NEVERLAND - Here Be Monsters!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Necromunda Underhive: Retribution

by Jonathan Green

The settlement of Lucky Break burned. Crimson and vermilion flames rose high into the still air of the dome. Above the burning holestead lights flickered, through the smoke, against the ceiling of the dome in a myriad constellations, looking so much like the night sky that untold millions inhabiting the mighty mountain city of Hive Primus would never see. Figures moved amidst the flames, scarlet shadows spewing sanctified death from their holy weapons, roasting penitents and sinners alike in the Emperor’s purifying fires of retribution.

Coughing violently, her lungs full of acrid fumes, Crazy Maisy dodged a blundering, smoke-blinded hiver and ducked into cover behind a large water butt. A few more hacking paroxysms and the coughing fit passed. All around her was chaos and confusion as holesteaders ran to and fro through the streets of the gambling town, with no idea where they were going. Splashing her face with the stagnant, green-skinned soup that passed for water in the huge barrel, Maisy tired to locate the rest of the gang.

The Hive Tigers had only come to Lucky Break for a bit of rest and relaxation, after collecting on the Graff Brothers contract, but rather than a couple of night’s fun at the gaming tables and winding up the locals in the drinking dens, instead they had found themselves in the middle of a Redemptionist Crusade! She had met and dealt with the insane devotees of House Cawdor before, but these Redemptionists were madder than she was.

There had to be an easier way for a girl to make a living than this, she thought. The saloon-girls of Lucky Break had certainly seemed to be enjoying the high life – that was until the Redemption had showed up in town.

Maisy could hear someone shouting over the screams of the terrified populace and the roaring conflagration. It was a man’s voice, booming and authoritative, as if its owner was used to being obeyed, no matter what, and one that had total conviction in the message it preached.

‘It is your foul living that brought the spider plague upon us,’ the voice proclaimed, ‘your debauchery that summoned the swarms of flies, your lack of faith that made the mould harvest fail, your ungodliness that caused the Ratskins to rise against us! So sayeth His most holy Apostle Cinnabar!’

Maisy suddenly found herself caught up in the press of panicking gamblers, bar-girls, prospectors, and hired scum trying to flee the town. She tried to elbow her way out of the pack, which, bizarrely, actually seemed to be carrying her towards the so far unseen preacher. Then suddenly the mob parted and the Escher girl stumbled, ending up on her knees in front a pair of scuffed and scratched black rat-hide boots.

She let his gaze rise and took in first the frayed, once golden hem of a robe, then its soot-blackened, once crimson, heavy sackcloth folds, the racking slide shotgun holstered in a sturdy gun-belt, the bandolier loaded with wide-calibre shells, and the scorch-muzzled flamer, its pilot light a needle of brilliant blue flame, the air around it shimmering with heat-haze. The man’s face was covered by a polished, ebony devil-mask carved with a leering, unseemly expression. Behind the lunatic priest stood his anonymously-masked and cowled followers.

The Apostle Cinnabar in turn looked down at the purple-haired girl ganger, clad in laced-up leather trousers and pink nylon crop top, with undisguised disgust, as if she were the cultist of some unspeakable, carnally-obsessed deity.

‘Tempter!’ the gargoyle-masked man screamed at her, unexpectedly. ‘How dare you prostrate yourself before the Apostle Cinnabar, Harbinger of the Holy Redemption, offering yourself to him like some voluptuous incarnation of man’s most wanton and base desires?’

What was this guy like? ‘You don’t want to do this,’ Maisy hissed, feeling her cheeks reddening with angry heat.

‘Vile harlot! Prepare to be judged by the weight of your own sins!’ the slavering Apostle screamed, turning the nozzle of his flamer on her.

One concentrated thought was all it took. The Apostle Cinnabar went hurtling ten metres backwards, smashing aside his zealot lackeys in his flight. Maisy didn’t know how she did it, just that she could. It was a talent she had, that was all she could describe it as, a talent that had saved her from certain death more times than see cared to remember. The surrounding crowd gasped and before anybody else noticed, Crazy Maisy was gone.

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