entrench in the skeleton of the abandoned sanatorium. Unclaimed souls fill this place, their spectral weight straining the veil. The cries of murdered children haunt the halls, chained ghouls prowl the basement where reserve munitions are stored. Restrained and bleeding, phantom patients lurk among dying soldiers. Rotting Chirurgeons in tattered gore-stained robes menace the bed-ridden. The soldiers’ dreams are fevered nightmares, and their waking hours are worse. The creeping fear of death keeps them sharp, makes them hold their weapons close, hone their blades, and binge combat stims. Their Captain is adamant that they will hold this chokepoint until Imperial reinforcements arrive. My mortal brethren shout honours to my lord as they charge. The scream of heavy stubbers and bolters meets them and paints the grimy walls cerise with their blood. Still, they press on, and still the defenders resist. Broken barricades are pushed aside. My mortal brethren make offerings of their enemies and of each other. It is melee, the hot press bodies, the squelch of spilt blood, the bathing of bayonet, axe, and chainsword in the crimson sacrament of slaughter. The destruction is a triumph. The floor is littered with lost limbs. The air is thick with charnel stench. Soldiers drag the screaming torsos of their comrades, entrails trailing, to medics that will never save them. The strangled screams of men drowning in their own life blood, and the soft pulsing of earth oedematous with sanguine fluids is the symphony of my becoming. A massacre that splits reality on the knife-edge of pain and carnage. 

I prise the wound open, wide enough for my great horned head and one leathery wing, then the other. The squeeze is tight, but I am strong. The thundercrack of my incorporation stuns mortals, their own bloody struggles momentarily forgotten. Behind me, my kin spread the wound wide as they follow in my flaming footsteps. The silence is replaced with screams. For the Lord of Skulls and for me, this is finally enough.

About the Author

E. Nicole Gary is a scientist and Warhammer lover. She received her PhD in microbiology and immunology from Drexel university college of medicine and studies vaccine design and immune responses. When she isn’t writing scientific manuscripts, she’s reading, watching, and writing sci-fi and horror. She loves wine, crochet, chaos, and laboratory mice.