Sarcio shifted on his bed, his back felt odd due to the soft mattress. Looking around the room the Matron has given to him he felt oddly dizzy, it was far too spacious for his liking. It was larger than the room he shares with Canis. Sarcio sat up and frowned. ‘Being drawn into a single comfort is a danger…’ he said under his breath.
Comfort to him was nonexistent for his whole life, he and his sister was bound to a Magos who was head Enginseer of a Space Station. He called them his apprentices but they were essentially slaves, any meager task the Magos didn’t feel like doing it was foisted upon them. They worked with the ratings who aided them in performing maintenance and other basic tasks. Since he was bound with a Magos he was given a rad-suit, but he had to watch good men and women slowly die due to radiation poisoning. Hair falling at the reams, the loss of teeth and bloodshot eyes.
Worse of all his sister had the task of making sure the bodies which are not contaminated are reprocessed into food for the workers. They worked and worked, until their fingers bled in the hope that their Magos would elevate them. The red robes he wore was but a prop, the knowledge he has now was gleaned from his master’s ramblings and observing his work. One time he sought to touch any of the tools or machinery, to feel the cold metal under his palm. His old master caught him in the act and threatened to remove his hands for soiling them.
He was going to make good on that threat until the station was attacked by the warband, everyone was armed and forced to fight with the Skitarii in order to defend the station. The fight was hopeless and meaningless, the heretic Astartes tore through the Skitarii forces. So he feld, right back to the Magos. His workshop was in disarray and his sister was trying to calm their master down to no avail. The Magos shrieked at them, he demanded that they give their lives so he could escape.
The desire to kill the Magos creeped into his body, everyone on the station gave their lives to protect a selfish man. One who would use up their lives in a heartbeat, he raised his shotgun to shoot but a Space Marine barging into the workshop stopped him. Ironically it was Ignatius, the heretic pushed him aside and removed the head of his master in one clean stroke. Seeing the futility in resisting his sister Amara dropped her weapon, He was about to drop his weapon as well but despite their surrender Ignatius used the pommel of his blade to knock them out.
‘After that I woke up with my sister here on the lower levels.’ Sarcio said to himself. He wondered why he was here or why the Astartes left them on the lower levels. He could only assume they process their slaves, ones who are deemed useless for their “needs” are discarded. After the first few days he caught wind of the Grand Matron, in exchange for his service she would look after his sister.
He now regrets that choice, he explicitly told her not to fall for their lies. To only use their resources to survive. Yet can I blame her? He thought to himself. She saw the opportunity for an eternity of comfort, how could anyone blame another for wanting such a thing after the life they lead? Her hands are most likely are not bleeding anymore. I could have that, why am I still working?
The thought just popped in his head, he bought his hand up. It was dirty and he could see the grease and dirt underneath his nails. So dirty, so disgusting. Who am I dirtying my hands for? His mind was unceasing with the questions, each one pricked and prodded his heart.
‘I have no reason to work for the Grand Matron, what am I thinking trying to tear Amara away from the cult? Would someone easily give up their own happiness?’
Exactly! I deserve happiness as well, I’m so tired, so weak…
‘I am tired and weak…’ He gripped his raised hand and squeezed it tightly. ‘What am I fighting for? Who am I labouring for?’
For myself, I work on power armour. I maintain them, through trial and error I am greater than the Magos who laboured on a pitiful station.
‘That’s true, his work was mainly focused on maintaining the station. The height of my old master’s career was servicing a bolt pistol for a Commissar.’
I have touched bolters, ancient swords and weapons tech priests would dream of just touching. More can be available to me if I just…
Sarcio’s mind trailed off, he didn’t exactly know what to do. He tried to reach back to what he said to himself a moment before but in return questions began to slam his mind.
Why was I born? Do I care about myself worth? Why do I resist? Do I actually enjoy being here? Can I actually save my sister?
The questions were so painful, he couldn’t bare it. With each question raised the grip on his own hand began to tighten.
Can I change? Do I deserve happiness? Do I deserve blis-
A knock on his dock silenced the barrage of questions, the grip on his hand slowly loosened, his lips were also trembling and he could feel a cold streak of sweat running down his face. His mind was clear, empty, yet the need to question himself still lingered. The need was suffocating. The knocking caused his mind to throb, it felt-no he knew something or someone was trying to get in. ‘S-Should I get up and let them in?’ he stammered.
‘Sarcio, what are you doing?’
The voice was filtered, but he recognised it. The knocking also stopped, his head slowly moved to the door but his sister Amara was blocking it. She was standing at the front of his bed. He rubbed his temples gently, the throbbing sensation was also slowly drifting away.
‘H-How did you get in?’ he asked.
His sister folded her arms ‘The Matron gave me a key, I thought it would be polite to knock instead of barging in. But when you didn’t answer I thought something might have happened to you.’
The concern was a surprise, he oddly felt happy as well. ‘I-I see, but can you do me a favour?’
‘A favour? What do you want?’
‘Show me your hands.’ Sarcio asked.
Amara cocked her head slightly, she was confused that was evident. But she bought her hands forward. Right away he could see they were clean, clear of any grime or dirt. He then reached out and grasped her hands, she didn’t flinch at the sudden movement. His sister wasn’t even perturbed by hit touch either considering how filthy his hands were. He just wanted to see, to grasp an inkling that he made the right decision to leave his sister here.
Moving his thumbs over the top of her hand, they were soft and delicate. It was obvious to him that she hasn’t seen a day of hard work since joining the cult. In that moment the plan to draw his sister away was crumbling.
Perhaps my suffering was worth it? Sarcio thought to himself
‘It was worth it.’ He said out loud.
‘You can stop Sarcio.’ Amara said softly. ‘One day you might die and I… I cannot bare to see that happen.’
Sarcio heard his sister’s words but he couldn’t help but stare at her clean hands. He was about to agree with her but he spotted an imperfection. It was small but he could see it as clear as day. Underneath her middle fingernail he spotted a flake of dried blood. When Amara noticed him staring she pulled her hands from his grip, she then lifted them up.
‘Look brother, they are clean. My hands wasn’t marred by the grime and dirt that covers your hands. That is his gift, comfort, bliss and perfection.’
Sarcio didn’t believe her, he could still see the dried blood. It was so small, he wondered how he picked it up? ‘Then explain the dried blood, are your hands truly clean sister?’
Confusion began to creep into her eyes but that only lasted a moment, her gaze turned cold and hard. ‘Your always so difficult. You constantly seek the path laid with thorns, why do you make excuses to push off your own happiness?’
‘I don’t understand? What are you talking about?’
‘Think back to the past, you constantly volunteered for the most difficult jobs our old master could provide. Did you want him to praise you? You thought that he would let you into the secrets of the Mechanicus if you allowed him to abuse you?’
The accusation was confusing, he always worked hard for falling behind deadlines meant death or being turned into a servitor. At the same time his sister could avoid the most dangerous tasks. ‘I-’
‘You’re going to say you did it for me? What about what I want?’ Amara said firmly.
‘W-What do you mean?
‘You think that if you stop working for the Matron that she is going to eject me from the cult? That I will be cast out to fend for myself?’
‘She’s capable of that Amara.’
‘You don’t know her like I do brother, she wants you to join us but she won’t force the issue if you don’t want it. I’m not being abused, I’m not starving, I am a part of something greater than myself. You’re not a hero Spiro, never were.’
Hearing his actual name caused a spark to be lit within his heart, he narrowed his eyes at his sister. ‘Don’t say my name in these halls.’
‘I can understand your fear brother, I was like you at first. Changing our names is a good precaution, but the entity that watches over the cult is fully aware of who and what we are.’
What she was saying sounds like a line drilled into a follower, the spark within his heart suddenly burst into a flame. He directed all of it at his sister. ‘They don’t care! None of them do! To the Matron you are a pawn to make me fall! The entity you worship just wants your soul! The Emperor didn’t aid us in our hour of need! The Omnissiah was silent to our suffering! How can you think that the creatures that live within the sea of souls care about us!?
‘What would you call this then?’
Amara reached for her helm, as she removed it from her face a mane of blonde coloured hair fell from the helmet. Her face was just as smooth as her hands, her pale skin didn’t have one single blemish but what captured him were her eyes. She no longer had an iris, but now eyes shone a clear pink. His sister held her helm under her arm, she gave him a soft smile. ‘How is this not love? What colour was my hair before brother?’
‘I-It was brown.’ Sarcio stammered.
‘A dirty brown.’ Amara said smoothly. ‘My skin was dirty just like yours, covered in scabs and small sores due to our old work conditions. Yet since joining the cult, with each sacrifice I became perfect, beautiful.’
He didn’t know what to say, his sister was right she was beautiful. He imagined she could have anyone she wanted wielding that beauty. The fact she has changed so much meant she was lost to him, he thought that maybe she was right? Sarcio was about to open his mouth to speak until he saw his sister’s mouth move slightly.
Sarcio closed his mouth, his focus became diverted from his sister’s visage to her mouth specifically. Time strangely began to ebb and as his sister’s mouth moved he caught a black snake-like tongue flicking in and out of her mouth. As he noticed the disfiguration, her supposed beauty fell apart before his eyes.
His finger slowly rose, he pointed at her mouth. The gestured caused time to tick forward at it’s normal pace again. ‘Your tongue sister, what happened to it?’
Amara frowned at him. ‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’
Sarcio chuckled to himself. ‘How long did it take you to practice the motion? You can’t help but flick that black and disgusting tongue, just like a snake. Is that why you wear that helm sister? To hide your disfigurement your so called god gave you?’
Amara’s face warped, all of the corruption she supped on during his absence came to the surface. Her beautiful visage fell, it became a terrible blend of male and female in all it’s worse aspects. The black tongue she sought to hide flailed out of her mouth. ‘I am beautiful!’ she shrieked.
She pulled her knife from her belt and pointed it at him. ‘I sought to console you brother! I wanted us to be a family again! Yet you spit on my face!’
Sarcio stared impassively at her, he’s seen far worse and has dealt with the fury of an Astartes on many occasions. ‘You spat on mine sister, while I laboured you drank too deeply from well. I assume the tongue was from a possible failure wasn’t it?’
The hand gripping the knife started to tremble, which meant his words hit the right spot. ‘I don’t perceive myself as a hero sister. The galaxy hates them, I’m just a young man who wished to look after his sister. Yet I failed in that, a hero wouldn’t let their family stay with a mad cult.’
Amara hissed like a snake and slammed her knife back into its sheath. She then twisted away from him. ‘I don’t need you anymore brother.’ She briskly walked out of his room and slammed the door behind her.
Sarcio smiled weakly to himself, he bought up his dirty hands to his eyes. ‘Better dirty than clean.’ he said to himself.
He sighed and fell back onto his bed, his back squirmed slightly as the soft mattress graced his back, he still hated the sensation.
Canis walked out of the chamber with the Apothecary while twisting his wrist, the servo’s of his new armour was smooth. It was only now he realised the poor quality of his previous wargear. He spent so long without armour it oddly feels strange at the same time.
‘What are you doing?’ asked Phelix.
‘Appreciating your gift brother, one does not always get gifts from the one they respect the most.’
The Apothecary groaned in annoyance. ‘Stop calling me that would you?’
‘You don’t like that I make it known that I consider you my dearest and most wonderful brother? The most passionate, the most quick witted an-
‘You’re aware that you have become insufferable?’
The comment didn’t exactly wound him, but instead it made him smile. ‘I’ll take that as a compliment. See the issue is many would drink deeply of my flattery despite not having done anything worth the comments.’
‘What’s your point?’
‘My point is you keep your eyes on the things that are important, to you and the warband.’
As he spoke a group mortals passed them. Just by a glance the mortals appeared pampered, but he was all too aware that underneath their clothes they have been abused greatly. He considered it abuse because they haven’t been taught her to enjoy pain and suffering. It was a wine all should enjoy. The mortals stopped and bowed, Phelix looked away but Canis instead gave a small and graceful bow in return which stunned the mortals.
Confusion swept through them as they hurried away, most likely they were confused and wondering whether they offended him or not.
‘Why did you do that?’ asked Phelix.
‘I appreciate the pain and misery they give to us Phelix, I hope that one day they might enjoy it as well.’His brother tutted, which meant he was sneering. ‘If you sneer too much you’re face is going to that way.
Phelix began staring at him, his blue eye lenses drove right into him. He wasn’t happy, that was clear. ‘I’m not sneering.’ Phelix hissed.
‘Oh really?’ He mimicked the face his brother was making, he could see past the helm but the Apothecary didn’t need to know that yet. Phelix’s lips were pointed up slightly and he was narrowing his green eyes. It was both odd and amusing.
His brother grunted ‘blasted daemon..’ he said under his breath.
Canis’ ears twitched, he picked up Phelix’s words easily. He dropped his mimicry and smiled. ‘I’m not a daemon, how many times must I tell you?’
‘You act like one.’ phelix responded.
‘So you want me to snarl? You wish me to be abrasive?’
The apothecary shrugged ‘well actually you’re still abrasive, you just dress up your words better.’
Canis flashed his brother a smile, he liked how he took things in stride. He imagined that was the trait that caused the Apothecary to work with him. ‘How about we get moving? I don’t want to cross someone doesn’t recognise me.’
Phelix sighed in return. ‘Good point, let’s move.’
Canis nodded, they made their way to the elevator that would take them to the lower levels but as he walked Canis just realised he didn’t get a chance to take in the sights. Before his first death Ignatius and Phelix rushed him to Achilios’ chamber.
So he took time to absorb whatever passed him, from the silks that covered the walls, the swaying chandeliers and the succulent mortals. They were wells of energy that can be tapped to further his Prince’s cause. But nothing beats perfect slaughter, the crashing of bodies and the thunder of battle. That one fact for him hasn’t changed, he couldn’t wait to taste true war on Laxim. ‘So tell me Phelix what’s Laxim like?’ he asked.
‘So you know it’s going to be invaded but you don’t know what it is like?’ Canis picked up the edge of annoyance lacing the Apothecary’s voice, his brother was most likely going to insult him further.
‘Well you’re right, I’m aware of what is going to happen to the world but I don’t know what the planet is like. Please tell me.’ he was genuinely curious, he prefers to learn about the people he may possibly toture and maim. He doubts Achilios will be happy that the nobles of the world allowed the Imperium to mount an invasion.
‘So you’re admitting your still a fool? You learn of a world that is important to our future and you didn’t bother to investigate?’
There it was, the insult he expected. ‘Well, I had someone who was eager to move on. Actually Laxim is more of a footnote. A large footnote.’
‘How could losing our main recruitment world be a footnote!? We’ll be crippled!’
‘We have plenty of humans on the ship that can be converted.’
‘Achilios will never use slave stock!’
Phelix was about to speak, but held back for a moment. He became less agitated. ‘Something is going to change isn’t it?’
‘Maybe.’ Canis answered.
‘Are you really going to leave me hanging like this Canis? I didn’t expect such a thing from someone like you.’
‘Well what do I know? I’m just an idiot afterall.’
Canis smiled as Phelix began to grumble to himself, he must have realised that he won’t give anything away. The issue was if he told him exactly what may happen, they might not actually do what is required for them to reach glory. They continued their journey in silence that was until they reached the elevator, an Astartes stopped them from entering.
Phelix sighed heavily. ‘Sirius what is it?’
Canis eyed the Space Marine blocking their path, Sirius armour was adorned with dangling jewellery and his hand was resting on the pommel of his sheathed blade. Canis made note that his skin tone was about the same as his own but it was slightly lighter, his face had the bearing of nobility.
Sirius shook his head ‘are you sneaking up vultures from the lower decks Apothecary?’
Canis made a note to himself that his voice was clipped and clear. He has most likely been pampered his entire life. ‘A vulture? What’s that? I’m new here.’ Canis added.
Sirius’ cold gaze fell upon him, he frowned. ‘I wasn’t talking to you.’
He gave a small bow to his supposed better. ‘Apologies for my impertinence my lord but I just had to speak. I find the stories of your feats absolutely fascinating.’
Canis detected the confusion spreading among them, especially from Phelix but Sirius’ frown turned into a grin. ‘So you’ve heard of me?’
‘Oh, I have my lord.’ Canis answered. ‘I especially enjoy the tale of how you beheaded six Iron Hands at once during the Dropsite massacre. Your mastery and skill on the battlefield during Horus’ war lead to our father bestowing many accolades upon you.’
Sirius brushed his chest slightly while chuckling. ‘Well, it seems my reputation precedes me. At least someone appreciates my talents.’ The pampered noble glanced slightly at Phelix as he spoke. ‘You should do well not to hang around with this one young Space Marine.’
‘Stow it Sirius!’ Phelix spat ‘You’re not as important as you think you are!’
Sirius flicked one of the many dangling charms on his armour. ‘Well I’ve received gifts from father, what about you Apothecary? Always hiding in the dark messing with your narcotics, testing your new mixtures on the foolish below. The only reason why you live among us here is because of your skills, your just as ugly, just as weak as those who dwell on the lower levels. One day I will have you exiled.’
His brother began trembling with fury, it seemed he was about to explode. Canis bought his hands together bringing their attention to himself. ‘My lord I can see there are many things I do not know about Phelix, perhaps this is an opportunity to see how terrible he actually is? What better way to mock those than to allow them to show you their horrible work?’
Sirius starting laughing harshly, he wiped a tear from his eye. ‘So it seems I’m not the only one who can see how much of a fool Phelix is! Go with my blessing and I assure you if he harms you I will deal with him personally.’ The Prefector regarded his trembling brother. ‘Be sure to give him a tour, as I said don’t harm him or Achilios will hear of this.’ Sirius then strutted away, laughing with each step.
Canis smiled ‘that went well.’
Phelix said nothing, he approached the elevator and pushed the button. When the lift arrived they stepped inside and as the doors closed the Apothecary. Gave a scream of frustration, he turned to the wall and began pounding the metal causing large dents. With the sixth punch Phelix twisted towards him. ‘It’s because of people like him that we are in this state!’
‘I know.’ Canis answered calmly.
‘Sirius is most likely whispering in Achilios’ ear! Guiding him to foolish acts! Ignatius is too weak to act! To foolish to remove Sirius’ head!’ His brother started to steady his breathing. His hands then slowly reached for his helmet, he turned it and as the sound of a hiss entered Canis’ ear a smile began to creep to his lips.
Phelix lifted his helmet from his head, crops of white hair fell to his shoulders. The Apothecary’s hair was rather long, longer than Achilios’. Phelix stared at him intently and asked. ‘What we are about to do, whatever it is… Will it be worth it?’
‘It will be brother I assure you.’ Canis answered.
The Apothecary surprisingly didn’t return his helmet to his head, instead he clipped it to his belt. His face became absolutely neutral, Canis wondered if this was his resolve hardening? To his eyes that seemed to be the case.