(My entry this week is rather long, detailing a Slaaneshi blade cult. Enjoy.)
27 Silver Edges
Lighting flashed as High Priest Valentin De Rouchelle stood, at the altar, within the White Cathedral. Halthan VII’s low moon shone through the stained glass windows, silver light filtered through as blue by the murals upon those windows. Long slits of that blue slid across Valentin, illuminating him. The rain that slurred onto the windows distorted these ribbons of light. The light felt... good again this flesh. The altar before him was vast, and it was dominated by The Emperor himself, cast in white marble, flanked by two Space Marines, of the same marble manufacture. Their eyes were rubies. Not only that, but they were life size. Valentin always felt small when nearby, and oh, did it bother him. He knew he couldn’t focus on that now though. He turned, his cloak drifting about him. The cathedral was ventilated, and chill whispers of air punched in at moments. He pushed back a tendril of flawlessly black hair, slicking it all back with one hand. Rich green eyes, set below a high brow, in a porcelain pale face, surveyed the congregation. At least a few thousand, perhaps even half a million men and women sat, in the endless sprawl of pews. The horror of The Silver Edge, the cult, had driven them here. Yet, this place of worship could house so many more. Such was the grandeur of The White Cathedral.
All 26 of his Disciples stood in attendance at the edges of the pews, shrouded in black, all of their bodies hidden. There was no hiding the masculinity or femininity of some though. Not that the shrouds were immodest, they were all-enclosing, yet the proportions of the wearers simply denied modesty innately. They were still, aside from the slight movement of their heads, as they watched those in the pews. Valentin breathed deep, and looked up. The White Cathedral was as tall as it was wide, which meant that it was truly enormous. Filling the domed, far, far, far above ceiling was the Pale Crusade. An entire Imperial Fleet formed of white marble, set sail across stained glass stars. The pride of Halthan VII, a white fleet.
Valentin gestured, only slightly, a deft and polite turn of his wrist, a slow pan of his arm at waist level. It was enough to bow the heads of the thousands. They began to pray, enough of them whispering to form one voice, a hushed giant. Valentin and his Disciples joined them, bowing their heads and intoning. In the gestalt tones of the worshippers, one could hear the prayer:
“Love the Emperor
For He is the salvation of mankind
Obey His words
For He will lead you into the light of the future
Heed his wisdom
For He will protect you from evil
Whisper his prayers with devotion,
For they will save your soul
Honour His servants,
For they speak in His voice
Tremble before His majesty,
For we all walk in His immortal shadow.”
When it was done, the people began to dissipate, leaving in small groups, through the towering doors that the Disciples had thrown open. They left, shielding themselves against the brutal rain, as the elements battered them. The wind howled into the cathedral, driving Valentin’s cloak into madness, rippling about his body in utter abandon. The gale had much the same effect on his Disciples, their shrouds exploding around them. As each of the worshippers left, the space within the cathedral became emptier, and emptier, until all that remained were Valentin and his Disciples, clad in wind-blown black.
The Disciples at the doors began to close the yawning aperture, and then stopped. Valentin had heard it too.
“High Priest! High Priest!” The tinny voice of the Planetary Governor was carried in on the wind. The Disciples at the door swung the doors open once more. His tone was of high import, and a degree of fear, but the sound of Governor Noisson’s voice was not what interested Valentin. What interested him was the sound of immense footsteps, on the wet, cobbled stairs outside.
Valentin noticed, after the titanic footsteps, the low, tooth aching hum that accompanied them. Then the stink of weapon oil, blood and sweat that, somehow, the iron tang of rain could not mask. Finally, the silhouette stood in the door way, so much taller than any mortal man. Lightning struck, throwing its long shadow across the entire span of the cathedral, till the shade of a helmed head met the ever-shifting brim of his cloak.
The Astartes began to stride into the cathedral. His armour was as white as the marble floor upon which it walked, and that pristine white was trimmed in deep, tarnished gold. The tarnish bothered Valentin. The armour gave little in the way of ornamentation, bedecked not with scrolls of devotion to the giant’s god, or trophies of victories past. This also bothered Valentin. The Astartes strode through the pew aisle until he stood directly before Valentin, looking past the priest, at the marble statues that resembled him, and his grand-sire. Valentin heard him whisper, almost inaudibly, “We never asked for this,” and stared at the Marine.
Governor Noisson called out from across the other side of the cathedral, almost drowned out by the storm, “This is Sergeant Archturous, the leader of the squad that has promised to help, to help,” the Governor fumbled over the simplest of words, “to help rid us of this... Silver Edge Cult”.
Valentin looked at Archturous, this Angel of Death sent to ‘help’. Valentin almost shrugged. Instead, he stepped slightly closer to the living tower, and introduced himself, full title and name. Sergeant Archturous failed to notice him, merely continued staring at his marble likeness. Valentin pursed his lips and internally sighed, then tried a different tactic: “I heard that one of your noble squad was lost in the lower habs recently. I give you my condolences... my lord.” The Sergeant was still unresponsive. Valentin raised his voice, “I heard-
“Yes, I’m sure you did.” The boom of the Marine’s voice echoed through the huge space, clear as a bell. “Hear, that is.” The titan slowly turned, and looked at Valentin. As loud as any other Astartes, he thought. Archturous spoke again, “Have you ever met an Astartes before, High Priest Rouchelle?” “No I can’t say I have,” lied Valentin. The Astartes inhaled deeply, causing a stutter of feedback from his helm. “I would like to ask you to... lessen the public awareness of the Silver Edge. Cult’s such as these, they feed on the peoples fear, weakening the populace like a vile cancer, from the inside out,” he said in a very matter of fact way. Valentin nodded slowly, as if contemplating it. “I can do that.” Archturous turned, and left, striding beneath the shadow of the Pale Crusade, and back into the storm. Governor Noisson looked at Valentin as if to say something, met a piercing gaze, and followed the Space Marine. The doors slammed shut. The Astartes hadn’t seemed to of noticed the fact that the Disciples had all been slowly walking forward, to surround him while he spoke to the High Priest.
Valentin looked as his Disciples for a few moments, before turning on his heel, cloak fanning behind him.
Valentin ran through his passageway into the bowels of the cathedral, desperate and fast. He struggled out of his robes like a drowning man for air, limbs pulling, flying everywhere. Kicked open the door at the end of the passage, panting, chest heaving. The priest tumbled into his private quarters, a decadent place. He scrambled, hand over clawed hand, to the mirror by his bed. Stood, tying a charm around his throat. It was tipped with a silver circle, one that was split by a sickle ended line. He snapped the chord tight. He looked up, and saw a pale, lean man. Whipcord muscles over sharp bones. The man was unhealthy pale, as if he were made from the same marble as the cathedral. There was livid cut on his lower stomach. His eyes were green, and human, but if one looked they’d notice the size of his pupils. The herald of mutation. The man stepped forward, and put his hand up to meet Valentin’s. Valentin returned the gesture, stepping forward, until their hands touched, and he was face to face with his reflection. He left, to don his armour.
His reflection didn’t. It smiled, and its gums were black.
Minutes later, Valentin walked through another passageway, black armour fitted snugly around him. He sighed, happy to be out of the church of The False Emperor. He was a false priest too, an irony that wasn’t lost on him. His ears pricked up, someone behind him. He swivelled. Valentin was confronted by Aliavia Lechair, his 5th Disciple, and his favourite, among other things. She was out of her shroud, and in her armour, grey, and of a geometric design. The hard lines of the all encompassing armour accentuated her curves, somehow. Valentin put it down to the gifts of the Dark Prince. She strode up to him, and he turned and carried on walking, he was in a hurry. She caught up easily. “Still got that cut from last night?” she asked, voice echoing in the passage. Valentin grinned, “Well, I haven’t been gifted with regeneration just yet, so yes.” She chuckled from beside him. With a short spur of speed, she overtook him, standing in his path. He proceeded until he was obscenely close to her, the more outward plates of their armour scraping slightly against each other. “I have a separate tunnel for a reason,” he said, lifting an eyebrow. Aliavia ignored him, drawing even closer, until he could actually taste the warp-dust on her breath, she’d probably taken it the moment she had reached her quarters. “These... Angels of Death.” She said, in the most hushed tones, “tell me, you’ve fought one before: What’s it like to kill one?” Valentin smiled, kissed her, and pointed to the door at the end of the passage. “Let’s go find out.”
The sounds of sword against sword were already ringing as Valentin stepped through the door, onto his balcony. This was his true church, in which he was a god, second only to Slaanesh. This hall, meagre by comparison to the cathedral, where the Silver Edge drew over closer and closer to mastering the sword, was where he ruled. The hall was adorned, on every wall, with jewels and murals of demons. In the centre of the floor, surrounded by duelling Disciples, was a chained adamantium cylinder. Valentin De Rouchelle, the Bleeding Edge, was his name. Not... High Priest. An imperial priest, who lives a double life as the master of a decadent blade cult, how am I pulling this off, thought Valentin.
Aliavia peeled away from him, vaulted the balcony, and landed, with a thud below. Valentin came forward, and retrieved his sword. It was sheathed in the throat of a kneeling corpse, which had once been Valentin’s 27th Disciple. The fool had allowed himself to be wounded, imperfectly, a ragged unclean cut. So, as not to hold the rest of his Disciples back, Valentin had found a new sword holder. After all, was it not Fulgrim himself who had once discovered that perfection was not achieved when there was nothing left to add, but nothing left to remove?
Valentin cleaned the blood off of his sword and held the needle slender blade aloft. His Disciples paused their duels and did the same, all mimicking his act, leering in anticipation. He began his speech: “So, you all bore witness to what I was just forced to endure. The False Emperor sends his crass angels, to stomp us out like insects.” Valentin spoke, there was an unholy racket form the chained cylinder, yet, heedless, he continued, stepping up on the edge of the balcony: “They claim we are a cancer. A plague, like all the other cults. Of course they do.” The Disciples smiled, as Valentin said, “The unwashed have always thought such of their betters.”
He jumped, landing before the cylinder, which was becoming noisier by the second. “Open it,” he commanded the Disciples on either side. As it began to creak open, the Silver Edge, for the first time in years activated the power fields of their blades, and lighting struck overhead. “The gods are watching,” muttered Aliavia.
“Your gods are false,” a wounded, booming voice echoed form the cylinder, clear as a bell. Valentin sighed, saluting with his sword, “I could say the same to you”, returned the leader of The Silver Edge.
The Astartes roared, and managed to make it five steps, on already wounded legs, before 27 silver edges flashed.