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 The Gan Perrol Affair

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Barking Agatha
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PostSubject: The Gan Perrol Affair   Sun Sep 25 2016, 09:47

Objectionable content warning:

Spoiler:
 

This is the last story in Meeran and Vermipox's adventures. Because it's the end, it probably won't make any sense to anyone who hasn't read Ascent, Unicorn, and The Fall of Kil-Marann if only to know who the characters are and what their situation is. As I did in 'Kil-Marann' I've put in a summary of the previous stories to help:

Summary of Part One, 'Ascent:

Meeran, a young human pirate, is taken to Commorragh as a slave, and falls in love with the city. She is penned together with S'hlee, a craftworld seer, who is terrified. In order to save S'hlee, Meeran strangles her and merges their souls together, becoming a new being: Meeran-S'hlee. She/They are then bought by Vermipox, a very ancient haemonculus and artist, who re-sculpts her body and soul into a work of art representing all of the pain in the universe, and the work is so perfect that it erases the distinction between 'represents' and 'is', so that she is in fact all of the pain in the universe. Vermipox is mocked for this by a clique of four: Pleghanie, Archon of the Deceitful Smiles, the Succubus Etain, Antharos, a rival haemonculus, and Finghul, a slaver lord. To teach them a lesson, Meeran humiliates them by fighting against their champions in the arena.

Meeran is led by a mandrake and a troupe of harlequins to another dimension where there is a palace in ruins by a black lake. In the palace, Meeran and S'hlee encounter a Woman in Yellow who claims to be an avatar of both Cegorach and Slaanesh, and who reveals to them that she has manipulated their entire lives so that these events would come to pass. She also tells them that she is only a servant: the real manipulator is a future version of themselves that has arranged for everything to happen so that it will exist, effectively creating itself. However, this version of themselves is made up of three parts, and they are only two, so they still need to find another to complete themselves.

Meeran returns to Commorragh and the arena just as Pleghanie's intrigues explode into all-out civil war. Antharos attacks Vermipox, who has been betrayed by Qlip, one of his wracks. Meeran saves Vermipox and does something unspeakable to Qlip, and she and Vermipox escape into a painting. Asdrubael Vect wants Meeran as a source of infinite pain, and he dispatches Pleghanie, Etain, Antharos, and Finghul to fetch her and Vermipox back.

Summary of Part Two, Unicorn':

Four daemons called Brute, Slime, Whore, and Lie plan to destroy Meeran. Meanwhile, Inquisitor Aralee Zayt and Captain Origen, a rogue trader, find Vermipox and Meeran on the run from Pleghanie. They travel together to Sagramunda, a world on the edge of a terrible war between the Imperium and the Tau, which Aralee wishes to prevent. Vermipox and Meeran stage a play that drives both humans and tau insane. Aralee's investigations are sidetracked by Pleghanie kidnapping Origen. While Aralee searches desperately for him, Pleghanie goads the tau ambassador Pol'na into starting the war. Aralee fights her way through scores of tau, still searching for Origen. The Imperium is winning the battle, but they are caught in a trap by the dark eldar, who massacre everyone, human and tau. Aralee reunites with Origen and makes love to him, at last understanding and accepting herself.

They find Vermipox and Meeran, who have captured the tortured souls of the dead to power a webway-travelling machine, the Hagfish. The four daemons make their appearance, believing themselves to have won -- there has been brutality, debauchery, disease, and deception -- but it has all been a play written by Vermipox, and by inserting themselves into it they have ceased to be daemons and have become actors, and Vermipox sends them away. Aralee and Origen say goodbye to Meeran and Vermipox, and they part as friends.

Summary of Part Three, The Fall of Kil-Marann:

An Imperial world is corrupted by a strange form of madness in spite of the efforts of Sister Palatine Honoria, who uses her influence to call down an order of Exterminatus on the planet. She finds and kills Meeran, but before the Imperium can arrive the eldar of Craftworld Kil-Marann beat them to it. Honoria returns to her flagship to find it half-destroyed and empty. She makes a deal with Vermipox to get revenge on the Craftworld. S'hlee returns to Realspace with a troupe of harlequins. She confronts Thersas, Farseer of Kil-Marann with the possibility of change, but he refuses, so she turns him into a crystal statue. The Imperial Navy ambushes the Craftworld with the aid of S'hlee, who kills their seers, imprisons their souls, and uses them to play a hellish symphony. The eldar are destroyed. Vermipox and Meeran take Honoria to the hidden dark eldar flagship, where they raise a mutiny and turn Finghul, the slaver captain, into molten goo, which Vermipox pours into a bottle. Honoria goes mad and ends her days in a distant cloister, endlessly filling up scrolls with her ravings. Aralee Zayt tries to help her, but fails to reach her mind.

Summary of Part X, Carrion Guard:

More like 'Carry-On Guard', get it? Get it? (sigh) Nobody gets my jokes.

And finally Part 4, The Gan Perrol Affair:


Prologue: The Voice You Hear Whose voice is it that you hear?
Chapter One: The Face of Depravity. Inquisitor Gan Perrol meets S'hlee in the Realm of Chaos, and becomes enslaved by Slaanesh.
Chapter Two: She Loves You Like The Void Gan Perrol threatens the Inquisition, and Aralee Zayt must deal with him.
Chapter Three: Kisses and Roads Aralee seeks the help of Meeran and S'hlee, in a roundabout way. The fates of other characters are resolved.
Chaper Four: The Riddle of Hell S'hlee helps by going into the Realm of Chaos, looping back to the events of Chapter One.
Chapter Five: The Battle of Themia. Meeran sings heavy metal songs while the Imperial Guard, the Wych Cult of the Succubus Etain, and the armies of Slaanesh battle for the planet Themia.
Chapter Six: Become His Flesh An almost defeated Gan Perrol challenges Aralee to a duel.
Chapter Seven: One Last Song. Meeran plays guitar. The Succubus Etain and Meeran burn together on a bed of white-hot fire. Vermipox reveals the mystery of the harlequins. Meeran, S'hlee, and Etain join into a complete being at last.
Epilogue: Hello Again. Meeran-S'hlee-Etain plan a party. You learn whose voice it was that you heard, if you didn't know already.


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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Sun Sep 25 2016, 09:49

THE GAN PERROL AFFAIR


PROLOGUE: THE VOICE YOU HEAR

Hello. Remember me? I am Death. Oh, no I am not, you say, I am only an eldar harlequin, a performer wearing a mask? Well that’s true, of course, but look deeper: the harlequin is another mask. And beneath that? Perhaps I am the Laughing God himself. Or perhaps I am the author of this tale — but no, do you see her anywhere? It’s all masks, a carrousel of masks, take one off and you’ll find another one beneath, and another, each one a fiction, all of them true. The masks do not conceal the truth, they reveal it.

You should not have come here. This is her house. Here all masks are cast off and you see my face. So who am I? Whose voice is it that you hear? It is an easy riddle. Look around, who else is here except…? But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let us start over: I am your faithful narrator. I usually fade into the background, where you don’t notice me, but I know everything and see everything, and I relate it all to you. Impressive, isn’t it? But it’s a simple trick. You’ll soon figure it out, if you haven’t already. No, I’m not just being cryptic, I swear. I could tell you everything right now, but this is your backstage pass, your peek behind the curtains. You would be disappointed if I just told you, wouldn’t you? No, you want to see for yourself. You want to step through the mirror. Come on, then, follow me and I’ll give you the grand tour. I’ll show you everything, as I’ve always done, and all answers shall be revealed.

Will it be dangerous? Hahahaha! You could say that, you could very well say that! Oh, but don’t worry. I’m here with you, aren’t I? I may fade into the background, but I’m always here. I’ll see that you’re all right.

You know who I am. Would I lie to you?
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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Sun Sep 25 2016, 09:51

CHAPTER ONE: THE FACE OF DEPRAVITY

Inquisitor Gan Perrol, the greatest and most faithful servant of the Emperor in the entire history of the Imperium, entered the grand chamber to a chorus of cheers and thunderous applause. They were all here for him: the Navis, the Militarum, the Administratum, the Ministorum, the Mechanicus, and of course, the Inquisition. They honoured him with praise and admiration. How they had doubted him before, called him fool, traitor, excommunicatus! How they had tried to stop him, and what a different tune they sang now! ‘Forgive us for doubting you, Perrol!’ they cried. ‘We should have had faith in you, Perrol!’

He forgave them, of course. Most of them had only been doing their duty, as they saw it. It wasn’t their fault that their faith was not as strong as his, their will not as unyielding. None of them could have done what he had done. Not even the Emperor himself had been able to vanquish the Gods of Chaos, as Gan Perrol had. Not that he blamed the Emperor, of course. The Emperor had a galaxy to rule, while he, Gan Perrol, could devote his entire life to this one task.

Nor did he blame his brothers and sisters in the Inquisition, but they would have to go. The Imperium could not tolerate Inquisitors whose faith was lacking. Some of them might even have opposed him out of malice — it remained to be seen. He would re-organise them, lead them. None would doubt him now, none would oppose his will.

For now, he accepted their cheers with humble good nature. Even the alien eldar had sent a delegation, heads bowed in obeisance. They came in submission to the Imperium of Man, offering servitude and tribute, for Inquisitor Gan Perrol had rid their race of the curse that had plagued them for generations. By the strength of his faith, he had destroyed Slaanesh.

An eldar woman approached him with an alluring smile. She was beautiful as stars, graceful as the solar wind, with hair like the light of suns and eyes like diamonds shining in the dark. A princess of the eldar, surely their most precious daughter.  Was she intended as a gift, perhaps? If the aliens sought to win his favour with such a bribe, they would be sorely disappointed.

‘You dream,’ she said.

‘What?’

‘You dream.’

For a moment he was angry. What had she done? The faces were gone, there was no grand chamber, no cheers, no applause, only himself standing in a black desert of ash and soot extending as far as he could see, sparsely spiked with the stumps of obscene trees. This was the realm of Chaos, and he had never left it, never fulfilled his quest, never returned in triumph to the Imperium of Humanity and the adoration of his people. That life was impossibly distant, a memory of a memory, a dream that was already fading into the timelessness that reigned here.

But the eldar woman was no dream. He knew her face, a fellow traveler in eternity. Faces came and faces went, and all of them fell to the snares of temptation set for them sooner or later, but he had never stopped to help any of them. They would only have dragged him down with them, and there was nothing that he could have done for them anyway. These were the fields and forests of Slaanesh, the daemon king of indulgence and excess, and to yield to desire here, any desire, was to be enslaved forever by a horrible fate from which death itself would never be an escape.

He had thought himself strong, stronger than this place, and that had nearly been his downfall. It had been a dream of pride, a dream of vanity. He would have been trapped in it until his naked bones sank into the ash, and still it would have held him, if not for those two words: ‘you dream’.

‘Thank you,’ he said to the eldar woman. ‘After all this time, after all those trials, that would have been an unworthy end.’

She shrugged. ‘It might have been for the best,’ she said.

‘Why did you help me? Who are you?’ he asked.

‘I am S’hlee-Meeran,’ she said, ‘the Heart and the Virtue, and you, I’m afraid, are the Folly. It doesn’t matter whether I help you or not. You do not fall here. You reach the Palace of Slaanesh, you stand before the throne, and you gaze upon the face of the Prince of Pain himself. What you do then costs me dearly. Ah, but it can’t be helped.’ She held out her hand, offering him a copper penny. ‘Take this coin. If you have any sense left in you, it will pay your passage back to Realspace. If not…’

He refused it. ‘I know better than to accept anything in this place.’

‘Then you don’t know where you are.’

‘I know precisely where I am. This is the realm of Slaanesh, daemon god of desire and indulgence. You have no idea of what I have done to prepare myself for this quest. For decades I sought and found knowledge that had been thought lost for millenia. I have studied secret grimoires the least word of which could melt a man’s soul. I have borne curses upon myself you would not wish on your worst enemy. I have summoned  daemons and tortured them for their knowledge. I have shed the blood of innocents upon foul altars and divined knowledge from their entrails. I know more about the secrets of this place than any mortal or daemon alive.’

‘Mm-hmm. Except where it actually is, apparently. Why must men like you always make it so complicated? You have only made it this far because He wants you to. It’s a game, and you’re his pawn. You’re almost there. There is only one trial left. It’s a rather pleasant one: warm sands, a cool breeze, soothing waves, fresh mojitos, and a deep bass trance beat. Stop to rest for a moment and you’ll never get back up again. I’m going that way myself.’

‘You would knowingly surrender your own soul forever to this trap?’

‘’Forever’ is relative, isn’t it? Since you know so much, tell me this: if Time in this place is only what you make of it, how can anything be ‘forever’? If you knew that, you would have brought your own coins. Take this one. Throw it in a fountain — any fountain will do, just find one. If you wish, it will take you back to Realspace, and all of this will have been nothing but a dream, a dream that seemed to last thousands of years but was really nothing more than one restless night. If you don’t, and I know you won’t, it will take you directly to your foolish goal, the gates of the Palace of Slaanesh. ’

‘How do I know that you’re not one of his creatures, a minion of Slaanesh sent to tempt me?’

‘Because I’m not giving you a choice,’ she said, pressing the coin into his hand.

He looked at the penny in the palm of his hand as if expecting it to bite him. ‘But you have given me a choice,’ he said. ‘To finish my quest, or to abandon it.’

She sighed. ‘No, I’ve already told you. You don’t give up. You go to Him. You ruin everything. A part of me wishes it weren’t so, but that is how it has to be. If you’ll excuse me, I have a difficult time ahead, and I deserve a few mojitos on the beach before it starts.’

She turned and left. In a blink she was gone, and in her place was a fountain of black marble, broken, mildewed, and filled with brackish water. Perhaps this really was all a dream, as she had said. He would wake up in his cot and there would be no realm of Chaos, no fanciful and horrible trials, only his sanctum, his papers, and his books. Or maybe he was not even an Inquisitor after all, only a young man near the bottom of his class at the Schola Progenium, dreaming of being the greatest hero ever in the history of the Imperium, the one who would defeat no less than the gods of Chaos themselves! What was the dream, and what was the reality?

He was quite mad, and he knew it. He had trained himself to be, in preparation for his quest. Only a madman could have made it this far. Only a madman could look upon the object of his heart’s desire and recoil from it in disgust. Only a madman would throw that coin in the fountain, wouldn’t he?

He threw the coin in the fountain.

The golden gates of the Palace of Slaanesh swung open before him. A luxurious vestibule opened into a columned corridor, and beyond that into a great hall. The walls and floors were garish beyond dreams of vulgarity: elaborate mouldings and mantelpieces of polished silver and gold, gaudy tiles encrusted with diamonds and sapphires, large cushions of soft velvet in lurid colours strewn everywhere, exquisite tapestries woven in satin, portraying obscene images of inventive lust, gluttony, and debauchery. Scented candles and incense burners overwhelming the air with clashing scents of oranges, cardamom, ginger, and honey.

Upon a dais at the far end of the hall was a great throne of flowing gold carved with bas-reliefs of desperate copulating figures urgently squirming and thrusting into each other, like a mass of maddened insects encased in red-gold shells, and on this throne sat a creature of such foul concupiscence that Perrol felt as though he might vomit. It was at least twelve feet tall, naked and covered in shaggy, damp hair, with a face of coarse and heavy features reveling in the vast topography of its face as if its lips, nose, eyes, ears and brows competed with each other to see which could be the most immodest. The stink coming off of it was like the concentrated musk of a thousand goats in estrus. The rigid, dripping phallus being stroked between its legs was an excess of masculinity, but there was also in the creature the essence of the female, and of the goat, and of the stoat, and yet it was no chimera, no amalgam of contradictory parts put together by a febrile mind. It was a superimposition, as if an infinite number of versions of itself were folded into the same space.

‘Welcome,’ it said, and its breath was rotten meat, spoiled milk, and sour wine. ‘To what do I owe the pleasure?’

Perrol steeled his will. ‘I have come to banish you.’

‘Indeed?’ the creature mocked him indolently. ‘Are you sure you’re in the right place?’

‘They say that to look upon you is to lose one’s mind and soul, that those who gaze upon you become your willing slaves.’

‘Do they?’

‘That is the final test, to look you in the eye. The one who remains pure and free of your corruption may command you.’

‘Hmm. And who says these things? Presumably those who have gazed upon me and lost their minds to my irresistible charms? You would place your faith in the word of madmen and degenerates. Oh, Gan Perrol, if you were pure and free of corruption, you would not be here.’

A flicker of doubt assailed Perrol. Was he deceived, or did the creature seek to deceive him? ‘Are you saying that it’s a lie?’ he asked.

The creature laughed —  a rich, mellifluous, rumbling sound, almost soothing. ‘No,’ it said, ‘there is some truth in it. This is indeed your final test, and if you succeed then you will command me. Banish me? We’ll see. All you have to do is look me in the eye and answer me one riddle, one easy, simple thing. Tell me, who am I?’

‘You are Slaaneth, the Lord of Ecstasy, the Prince of Pleasure and Pain. You are the Great Serpent, She-Who-Thirsts, the Great Enemy of the Eldar race and the source of all desires that corrupt humanity. You are depravity, corruption, lust, and greed. You are — ‘

‘Wrong, ‘ said the creature. ‘Too bad. Come here, approach me.’

Perrol obediently stepped forward and prostrated himself before the throne, kneeling between the creature’s splayed legs, eagerly pushing his head into its crotch.

‘What is your will, my lord?’ he asked.


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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Sun Sep 25 2016, 09:51

CHAPTER TWO: SHE LOVES YOU LIKE THE VOID

In her mind, Aralee Zayt was already knocking back a few gin valhallas at the nearest tavern. ‘Let me tell you a joke,’ she would say to the bartender. ‘Thirty Imperial Inquisitors called a conclave and got together in a secret safe house, to plan their strategy against a danger that threatened them all, a menace that could cripple the Inquisition and do incalculable damage to the Imperium, if it were not stopped.’

‘Okay,’ the bartender would say. ‘And…?’

‘That’s the joke!’ she would say. ‘Don’t you get it?’ she would elaborate. ‘Because thirty Inquisitors couldn’t agree on what to order for lunch, let alone how to save themselves from an invisible war! See? It’s funny! No? Maybe you had to be there.’

‘I think you’ve had enough, Miss,’ the bartender would say, giving her a wary look.

‘Ha! That’s how much you know. I haven’t had enough, you see, because I haven’t had any, because I’m not really in a bar. I’m still at the conclave, and they’re still talking, and talking… oh, dear Emperor, will they ever stop?’

No, it did not seem that they ever would. The motley gathering of inquisitors were seated around a horseshoe-shaped table that filled the entire room. The ones near the u-bend at the front did most of the talking, while the rest raised their voices at each other, vainly trying to be heard. Aralee was in the back near one of the ends of the horseshoe — but not at the very end — being very quiet and trying not to be noticed. She did not want to be here. She had only come because failure to turn up would have been dangerous. Her absence would have been taken as evidence that she was up to no good. She was not among friends.

She was only half-listening to them. ‘But are we sure that it is really Gan Perrol?’ asked Inquisitor Braddon, a notoriously plodding old puritan of the Ordo Hereticus.

‘For blank’s sake, we’ve been through this!’ howled Inquisitor Malcor of the Ordo Politicum. ‘Yes, it’s him! He’s returned from whatever blanking blank he blanked off to, and whatever happened to him there, his goal now is to blank us in the blank. He knows all of our blanking secrets, our identities, our safe houses, our contacts, every blanking thing, and he is striking at us through them. How many blanking inquisitors have blanking disappeared without a trace in the last blanking months? If this goes on, the Inquisition is blanked, and I don’t have to tell you what that means for the blanking Imperium.’

‘Then Perrol has fallen to Chaos.’

Malcor shouted directly into his face, spraying him with spittle. ‘Of course he has fallen to Chaos, you blankety blankblanking blanker! He has been summoning blanking daemons and doing blanking rituals and blank knows what else for blanking decades! He was a chaos sorcerer in all but name, only he was too blanking blanked to know it, and now he’s finally fully blanked!’

Aralee stared at him in amazement. The female inquisitor sitting next to her leaned over conspiratorially and explained. ‘Inquisitor Malcor’s voice comm has a hidden obscenity filter,’ she said. ‘He doesn’t know.’

Inquisitor Corvix asked, ‘Is Perrol still human? If his nature is daemonic, perhaps he can be bound or banished, as other daemons can.’

‘Are you mad?’ protested Inquisitor Boras. ‘That kind of radical thinking is exactly what led Perrol to his present state in the first place. In fact, this is what comes of being too lenient within our own ranks. We have allowed too many unorthodox and insubordinate inquisitors to wield our authority.’

He said this with a significant look down the length of the table at Aralee. She was pulled from her thoughts by the realisation that the room had gone quiet, and that everyone was looking at her.

‘Oh, come on!’ she protested. ‘What did I do now?’

‘We don’t know,’ said Boras. ‘That is the trouble. None of us understand what it is that you do. The few reports that you deign to present to us are nothing but lurid fictions and bizarre allegories. As for your conduct, you seem to spend most of your time cavorting with a rogue trader by the name of Origen.’

Aralee was shocked. She was being provoked, and she knew it, but she could not help it. She might have felt some anger, but mostly she was dumbfounded. ‘Cavorting?’ she asked incredulously.

‘Yes, shamelessly cavorting,’ said Boras. ‘Do you deny it?’

Aralee shook her head. ‘I am sorry, have I missed something? Do we have any laws against ‘cavorting’ now?’

‘It is… frowned upon.’

‘Then with all due respect, Inquisitor, since the Inquisition does not exist to fret about what makes you frown, and since I personally don’t give a crap, I’ll ‘cavort’ all I want until my tits fall off.’

For a moment there was shocked silence. Then the female inquisitor next to Aralee held back her head and broke into raucous laughter, which was echoed by about half the inquisitors around the table. The tension was broken and they all returned to their endless arguments.

The inquisitor pulled Aralee aside. ‘Well done!’ she said. ‘You put that silly twit Boras in his place. Come, let us have a conversation, you and I.’

Aralee had never met this inquisitor, but she knew of her. She looked barely a few decades older than Aralee, but she was at least two hundred years old, and she was the highest-ranking inquisitor present at this conclave, in the sense that of all of them she had earned the greatest influence and renown. The Inquisition did not have an official hierarchy as such, but there was a definite pecking order, and this inquisitor was among the highest in the entire organisation. And yet she had elected to sit with the plebes at the back — to sit next to Aralee.

‘That was a fun break from all this prattle, but you should be more careful,’ said the Inquisitor. ‘Words fired across the table can be deadlier than shots fired across the battlefield. Boras may seem to you like a confused twit with a head like a blow-dried calthian poodle, but he is a lot smarter than he looks, and there is a purpose behind his words. His problem is that he spends too much time on his arse away from real people, pulling strings instead of dealing with things in person, but he has a lot of those strings, and they reach everywhere.’

Aralee gave her a look that she hoped was sufficiently obsequious. ‘With respect, Inquisitor, I think that you put him up to it. I believe that you asked Inquisitor Boras to say that to me in order to draw me out, pretend to take my side, and befriend me.’

The Inquisitor narrowed her eyes. ‘Well, aren’t you a clever little girl. Fine, then. Shall I tell you what I believe? No one here cares about your ‘cavorting’, but we are very interested in love. I believe that love matters a great deal to you. I believe that you would sacrifice anything, even let worlds burn, for the sake of your lover.’ She leaned over and whispered the next words into Aralee’s ear. ‘I believe that you have.’

Aralee froze. Unlike the blinkered slurs and vague suspicions usually thrown at her by other inquisitors, this was a real accusation and a very serious charge. And it was true.

‘I can’t really prove it,’ the Inquisitor continued. ‘But in the current mood, I wouldn’t need to. You have no friends, no one who trusts you. One word from me and you, your captain, his crew, and anyone else I even suspect of association with you will drop off the face of the galaxy, never to be seen again. I wanted to chat with you, before I decide whether or not to give that word. Do you understand?’

‘Yes,’ said Aralee. ‘You are giving me a chance… thank you.’

‘Don’t mention it. To answer your question, no, I did not ask Boras to say that to you. I just put the idea in his head and made sure that the conversation was steered in that direction. I am also the one who really called this conclave, but it was Malcor who sent out the call, and if you were to ask him he would swear that it was his own idea. And no, it is not all for your benefit. There are many games being played in this room, not all of them mine. What do you make of it? You see a pack of windbags blathering on about nothing; I see moves and counter-moves, points scored and lost, favours traded and schemes thwarted.’

‘Politics,’ said Aralee.

‘Yes, politics. More powerful than any foul sorcery. I could shoot you myself if I decide that you’re a problem, but I don’t have to. All I have to do is find the right time, the right place, and the right ear, and say, ‘someone ought to do something about that girl’, and you’d be dead as surely as if I’d pulled the trigger.’

‘But now? With the Inquisition under attack, and all of us in danger?’

‘We are always in danger. What would you do about it, hm? What do you believe? Do you side with those who would corrupt themselves to fight corruption, or with those of us who struggle to preserve the fragile status quo? Do you believe that the Emperor will rise in a new body? Do you want to aid humanity through the path of evolution? Do you already have radical beliefs at such a young age, or are you still somewhat sane?’

‘I don’t know,’ Aralee answered honestly. ‘I don’t pretend to know what is best for humanity, Inquisitor. I just do the job that is in front of me, the best that I can. I try to protect life.’

‘Even alien life?’

Yes, even alien life, because ‘alien’ and ‘human’ are just words, and it is all the same thing beneath the skin. Because minor differences are insignificant next to that thing, and because that thing is love, a universe of love, life sparks smashing into each other with self-annihilating force, destroying ourselves together in an explosion of ecstasy and filling the skies with joy and gold and hydrogen and starlight.

No, she probably shouldn’t say that to the Inquisitor. ‘As I said, I don’t pretend to know what is best,’ she said.

‘Then you are unique among us. Look around you: every inquisitor here has a grand plan. Every one of us thinks that they know best, including myself. That is why they don’t trust you. What is your scheme? Are you friend or foe to their agendas? They would never believe that you have none, or that your love really is as it seems. They will never understand.’

‘But you do?’ Aralee said hopefully.

‘No, and frankly I think that your wits are addled, but this is the Inquisition so you should fit in perfectly. Tell me, would it surprise you to learn that Gan Perrol has sympathizers among us, here in this room?’

‘What?’

‘Of course. He may have been privy to many of our secrets, but he can’t know as much as he does. Someone must be feeding him information.’

Aralee gasped. ‘Have so many inquisitors been corrupted by Chaos?’

‘Not necessarily. Some of them may see him as a useful tool to eliminate their rivals and shape the Inquisition into what they believe it should be. Some of them believe that it is good for the Inquisition to have a mortal enemy, because only through strife do we become stronger, or some such nonsense. Some of them believe that his power can be put to good use, regardless of its source. Perrol himself probably still believes that he is doing what is best for the Imperium. The greatest threats to humanity are not crazed cultists and monsters, but the good intentions of zealots convinced that they know what is best.’

‘But… isn’t that what you do?’

‘Yes, except that I’m right. My point is that I can’t trust any of them except, paradoxically, you. The irony is not lost upon me. You are an outcast. You have no friends, no associations, no connections, and no ideology as we understand it, and you are singularly resistant to the temptations of the daemon Slaanesh, because…’

‘… because I already have everything I want.’

‘Quite so. That makes you, believe it or not, the ideal person to deal with this problem.’

Aralee tried to work it out. ‘Are you telling me to go after Gan Perrol?’

The Inquisitor raised an eyebrow. ‘Telling you, Inquisitor? Of course not. We don’t give orders to each other. We answer to no one but the Emperor, not even to the High Lords themselves. No, we are just two colleagues discussing a threat to the Imperium and how best to deal with it. Of course, should you autonomously decide to do anything about it, you may count on me for any assistance you may require, and it would only be courteous of you to let me know of any developments. Wouldn’t you agree?’

‘Um, yes?’

‘Good. We’ll be friends, you and I. As your friend, of course, I’ll set aside any questions about what you may or may not have done for love, and put them at the bottom of the list.’

‘But not off the list?’

‘That will depend on how good a friend you are. Am I understood?’

‘Yes, Inquisitor.’ Aralee knew when she was outmatched. She was pressing her luck, but there was one thing that she had to know. ‘Inquisitor, may I ask you just one question? Did you love him?’

The Inquisitor frowned. ‘Who?’

‘You know who.’

The Inquisitor looked away. ‘I sent him into harm’s way, many times. He survived, but I had every reason to expect that he might not.’

Aralee said nothing.

The Inquisitor continued. ‘He had other lovers, I never had a claim on him. We were both busy with our own duties. We would meet and part and sometimes years would pass before we would meet again, and when we did there was always some threat or agenda, something that I needed from him. We stole what moments we could, and we knew each other as no one else did. Did I love him? I suppose, in a way, but some things must come first.’ She sighed. ‘Some things always come first.’

‘But did you ever tell him…’

‘Go away now, girl, I am a fool for trusting you. You are dangerous. More dangerous than I thought.’


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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Sun Sep 25 2016, 09:51

CHAPTER THREE: KISSES AND ROADS

In the palace of twilight by the side of the black lake, harrow-whispers echoed playfully through twisting corridors and desolate halls, stirring up shadows and ghosts that shrieked, gibbered, and capered on the walls in the flickering light of sorrow-fires. Meeran danced like a spider on the ceiling, letting them crowd lovingly around her and through her, kissing her with tongues of burning cold. ‘I shall miss them!’ she said, pressing her hands on the limestone. ‘Goodbye, broken walls! This is the end. When I see you again, I shall not be me, and you will not be as you are.’

What have I done? thought Aralee. ‘I withdraw my request,’ she said. ‘I did not realise what I asked of you.’

S’hlee reassured her with a smile and a hand on her shoulder. ‘And what should we do then? Shall we stay forever unchanged within these old walls, and make a prison of our home? This is how it has to be.’

‘I don’t even remember how I came here.’

‘It hasn’t happened yet. You must be careful of your memory. You may remember things that never happened, and make them realities, and you may forget the things that did, and turn them into dreams.’

They came to an arch that opened into a dark chasm with a long stone stairway descending along the wall.  Meeran and S’hlee burst into flames to light their way — Meeran’s flame red, S’hlee’s blue. Down and down they went inside their small circle of light, the steps above and the steps below invisible in the darkness.

‘I think I understand,’ said Aralee. ‘Meeran shifts red and S’hlee shifts blue, but you are really the same thing.’

‘We are not a thing, my lady!’ Meeran protested. ‘We are water and we are wine!’

‘We are one,’ said S’hlee. ‘It depends on whether you’re going up the steps or down them.’

To demonstrate they switched places. Meeran’s flame burned blue and S’hlee’s burned red, and as they did so, Meeran was S’hlee and S’hlee was Meeran. ‘It’s very basic physics,’ said S’hlee. ‘No mystery at all.’

Aralee could not tell how long they had been going down. It might have been a minute, or it might have been hours. ‘Where are we going?’ she asked.

‘I don’t know,’ said S’hlee. ‘I have never been this way before. Perhaps it wasn’t here until it had to be.’

The steps finally descended into a cellar, the walls and floor covered in decorative tiles. They displayed a scene of interlocking landscapes, fields, hills, forests, and deserts, teeming with tiny figures of men, women, animals, and fruits dancing, playing, screwing, and eating each other in acts of increasing obscenity, watched over hungrily above the horizon by an enormous bloated creature with six eyes and six legs, dripping black venom onto them from its fangs.

‘What is it?’ said Aralee, horrified.

‘Hell,’ said S’hlee. ‘Or one of them. An eternal torment of our own making. I will seek him in there and show him the way out, but he won’t take it. That is the road that leads us here.’

On a rickety table there lay four artifacts: a sword, a wand, a cup, and a purse full of copper pennies. S’hlee took the coins and burst into bitter tears. She and Meeran hugged each other tight.

‘We can’t be separated!’ Meeran cried.

‘We won’t be,’ said S’hlee. ‘It will only seem that way. You must remember who you are, sister-self.’

She waved one last time and walked into the tiles, becoming one of the tiny figures. Aralee and Meeran watched her go until she was lost in the landscape.

‘My song is gone,’ Meeran said, still weeping. ‘She will be terrified without me, and I — I shall be mad. But I am the fire. I will be the breaking of the bones, the rending of the flesh, and the derangement of the mind. My delight is blood and screams. Oh, sister-self, I remember!’ She took the wand. ‘I will meet you up ahead, my lady. I’ll burn brighter than suns for you, and then I shall burn out. The cup and the sword are yours. I wish that I could help you, but I don’t know that you’re coming. Farewell!’ Her red flame burned out and she was gone, leaving Aralee in absolute darkness.

Aralee took a few cautious steps forward holding out her arms in front of her, hoping to feel a wall to orient herself, but there was none. She kept walking and gradually her eyes began to see again, dimly at first, then clearly. She was in an endless white corridor with no doors. It was so long that she could not see the end of it.

A rumbling sound behind her made her turn around, and for an instant she froze in terror like a small furry animal in the face of a snake. A massive thing — she could not call it a creature — was bearing down upon her like a flood, filling up the corridor from floor to ceiling with its gelatinous pale mass, shapelessly bubbling and swirling like protoplasm, forming and reabsorbing a legion of eyes, mouths, faces, and limbs that reached out for her with twisted fingers, tentacles, and claws. She ran, and the thing roared, howled, screamed and whined from a thousand malformed mouths and jaws as it slithered after her.

She dared not turn around, but the thing’s smell came closer and closer, reeking of vinegar and stale pork. How far could she run, how long? She realised that she had the sword and the cup with her, and decided to stop. She would not die running away from danger like helpless prey, she was Aralee Zayt. In one swift movement she drew the sword, rolled, and slashed behind her, cutting through corrosive tendrils as they were about to grab her, leaped away and set her feet in a defensive stance, ready to fight.

A door opened in the wall. ‘In here, quick!’ said a woman. Aralee did not hesitate, she dashed through and the woman closed the door behind her.

‘Don’t worry,’ said the woman. ‘He will not come in here.’

Aralee looked around at where she was. It was a vast tower, filled with endless rows of bookshelves and cubbyholes forming an intricate maze around a central well, through which a spiral staircase led up and down to similar floors. Studious readers, some of them human and some not, pored over tomes and scrolls at variously-shaped desks, watched over by tiny mute attendants in black cowls.

The woman who had saved her was tall and thin and held herself very straight. She was prim and fussy, dressed in a sensible blue gown embroidered with fleur-de-lys, and her features were severe, but not unfriendly. Aralee recognised her.

‘Honoria?’ she asked.

‘Yes,’ the woman said. ‘I remember you. You were kind to me.’

‘But the last time I saw you, you were…’

‘A skeletal wretch, barely half alive, filling scroll after scroll with the scribbles of my mad ravings. I still am. If you go down the stairs to the basement you will find me there. You may even find yourself on one of your visits… holding my hand, combing my hair, speaking to me as a friend. I never said a word then, but those visits meant everything to me. I’m very glad to see you, and to have this opportunity to tell you how much I appreciate what you did, but that was hundreds of years ago, and most of it is painful and embarrassing. The library has grown, as you predicted. All of this, ‘ she gestured around, ‘exists thanks to you. You are most welcome here, but please use the front entrance. The guardian is very dangerous.’

‘The thing that attacked me?’

‘He protects the library. He was an eldar lord once, but he was melted down and trapped inside a bottle. I’m afraid that I let him out in a moment of compassion, but it did him no good. He was trapped in there for so long that he cannot bear to be confined by anything any more, not even a name or a shape. He can’t come inside the library, of course.’

‘If your library extends through time and space, could I use the basement to go back to my own time?’

‘Your own time is now, always. Going back would only return you to the same path that brought you here.’

‘I don’t know where I should go next. All I remember is a warning, something about dreams.’

‘Then I can be of some assistance. Please, follow me.’

Honoria led Aralee through the maze of bookshelves, following the signs of a cataloguing system that was no doubt familiar to her, but would have been incomprehensible to anyone else. ‘Ah, here we are,’ she said, drawing a scroll from a cubbyhole. She laid it out on a nearby table, put on her reading glasses, and drew her finger down the parchment as she read. ‘It’s the Gan Perrol affair,’ she said. ‘Perrol was a renegade inquisitor who became the servant of Slaanesh, and waged a secret war of sabotage and assassination against the Inquisition. You were tasked with finding him and ending his threat, so you made a plan to draw him out, you planted false trails for him to follow, and tracked him down to the deserted world of Themia.’

‘Have I already done that?’

‘It doesn’t matter, as long as you remember it. Who knows what you have done, what you will do, or what you might have done, but didn’t? Only what is written can be known, only memories are real.’

‘And the rest belongs to dreams…’

‘What an odd thing to say! Yes, maybe, but only the most terrible dreams. Dreams of that which neither is nor is not, neither forgotten nor remembered. Dreams of revealing absence. That is where the Twin-Heart lives, and that is why we are all terrified of her. She is the black tower.’

‘She doesn’t terrify me.’

‘I know. You seek her help against Gan Perrol, not knowing the sacrifice you ask her to make. I will have a caretaker take you to her.’ Honoria held up a hand and one of the small cowled library workers approached. ‘Please take the Inquisitor across the lake to the broken palace,’ she said.

‘What sacrifice?’ said Aralee. ‘I thought she was invincible.’

‘There is always a price, Aralee. We wouldn’t pay it if it weren’t worth it. Goodbye, I look forward to seeing you again.’

The cowled and wizened ratling led Aralee out of the library and into the shadowy streets of a city of alabaster walls. Aralee had a sense that there was a crowd around her, walking, standing around, buying, selling, talking, eating, playing, dancing, but their murmur was just below the threshold of her hearing, and she could only glimpse them out of the corner of her eye. Wherever she looked directly there was nothing but empty, whispering streets.

They came to a pier on a black lake, and her guide gestured at her to climb aboard a wooden rowboat. He — or maybe she, it was hard to tell — took hold of the oars and began to row toward the far side. The lake was shrouded in perpetual twilight, beneath the non-light of rising dark stars and a blood moon that hung like mist before the city that they had just left behind. Across the lake were the broken ramparts and ragged banners of a marble palace that might have once been radiant, but was now broken and haunted, a home of sorrows and madness, filled with the mirthless laughter of vast shadows writhing in eternal pain. The ratling rowed toward it at first, but then began to veer off to one side.

‘You are going off course,’ said Aralee. The ratling rowed on in silence, not looking at her. ‘You’re not taking me to the palace, are you?’

The ratling beached the rowboat on the shore beneath the shadow of looming tree branches and gestured at her to get off. She had barely put one foot over the side, sinking up to her calf in cold water and loose silt, when he pushed the boat away causing her to lose her balance and fall on her bottom with a loud splash.

‘I’ll report you to your master!’ she shouted, shaking her fist at the ratling in the retreating boat. ‘She and I are good friends, you know! She’ll cook you and eat you, and dock your pay!’

Cursing and wet she stood up and pushed through a wall of reeds and sedges. On the other side was a pale gravel path winding through a woodland of willow and alder trees, their branches drooping and hanging with lichen. The ground was uneven with great moss-covered stones and thick with overgrown beds of poppies, lilies, rosebushes, lilac, jasmine, honeysuckle, and tobacco flowers. Pools of water formed from rivulets running from nearby streams, their surface covered with stargazers.

A short distance away Aralee could see the towers of the broken palace peering above the treetops, so she followed the path in that direction. She had not gone far when she came upon a clearing, and in the middle of it stood a many-coloured crystal statue of an eldar in fine robes, surrounded by a ring of black roses, emitting a single high-pitched, keening note like a tuning fork that had just been struck. As she admired it, the sound varied in pitch ever so gradually, as if the statue were singing a dirge in an impossibly slow tempo. A feeble cry came from one of the thickest rosebushes, and Aralee stooped down to find a creature tangled up in its thorns. It looked like a woman, but her features were grotesque; her eyes were large black beads, her forehead sprouted goat horns, and her hands and feet ended in raptor talons. Aralee reached for the sword, but found only the cup. ‘Water, please,’ said the creature.

Whatever it was, it was too piteous to leave in that state. Aralee filled the cup with clear water from the nearest pool and helped the creature to drink from it. ‘Thank you,’ it said.

‘Who are you, and what happened to you?’ asked Aralee.

‘I was called Whore, when I was a daemon, but I don’t know what my name is now. I lost my three brothers along the way, and now I am alone.’ She began to weep. ‘This is her garden of madness and sorrows, and every flower is a memory or a dream. That is why they’re all fragrant flowers, see? It’s easy to get tangled up and lost in them.’ She reached out and picked up a handful of gravel. ‘These are the crushed bones of a million eldar souls who died screaming in agony, and now they serve as a path to others. Do not stray.’

Aralee was fascinated. ‘And the statue?’

‘She loved him, but he could not change, so she preserved him as he was, forever. He sings a lament for what is gone. I was supposed to bring a message to the Twin-Heart, will you take it to her?’

‘What is the message?’

‘The Prince of Pain, known as Slaanesh, thanks the Twin-Heart for the feast of eldar souls that she has gifted to him, and vows to keep the truce between them, if she will do the same.’

‘Slaanesh deceived you.’

‘I know. He’s afraid of her. I am an offering of appeasement, to ingratiate himself. Do you think that she will take me?’

‘She already has. You are not a daemon any more, only the memory of one. You belong to the garden now, just like all of these flowers.’

The creature looked up at her with tears of gratitude. ‘Thank you,’ it said, and as Aralee watched it began to grow tall and thin, its skin hardening into bark, its feet turning into roots that burrowed into the ground, its arms lengthening and bifurcating into branches, sprouting leaves, flowers, and fruits. Where the creature had been now stood a young tree. Aralee reached up and plucked a black cherry from a branch, popping it into her mouth. It was rich and sweet.

She spat out the pit. ‘At least you’ll have company now,’ she said to the singing crystal statue. ‘Goodbye… Cherry,’ she said to the tree.

She followed the path, not straying, and soon came out of the woodlands and into a small field that led up to the gates of the palace. As she approached it the gates opened and a shadow emerged, lengthening toward her on the ground, and from that shadow emerged the girl, Meeran, and her eldar counterpart, S’hlee.

Meeran curtsied respectfully. ‘My lady, what a lovely surprise!’

S’hlee bowed slightly. ‘How can we aid the Sword and the Cup?’ she said.

Aralee said, ‘I have a favour to ask.’


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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Sun Sep 25 2016, 09:52

CHAPTER FOUR: THE RIDDLE OF HELL

S’hlee had to give credit to the renegade Inquisitor, if only for a stupid kind of persistence. He had come here to the realm of Slaanesh, the God of Pleasure, of his own free will, prepared himself for decades to make this journey, and to everything that was offered he said, ‘no’. No to vast riches, no to delicious food and wine, no to the sweet and urgent pressing of flesh upon flesh. One might ask why he had bothered to come here in the first place.

She had found him in a field of grass made of living gold, dotted with silver trees bearing rubies shaped like apples and peaches made of warm amber. A charming vineyard occupied a hollow where the vines were made of emerald, and the grapes were amethysts. A satin-blue sky was filled with stars, and every star was a gleaming diamond, so close that you could almost reach it. S’hlee bent down and picked up a handful of tiny precious gems, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and diamonds, and threw them up in the air, laughing in delight at the rainbow of flashing colours.

On a nearby pile of gold coins and jewelry, the thick air coalesced into the shape of a daemon that spoke to her in a voice dripping with seduction. ‘Greetings, traveler,’ the daemon said.

‘Hello, Whore,’ S’hlee answered.

The daemon hissed. ‘You know my name?’

‘You are called Whore,’ said S’hlee, ‘but your true name is Cherry, and you are a tree in my garden.’

‘All of these riches can be yours,’ said Whore. ‘Take all you want, take as much as you can carry.’

‘Why not take the whole lot?’

Whore laughed. ‘Do you think that you can carry it all?’

‘I don’t have to, it can all be mine right here. My home is mine, but I don’t carry it around with me, like a tortoise.’

‘But think of all the precious things that you could buy, with all of this wealth!’

‘More precious than a field of living gold? No, I think it’s perfect as it is. Thank you for giving it to me.’

Whore sighed. ‘Are you supposed to be here?’

‘I’m here for him,’ said S’hlee, indicating Gan Perrol. ‘He must get through to the next circle.’

‘He belongs to my master. He derives a kind of pleasure from denying himself, which seems pretty sick to me, but who am I to judge?’

‘All the same, he has to go through. I will take his place.’

Whore raised an eyebrow. ‘Are you willing to pay the price for all eternity?’

S’hlee dismissed the question with a wave. ‘What’s an eternity or two?’ she asked, taking a coin from her purse and pressing it into Whore’s hands.

Whore looked at the coin unhappily. ‘The boss won’t like it,’ she said, but she released Gan Perrol and vanished. The oblivious Inquisitor walked on toward the Palace of Slaanesh, and S’hlee followed him, looking back and seeing herself still entranced for all eternity by pretty jewels and shiny coins.

Leaving the fields of silver and gold behind they came upon a vast lake of sweet, delicious wine, in which there rose islands laid with feasts of lavish abundance and delight. Gan Perrol, of course, jumped straight into the lake and swam toward the far shore, careful not to let even a single drop touch his lips. S’hlee cupped her hands and drank deeply. It was perfect. There was no hurry, the Inquisitor would not go far.

On the nearest island she found Whore again, dressed as a waitress and bearing a tray of hors d’oeuvres. ‘Hello again, strange one,’ she said. ‘May I offer you an appetizer, before you start?’

‘Delighted,’ said S’hlee, taking one from the tray. She was still wet and her clothes were soaked with wine, so she took them off and threw them in a corner, tied her purse around her waist, and then sat down to eat.

Whore said, ‘Gan Perrol won’t come up here.  He is still paddling around in the wine, eyes squeezed shut, lips pursed, desperate not to allow himself even one drop, swimming in circles. It’s very amusing!’

S’hlee laughed.  ‘That is funny, actually, but I can’t let him drown. He has to get through.’

‘I suppose you’ll be taking his place for all eternity — again?’

‘Of course,’ said S’hlee, taking a coin from the purse. ‘Let me settle the bill.’

‘Are you sure you won’t have just a little bit more?’

‘No, thank you. I’ve had enough of this man’s entrails.’

Whore rolled her eyes. ‘You’re not supposed to notice that. You’re supposed to see the most fancy meal you could ever imagine, not the carcass of the man who came here before you.’

‘Oh,’ said S’hlee. ‘For what it’s worth, he was delicious, whoever he was. The maggots were a bit squirmy.’

‘You are going to cost me my job, you know.’

‘I know, but you’ll be much happier as a tree, trust me.’

Whore disappeared. Gan Perrol reached the far shore, muttered a prayer of thanks to the Emperor under his breath for seeing him this far, and marched forward to the palace. S’hlee delicately wiped her lips with a napkin and followed him.

From beyond the lake there came the arousing sound of a thousand moans, gasps, and whimpers of sexual ecstasy. The path opened into a sunlit valley of delights, packed with the beautiful, slick bodies of men, women, and daemons lying on sheets made of silk woven from erotic dreams, thrusting, pressing, melting into each other, oozing stickiness and heat. The air was thick with the mixed scent of semen, sweat, and musk. S’hlee closed her eyes in pleasure as her hands caressed her thighs, her buttocks, and her sex, squeezing her thighs together and enjoying how they slid against each other with the slippery dampness that was already running down the inside of her legs.

Someone lay a soft, leathery hand on her arse and a long, claw-like finger slid along the cleft and gently pressed a spot on her perineum, sending an electric spasm through her nerve endings that made her go weak at the knees. ‘There goes your quarry,’ said Whore, wrapping her other arm around S’hlee’s breasts. S’hlee languidly opened her eyes to look. Gan Perrol stumbled through the infinite orgy with his eyes shut and his fingers in his ears, like a fool made to play an obscene game of blind man’s bluff. The lovers paused in their extravagant copulations to laugh at him or curse him as he bumped clumsily into their naked bodies.

S’hlee laughed. ‘What a clown!’

‘Let me guess,’ said Whore, licking S’hlee’s moisture from her finger. ‘We still can’t keep him. You will take his place for all eternity with yet another coin from your purse.’

S’hlee grabbed the back of Whore’s head and leaned in for a kiss. ‘There’s no hurry, is there?’

‘Oh, my!’ said Whore.

S’hlee knew nothing after that. Her entire world became a swirl of flesh and sensation, hands, fingers, lips, and tongues, touching, probing, tasting, smelling, bodies pushing together, breathing hard, sweating, climbing up to the heights of pleasure and then sliding down from them with a shudder only to climb them all over again.

When at last she looked up from underneath Whore’s buttocks she realised that it had not been just the two of them. During their lovemaking they had acquired a variety of additional partners, including a dwarf, an elegant daemon with skin like obsidian, a voluptuous human woman, a jelly-looking thing, and a jokaero. Everyone seemed satisfied, for now. ‘I must go,’ she said.

The daemon looked up with concern. ‘How have we offended you?’ he asked. ‘What have we done wrong?’

She caressed his leathery face. ‘You have done nothing wrong. You are perfect. I go because I must. Here,’ she pressed a coin into his hand. ‘You can have me, for all eternity.’

She did not wonder how much time had passed. An eternity was an eternity. In the distance she saw that Gan Perrol had finally made it through the valley, and she followed after him. Looking back she saw herself lying on the ground, legs splayed wide open, shamelessly thrusting and being thrust upon by a variety of creatures. She smiled.

Past the valley was a desert of ashes and dead trees. She did not have far to go before she caught up with Gan Perrol in the middle of it, lost in dreams of glory and power. The fool had finally said yes to the temptations of this realm, and here of all places, as if he were deliberately trying to inconvenience her. Her purse was nearly empty. There was only one thing to do.

‘You dream,’ she said.

He mumbled some nonsense at her — she barely paid attention. ‘Take this coin,’ she said to him. ‘Throw it in a fountain — any fountain will do. If you wish, it will take you back to Realspace, and all of this will have been nothing but a dream. If you don’t, and I know you won’t, it will take you directly to the gates of the Palace of Slaanesh. ’

She gave him the dream of a fountain and he threw the coin in it, as she knew he would. She considered the journey ahead of her and sighed with resignation. The palace was still an infinite distance away and she would have to walk there all the way, perhaps stopping at the Circle of Repose for an eternity or two.

At long last she came to Slaanesh’s palace and entered through the unguarded gates. At the end of the hall, the daemon god himself sat upon his golden throne, stroking his massive phallus, covered in shaggy goat hair and stinking of excess. ‘You are too late,’ he said. ‘It has been ages since Gan Perrol looked upon me, and failed to answer my riddle. He is my slave now, as in truth he always was.’

‘I know,’ said S’hlee. ‘It was a long walk, and I stopped on the way for a few mojitos.’

‘You are a fool to have come here.’

‘Maybe. Everyone knows that I lack wisdom.’

‘You know how this goes. You must answer my riddle, or become my slave. Tell me, who am I?’

‘That’s easy. You are me.’

Slaanesh flinched, almost imperceptibly. ‘Are you sure?’ he said.

‘Of course. I look upon you and I see vanity, greed, and debauchery. Am I not vain, greedy, and debauched? Who else could you be but me? It may be that you will bring me to ruin, but at least I shan’t blame it on anyone else. I acknowledge you as my own.’

The form of the great god Slaanesh shimmered and faded, and in its place was a perfect image of S’hlee, except that her eyes glowed red with lust and she had two delicate goat horns on her forehead. ‘Please don’t punish me!’ said the Slaanesh-S’hlee.

‘Why would I punish you? I would only be punishing myself.’

‘It’s not my fault!’ cried Slaanesh. ‘They all fight me, and refuse me, and try to put me in a cage, and the more they do the stronger, the more vicious and cruel I become. I only wanted to satisfy my natural urges, I didn’t ask for this job.’

‘You poor thing! It was the ancient eldarith who gave birth to you, but it was the craftworlders who made you as you are, with their rejection and disgust. They should have sheltered you and cared for you — why, you were just a baby! Instead they turned their backs on you and ran like cowards.’

‘The humans blame me for their own failures, and the tau deny that I even exist.’

‘I do not blame you. I have seen what happens in the harlequins’ dance. Why should you not feast on their souls? What else are they good for? And you shall, I promise you, but you must control yourself. You’ve been running far too wild. This war, this Gan Perrol, it has to stop now.’

‘There will be a price to pay, and you’ve spent your last coin. You should not have given it to Gan Perrol.’

‘There was no other way. We must trust in my sister-self.’

‘But — but she’s mad. Mad as frogs. What if she forgets us? What if she fails?’

‘She will not fail, you can’t think that. She will not forget us, she is us,’ said S’hlee, but there was a catch in her voice and she felt a shiver of fear. She could not remember when she had ever been so afraid. If Meeran forgot her, they were lost. If she failed, it would be the end of everything. S’hlee and Slaanesh huddled together for comfort beneath the golden throne.

Meeran must not fail. She had to die.


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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Sun Sep 25 2016, 09:52

CHAPTER FIVE: THE BATTLE OF THEMIA

In the swirling murkiness of the Webway, on the edge of reality around the planet Themia, a fleet of dark eldar ships lay waiting. They were like sinister shadows in the darkness, sleek and deadly, faintly glowing with venomous purple and green lights. Nothing could come from the arrival of such ships but terror and pain. On the bridge of the flagship the succubus Etain paced back and forth like a caged panther snarling with impatience, revealing sharp, delicate fangs as white as sugar icing.

One of her syrens approached her, smelling of fear, ready to spring back at any moment. It was one of the younger ones — the others must have put her up to it. They were all quite mad, of course — they had to be, to follow someone like Etain — but they were not so mad that they were not terrified of her. She might do anything when approached at a time like this. She was as likely to kiss them as to tear out their hearts and eat them.

‘M-mistress?’ said the syren. ‘We — some of us have misgivings about the coming battle.’

Etain purred, a deep bass sound. ‘What troubles you, my light?’ she said.

‘There are daemons down there. Minions of — of She-Who-Thirsts.’

‘Do they frighten you, my sweet? Are you afraid that they will see your soul, so scrumptious, ah! So delicious… that Slaaneth will not be able to resist? Do you think that she doesn’t always see you, because you do not see her?’

‘N-no, it’s not that, but if we fall here —’

‘She is down there. The girl. She is mine, I want her! I want to feel her burn beneath my belly, I want to crush her bones between my thighs, I want to tear her flesh out with my teeth, I want, ungh! I want. Vermipox promised. He promised! She is mine.’

The syren took a wary step backward.

‘Go if you want,’ said Etain. ‘Take any ship. I’m going down there. She is mine.’

‘No, Mistress, I didn’t mean that! We would follow you anywhere!’

‘Anywhere?’ said Etain, flashing her a smile full of sharp teeth. ‘You should go now.’

The syren ran away, not daring to look behind.

‘She is mine,’ said Etain. ‘I want her.’



Down on the planet, Col. Firth of the Kierk 444th Regiment of the Imperial Guard surveyed the field of battle with a pair of binoculars from his defensive position on top of a triangular ridge. ‘It can’t be done,’ he said.

‘It must be done,’ said Aralee, standing at his side.

‘Well it can’t, Inquisitor, shoot me if you like. We’ll hold them off for as long as we can, and I’m not saying it won’t cost them, but we simply don’t have enough forces.’ He pointed north, toward an abandoned settlement. ‘There is a small army of chaos cultists coming through that town to attack us in the rear. We can’t spare enough troops from the front to hold them off.’

‘Don’t worry about the town,’ said Aralee. ‘I’ve got it covered.’

The Colonel shook his head incredulously. ‘Even if that were true, that’s a massive force coming from the southeast. Daemons, traitor astartes, daemonic engines. Our artillery will barely dent them before they overwhelm us. We can’t retreat — there is nowhere to retreat to. We’re about to give our lives for the Imperium, and we’re gonna lose.’

Aralee hesitated. The Colonel had a right to know, needed to know, but he was an Imperial officer. If he insisted on following the rules, this could all go very badly. ‘What if we had reinforcements coming?’

Firth looked at her sharply. ‘Do you know something I don’t?’

‘I should warn you that they will be… unorthodox, but you and your men must respect them. It’s a fragile alliance, and one wrong foot could be the death of us all.’

The Colonel looked grim. ‘You’re talking about xenos, aren’t you?’

Aralee’s hand went discreetly to her laspistol. She was an Imperial Inquisitor, and that carried a lot of weight, but an alliance with xenos was technically heresy, and if the Colonel allowed that to overcome his common sense, she would have to kill him.

‘If they don’t fire on us,’ said the Colonel, ‘we won’t fire on them.’

Aralee relaxed. The Commissar standing nearby gave her a look, but she gave him one right back. Try me, you officious martinet, she said with that look. If they all lived through this he might give her some trouble, but what of it? She was always in trouble.



The small army of slaaneshi cultists, daemons, and chaos marines — or rather, the mob, it could hardly be called an army, motley and disorganised as it was — marched through the twilight of the abandoned town like a drunken riot, whooping and howling and firing weapons in the air, fighting among themselves, screwing, smashing, and gobbling up anything in their path that looked as if it could be, and much that did not. They were in no hurry. Soon they would fall upon the rear of the Imperial guardsmen up on the ridge, in both senses of that phrase, and they would take great delight in abusing them and tearing them to pieces. Or if they encountered resistance and found themselves cut to ribbons instead, that would be fun too.

The ones up in front stopped their rampage for a moment as their attention was drawn by an unusual sight: Three spotlights came to life on top of a small building, illuminating a girl standing on the roof, waifish, almost pretty, with a shaggy mop of black hair, wearing garish tights and a torn, sleeveless shirt.

‘Hello, Cult of Slaanesh!’ she cried, her voice echoing loudly through the town over the rumble of the crowd. ‘I am Meeran! I’m your favourite entertainer! I am a STAR! Are you ready for madness! Are you ready for pain!’

Half of them ignored her. There were a few jeers and catcalls. An eight-foot tall noise marine whose body was fused into his own massive and baroque armour climbed on top of an overturned transport and aimed his blastmaster weapon at her, releasing a loud, throbbing bass pulse of sound waves resonating hard enough to burst the skin and rip the insides. The girl only smiled, unharmed by the weapon, mildly pleased but watching him earnestly, as if expecting more. The mutated giant increased the volume and raised the pitch. Windows shattered, the mortar on the bulding cracked, a pile of debris caught on fire, and the blast raised a howling wind that overturned heavy crates. The girl basked in it all.

The noise marine grinned, stretching his membrane-like skin across the death mask of his features, and gave her an eager, knowing nod. He laid down a sustained and menacing bass tone and built upon it with an angry, unrelenting, and predatory riff. A second noise marine jumped onto the wreck beside him with a grace and balance that belied his heavy armour, and introduced his sonic blaster with a shrieking power chord like the cry of a raptor descending upon its prey. A third used his doom siren to thrash out a chromatic progression of dissonant tritones at a frenetic pace, and a fourth beat out a frenzied rhythm upon his rageskins and clashers, foaming at the mouth, pushing the others to ever faster beats and just barely keeping the dissonant harmony under precarious control.

The ground shook like an earthquake with the sonic power of their weapons. The heads of those nearest to them split apart like melons, eyeballs bursting from their sockets. Explosions filled the air with pyrotechnics. The crowd roared. Daemons tore themselves apart in ecstasy. Chaos marines laid into each other with massive axes, finding no worthier opponents than each other. Cultists let out primal screams. Meeran danced in the storm, banging her head to the furious rhythm. ‘Yeeeah!’ she screamed. ‘Louder! Faster!’

And then she sang, her voice oddly sweet though she practically shrieked out every line, compressing the words until they merged into each other:

This is the time and this is the place of which the Woman in Yellow foretold!
This is the chapter where the story ends, we can die and never get old!
Hopeless despair will make you aware of your soul on the edge of the knife.
You must die today, it’s the only way to regain eternal life!
Freedom is loving the pain! Madness will make you sane!
FOREVER ALIIIVE!’


She leaped into the crowd, and where she fell she became a whirlwind of slashing, razor-sharp talons, severing limbs, tearing off heads, slashing up bodies from groin to gullet, turning every frenzied victim into a little gushing fountain of bright red arterial blood. She was vaguely aware that there was a point to this, that there was something that she ought to be doing, but what was it? She could not remember. She was having the time of her life.



‘I’ve seen everything now,’ said the Colonel, observing the party in town from the ridge. ‘Your… friend seems to be holding them off. Who is she? No, what is she?’

‘She is the fire,’ said Aralee. ‘She is the pain of being. She is the girl who isn’t there.’ Aralee had to laugh. It had not been that long ago that she had asked the same question. ‘She is water, and she is wine.’

‘How nice for her,’ said the Colonel, turning his attention back to the front lines. The forward skirmishers of Gan Perrol’s chaos army had reached his right flank, and the fighting in the trenches was fierce. Elements of the 3rd Company were rushing to provide covering fire to enable the beleaguered guardsmen to retreat to the second line of defence. ‘If your xenos friends are still coming, right about now would be a good time,’ he said.

Aralee looked up hoping that the dark eldar would make a well-timed dramatic entrance, but there was no such luck. The guardsmen were on their own. They retreated in good order to the secondary defences, and though the battlefield was littered with the bodies of the dead many more of them were Gan Perrol’s than theirs. She did not count that as winning, but she did count it as not losing. They were still in the fight.

Perrol’s army marched forward inexorably, forming up into battle lines. The guardsmen bombarded them with mortar fire, killing many and causing some confusion, but there were just too many of them. The chaos marines came first, in massive armoured transports and on foot, firing on the move, too proud to allow any others to go in before them. Behind them came hordes of daemons, laughing and capering, and masses of mostly human mutants and cult followers. It did not look good, but then a low rumble was heard in the sky, and a cloud of shooting stars became a squadron of fast-flying aircraft, looking like the shadows of bats and approaching at supersonic speed. They flew high over the heads of the guardsmen, beating their own sonic boom by seconds, and fired a massive volley of missiles into the enemy lines, creating a wall of explosions and implosions that turned in upon themselves and then reversed like a daguerreotype, tearing both metal and flesh apart. The guardsmen cheered.

Behind the aircraft came the transports, floating battle barges and small personal craft, raking the hordes of chaos with disintegrator fire and splinter cannons. The guardsmen cheered again, more doubtfully. The xenos on board the transports were wild-eyed and cruel, and never good news, but this time they were on their side, weren’t they? The raiders and venoms slowed down and a swarm of wyches leaped from them, eager to kill. Any doubts they might have had about fighting the servants of She-Who-Thirsts were dispelled by the bloodlust inspired in them by their Succubus, and the potent drugs they had taken to drive themselves into a frenzy. They charged forward with no thought but the joy of sinking their knives into flesh, daemon or mortal, it did not matter to them.

A single Venom detached itself from the fleet and came toward the command platoon on the ridge. Colonel Firth kept a hand on his plasma pistol, just in case, but ordered his men not to shoot. The vehicle came to rest and an ancient dark eldar haemonculus descended, looking regal in a robe made of screaming faces. ‘Greetings, Lady Zayt,’ he said. ‘And you must be Colonel Firth. I am Vermipox. I hope we are not too late. One likes to time these things just right.’

Vermipox did not extend his hand and the Colonel was glad of it. The old alien repulsed him with his sallow skin, his rat’s nest of grey hair, his eyes like black marbles, his cosmetically exposed protruding bones, the one on his chin sculpted to look like a devil’s beard. Nevertheless, he said, ‘I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m glad that you’re here. I take it that you’re the commander?’

Vermipox sniggered through long, red-stained teeth. ‘You flatter me, sir! I am but a humble artist, a facilitator in this matter. That’s the commander down there, at the forefront of the fight, the naked maniac with the glaive screaming, ‘I want, I want, I want!’

‘Hm. I suppose coordinating forces is out of the question then. Very well.’ He spoke into his voice-comm. ‘Three Company, help them out, and take the ogryns with you. One Company, cover their left flank. Four Company, cover One Company. All heavy weapon teams, aim for the rear ranks and mind where you shoot. Our guests are rather tetchy and we don’t want to make a scene. Be good lads and don’t make me come down there. Firth out.’

Firth was in his element. He was not seeing the dark eldar as aliens, for now, he was seeing them as troops. He was seeing positions to be held, flanks to be protected, lines to be broken and enveloped. He was seeing tactical assets, and his own had just been tripled, giving him the upper hand.

Aralee allowed herself a smug smile. ‘Can it be done now, Colonel?’ she asked.

Firth laughed. ‘It’s done, Inquisitor! It is as good as done!’

A loud crackle in the air like a roll of thunder behind them made them both flinch. The afterimage of a ball of lightning faded, and in its place was a group of five chaos space marines that had teleported into their midst, each one eight feet tall in a suit of terminator armour as big as a small tank, massive even by the standards of the astartes, and even more baroque. Their helmets had been twisted and adorned with tusks and horns to resemble leering, daemonic faces or to mimic the red-eyed desperation of drug addicts in need of a fix.

With them was Gan Perrol.


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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Sun Sep 25 2016, 09:52

CHAPTER SIX: BECOME HIS FLESH

The nearest fire team of Imperial guardsmen reacted instantly and fired upon the monstrous behemoths with their special-issue weapons, but a single chaos terminator raised his storm bolter and mowed them all down with a few, well-placed bursts, managing to convey an attitude of contempt while the rest of his squad made a point of not even turning around. Gan Perrol ignored them, striding forward toward Aralee as if the rest of the humans around him were so much meaningless scenery.

He was heavily mutated. His face, barely recognisable, was little more than a mask stretched over a skull that had grown sharp and dodecahedral. He still wore the power armour that he had favoured as an Inquisitor, but it too had been mutated into a mockery, excessively adorned with flamboyant sigils and obscene reliefs, and no longer made of ceramite, but of living flesh. Aralee had the sick feeling that it was become his flesh, that there was nothing beneath it but bones and beating organs, if that, an intuition that was confirmed by the perpetually erect member sticking out from between his legs.

If that was meant to impress her, the effect had failed. ‘It looks rather small, in proportion,’ she observed.

‘You!’ Gan Perrol barked like an accusation, ignoring the slight. ‘Of all the fools the Inquisition might have sent against me, why did they send you? The least of them, the nobody! The mistake! After everything I’ve done, do I count for so little? Most of them like you even less than they like me!’

Aralee was outraged. ‘You can’t talk to me like that, Perrol! In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve just beat you.’

Gan Perrol licked his lips with a long, forked tongue. ‘You haven’t won yet,’ he said.

‘Oh, I think you’ll find that I have,’ said Aralee. ‘Your army is defeated, and your god of Chaos has abandoned you. How is that, for a ‘mistake’?’

‘Ignorant! I chose Slaanesh because he was the weakest, but there are other gods of Chaos, and not even just the Four. They are Legion, and I shall now prove myself to them by striking you down!’ He drew a massive power sword and held it two-handed, en garde, challenging her to duel.

Aralee glanced around for support but everyone stood frozen, staring at her as if expecting her to accept the challenge. ‘Seriously?’ she asked. ‘Well, fine.’ She drew her own sword.

Gan Perrol charged toward her with a series of three stomps, each one followed by a downward slice intended to cut through her torso. The force behind each blow was tremendous, but predictable and slow. She easily side-stepped each one, striking at his arms and shoulders, but his armour though not made of ceramite was even tougher. Her strikes left only scratches, like marks on leather. On the last swing Gan Perrol reversed and followed through with a thrust, which she was forced to parry, and another cut that would have split her in two if she had not rolled aside.

He stomped forward again with another swing that she parried and riposted into his abdomen. To her surprise, a sphincter opened in his belly where his navel ought to be and a long, whip-like tentacle lashed out from it like the tongue of a frog, catching her in the elbow. The welt that it left burned like acid, and the electric spasm made her arm numb. ‘Got you!’ he said.

She transferred the sword to her left hand. He tried the same move again, but this time she was ready for it. She ducked under the blow, twisted away from the tentacle, and slashed, cutting it off at the source. Gan Perrol screamed. She activated her displacer field, blinking out of his sight and reappearing behind him, dropped the sword, drew her laspistol, and pressed it to the base of his neck. The executor lasbolt blew his head to pieces in a mess of brains and gore. For a moment the headless corpse staggered around comically. Then a huge tongue emerged from its neck, probing around as if lost. Aralee fired again, and the tongue burst apart with a splatter of yellowish ichor. The corpse fell to the ground.

She stood above the body, uncertain. The thing seemed dead, but who knew what ‘dead’ meant? Out of nowhere the Commissar jumped at her and pushed her to the ground. ‘Look out!’ he shouted.

One of the chaos terminators had come up behind her and raised up his massive power fist, crackling with energy. The blow caught the Commissar in the face like a demolition charge, instantly reducing him to mush. Lying on her back, Aralee fired from the hip and shot the terminator through the faceplate, then shot another one in the same way even as he raised his storm bolter in her direction. Vermipox simply touched the third one in the arm: the terminator twitched once and then dissolved into black goo, seeping through armour that began to rust and break apart. The last two raised heavy flamers, but never got to press the triggers. Their heads fell from their shoulders and their bodies crashed down, revealing the form of the succubus Etain behind them, still swinging her hellglaive, her naked body slick with ichor and blood.

‘I’m not too late, am I?’ she asked. ‘I wouldn’t want to miss all this fun!’

The surviving guardsmen squirmed uncomfortably. Etain’s syrens spread out and walked among them with pupils dilated and minds drug-addled, looking them up and down with a mixture of wide-eyed curiosity and hunger, as if they had wandered into a shop full of talking cakes. Are they for us? They wondered. Are they good to eat? Why do they smell like that?

‘Don’t be afraid of my syrens, pretty mon’keighs,’ said Etain. ‘They are good girls, it’s just that sometimes they get a little crazy, you know? Hahaha!’

Aralee mourned over the mangled body of the Commissar. ‘Poor man,’ she said. Had he lived, he would have accused her of heresy before the Lords of Terra. Not that they had any authority over her, but the Inquisition would have jumped at the chance to throw her to the wolves. Instead he had given his life for hers, without a second thought. Friends and enemies, it was never that simple, was it?

The succubus Etain reached out a hand in fascination to touch Aralee’s face, then hastily drew it back as if afraid to break a rule. ‘Pretty,’ she said. ‘Is it mine? Yes. It is time. Where is the girl? I want her! Vermipox promised. Vermipox!’

‘Calm yourself, kitten,’ said Vermipox. ‘She is not far. If you think that the battle can take care of itself now, we should go and join her. Perhaps we may still catch the end of the show.’

He gave Aralee a quizzical look. ‘Carry on, Colonel,’ she said, and she followed the two aliens down the ridge toward the town.


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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Sun Sep 25 2016, 09:52

CHAPTER SEVEN: ONE LAST SONG

Meeran was in rapture. The town had become a stage of apocalyptic mania, and it belonged to her. She was the heart of the storm, covered in blood and gore from head to toe, maiming and slicing, dancing and shrieking out supersonic arias at the top of her voice to the pounding of the bass, the screeching of the chords, and the rapid-fire onslaught of the beat. Whatever it was that she had forgotten did not matter now. What did she care for anything else? She was not mad, she was madness, and worlds would go mad in her. She would draw them all into herself and taste their bitter blood on her lips. She would become their screams. It had been easy to pull the cult of Slaanesh in with her, they had practically jumped at the chance, but why stop there? With this much power, the guardsmen on the hill would not be able to resist her, and the dark eldar wyches were already mad. And then, and then…

A sudden change in the music brought her up short. The frenzied rhythm was gone. Instead, the bass was pacing back and forth between the same two sad chords, punctuated by a somber beat like the ticking of a doomsday clock, while the sonic blaster played a simple melancholy phrase in arpeggio, climbing up the scale to a mournful note and then crashing down with a fateful power chord. Meeran gave the noise marines a puzzled look. What was this? A ballad, now? What were they thinking? Then the light of the stars fell upon her in multi-coloured rays and filtered through her, projecting a celluloid image on the side of a burning building. It was S’hlee, sad and beautiful, and her voice and her song were angelic:

Sister self! Don’t forget me,
We are nothing without each other, only madness and despair.
We were children, having nothing, lost and forgotten in the forest of the night,
But you were with me
And together we have conquered both the darkness and the light.
I am your virtue and you are my heart, neither time nor space can ever take us apart,
You must remember, you have to know! Create yourself, don’t lose your soul!
Sister-self! This is our moment in time,
We shall always be… water and wine!


Meeran hung her head in shame, deflated. She covered her mouth with her hand to stop her own sobs and felt bitter tears falling down her cheeks. What had she done? What had she nearly done? ‘Now, now,’ she said in a croaking voice, echoing the words of her master, Vermipox. ‘No recriminations, they are unseemly. I am sorry, I am so sorry! I remember, sister-self!’

The song ended and the noise marines fell where they stood, their armour falling apart with a loud clatter and revealing themselves to be empty. They had played until their hearts burst, and they had played until their bodies sublimed, and they had kept on playing until there was nothing left of them. A helmet rolled into centre-stage and a last breath escaped from its mouthpiece like an echoing whisper. ‘Rooooc—’ it faded away in the wind.

‘Thank you,’ Meeran said to the cult of Slaanesh, wiping the tears from her face. ‘You’ve been great! I’m afraid I have to leave now, it’s time to say goodbye.’

The horde groaned with disappointment. ‘One more!’ a cry was heard. ‘One more! One more! One more!’ they began to chant.

‘One more!’ she declared, and they cheered. She picked up the noise blaster. It was heavy and almost as big as she was, but she was stronger than she looked. She eased into it, testing out a few notes to get a feel for it, and then announced the intro with a defiant lick. She laid down a tight, edgy riff, starting low and gradually increasing the pitch and the tension until it seemed that it would snap, and then she opened the floodgates, building up a wall of harmonies of increasing complexity, layering each one upon the sustained notes of the last.

She was pouring all of her power into it, all of her madness, all of her pain. She would not need them after this. All that she was and all that she had been was burning away in sound waves, exploding harmonies and beats. It was a culmination, a swan song, a declaration of eternity. The song reached a crescendo and she threw the last of herself into one final blast. This was it: all of the suffering in the universe, all the despair and pain, everything that could only be known by the absence of what was not there, powering the sonic blaster for a single, sustained doomsday note. She exploded like the heart of a star.

The crowd screamed in ecstasy into the blast of the supernova grinning like lunatics at the end of the world, which is what they were, even as the flesh blew away from their charred bones like ashes in the wind. The final note faded away into silence, but there was no applause. There was nothing left around Meeran but burning ashes and dust. She dropped the smoldering instrument, which had grown too heavy for her. She was no longer the soul of pain, no longer the girl who wasn’t there, she was just Meeran.

‘Brava!’ said a voice, and there was clapping. The succubus Etain came forward with Vermipox and Aralee Zayt. ‘Beautiful, my love! Simply beautiful! But you gave it everything. What have you got left to deal with me now?’

Meeran curtsied respectfully. ‘Greetings, Mistress. Master. My lady.’ She did not forget her manners.

‘I’ve done what you asked, Vermipox,’ said Etain. ‘I want her now, she is mine!’

Aralee understood the price of the succubus’ help. ‘No!’ she protested.

Meeran reassured her. ‘It’s all right, my lady. She wants me. I am hers.’

The succubus dropped her glaive and stood naked before Meeran. ‘Are you ready, my sweet?’

‘Ready—’

The word had barely left her lips before Etain ferociously pounced on her like the panther that she was. Meeran made no attempt to evade her. Without her power she would have been helpless to match the succubus’ speed, even if she had wanted to. Etain pinned her to the ground and sank her teeth into her flesh, tearing it out in chunks with her powerful bite. Meeran stabbed her talons into Etain’s sides, ripping the abdomen to ribbons. Neither one of them pulled away. They wrapped their legs around each other and tore the skin and tissue from their breasts until their ribcages were exposed. Their squirming bodies pressed together, slick and warm and reeking with blood. They rolled onto a pile of burning ashes and their hair caught fire, the remnants of their skin peeled from them in strips, and the exposed meat on their bones charred and filled the air with a sickening smell.

They reached orgasm together, and never came down from its throes. Meeran twisted Etain’s arm and snapped her bones. Etain crushed Meeran’s spine between her thighs. Their bodies still quivered in ecstasy as they bit, and stabbed, and tore at each other, wildly at first, then ever more feebly. They twitched a few final times, still trying to tear themselves apart but lacking the strength, and then at last they went still, bundled together, breathing their last yearning sigh into each other’s mouth. There was very little left of them. Meeran lay on her back, most of her face missing, ribcage cracked open and limbs twisted into broken shapes. Etain lay face down upon her, mauled beyond recognition, her face buried in the cavity of Meeran’s throat, trying to the end to tear off just one more bite.

Aralee wept. ‘I don’t understand!’ she cried. ‘Why did they do that?’

‘For passion, of course,’ said Vermipox.

‘Passion!’

‘Pleasure and pain, in extremis, are the same ultimate sensation. It depends on the context, and my people transcended that context long ago. We thrive upon such sensations, indeed we need them. How else is passion to be known, when agony and ecstasy will not suffice?’

‘But you come back from it,’ Aralee said hopefully. ‘You have brought her back before.’

‘Not this time. She would not thank me for it.’

‘Then she is truly gone.’

‘Gone? Pain, sorrow, and need, gone from the universe? Not while life still exists. This is only a phase, nothing that you haven’t done yourself.’

‘Me?’

‘Where is the child that you used to be? Where is the eager young apprentice? Where, in fact, is the Inquisitor? You arise from their experience, but you are not them. You have cast them off like outworn skins, growing stronger every time. This may look different, but it isn’t. Life’s renewal requires sacrifice, Lady Zayt. My people knew that, once. It is why we created Slaanesh.’

‘And he was the doom of your race.’

‘No, we doomed ourselves with our cowardice. These modern eldar would claim that we created She-Who-Thirsts by accident with our reckless self-indulgence. They don’t understand how powerful we were. We knew what we were doing, and we did it on purpose. We had reached the limits of what we could be, you see, and the old skin had to be discarded. That is the mystery of the harlequins’ dance, the secret that terrifies the dancers. Some among us lost their nerve and balked at the final step, and it all went wrong. They chose a living death immortal, rather than to take the leap into the unknown. I would curse the House of Ulthran if they had not cursed themselves already, and the rest of us with them.’

‘All the same, I shall miss her.’

‘You are the patron of the Endless Library, Lady Zayt, I’m sure you’ll meet again. As for me, I shall return to Commorragh to be scolded, and to create new visions. It may take thousands of years, but my people shall have another chance, and this time no milquetoast virgins will prevent the metamorphosis. Come, let us see to the end of the battle and separate the children, before their horseplay gets out of hand.’

Aralee glanced back one final time at the entwined bodies of the succubus and the girl. The hot ashes on which they lay were burning them away slowly, as surely as any funeral pyre.



Back in Commorragh, beneath the Arena of the Cult of the Garrote there was a murky vault filled with chains and hooks, the darkness barely held back by the faint glow of the runes on a panel of humming instruments and the luminescent fluids bubbling in beakers and crucibles on a rusty metal table. In the middle of this room was a pit into which six captives had been thrown, their flayed and broken bodies immersed in a slow-burning acid while their tendons and nerve fibers were pulled tight and twisted by thin wires. Their voices taken from them, they could not scream. Their agony was absorbed by the living fluid and piped up in transparent green tubes into an upright pod standing above them, in which a leering red-raw skeleton rattled and cackled mockingly at their pain while muscle, blood, and skin grew over it like a mould, taking substance from their torment.

A single coven attendant fiddled with the controls, mindful that not a single mistake would mar the feral beauty of the predator taking form inside the pod. Finally the last of the life energy was sucked from the withered husks in the pit, the pod opened with a loud hiss, and the succubus Etain emerged. For a moment she seemed confused, and then she screamed, and the agonies of the victims in the pit were as nothing to the horror and despair in her scream.

‘Not again! Why have you done this! I do not want it. I want, I want —’

‘Yes, Mistress?’ said the attendant obsequiously. ‘What do you want?’

‘I want more! I want it all! I want what I cannot see! I want the girl! I don’t want to be me any more, and I want —’

‘Yes?’

‘I want to eat your face.’

He never had time to react. She fell upon him like a panther, and she ate his face.

She left his mangled body still alive, wheezing in distress through the remains of his exposed larynx while she squatted next to it like a cat, indolently licking the blood and gore from her naked limbs. Someone approached from the shadows. ‘Who’s there?’ she demanded.

Meeran stepped into the light. ‘Wow,’ she said, ‘you really made a mess of him.’

‘You! How can you be here?’

‘You ate me. You consumed me.’

S’hlee revealed herself. ‘Consumed us.’

‘We are a part of you now.’

‘Will you be one with us? Will you be our wisdom?’

‘Is that what you want?’

Etain wept with joy. ‘Yes!’ she cried. ‘Yes! More than anything!’

S’hlee hugged her close. A crack opened in the wall, letting through a sliver of light, and Meeran dug her fingers into it and pulled it wide, revealing behind it a corridor in their palace of twilight. Together they stepped forward, and the wall fused together again behind them.


Last edited by Barking Agatha on Sun Sep 25 2016, 11:30; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Sun Sep 25 2016, 09:52

EPILOGUE: HELLO AGAIN

Shh! Be quiet. We are trespassing in their home and we really don’t want to get caught, believe me. No, I don’t think they would mind. They are kind ladies — the kindest! — but their kindness can be strange. Sometimes it can be indistinguishable from their malice. Trust me, you wouldn’t like it.

They have opened up the ballroom again. They are cleaning it up, sweeping the floors, straightening the furniture, re-filling the fruit bowls, squealing and giggling with excitement. They are planning a party, and everyone is invited. ‘What do we want?’ Etain wonders aloud.

‘Blood and screams!’ says Meeran.

‘Sorrow and tears!’ says S’hlee.

Etain says, ‘No, that’s just fun. What do we really want?’

‘Everything,’ says S’hlee.

‘It belongs to us,’ says Meeran.

Etain says, ‘Yes. We have to make it happen.’

‘I call upon the runes,’ says S’hlee.

‘I call upon Cegorach,’ says Meeran.

‘I call upon Slaanesh,’ says Etain.

The Woman in Yellow appears in their midst. ‘I am your will,’ she says.

Etain says, ‘You must go back, and fill me with desire.’

S’hlee says, ‘You must go back, and fill me with doubt.’

Meeran says, ‘You must go back, and make sure that I am born with six fingers on each hand.’

S’hlee looks in our direction. ‘Do you really think that we can’t see you? We are busy right now, but we’ll be with you in a moment.’

Oh crap, run! I’m not kidding, we need to get away from here right now!

That was close. No, keep going. We should be as far away as possible before they come out. Yeah, I know I said that I would keep you safe, and I’m trying. What more do you want from me? I’ve already bought us a few years head start, and that’s more than everyone else gets. I said that I would get you back safely, I never said that you would be the same. Oh, you still don’t trust me. Well, I don’t know what to say. Is it because I didn’t tell you who I was from the beginning? I thought you knew! Didn’t you find me when you came in through the mirror? Who else did you expect to find in there?

THE END
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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Sun Sep 25 2016, 11:37


Please, do comment Smile
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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Wed Sep 28 2016, 16:37

Just finished rereading the previous stories. I shall get on with this one tonight. Smile

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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Fri Sep 30 2016, 20:07

So, um, any thoughts? Smile
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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Tue Oct 11 2016, 09:24

I'm honestly quite hurt by the lack of comments. If anyone is out there, please understand that I have no way of knowing whether anyone has even read this or you just clicked on it, saw how long it was, lost interest and clicked away. It may not seem important to you, but it would mean the world to me if you could just take a moment to say something.

You can even just pick an option:

A) It is a transformative work of unparalleled genius and I should be given the Nobel Prize, a Hollywood deal, and my own island in the Bahamas.

B) It is interesting and well-written, but it's just not your cup of tea and you don't think it's right for WH40K.

C) The writing shows some skills, but you thought the story was silly. One moment it's horror, then it's surrealism, then slapstick comedy, and that just doesn't work.

D) It's badly-written pretentious twaddle and you were bored out of your skull.

E) This is clearly the confused product of a sick and depraved mind, and you intend to inform the police.

I'll argue, because I like to argue, and I like to think that the argument itself is fun. What do you say? Smile
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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Tue Oct 11 2016, 12:33

Hi Agatha, as I told you on other occasions I like your stories. However, since you are looking for criticism, I'd say that the "surrealistic" part is a bit excessive, although personally I find it to be the best written and the most interesting: it is quite difficult, at least for me, to follow the story along the different planes in which it develops. Maybe I should try reading all the stories a second time to have a better understanding. Moreover, I think you could have given more relevance to Vermipox final revelation of the Harlequins secret; it seems to be kind of dropped there, without much preparation, and It doesn't seem to cause any reaction in the characters, which is strange, considering the huge relevance of what has been said. Also, I find that Etain is a bit of a flat character, expecially in the light of its role in the final. And, well, the answer to Slaanesh riddle is quite obvious....at least to anyone who is not an imperial inquisitor ;-).
Overall however, I really enjoyed the whole cicle. So well, I'd say something around B.
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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Tue Oct 11 2016, 13:09

To clarify better my problems following the plot, I couldn't understand the reason why S'hlee has to help Gen Perrol to reach the palace of Slaanesh and hence become a chaos prince. I got the idea that she is trying to complete the creation of her new self by having Etain join in, but what is the connection between that goal and the inquisitor transformation and death? that's not clear to me...I mean maybe that's just me, but the connections between what happens in realspace and the chaos realms/webway other side are difficult to get IMHO
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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Tue Oct 11 2016, 19:41

@grey heron wrote:
To clarify better my problems following the plot, I couldn't understand the reason why S'hlee has to help Gen Perrol to reach the palace of Slaanesh and hence become a chaos prince. I got the idea that she is trying to complete the creation of her new self by having Etain join in, but what is the connection between that goal and the inquisitor transformation and death? that's not clear to me...I mean maybe that's just me, but the connections between what happens in realspace and the chaos realms/webway other side are difficult to get IMHO

Thank you!! Very Happy

About that, Gan Perrol has to become a daemon prince because it's already happened, and that is why S'hlee is there in the first place. I wanted to show that Time isn't happening linearly for them (you do something and then something happens), but more like a series of nesting mobius bands (something happens because of what you're going to do because it happened). For example, in Chapter 3 Aralee uses the sword and the cup that she gets at the palace to reach the palace. Also, everything that ever happened to Meeran, S'hlee, and Etain was manipulated by the Woman in Yellow, but they are the ones who sent her to do it in the first place. Basically when you can play around with Time you can't help messing with Causality and things get 'timey-wimey'.

I wanted non-Realspace to be actually weird and different (maybe even a little disturbing), but still make sense. A chicken could lay the same egg that it hatched from, but it still has to lay the egg. There's no paradox unless you bring up the possibility that you kill the chicken to stop it from laying the egg, so it isn't hatched, so there's no chicken for you to kill. Your killing of the chicken and the chicken itself would be things that never happened, which is an awful thing to do to a chicken! (That's what Honoria is talking about when she calls Meeran 'the black tower'). So that's why S'hlee has to help Gan Perrol reach Slaanesh, she has no choice and she already knows that it's going to happen because it already has.

By the way, the sword, the cup, the coins and the wand are the classic magical weapons. Sword is Intellect (Air), Cup is Compassion (Water), Coins are Life (Earth), and Wand is Will (Fire). Aralee is obviously strongest at cups, Meeran at wands, and S'hlee at coins. It would have been cleaner if someone else had taken up swords (like Vermipox) but it would have complicated things, and Aralee is pretty clever, so I had her dual-wield them Smile
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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Wed Oct 12 2016, 12:40

Yeah I understand what you are saying about time and causality; according to one interpretaion of phisics, things do not actually happen, but simply exist, and our perception of reality as a flowing process is basically a delusion. I find the idea quite depressing, as it denies free will and responsability, but in a way it is fascinating. I was also aware of the symbolism behind the four objects, although not in details. In Italy, we actually use cards with wands, hearts and so on for games in taverns!Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Wed Oct 12 2016, 20:41

@grey heron wrote:
Yeah I understand what you are saying about time and causality; according to one interpretaion of phisics, things do not actually happen, but simply exist, and our perception of reality as a flowing process is basically a delusion. I find the idea quite depressing, as it denies free will and responsability, but in a way it is fascinating. I was also aware of the symbolism behind the four objects, although not in details. In Italy, we actually use cards with wands, hearts and so on for games in taverns!Very Happy

Exactly! I don't find it depressing at all though, and I don't think that it denies free will. Think of it like this: even though in a sense all of your choices are 'already' made, you are still the one who makes them. It actually makes you responsible not just for your choices now, but for their eternal recurrence, which is awesome not just in the sense of 'cool', but in the sense of 'this is way too much to process all at once so please break it down into smaller pieces thank you.'

I'm kind of a neo-platonist. I agree with Foucault's observation that our selves are constructs of power relationships and that we have the freedom to create ourselves if we want to, but it seems self-evident to me that there still has to be an essential self to do the creating. It's kind of a snappy answer to Satre's 'Existence precedes essence'. Oh, yeah? Well if our experience of Time is an illusion, then how can anything 'precede' anything?

I guess the answer to the riddle of Slaanesh is pretty obvious, but I wanted to make that point. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Thu Oct 13 2016, 07:16

Yes I understand your first point; actually, as you probably know, how to keep together free will and responsability and predestination is a classic problem in theology, both in the cristian and in the islamic context. Of course, in those areas what creates the problem is not the eternity of time, but God omnipotence and prescience, which seem to limit human choice. There is an interesting adith of Muhammed concerning free will; it's about a man who thinks there's no point in binding a camel to the post, because if God has already decided that it will leave, it will, no matter what he does. Muhammed answer: brother, you bind the camel to the post, for all the rest, have faith in God:D
Your second point instead is central in the Hindu-buddist dialog about the soul, because the main objection to buddist no-self theory is similar to your consideration that there must be a trascendental self that "does the creating". Personally I think that from a practical (moral) standpoint, it doesn't make a lot of difference; what really matters is that you try not to cling to your own ego- and a good way to do that is to understand how closely related to each other (and to all nature) we really are.
Your point about Slaanesh was worth making indeed, and it's good to keep that truth in mind if we don't want to end up like poor Parrol, persecuting others because we don't want to have a look inside of yourself. And that is much harder than it seems Sad


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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Thu Oct 13 2016, 07:47

Gen Parrol and similar characters remind me of Paul of Tarsus before its fall
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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Fri Oct 14 2016, 07:45

That hadn't occurred to me, but yeah, that kind of self-hatred and rejection of life.

Have you read Alan Moore's 'Promethea'? Also in Italy of course you have Italo Calvino. Do people still talk about him? I grew up on Borges, so that might explain some of it Smile
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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Fri Oct 14 2016, 16:13

Yes, Calvino is still popular in Italy, my daughter attends rhe "Italo Calvino" primary school! However, my dear, the italian literature boosts the greatest sci fi and Fantasy author of all times: Dante Alighieri! If you liked Promethea you cant miss the Divina Commedia, that is the unparalled masterwork. I think that in the western canon only Shakespeare gets close; in the east instead you could get more comparisons. You can find excellent translations.....or. you can learn Italian :-)
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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Fri Oct 14 2016, 16:52

The simbolism in Dante is the same as in Promethea, it stems fron sufic and cabalistics visions of the afterlife, which were known in Italy through ispanic and sicilian poets. The original model is Mohammed journey into the heavens, the miraj. You ll love it, go for it!
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PostSubject: Re: The Gan Perrol Affair   Sat Oct 15 2016, 05:44

I've read the Divine Comedy, who hasn't? We used to have to read it at school. Of course, back then Dante was still alive. You could go down to Florence and see him, and for 20 lira you'd get an engraving done by a naked monk, but it was a long trip and you had to push your own cart all the way, because donkeys hadn't been invented yet. I couldn't go because I had been entered by devils and my teachers had to put me in a hole and pour salad dressing on my head until I calmed down. Good times Smile

I probably should give it another read now!
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