‘Ex-excuse me, Sister Magdala, when can I go home?’ asked the small hesitant voice.
‘The Schola Progenium is your home now,’ replied the Sororitas. The child extended her tiny hand to the imposing woman who had taken her away from her mother. Sister Magdala slapped her hand away and glared at the girl.
‘A Sister of Battle does not hold hands. Instead, she turns to the Emperor for strength in her moments of need,’ scolded the woman.
‘Yes, Sister,’ said Julia as tears rose in her amber eyes.
‘A Sister of Battle certainly does not cry. Tears are for the weak.’
Julia nodded, her golden curls bouncing as she stifled her sobs. She padded silently next to Sister Magdala, regaining her composure. Julia wondered why the Sororitas’s hair was white, yet she was of similar age as her mother. She thought better of asking.
‘Sister, will I see my mother again?’ asked the child as they resumed their journey down the long stone hall. The stained-glass windows depicted scenes from Holy Terra and the glorious effigy of the Emperor of Mankind. Julia watched the plethora of colourful lights dancing on the walls as her heart filled with an unfamiliar warmth.
‘No, stop whining, Julia. You should be proud that you were chosen to serve the Emperor of Mankind. Most children are not as blessed as you are. He is now your father, and we are your sisters. So, forget about your attachments and show your strength, child,’ said the Sororitas frowning at the child. They stopped before a wooden door, and Magdala inhaled slowly. Her stern look relaxed into a comforting smile.
‘You will purge many heretics, xenos and witches. I can see the fire in your eyes. This is your room. Go inside and change into your robes. I’ll wait here. When you’re ready, we’ll meet the other girls.’
Julia pushed open the door and stepped inside the room.
Julia didn’t know what to expect when she entered the classroom. On Noliath, she went to the crèche. The kids laughed and played as they learned to read and count. Conversely, when the door creaked open, she saw rows of girls standing still in line. A Sororitas, the mistress, walked back and forth inspecting the children as her voice boomed across the space.
‘… Emperor’s Light! You shall stand until you can stand no more. You shall be His cleansing flame!’
The mistress’s attention turned to Julia, who stood in the doorway, trembling in fear. Ignoring the other girls, the mistress strode over to her and grabbed the child by the arm, squeezing. The girls turned to watch the mistress.
Tears streamed down Julia’s cheeks, but she did not utter a sound. Sister Magdala had said to turn the Emperor, not to whine. So, when the woman slapped Julia across the face, Julia glared at her in defiance.
Then, ignoring Julia, the mistress turned to the other fifteen girls assembled in the classroom.
‘Why did I strike her?’ the Sister’s voice echoed in the big stone room.
‘A Sister of Battle shows no fear. She turns to the Emperor in her times of need.’
The mistress was surprised to find that Julia had spoken those words with no sign of fear or pain in her voice.
‘Very good, you may enter.’
‘This is your final trial before you move from Novitiate to Sister of Battle. Our mission is to exterminate a cultist uprising on Noliath—’
Julia’s mind wandered as a smile tugged at the corner of her pink lips. She no longer listened to the objective but remembered her time on Noliath almost twenty years ago. She wondered if her mother still lived and if she would be proud of her daughter.
Focus, she scolded herself. This mission was of the utmost importance, the final trial before she became a fully-fledged Adepta Sororitas. She could not fail herself, her homeworld, or the Emperor.
Julia pulled her chainsword from the mangled corpse of a cultist as blood splattered across her exposed skin and tawny robes. A cackle ignited her senses, and she spun to see its origin. Another purple-haired heretic with a massive claw, ready to strike, ran in her direction. Julia scrunched her nose in disgust as it screamed and laughed in anticipation of combat.
‘For the Emperor!’ cried Julia as she sped to meet the heretic’s attack, but it suddenly stopped.
‘Julia?’ The thing spoke in a soft voice.
Julia frowned and slowed, bringing her chainsword to idle. A trick of the mind, it had to be. How could she have heard it so clearly over the din of battle? A Sister of Battle does not hesitate, she reminded herself. Doubt is heresy whispering in the mind.
‘Do not suffer the heretic to live!’ the Sister Superior cried behind her as she cracked her whip. The warning was enough to propel Julia into action. She knew that if she didn’t heed it, lashings would punish any further hesitation, and her dreams of becoming a Sister of Battle would be over.
Julia did not intend to let this witch escape the fury of the Emperor. She continued her advance. The heretic cowered and raised its claw protectively in front of its face. Julia slashed downward, jaggedly slicing it in half, top to bottom.
Pulling away her chainsword, she noticed a small bracelet on the wrist of the dead witch. She recognised it as a trinket she had made for her mother, before Sister Magdala had come to take her away.
‘Mother?’ she whispered but felt nothing: no sadness, no loss, only rage and disgust at the heresy before her. Then, with a slight sputter, she awoke the machine spirit of her flamer, setting the one who had birthed her alight. Noliath was not her home. Her home was with her Sisters.
About the Author
Geneviève is a mother of three and a French Canadian military wife. She enjoys writing fanfiction and original dark fiction short stories. She also likes to homebrew Warhammer, mostly Sororitas and helps others in their writing journey.