While Old Friends Upon A Gantry Meet
The Manufactorum was filled with the constant sounds of machinery and industry. Somewhere in the distance wailing sirens alerted workers of a jam in the production line.
Evaporated sweat, steam and foul-smelling smoke filled the air. To even be able to survive any length of time in these working conditions you needed at least a set of nasal filtration plugs and a pair of goggles.
In this most hellish of workplaces two old friends were meeting upon a walkway, suspended some fifty meters above the constant noisome activity below.
At 10:00 local they stepped onto the walkway at either end and walked at an even pace towards each other. The sound of their boots on the steel grill of the narrow walkway floor was lost to the cacophony of the machines beneath. The gantry was perhaps three meters wide and a hundred meters long, spanning across the entire factory floor. A number of boxes and machinery parts had been randomly deposited placed along its length.
Approaching from one side was a man in a full-length black overcoat of high quality with a narrow band of brown and cream around the hems. A pair of bulky but not awkward bare metal shoulder pads were attached over the overcoat, a currently inactive vid-recorder unit mounted on the right shoulder. Two bulges were visible from underneath the overcoat, betraying the presence of the sword and naval pistol where they hung from his waist.
His face was stern, weathered, but handsome, giving the appearance of a man not much beyond his forties. Hard, piercing hazel eyes betrayed that this man had seen many things that should never be witnessed by mortal eyes. Long, dark blonde hair tied up in a top-knot finished off his preferred appearance.
The other man wore a full set of storm trooper carapace armour, black plates over an unmarked black uniform. The only visible insignia was the silver I of the Inquisition on the left breast plate over his heart. His helmet currently hung from his belt, loosely attached by its chin strap. Next to it were a sword with a highly ornate hilt and a holstered sawn-off double-barrelled shotgun.
In contrast to the other this mans appearance was positively youthful, with crew-cut brown hair and a short tidy beard.
Having travelled a roughly equal distance along the hundred meter long walkway, the two men stopped face to face, a foots gap between them. They looked into each others eyes for a while seconds, both remaining stern and showing no emotion.
Eventually the man in carapace armour raised his right hand between them and waited patiently for the other to reciprocate. After a moments pause, he did. They both smiled at each other as they shook hands.
“It has been too long, friend.” Said the one who had instigated the hand-shake.
“Perhaps it has Gabrent, perhaps.” Replied the other, as they let their hands drop from each others.
An awkward pause dragged out for a few seconds before Inquisitor Aethip Gabrent decided to break it. Asking pleasantly,
“How is Julia? Did she recover well from her injuries on Malfi?”
“Yes, she’s had plenty of rest time to return to full health since then.”
“Hmm, that is good to hear. Do give her my regards.”
“Of course I will Aethip.” Responded the other, in what Gabrent instantly realised was an uncharacteristically cordial tone of voice.
Wearily Gabrent probed, “What is it you wanted this meeting to discuss Vendile? You’ve been off the charts for thirteen years now.”
“You were wrong.” Inquisitor Heroka Vendile stated bluntly, all pretence gone.
“Wrong? With what?”
“With everything!” snarled Vendile as he sent his right knee crashing into Gabrents crotch.
The inquisitor fell down onto one knee, grunting at the sudden pain, reduced only marginally by the carapace plate that had intervened. Vendile wrapped his left hand round Gabrents neck and forced him to look up at him.
“You knew the Sawtik Device wouldn’t do what I thought it would didn’t you?” demanded Vendile, his face formed in a sneer.
“You deserve an explanation at least I suppose. Our personal friendship requires it.” answered Gabrent, he smiled darkly at his old friend and continued, “I handed Magos Sawtik’s grey device over to you on Zurrat because it was believed that the fact that only you knew the location of the portal, coupled with your own personal drive, would make you attempt to use it immediately. But you lagged. So instead of waiting for you to act, the Silent Hand decided to give you a nudge.”
“Goddard.” breathed Vendile as his suspicions were confirmed.
“You’ve changed Heroka, I can see it in your eyes, in your soul even.”
Vendile frowned now as he looked down upon a man he had once called a true friend.
A sudden, monstrously loud, other-worldly snarl, that easily cut through the sounds of the vast machinery below, emanated from Gabrent’s lips. Simultaneously he lunged up and with a single punch to the chest sent Vendile flying backwards through the air. Crashing down onto the gantry again some ten meters from where he had been standing.
As Vendile struggled back up onto his feet he was kicked in the chest and sent sprawling onto his backside. He looked up venomously at Gabrent.
Except, this wasn’t the Gabrent he knew any more. The white of his eyes had turned bright orange and his pupils had expanded enough to completely hide his iris’, his skin had taken on an indescribable dark sheen and his sword was drawn, pointed at Vendiles chest. A sword that he had never seen Gabrent draw in his presence till now – and he instantly realised why. The daemonsword shone with internal luminescence and seemed to be whispering foul things constantly now that it was let loose.
Shouts and cries of alarm went up from below, work ceased in the immediate area as the civilians noticed the two men up on the gantry. Some called out for the Arbiters to be sent for, but most simply ran, desperate to get away from any source of conflict. So hasty were they to depart, that the production line was left running without anyone monitoring it.
“You see Vendile,” spat Gabrent, to his horror Vendile realised his friends tongue had become green and dripped slime, “Goddard was just a tool, prompted to investigate you at the behest of another member of the Silent Hand.”
“Damn it Aethip. Your Istvannism I was willing to accept, but to fall into the thrall of chaos? Your soul is damned now.”
“Ha! No my foolish friend, my soul is saved, as it has been for twenty years now. You were right when you warned me decades ago that my beliefs would lead me to dark things, and yet, this power I have found is more wonderful than anything I could have every imagined.”
“Are the Silent Hand chaos worshippers too then?” asked Vendile in a shouted voice to be heard over the now wailing security claxons.
“That pathetic shambles? Of course not, most of them are barely Istvannian. But then I came along and took charge, fed them what they wanted to hear and gave them the right results, yet all the while undermining the Imperium at the whim of my new master, the mighty Tzeentch, lord of change and master of the fates.”
“Why did you send me to a daemonworld Gabrent?” bellowed Vendile angrily at his lost friend, he remained sat on the gantry, determined to get the answers he needed.
Gabrent snapped himself out of his revere of Tzeentch. “So I was right? The portal did lead to the heart of the Eye of Terror? Is a daemonic invasion afoot without my knowledge?” demanded the inquisitor with increasing joy in his voice.
“No, no daemons can use the portal, nobody can. It has been destroyed on both the daemonworld and on Krunathar.” answered Vendile simply, he continued, “Your plans have failed Gabrent.”
“No matter, I can make new plans.” Gabrent looked dejected at Vendiles news, “But you, you must be killed now, your purpose has been served.”
The inquisitor took a step forwards and swung the daemonsword down at Vendile. Desperately he scrambled backwards, but not quickly enough to avoid the first blow. The possessed blade sliced clean through cloth, flak and flesh to score a deep cut horizontally across Vendile’s chest. As the blade pierced his skin he felt a rushing sensation and screamed as two litres of blood were sucked straight from his body by the vampyric daemon held within the sword.
His face turned deathly pale and spots danced across his vision as Vendile collapsed flat on his back in shock from the blood loss as his heart desperately tried to compensate for the sudden lack of blood cells to pump round his body. Above him he could just about make out the outline of Gabrent as he prepared for a return blow to finish him off.
With all of his will Vendile shouted inside his own head, ‘NOW!’
There was a bright flash of light from behind Vendile which dazzled Gabrent and stopped him mid-swing, a split-second later a blast of green and blue warp flame smashed into Gabrent’s chest and flung him backwards into two stacked wooded crates at the side of the gantry.‘I am here.’
said a loathsome voice inside Vendile’s head.
Recovering himself, Vendile managed to prop himself up onto his elbows in time to see Gabrent stood upright again, his chest plates battered and scorched, an incredulous look on his face as he held his daemonsword out to one side and pointed with his left hand at the thing behind Vendile, shouting,
“You decry me
for turning to chaos when you yourself have seen fit to harness it! Hypocrite!”
This comment was immediately responded to with another blast of warp flame shooting over Vendiles head at Gabrent, but this time the traitor brought his sword up, letting its magical energies block the shot.
With a roar of anger Gabrent strode forwards along the walkway towards Vendile again, but his ally moved forwards to meet him. Vendile watched as the pallid flesh and ripped black robes of the thing known to him as Areshibael Warpwalker glided through the air a foot above him to meet its opponent.
Areshibael was a horror to behold, a tall emaciated frame with ghostly white flesh. It had a set of torn and ripped black robes with brown and cream edging hanging loosely off of its frame. But worst of all was that this thing had no head, instead, atop its thin neck, it had a single, skull-sized, black eyeball.
Gabrent uttered some foul curse as the pair drew near and Areshibael wordlessly replied in kind and the two blasts of warp plasma collided with a bang.
This was followed an instant later by a big booming explosion some three hundred meters away down the production line. Left unmanned, the whole system was clogging up with multiple jams and failures, the first of which had just gone critical and caused a two-story piece of machinery explode in a fireball. As the sound rolled up and down the chamber an minor secondary explosions occurred, Vendile realised the large number of different alarms and sirens still wailing away to warn of all these failings in the system. The loudest of these was an alert to say that all access hatches would close in five seconds to stop the fire spreading beyond this workhall.
However he seemed to be the only one who noticed, as seconds later Gabrent and the unarmed Areshibael clashed in combat.
Gabrent swung a powerful uppercutwith his blade, which the daemonhost narrowly swerved to avoid and then responded to with a focused blast of red lightning from an outstretched hand that burned across Gabrents right side.
The sound of various clangs could be heard along the length of the production line as every blast door closed and sealed itself.
The inquisitor attacked again, but Areshibael again avoided the blade, but then lunged in and grasped Gabrents neck in his right hand and hoisted him aloft. In a desperate defence he swung the sword up and cleaved straight through the daemonhosts right arm at the elbow.
The psychic scream of pain that followed floored Vendile yet again and nearly killed the far closer Gabrent, who was also flung backwards along the gantry as the decapitated limb clasped around his throat seemed to explode and vaporise all at once. The inquisitor crashed to the floor of the walkway some twenty meters away from the daemonhost, his neck and chin burnt black and blood trickling from his ears, nose, mouth and the corners of his eyes.
Areshibael meanwhile had transformed his psychic shriek of pain into an audible one somehow as he stared at the stump of his elbow, from which many shades of light seemed to emanate. All of a sudden though, the cry changed into awed surprise and pleasure.
Vendile stumbled on onto his feet again, coughing at the smoke that was starting to fill the ceiling space from the spreading fires beneath, just in time to watch as new bone seemed to grow out of the shinning stump of the daemonhosts arm. The bone twisted and mutated, thickening and taking form of its own accord. After a few seconds the glowing faded and revealed that Areshibaels lower right arm had regrown into the form of a large crab claw. The inquisitor felt bemused as he watched the daemon twist the arm this way and that to admire it, as he was not aware that Areshibael had the power to reform his body any more than basic regeneration of his host.‘It is a gift from Tzeentch!’
explained the daemon to Vendile’s from inside his head.
Meanwhile, calling on the warp to give him strength, Gabrent pulled himself onto his feet again, daemonsword at the ready. Areshibael saw this and would no doubt have smiled menacingly if he had had a mouth to do so. Instead the daemonhost simply swooped along the gantry towards him at speed, claw ready to attack.
Gabrent stepped forwards to meet him at the last moment, swinging the blade in a deadly back-handed arc, it shone bright red, echoing its wielders anger. And stopped dead.
The daemonblade was held stock still mid-swing within Areshibaels new claw. Slowly but surely the daemonhost cut through the blade by closing his claw around it. The blade shrieked and moaned in complaint, as did Gabrent as the blade sucked power and life-force from him to try and stop the claws progress, but to not avail.
After about ten seconds of the deadlock there was a final high pitched shriek as the blade was cleaved in two and the daemon within was released back unto the warp. The two halves of the now ordinary sword fell to the ground, the handle half dropped from Gabrents hands as he fell onto his knees, drained and damaged.
During this time Vendile had managed to walk along the gantry to within a couple meters of the pair.‘Kill him.’
ordered Vendile through his mind-link with the daemon.‘No, Tzeentch does not wish this servant to die by my hand.’
replied Areshibael telepathically, this message was accompanied by the briefest flash of an image in his mind, showing Inquisitor Bellcry stood over the burnt remains of what was obviously Inquisitor Gabrent. Vendile smiled and stepped past the daemonhost and dropped down onto his haunches so that he was at eye-level with the defeated Gabrent.
“Bellcry’s precious Order should have picked up my trail again by now, this is how I will make sure of it.” he said contemptuously.
Gabrent was so drained and battered that all he could do as Vendile reached over and unholstered his double-barrelled sawn-off shotgun and aimed it at his face was to murmur, “Please… Heroka… no… no.”
“It doesn’t matter what I do now, because I know you’ll be dead shortly anyway, but I won’t let you to take the easy way out.” stated Vendile simply, a vicious grin on his face.
He stood up and casually threw the gun off the gantry to the floor below, making it impossible for Gabrent to put himself out of his misery or to escape.
Vendile turned back to face Gabrent, who looked up at his old friend with real fear in his eyes, “Goodbye Gab-”
An explosion from below shook the gantry so hard that Vendile had to grasp onto the railing. Turning to look behind himself, he saw the fireball raging up from underneath the walkway near the centre, some thirty meters back, he could just make out the sound of shearing metal over the roar of the flames.
He turned and shouted at Areshibael, “We leave now!”
At that second the gantry lurched downwards several feet and listed sideways where it stayed for half a second. Vendile let go of the railing and jumped as more metal sheared, right arm outstretched to the floating daemonhost, who reached out and grasped it in his left hand. The central section of the gantry collapsed onto the burning machinery below. The section Gabrent was on dropped lower and twisted with the free end upside-down. The doomed Inquisitor screamed with a voice distorted by burns and filled with desperation as he slid off and hung desperately with one hand from the top railing,
Suspended in mid-air, Vendile and Areshibael disappeared in a flash of blinding light.
Machinery units up and down the length of the production line were exploding or already on fire, shrapnel from another nearby explosion sliced into the back of Gabrent’s legs. In his anguish he shouted at the Gods,
“You betrayed me!”
The gantry gave a final shriek of tortured metal and dropped down into the roaring inferno beneath.