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To Become a Warchief

Part 1: A Dark Bargain

The compounded assault had worked splendidly. The blood swarm, incapable of recovering from the bull’s devastating attack, disappeared overnight. The Egriothspawn, the latest curse to plague the Striped Lands, while not destroyed, were preoccupied facing the onslaught of the beasts of burden. For the first time in years, the snouters of the Vootlands, the most fertile land on Galbar’s surface, could work the soil in peace. And what a soil it was! With the help of the fertilising power of the Stain, the tower of faeces planted on the heart of the Vootlands by the great bull, many snouters swore they could almost see the plants grow by the hour. It was a good year, too–the Lick showed no signs of flood so far, and the sneer of Itzal cut deep, but not deep enough to cause drought. Shovel-like snouts buried into the soil and plowed, powerful hands twisted up weeds, and mighty backs carried sacks of manure, grain and seeds. The Pate Tribe expanded rapidly, but so did everybody else, and it did not take long before the Pates were once again at war with their neighbours, each looking to ravage the other, but never managing to move beyond the stalemate.

With the bull gone and Draznokh growing in popularity, Grand Agricultist Krang Half-Head grew wary of the many enemies he had made over the past few years. Draznokh was a character these enemies could rely on, gather around–and thus there was no bigger threat to Krang than him. Killing him at home was too risky, but he could have someone else do it. And so it was that Draznokh and his cousin Zlot were sent away with a war party on a suicide mission–raid the main camp of the Snopan tribe.

“You had to do it,” Zlot snarled. Draznokh said nothing. “You just had to put yourself out there and DRAG ME DOWN WITH YOU!” The two were walking in the far back of the party of nine. They were in the middle of the forest, deeper forests on their left and open fields on their right. The village of the Snopans could not be far away. The leader turned around and charged over. He did not stop until he was snout-to-snout with the young Zlot, teeth foaming and eyes nearly rolling back.

“STOP SHOUTING!” he shouted. “Do you want them to know we are coming?!”

“We’re dead already, what’s it matter?!” Zlot roared back and pushed the leader away. The two hesnouters squealed their war cries and hunched over with bloodthirsty intent, but Draznokh stepped in between.

“CALM DOWN! Calm down. Calm… Alright? Calm.” He eyed the two of them. “Now it’s still daylight. If you want to battle, do it in the evening. I confess, I’ve never met a Snopan, so I don’t know if they are as vicious as us Pates, but if they’re even half as bad–we need to save our strength. Alright?”

The leader, an older hesnouther named Herapa, furrowed his brow and nodded. “Draznokh is right. We’ll need all of our strength for the raid.” He leaned over to Draznokh and whispered, “Put a leash on your dog, you stain.” Draznokh nodded slowly and cast a sideways glance at Zlot. The boy had heard him and was positively fuming.

Later that evening, Draznokh and Zlot sat up against the same tree facing opposite directions, some distance away from the rest. Neither of them spoke, but Zlot had ripped out all the grass from the ground in front of him and was now trying to pull up one of the tree’s roots. Draznokh cast a glance over and sighed, “You’d be treated less like a Wildheart if you’d stop acting like one.”

Zlot spun around and hammered a fist into the bark. “I would have bit that swine’s jugular out if you had just let me.”

“That’s exactly my point. Calm yourself, cousin! At this rate, the Killer’s going to hear you and turn that heart of yours into a maelstrom.” Draznokh picked a straw from the ground and started gnawing on its end. There came no response, and after a minute or so, Draznokh leaned over. “You hear me?” Still no response, and in the darkness, Draznokh couldn’t see clearly. “Zlot?”

There came a squeal from the main camp and Draznokh felt the world freeze. Then he stood up and sprinted over.

In the camp, he found the six other hesnouters that made up the war party all standing outside Herapa’s tent. “What’s going on?! What’s happening?!”

“Zlot claimed the Killer’s Rite. We’re about to have a show,” one of them chuckled.

“The Killer’s Rite?! Before a battle?! Have all of you lost your minds?!” Draznokh quickly realised he was outmatched, however, because all of them turned to him with glaring sneers.

“Careful with the heresy, Voot. The Killer’s Rite is a sacred right. A fight to the death–no weapons, no interruptions. The winner is Misri’s favoured.” Draznokh ran his fingers through his mane in frustration and staggered back. Meanwhile, the two hesnouters in the tent ripped the drape apart and took their steps back. One of the spectators, who had been given the duty of judge, shouted,

“The Rite of Killing, now invoked,
Shall bind the souls of these provoked!
Now slay the other, slay with glee,
Spill blood for Killer Mis-e-ri!

Warriors, declare your vows!”



Almost as soon as the two had finished their vows did the brawl begin, the two fighting in a most brutal display in the name of their horrid goddess. Blows were given, tusks pierced skin, blood began to flow. It was not until Zlot’s own tusk pierced into the arm and blood ran down the length of his tusk that any interest seemed to be given to them by their dark god. As the taste of iron filled his mouth and the warm lifeblood of their mortal form touch his lips, a great surge of hunger overtook Zlot. Insatiable and wrathful, this hunger consumed every corner of his mind. A screeching whisper of a woman filled his mind, “Drink!”

He knew who it was, bloodlust incarnate spoke to him and made him her chosen in this battle. So he did as he was commanded, with a strength unknown to them did Zlot pierce his enemy and drink deep of the red ichor that made martial form. The screeching grew louder, his mind was not his own, “Drink! Murder! Kill!”

The hesnouter relented to his instincts and continued to carve with his tusks. Herapa tried to resist, but the pain and loss of function in his arm deprived him of the only barrier between himself and the monster in front of him. In a flash, Zlot snagged his tusk out of his arm and pierced the fat belly of his opponent, guts and blood gushing out over the bedrolls. Draznokh could not believe his eyes–they had just been chatting calmly a moment ago. What, what happened? Around him, the rest of the warband cheered.

“SHE HAS HEARD HIM! WITNESS, A CHAMPION OF THE KILLER!” The warriors sang their praises to the profane lady, kneeling down and painting themselves in her honour with the blood of their former leader. Herapa fell backwards prone and tried with the last of his strength to push Zlot off, but it was of no use. Zlot buried himself into his stomach like a mole through the dirt, drinking blood and bile like his life depended on it. Herapa’s eyes rolled back and his soul left his body, but the bloodlust of Zlot did not end. The mutilation had just begun.

As Zlot pulled his head back, blood and gore dripping from snout, the corpse of Herapa contorted before being dragged into the air by an unknown force. A stream of blood fell from the great wound, much more than any of hesnouters could have in their body. It was a river, a torrent of ichor that continued to stain the dirt. In the reflection of the pooled blood could be seen a towering form, seemingly looking down upon them. All that was heard was the loud and terrible screech - a warcry, a proclamation!

“Zlot,” their cruel god started, dragging the name of her new champion out. Her voice offered no respite as it had announced itself to the warband, a thousand tormented screams followed her voice as it began to roar once more, “Kill in my name, all who would seek peace. Drink of their blood and grow strong! Become a massacre incarnate!”

Zlot’s answer was incoherent, more resembling a squeal than any affirmation. The wildheart, bulbous with blood-pumping muscles and cartilage plates under his skin, rose slowly and lifted his hands in prayer. He licked the blood of his slain foe out of his fur as he turned to his companions. Draznokh saw the fear begin to contort the faces of the other snouters and he quickly pushed them aside and dramatically pointed away from the camp. “That way, Zlot!” he shouted, “the Snopan! They have fodder for the killing machine! Go!”

Zlot, or what was left of him in his blood stupor, followed the finger with slow eyes. Then, with another squeal, he cast himself down on all fours and charged into the forest. After a moment, the tranquil quiet of the night resumed. All the snouters except Draznokh turned to one another and took each other’s hands. “Brothers,” one of them said, “what we witnessed today was a sacred ascension. A true boarzerker walks among us, the first in years. Hallowed be the name of Zlot, the Killer’s Champion.”

“Hallowed be his name,” chimed the others.

Draznokh meanwhile stood off to the side, biting his thumbnail. Oh, cousin… What have you gotten yourself into…

Suddenly, however… Perhaps this did not need become a suicide mission after all? With the Snopans gone, was that not one more step towards the reunification of the Vootlands? Draznokh felt a smirk coming on. Perhaps it was.

Kilometres away, the camp of the Snopan tribe slept in a daze. Only a few guards were posted for the evening, and that would be a fatal mistake. It began with the first one; he fell quicker than his buddy could notice. Then fell the other. Their squeals could hardly be squeezed out of their lungs before they were poked full of too many holes to speak anymore. Then the first tent was emptied, then the next. A shesnouter squealed–she had lived to see the wildheart, for he had chosen to spare her for a darker purpose. Others awakened and went to check out the noise, but none were prepared for the menace they were about to meet. A furious hesnouter can be a formidable opponent to anyone, but a true boarzerker, this mythical being of endless rage and thirst for meat and blood–nothing could prepare you for that.

The next morning, Zlot came back to the camp with a rope in his hands. With it, he pulled a train of shesnouters and snoutlets, new slaves for the Pates to do the work even snouters considered themselves above. The war party fell to their knees in worship, and even Draznokh could hardly believe his eyes.

“Cousin! You survived!” he yelled ecstatically. “And with a hoal too and hardly a scratch! Why, you’ll make me a religious pig!”

Zlot, now almost twice his height and definitely twice his width, offered his older cousin a cruel smirk. “What was that you said? An acre for every Voot?” He yanked at the rope and incited a yelp from some of the shesnouters. He stared at them with a freakish hunger. “We better have a lot of acres, then.”

Draznokh could see it. An ally like Zlot would be invaluable in the years to come. Home–the Vootlands, restored as one land, mightiest of the snouter tribes. Once a dream, now a chance.

Soon to be reality.

The Cruel Ocean

In the wake of the Khodex’s momentous explosion, and subsequent pulling of the gods to Galbar, a blackened fog had descended. It grew angry once more, just as the sandstorms that it resided in buffeted through, worsening the haze. Her form would coalesce once more within those infernal sandstorms, her mouth spilling blood as clawed at the ground before her form towered over the deserts. She was alone for the time being, the roaring of the sand in her ears and her sight clouded by the infinite grains that tried to penetrate her form. Misri growled, wanting nothing more than to charge at the Khodex and rip her strength back - yet she felt more powerful than ever.

In the back of her mind, a crude and terrible idea would form. Misri would lay claim to the Khodex’s boundless power and take it for her own, the scroll would grant her strength untold and all of reality would suffer her terrible rule. This idea solidified as she raised her claws and slashed through the air, carving a path through the sandstorm unimpeded. An unnatural life filled the air as her body descended into fog once more and sped further into the desert - eager to use this newfound energy to dominate and control the world. Had mortals walked the planet, her form would have crushed their putrid bodies before they even comprehended what had happened.

Yet, there were no mortals. No one to savage but other gods, but she knew not how powerful they were, only knowing that they were not as strong as she.

Misri came to a halt, her form reknitting itself in an instant as her half-body lowered itself to the ground as a crouching tiger preparing to ambush its prey. However, there was no leap or pounce onto whatever would count as her prey. Instead, there was but merely the rumblings of the desert and the low hum of her labored breathing. There was stillness - peace.

Suddenly, a clawed hand stabbed into the sand on either side of Misri and grasped the very veins of Galbar. With a savage roar, the Goddess of Violence ripped the veins from the planet and blood shot from the ground and into the atmosphere. Dual towering geysers of blood extended into the air, traversing so high that as it came down it began to rain across the world. Only the northwest portion of the planet was truly safe from the devastating rainstorms, but the closer towards the geysers the more it became of a torrential downpour of ichor. Worse yet, it became a drowning tidal wave near the source.

The substance ushered forth, creating an ocean of lifeblood that extended across the south most portion of Galbar. Desert animals and plants were swept away, unable to escape the red wave that approached them. At its northernmost extent, it would come to a halt not even a quarter of the way towards the Khodex. Even still, the rain stained the planet red - and with it a sign of death as a roar sounded ever so distantly.

Triumphant, Misri roiled and coated her form in the great ichor ocean that she had created from the very blood of Galbar. Her claws had struck a mighty blow to the accursed planet and she would nightly roar to proclaim her creation - savage and unrelenting. She splashed in the ocean sending further torrents of blood to harass the newly formed beaches now seeing tides of blood roll across them. Only after this victory did she come to a stop again, gazing upon the endless horizon of red that she had created and looking far beyond. It would not be enough, Misri needed ever more power if she were to claim the accursed scroll for herself.

The goddess of violence looked down upon the blood that she had wrought to the surface, a rare moment of contemplation coming across her mind. Misri dipped her claws within the blood, coating the ever shifting wisps that made her form. Violently, she brought her claws deep within her chest and ripped open hole - a pain roar sounded before she buried herself in the blood ocean, sinking to the twin geysers that made its source. The blood forced its way into her wound but it did not drown her, no, it became a part of her.

Blood begets blood.

Misri became one with the substance in those depths, and when she arose coated in the ichor of Galbar itself, she would finally speak her first word.


Misri’s Birth

In the beginning, from whence there was nothing, there was the cataclysmic call. It was a voice that whispered yet roared, a command yet a plea, power yet weakness. There was then something in that great void: a commandment that would not be ignored. The call was everything and from the darkness of the void came nothing - wisps of darkness swirling and thrashing from the all that was and could be. Yet, the call hurt for it forced the wisps to listen no matter how much they resisted. They swirled and twirled around each other, trying to break free of the command but it was all for naught as the voice was everything. It was that everything that caused so much pain.

There were cries of despair, betrayal, but most importantly, anger - one of the most basic of emotions. That anger sparked something, life, into the swirling masses that erupted in a violent and bloody red that shone through the coalesced form. At first it was nothing more than a ball - harmless yet malicious, but soon an arm forms, clawing at the void as if grasping for ground to hold. A light screech began to emit from wisps, constant in pitch and so unnaturally persistent that it seemed to ring for an eternity.

Perhaps, it had been an eternity? Only the newly born gods could truly tell how long it had been.

Another arm sprouted as the mist condensed into a torso, also clawing at the vacuum wanting nothing more than to grab at its source of irritation - the source of its birth. The screech transformed into a roar as the body leaned back, outstretching its arms as a head violently erupted into a scream. Her maw was wide, blood flowed from the sides of her mouth as she screamed in agony and anger. There was finally substance to the creature, the god that had birthed itself into life to heed the Khodex’s call. However, that call only caused a great pain to her, as if a headache spread to a spiritual level until she would finally turn her attention to the accursed object beyond her understanding.

There was a moment as the godling stared at the khodex, ignoring the gods that surrounded it and interacted with it - for they had not earned her ire, not yet. The two stared at each other for what had seemed another eternity, her glowing eyes seeming like baleful stars awaiting to bring destruction and agony. As she did so, she could feel a power deep within that awaited to be unlocked and used to enforce her desires upon the burgeoning void. A sickly glee crept its way into her heart, knowing she held the key to silencing this scroll and bringing her peace.

Or so she thought.

Behind her, a lake of gold and under a black mist illuminated her form as lowered herself onto her haunches, readying herself to kill and be a curse upon the realm. She would be a plight unlike any other could make. Her form would be the most destructive to roam all that would be. A being of pure violence and force of will is what she would be seen as. Yet, the khodex taunted her with a simple phrase, “Come.”

The lake of gold illuminated her form.

Throwing her head back, and howling a baleful warcry the goddess leapt forwards at a speed not yet seen amongst the goods, throwing her long, spindly arms to the side. Her impact was cataclysmic, her claws rending into the khodex that had beckoned creation itself and despite that she heard it speak to her once more - it named her.


The name echoed inside of her mind. It crushed every other thought and sent her into a blind rage. Her claws ripped through the fabric of the Khodex as if it was made of paper, but the tears closed as soon as her slash was done. So she slashed at it again, and again, and again with untold anger, each strike more terrible and devastating than the last. She was a beast untethered and she would not be controlled by such a wretched little thing - none would dictate what she did.

Eventually, in her rage, Misri smacked the rolled up Khodex as hard as she could, such a strike created a shockwave that even rippled through the void. As the Khodex sailed away, headed straight for the surface of the big rock called Galbar, Misri felt her power being drained. All her vigor and energy was taken by none other than the Khodex and in her shock she was unable to chase after it to try and take back what was rightfully hers.

In the distance, the Khodex crackled with energy as it soared through the nothingness. First it was an arc of light, then it was a spark of fire, then the Khodex hit Galbar head on.

She howled in defeat, her first defeat, as the Khodex had tricked her into taking what was rightfully hers - her power. Misri snarled and snapped like a savage animal, releasing mournful wails as she inevitably lowered her head, exhausted by her bout with the Khodex. There, silhouetted by the golden pool, she swore to one day reclaim the power that had been taken from her.

She would be strength incarnate.

Lord of Red, Lady of Savagery, Deliverer of Death, Devourer of Innocence, She of Fury, Daughter of Cruelty, Mother of Murder


Misri is animalistic, only ever indulging in her base urges of murder and inflicting cruel pain on others. Those around her can feel a deep anger and resentment coming from her in spades, mortals are often driven mad by murderlust - seeking to kill or destroy anything around them. When she speaks, a cacophony of screams of fear and anger are heard behind her and yet, she never yells on whispers in a raspy yet alluring voice that fills the minds of those she speaks to with a euphoric need to destroy. Mortals know that to hear her or be within her presence is to know endless hate and anger and what it means to truly desire the death of even those that they love.

She is a selfish and cruel god, only ever toying with those beneath her and driving those who serve or worship her to cruel, short ends either by her own madness or their own folly. Those who fear her know never to speak of her for to mention her is to invite her into your heart and only madness follows from there. Senseless madness is what she surrounds herself in and that is what she craves - merely wishing to see violence blanket the realm.

Musical Theme

Lord of Red, Lady of Savagery, Deliverer of Death, Devourer of Innocence, She of Fury, Daughter of Cruelty, Mother of Murder


Misri is animalistic, only ever indulging in her base urges of murder and inflicting cruel pain on others. Those around her can feel a deep anger and resentment coming from her in spades, mortals are often driven mad by murderlust - seeking to kill or destroy anything around them. When she speaks, a cacophony of screams of fear and anger are heard behind her and yet, she never yells on whispers in a raspy yet alluring voice that fills the minds of those she speaks to with a euphoric need to destroy. Mortals know that to hear her or be within her presence is to know endless hate and anger and what it means to truly desire the death of even those that they love.

She is a selfish and cruel god, only ever toying with those beneath her and driving those who serve or worship her to cruel, short ends either by her own madness or their own folly. Those who fear her know never to speak of her for to mention her is to invite her into your heart and only madness follows from there. Senseless madness is what she surrounds herself in and that is what she craves - merely wishing to see violence blanket the realm.

Musical Theme
The Angelus Machina

One-One’s eyes darted over the data-slate with an indifference not unlike those found within the Martian tech cults that controlled the cities. She consumed the data within-milliseconds, her bionics feeding the data to her in digestible chunks so as to not overload her. Yet, the priestess would be overwhelmed at the data she read, not for fear or shock but of awe and amazement as to how the Angelus, Usriel, was performing. It exceeded her expectation by a margin nearly incomprehensible to any normal standard for while still only a child, One-One had taken to teaching him advanced formulations that even adepts in the Cult Mechanicum would struggle to learn. Her emotion dampeners struggled to suppress happiness that dwelled underneath her skin and if she could smile, she would.

The sound of shifting sheets broke her from her trance and she looked over her shoulder, to see Nirek stirring from his slumber as morning light began to breach through their singular window. She watched him from the periphery of her vision, falsely making her focus seem to be that of the data-slate. His synth-muscle was illuminated softly in that light as he stood, tall and proud as any freeman would - the years and augments have always been kind to her husband. Tempted, she would finally lower the slate before fully turning to Nirek, meeting his smiling gaze with her indifferent gaze.

“Good morning, my love,” Nirek said, striding over to the One-One who lowered her white-hood and allowed her more human looks to meet his eyes. She always knew that he liked her human aspect, though One-One always viewed it as a weakness. Still, she indulged him as Nirek embraced her, reciprocating it with a single arm. As he pulled away he spoke to her, asking “How long have you been up?”

“This is the 50th day since I’ve last slept,” One-One replied without a beat, as she turned away from Nirek to continue scrolling through the data-slate. The priestess’ synthetic voice chimed to a different subject, “Usriel’s mental development is at an unprecedented level, Nirek. His understanding of the machine, mathematics, and the holy scripture matches any priest. He continues to prove that he is the Angelus Machina.”

Nirek did not seem interested in her fascination, however, knowing that he always wished to treat Usriel just as any parent would treat a child and not like the omnissiac figure that One-One knew him to be. He stepped past the lithe form that was his wife and instead walked over to the window, looking out the barren, fortress-ridden land that was Vion 5. His deep blue eyes wanted to look at the priestess, but all he could do was let out a sigh. Already knowing, One-One had lowered the pad once more - sensing minor distress as she had mentioned Usriel’s title. The scavenger would never understand, however, for he was never inducted into the Machine Cult and so would not truly understand the breadth of what Usriel’s title would mean.

“He is of age, One-One. I need to show him to the Maris,” Nirek said without his usual optimism, sparking a look from One-One who clenched her metallic hands. She could not respond for Nirek did not allow her to, “I know how you feel, but the warlords need to know who to protect.”

“He is not ready for the cruelties of the warlords,” One-One said with an odd sense of maternal instinct, her glowing optics flaring for a brief moment before her dampeners calmed her once more. She loosed a modulated sigh as she stepped over to Nirek, knowing that he spoke the truth but still unwilling to want Usriel to be tainted by outside influence.There was a moment as the two look over the lands from their own redoubt, the rocky crags forming natural killing funnels that the ancient defenders of the planet used to wage war. Yet, now all that stood was the silence of the dead. Her head inclined towards her lover, “I must run additional tests, the Angel- Usriel, must be tested.”

“If he is as capable as you say then he will be fine,” Nirek said softly, unlike the coddling nature of One-One, he wanted Usriel to grow as any boy would which, on Vion 5, meant that he must be shown to a warlord, for they held armies and warriors capable of fending off the likes of the Cult of the True Machine. He turned away from the window and began walking, ready to take Usriel. A tug on his arm caused him to stop - but he needn’t turn. Nirek could feel the burning gaze of One-One.

“Nirek, that boy will be taken if Maris sees his potential just as he had taken you,” One-One spoke with a venom in her modulated voice. Nirek had relented and turned to her. There was more to come, “War and military is not what he needs or wants - the same the Cult would do if they knew what he was. Allow him to be the bright scholar that he can be.”

Nirek inhaled sharply, nostrils flaring. Still, though, he did not speak because he knew that she spoke true, that Usriel did not deserve the possibility of being dragged into conflict. One-One and Nirek stared deep into each other’s eyes in a battle of mental fortitude. Yet, it would be the priestess who would dare to look away first, restrained anger filling her in the moment. There would be no changing the course of this meeting, Nirek would not allow it.

“Our Angelus will not be taken from us,” Nirek promised, once more bringing One-One into his rust-tinged skin. There was a softness to his voice that soothed her and she desired nothing more than to have her worries assuaged. The situation, however, only wrought worry and worry brought with it a gripping fear of losing the closest thing she had to a son.

“May the Omnissiah make that true.”

Small hands worked around delicate circuitry, twisting wires and searching for new access points amongst complex machinery. Usriel moved as if he were a master amongst the machines that connected to the neuro-linked drone. The child reached over to grasp a splicing tool that had been neatly arranged on a bench. His blue eyes scanned the wiring placement for a brief moment before he slowly moved it to a different connection. The Angelus sealed the connection before leaning away from the servo-arm. Happiness at another successful job spread through his face, but he needed to know that it worked properly.

Usriel looked up to the drone who impassively looked at the servo-arm that had just been fully connected by bare hands. The child needn’t speak any command, instead moving the mechanical back and forth, up and down, twisting and turning the claw. The child’s happiness grew and grew before he met the drone’s indifferent stare and asked it a simple question that was overfilled with joy, “Do you like it, Unit 17?”

No vocal answer came from the drone but instead it gave a light smile that only Usriel would even notice. The lips almost inconceivably curled into a smile before vanishing as the lobotomized person stood and moved to do new duties that would be assigned to it. Usriel, for his part, would put down his tool and the giant arm of the workshop automatically retracted back to its starting position in the wall. The child slowly crawled out of his chair belly first, afraid it would roll away as he moved - but it didn’t much to his own relief.

The door to the works slid open, forcing the child’s head to snap over and see the form of One-One stepping into the cold air of her work area. It was a miracle that she did not instantly chastise the boy for being within a prohibited area. Still, Usriel’s feet snapped together and his arms went to his side. One-One inspected the area quickly before she walked up to the boy, looking down with him a glare that could easily be construed as cold. Her modulated voice broke the silence, “What were you doing in here, Usriel?”

The child did not want to answer at first, but he knew the punishment for noncompliance, a timid voice came, “I was making the servo-arm for Unit 17, I heard you say that the bio-chemical connector was giving you trouble.”

“And does this arm work?” One-One asked, her glowing eyes flickering for a moment - a sign Usriel had gathered meant that she was ordering one of the drones. He picked up on such signals quickly enough but he knew that she was going to inspect his work just as she always did. She began to circle him.

“It does, mother. The original problem was the wiring, it couldn’t pull the electrical signals from the body. I had to take it apart and rebuild it,” Usriel responded, keeping his head down as she stopped behind him. He expected to be chastised and yet she wrapped her arms around his small frame, gingerly. It surprised the Angelus for One-One was not known for showing her affections to Usriel often but his hand traveled to grasp hers. There was a brief pause between any words as One-One let out a raspy breath. It seemed to him that her emotional dampeners were faulty.

“You continue to amaze me, my little Angelus,” One-One cooed, scooping up the boy effortlessly to carry him away from her workspace. Her tone went back to indifference as she walked, explaining to her son, “We will be going to the Great Bastion today - you must meet the Lord Maris as per your father’s wishes. I am accompanying you, Angelus, so as to safeguard you.”

“Father will safeguard us,” Usriel said softly. One-One did not respond to the child’s words, instead diligently marching him outside where Nirek was waiting, speeder ready. She continued to hold him even as Nirek gave her a steady glare, though Usriel caught his attention with a wide smile. The scavenger was always happy whenever the Angelus smiled, as any parent would, despite the circumstance ahead of them.

“Usriel, are you ready to see the Great Bastion?” Nirek asked with a soft smile coming across his face, One-One gently lowered the boy into the speeder.

The Star Child cocked his head to the side, “We are going to meet Lord Maris, correct?”

“Aye, the Bastion-Lord must look to any prospective child that is under his domain,” Nirek said to his son, entering the driver’s seat of the vehicle. As he moved to start the engine to the speeder, it hummed to life on its own and so the man gave a confused look before looking at his wife. One-One shook her head in denial, knowing what Nirek looked to her for. He shook away the confusion, instead speaking to Usriel, “I must stress, boy, that whatever Maris asks you to do, restrain yourself.”

“Why? You always tell me to do my best?” Usriel asked instantly, giving no reprieve to his father at the moment.

“Just don’t. Not this time, Angelus,” One-One said instead of Nirek, earning only more confusion from Usriel, but the child did not dig further. He sensed that something was amiss. Would he embarrass his family? Why did he need to restrain himself? The child did not know, perhaps he did not wish to know either as worried thoughts began to cloud his mind. To distract himself, Usriel looked to the countryside that roared past them - towering guns lay distant, pointed towards the skies. Rocky mountains clambered over each other in the horizon, only occasionally interrupted by debris fields of destroyed vehicles that lay half-buried.

Hidden deep within the layers of rock and metal lie the remnants of ancient fortresses, silent witnesses to the fierce battles that once raged upon them. These ruined fortresses, now buried and forgotten, hold a haunting aura that whispers stories of valor, conquest, and the passage of time. The skeletal remains of once-mighty walls, crumbling towers, and shattered battlements evoke a sense of desolation and melancholy. Nature, with its relentless grip, has intertwined with the ruins, creating a surreal tapestry where vines reclaim what was once man-made.

As the layers of earth and debris cover these forgotten strongholds, the battles they witnessed become lost in the mists of history. The echoes of clashing swords and thunderous war cries are replaced by the eerie silence that surrounds the fallen stones. Time has painted these ancient battlegrounds with a melancholic beauty, as rusted weapons, decaying armors, and fragments of forgotten lives rest untouched beneath the weight of ages. These ruins stand as testaments to the impermanence of power and the transient nature of human conflict.

Usriel often fixated upon these derelict fortresses, especially when Nirek had brought him along to scavenge what remained. The child knew what these great buildings of long nights were for - to protect and safeguard. He gazed and saw a collapsed tower and he wondered how it might have looked in its prime, what wonders the planet had hidden deep in rubble and earth. Yet, his thoughts were disturbed as he looked forwards - seeing what they now rapidly approached.

Amidst the rugged terrain of a desolate world, a colossal fortress rises like an ancient titan, its metallic spires reaching the heavens. Crafted from plasteel and fortified with other resilient metals, this fortress stands as a testament to human engineering and technological prowess. Towering as tall as the tallest mountains that surround it, its imposing presence dominates the landscape, inspiring awe and fear in equal measure. Time has failed to tarnish its gleaming surface, and its impenetrable structure remains a formidable bulwark against the elements and any potential intruders.

In the heart of this awe-inspiring citadel, four massive orbital guns stand poised, like guardians of a long-forgotten realm. Once a beacon of interstellar trade and prosperity, the planet beneath no longer sees the arrival of stellar ships, leaving the fortress in a state of isolation. The orbital guns, now relics of a bygone era, serve as a haunting reminder of the world's lost glory. Now, they aim to the skies, a silent warning to any ships that might dare venture into this forsaken land. Despite the fortress's current isolation, the mysteries it holds and the stories it conceals still beckon explorers and adventurers from across the galaxy, drawn to uncover the secrets of this monumental fortress lost to time.

Usriel stared in awe. Soon, they would be wandering within that mountain sized fortress, walking its intricate halls and seeing how life was. One-One looked back to him and spoke in a coo, “See what we once had Usriel, know that you may well inherit it all.”

“Tell me boy, what is your name?” a voice asked, the boy who could merely looked down to his feet. Usriel had been told not to look up but he knew it would be rude to disrespect someone known as a Bastion-Lord, especially under the light of his own halls with men clad in armor, wielding axe-headed spears that hummed ever loudly in his mind. His nerves were beginning to overcome him, the machines that traveled the length of the great fortress hummed far too loudly for the boy's mind to handle. They all spoke to him in inaudible static that not even One-One would have been able to understand - it was a horrid experience.

A hand brought him from his stupor, causing the Angelus to look up and see the man that sat perched on an iron throne. He was larger than even his father, scars littered his face and both of his eyes had been replaced by a singular glowing optic that resembled his own mother’s. He gulped down fear, “I am U-Usriel Andreadth, Lord Maris.”

Maris looked over the boy, seemingly scanning him with his machine-eye, before he arose and looked towards Nirek. There was a silence between them before Maris’ massive form walked towards them, his white glare moving towards One-One as he did. He spoke in a tone that seemed to bring dread to Usriel, “The boy, he is Mechanicum taught. How much does he know?”

“He knows little, Maris. He has not been inducted into the cult,” One-One spat instantly, venom claiming her augment voice, her grip on her son’s shoulder tightened.

“Please, you expect me to believe that?” Maris chuckled grimly before looking to Nirek, continuing his question with his hands wrapped behind his back, “How much does he know?”

Unlike One-One, Nirek would not lie, speaking confidently and stepping forwards, “Usriel has been taught by One-One since birth, m’lord. He is bright and knows his way around the workbench just as any child in the slums might.” The father postured, puffing out his chest and meeting the mechanical looking Maris’ one eye with a one that was as unwavering as the fortress they now conversed in. The two cast glares at each other, speaking in a silence before Maris took a step back, turning away from the family.

“Very well. I needn’t ask the boy if he has fought yet. He looks as though he may shatter at any moment, he has not seen war,” Maris commented, returning to his throne for the time being before motioning to slender man that moved on ten mechanical legs. The abomination brought a long table that hummed with a blue light - a projection of a vast array of mechanical parts and other such items lay there. Maris spoke as the clicking tendrils of the abomination skittered away, “Yet, Usriel,” he spoke to the boy directly, “Come, I desire you to build something for me.”

Usriel looked to One-One who merely glared at Maris, then to Nirek who moved to his mother to get her to release her rather painful grip on that moment. Nirek nodded to the boy and the Angelus timidly began to approach the great Bastion Lord. Each step was heavy, bringing further panic to his mind, it was only at the other side of the holo-table that he stopped with a heart pounding so hard that it threatened to make the boy collapse.

“Make a weapon for me, boy. That priest surely has taught you the inner workings of any weapon that the Mechanicum uses. Show me what you know,” Maria beckoned in a cruel voice. Yet, the boy only stood frozen before he looked at the table, One-One had not taught him anything of the Mechanicum, but he had studied without her supervision on many of the sleepless nights that he had. He knew of what he would make, but fear gripped him.

The boy looked back to One-One and Nirek, seeing fear plastered on both of their faces forced his resolve to harden. Usriel turned back to Maris, resolution burned within him and he desired never to see his parents so worried. No, despite their wishes, he haunches over the table and began to work. Hands adeptly moved, it may have been a mock forging but he treated it as if it were real - he moved faster than any in the room could comprehend and practiced precision overtook him.

It became clear of what he was forging instantly - a weapon of plasma.

The creation of this devastating weapon begins with carefully sourcing the necessary materials. The core components, including a plasma coil, energy capacitors, and a power cell, must be forged from rare alloys and refined plasma-grade materials, ensuring their resilience and conductivity.

The artisan then meticulously assembles the plasma gun, painstakingly connecting the components with precision and care. Each connection is made with specialized plasma-resistant wiring, meticulously soldered to withstand the immense energy output of the weapon. The plasma coil, the heart of the gun, is meticulously wound and calibrated to create the controlled plasma discharge characteristic of the weapon.

Once the physical assembly is complete, the artisan moves on to the programming and fine-tuning stage. A sophisticated control system is installed, allowing the wielder to adjust the plasma gun's energy output, firing modes, and safety mechanisms. This stage demands both technical expertise and an understanding of the volatile nature of plasma energy. The artisan fine-tunes the weapon, ensuring its stability and efficiency, taking extra precautions to prevent catastrophic overheating or misfires. It was grueling, yet Usriel continued on.

It was not long until he had finished, the final product now humming as the mock weapon it was. Proudly, Usriel looked back to his parents but they looked horrified - he had done what they had asked him not to do. A cruel laugh echoed behind him.

“You lied to me, Nirek,” Maris spoke, rising over the table, his massive form drowning out the very light itself. Usriel went to run but the Bastion Lord reached over the table and grasped the boy by his neck.

“Angelus!” One-One cried, stepping forwards only to be held back by Nirek.

“Maris, don’t do this,” Nirek growled angrily, his synthetic muscle straining to hold back the priestess who cursed in a binary tongue that only Usriel understood. The father wanted to move forwards to reclaim his son, but he knew far better than to act on instinct as the armored men readied their weapons, pointing at them. Yet, he knew what Maris wanted, he knew that their wish of family would be wrought away from them just as it had been done before. He let out a sigh. He looked at Maris with a fire, “He is all we desire, Maris. Do not take him from us.”

“Your family was forfeited when you promised me a warrior in your first son, and see how that turned out,” Maris grunted, motioning to the guards for them to take the two out his sight.

One-One broke free of her husband’s grip and stepped forwards, flashing an axe of the Omnissiah and burning it into the plasteel floor. For a moment it seemed as if she would slay each and every one of the men that stood between her and her son, but she froze. The tech-priest collapsed to her knees and would plead with Maris, “Allow me to say goodbye to my Angelus, you already took one from us. Allow me this, so that I may be given what little peace you can grant me.”

A moment of consideration flashed, silence filled the room before dropping the boy to the ground, who in turn scrambled to his parents. Usriel embraced his mother and Nirek quickly enveloped the both of them as well, tears streaming down all of their faces. A wavering, modulated voice spoke out amidst sobs, “Usriel, know that you are my Angelus, and nothing shall change that. Take my axe, may it serve you well and you shall know that I will never be too far, me nor your father.”

He was confused, scared as to what was happening but he understood perfectly as to what the Bastion Lord was taking from him. The confusion was only about why it was happening to him. It was Nirek’s voice that broke the sobs, “My son, we shall see you soon.” With those words he broke the family apart, shoving Usriel back and dragging One-One away, who cried out for her son who was quickly surrounded by the guards of the room. As the doors closed behind his parents, all he could do was grasp the Omnissiahan Axe that was parted to him, imagining One-One’s embrace in that moment - but it was no substitute and there would be no comfort, especially not when he looked to Maris with grief, anger, pain.

His voice came slowly, cruelly and maliciously, “Come now, boy. We will make a warrior of your pitiful line yet.”

The winds were harsher past the clouds, roaring as a harsh torrent even as true chaos raged far below upon the blasted surface of Terra. Barbarians butchered barbarians, humans slaughter each other in a brutal contest of control and domination. It was a deadly affair, one that seemed so disconnected so far in the air yet even then the intimacies shown through as she saw the ‘God-Slayers’ do the Emperor’s work. Single-combat raged, the roar of melee and the screams of death between human and augmented filled the air, though again she heard none of it. The rush of the wind was an excellent cover, an excellent way to clear her mind as her optics kept an eye on the battle below. She was searching, not for something but for someone - an officer, a commander, leadership - anyone whose death would bring a collapse in morale.

Yet, the Black-Hawk’s shadow continued to circle the battle, stalking for her prey to reveal themselves from their defenses, though they hid like roaches waiting for a rock to be moved. It was a common thing to wait as one of the hollowed Venatari, watching as the Thunder Warriors wrought slaughter amongst their techno-barbarian counterparts. It was a tedious task, but in part it allowed her to continue with her secondary vow of evaluating those warriors of the first Thunder Legion, ensuring that none fell into their unstable madness to bring death to the innocent and undeserving. Her hand tightened around her lance, wanting nothing more than to deliver justice, but she knew that her shadow was more than enough to cast fear into those of the ‘God-Slayers’ who had come to know her as a vengeful spirit of the skies. Yet, she would stay her hand for the time being for that was her Master’s will.

Amalasuntha allowed herself a momentary sigh into her respirator, watching as a thunder warrior chewed through some poor human. Then rage boiled as another executed one attempting to crawl away, knowing that was not what the Emperor would have wanted - they were liberators! The Black-Hawk wished to descend and instill order, wanting nothing more than to be the executioner she desired to be, but such was not her task in this moment. As she banked in the air, her eyes noticed a form on the outer battlements of the city - large enough to match any of the thunderous warriors that laid siege to them now. She made her decision in that moment, swiftly diving towards the observer. Her speed grew and the whistle of wind began to ring as her blackened armor cast a shadow locked onto her query.

Her lance lowered.

Her grip tightened.

As she closed, she wanted to let loose a few rounds from her lance, but she knew that she would simply outpace her bolts. Amalasuntha rolled as her target fired at her, soon enough automated turrets likewise attempted to lock onto her, but she was too small for them - and much too fast. Her foe turned to flee. Too late. For her lance pierced straight through his body, spilling crimson onto the battlement. The venatari skid across the defense for a moment before her auramit pinion activated, sending back in the air as the presumed officer fell many stories behind the battlements. Her speed was hardly dampened as her height climbed. Soon enough, she was back to being a mere observer - now seeing that humans began to route, militia unable to be held together by the yoke of some barbarian. She could almost smile, but she knew the battle was far from over for no one section would usher the collapse of an entire city.


She would render unto them the Emperor’s judgment.

Such was her duty.

Her purpose.


//Vion 5, Low Orbit

Vion 5 was a planet filled with technology from before the Long Night and matched only by the willingness of its inhabitants to wage brutal war amongst the archaeotech fortresses that lined its surface. Yet, despite the great religious upheaval that occurred below that threatened the temporary peace, Hox could not bear to think of such conflicts or war. The station was serene, the cold of space brought with it an eerie peace that was utterly unseen on the planet below, even as tech-thralls patrolled the station or the servitors mindlessly performed their duties. The budding tech-priest looked down upon the umber planet, taking in the brief peace from a life filled with hardship and strife. Despite this, the grim reality of his purpose was setting in as the monitor he gazed from zoomed in upon the planet and brought a hive into view. His hands clutched the hems of his white and red robes, peace giving way to anxiety as calculations instantly ran in his mind.

Peace was never a factor, a worthless prerogative that the Mechanicum had long learned to cope with on this planet, yet even then peace had shown through intermittently. Could this not yet be another time for such peace? Robotic words echoed in his mind as another of his kind spoke from another part of the station, “Solar Arrays less than 45% charged, awaiting target confirmation, Enginseer.”

The green hue of his retinal replacements merely looked upon the hive that he was to doom, a hive of Hereteks to be sure but a hive nonetheless - filled with people who knew nothing outside of their homes for the hive was their world. And Hox was to damn them before the heresy took root, condemning them to an irreversible fate that would only be met with an equal attack should any other hive know of what happened. His logic emitters told him to confirm, echoed that his emotional dampeners were not functioning properly, but Hox ignored it, instead listing out the reasons to not proceed with this. The first and primary being the stark cost of such a task, losing such potential labor. Precious milliseconds passed without an answer to his other, servos whirling as Hox’s third arm moved back to grasp onto a flat, data-storage device - a start-up sequence for the weapon - and positioning it over a slot in front of him.

Sweat pooled on the flesh of his brow, nerves overtaking him with the gravity of the situation as the Lingua Technis filled his auditory receptors once more, “Enginseer, proceed with targeting confirmation immediately.” The words were no solace in Hox’s mind. They echoed in a hesitant mind, one furious with his own sense of morality that the disk hovered a mere breath away from condemning millions to a quick death.

Hox did not have the time to deliberate the course of action, to destroy or not to destroy, to damn or to bless. It was a simple question but a hard one to answer. Yet, fate would decide for him as an alarm blared as the screen he watched turned red.

Reports rang.

A warp signature appeared.

A torpedo sped towards the station.

Point defense activated as servitors scrambled to senselessly gun down the foreign object. Hox ran to the nearest viewport, mechanical legs slamming into the floor. He looked out into the vastness of space and focused his optical lenses on the rapidly approaching object. It was not a large ordinance, but torpedoes would set their whole operation behind more than his own hesitations had.

“Hox,” his compatriot’s voice started, unperturbed by the sudden alarms, “Confirm target, NOW!”

This order drove Hox from the viewport, feet slamming into the metal flooring. He would not have time to insert the drive with the proper rites but time was desperate.

Yet, he was far too late. The torpedo impacted the station, sending Hox to the floor in front of the console. The sound of broken metal and the horrid screeching of alarms filled his senses, even before he could get his bearings, he knew the station had been knocked free of its orbit. The entire station rumbled as Hox got to his feet to check the status of the station and the sight brought a primal fear into his heart. The torpedo had ripped straight through the heart of the station and out the other side, breaching the reactors and the targeting array.

“D-Dominus?” Hox called. No response came.

There was nothing left to do as the thoughts of his failure roused his mind. The Enginseer looked to the viewport once more and there he saw the red outline of the station begin its re-entry into the planet’s atmosphere. He looked to the screens once more, the image frozen of the torpedo that had damned him. Yet, as he stared upon the death of himself, Hox realized that the torpedo was not what it had seemed - no it was no torpedo. Within it bore the image of a child, his killer and destroyer.

No. His savior. Having saved Hox from the guilt of destroying countless lives - even if it meant his death. It was the will of the Machine God.

He activated what he could of the communications array and spoke of his death - his heralding, “It is the will of the Machine God that we are destroyed. Praise him. Recover his avatar from the pod. Praise be the Angel of the Machine God. Praise be the Angelus Machina.”

//2 Hours After Destruction

The destruction of the battle station had heralded a great movement amongst the upper echelons of the Mechanicum, still keeping Hox’s decree a secret. It was his death cries that usher the throngs that made up the Holy Synod to convene and discuss the apparent arrival of the “Angelus Machina”. Yet, they were not the ones mobilizing to meet the coming divine, for it was instead a local scavenger who had motioned to the pod. He thought nothing of it at first, believing it to be a piece of debris from some ruined satellite. Yet, scrapped metal was always in demand in Vion 5, from use constructing the Mechanicum’s automata to great towering spires. Luckily for him, it was a lucrative enough business - supporting his family for who knows how long.

It was for this reason that Nirek was more than happy enough to travel between the many redoubts and fortress networks to get there before anyone else could. His speeder was certainly fast enough, bobbing between valleys and killing fields - all while hoping some rogue tech-priest or some automated turret didn’t decide him to be a threat that day. Yet, it all seemed that the day had blessed him with being clear and even then he could see the smoke stack from far away. Nirek rapidly closed upon the crash site, the speeder listing to the side as it careened around an old sensor tower - knowing that his activities would be viewed by some being out in the rocky wastes. The speeder screeched to a halt, the decrepit grav pupulsion coming to a swift stop and the bottom of the vehicle scraping across the ground in a lesser mimicry of the salvage that he was so keen upon collecting.

Rock and metal scraped against one another before it finally halted itself, leaving Nirek not even ten paces from the crater. Swinging his legs out of the speeder, Nirek grabbed a scanner before he made his way to the assumed debris - the smoke billowing in such quantities that he could not see with the naked eye. He held the scanner close, using it as a better pair of eyes to penetrate the thick smoke before he was right on top of the crash, quickly he pulled out a fire retardant from his belt and began to douse the source of the pillar. Yet, the sight of what he would come to see would astonish him - for there was no debris, instead what had landed looked to be an intact artifact. His scarlet eyes twinkled as numbers ran through his head, knowing that the tech-priests would find great value in this for the data-hoards.

So, Nirek knelt down looking over the pod before noticing a singular viewport that was now partially covered by the flame douser. He assumed that it was a screen, assuming that this must have been some interstellar probe that perhaps belongs to times before Humanity’s fall. Again, Nirek would be surprised as he found that what he found inside was a child - no, an infant. The scavenger let out a gasp, instantly pushing the pod over so that he might pry open the transport. His muscles strained against the door, synth muscle flexing as his fingers drew blood. Eventually, the pod’s door flew off and Nirek instantly swooped up the crying infant, holding it close. He looked around as if the child’s parents were near.

There was not a soul in sight, not that there would be out in the dead wastes of the planet. Nirek would not leave the child to die, knowing that the pod might not be able to support him for an indefinite time and who knew how long it would be before another would come to this site.

For a moment he pondered how the child survived atmospheric entry.

He wondered where it had come from.

Inevitably, he wondered why.

Nirek sequestered the child back to his speeder, the prospect of scavenging had now been abandoned in his mind. The grav engines hummed to life before Nirek sped away from the crash site, as if he had just committed some great crime of abducting this infant rather than potentially saving its life. Through mountain valleys and titanic fortress-ruins, Nirek raced back to his home, attempting to comfort the child all the while. The grav speeder had to swiftly turn, lurching to the side before stopping a hairs length away from a metal wall. The scavenger held the steering wheel with both hands, breathing heavily but allowing himself a moment to recollect himself. This brief respite was enough to bring order back to his mind, calming himself.

The man let out a sigh before looking over the child, who had by now stopped crying though, perplexingly, staring at Nirek like Nirek had been staring at the child. Nirek’s scarlet eyes gazed into the deep blue of the child’s and, for a moment, the two seemed to hold an understanding. Despite being below any age of comprehension, the child looked around his surroundings, his gaze holding upon certain architectures or pieces of scenery as if he was absorbing the sight and locking it away. The infant’s eyes wordlessly darted back to Nirek as he spoke, “You’re an odd kid.”

There was a toothless grin as if it was a true response to Nirek’s words, but the scavenger allowed himself to relax as the child began to act its age. He wondered what to do in that moment, thinking of the possibilities that he might be able to do. “One-One would never allow you,” Nirek commented to himself, the baby cocked his head earning an explanation from the scavenger, ”She’s this grumpy old hag known as a wife. Though you might just be charming enough to get through to her, kid.”

The baby laughed, earning a more and more curious gaze from Nirek as he tried to piece the kid together. “How do the Priest Orphanages sound?” Nirek asked off-handedly, earning a rasp from the baby as if he understood the question. Nirek chuckled to himself before speaking, “Well, I guess One-One might just have to bear with you for a bit.”

With those words, the speeder started on its path again, diving through the countryside as Nirek began to think of ways to charm his wife into allowing the temporary adoption. He figured that it wouldn’t be too hard but as he approached a redoubt, armed to the teeth with turrets and other such automated defenses, Nirek couldn’t help but feel a pit of dread within his stomach. The child gave a concerned gaze, sharing Nirek’s worry as the turrets followed the craft as it came closer and closer to the ancient, independent fortification. Though, Nirek’s worry was not for his own but for the prize that he had decided to bring for he knew One-One was not bound by the same human morals as he. In fact, he could see her form looming over the precipice of the redoubt, glowing optical blue tracking them as the speeder approached, swiftly coming to a stop.

A feminine, synthetic voice quickly called out, “I have detected two life signatures. Explain.”

Nirek slowly got out of the speeder, raising his hands as if surrendering to a militant force, before he spoke, “A guest. One-One.”

“Elaborate,” the monotone voice barked back. He could make out the hood of her white robes, even more threateningly, Nirek could see that she had two servo-arms pointed downwards - one at the child and one at himself.

“I found the child in the wastes, love. I could not leave him. You know what would happen if the Mechanicum found him, Machine God forbid if the Cult did,” Nirek said, allowing silence to follow as One-One seemed to steep herself in momentary thought. Eventually, the two robotic-arms lowered themselves, leaving Nerik to let out a sigh of relief before leaning into his vehicle and grabbing the child, swaddling him in a light rag that he normally used for scrap.

He held the child close as he approached, the door shifting open for him and revealing the comforts of his home. Nirek would have let out a sigh of relief to be back home, but One-One came into his view, still bearing her axe. Her hood was lowered and so he gazed upon the graying skin of her face, at least what was visible under the respiratory mask that was now melded where her mouth and nose should be. The scavenger braced himself.

“Was it impossible to notify me of this intrusion beforehand?” The synthetic voice chided, setting her axe against the wall.

Nirek let out a silent thanks to the Machine God, “I wasn’t thinking. I am sorry.”

“You ought to be,” One-One growled, moving into a different room almost dismissively to her husband who closely followed behind. She walked to a screen, gazing upon its information.

“Listen-“ One-One raised a finger, silencing her husband without meeting his eyes.

“You said you had found it in the wastes?” The tech-priestess questioned, continuing to gaze upon her screen. Nirek gave her the affirmation with a light grunt, keeping still behind his wife. One-One turned her head in brief acknowledgement, her monotone voice speaking briefly inquiring more, “Where exactly?”

“In a pod, past the Antioch Array,” Nirek answered.

One-One was upon him, swiftly grasping her husband's throat as if he were one of her many thralls. Her audio-drivers strained themselves, “If you were seen you have doomed us! Do you know what it is that you have brought into our home?!”

Nirek continued to hold the now screaming child in a desperate attempt to not drop him. “One-One…” he choked out.

“The Angelus Machina! Did you not think when I said I wished to distance myself from that accursed order! Dispose of it,” She ordered, dropping the man on the floor.

“I can’t,” Nirek said in defiance, earning One-One’s baleful gaze as he scrambled for his balance. He spoke out against her once more, “No one will come for us! Abandoning a child to an unknown fate is not something I can do, my love. You wouldn’t do it either, at least, not while we still lived amongst the forges.” This wording had seemed to disarm the priestess, her stance shifting and relaxing as the weight of her own mind was crumbling. Nirek rested a hand on her shoulder, “We wanted to start a new life, away from that cult. That doesn’t mean we must abandon our morals. This child - this ‘Angelus’ - has no one to go to. At least none that would treat him as a child, we can give him that home.”

One-One looked away from Nirek, contemplating before speaking softly, “Why must you be so insistent? My emotional suppressors strain against your words.” Her gaze shifted to the babe, “Does the Angelus have a name?”

Nirek shook his head, before offering the child to his wife and she took him into her arms, holding him as any mother would. She knew that she could not be a true mother to this child but even as she gazed into its deep blue eyes, she felt the phantom tears well behind her blue optics. One-One leaned her head into her husband's chest, feeling the warmth of his embrace around her. Perhaps, this would be the way for her mind to be at peace, to perhaps gain some control after it was so brutally ripped away from her. With a synthetic sigh, One-One spoke, “Then may I name the Angelus?”

“Anything, my love,” Nirek confirmed, resting his chin in her blackened hair.

“Then, let it be known to all that I shall name him after my father and your family…

Let it be known. Let it be known, that he hath come.

Usriel Andreadth, the Angelus Machina. Our new beginning.

Our savior.”

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