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 The Ritual

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PostSubject: The Ritual   Thu Aug 25, 2011 10:06 pm

On a shadowy world in the Jericho Reach, a single figure, half again as tall as a man and bedecked from head to toe in dark blue armor with golden trim, parts of the cyan plates shrouded in robes the color of bone, stood in the center of an incredibly complex sigil, the angles and lines defying mortal eyes that tried to apply mathematical laws to their non-euclidean angles and degrees. He stood with a massive staff in one hand, the shaft covered in leering, grinning faces that laughed and whispered in a thousand voices. The staff was capped with a single eye, all reds and crimsons with a void-black slit of a pupil that looked this way and that. The armored figure had a book bound in the flesh of a hundred species, the spine made of the vertebrae of Eldar children linked with their small spirit-stones - and one with any kind of psychic talent would be able to feel the agony and anguish these lost souls were constantly enduring. The page that the tome was opened to was covered in shifting black ink that smoked and shifted in and out of focus, but this did not appear to put off the figure, and it began to speak.



"With the first piece, the eye, we let Him see our offering...," the figure, clearly a man, intoned in a mighty voice, and the Thrall Wizards, hundreds of sickly psykers with symbols of Chaos etched into their naked flesh kneeling in concentric circles around the sigil the speaker stood in, repeated, their myriad voices raised as one - an important part of the ritual.



"With the second piece, the feather, we let our voices take wing, that He may hear our offering."

"With the second piece, the feather..."



"With the third piece, the enemy, we give Him the blood of the brother." As the figure spoke these words, a path opened in the throng of Thralls, their voices whispering the chant over and over as two figures, garbed in armor of the same color of the speaker - only far less ornate - slowly, robotically carried an unarmored man of the same size as the speaker towards the center of the ward, before taking up positions on either side of the massive circle. The man, though unbound, merely kneeled, his muscles standing out as though every ounce of him was straining to move and yet unable, his face a mask of pain.



The speaker turned to this new arrival, and the eye that topped his staff ceased its endless movements and focused completely on it, the faces on the shaft whispering promises of pain and torment. With an imperious wave of his arm, almost lazy in its slow, languorous arc, the speaker whispered a single syllable of power, and countless runes and symbols of arcane power burned into life across the kneeling man's form, whose head snapped up as he literally howled in pain. Blood began to seep from freely from the burning symbols that blazed over his body, and in defiance of gravity all flew in floating rivers of crimson into the eye atop the speaker's staff.



The atmosphere in the room changed - where once it had been merely gloomy, it was now oppressive, the shadows dancing in impossible ways.



"With the fourth and final piece, the souls of His devoted, the price is paid, and the way is paved! An'ak! An'ak krathos an'thak kalar!" the speaker roared, and as one, every single thrall wizards' chant was silenced as their essences were ripped from their bodies with a single savage gesture of the speaker, the ghost-like forms flying into the still-howling man kneeling in the center of the circle. His eyes snapped open, blazing light shooting in erratic beams from his irises as his mouth stretched impossible wide. His flesh rippled and rolled, eldritch lightning dancing around his body. His screams of agony grew louder, and the sounds of bones cracking under the man's growing bulk sounded like trees snapping in a storm.



"That is quite enough of that, Son of Russ. Be silent," the speaker commanded, and snapped his arcane tome shut before shoving his hand forward in a blur of speed, his arm sinking into the flesh up to the elbow. His six-horned helm was now nearly touching the oddly unscathed face of the Space Wolf, and the Fenrisian's eyes widened in a final moment of clarity before the blue-armored sorceror pulled out his arm - and the Space Wolf's insides followed.



In a few sickeningly short seconds, the Space Wolf's body had been turned completely inside out before exploding outwards to ring a bleeding rip in the fabric of reality - a tear through which unreal flames billowed and a cacophony of strange voices whispered and yelled, begged and commanded, pleaded and mocked. The bones of the sacrifice framed the rip, giving it something solid to anchor itself to, and the blood and organs spun 'round and 'round what was clearly turning into some form of gate.



A gate through which a massive armored hoof stomped, the armor the same color as that of the sorceror's. Following the hoof was an equally massive body - clawed hands clenched and unclenched, dark purple wings furled and unfurled, and its daemonic face was a rictus grin of quicksilver teeth. It looked around for the enabler of its entrance to the material word, and the grin looked to grow wider as it spotted the sorceror and intoned a single word, a name that would send shudders through any Inquisitor with more than half a brain, and cause even the most level-headed Space Wolf to gnash their teeth.



"Ahriman..."

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Sat Aug 27, 2011 5:25 am

Across the sector, events were generally normal. Workers hived around the city, swarming the markets for what provisions they could purchase with their meager Imperial salary. The Forge World burned hot and heavy, chemical-filled air hung in the sky like a blanket of rust.

This was home to so many, but it was not home for Xera.

The lanky female was young but toughened by her surroundings. She labored in the ammunition factory with her "family". Her muscles were toned, her skin taut and scarred. It was, at one time, a pale ivory - pristine as the ancient marble on Terra. Now, it was dark and ashen, stained with machine oil and grease.

But she felt that she didn't belong in the factory. Yes, not many enjoy the hard work, but she knew she belonged in some other position. Somewhere up in the dark universe - in the empty blackness with nothing more than stars and the wayward trader ship. Yes, that's where she belonged.

A worker next to her yelped in agony as he recoiled against the metal wall. He was holding his hand tight. It was oozing, blistered and red. The servitors monitoring the area paid no heed to his suffering, and a couple servo-skulls inspected the worker and prodded him with sharp shocks to encourage him to get back to work.

That's a nasty burn... if he doesn't get medical attention soon he could lose it, thought Xera. She whimpered as she pulled her levers and pressed her buttons, her teeth gnawing into her lower lip.

The man was shriveling up at her feet, looking up to her with glassy grey eyes. "P-please," he whispered hoarsely. "Help m-me..!"

Xera looked around rapidly, pressing the stop button on her track. She knelt down beside him and placed her hands against his wounded one. She began chanting - something ancient and unknown, whispers that could not be heard.
The wounds began to stitch together, the blisters sinking into skin, and burns turning into shimmering scar-tissue.

All was silent. It was eerie. And... the machines! They weren't operating! Oh shit...

Immediately, servitors - armed to the teeth and strong, grabbed her and yanked her up violently. They rolled away on their tracks, dragging a kicking and screaming Xera with them.

"No! No! Please! No!" She cried, and then the doors of the factory shut, silencing her from her 'family.'


The next thing she would see would be a cell in a blank building, seals and inquisitorial marks lining the caged door she was behind.

"Help? Anyone?" She called.

"SHUT UP YOU FUCKING PSYKER." Called a masculine voice from the darkness of the prison.

"Psy-...psyker?" She whimpered. "Oh no..."

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Sat Aug 27, 2011 6:03 am

And so it went, that poor, poor Xera, the lonely girl from the Forge World who so yearned for something different - something more, as any living creature would - found herself on a Black Ship, heading towards the rotting cradle of mankind and the equally fetid Corpse-God that ruled it. It would be a long journey, with many stops on the way. She would make no friends, find no succor. At best, she would be soul-bound to the Emperor, and live out her shortened life as little more than a slave, bound to the will of her unchanged, rigid, stagnant masters. At worst, well...even dead gods must feed.

And so, hours in her cool cell turned to days. Days, to weeks...weeks, to months...



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The unnatural wail of the klaxon pulled Xera from her slumber with its harsh blare, before being cut off by a static-laced, ship-wide communication:

Laughter. A thousand voices, laughing in every way imaginable. Dark, light, high and low, they gibbered and chuckled and giggled and cackled, set against static that, if one focused upon long enough, one would realize were a million muted screams. The warning lights bled sickly, shifting colors that had no place in the natural world, and unimaginable things beckoned from the corners of one's vision. The Psyker in the cell across from her was grinning widely, his eyes freshly plucked form his skull by his own two hands, and yet somehow he drew burning sigils on the walls with unerring accuracy, and he seemed to be singing an old lullaby to himself as he did so.

Xera got the sense that scenes like these were playing out all across the ship - and behind the background noise of the insane waking-nightmare all around her, the dimmed noise of gunfire and the cries of the dying could be heard reverberating through the bulkheads...

And then an explosion rocked from the blast-door leading to her cell-block, and all grew silent. All grew still.


"He is the Voice, and He is the Listener. He is the Road, and He is the Traveler. He is You, and He is Me. He is the Voice, and He is...," the Psyker across from her muttered over and over again, and his designs grew more frantic, like a student hurrying to finish a test, and tears of viscous black blood poured from his eyes and ears.

There was something more in the cell-block other than imprisoned Psykers...and she could feel and hear it getting closer.

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Sat Aug 27, 2011 6:20 am

She yanked herself up, her flesh mostly gone from ages without proper sustenance. She shook and stumbled, her hands trying their hardest to fix the lock or bend a weak bar... but with no luck.

"No, no, no," she pleaded, her body using all of its strength to press herself out of the cell. She could almost fit through the bars, but she knew she would get stuck or be in a too vulnerable of position.

"No, no, no, please, please, no..." She eyed the mindless psyker across from her, her void-filled eyes pulsating with her increasing blood-flow. "Stop! Stop! You're calling it closer!"

She ran towards the corner of her cell, thrusting her hand to the metal surfaces around her and leaving green runes and arcs around her crumpling, fetal form. "For protection, for clarity, for health.." she mumbled, swirling designs appearing and then falling ashen into the air. "For protection, for clarity, for health.. Emperor protect.."

She winced at the sound of heavy footsteps came closer. The pain in her head began to throb, as if some beast wanted to burst from her skull. Her eyes were bulging, her veins popping against her skin.

"Emperor protect... please..."

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Sat Aug 27, 2011 7:31 am

The runes she tried so hard to draw, the symbols coming unbidden to her mind, twisted and writhed like viridian serpents on the blue-metal surface of the wall, distorting into their opposites of harm, obscurity, and death, before streaming together and forming the forbidden symbol of the Ninefold Path. As soon as that blasphemous rune was formed, the light flared out, burning the afterimage into Xera's retina and into the steel itself.

The Psyker across from her was now sobbing openly, having chewed through his tongue in his frenzied, babbling chants, though his voice still sounded out the vaguest, blood-choked syllables of the same words, over and over and over again - and above it all, above the sound of sobbing and singing and screaming from the other cells, falling bootsteps, marching in lockstep - a column of blue and gold armored Space Marines marched, their strangely ornamented armor archaic and disturbing, and their movements oddly robotic. Eight in total, there were, marching two-by-two, and leading them was a figure more terrifying than anything poor Xera had ever seen in her entire life - a massively-armored Marine who practically exuded Psychic might, one hand wrapped around a massive staff capped in an eyes that cried endless rivulets of crimson blood from its vermillion sclera, in which a reptilian, void-black pupil watched ceaselessly. His other hand clutched a gun the size of an average human that looked as though someone had put together two entirely different guns and strapped them to one grip. A heavy tome hung on thick golden chains from his waist, and a long, blood-red cape fluttered without a breeze from behind him, and around his shoulders was wrapped deep violet fur, the likes of which Xera had never before seen in her life.

Sorceror-Lord...Terminator...Heretic...Danger..., an ethereal voice, like a thousand soothing knives scraping her soul, whispered in her mind while her ears swore nothing spoke. The sensation was...impossible to describe. It hurt more than anything she had ever felt before, but it left her breathless - the touch of power and dreams and...the stars. It was as though the stars themselves were speaking to her, and though she was crying...she yearned to hear the voice again.

The eye atop the Sorceror's staff swiveled to view her as soon as the voice's whispering echo left her spirit, and so to did the Sorceror himself turn to face her. His helm had four, vertically-pointing golden horns sprouting up symmetrically from his helm, on which four quicksilver lines were imposed that shrouded the air above his massive form with a flickering corona of otherworldly fire. A large T-visor would clearly be able to be seen on the front of his helmet, from which an eerie green glow emanated. At his feet, a robed, malformed creature with one red eye and a single, long horn, garbed in robes of the deepest blue, held on to a large book and cackled maniacally at nothing in particular.

The Sorceror-Lord ignored the pathetic thing and instead focused his attention of the girl huddling in the corner, as did the unblinking eye of his staff.

"What is this? A poor lost soul?" the Sorceror-Lord seemingly asks the air - the other Marines behind him have not moved, and stand as still as statues. His voice is booming, far lower than a voice any mere mortal man could achieve, and as commanding as his height and presence. "No small amount of talent, either...and this? What is this? The Serpent's Way, inscribed on her wall?" Once again, a question posed to the motes of silver-grey dust that spiral down in lazy arcs from the ceiling. "Intriguing...might you be the reason I am here, little girl?"



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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Sat Aug 27, 2011 7:40 am

"No, no, no, no..." she repeated, over and over, her bony, lithe hands gripping through her thinning red hair. Her nails were long and covered in dirt and soot and skin and blood, and they were cutting into her scalp like little razors as she tried to concentrate away from the noise and the pain.

"Go away, it's just a dream, it's just a dream, no.. a nightmare! I've seen you before! I've seen them before! You cannot be real! It's a lie, a lie!" she cried, shaking back and forth against her knees, her spine pounding against the cold metal.

She was struggling to keep the voices out, her heart was pounding and her teeth were grinding. Every part of her body twitched and rolled and jerked and tensed as if she was trying to focus her attention on something other than her head. The noises all around her were grating and yet, they were wonderful, and terrible. Part of her screamed to fall into the enchantment; a feral part of her, begging for her skills to be put to better use. She wanted this, but she did not want it like this.

Finally, she turned her quivering eyes upward toward the massive, horned 'creature.' "Who.. who are you.. why.. why do you pester me, so? I don't deserve this. This isn't... no.. this isn't real!"

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Sat Aug 27, 2011 9:51 pm

"Oh, but child, this is real. I am real. And you are correct, Xera. You do not deserve...this. You deserve so much more...and I, Aten-Ra of the Thousand Sons, will give it all...to you," he replied, his voice pitched low and soft - were he not wearing a helmet, Xera was sure she would see him smiling.

He looked down to the numerous wards and locks - electronic, psychic, and physical - and laughed condescendingly before waving the staff in a quick, jagged line. His laughter turned to a soft 'cluck' of the tongue as the heavy metal bars rolled back far faster than they were meant to, sparks flying as the cell door slammed into the wall. He slowly lowered himself to a knee, and even kneeling he filled a space larger than her entire door-frame - in his armor, he had to have been at least twelve feet tall.

He placed the odd-looking gun on a magnetic seal at his hip, before turning his hand out, palm up, in the universal gesture of, 'take my hand.'
"I see you, poor, lost little Xera. I see your pain, and your fear, and your confusion, and your sense of betrayal. Tell me, Xera, have you ever thought on the nature of your prodigious gifts? You poor, wonderful child. I can make all this," he whispered in a soft, soothing, consoling tone, his honeyed-words wrapping around her soul like a heavy, comforting blanket, and at the word 'this' he waved his staff to take in their surroundings, "...just disappear. Take my hand, child, and I will show you all the wonders you'd yearned for...and more. Just take my hand, Xera, and I will protect you from those who would harm you, and help you avenge yourself upon they that have wronged you."

With a quick, muttered word, a flickering light condensed around the Sorceror's hand, before slowly dancing its way over to her in a stream of light of more colors than she could count, before condensing and solidifying into a hundreds of soft, multi-colored rose petals that warmed her skin wherever they touched.

"You have such talent, child. Talent that I can help you refine into something far greater. What I just did? A parlor trick. A cantrip. It is nothing compared with what you will be able to accomplish under my tutelage. You know, in your heart, you have never belonged, though you have wanted to so much," he continued softly, voice reflecting pain at her situation, and anger at those that had wronged her. The rose petals began to coalesce and flow over her form gently, hugging her naked limbs, and, faster than she could tell, had formed into the prettiest, dark blue dress that she had ever seen - more beautiful than even the dresses she'd seen visiting nobles' daughters wear on her old homeworld. It was completed by two royal-blue ribbons in her hair.

"I would never treat you the way that you have been treated. You are the reason I am here, child. I am here to save you, all at my Master's wishes. And he is your Master too - though you do not yet know it. The source of all your great talent and power. Together, Xera, we will leave this ship - you will never again know pain, or heartache, or the acrid tang of betrayal. I will never leave you the way your parents left you - never beat you the way your Forgemaster did for asking questions about the stars - for it is to the stars, my child, that we will be going.
"You will be free.
"

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Sat Aug 27, 2011 10:03 pm

To the stars, she thought, her eyes glistening with the faint glow of excitement and joy. She felt safe, warm, and accepted for once in her short life. She couldn't help but inspect her hair, done up in ribbons and curls. Her dress was magnificent and even in the dank cell filled with refuse and filth, it was spotless and clean... but she knew better than to be bought off with presents, no matter how perfect they seemed.

"Your master, who is he? What is he?" She whimpered, her hands grasping at the hem of her dress. She had a terrible feeling as to who it might be, but she didn't want to believe it. She was begging herself that it wasn't true, but it wouldn't be possible to say no either way at this point.


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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Sat Aug 27, 2011 10:28 pm

Gentle laughter - like the laughter of a teacher at the antics of a favored pupil - rolls out from his imposing helm, but he doesn't move - were it not for his words, he would resemble nothing more than a painted statue.
"You know who I speak of, child. His symbol is right there...on the wall. The Ninefold Path. The Twisting Way. The Serpent's Road. His name, in the sermons you would attend on your Forgeworld, was spoken the softest - whispered with more fear than any other name. You had to strain to hear it, but He is the source of all magic - yours, mine...even the Corpse-God itself. All draw their power from Him. And oh, but He has blessed you, child."

Aten-Ra extends his hand a little farther, then, but otherwise makes no move. After a moment, his words continue.
"You have been Chosen, my child. Your destiny shines bright, burns like a star in the void, eclipsing all other lights with its brilliance. Now, Xera, take my hand - I know you are afraid, but you have nothing to fear but indecisiveness. I will not harm you, but help you. Do not fear the gifts you have been given - our kind has always been treated as abnormalities, mutants...but we are the future, Xera, and if you but take my hand, we can seize that future. Together. You will never be lonely again - I will never leave you, never betray you.
"Just...take my hand. Take my hand, and we will be closer than the family you never had but always deserved...forever.
"

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Sat Aug 27, 2011 10:41 pm

The thought -was- enticing. Family, she thought. But at what cost?

It was true that she never had place in the Imperium of Man. It was true that although she treated the Emperor with as much sacred love as a God, she couldn't remember a single moment in her life that he shined his love upon her; she suffered, she panged for friendship, she went to bed hungry more times than she did full.

Her hand tentatively released the hem of her dress. It was shaking like a leaf in wind, as if it could snap off her twig of a wrist at any moment. She bit her lip, recoiling it for but a moment as she looked up at the helmet of the enormous stranger, into the areas where his eyes would be. Tears began to stream down her face, staining her filthy face with crystal clear water that cleansed lines down her cheeks.

"Promise me you won't leave," she whispered, almost an order. Her face was so lonely, as if she was a porcelain doll that could shatter at the sound of a refusal. "Promise me."

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Sat Aug 27, 2011 11:05 pm

Inside his helmet, Aten-ra allowed himself a small smile, and though he didn't quite recognize the feeling, he was...pleased that she had said yes. It would take some reflection...but he allowed none of this half-second's confusion to show.
"Xera, I promise you that for as long as the stars dot the abyss, I will always be with you - and you will never have need to cry again. Come to me, child - it's time for us to go home." His words were spoken almost too soft to hear, and his hand remained outstretched to her, beckoning just by being present. Otherwise, he didn't move - he remained as still as a mountain, and just as...solid. As real. He had sworn to protect her and teach her - help her, and never leave her. The poor, betrayed psyker from a Forgeworld - who was betrayed because she used her powers to help, betrayed...for the same reason that he and his brothers...his father was betrayed, all those thousands of years ago. They were kindred spirits, these two - the fallen defender of humanity, and lost little soul, separated by the gulf of time, now brought together by chance...

And anyone who knew about the Architect of Fate would know that He governed Chance as well.

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Sat Aug 27, 2011 11:16 pm

Her quivering hand reached out again, and her thin fingers wrapped tightly around one of his huge fingers. Her head throbbed as she felt immense power, voices, noises, colors - all her senses being bombarded as her flesh touched the navy-colored armor.

She was smiling widely, as if she was promised she could go to the park to play. Before anything else could happen, she leaped up against his armor, hugging him as tightly as she possibly could - albeit her arms were stretched almost at maximum and the embellishments on the armor were piercing and uncomfortable.

"Thank you!" She cried, tears pouring out like cascading waterfalls. "Thank you!"

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Sun Aug 28, 2011 12:01 am

The massive Sorceror lord places his enormous hand on the little girl's back, laughing indulgently before standing to his full height, picking the girl up gently as though she weighed nothing at all, his hand more than large enough to create a seat for her. He turned and walked in slow, thumping steps that shook the floor, his familiar giggling as it made faces - quite literally, turning its face into (what is considered) hilarious caricatures of familial Imperial Saints and, after a brief glimpse into her mind, the Priests she'd seen, and the Forgemaster, among others.

As they left the cell, Xera safely cradled against his chest on his hand, she would be able to see that scenes similar to the one in the cell that had been across from her own had taken place in every single other cell - poor souls to weak or fragile to withstand Aten-ra's Psychic presence.

"Take them. They will make suitable Thrall Wizards. Bring one too fargone for such a privileged duty to my quarters when we return to the ship," he commanded the smaller, power-armored Astartes, who had not moved since he stopped in her cell, and they mechanically and efficiently went about their duties in voices almost too ethereal to be heard - voices like sand blowing over a desert dune. The psykers put up no resistance.

"Ignore them, Xera. They are not like you. They have the gift, but it is lost on them...they are too damaged by what the minions of the Corpse-God have done to them. Only you," he adds, a touch of pride entering his voice, "[/b]survived what the Imperium tried to do to you unscathed. You should be proud of that, child.[/b]"

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Sun Aug 28, 2011 12:15 am

She watched like a tourist on vacation from her perch in his hand, eyeing everything terrible and terrific around her. Though his voice was calming, she couldn't help but feel pity and some fear for those around her.

"Why are they so sad?" She whispered. "They're broken. Did you hurt them?" She looked up at him worriedly for a moment, her hair bouncing up and down with each step he made.

She glanced towards the cells again, seeing the ruined corpses and discarded souls. She wanted to reach out and help them all; stitch them together and sew up their wounds.

"Can I do something for them? The ones who aren't... aren't gone completely?"

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Sun Aug 28, 2011 2:48 am

He looked down to the child that he held in his hand like a porcelain doll, and seemed to consider her question for a moment before answering.
"They are all broken, child. All missing something important. Something...integral to anyone destined for the dizzying heights of greatness such as you or I. They will serve as Thrall Wizards - broken souls still of use to the Architect and His servants - their powers can be siphoned from them by their owner, and used to replenish the owner's form, or as energy for great and powerful spells. I will show you, when we make it back to my ship."

As he finished speaking, they had exited her cell-block, and she could now see the devastation wreaked on the ship - wreaked on the bodies of mere humans when faced with the transhuman might of the Adeptus Astartes. Very few bodies were even slightly whole, but every surface of the long hall they were in was coated with the visceral blood, gore, and filth of combat. The walls were blackened and pockmarked with the signs of battle fiercely-waged, and through it all strode Aten-ra, oblivious and uncaring. The ship was eerily silent - no longer did the sounds of fighting carry through reverberating bulkheads. All was silent.

All was still.


Soon enough, they had made it to the ships hangar bay, where there waited a huge craft that filled almost the entire room. It was the same color as Aten-ra's armor, and filing into it were columns of Space Marines, each carrying emaciated psykers who did not struggle or fight, but hung lazily. This was being overseen by a small group of Space Marines who moved far more fluidly, and Xera would be able to feel the psychic power coming off of them as well.

"Look out of the void-shield, child. Look at the stars." His voice was soft, and he turned so that she could look directly out of the hangar bay and into the dark, empty majesty of space.

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Sun Aug 28, 2011 2:59 am

Xera let out a tiny pipsqueak of a gasp, her head lifting as she looked out at the stars. Never in her life had she ever seen anything so magnificent, so beautiful, so crystal clear and empty. She wriggled about for a moment in the arm of her Protector and climbed down his body so she could get closer - minding the moving bodies of the blue horde.

"Its... its beautiful. I never thought that space was so..." She was obviously emotional. All her life she had seen nothing but the dust of factory-work hanging in the atmosphere of her world. Stars did not twinkle, galaxies did not spin and planets did not slowly rotate with life and sound and music.
"It's so... BIG!" She gathered enough energy to hop up and down at the edge of the shield, her hands reaching tentatively to touch the emptiness before her. Her fingers stroked down as if to caress the fluid constellations.

"Mister, thank you for showing me this!" She turned quickly, her eyes wide and full of wonder. "How far does it go?"

She still had the mind of a child, a worker at that. Part of a hive and never alone to herself. She had no idea what this emptiness was - other than beautiful.
And with her curious nature, thin strings of green smoke began to billow around her. The color of limeskin and glowing brightly like the stars just out of reach. They curved and flowed around her like vines and butterflies before evaporating into the void of air around her - almost as quickly as they appeared.

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Sun Aug 28, 2011 5:24 pm

The Sorceror moved to stand alongside her, staring out into the void of space, the Eye on his staff never leaving Xera, and he was quietly pleased by the manifestation of her psychic energy.
"Child, it goes on farther than I can possibly hope to explain with words. Someday, when your skills are more honed, I can show you - we can sail on the aether-winds of the Immaterium together, and you will be able to see all this and more, more than you ever dared dream. In the Immaterium, thoughts have physical ramifications, and emotions are more powerful than they."

He turned to look down at her, then nodded his head to the now-cleared ramp. "Now come. We must return. My ship awaits, and I am sure that you require food. These foul minions of the Corpse-God practically starved you."

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Sun Aug 28, 2011 5:39 pm

"Return?" She asked softly, following the sorcerer up into the ship. "Return where?"

The prospect of food made her stomach growl and turn, and she just looked as pained as she did before. Oh, if only he hadn't said anything. "And about that food.. what sort of food?" She smiled weakly, her hands holding her barely-there stomach.

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Mon Aug 29, 2011 4:29 am

He laughed pityingly at her fragile gesture of humanity, and turned surprisingly gracefully for one wearing such encumbering armor, his cape billowing about him like a crimson cloud, and he gestured for her to follow him.
"My child, we return to my ship, to the Light of Prospero. A magnificent vessel - I doubt Her kind is even capable of being made anymore, but even if they were...She is unique. I have...modified her." He seemed to be remaining intentionally vague on the matter as they walked up the ramp into the massive Stormbird, and after securing the both of them in the heavily armored center of the shuttle, they were off.

The sense of speed, of acceleration and increased gravity, then weightlessness would be heady - exhilarating even - for the girl who had never traveled this way freely. A huge viewscreen dominated the forward wall of this command-seat, and as the shuttle flew through the blackness of space, a suggestion of a silhouette became a shadow - a shadow became an outline, and suddenly, his ship loomed in the darkness of the void's eternal night, huge beyond imagining - a Battleship of forgotten design, it lacked the Imperium's High Gothic cathedrals and spires, and instead was dotted with numerous pyramids and shapes of inhuman origin. Terrifying to all that looked on it - except for those with Warp-sight. With Warp-sight, it shone like a glinting beacon in the abyss, colors eternally unnamed wreathing it in a protective miasma of magic.
"There it is. Home." He turned his head to regard the small girl beside him, the eye on his staff looking between her and the ship and back again. "It is your home now as well, child."

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Mon Aug 29, 2011 4:37 am

Her mouth silently formed the word again and again. Home. Home. My Home.

And she cried. Her hands were holding the void screen as they approached the giant ship. She shook and knelt down before the view, her ragged nails scraping down the seamless wall.

She shook her head back and forth. "It's so beautiful. Whoever you serve is very generous to allow you such a ... a great... vessel."

She sighs, hugging the viewscreen as if it was her only friend in the world.

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Mon Aug 29, 2011 4:55 am

Aten-ra stilled for a moment, watching the girl silently as the obscured viewscreen showed them docking in one of the ships many hangar bays. He moved over to her and laid a hand on her shoulder.
"What I have, I have earned, child. Many of my brothers were not so lucky, and not so skilled as I, to have but three masters. That number, however, is significant - I shall teach you, soon enough, to see the hidden patterns that mark the Architect's hand in this universe, and I know you will be as comforted as I.
"Now come. Let me show you to our quarters.
"

They quickly disembarked, moving out onto the hangar bay teeming with members of the Cult of the Machine Unchained, their dark eyes whirring and their strange, bio-mechanical implants and psychic augmentations whirring and hissing as they moved. Cultists kowtowed before their liege and cast jealous looks in Xera's direction, but none dared touch her - they saw that the Sorceror-Lord had his hand on her shoulder, and knew that she was a Chosen - and the few Cultists with the Sight saw far more than that - they saw her future, and the numerous shadows of those she had yet to 'play' with oozing behind her like a dark cloak, and they quailed before her.

They walked through narrow, twisting bulkheads, where the walls whispered soothing half-truths and the lights showed everything in negative.

They walked through grand libraries filled with ancient and forbidden knowledge, where they could feel the heavy, static tang of magic, and saw the Keepers going about their eternal, monotonous task of sorting the ever-changing titles of the scrolls and tomes they so zealously guarded.

They walked through grand vistas of otherworldly flora and fauna - creatures with strange eyes and strange limbs, plants that giggled like children, and water that flowed up instead of down.

But everywhere they walked, the Twisting Path's rune could be seen - indeed, the last garden leading to their quarters was a massive example of such a rune, and here the sense of magic and potential was heaviest - like a drug or heady perfume.



Finally, they arrived, and he gently pushed her into the dimly-lit room before moving into it himself.
"You, my pupil, will stay here. I have enemies and rivals even on my own ship - the Architect Wills such strife, for it strengthens Him - and I will not have you harmed. Your quarters will be through there," the Sorceror explained in his deeply elegant voice, pointing to an unadorned archway. "Next to it is my private library - you are not to enter there without my express permission. This room we are in now is where I will train you, and where I entertain...'guests' and the like. You may also eat your meals here. My quarters," he went on to explain, pointing to a heavily-warded and locked door, "is through there. Once again, do not enter without my permission. For your own safety."

He turned to regard her with his unreadable helm. "I now realize this may be a bit...overwhelming. Have you any questions, child?"

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Mon Aug 29, 2011 5:09 am

Her eyes were wide and glistening, as if her brain was pulsing with everything she had just seen. The shadows, the grass, the water, the books, the lights - everything was soaring into her. "I don't know what to say!"

She glanced around for a moment, heading over to the cupboards and rushing her hands through every door and drawer she could find, flinging things around. She was like a rat - exploring every little bit of space and attempting to find something she wanted or yearned for.

"Food? Where's the food?" She asked, her head sticking through small doors and hands pushing away canisters and boxes. "I'm so hungry, mister! And you said I could take my - oomph! -- meals here!"

She turned back, picking up a can that had bonked her on the head from above. She smiled meekly up at the lord.

"Do you take your armor off? Do you have skin under there? What's that? Oooh! That's pretty!"

Something about being on that ship, in that sort of energy, was releasing a very hyperactive child from within the withered shell of a castaway. She was much happier, but along with it, a lot more annoying.

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Thu Sep 01, 2011 12:19 am

The Sorceror-Lord watched her silently - his quarters looked awfully...normal...for a supposed leader of the forces of Chaos. This was because he had known she would be here, and he had seen fit to preemptively turn his general-area into something more...amenable to a little girl's senses. He was patient - it was one of his many strengths - and he knew that soon, she would not be a normal little girl any more.

He summoned his familiar with a single syllable of power, and sent it after her, walking over to the runed door covering the entrance to his private room.
"I do remove my armor, child, yes, and I will, soon. First, though, allow Chq'th't to fetch you sustenance. I have a few things to attend to, and then I will be back. I trust you will not go into the areas I proscribed you, yes?"

After waiting for an answer, he turned, opened the door to his quarters, and disappeared into the darkness.

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Thu Sep 01, 2011 1:40 am

She looked to the little familiar, her face scrunching up as she tried to pronounce its name.. to no avail. "I promise." She said quietly as she looked back to the door - but by then her champion had left. She sighed, and went back to the dining area.

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PostSubject: Re: The Ritual   Sun Sep 18, 2011 4:38 am

~~22 Years Later~~

"Again! Concentrate, girl. Focus. You are a psyker of near-limitless potential. Quit doddling and FOCUS."

Aten'ra circled the vast, sandy training pit deep within the bowels of his ship, unarmored, clad in deep blue robes that hugged his impossible broad shoulders. His hands were empty, thrust into the sleeves of his robes, and his dark, kohl-lined eyes were narrowed as he watched her.

She had developed her skills incredibly fast under his tutelage - regardless of the fact that the Hedonist had claimed her as Its own - and he was suitably impressed. His master's plans were unfolding in the slowly intricate way they were wont to do, and he allowed himself a mental smile as he thought of his reward.

The Thrall Wizard opposite Xera was bleeding from his eyes and mouth, his body and mind broken - but that was not the goal of this exercise.
"His soul is there, ripe, full, ready for you to take and drink as your own. Stop toying with him. Finish it!"



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