Monday, September 5, 2016

Prologue



My name is Severen Kade; I am a hunter of monsters, I am a slayer of beasts.

The hallways are dimly lit, each one a labyrinthine haze of orangish brown.  Clots of cables stretch and crawl their way from one corridor to the next.  Half of the lights don’t work, if it wasn’t for the muzzle fire it would be much darker, I guess I can be thankful for that.  I’ve lost Fabian, or he lost me; the old man is much faster than he looks.  

From what I can tell there are three of them still down here with me, hiding amongst the filth and the shadows.  Eight months into the investigation, I should have known it would end in a shit hole like this.  My mind races plotting my next move, when it’s made for me.  Out of the dark one of them runs around the corner. I’ve been behind this bulkhead so long he must have assumed I fell back.  He was wrong.  Before he can realize his mistake, I light the corridor once more.  What was once his face has now become a ragged hole of meat and teeth; what was once a scalp now flitters like a flag on a sinking ship as he crashes his way to the floor.  I can sense the other two now, hiding in the shadows, their breathing heavy as they begin to count the odds.  

I risk a glimpse past the bulkhead frame and try to guess how far they are.  Eight meters down the corridor I see a flash of movement, my ears prick to the sound of a magazine sliding into or out of a firearm, I can't tell.   The lights flicker again and I risk it.  With all the stealth I can muster I move my way up the corridor.  Barely a foot or two of debris and metal keep us apart as I lean into the wall.  So close to them now I can taste their sweat, I can hear their hearts beating in their chests.

The light flickers once more and I catch the reflection of a barrel aimed down the hall, protruding just inches from my face past the corner.  If there were anything left but corpses down there it would have been a worthwhile action, I’ll give them that.  With as much speed as I can muster I grab the barrel with my left hand.  Pushing it up I swing myself around the corner, my right hand raising as I turn.  The barrel barks and I go deaf.  In the silence I put three holes in the chest of the one crouched to my right.  My hand burns with the heat as I swing my way to the left.  He’s not as slow as his companions, instead of pushing me back he brings me closer.  Deafened and now barely able to see from the blow that breaks my nose, I try to get a look at him while we struggle.  His face is slick with sweat, his forehead is streaked with blood, my blood, and his eyes are coal black in the rusty light of the corridor.  What seems like forever is mere seconds as he throws me against the opposite wall still clinging to his rifle awkwardly.  We both draw, once more daylight is brought to this hell hole.

I pick myself up and note the ragged hole bored into the wall centimeters from the left side of my face.  My ears are still ringing, there’s no time to wait, I need to find Fabian.  Like an answer from the God-Emperor himself I hear shots ring out somewhere in the facility above me, before I register the movement I'm running.  The twists and turns of the tunnel are an enemy in themselves, I can’t recall where I have been and don’t have a clue where the hell I am going.  A rusty stairwell hidden amongst the rubble presents itself, fresh bodies scattered amongst them, their lifeless eyes watch as I make my way up two steps at a time.  I’m running blind for what feels like hours when I find him.
The chamber is large with an extremely high ceiling, I’ve not got a clue what the facility was used for but given the decrepit appearance of the walls I knew the room was original.  In their best attempt to add some regalia to this place, banners hang from high columns, a large rug ran most of the length of the room, richly embellished tables and upholstery’s lay ruined about.  My eyes are drawn to the barely moving body slumped against a column to the right. 

His breath is slow, his face looks cracked and rigid, far more ancient than even his normal appearance.  He barely turns his head as he speaks, “A little late, aren’t we Kade?”  His right hand is clasped tight to his left side, the blood clots between the fingers of his glove.  The column provides little in the way of pressure to the exit wound and a small puddle of crimson gathers underneath my master.  As if sensing the thoughts going through my mind he chuckles, “hmph, I’ll be just fine, seen a hell of a lot worse.”  My eyes are drawn to the center of the room to the man sized body laying broken on its side, the red carpet multiple shades darker surrounding it.  I have hunted this monster for months, my pride lies shattered alongside the corpse on the carpet, its crimson halo mocking me. 

I slowly make my way to the lifeless mound half curled up on this elegant rug.  Eight months have passed from the time I pledged my service to the man I came to know as Fabian Netzoch.  Eight months of chasing shadows, of watching every attempt of capture fail.  Eight months paved in the blood of our enemies and allies.  The beasts has clad itself in clothes richly embellished, far nicer than my own, nicer than Fabian’s even.  I roll it over and finally see the monster for myself.  I stare into the dead eyes of a man probably in his late fifties.  His facial hair neatly trimmed.  His teeth grimacing a pearlescent sheen, a photocopied image of his last moment now forever etched in the memory of his muscles.  I can imagine the look of surprise on my own face, when Fabian’s voice breaks the silence. 

“Kade, I have groomed your mind for this moment and will continue to do so for as long as the God-Emperor allows of this weak frame.  I have watched you tested to your limits time and time again and have no doubt I will see you further tested, further broken, always unconquered, but know this my pupil.  There may come a time when you and I are no longer able to see eye to eye, where we may become so different as to consider each other an enemy.  So too will this be said for every man, woman, or child you find while in the service of this holy order.  May the Emperor grant us both strength and watch over us, for I tell you to consider this the rule, not the exception.  I told you we would hunt the monsters that threaten to swallow humanity, but what makes us human Kade? Is it our never ending resolve to triumph and claim the stars?  Is it our inability to accept defeat? Ha, no my pupil.  What makes us human, is that within each one of us lies the seed of heresy and damnation.  You will remember this day my pupil, ‘til the end of yours days.  You will see it every time you look in the mirror from this moment forward, trust me.”

That was ten years ago.  The old man was right.