‘My beloved Gilith, there is no safety hiding in the depths of your mind, for you will only find there exquisite pain and excruciating pleasure. Surrender your mind to me, as you entwine yourself about me, and I will show to you all there is of both.’ – Lady Aestra Khromys.
The wych blade drips with Drukhari blood, making wine-coloured splotches on the marble floor. The Incubi bodyguard seizes me by the throat, but the paralysis has already set in. Dropping to the floor, the Incubi convulses as his flesh liquefies, and his blood boils. The expanding gas pops and sizzles as it bursts from his emerald and ebony armour, and the ichor that was once his flesh, spurts out across the floor.
What was my name before they brought me to Commorragh?
They call me Gilith now, but what was my name before that? The psychogenic fugue that is my existence, never lets me remember anything but halfway, not-at-all, or that which never was. I reach down and take his pistol and grenades. Touching the pistol grip strikes a memory from the haze, like a hammer and chisel cutting away a flake of stone. It’s a memory of discipline and rigour, a memory not remembered in the mind, but in muscle and bone. Clarity and purpose are recalled as fingers grasp the pistol, and a recollection of honour, as the hand wields the blade. And I remember what they called me once, Celestian Sister Gilith, of the Order of the Martyred Lady.
Down the hallways of the ancient palace, I run, my sandalled feet tap softly on the marble floor. My gown leaves scintillating trails of colour, accompanied by the jingling of my jewellery. This is the palace of Addánllirȗn, on the forgotten world of Calwamár. After The Fall, the memory of this world slipped away, its location being known only to the Kabal of the Obsidian Rose. Here, Lady Aestra Khromys takes her pleasure with lovers and enemies alike; but among Drukhari, the two are always the same. At dawn, the air was filled with the crack of heavy bolters and the concussion of explosions, for one of Aestra’s enemies had discovered her lost city. Now, I run towards the gunfire, hoping the attackers aren’t xenos but human. Either way, I am free now.
Calwamár’s blue-white star shines down from a peerless sky, as I rush through the palace’s shaded galleries and flowered plazas. Entering the central garden, I see smoke rising from the southeast, and I run in that direction. Venoms of the Obsidian Rose cross the sky above my head, but one explodes from a missile strike, and I run faster. Leaping from stone to stone, I cross the vast reflecting pool called the Cilintírnén, or Mirrored Waters. I run towards the pool’s crystal fountain, but this is a mistake, for reflected within its waters is the image of what I once was, and the image of what I’ve now become.
For an instant, I am again the Celestian Sister, hard-bodied, tough, and with a determined look in my eyes. Once more, I am the veteran of countless battles, fought for the God-Emperor across icy tundra, mountainous valleys, and beneath towering hive cities. I see how my body is pockmarked by bullet wounds, and scarred by xenos’ blades. But in the next instant, the fay waters show me as I am now – Aestra’s whore. My face is cherubic, my lips luscious, and my body soft and voluptuous – rounded shoulders, succulent breasts, wide and supple hips. And like an Underhive harlot, my eyes are done with black eyeliner; but what makes me shudder is my coquette and haughty expression. But then the Obsidian Rose tattoo, on my left thigh burns; and I remember, ‘They know where I am. They can track me!’
So I run again.
As I run, I can feel the presence of Aestra’s mind, ‘Gilith you worthless whore! You enjoyed your heresy, revelled in its sensuality, and delighted in its debauchery!’
I make for the other side of the pool.
‘Who have you not fornicated with? Tau? Nekulli? Mon-keigh? Asuryani? Be’gel? Who have you allowed to violate you? Who haven’t you violated?’
Breaking through into the outer courts, I see Kabalite warriors dancing among the delicate pillars of the gallery; and throwing myself to the ground, I take cover.
‘Gilith, what pleasure you took in violating that Astartes? Remember how you begged me to be the first? How you laughed at his despair and sorrow! Then you opened your thighs, and laughing, you took him!’
Laying on the ground, the memory of Brother Conan burns within my soul. Aestra is right, I did beg the first to violate him. So consumed was I by the passions of the Drukhari that I could do little more than watch myself, as if from afar. Conan looked up into my eyes, and I saw in them his compassion, and his forgiveness. The rage and shame I felt at that moment were overwhelming, but so too was the ecstasy of my pleasure. Aestra and her kabal feasted on our sorrow and our shame, but in the end it was Conan who showed me the way.
Drifting on Aestra’s pleasure yacht far above the Sprawls, Conan set himself free. I remember him breaking away to stand on the edge of the deck, and stretching forth his arms; he looked at me as if to say, “Break free Gilith,” and let himself go. We watched as he fell thousands of feet into the acid-green waters of the River Khaïdes. Gone forever, but free of his Drukhari masters, he had shown the way. The memory of his liberation broke their spell over me, and I rose to liberate myself.
I stand up and open fire upon the Kabalites, for a whore to a Drukhari Archon I may have been; but today I am once more, Celestian Sister Gilith of the Order of the Martyred Lady.
About the Author
In the grim darkness of the upper mid-western US, on the storm driven shores of the great inland sea called Anishinaabewi-gichi-gami, lies an underground bunker. Within its depths is where you’ll find Mr. O’Duffy, spending his time writing Warhammer 40,000 fiction, as well as works of Gothic Horror, and Fantasy. When not writing, Mr. O’Duffy continues his fight for truth, justice and the American Way.