“I am an exorcist.” That much was easy to say, that was why, I think, my superiors in the Ordos had asked me to preside over the invocation.
“I don’t need an exorcist,” the Echographer said. His voice was soft, and I struggled to hear him.
I could not close my eyes or turn away; I watched them struggle, heard the fetters and the rubber soles of custodial, as each of them realized.
Denial, pleas, and prayer followed as they were bound to tables around the centre of the room, their heads close together. None seemed pious but none were unfaithful either. It was the prayer that I struggled with, for the Emperor is my master.
I felt a surge of thankfulness for guards who did the work and the others bearing this burden with me, my fellow pilgrims into damnation.
The Ordos Psykers did their work, chanting blasphemy from the Tome of Acheron, it was ideal for the work, I pitied their souls only a little less than our victims.
It was a lure, not a sacrifice, I told myself.
Their screams changed as the temperature fell, in them, there was something else, not only the torment of three survivors but the screams of hundreds, thousands, women and men alike, the death cries of the crew of the Urathian and its support ships.
This was where I had to involve myself.
“Name yourself, abomination,” I called.
The sacrifices’ voices were joined with the sound of hot fat, the crackling sound of maize in a fire, and the breaking-clack of an ancient tabulator breaking as it answered.
“I am the howl in the void, the whisper in the woods,” the voice said, “I am the truth formed between the speaker and the hearer.”
Daemons are lies made real, and yet they tell far more truth than you might imagine. I asked it questions, the binding forced some answers of it, the pressure of the sanctic daemonological rites enough to wring scraps from it.
Binding and imprisoning a daemon is no small feat, even for the followers of the Archenemy, it is often a challenge, all the more without a continuous stream of bloodletting or the weakening of reality’s fragile walls.
We had hoped to hold it but planned for the worst, already I could see that pessimism was justified, our hosts should have been stable, but their wracked flesh was twisting, and quickly, stretching in places as new mouths formed.
“Which power do you serve?”
Neverborn are not coy, and few masterless, most glory in the favour of dark powers, but it dissembled a second time, speaking Loathsome Names greater and lesser all at once. As it spoke, one of the Ordos Psykers fled.
“The Urathian, why did you destroy it?”
The mouths forming within the bodies of our victims twisted as they spoke contradictions, did it seek to tell us nothing by speaking endless contradiction?
The Urathian – a great warship destroyed, thousands dead and a sector lashing out like a stung cudbear in hysteria, a vitcory for our enemies, but Neverborn rarely act for military advantage, and most would have waited, taken themselves to a planet, feasted more richly. Its desires were more than soul-hunger, though no daemon was ever without that defining trait.
This question it answered, though nothing more, for it soon lost all cogency as they became a babble rising to an ear-punishing crescendo, the victims contorting before my eyes.
The last of the psykers who had dared the ritual died, her scream joining the voices in the air even as her body fell, and the bound trio began to burst their bonds, an answer I had, but long term binding was no longer possible.
I could see the thing now, thrashing in the smoke that hung above our sacrifices, taking shape unfettered. I have fought the unleashed Neverborn, those in our Ordo must face that terrible responsibility, but that does not mean I would choose to do so, to face it in form made manifest would be to chance death for more than just those of us present, and hexagrammic wards were carved into the ground around the site of the invocation to contain it, and sanctionites, psykers of proven will sworn to the ordos service were on hand, bending their will and burning their own souls to keep it confined.
But expulsion was my calling, and I set myself to it. Faith was my weapon, “Avaunt, daemon,” I said, the rite was ancient, you will know it, as a reader from our ordo, and I need not recite the full verses that I spoke, if you need a reminder of rites and rituals, look to the manuals of our art, not to this cursed confessional.
Each exorcism is different, and each tests the spirit to the utmost, to drive out the enemy by the force of conviction, the true faith, is beyond taxing.
Six days and nights I convalesced in bed after expelling it, my exhaustion total; of our original three victims, two were dead, Darius Mynx and Ignacia Curan, the echographer was returned to the Conclave’s custody, may he find some salvation there.
I feel soiled, on a level more profound than I can express, tainted with the work we have done, it is often pious the servants of the Emperor who become the foulest servants of Chaos, and I feel it now, what it is to take that first reticent step.
I watched the incinerator take the bodies, as I gave the rite of committal, I will never be free from doubt again, I wish I could delude myself into thinking that he had the better time of it, but I know that would be lying to myself.
So little knowledge was wrung out for precious lives of subjects and ritualists, and to taint all our souls. It is enough.
Our Neverborn antagonist was searching for something in the Urathian, something taken from it, something the Conclave believes is now on Xyloneth.