Reaping Agony

4/5 (5)

Vilyxnar ran a pallid, claw-tipped hand through his greasy white hair. He tapped the runes on the lower console, resetting the device with his other two hands. 

Taris opened her eyes. Her heart thudded in her chest as her eyes scanned the darkness around her. Above her, an oddly familiar yellow light filtered through a transparent dome. She stood up as hoarfrost began to creep across the domed ceiling. She spun around. She was not the cause of the manifestation though she knew it portended doom. As she watched wide-eyed, a shadow slithered from the far wall. It coalesced into a vague man-shape. Green eyes glowed within it. She looked to run, when she looked back the spectre was gone. The hair on the back of her neck bristled and goosebumps bloomed across her arms. She held her breath and turned around to face her tormentor. It was waiting with sparkling eyes. Viridescent runes flitted in and out of being across its penumbral form, the only light in the darkness. She heard the singing of unsheathing blades.

Unfortunately, the Mandrake’s art left behind a mess that would take Vilyxnar’s menials days to clean and he’d have to start a new body from scratch. Taking her from the mon’keigh ship had been more of an inconvenience than Vilyxnar cared to admit. Nose in the sampling chamber, he inhaled the stench of her fear. Perhaps something more visceral would sweeten her anguish.

Taris opened her eyes. She had fallen asleep at her station in the glow-globe manufactorum. The work was tedious and repetitive. She hated it. Her mother said it was the perfect task to dim her gift. It was almost break time. She thought of the cuisel fruit in her waist bag and her mouth watered. The other workers in the room avoided her. She knew they could sense the wrongness within her. Her special treat would keep the loneliness at bay, at least for today. 

A single cuisel cost her a week of wages but was worth it. The fruit was delicious, and its juice cooled her throat. She wiped away the pink juice with the heel of her hand. When she pulled her hand back, she was holding a glow globe. The white glass was flecked with bright spots of blood and a jagged chunk was missing. Her mouth filled with the salty, metallic taste of blood and she felt it trickling down her chin. She gagged, trying to spit out the sharp bloody pieces. A large piece of glass was lodged in her soft palate, she could feel it tearing across her tongue. Tugging it free with a yelp, she began to cough, sputtering up shockingly vibrant gobs of blood and bits of her ruined throat, her oesophagus was raw and burning. She felt consciousness slipping away as the coppery taste filled her nose and mouth. 

Vilyxnar did not anticipate that the guardians of these souls would destroy rather than forfeit them. The Wracks had returned with but a single specimen. They would suffer greatly for disappointing him.  Fortunately, his mastery of the flesh-arts would keep this MonKeigh alive as long as necessary. Her shining soul was easily plucked from the immaterium. He reset the device. A more personal misery.

Taris opened her eyes. Life aboard the ship had been dreadful, but she deserved it after what she’d done to her mother. It felt like endlessly drowning. Every sight and sound wavering in a disorienting fog. Discordant sounds and flashing lights permeated the place. The ships took everyone with the gift. Occasionally a scream cut through the fog to remind her that she was not alone, and she sometimes felt the dull ache of other minds. It was the thought of this company that sustained her.

She was alone now. She felt the itch around the edges of her thoughts which always indicated suppression, but it was only minimally uncomfortable. Standing, she was overcome by a wave of dizziness and stuck a hand out to steady herself. She looked up through the domed ceiling. Maybe this was some sort of test. She quieted her mind and sent her thoughts searching. Her mother had taught her this game. Training her to flex her gift like a muscle. She felt the dull impression of a vastly intelligent mind. She thought she saw the silhouette of a tall, thin man. A slight hissing filled the room and the air tasted sweet on her tongue. Her mother stood in the middle of the chamber. She was smiling.

‘Tar, my darling.’

‘Momma,’ Taris sobbed.

‘Use your gifts.’

‘It’s forbidden.’

‘The gift will save you, the way it saved me.’ Her mother’s smile continued to widen.

‘But you… you died.’

‘And it was the most freeing thing that’s ever happened to me.’

Her smile widened and kept widening. Her beautiful full lips split and peeled back from her gums. The splitting flesh rolled, peeling back from her chin like a bolt of obscene fabric. She batted her long lashes one last time before they were ripped from her staring eyes. The thing shrugged its way out of her mother’s skin as if she were so much wet clothes. It continued to change as it lurched toward Taris. Eyes sprouted across bloody sinew, fingers extended, claws ripping from the bloody wet stumps. Taris screamed.

In the chamber below, the specimen wailed, screaming into the void until its heart stopped. The mind of one so sensitive to the immaterium was a fecund garden, Vilyxnar thought. It overflowed with horrors, if only one were brave enough to sow the seeds of terror and reap the resulting agony. Once banished for his interest in the shining souls of seers and witches, Vilyxnar would return to Commorragh as the herald of freedom. Fear of She Who Thirsts kept his kin tethered like slaves, but he would end that. He would quench the unquenchable with the multiplied sufferings of the brightest of souls.

Taris opened her eyes.

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.