Tranch warfare for a noble
- 1 Chapter 1: Welcome to Tranch
- 2 Chapter 2: To survive assignment on Tranch
- 3 Chapter 3: Trench on Tranch
- 4 Chapter 4: Infiltration
- 5 Chapter 5: Blessing or curse?
- 6 Chapter 6: Meeting
- 7 Chapter 7: Return of lost guardsman
- 8 Chapter 8: Intervention
- 9 Chapter 9: Escape
- 10 Chapter 10: Journey begins
- 11 Chapter 11: Report of monstrosity
- 12 Chapter 12: Best course of action
- 13 Chapter 13: Chase begins
- 14 Chapter 14: Within our reach
- 15 Chapter 15: Through the fiery storm
- 16 Chapter 16: Forces from unknown
- 17 Chapter 17: Into The Madness
- 18 Chapter 18: Insanity Within, Hatred Without
- 19 Chapter 19: Newfound Purpose
- 20 Chapter 20: The Contest
- 21 Chapter 21: Farewell
Chapter 1: Welcome to Tranch
Georgio Belechus. Black haired, blue-eyed, tall, fit 28-years old man. Youngest of his line, following his father in glory of the Imperial Guard, hammer of the emperor. Or so he thought. But instead of being assigned into the role of an officer, he found himself getting loaded onto a ship, heading to a world he had never heard of. This had to be a mistake, he was no mere recruit! He was of noble blood, and that alone made him better than any of the mud-huggers around him. And now he has to do some work-out with them?! No way.
"Excuse me sergeant... I am Geo-"
The sergeant cut him short: "I know damn well who you are, private Georgio! You will do the exercises just like everyone else! Stop your dilly-dallying and give me twenty push-ups!"
Georgio frowned: "But sir, I am of noble origins and-"
"NO BUTS PRIVATE! MAKE IT THIRTY PUSH UPS!" Georgio did not expect that, and he decided his best option was to follow the orders for now.
But he had one question he would not tolerate left unanswered: "Sir? where are we going?" Sergeant stared at him, with a look that could be described only as amused: "You lazy bastard will be transferred to Calixis-sector, to a planet called Tranch. It is a great place to get whatever got into that thick skull to use!" This would be a long warp-travel...
Two weeks later, the ship finally exited the immaterium. Georgio had been trained the basics and the job of a loader: Mortars, artillery, heavy weapons... Skills Georgio found useless for an officer. They really were making him start from the bottom like the rabble. Vox-casters roared to life: "ATTENTION. ALL PERSONNEL ASSIGNED TO TRANCH. PROCEED TO THE DOCKING BAY. PLANETARY STATUS: 1,0829 GRAVITATIONAL STANDARD FORCES, AVERAGE OF 12 DEGREES OF CELSIUS STANDARD AND PLANET-ENCROACHING DUST-CLOUDS. MAY THE EMPEROR BE WITH YOU."
Doesn't sound too good, Georgio thought, but not too bad either, considering he came from a world in its early stages of imperial industrialization, which had caused its skies to darken and temperature to drop year by year, so the climate wasn't too different from what his home would be in twenty years, if the calculations of the adepts could be trusted. Georgio was stuffed in a shuttle that had seats for 50 soldiers... And had 67 already stuffed in. Great. Landing was surprisingly comfortable, as Georgio expected anti-air fire or engine failure, or any other disastrous event. On the landing pad, recruits were assigned to form new squads. Georgio was an exception.
"Georgio, your new partner is waiting for you in barrack 21. Get moving!" as Georgio found the place, he saw a man standing next to the door smoking a lho-stick. The man looked old (for a guardsman) and had a heavily modified set of flak armor. The man also had a dirty stubble of a beard. Last, but not least, his right arm was much better muscled than his left one.
The man noticed Georgio and took took a last inhale of lho-stick´s bitter smoke before asking: "You the new guy? Recruit assigned here?"
Georgio was not sure what to think of this man, but chose to tell the truth, as embarrassing as he thought being called recruit was: "Yeah. And you are..?"
"Jericus. Heavy weapons team. You have been assigned as my new loader. I´ll teach you the ropes, don´t worry."
"I already got the training..."
"Oh, no you didn't get nearly enough. Welcome to Tranch, rookie."
Chapter 2: To survive assignment on Tranch
Jericus led Georgio to their post, a firing position dug into ground just out of the camp. Georgio realized he had missed the most important piece of information considering his survival: "What are we fighting here? Orks? Eldar?"
"You dimwit don't even know that this sector is one of the most peaceful one in the entire segmentum obsucrus? There is almost no Eldar activity, and only couple of worlds have any kind of ork infestation on them."
"The Pale Throng. I was here from the beginning. And I can say, I'd rather fight an ork WAAAGH! for a year than spend a week here. But, you know... Orders are orders."
"Pale Throng? Never heard of it. So... What are they?"
"Mutants. Witches. Monstrosities that say they are the next step of evolution, that humans are weak and blind to the future."
Georgio felt confused: Imperial guard stamping out some backwater rebellion? "That seems ridiculous... Wouldn't the PDF troops be enough for something like this?"
"the PDF was destroyed. Killed, every last one of them. We had a hard time too. And we are still needed to reclaim this planet." Jericus lit another lho-stick and opened a weapon cache.
Georgio was stunned by what he saw: "What in the Emperor's name is THAT?"
"This? Due to Calixis sectors' available weaponry giving adeptus administratum a chance to save a few coins, we have been appointed a Volg VI Heavy Stubber, commonly known as the crank cannon, and to those familiar with it, Big Six. Entirely hand-powered mechanism, cheapness and easy manufacturing makes this weapon both unreliable and easy to repair, not to speak of availability for spare parts. Clip size of 100 standard heavy stubber rounds, low rate of fire and cheaper system make this weapon inferior to heavy stubber in all areas except equal stopping power. Questions?"
"Am I supposed to use this piece of crap?"
Jericus stared at Georgio, dumbfounded. After a moment he regained his wits: "I suggest you start to appreciate this weapon. It is what will keep you alive during this assignment. And your job is to change its clips whenever it fires a tracer round which is the last round in a clip, and keep the weapon operational."
Georgio knew he was going to hate this job.
Late that evening, after going through weapon procedures, Georgio was exhausted. "May I rest now, sir?"
"For a while, yes."
Georgio started to dig through his sack and found his sleeping bag. He curdled up in it, and started to get sleepy...
"Are you sleeping there?!"
Is this guy crazy or something, Georgio thought, lifting an eyebrow. He was about to ignore him, but Jericus pulled him on his feet, and started another lecture:
"This is Tranch, and you will act like it! Lesson one: Pale Throng WAS destroyed, but its remnants still roam here. Enemy is everywhere! Lesson two: Their forces are terrifying, mainly due to their ruthlessness and powers the monstrosities wield! They vary in shape and kind, and many of them are so quiet, that your heartbeat is loud in comparison! Sleeping is calling for your death! To survive, you MUST be ready at all times: You have to check for enemies even if you had a dozen scouts go before you! You must sleep only when absolutely necessary, and even then, confirm safety, and sleep lightly!"
At that point, Georgio finally understood this assignment was not just a bother: It was going to be his own private hell.
Chapter 3: Trench on Tranch
Couple of days later, filled with lectures, complaints and suffering, the newfound heavy weapons team got its' first orders: They had to dig into positions around a decommissioned chimera as the tech-priest tried to reawaken it's machine spirit. Twelve long hours of digging later, there was a square-shaped trench, housing four heavy weapon teams and two squads of conscripts. Tech priest checked the vehicle and found it in need of extensive repairs, not to speak of the necessary rites to ease the machine spirit's pain. It would take four days as his tools and parts would force him to improvise wherever he could. Georgio sat in the trench, almost unable to stay awake.
"It's for your own good, rookie. The sooner you learn to live with little sleep, the better." Jericus had begun to show some sympathy for Georgio. Which Georgio took as an outrage: Noble getting sympathy from this Emperor-damned crazy mud-hugger?
"Get lost. And take your damn "cranky" with you. I'm tired of your bullshit."
"Fine! I'm just trying to help you survive, idiot."
Georgio was too tired to argue.
"INCOMING! FIFTY TARGETS, THREE HUNDRED METERS SOUTHEAST!"
What a glorious wakeup for Georgio. He jumped to his position as Jerichus prepared the crank cannon. The mutants closed in fast, and Jerichus opened fire. The closest mutants fell in moments, and about twenty followed before they retreated.
"Hell, that was easy."
Georgio felt great: The crapcannon worked beautifully for once. He reloaded it and went back to sitting.
"Don't be so sure... The mutants are resourceful."
"Don't jinx it."
That night, three conscripts died and two went missing. Jericus seemed mostly annoyed by this. There was another assault on the next day. The mutants got into range of their weapons and took out four more conscripts before retreating. Jericus started to get worried:
"We are dying here way too fast. They will redouble their efforts if these recruits don't get their shit together."
"At least they get to sleep."
Jericus rolled his eyes and mumbled something about "thankless noble fools".
Chapter 4: Infiltration
Two days have passed. Twelve conscripts have been dragged off. Filthy Witch-kin and their disguises. Jericus was sure they would all die in the next assault. At least the remaining conscripts were learning. So was Georgio, though he was way too slow.
"Check the barrels again. I'll finish up modifying your armor."
"Is that necessary? You know how the 'Uplifter' requires us to keep our equipment in prime, STANDARD condition?"
"Shut your mouth for once. We are going to die if nothing short of a miracle happens. I'm making your armor more comfortable to die in."
Georgio looked at Jericus in his normal, idiotic way. He still did not get it. "Did my sleeping bag have to die for that? I preferred to sleep in it. You know what sleeping is?"
Jericus was fed up, but decided to ignore the fool for once.
"There. All done." He went to his place as the gunner to wait for threats. Georgio, damn spoiled brat... Jericus wanted this to be over with. But the tech-priest still needed time to get the chimera moving, just a few hours now. He was not going to die on this rock.
Georgio, just as usual, took a comfortable position. War was hell, but these mutants were a piece of cake. He opened his ration pack, and was about to bite the tasteless bar, but then stopped. He thought he saw something move. As he looked around, all was normal. He went back to eating, but now saw it: Reflection of movement on his ration pack's shiny surface. Then his world was shrunk to contain only his shoulder and pain. He screamed.
Jericus fumbled for his pistol while turning, seeing the witch-kin tearing at Georgios shoulder using its impossibly huge mouth filled wit filed teeth. He managed to get his gun out, and blasted the mutant with a beam of laser. Whatever people say about the "flashlight", it is more than capable of killing a human, especially with limited or no armour. The laspistol burned a hole through the filthy creature's head and into Giorgio's shoulder, both of which fell to the ground motionless. Another set of filed teeth dug into Jericus's pistol arm.
Georgio regained consciousness just soon enough to see Jericus get dragged away screaming. The pain was unbearable, and his arm wouldn't move. He saw the assault beginning. He saw the remaining conscripts open fire, and heard heavy weapon teams climb onto the chimera, to gain advantage. The fight was short, and the perfectly timed ignition of chimera's engine got all guard survivors do the classical decision for defeating the enemy: Retreat and regroup. Georgio was left there, in middle of the cheering mutants. He was about to lose consciousness again.
"well, well, well. Look at what we have here." Someone said in a cold tone.
Chapter 5: Blessing or curse?
Commissar Grenn. About 1.8 meters tall, wide-shouldered man with an artificial eye, both arms and one leg replaced with bionics. His other eye was filled with bone fragments, but that had to wait: He had work to do.
"Vanus! Is the heavy flamer still jammed?!" He shouted.
"No more, Commissar! Fully operational!", the guardsman answered.
"Good, now give it to me!"
"You heard me dimwit! Just give the damned thing to me!" After strapping the flamer fuel tank to his back, Commissar Grenn turned to the squad's sergeant:
"Keep the men alive and provide covering fire!", he ordered.
"WHERE ARE YOU GOING?!" The sergeant bellowed.
"I'm taking the fight to the enemy!", commissar answered. Then he charged.
Grenn was famous, both within Calixian Guard and comissariat, for he was the craziest one still alive. He had done many a suicidal charge alone simply to later emerge from the chaos wounded but alive. He was thought to be either blessed by the Emperor to survive, or cursed to suffer. He did not care.
A short list of his deeds explain how (un?)lucky he is: He has survived: Charging an Ork nob under heavy fire and shoving a grenade into its mouth, losing his arm in the process. Losing the other arm in a rockslide, having to cut it off himself to escape. Charging an enemy bunker to get explosives in, while friendly artillery was still pounding the area: Lost his leg to a shell. Being attacked by a swarm of Rippers: Those that got close he had to tear from his flesh and bash to death. Gained many scars during the process, and three teeth and parts of his tongue as he saved time by grabbing one Ripper with his teeth and biting it to death (causing many stories to pop up of him killing a tyranid with his teeth (with size of said 'nid growing every time the story is told)). Losing his eye to eldar shuriken weapons, and now the other eye to bone shrapnel from the unlucky guardsman next to him.
And now he charged a horde of mutants with a poor-quality heavy flamer. He saw the insanity of this himself, but unlike most commissars, he wanted to save and inspire men instead of making them scared by executions. What better tool for his goal than showing true courage?
He managed to reach the mutant firing line with only minor wounds and proceeded to cleanse and purify the abominations. As he was finishing up the last group, the fuel tank exploded on his back, sending him flying on fire. He landed hard and couldn't move to extinguish the flames. He was saved by the squad he was attached to, while medic tried to get him fixed up.
"Don't worry. Grenn wouldn't die if you chopped his head off.", The sergeant said laughing.
"Commissar Grenn!", He proclaimed.
"Sure, sure. Let's get you patched up, friend."
Chapter 6: Meeting
Georgio woke up chained on a table, with his standard issue guardsman uniform having been replaced with only some cheap pants. Not that he could complain- the wound seemed to be infected, and removing clothing from that would be agony. He looked around himself to see where he was: The room looked like a filthy, primitive medicae station. The table he was chained to seemed to be made entirely of plasteel, and felt cold on his back. At least it eased the pain... Even if only a little. Georgio then heard steps approaching.
"Yes, yes. I will have the prisoner talk as soon as he wakes up. The wound was nasty and got infected, so I can't say if he will awaken today, tomorrow, or next week. He might never wake up."
The voice was calm, and seemed to belong to a man. Georgio tried to listen, but a wave of pain washed over him, making his vision blur.
"What do you think? Will he bend under torture?"
Another voice. Georgio was not sure of the source's gender, though.
"He will. One way or the other."
Georgio decided to attempt to escape, as being tortured was not on his to-do-list. He managed to squirm one arm away, after which the rest was easy. Just as he tried to stand up, another wave of pain made him feel dizzy. He tried to get support from the table but instead pulled a box of surgical tools down with him, causing noise and getting multitudes of cuts in the process. He heard people running closer. He quickly stood up, holding a scalpel as a weapon.
Then the mutants rushed into the room: One of them small with his left eye as big as Georgio's fist and the other having four arms. They stared at Georgio for a moment before charging him.
Georgio slashed wildly with the scalpel, but did not manage to cause lethal damage to these abominations. He was pushed to the ground, and stabbed with a needle. He lost consciousness mere moments later.
Georgio woke up again strapped to a chair. It seemed to be torture time. In the far end of the small, dark room, he could barely see a person. He still felt the effects of the drug.
"Whooo.... Aare youuu?"
He couldn't even speak properly, not to say anything about his inability to think straight.
"I am Breca. Assigned here for your interrogation."
Georgio squinted and realized the person before him was a woman, although a mutated one: Her knees seemed to bend in the wrong way.
"Pleese... Don't hurt mee..."
He started to feel his mouth. At least he could speak relatively normally.
"I need you to tell any and all information regarding the plans of the guard in the near future. If you prove helpful, there will be no need for pain."
"Emperor spare me... I cannot tell anything. I wasn't told anything!"
"But are you not a Noble? You seem to be of... "Pure" breed, and are not such men put to command?"
The way she said pure seemed to be forced: Like she disagreed with the whole concept of either nobles or the perfection of human form! How could such a lowly thing speak in such manner!
"Cursed mutant... Acting all high and mighty now that I cannot move?!"
"I see. Well, what else to expect from ancestors of evolution... It seems pain is the language we will need to try next."
Georgio never before had felt this helpless.
Chapter 7: Return of lost guardsman
Jericus wandered in the rubble of a collapsed hive-spire. He had managed to shoot the witch-kin before getting killed. He had lost feeling in his arm, though. And the amount of blood he lost was certainly bad for his survival. The vital fluid was slowly flowing to his fingertips, and from there to ground.
Another drop fell.
He was looking for anything to staunch the bleeding. His uniform was needed, he did not want to freeze to death. His bandolier was needed to carry ammunition: He was already low, and almost every clip on his belt had only a few shots left. His humble laspistol seemed to start acting up, as he could not perform the simplest maintenance. It was reliable, but the way he had to treat the poor thing... Tech-priests would be horrified of the machine's pain.
And another drop.
He felt dizzy. He had felt dizzy for a few hours: Must have been the blood loss. The wound was most likely infected, too. The dizziness slowed him down. But stopping to rest would be certain death.
More blood fell from his fingertip.
He decided to take the risk of having a rest. He fell on his arse, but couldn't feel the pain. He thought he heard something. He couldn't move to shoot the threat. He knew stopping was a bad idea. He managed to utter a short prayer before fainting.
Jericus was transported to the closest guard base by the squad who had run into him: They knew him, and they were certain he would survive. Jericus was too stubborn to simply bleed to death. The medic there managed to staunch the bleeding and disinfect the wound. Jericus still lived. He would keep on fighting for the Imperium of man. And he would keep holding the line.
Chapter 8: Intervention
Georgio screamed. This... Breca, was it?.. Sure knew her way with improvised torturing tools. At least he thought that having glass shards inserted into the victim's back was not standard torture method. Nor did he think having molten wax (taken from the purity seal put onto his helmet) poured into the wound on his shoulder. Or having his hair tied to a metal bar and lifted so that he could barely stand on his toes. He was pretty certain his skin would tear before he could hang without that little support.
"Let me down, let me down! Please!"
"Why would I? You still haven't answered the question: Tell me how your camp is defended, locations of your heavy weapons, mine fields and command center, and you can go."
"I don't know! I'm new! I didn't get to learn the positions properly!"
Breca was getting tired of this. Either this man was brave or he was a fool. These so called "pure" people were usually the latter. She decided to report of the situation to the Shroud Master, but was surprised as he was waiting right behind the door.
"Shroud Master! What a coincidence. I was just going to-"
"Tell me about this human's inability to cooperate? I already know."
She should have known. All the Shroud Masters were special: No matter how they had evolved from the normal human, they possessed great psychic powers.
"What should I do? I need your guidance, honored one."
"Sometimes, when the 'normals' fight against the natural flow of evolution, we must show the way. In this case, we cannot obtain information, but what about assistance? Safety? There are many ways a brother can help."
Georgio tried to listen in, but he couldn't make any sense of the little he did hear.
"Brother? What are you talking about, honored one?" Breca mumbled.
"I shall make him want to help us."
As the Shroud master walked towards Georgio, the latter felt a new kind of dread: He felt something scratching at the back of his skull, squirming within his mind.
"GET AWAY FROM ME, WITCH!", he roared.
The shroud master didn't care about Georgio's protests, but then was heard a loud whizzing noise.
"Artillery?" Breca said, trying to figure out the source of such voice.
"I do not think so", the shroud master answered. "The guard knows of our prisorners, not to speak of the lack of artillery around these parts..." The Shroud Master answered, right before the ordnance hit the base.
Around two kilometers to the north, the whirlwind let away two more salvos before the space marines saw their thunderhawk circling back.
"That warp storm spit us up far from our heading, captain. So why did we waste time to bombard some mutant base?" One of the marines wondered.
"The guard had a problematic situation, which I decided to fix. They can't decide what to do in hostage situations involving more than a hundered civilians, not to speak of 53 soldiers", the captain answered.
"Marines Malevolent, prepare for extraction!" He continued.
Chapter 9: Escape
Georgio survived with mere bruises, as did Shroud Master and Breca. He couldn't bear to move, though: The torture had ruined his back and hands, and getting up was too painful an ordeal for his current condition. The mutants stood up, and started whispering. He pulled the glass shards still embedded in his flesh, at least the ones his bound hands could reach.
"I won't die here... Not on this forsaken rock...", he muttered. By the time he was done pulling sharp objects from his back, the mutants were approaching.
"I am now releasing you, OK? Just... Take it easy and don't try anything funny", Breca said
Georgio couldn't understand what was going on, but decided this was his best bet to survive. Breca pulled him up and cut the ropes holding his hands. Georgio immediately sprinted in the opposite direction, ignoring the pain this caused.
"Was that a good idea, Honored One? This... Georgio may prove himself a threat later", Breca asked.
"We need every minute he can buy us to escape. Do not worry: He is still well within our reach."
Georgio finally found other REAL human beings. They seemed oddly familiar... Weren't these the recruits that left him on the field of battle?
"Help! I need help!", he shouted.
The recruits clearly recognized him, and seemed distraught. What was going on?
"You know the orders. Eradicate all potential hostiles", the commissar accompanying them said.
Georgio was faster to react than the recruits. He leaped into cover and screamed in panic, just before lasfire began.
"I'm a human! Don't shoot! I'm on your side!", he bellowed.
"Do not underestimate the witches that lead the masses, and do not worry about him: For the Emperor protects all those that stay faithful to him.
Georgio was no fool: That phrase had the same meaning as 'no matter is he enemy or not, kill him. Emperor chooses who is worthy of redemption'. Georgio's only choise was to run into the wilds, hopefully avoiding the lasfire. He ran with wild abandon, not caring of danger behind him nor slowing to avoid the risk of tripping: He had no time.
As he was about to lose the conscripts, he tripped on the rubble, as a bolter shell flew through the spot his head had occupied mere blink of an eye ago. Even the commissar was chasing him. He thought he was done for, but at that moment the entire squad fled in terror. The commissar shot couple of the cowards, but the rest still fled. As the commissar turned around, a woman charged at him. She swung her blade, disemboweling the commissar.
He looked down and managed to mutter a confused "What?" Before falling on his own innards.
Georgio tried to get his brain to work: Too much adrenaline in his system caused him a headache.
"Who are you?", he asked.
"I? I be Krella. The ol' lady wants ta' meetcha."
Chapter 10: Journey begins
Georgio wanted to ask more questions, but Krella had already started digging the rubble.
"I's sure 'twas 'round here... There! Now hold still Goorgie." Krella said while picking up a little wooden box.
"It's Georgio... Wait... How did you-"
"-Know yer name? Ol' lady told me. Back on Dusk, she showed me what yer looks like. She also told I needs to take care o' yer."
Krella took a knife, some sort of herbs, needle and some thread from the box. Before Georgio could protest, she had basically tackled him and turned him onto his stomach.
"These wounds needs 'ta be treated. Just keep still, and I'll fix yer."
The treatment was painful and involved having the last glass shards removed and having the herbs (after being crushed by Krella's teeth and mixed with her spit) stuffed into the open wounds. Georgio gritted his teeth and instinctively tried to get away from the burning pain, earning a slap and getting pulled back.
"Don'tcha even try an' escape! It cleans yer wounds. Man up, I be removing 'em now", she said and started to scoop the herb paste from the wounds.
"An' now the fun part. Try to bear it." She started sewing the holes up.
After about 15 minutes of agony, the treatment was over. Georgio felt like his whole back was just a big hole made by countless smaller ones. But he was grateful to be alive.
"Thank you for saving me... Krella, was it?" He now turned to have a better look on his saviour. She was slightly taller than him, and twice as muscular as he was, with light brown skin showing here and there from her worn outfit: Ragged bodyglove under a chainmail combat dress (separated vertically from the waist down to allow easier movement) and some kind of beast's hide used as additional protection for her chest area.
The armor had holes that looked like something had torn through, with scars on the skin below proving this right. Her face bore no scars, luckily: It was surprisingly pretty for a feral worlder. Her eyes were green, although... For a moment Georgio thought there was some kind of pale glow around her lenses... But no. It had to be his imagination. Her black hair was tied to a short ponytail with some small animal's skull adorning it. As she smiled, he saw her teeth: She had clearly tried to keep them clean (as they weren't rotten) but they WERE dirty. Georgio felt slightly disgusted, but was thankful enough to consider lending her his grooming kit.
"'tis fine. No need to thank me. But yer not going to survive long, here. Not without help. Yer fingers brunt... No protection... We needs to get some clothes an' armor, weapon too. Rest now. I keep guard", she said.
"You were talking of some 'old lady', and that she wanted to meet me. Where might she be?", Georgio asked.
"Plahnut Dusk. If we in luck, one of 'em ships goes to fetch some troops for Guard."
"Another planet? What if I say no?"
"Ol' lady said it be important. An' Ol' lady tells that I has to drag yer if needs be."
Chapter 11: Report of monstrosity
Commissar Grenn was silent. He had not yet gotten a bionic replacement for his eye, but to him, it did not matter. There was work to be done.
The now twice-shamed recruits had returned empty-handed. Seven were left. No proper information on the possible survivors. They had all packed into a corner of their barracks and were just sitting there, shivering. Grenn would need to do the less savoury part of his duty, for these were incompetent cowards. But first, he would hear their excuses.
"Why did you abandon the mission? After the Space Marines bombarded the mutant base, there should not have been much resistance. Yet you ran from your chance to redeem yourselves. Why?", he asked.
No answer. One of the men looked at his laspistol longingly. Grenn did not understand these men. He pulled his pistol and pointed it at the man staring at it.
"You want this? What would you do with it?"
"End this... I can't live with what was burned into my mind..."
Grenn thought for a moment. Could he get more out of this man?
"I give you two choices: Explain yourselves and be executed, or be whipped and sent to penal legion", he said. These men wanted a fast death. He would use that to his advantage.
"It... It appeared suddenly. Horrifying, human-shaped thing... Crawling like a worm, with transparent, unnaturally stretching skin and joints terrifyingly malformed... Its eyes... Bottomless black pits... It was as if the world had gone dark, with only a dim, pale light illuminating it. Then came the whispers. It knew us. It mocked us. The voice was cold... Murderous. We panicked. The shadow never left. Every time we sleep, we see hundreds of its kind. They speak to us... Emperor forgive us, they speak to us with voices we know, voices we love..."
"Are you telling me you saw a daemon?", Grenn asked. He wanted to be sure he understood the situation. If a Daemon had manifested...
"No... Not a Daemon..."
"What? Was it Xeno, then?" A new xenos species would be bad news...
"No! It was a young woman! It... It WAS human... Emperor's mercy, it was human! It told us... It told us what is coming!" After that, the conscript started babbling incomprehensibly and crying, sobbing while tearing at his face.
Grenn executed the men quickly. This was something he could not ignore: Ten men went insane in moments, with three committing cowardly suicide before the first nightfall. He would need to personally look into this matter. At worst, the new threat could destroy entire bases by simply showing up, not to speak of the possibility of there being more of the things. But the description... How could a mere human cause such terror and hallucinations? Even psykers would need more time to affect a group of this size...
Chapter 12: Best course of action
Georgio made a list of what he had. He (with the help of Krella) had found an autopistol, two knives, old guard flak armor (missing its helmet) and an empty promethium tank. He took it just to be sure, and he was glad he did: The fumes were enough to cause a small puff of flame, and his makeshift torch (plasteel bar with some fabric rolled around one of it's ends) indeed did ignite just barely. Blowing some air to help the starting fire, Georgio set this torch to the bottom of their little campfire. They needed the warmth.
"So, Krella? Please, tell me more about yourself. Why are you here, exactly?", Georgio asked.
"Well, we, me tribe an' ol' lady have a promise. We do what she says, she keeps us safe from the witchin' dark. She asked me to find yer, so I find yer", she answered as she put some kind of vermin she had caught over the fire.
"Witch-whatnow? Never heard of it".
"It be ol' folklore on Dusk. Darkness consumes minds an' man becomes beast. Light fades an' 'things' start to move, right out o' yer sight. They say I was born during the last 'un".
" That sounds... Interesting. However, it's probably just what you said: Folklore. But for the issue we know is real... How are we supposed to get to Dusk? If I understood it correctly, Dusk is on the fat edge of the sector?"
"Ol' lady said that we be fine. So we will be fine."
"Right... You don't seem to have thought this through? You just... Trust we will be able to make it?"
"Yer right. I leave finkin' for the smarter 'uns. They say I is not a 'taktikul jinyas' whatnot. An' the ol' lady knows erryfing. If she says we be fine, ol' lady means it".
Georgio felt agony over this: A fool taking him to the other side of the sector, with him being branded deserter if his survival becomes known... To a planet where superstition rules people's lives, a feral world with a bad enough reputation to warrant a saying to describe torturous death... What was it again, "a walk on dusk"? Yet in his current state he could not escape or fight, especially against someone as strong as Krella. This woman seemed to notice every move he made, too. Not to speak of their problem of the moment- mutants seemed to appear more and more often.
What would be the smartest course of action?
The next day, as he woke up, Georgio realized something: He knew what to do.
As the started to march onwards, George looked behind. He saw a hooded figure far behind, but slowly getting closer. He smirked. Whoever it was, he or she was his way out of this mess.
"Krella... Someone is following us. I think it is a mutant."
"So what yer thinking about? I says we keep movin'. Better get away 'an fight meanink-... Mea-ning-less battles", she answered and trying to imitate Georgio's much less guttural dialect. Georgio assumed she had decided to speak properly.
"But what if it is our ticket off this planet?" He whispered.
Chapter 13: Chase begins
Grenn rounded up two squads made out of mixed specialists: Three stormtroopers, four scouts, two medics, a sergeant and a ministorum priest. The rest were recruits, who got a hasty training for the light carpace armour and the other specialist equipment they got for this mission.
Grenn himself was just suiting up with modified flak greatcoat over his carpace chestplate. He attached his medals (which, if rumours were to be believed, lost in quantity awarded to General Strunn by only half a dozen). He took his hat, tailor-made for him with a hidden pocket inside. He usually used it to hide a small variant of a laspistol called "Venom", a Belasco series-s weapon designed for covert use. He could never be too cautious. Lastly, he checked his primary weapons: His dear bolt pistol, modified far beyond the standards, custom-built for his hands. And his trusty sabre: He was lucky enough to have one of the fabled lathe-blades: Sharp enough to cut even flak armour with ease and durable enough to survive a direct impact with a power weapon. Although it lacked the destructive power of both chain- and power weapons, it was not too far behind, and was much more reliable.
Geared up, the Commissar checked his followers. The hunt would be hard, if the mad ramblings of that survivor could be trusted. He knew most of the recruits wouldn't make it. He even doubted the stormtroopers' mental fortitude. But this new threat had to be eliminated.
"ATTENTION!", he bellowed.
After the men had taken their places in a row, he continued:
"Our mission is simple, but I want to be sure none of you misses any important factors. Primary target: Georgio Belechus. He was spotted before the squad searching the mutant strongold's remains escaped. I want him alive for questioning and a public execution. Whoever may accompany him should be treated as a serious threat: Eliminate any escorts with no mercy. Finally, our secondary target is to scout the city block 63N, and get hold of any leads to the shroud master's potential hideout".
After a while the thoroughly briefed troops were loaded onto a chimera. They left the base and started driving towards the place Georgio was last seen.
Chapter 14: Within our reach
He laid in wait. Georgio knew that whoever followed them, they would sooner or later approach. They just needed to be ready.
"I still says this be bad idea..." Krella whined. Georgio was tired of her complaints, but before he could tell her his opinion, he noticed movement.
"Just be patient... We need to get some intel on the situation, and I wouldn´t mind breaking some filthy mutant´s skull either." He was angry towards the mutants, sure. but he somehow couldn´t get out the words of the Shroud Master out of his head: "There are many ways a brother can help." What did the blasted monstrosity mean?
The figure slowly approached. Georgio saw its slumped figure and readied his autopistol. It looked like another mutant... but he felt disturbed for some reason. Why was there so strong wind suddenly?
"This be a mistake... We should let it pass, this not be of our world!" Krella mumbled, with a hint of fear in her voice.
"What are you talking ab-?" Georgio started, and realized her source of fear: wherever the thing stepped the earth itself turned to dust, and ash blew out of its mouth, hidden beneath the hood it wore. He froze in fear, and stared at the thing as it walked to him. At first, it seemed to ignore him, but turned toward him just a metre away from the rock he was behind.
"You... Scion... Find... The strength... Within...", It said and faded into ash, which the wind blew away just before subsiding.
Georgio was dumbfounded. He had no clue of what just happened, but he knew for certain he did not want to meet that thing again, whatever it was.
Krella and Georgio continued their journey, scavenging food and avoiding patrolling guardsmen and mutants alike, until three days later they found a hut with a large antenna next to it. They entered the hut and found its inhabitants dead next to a vox-caster. Georgio pushed away a corpse blocking his way to the vox, and managed to activate it. He ran through all the Imperial channels he remembered at the moment, and learned that the fighting had mostly moved further into mutant territory, before hitting a bottleneck again: another mutant fortress made the guard halt their advance. Georgio was about to shut down the vox, but then the receiver screeched:
"SKREEEEE- Brothers and sisters. We -SCRITCH- have won again. As the humans wage war against our brave warriors, we have -SKRIIII- through the blocade. This shuttle will take a week to prepare, but will allow thirty of our messengers to spread the word of freedom to other worlds. Reserve your place on this dangerous mission through your station´s comman-TZZZT-"
Georgio thought for a moment, and took the transmitter. He knew this was a foolish attempt, but he had no better options at hand. He opened contact, and after being patched through, cleared his throat: "Outpost almost overrun. Requesting two places on shuttle, to continue the fight off-world." He thought he sounded dumb while saying that. It could never work-
"Permission granted, brother. Head to northern headguarters, and stay safe. Our cause will live on."
He was awestruck. were these mutants idiots in addition to beig ugly?
"Copy that. Our cause will live on", he answered, still not believing it actually worked. He searched the place and found a crudely written map: imperial guard had better knowledge of the locations of the mutant bases than the mutants themselves, he noted, before taking it anyways. Escape from this wretched planet was within their grasp, he thought.
Krella stared through the door outside. "Them Guardsmen. Whole lotta ´em are outside", she said. Georgio looked outside, and there was the chimera and about twenty heavily armored guardsmen.
Grenn smirked. the traitor was trapped.
Chapter 15: Through the fiery storm
As the door of the hut slowly opened, Grenn gave the order for a warning shot. He would not waste a precious bolter round for that purpose: he needed them in case this would turn ugly, he thought. As the beam of light heated the brick wall next to the door, a loud crack could be heard, as the half-molten chunk of hardened clay erupted from the rest of the brick. The door was instantly slammed shut.
"Throw your weapons out before even trying to exit, or be killed the moment you step out of the building!" Gren bellowed. He actually wanted this traitor to fight back, to try and resist the Emperor´s will so he could show him how futile such attempts would be, but he had to at least try to cath them alive, for a public execution. To his surprise, a moment later, from the door were thrown four knives, an autopistol and a sword, followed by a meek looking man with his hands held on his head.
"Don´t shoot! I´m unarmed!", Georgio shouted, certain his plan would fail the instant he tried to escape. He slowly walked past the weapons and toward the guardsmen, who were aiming at him.
Grenn did not know what to think. THIS was the man he was after? Such coward could not be seriously thought of as a threat, even as he had the training of a proper guardsman. That could mean only one thing: he was but a pawn of the woman he heard about.
"Private Varnias. Seize him. The rest of you, keep watch on the building! shoot anyone who tries to step outside." He was not going to take any risks- he already knew the consequence of underestimating an enemy. Just before Varnias could reach Georgio, however, the bang of a gun being fired rang in the air, followed by Varnias slumping to the ground, dead in moments from the shot going through his exposed throat. Georgio sprinted towards him and heaved the corpse between him and the guardsmen in an attempt to create makeshift cover. The guardsmen started shooting, and hit the corpse a dozen times, causing it to be mostly destroyed before they even noticed Krella slipping away with the weapons next to the door.
Krella ran, ran like the forest beasts of dusk when they sensed their death approaching. She hated leaving Georgio like that- Old Lady would be so mad at her for ignoring her duty, she knew it. But Georgio sounded certain it would work, and Georgio was the smartest person she knew... Right after Old lady, of course. The star people fired their weapons, so fast and powerful weapons, she thought. It was as if they had a hundered men with many pre-loaded muskets, she thought as the beams of light whipped around her. She was fast, hard to hit, but she had to be faster than the wind to outrun these weapons.
Grenn had aimed for a while. This girl may be fast, but he would not miss. He had but three bolts in his clip, and every second counted: he set his sight on her shoulders, and pulled the trigger.
Georgio had started to crawl to get behind the hut, Dragging the mutilated corpse with him. Disgusting, but he would not die here. no matter if he had to eat a rotten Grox, he would not die in this place! he knew he´d find a way to fix things, when he got away from these crazy bastards! Krella was getting away, he thought. That was when he heard the bolter round goover him. The shot missed Krella, and Grenn adjusted his sight. Georgio did not want to be alone, either. This place was crazy and he´d go crazy too if he had to bear it alone, not to speak of his nonexistent skill in getting food in these ruins. He realized he´d have to give up his cover to save Krella. He lifted the corpse by the shoulders, laser still whipping around as the recruits blasted away wildly. The corpse exploded, leaving him but the shoulders and the arms hanging from them.
Grenn was annoyed. what took the stormtroopers so long? And this ingrate protected her? As he was about to shoot the fool, the stormtroopers finally appeared from behind the hut and apprehended him, giving Grenn clear line of sight. the girl was already far away, but he still had to take her down, and the ruins she was heading for would be perfect hiding place. He roared the recruits to get into the chimera, and aimed once again. They would get her, even if they had to turn the whole remains of the hive upside down, but he would take this last chance to take her down before he´d have to play playing hide and seek.
Georgio tried to squirm away from the stormtroopers, but the elite soldiers sure knew what they were doing. As two of them held him down, one bashed his face with the back of his gun. His sight was filled with stars, then a red hue, and momentarily, darkness. as his sight returned, he saw Krella, her loyal, even if irritating, companion...
"Die, you filthy witch...", Grenn mumbled, with a prayer to his gun´s machine spirit to deliver his righteous hatred to the target. He then pulled the trigger, the golden flames of the weapon´s fury erupting from the barrel to bring death.
Georgio was happy she made it. And angry that he was caught. His mind was filled with emotions of loss, rage and sorrow... And then he heard the roar of the bolt pistol and saw Krella´s left leg fall from under her, bloodstream visible even from this distance. His mind turned to its new companion... Burning pain, storm of rage overflowing his other emotions and a surge of power. He heard a pulse, like heartbeat, although it was erratic and quiet. He felt a stream of ice-cold liquid flowing into him, and mixing with the fire within. He roared, and released the storm within.
Daemons saw a new beacon, a new doorway opening. A new psyker had emerged.
Chapter 16: Forces from unknown
Grenn stared. He was powerless to do anything else: He was frozen with fear. The stormtroopers had suddenly evaporated. Stone crumbled under uncontrolled psychic force. His bolt pistol was ground into dust, along with the arm. The armor of the chimera showered sparks and the plating started to lose its shape. The recruits and operators escaped the vehicle, and ran wherever they could. Only one of the two operators and three of the ten recruits got away, the rest wracked in lightning and blue warpfire. The storm emanating from the now floating Georgio grew in size every moment that passed. Georgio's body was constantly destroyed and rebuilt: Every time slightly different. At times, the mutations were obvious, at others, subtle but all the more terrifying at the same time. Dust flew in every direction, filling the air with the stench of burning flesh.
Then, the Daemons manifested. Some appeared out of thin air, as others exploded out of Georgio's body, which recovered almost instantly from the impossible wounds he was inflicted. As their forms became corporeal, some of the weaker ones were destroyed and turned to ash, and some of them rose into air, thrown around by the raging wind. The stronger ones held their ground and laughed at the plight of the mortal, and that of their weaker kin, before starting to circle around the man floating in the middle, blinded by rage and oblivious to the monstrosities that were getting closer. As they were about to reach Georgio, they too, were burned in unholy flames. Grenn noticed a figure behind Georgio, a black shadow with torn cloak, slowly embracing him. Grenn gathered the small amount of courage he had left in him and drew his sword.
The explosion of rage turned into an implosion, as Georgio started to descend: The ash, the dust and shadow stated to be absorbed into his mauled, mutated, impure form. Grenn leaped, using the supernatural wind to give him strength he lacked in the form of speed, as it tore him from his quite regular jump to breakneck speeds towards Georgio. He shoved his sword through Georgio's chest into the shadow that had almost entirely engulfed Georgio. He stood there, as the winds set down. The shadow withdrew, and Grenn pulled his sword out of Georgio, who slumped onto the torn earth.
As Grenn prepared to behead Georgio, he heard rustling from behind him. He turned, ready to strike with his sword, to see the cloaked shadow there...
"Welcome... To my kingdom."
Grenn swung his sword, which went into its neck.
"Return to the hell you came from, daemon", he growled. The shadow stepped closer, through Grenn's hand.
"Not daemon... King. And my kingdom calls for you" it said. Grenn tried to pull his hand away from the creature, but all that emerged from the rags and tatters was stone.
Chapter 17: Into The Madness
Georgio woke up. He wasn't aware of how long he had been unconscious, so he first checked if his body was in one piece. After confirming all his limbs were there and worked, he started figuring out the situation.
He had trouble remembering what happened, as he tried to recall the battle. He slowly stood up, and realized he was hearing a pulse. Maybe his heart was racing... No. He felt his heart, and it was slower than it should be.
Then he remembered. "Krella"... He looked around, ignoring the burnt corpses and the commissar lying on the ground. He saw her, in a pool of her own blood. There was no way she could have survived...
He ran to her anyways. He ran and fell, dizziness overcoming his fear. He stood again and continued running. Before reaching her, he blacked out again.
Georgio woke up again, and it was darker than before. He cursed his weakness and crawled towards the unmoving girl... His only companion in this place. As he finally reached her, he turned her around to lie on her back. Her face was scratched by the rubble. A couple of teeth were broken. She was missing a leg.
Was she always this beautiful?
He stroke her hair. Looked at her shocked, dry eyes. He bandaged the wound that was no longer bleeding. He thought about finding the separated leg, but was too tired to do so. So he sat there, looking at the bloodless corpse.
Were the clouds of dust always so welcoming?
He took her on his back, abandoning all but her. Water was not as important. He started walking towards the northern horizon.
There were people around him, smiling.
"Come with us!"
"We want to be your friends!"
"There is nothing to be afraid of"...
Georgio kept walking. He didn't know why or where. Was there a place he was supposed to go to in this direction?
"Open your mind! Everything will be better when you let the anger out!"
"Welcome the sorrow, it is your friend! It tells you what you want!"
"Keep walking, find a better place! We can play there!"
"Enjoy the view! The beauty, the sounds, the wind upon your skin... Let the wind blow away the pain".
The people twisted. They turned. They came closer. They walked with him, encouraging him to go on, to accept it, the scream the pain away and enjoy what was left. They were nice people.
The daemons did not know what to do. So corrupted, beyond his cracking point, but he did not open to them. Even as he seemed willing to listen. But they would find a way. They had time.
Chapter 18: Insanity Within, Hatred Without
Georgio stared blankly to the horizon. He realized he had forgotten something.
Krella would rot if he didn't preserve her. She would wake up if her body was there, right? She had to. How could he go on alone, abandoned by his family and the Imperium?
He put Krella on the ground, and searched his pockets. Dust. Dust was all he had left. Dust and crushed dreams, hatred and dead friends. He sat there, thinking. He waited for hours. Then, it came to him. Maybe these people could help him? They had been kind to him, so why not Krella?
"Hey... Come here..." He mumbled, realizing his throat was dry. The dust must have drained it.
The blue one appeared. Its beak made of silver, its wings of the midnight sky.
"Do you want something?"
Georgio smiled. They were nice. He wasn't sure why he had a feeling he had heard of them, but he really didn't care either.
"Please... Take her somewhere safe..."
The green one stepped forward. Fat, smiling one. Some bugs went in and out of its wounds, but it smiled anyways, its single eye starting through Georgio.
"Don't let her rot... Keep her as she is."
The pink one stepped forward. Beautiful, feminine and alluring at one moment, on the other, handsome, athletic and enviable for any man.
"Make sure she'll be comfortable... So she can wake up without pain. Find her leg and sew it to her so she may walk again."
The red one stepped forward. Its muscular form protected with brass, its horns made of living fire.
"Protect her... Keep her safe from others. I'll come for her. I will..."
In unison, they spoke: "In return, we want you to open your mind and let us in."
Georgio sighed. "You shouldn't want that... But if you are certain, I will do so."
The daemons disappeared, and so did Krella. Georgio fell onto the rubble, sleeping. Within his mind, the four daemons now festered, unhappy of sharing him with their enemies... But once he fell completely, they would have their door into the material realm.
As they rummaged through his brain, they learned more about him. Insanity within, awoken by despair and loss. Hatred without, as he fit nowhere. But beyond they found only shadows and half-seen forms, slowly spreading to his consciousness.
They now had fifth competitor... One they did not know.
Chapter 19: Newfound Purpose
"Hey, I think there is a corpse over there!", Paxa shouted.
Reb sighed. Shroud master had sent them to look for the outpost team, but they were nowhere to be found. He was ready to pack up and return to the hideout, but every corpse had to be checked. There was no shortage of corpses here.
Reb walked over, taking the binoculars from the witch-kin. The witch-kin were a strange bunch, he thought, but useful. Their latent psychic powers made it difficult to see them unless they wanted you to, and they all shared the same trait: A disturbingly large mouth with multiple dozens of sharp teeth. This one seemed normal enough, but most of them were crazy, as far as Reb could say.
He looked through the binoculars (a rare commodity for the Pale Throng), and saw it: Easy to miss, lying on some rubble. Looked fresh, too.
"Let's go check it out for some loot and go home. The outpost team is dead by now anyways.", Reb said.
As they walked over, Paxa started to look around nervously. He felt something was odd about this place. The veil ran weak, and reality rippled just ahead.
"Reb? We shouldn't go there..." He mumbled. Reb did not seem to notice.
"Let's turn back! It feels like reality is torn apart here", Paxa said. Reb only grumbled, seemingly angry. Paxa didn't like when Reb got angry, so he stayed quiet.
The corpse was there, lying on the rubble as if asleep, but its blue eyes were open. It was twisted and malformed, even on the standards of a mutant. Its hands turned into talons, its eyes were too large. There were many bones jutting out of its skin, although none seemed broken. But the most terrifying thing was... It moved. It did not breathe. Its heart did not beat. But it leaped up and tore Reb apart. It bathed in Reb's blood, and laughed as Paxa turned around and ran.
He ran for a long time, fear keeping him moving. His feet were on blisters, his heart pounding so hard it hurt and his head started to spin. He kept running. Whenever he looked behind him, it was there, smiling. As his body failed him and he fell on the ground, exhausted. He whimpered and tried to crawl away. The thing spoke.
"You and your disgusting kind ruined my life... Ruined my future. Because of you, the Imperial Guard is here. Because of you, she was shot. Now it is your time to die in compensation to my pain, mutant."
As he was finished slaughtering the screaming mutant, Georgio sat down and cried. He had become a monster.
"It is not a bad thing to have your revenge, Georgio. It is natural to kill those who hurt you. It is fitting you kill those you hate", the red one said.
He stood up, fury overcoming his sadness.
He hated the Imperium.
He hated his family.
He hated the mutants.
Most of all, he hated himself.
He would have his revenge, get Krella back and leave this place.
The daemon of Khorne laughed, as its hold on Georgio's mind tightened. It could taste its victory.
Chapter 20: The Contest
Georgio frowned. As well as he could accept he had become a monster, that all he touched would suffer and die... He found his body impractical.
"How will I have my revenge if my nature is seen from klicks away?", he muttered in dismay.
"What is wrong with it? You are strong. You are agile. Even if you can't charge in, you can easily sneak in and butcher everything you see", the red one said. His name was Balkos, Georgio remembered. His memory was getting hazy as of late.
What Balkos said was true, and it would be ideal to feel everyone he hated die by his hands... But it couldn't be that simple. Mere death of everyone he hated would not be sufficient to drown his boiling anger.
"You simpleton wouldn't understand. He wants to enact his revenge in more subtle ways... So he can stand over his dying enemies, look at their eyes and let them know their failures and suffering were all engineered by him, to let them know how inferior they were" the blue one said. He had said he had a thousand names. The one he told to Georgio was Clea'azin.
Georgio was taken aback by the mental image, for he could not imagine anything more pleasant than seeing his enemies realization of his greatness... But how could he create a plot so masterful for every single human and mutant if this was the limit of his imagination?
"Such impatience... Maybe he wants to outlive them... See them grow old and rot away", the green one speculated. He had a strange name, Georgio thought: Ugzlav. Who named their child Ugzlav?
The thought did please him, but he'd be quite old by the time everyone he hated would be dead, not to speak of the boredom of sitting back for years.
Or he wants to torture them. Enjoy their pain, hear their screams turn into the most exquisite form of music... Turn them into undying art", the pink one mused. She was called Kacyias.
She was most often quite extreme, but after she said it, Georgio couldn't help but feel her advice would please his artistic side more than the others... Before reminding himself of his lack of creativity, making him more of a watcher or listener of art rather than making it himself.
"He needs a strong body", Balkos growled.
"He needs a body that can move unseen", Clea'azin grumbled.
"He needs a resilient body", Ugzlaw mumbled.
"He needs a perfect body", Kazyias moaned.
"What do you want, Georgio?", they all asked in unison.
They all wanted him to choose their way. They wanted him to give more of himself to them. They wouldn't let the others get him. He would be a pathway to reality for one of them.
Chapter 21: Farewell
Grenn was insane. He was certain this had to be madness. He saw shadows of the men around him dance, celebrating his suffering. He heard the wind sing, as the dust consumed all colors he once knew, turning them to a sickly gray. His body was a stone shell, barely containing whatever he had become. He couldn't sleep. He was afraid.
The rescue team had arrived a day after his confrontation with Georgio. He had no physical signs of trauma, but his mental state was dangerously unstable. He had been taken to the camp, to be treated, taken care of. They couldn't imagine the monstrosity he witnessed.
He barely ate. The food tasted like ash. He had lost weight, his muscles growing weaker by the day. Maybe he could die before he saw a mirror. He was afraid of what he would see. The men had tried to take care of him. He pushed them away.
Grenn looked at the needles. The doctors tried to make him calm down with medicine. Calm enough to listen to reason. He only became more unstable as his wits and will weakened. He was left alone for a while. He broke the mirror before he could see a glimpse of himself. It was better this way.
After all, he wore no mask. No mask.
The Inquisition soon picked Grenn from Tranch. They sent a team to recover Georgio, but the man had disappeared. Jericus continued his duty on Tranch with a new loader. He often wondered what happened to the childish noble. Maybe he would hear of him, one day.
Georgio kept walking forwards, never looking back. There was nothing to see there. Nothing he would want to see.