Harvester (completed)

Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim, dark future there is only war.

Harvester (completed)

Postby Bod the inquisitor » Sun Mar 27, 2011 6:29 pm

Well I did not managed to post the complete story on the old forum so here we go again only here its in full completed. Oh and thank you to everyone how's been following this piece over on the old Bolthole. I'm hoping that the ending is not to much of a disappointment :)

EDIT NOTE 23/10/2011: Recently my beta reader suggested they look at this piece despite my having already published it here. Which is just as well, alongside the usual punctuation mistakes I had even managed to misspell two characters names and brought one character back to life :oops: I think this perfectly highlights the importance of having a beta reader, I went through the piece several times and yet these mistakes still got through, damn sloppy work, damn sloppy :cry:
Last edited by Bod the inquisitor on Sun Oct 23, 2011 10:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Harvest (completed)

Postby Bod the inquisitor » Sun Mar 27, 2011 6:31 pm

Part One:

Sergeant Dakan Lucin watched scout Hasrin Fringa approach, he was a lean man of average height with long limbs, who normally moved with a quiet economy of motion, so typical of scouts, yet absent now as the man hurried down the forest trail. Lucin was the opposite to Fringa, short and stocky with a face dominated by a hooked nose and deep blue eyes he had few distinguishing features, other than a small nick in his right ear, close cropped red hair hid under his guard issue helmet.

Little vegetation other than the closely packed tall evergreen trees whose bark was as smooth and unwrinkled as freshly pressed paper grew in the forest which gave relatively clear lines of sight. Unusually there was little sign of animal life in the forest and there was a slight oppressive feel to the place that Lucin was largely trying to ignore. As the scout drew closer Lucin noticed the normally quiet calm mans eyes darted from side to side watching the silent still forest around him. Something was troubling the scout. Lucin did not know what it was yet but he knew it was something that he should be concerned about. He had not known the scout for long but he was not used to seeing him openly display emotions like that, the man was one of life's quiet observers.

Fringa stopped half a metre in front of Lucin, a strained look on his face.

“Sergeant, scout Rimbon requests that you come forward, we've found . . . we've found something,” he said.

Lucin tried not to show his surprise at the scout's odd behaviour.

“May I ask what you and Rimbon have found scout Fringa?” he asked.

“It's perhaps best that you come look for yourself sergeant,” replied the scout his usual emotionless expression reasserting itself.

“Umm well lead the way then.”

As scout Fringa turned to walk back up the trail Lucin turned to trooper Lendock beside him.

“Hold the line here but don't let them disperse we might have to get moving quickly.”

“Yes sarge,” replied Lendock.

Lucin nodded and began following the scout up the trail. This was proving to be a more troubling mission than he had first thought, when the captain had given it to him two days ago.

Lucin's regiment the 343rd Mordashian light infantry had come to Dransin three months before to put down a vicious rebellion that had broken out in the northern sectors of the planets largest continent. The rebels were from some minor imperial sect that was highly puritanical in their beliefs; they claimed the Imperial Governor and his family were not true believers. The inquisition had already cleared both parties of heretical believes and ordered the guard in to quell the rebellion, but the highly religious nature of the rebels meant the war had turned into a bitter and brutal affair. Particularly on the side of the rebels, recently evidence of awful atrocities in those areas they controlled had emerged.

Many in the planetary government had tried to deny that these were the work of the rebels; they could just not bring themselves to believe that people from their planet could be that savage. Yet when the rebels had launched a massive surprise counter attack that had forced the guard and loyal PDF into a fighting retreat, they had soon demanded that the Imperial guard assist in the evacuation of civilians from areas the rebels attack threatened to overwhelm. Those were troops that the guard could ill afford to lose yet they had been forced to when three unarmed civilian convoys had been attacked by small rebel units that had managed to get through the often fractured imperial lines.

Now Sergeant Lucin found himself and his squad along with two scouts from the regiments scout company playing nursemaid to twenty civilians. Not that his superiors cared about his opinion but he thought the whole thing a complete waste of resources. This was a job for the local loyal PDF not highly trained veteran imperial guard infantry like his men.

Lucin was so deep in thought he did not notice the ten meter wide clearing until he entered it, he mentally chastised himself for allowing his attention to wander.

In the centre of the clearing was a kneeling figure hunched over as if in prayer, head pressed to the forest floor. Lucin did not need to be told that whoever the person was they were dead now.

He cautiously approached the dead body, bitter experience had taught him to be wary of everything in a situation like this. Stopping three metres from the body he looked around the clearing for any sign of scout leader Fra Rimbon an exceptional scout and one of the best the regiment could muster. She was tall and lean with a muscular physic yet womanly. Usually her shoulder length black hair was worn in a tight scalp stretching bun which made Lucin wonder why she kept her hair so long, deep green eyes dominated an otherwise unremarkable face, though she could hardly be called beautiful she was not exactly plain either.

As if on cue Rimbon emerged from the forest on Lucin's right a deep thoughtful expression etched into her normally impassive face. Fixing Lucin with those deep green eyes she wordlessly beckoned him over, he knew better than to question her methods and so simply walked over to her.

Without a word the scout stepped back into the forest and walked straight over to one of the infrequent ground bushes. Pulling its branches to one side she revealed a grisly sight. The ground was covered in a thick layer of blood that was beginning to thicken and coagulate with exposure to air.

“An hour two at the most,” she said in her usual crisp and to the point manner.

“Anything to say its human?” asked Lucin.

Rimbon did not reply letting her silence answer Lucin's question.

“Yeah, stupid question really,” said Lucin.

He turned looking back at the dead figure in the centre of the clearing, there was a clear line of sight, Rimbon anticipated his question.

“I've only given him a cursory examination and found no obvious wounds or signs of massive blood loss. There are some strange tracks that circle him but they do not approach to within two metres,” she said.

Rimbon's reference to the tracks was not lost on Lucin, if she could not identify them then something odd was afoot, though that at least answered the question about scout Fringa's behaviour. It would certainly be off putting to see your cherished mentor stumped like that: particularly one with Rimbon's reputation.

Slowly Lucin walked back towards the dead body scanning the ground as he moved. Even his relatively untrained eye easily picked out the circle of tracks. At first glance they looked to be made by some cloven hoofed creature but then Lucin spotted the tell tale marks that only claws could make, two at the front of each cloven hoof and another at the rear of the strange foot.

Rimbon appeared beside Lucin without him noticing her approach.

“There is always something new to learn Sergeant and it can often come from the strangest of places. Whatever this thing is its bipedal but beyond that there's nothing more I can tell you,” she said.

Lucin rose and started to walk over to the dead body, Rimbon beside him impossibly quiet: despite being so close. Once again Lucin's respect for the quiet scout went up a notch, though a small hint of jealously at her Emperor given abilities peaked for a moment.

Reaching the figure Lucin bent down and rolled it over, carefully watching for any possible hidden traps or marks, there were none. It turned out to be a man in his early forties with brown hair about average size and height for this planet. His face was screwed up tight and locked in place as if he was desperately trying not to look at something. A close examination revealed no distinguishing marks or signs of death, an unbidden thought popped into Lucin's head.

“Scared to death perhaps, the rebels have been pulling some very odd things to scare the civilians,” he said, not even sure why he had had such an idea.

“Including planting tracks,” replied Rimbon.

“I wouldn't put anything past those religious nuts scout Rimbon; I've heard that they use wild animals to eat captives, generally alive at the time, in public executions.”

“I've seen no other tracks and certainly no sign of human tracks, but as I said anything is possible sergeant,” said Rimbon.

“Well whatever, we had best police up this sight and get moving staying here is an invite to the rebels in this area that I'm not prepared to give. Particularly if they have some wild animal with a taste for human flesh with them,” said Lucin.
Last edited by Bod the inquisitor on Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Harvest (completed)

Postby Bod the inquisitor » Sun Mar 27, 2011 6:32 pm

Part two:

Once again Lucin's thoughts returned to the strange scene they had uncovered earlier. It had been several hours ago and he just could not put the odd incident behind him. Lucin had the feeling he was missing something; though the sergeant had no idea exactly what it was he was missing.

Looking up the trail he spied movement which quickly resolved itself into the familiar shape of scout Fringa, wearing that same harried look he'd worn before.

“Again?” asked Lucin as soon as the scout stopped in front of him.

Without waiting for an answer he turned to Lendock.

“Yeah sarge halt the line and don't let um disperse,” said Lendock.

With his orders anticipated Lucin once again followed Fringa up the forest trail, knowing he probably would not like what he was about to be shown.

This time he saw the clearing before reaching it, larger than the first one had been and there was no body in the middle of it; a discovery that did not diminish the apprehension building in the pit of his stomach. Rimbon's confusion over those tracks was causing no end of discomfort for the sergeant.

Lucin saw Rimbon standing just to the left of the trails exit point on the far edge of the clearing. Seeing no reason not to, he picked up his pace and quickly crossed the empty space. Despite his mounting uneasiness he wanted to know what the scout had found this time. Lucin believed the unknown was more dangerous than the known.

“At least there is no body this time,” he remarked.

“Not a complete one at least, though I'm not sure if that's an improvement or not sergeant,” she replied with no hint of emotion in her voice.

She stepped forward and pulled one of the bushes lining the edge of the clearing aside, revealing a sight more akin to a butchers offal bin.

“There's two more piles exactly like this, one two meters to the left of this one seven metres into the forest, the other is just to the right of the trail eleven metres from the clearing edge. All are only a few hours old, I found trails leading from the clearing edge to those other two sites, running trails,” said Rimbon.

“Human?” asked Lucin.

“Yes, an ambush someone was trying to stop or at least put off someone or something from following: it went wrong. There's more. Three sets of tracks leading away from the trail into the forest with some basic attempts at disguising them, a group of humans scattered into three groups of four-five people in each,” replied the scout.

Lucin thought he could detect a note of tension in the lead scout's voice but as this was the longest speech he'd heard her give he could not be sure. He was not sure if he was projecting his own disquiet at the findings, it was not something he was prone to doing or at least had not been in the past.

“The rebels?” asked Lucin trying to keep the strain he felt from his own voice.

“Unsure sergeant, though I did find two imprints like those we found before,” said Rimbon.

“So it's the same group as before then?”

“That or there is more than one of those things about sergeant,” replied Rimbon pausing for a moment, “I found some odd marks on trees one meter from the edge of each pile of organs and skin,” she said as she walked over to a tree, then pointed up to a spot that Lucin knew he would never have looked at in the first place.

Just below the first branch about three metres up the tree were six holes, four were in two pairs the fifth was on its own above the pairs forming a triangular shape. The upper edge of each looked rough and torn; it reminded Lucin of the type of cut a serrated edge made when it was withdrawn. It was only because of the smooth nature of the trees bark that the puncture wounds could be seen, that and Rimbon's shear talent at tracking. Few would have even thought about checking the surrounding trees for marks.

“The other two are the same alone and on the side of a tree, what made it I cannot say,” said Rimbon a slight hint of hurt pride in her voice.

“Something that flies perhaps,” said Lucin he was wondering if the rebels had some kind of large predatory bird.

“Unknown sergeant, there are some really strange animals on this planet, many like nothing I've seen before and as you said before the rebels are known to use animals.”

“Umm yes,” said Lucin as he turned back to the pile of offal and blood.

Something in the pile of butchered organs caught his attention; he reached for his bayonet.

“What's this?” he said hooking the object on the tip of his bayonet he lifted it gently revealing military dog tags on their chain.

“I . . . sorry sergeant but I missed that,” there was a real uncertainty in Rimbon's voice.

“Don't worry about it scout Rimbon no one's perfect,” said Lucin trying to reassure her, knowing his clumsy attempts would not be enough, she was just not used to making mistakes.

Lucin reached into a pocket on his combat trousers and pulled out a rag so he could clean the dog tags.

“Its Jun from third platoon eighth company,” he said.

“They left a day before us sergeant, I remember as they had scouts Kinlock and Frin with them,” said Rimbon.

“Didn't get very far did they,” stated Lucin.

“They had several older people in their civilian group,” replied Rimbon her usual composed quiet nature imposing itself once again.

“Well whatever, we'd best keep moving, whatever those damn rebels are using has probably chased off after one of those groups you tracked. We have a chance of getting passed them before they come back to this trail, perhaps they'll miss us altogether.”

“Yes perhaps,” replied Rimbon though it was clear by the tone of her voice she was not convinced.
Last edited by Bod the inquisitor on Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Harvest (completed)

Postby Bod the inquisitor » Sun Mar 27, 2011 6:34 pm

Part three:

Lucin quietly checked his watch and made a quick estimate of the distance they had covered since that second clearing, it came to about five miles which he thought was good, considering the civilians were not used to such a pace and had done it without complaint. The sergeant whispered a quick prayer of thanks to the Emperor for small mercies, he was very grateful that the civilians had not complained about the harsh pace. Lucin did not know where it came from but he had an intense urge to get as far away from those grisly sites as he could. He could not quite shake the feeling that lives depended upon it.

Though none of the civilians had asked for a rest it was obvious to the sergeant that most needed one. Lucin looked around at the forest and decided this was as good as any place to stop. There was little ground vegetation in this part of the forest which suited him; it would allow his men to keep a better watch on the forest without looking like they were. He wanted to keep the civilians calm and quiet as he knew if they panicked he'd have no chance of keeping control of the situation and he would need control if they did run into any rebels.

Fighting the impulse to keep moving he lifted his hand and borne out of pure habit gave the infantry hand signal to halt, before he remembered that the civilians would not understand it.

“Halt the line, fifteen minutes rest period pass it back,” he grumbled loud enough for the first few civilians to hear.

Slowly he turned and then began to walk down the line of civilians as they fumbled about looking for places of relative comfort in order to take a moments rest. As he watched them Lucin realised they were exhausted, some looked like they were all but asleep on their feet as they stumbled about. He had seen this before and knew he would have to say something to motivate them if he wanted to get the civilians moving again in a few minutes. These were not troopers, threats and physical violence was just not an option with them.

“Fifteen minutes, then a couple hours more and we can stop for the night, get some food and rest,” he said as he slowly weaved his way through the civilians.

“I thought we'd keep going sergeant, walk through the night we all did,” piped up one of the civilians, several murmurs of agreement quickly followed.

Lucin stopped a look of surprise flashed across his face at the comment and its apparent popularity amongst the civilians. It was totally unexpected and something he would not even expect his men to do, certainly not in a forest like this one.

“We all need rest and it's easy to get lost in a forest at night,” he replied, “You see we can't use torches it'll give away our position no point in advertising our presence to any isolated rebel groups, one or two, my men could easily beat off but light could bring them all,” he knew it was a risk bringing up the rebels but he had to find some way of keeping control, if they chose to wonder off after dark he'd never be able to round them back up.

“Rebel's I don't think any rebels would survive in here,” said a man while comforting his wife who clutched a young child to her breast; both their faces were a picture of fear. Looking around Lucin saw that same fear on several other faces, it had not been there moments before.

“Well yes, those few rebels that have gotten past our lines are going to be forced to forage for food and ther . . .” managed Lucin before he was interrupted.

“Death comes in many forms in this forest sergeant, there are thi . . .” replied the man before he was in turn interrupted.

“Oh do shut up you stupid little man, you'd be scared by your own shadow those are pure tales to frighten kiddies into being good as you well know, Harvester indeed,” snapped another of the civilians, a tall aristocratic man with greying hair.

Though he did not understand why, Lucin could not help but notice the effect the man's words had on the people surrounding him, he was not the only one.

“Look at you all, a few unwary fools get lost and die in this forest so you idiots make up some silly tale, a tale to explain stupidity, it goes against all the emperors teachings I tell you,” continued the aristocrat.

Lucin noticed the first man's wife lay a hand on his arm, he almost missed the shake of her head as she wordlessly pleaded with her husband not to react. The aristocrat saw it to and rounded on the man, the sergeant prepared to step in but held back, he wanted to see if any explanation for this sudden fear would come.

“It’s fools like you that caused this mess so I don't see any reason why we should listen to your unholy dribble,” snapped the aristocrat.

This time the younger man's wife could not stop him and he surged to his feet taking one step towards the aristocrat, fists balled body rigid with barely suppressed anger.

“I'm no heretic I follow the Emperor's teachings just like any other,” he growled.

Lucin shifted his weight preparing to move yet still unwilling to act. The first man's wife was not so unwilling and rose to her feet clutching the baby to her breast, she tugged at his arm trying to hold him back but her husband shook off her attempts.

The sergeant took that as his cue and moved, stepping between the two men before either had registered he was on the move, he'd seen this too many times to not know that a fight was imminent.

“Now this is the exact reason we need to stop, we're all tired and when tired we make mistakes and say things we shouldn't,” he said.

“With fools like this one around, I can well believe that sergeant” snapped the aristocrat before turning and storming off mumbling under his breath.

His wife leapt to her feet and followed him almost breaking into a jog her husband was moving so fast.

“Stay within sight of the group,” Lucin called after the aristocrat just before he disappeared behind a tree.

He turned to the first man and his wife shaking his head, he knew someone would have to go after the pompous aristocrat or he'd stay out there sulking like some petulant child.

The sergeant tried to soften the look on his face before he spoke.

“Please try to rest it's going to be a tough journey,” he said.

The man nodded once then he and his wife sat down, Lucin noticed the man's fists relaxed as soon as his wife laid her hand gently upon his shoulder. It told the sergeant all he needed to know about the man, he was not normally the aggressive type. That other one, his type Lucin knew well, a fool with more money than sense who thought life owed him respect, without every doing anything to earn it. As far as the sergeant was concerned it was fools like the aristocrat that had caused this problem, both the civil war that was ripping Dransin apart and lumbering him with this Emperor forsaken mission.

Shaking his head Lucin turned and set off after the aristocrat and his wife, he did not want them getting too far away, they were not people who could find their way back if they got lost.

Quickly reaching the point where he had last seen the two people he stopped and looked around but could find no sign of them. He decided against calling out, there was no point in adding to the tension caused by the argument. Instead he tapped the activation rune on his vox bead three times signalling Rimbon, then walked back towards the civilians to a position where the scout would be able to see him, she appeared in moments silently ghosting up beside him.

“Did you see that little interchange?” asked Lucin.


“That aristo and his misses are around here somewhere, I told them not to go too far but . . .” said Lucin.

“Okay,” Rimbon turned and slipped into the quiet forest disappearing from the sergeant's sight almost as soon as she had left his side, again he could not help but be impressed with the scout's skills; they were truly remarkable.

This was a perfect example of why Lucin hated this kind of mission. If one of his troopers had pulled this kind of stunt he would have taken his fists to them, he had found the stupid ones only learnt their lessons if it came with a beating. He wasn't comfortable with the idea and it had been a long time since he'd had to do that with any of his current squad, but it worked.

Not that he was all hard, he could be farir and tried to get the best billets and rations for his men whenever possible, something he knew the squad appreciated. They knew if they performed well for him he'd do his best for them and try to keep as many of them alive as he could, not that that was an easy task in the imperial guard. However, as much as Lucin wanted to, the sergeant knew he could not meat out the same military discipline to the civilians as he would his own men, he'd just have to work around that fact.

Movement out in the forest caught Lucin's attention breaking his train of thought; it quickly resolved into Rimbon, she had found something already. He moved off carefully picking his way through the forest taking care that any exposed tree roots did not snag his feet and send him for a tumble. When he reached Rimbon she held out a clump of dark fabric its edges frayed, it was also soaked in blood.

“They both walked into this space one body fell to the ground, from the fabric I'd say the woman; she struggled a little, then . . . gone,” said Rimbon.

“Gone,” asked Lucin, he thought he could detect a hint of hesitancy in Rimbon's voice; it was a little unnerving for him.

“They just came in and . . . whoosh they’re gone, if it was the rebels I'd see tracks. No one is that good, well no one human I've heard tell the Eldar are another matter,” said Rimbon, but Lucin could see she was about to say more, “No I think it's our mysterious animal . . . we've both seen evidence of its activities,” she finished.

“You mean this harvester thing some of the civilians think exists in this forest,” replied Lucin.

“That's clearly a local myth sergeant, but myths are often rooted in real events, we've both seen some strange things during our service to the Emperor.”

Lucin looked back towards the civilians, he thought he could see several standing and looking at the two of them. That nagging feeling he was missing something came back to him, he was still not convinced this was all the work of some kind of animal. He was certain the rebels had something to do with it though he just could not figure it out.

“Well whatever happened we'd best get those people away from here, throne I think I want to be away from here. Get forward and see if you can find somewhere relatively safe to make camp, anything that could be slightly defensible would be nice,” he said eventually.

Rimbon did not reply, she stared impassively out into the forest for a moment then set off for the front of the line and her fellow scout.
Last edited by Bod the inquisitor on Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Ordos: Lectorformator

Enter my children,
Enter and join the betrayed,
Enter and leave the light,
Enter and forever join the ranks of the damned.

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Re: Harvest (completed)

Postby Bod the inquisitor » Sun Mar 27, 2011 6:36 pm

Part four:

The distinctive sound of discharging las rifles wormed its way into Lucin's sleep addled mind. He was on his feet and moving; crouched in a combat run distinctive of all soldiers racing towards fighting, before he even realised he was awake and active. As sleep cleared from his mind the red tinted combat lamps dotted about the camp site gave Lucin the momentary impression the forest had been washed in blood.

Disturbed by the sudden burst of activity and noise around them the civilians began to wake up. Several of the quicker witted amongst them realised what might be happening and the inevitable question floated out of the night.

“Are we under attack?”

Lucin was disinclined to answer the question and even if the sergeant wanted to he could not, after all he did not know himself. All he knew was that the firing came from the western side of his meagre defensive positions.

Lucin activated his vox bead breaking his own order for vox silence.

“Lead, who's firing and at what report,” he said an instant before the firing stopped.

“Every one sign,” he whispered into his vox bead, there was always more than one way to get an answer.

In no time all, but two of the squad had signed in, troopers Lendock and Hunfan dependable if a little lazy when not in the field, if they had been killed the sergeant knew he had a real problem as he no longer had a left flank.

“Rimbon and Guhad converge left POF,” he whispered into the vox bead indicating his concerns with a simple code, any one infiltrating his lines would now be exposed to fire from three sides.

When he reached the spot Hunfan should have occupied he was not surprised to find Rimbon was already there, though he was almost on top of the scout leader before he saw her. Corporal Han Guhad was the last to appear though only a mere second behind Lucin. Guhad was an excellent soldier but his kind nature had and would continue to limit his advancement beyond his current position. The corporal knew it but refused to compromise his principles. He confirmed what Lucin already knew, Lendock was missing to.

Rimbon did not need to be told what to do, she disappeared into the pitch black forest, moving to investigate the two missing troopers, she was the only one who could do the job in the heavy darkness that nightfall had brought.

The scout was not gone long before she reappeared, the distinctive shapes of two las rifles cradled under one arm and a Mordashian issue guard helmet clutched in her hand. Once Rimbon was standing before Lucin the distinctive smell of fresh blood filled his nostrils. The scout had found the two rifles and helmet close to each other but there was no sign of the two missing troopers and no tracks.

Lucin did not get a chance to ask any of a thousand questions as shouting erupted from back amongst the civilians.

“By the Emperor, have pity,” rang out from several different voices.

Lucin instantly realised it was trouble from within, his troopers were not firing. He was not sure if he would have preferred a rebel attack. Then a las round shot up into the night disappearing through the canopy high over head.

“Stop where you are or I'll shoot,” shouted trooper Vinca Drasbun.

Lucin's vox bead crackled into life.

“Sergeant, three civilians are making off with supplies,” reported trooper Renin Sangan, Drasbun's partner on the opposite side of the camp.

Lucin hesitated for a moment, if they were troopers he'd have order them shot without hesitation, but these were civilians he had been ordered to protect and could not just shoot them out of hand. Yet the sergeant knew that letting them go or arresting them were not options either. It did not sit well but Lucin knew he had no choice.

“Shoot to kill we need all the supplies we can get,” he snapped into his vox mic.

Rimbon started at the order clearly not expecting it, for a moment it looked like she would question the order, but nothing came.

More las shots rang out as Lucin and the other two made their way back to the camp site; despite himself Lucin flinched at each shot. Yet a small part of him, a part he kept deeply buried took some pleasure in the act, he'd never wanted this mission and anything that would help him complete it with minimum of trouble was fine by him. Let the civilians fear him more than the unknowns out in the forest, it would keep them in line, keep more of them alive in the long run and that was what this mission was all about.

As they rejoined the camp site Guhad stopped to take up a guard position and re-establish some protection for that flank. Lucin knew his friend wanted as little to do with the shooting as possible and they needed someone to watch to the east anyway, this little fracas was bound to bring any rebels in the area running.

Lucin and Rimbon soon reached Sangan and Drasbun's position, Drasbun reported that one of the civilians was dead another had escaped after dropping his stolen pack of supplies and a third was injured. Sangan was out collecting the stolen supplies while the injured civilian; a woman lay dazed and cowering at Drasbun's feet, a las rifle muzzle wavering above her head, an unspoken threat of death.

The woman clutched at her left arm where she'd been shot, the wound had been cauterised by the hot las round so there was little blood. She wore a look of abject fear and flinched as Rimbon knelt beside her to tend to the las wound, no doubt she expected to die like her accomplice.

Lucin's heart sank and a nub of guilt settled in his stomach at the sight of her fear, his anger at the civilian's cowardice was instantly dispelled and the sergeant knew this would be yet another act he'd have to add to his tally for confession when he next saw the regimental chaplain.

He watched Rimbon work on the wound efficiently cleaning and binding it with a precision the sergeant was not sure he could have achieved despite his training and experience. It was no surprised to Lucin to find the scout had more than the basic capabilities at field medi-care.

The noisy return of Sangan drew Lucin's attentions away from the injured woman. Sangan dropped two large packs to the ground slightly breathless from carrying their weight despite his general fitness; the packs were jammed with vital supplies that the group could ill afford to lose. Their recovery went some way to easing Lucin's guilt at ordering the shootings.

“Good shot from Drasbun right through the head,” said Sangan a slight note of satisfaction in his words typical of the man. “You want me and Drasbun to go after the other one sarge?” he asked.

“What for trooper,” snapped Lucin, “Anyway he made his decision and we can't spare the man power not with Lendock and Hunfan gone,” he said.

The conversation was suddenly interrupted by a scream that came bounding out of the dark forest, it bounced about the trees making it difficult to tell from which direction the scream had come from. Yet the pain and fear that fuelled the scream was clear to all.

Lucin and the other soldiers reacted instantly their weapons up and aimed out into the dark forest watching, waiting for any sign they were under attack. The screaming stopped as suddenly as it had begun but none of the soldiers dropped their guard. The seconds ebbed away, the tension building with each passing moment as they waited. Amongst the whimpers of fear and prayers to the Emperor for protection a single word could be heard whispered: Harvester. The civilians tried to take what comfort they could that whatever was out there would have to go through the guardsmen before it could reach them; they hoped it would give them time to escape. Some, those that believed the old myths knew it would not be enough.
Last edited by Bod the inquisitor on Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Harvest (completed)

Postby Bod the inquisitor » Sun Mar 27, 2011 6:38 pm

Part five:

Lucin stifled a yawn as he walked, it had been a long night standing watch, though he took a small measure of pride in the fact that not one of his men had complained about the lack of sleep. He knew he would have to go easy on them today and it was essential they got some rest tonight though he could not think how to do that, not while they were still in this forest.

The tension within the group was getting worse it was almost palpable and tiredness was the primary cause. It was going to lead to a mistake that might cost lives and Lucin knew it. Yet he still could not shake the feeling and desire he had to keep moving, he really did not want to be in this forest anymore.

Several times he had asked the civilians about the Harvester but they had refused to be drawn on the topic. That at least was something Lucin was used to, he had seen it countless times before. He had found a common belief held on many imperial planets was that talking about an evil drew that malevolent creature's attention; it was not a superstition he believed in. There were many evils in the galaxy aliens, the ruinous powers and even other humans, none seemed to need an invitation to visit destruction and ruin upon imperial citizens.

The sudden eruption of las fire from the rear of the column brought an instant response from both Lucin and the civilians despite their tiredness. Several civilians, their nerves frayed beyond their ability to endure started to whimper, others whispered prayers of deliverance and protection.

“Keep them moving!” shouted Lucin at Drufan as he turned and started running towards the firing.

As he rushed passed the line of civilians he opened a vox channel and tried to reach Guhad who along with trooper Sunden was acting as rear guard, he got no answer.

The firing had stopped by the time Lucin passed the last civilian; it had only lasted mere seconds. He unslung his rifle flicking the shot selector to automatic fire and slowed his pace.

If Guhad had followed standard procedure he and Sunden should have been ten metres behind the last civilian, Lucin quickly came within sight of the position he estimated the two men should have reached when the firing had started, yet he could not see them even though there was little ground vegetation for cover. He slowed his pace even more and brought his rifle up to his shoulder, hunched over the weapon trigger finger caressing the rifles trigger he crept forward cautiously.

Lucin fought a desire to call out to his friend, it was a rookie's mistake and one that was uncharacteristic for him, he briefly wondered where the need had come from but before he could dwell on the question he noticed a leg and arm poking out from behind a tree several metres down the track. Even from this distance he knew they were clothed in his regiment's uniform and it looked like whoever it was lay slumped up against the tree. Tensely he worked his way up and around the tree, all the time searching for any signs it was a trap. Dropping to one knee Lucin swept the surrounding forest checking one more time for any signs of a possible ambush before he risked a glance at the prone trooper, he sighed with relief when he saw it was Guhad.

Satisfied he was in no immediate danger he reached out and checked the corporal's pulse, it was weak but steady. Looking closer Lucin could see that Guhad had sustained a head injury a trail of blood on the tree bough suggested it was the cause, someone with incredible strength must have thrown the corporal hard against the tree, but what was another question. The man was not exactly light and neither was he a push over in close combat.

The sudden appearance of Rimbon snapped Lucin out of his dark reverie and he looked up at the scout leader.

“Sunden,” he said the name loaded with meaning.

Rimbon nodded once turned and then strode off to look for any sign of the missing trooper, though both knew she would not find any, but neither was willing not to look.

Activating his vox bead he ordered the squad to bring the civilians to a halt and set guard positions, despite his better judgment he let the squad know that Sunden was missing and Guhad was injured. He had no way of knowing if the rebels had broken the guard vox transmissions but he wanted to be honest with the men, it may go some way to relieving their tension, he hoped.

He did not wait for an answer, under these conditions the squad operated a minimal vox transmission policy, instead he busied himself with cleaning and bandaging Guhad's wound unwilling to wait for the more talented Rimbon to return. Guhad was his friend after all.

While he worked troopers Humblin and Drufan appeared, they took one look at Guhad and without being asked set about making a stretcher for the unconscious corporal. Lucin realised he would have to work out a rota for carrying the injured corporal, he could not expect any one man to burden the extra weight for too long, not with everyone being as tired as they were.

Rimbon returned from her fruitless search while the two troopers were off to one side looking for material to construct the stretcher. They only had enough spare rifles for one pole and would need to find suitable branches for a second.

“Anything?” asked Lucin.

“Nothing more than before,” replied the scout “Not that I expected anything else,” she added in an uncharacteristic dejected tone as she produced a set of bloody dog tags and another rifle also covered in blood. “It looks like he was skinned and gutted sergeant, the speed sergeant,” she continued.

Lucin finished packing away the med kit he had been using and took the bloody rifle from Rimbon and started to clean it.

“Yes its one strange kind of animal,” he said.

“Strange sergeant, we've both experienced some strange events during our service to the emperor but this. Animals usually eat, they don't skin things. Once I did come across an animal that gutted it's prey, but skinning them, that's odd sergeant, odd,” replied Rimbon.

“What are you trying to say scout Rimbon we have a Xeno race active on this planet, Eldar pirates perhaps or Tyranids, it certainly isn't Orks, they'd take the whole body and would leave tracks even I could follow,” snapped Lucin unsure where the sudden anger at Rimbon had come from.

The scout did not appear to notice: a thoughtful look crept across her face.

“Well, I've not encountered the Tyranids before personally that is, only second hand accounts, Eldar pirates perhaps,” she shook her head, “No it just . . . . . . it just does not feel right,” she finished turned and started to walk back towards the main group, before she had walked three paces she stopped turned and strode back to Lucin who stood to meet her, she leant into him.

“This whole place just does not feel right sergeant something is out there, something . . . it's like . . . it's like it infects the very forest somehow . . . nothing feels right here not even the vegetation,” she whispered into Lucin's ear, without another word she straightened turned and strode away.
Last edited by Bod the inquisitor on Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Harvest (completed)

Postby Bod the inquisitor » Sun Mar 27, 2011 6:39 pm

Part six:

Sergeant Lucin bit in to the high energy biscuit from his combat ration pack while surreptitiously watching the four civilians sat around Guhad's make shift stretcher. Their dedication to the job had impressed him despite his general dark mood. As soon as he and his men had returned with the unconscious corporal they had stepped forward and offered to help. Even now while taking a rest period the four had not left the side of the stretcher choosing to eat their meal on station. It was as if they did not want to leave their charge for a moment, though why they would show such dedication to a man they hardly knew was a question Lucin preferred not to dwell on, he only wished some of the other civilians showed the same solidarity.

Then he spied the group of six civilians that were increasingly causing him concern; they had begun to congregate at breakfast this morning. It had started small, as these things inevitably did, then two had gone off to talk to others and the group had grown. Talking intently, yet falling silent whenever Lucin or one of his men drew close enough to hear them. It had all the classic signs of trouble Lucin had long come to recognise, though he did find it interesting that civilians and soldiers would act so alike in so many ways yet be gulfs apart in others.

Unbidden a thought popped into Lucin's mind, at least four of that troublesome group had volunteered to take the majority of the supplies redistributed from the four people who carried Guhad's stretcher. He looked closer at the group and realised one of them was the very man who had suggested the redistribution in the first place. Lucin knew what that meant if he did not act and soon, those six people carried the majority of the supplies.

The sergeant's shoulders slumped as he realised he was not sure what to do or even if he could be bothered to do anything. Last night should have been a clear warning to all, there was a murdering blood thirsty killer out there. It was a killer that had brought down three armed men while under fire. How could six unarmed civilians fare against something like that and if they were fool hardy enough to even contemplate it who was he to stop them.

He watched as the groups apparent leader stood, unsurprisingly it was the same man that had suggested the supplies switch. Lucin shook his head in disgust he did not really have to hear what the man was going to say to know what it would be about. It was little more than a suicide bid, but Lucin could not muster the strength or desire to try and stop them.

“Right anyone who wants to come with us is free to come, we're going back. We were fools to leave our homes even the rebels are better than being led to the slaughter like this,” said the man.

The only response Lucin could muster was a long slow shake of his head from side to side.

“The only thing you'll find back there is death and not a nice one either,” he eventually managed to say.

“Hah we only have your word for that and it's not like you've been able to keep people alive out here,” snapped the man pausing a second before continuing, “This place is not for the unwary and you lead us around it like we're on holiday not caring that we've lost four of our number,” the man's voice was thick with sarcasm.

Lucin watched as Sangan, ever the hot head and to his surprise Drufan fell out of their guard positions and moved on the man, angry looks flashed across their faces. They had lost three of their number and the much loved corporal was still unconscious. Lucin knew how they felt and was thankful for their obvious support; he wished he could still muster the energy to be so active. They looked to him as they moved, looking for his permission to dispense some quick barrack room justice. He hesitated for a moment contemplating the idea but knew in his heart it was wrong he would lose them all if he allowed that, ever so slightly with a shake of his head he said no. They stopped dead a look of confusion on Drufan's face which was replaced by resignation as he turned and walked back to his guard post. Sangan took longer to respond he stared at the man who had spoken for a long moment before shooting Lucin a venomous look as he strode back to his guard position.

Lucin knew he should be angry with both Sangan and the civilians he was just too tired and could not see the point in wasting any more energy. If the civilians wanted to crawl off into the forest and die then so be it, why should it be any of his concern. This whole mission was a waste of valuable men and no way for loyal imperial guardsmen to meet their end. He had always told his men that a guardsman should die killing the emperor's enemies.

He watched passively as three more of the civilians got up and moved over to join the man's group. They all had to pass in front of his position but none of them looked at him, instead they stared at the ground, not even looking at those that had chosen to stay with Lucin. He could almost feel the shame radiate from each of them as they passed, it confused him for a moment before he dismissed it as his imagination. It seemed this place; this forest was getting to him more than he had first thought.

Rimbon sat down beside him before he even knew she had approached; he looked at her but quickly turned away when he saw the determination written in the features of her face. He knew before she even started to speak why she had come over to see him, he tried to pre-empt her.

“I know, I know I should stop them but short of putting them under arrest and using bodies I don't have to guard them what can I do, the fools are determined to die,” he said as he turned to look at the scout leader.

Lucin was surprised to see a look of sympathy dominate the normally reserved woman's face.

“I just don't want to lose any more of the squad than this place has taken already, this is no way for loyal guardsmen to die,” he continued before he even knew what he was doing, “It's not right that the emperor's soldiers should die in this throne forsaken place. They should die gloriously sending the emperor's enemies to whatever warp damned place they come from,” he said quietly the passion in his own voice surprised him.

Rimbon's head dropped and she whispered in a voice so quiet that Lucin barely heard it.

“It's wrong it's all wrong, this place,” she said before her head came back up and she looked at Lucin a dejected lost look that seemed so unnatural on her face. “I . . . I . . . oh what does it matter this place will consume us all . . . we should go, go now, I'd rather die trying than waiting for death to come and claim me,” she finished.

Before Lucin could think of what to say in response the scout leader rose and walked away. Her behaviour, so out of character took Lucin by surprise, he had expected Rimbon to argue against his inaction to push him into trying to stop the civilians from going. Some part of him had even hoped she would, hoped her words would have been the push he had needed to take action. This whole situation was testing him in ways he had never been tested before. After over twenty years of unending war he had finally come across something that might break him. Though he did take some small comfort in the fact that he was not the only one to be affected by this place, it only made him hate himself for taking solace in the distress of others. He watched as the nine civilians walked off into the forest wondering just what this place was doing to him and if he was ever going to get away from it.
Last edited by Bod the inquisitor on Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Harvest (completed)

Postby Bod the inquisitor » Sun Mar 27, 2011 6:40 pm

Part seven:

A second scream drifted out of the forest once again breaking the oppressive silence that had settled on the group as they trudged along the trail, like the one before it was full of pain and fear. This one sounded closer than the first had. It seemed to come from a different throat, before he could dwell upon the observation a shout followed the scream clear and coherent.

“For Emperor's sake have mercy please no noooooooo,” then it descended into another blood curdling scream which cut off suddenly.

Lucin grumbled at trooper Humblin beside him to keep the line moving before stepping to one side and slackening his own pace to allow the civilians to pass by. As they did Lucin heard several whisper the word Harvester, others whispered prayers to the fallen, knowing without being told that their comrades who had tried to walk back to the city were dying. He was not surprised that not one of the civilians asked if he would send anyone back to help, no doubt they all wanted the soldiers to stay and protect them.

The line of civilians was much shorter than it had been after all the deaths and desertions so the rear guard quickly caught up with him. They did not notice their sergeant at first; they were deep in a whispered conversation that they cut short as soon as they saw Lucin, a slightly guilty look crossed Drasbun's face while Sangan simply looked at Lucin blankly. The sergeant got the sudden impression that he was missing something but he felt so tired and dejected he really did not care what it was, despite a small part of him screaming a warning which he chose to ignore.

“Either of you seen anything,” he asked trying to inject some of his traditional gruffness into his voice, neither had.

“Well, keep an eye out, we've got good sight lines in this forest at least so you will see anything from a good distance away,” he said, he did not get a reply and did not expect one, both men looked as miserable as he felt and he could not blame them in this place.
Last edited by Bod the inquisitor on Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Ordos: Lectorformator

Enter my children,
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Enter and leave the light,
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Re: Harvest (completed)

Postby Bod the inquisitor » Sun Mar 27, 2011 6:43 pm

Part eight:

Lucin activated his vox, they had been travelling fast for the last three hours and he could see the civilians were almost dead on their feet. He knew they would continue without complaint; they seemed even more eager than he to get out of this forest. However, experience told Lucin some were ready to drop and if he did not call a stop now people would start to die; his men were in little better shape.

Reluctantly he gave the order; a few sighs of relief escaped the tight lips of several civilians as they stopped marching. Some of the civilians collapsed to the forest floor where they stopped. So tired they did not even have the strength to remove their packs before falling to the ground.

As he watched the exhausted civilians his own tired mind nagged at him something was wrong something was just not right; then it came to him the rear guard had not appeared yet. Slowly, he activated his vox fearing what he would discover. He called the two troopers; breaking vox discipline he even used their names. He repeated the call several times, but each time his only reply was a static filled vox channel.

Try as he might he could not decide what to do, he knew he should investigate. It is what he would have done in the past, why was this so different? What made it so difficult to do his job, as he had done so many times in the past? He turned away from the civilians unwilling to let them see the panicked confused look upon his face.

Then the vox bead in his ear burst into life.

“Sarge, I'm sorry, so sorry . . . it's too late we left it too late I'm sorry sergeant,” crackled Drasbun's voice, even the poor reception of the vox could not rob the man's voice of the fear that tinged every word.

The vox fell quiet for a moment before bursting into life once more with a scream that could have come from hell its self. It spoke of more pain than any human should bear, mere moments later the same scream sprang out of the forest. Lucin realised it was Drasbun, his head dropped; yes he had deserted his post, but to die like that. It was not a good death for a loyal imperial guardsman.

Again the scream burst out of the forest this time it spurred Lucin into action. Jumping to his feet he rounded on the civilians shouting at them to get moving, perhaps with luck they could outrun this thing. The civilians reacted instantly and where up and running with surprising speed, for people who moments before had appeared completely exhausted. Lucin had seen it before; fear was like no other motivator he had ever seen. His men's reaction was more of a surprise they gathered and walked over to him each and every face a picture of determination.

“Sergeant the boys have had enough, this thing's been playing us. Picking us off piece meal, it's time,” said Drufan acting as the squad's spokesman. He was the youngest member of the squad and had a mean streak Lucin had tried repeatedly to beat out of him, but had failed. The squad tolerated him as he ran a not so secret black market racket for the company, giving his squad mates reduced prices; it was probably why he had been selected as their spokesman.

“Time, Drufan,” said Lucin.

“A stand, we stay and fight, bugger the civilians they can die or fight as they wish, but we stay and fight.”

Just as Drufan finished Rimbon appeared a thunderous look etched across her face, she must have heard Drufan's comments.

“We can't just leave the civilians, our mission!” she said, glaring at Lucin as if it was all his idea.

“You can do what you want, we stay and fight. Besides if we put up enough of a fight there's a chance that thing out there will leave us alone. Probably go after the civilians as a softer target!” snapped back Drufan, there was real venom injected into his voice.

“And if it does it'll find me and Fringa there, I'll die discharging the duty I was assigned. I'll not abandon the Emperors will to save my own neck,” replied Rimbon.

Lucin stepped forward between the two before it descended into physical violence.

“I agree with both of you, Drufan remember those civilians have corporal Guhad with them. But I'm sick of running Rimbon. I want to die fighting not running that's the fate the Emperor wants for me and that's the one I want,” he said some of his legendary determination creeping back; fighting against the fear and despair that had been plaguing him all this time.

Rimbon stared at Lucin for a moment before her shoulders slumped and she turned and walked away.

“It's this place it infects people with its unnaturalness, how can you fight such a thing?” she muttered quietly to herself. It was a question Lucin had been asking himself for the past couple of days. So far he had found no answer.

Lucin turned to his men and could see the steely resolve etched into each man's face. Pride burst like an exploding shell at that moment, he could not have thought of a better bunch of soldiers to die with. He had trained them well, it was just a shame their deaths would not be for a better cause; it was just not right that such men should die in an Emperor forsaken place such as this. They deserved to die in a glorious last stand that broke an enemies attack, or die in an attack that broke open an enemy fortress. Instead they would die in this forest their bravery and courage forgotten and unrecognised.

He straightened, standing to his full height determined to act the part of the confident forthright sergeant his men had come to expect, even if he did not feel that way anymore.

“Right lets spread out in a fighting line no more than five metres between each man. Stay within sight of each other at all times,” he said, a little of his old cocksure attitude breaking through the dark dread that had swallowed so much of his confidence since he had entered this forest, “Keep your wits about you and watch the trees too, this thing may be able to climb.”

The three men, all that was left of a ten man squad simply nodded at Lucin's words before turning and walking away: leaving each man to his own thoughts as he found a fighting position.

Lucin found a perfect position tucked into the roots of a particularly large tree that gave him cover to his right and immediate front. To his right in a similar position lay Drufan. On his immediate left lay Vendra, which was why Lucin had chosen this particular spot; the lad would have been better suited to the commissary rather than a front line fighting unit. But the squad loved his cooking and to a man they all tried to look after him. The last surviving trooper, Humblin had taken position behind one of the few ground plants to grow on the forest floor. Lucin settled in to wait for the creature to appear. He did not think they would have to wait long.

It was a belief that proved all too prophetic. A scream from Humblin's position tore through the air impossibly loud and filled with pain; it ended abruptly and proved enough to break Vendra's nerve. Lucin could not blame the lad, it nearly broke his.

The young trooper leapt to his feet.

“Emperor, please don't for sake me,” he screamed before turning and running after the fleeing civilians.

A heavy thud on the tree next to Lucin drew his attention away from Vendra, but before he could look up something smacked into the soft earth beside him. Bouncing twice it took him a moment to recognise the object; it was Humblin's severed head. Blood still oozed out of the ragged mess that used to be part of the troopers neck. The trooper's face was frozen in a picture of horror and fear like none that Lucin had seen before. It turned Lucin's blood cold and his own fear grew at the grisly sight.

The sound of a wet rasping breath drew his attention away from the gruesome sight and he looked up the tree trunk beside him. Several metres up the trunk sat a massive impossibly dark patch of shadow that rippled and move as if it were a living thing. A thick muscular arm with skin as black as the deep void which ended in a hand whose fingers possessed too many joints, reached out of the shadow. With a gentleness that belayed its size and ungainliness the thing plucked the gruesome object from the ground, pinned between two long claws. Lucin was not surprised to see that the inner edge of each claw was serrated.

A wolf like snout slowly emerged from the patch of nothingness, the mouth full of row upon row of wickedly pointed spike like teeth; a long red tubular tongue slipped out of the hellish maw, licking Humblin's severed head before it was popped into the mouth. Lucin watched, truly frozen in terror for the first time in his life, he could hear the awful sound of crunching bone as the creature chewed Humblin's head.

Lucin could not tear his eyes from the shadow cloud as it rippled and moved about the awful maw that could only have been borne in the depths of hell itself. That mouth and two red burning eyes was all he could see of the unnatural creature as it slowly chewed its horrific morsel. Those eyes stared at him, pinning him in place with an inhuman force beyond anything Lucin had experienced before. He felt like his very soul was being examined, flayed bare by some awful malign intelligence, looking for something judging him measuring his worth.

Those soul searing eyes suddenly blinked out of existence and wings emerged from the rippling darkness. The creature leapt from its perch into the air, with impossible grace for something that must be so large it turned and fell upon Drufan's position. So quickly Lucin did not even have time to shout a warning.

Black legs like a birds emerged from the shadow cloud and the creature landed on two impossibly clawed hooves, each the size of a man's head. They bracketed Drufan's prone screaming form.

Despite his all consuming fear Lucin leapt to his feet.

“Emperor, protect your loyal servant,” he screamed.

Without thinking he charged the creature squeezing off a burst of automatic fire from his las rifle. The bolts struck the cloud of shadow and rebounded off its surface in random directions. They did little but provoke a roar of pure rage that burst out from the cloud in a massive wave of sound; it buffeted Lucin like a gale force wind. One of its wings sprung out of the cloud slamming into Lucin as he charged, snapping several ribs with the sheer force of the impact; one broken jagged edge drove its way into his left lung as he was lifted from his feet and sent flying.

His broken body slammed into a tree breaking even more bones and pulverising more internal organs. He slid down the trunk and came to rest in a sprawled heap. Deaths cold grip claimed Lucin as Drufin's screams of pain died, to be replaced by the sickening sound of bones being crunched and meat being consumed.
Last edited by Bod the inquisitor on Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Enter my children,
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Enter and leave the light,
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Re: Harvest (completed)

Postby Bod the inquisitor » Sun Mar 27, 2011 6:44 pm

Part nine:

The daemon prince Huganjicaj the judge was angry, angry with everything; but then he had been for a long time now. Life had been so unfair to him these last couple of thousand years. It had all started when his most bitter enemy, Jusiganum the Prince of Drukinlog had trapped him here on this backward planet, with this outrageous obligation to for fill.

The very moment he had felt that pitifully weak sergeant's death he had known his freedom had moved that little bit further away. It had been so long since he had been human; he often forgot how feeble the human body was and how easily it could be fatally damaged. He had changed so much when he ascended to daemon hood in service to his liege lord and God, the Prince of Change.

The sergeant's death could be the second unintended killing amongst this group, though Huganjicaj still hoped the corporal would survive. As long as those fools carrying him were quick enough. Huganjicaj was of half a mind to go and chase them out of the forest; give them a little motivation to move quickly. However, the daemon quickly dismissed the idea. The paltry humans were just as likely to drop the soldier killing him. Instead the daemon prince decided he would let the rest of the humans go, despite there being a number of worthy souls in the group.

Huganjicaj knew he was close to collecting the tally of worthy souls, close to completing the task he had been trapped into performing all those years ago. He did not want anything to delay that moment when he finally regained his freedom.

Jusiganum had trapped Huganjicaj here two thousand five hundred and sixty eight years ago. To free himself the daemon prince had to collect one thousand and twenty four worthy souls for his lord the Changer of Ways. A harvest that could only be made up of specific souls: the souls of those that had committed some kind of sin. Those that had betrayed another for their own gain, and so had unknowingly allowed chaos to stain their eternal souls.

It made the whole task repugnant to the daemon prince who preferred to harvest the souls of the pure. Their fear at the moment of their death was all that sweeter to the daemon. But every one of those souls he took would increase his required tally by eight, the sacred number. Huganjicaj had only eighty eight souls to collect now.

It had not proved an easy task as the daemon had been confined not only to this backward little planet but he could not leave the confines of this forest, and it had proved a slow harvest. In recent centuries the planets human population had started to avoid the forest slowing his progress even further.

Now things had changed and he had taken over one hundred souls in the past few days. It was proving the most fruitful hunting since he had started this insane task and if he kept it up he could be free in a matter of days. That is if he was careful and did not kill innocents while harvesting.

The daemon gave thanks to the Lord of Change for whatever plan of his had caused this change in Huganjicaj's predicament as he popped the skinned and gutted yet still living body of his latest victim into his mouth. This was the daemon prince's true talent prolonging the agony of his harvest. Despite the terrible wounds the guardsman's body had received it would remain alive for some time to come, feeling every cell of its physical body being digested allowing the daemon to trap its soul. Their pain and suffering would last an eternity beyond the death of their body.

Unlike his harvest Huganjicaj knew he would be free again once he had for fulfilled his obligation, then he would begin implementing his plan for revenge and it would work after all he had had over two thousand years to perfect the plan. It just could not fail to work.
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