Ahriman: Exile

Ahriman: Exile by John French Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: Ahriman: Exile by John French Read Free Book Online
Authors: John French
Tags: Ciencia ficción
red lacquer. Ahriman was silent, watching the figure that stepped through the hatch. She was tall and moved with a precise smoothness that reminded him of a pair of callipers tracing arcs across parchment. A hooded robe of ragged black fabric covered her form, dragging on the floor as she stepped closer. Mechadendrites attached to her back released the hatch’s outer handle and coiled to her back like metal-scaled snakes. Her eyes were glowing green augmetics.
    ‘I have been sent by your master,’ she said, and he could not miss the bitterness in the words. Still he did not move. Shape and form were no binding on those who knew the mysteries of the warp, or the creatures it spawned. ‘He sent me to summon you to his presence.’
    She stepped closer, and now he realised that she wore no mask; the cracked red lacquer was her face. He also saw the collar of beaten iron circling her neck. Jagged runes ran across its surface, their shapes shadowed by the blood that had dried in their recesses. It was a slave collar, sealed around the neck while still hot. The runes were Maroth’s work, crude channels for pain and coercion. He let his mind brush hers, felt the hard lines of implanted logic and the rage simmering beneath.
    ‘I was sent to bring you,’ she said. There was a note of defiance in her voice. She would be no easy slave for the Harrowing. There was an imperious poise to her, a quality that made him fancy that he could see a glimmer of scorn in her artificial gaze. She was no tech-priest of Mars, though, he could tell that at a glance. She was something else, another outcast or renegade. Fragmented facts assembled in his mind and he realised what she was, at least in part.
    ‘You are the tech-priest, Carmenta. This was your ship, was it not?’ She did not reply. At her back her mechadendrites spasmed briefly, as if responding to a suddenly repressed impulse. ‘You should be careful,’ he said as he bent down to repack and seal the crate. ‘Gzrel does not like defiance that does not serve him. He likes his slaves broken and obedient.’
    ‘I see why you survived so long.’ He almost laughed, but instead shook his head and picked up his black beak-fronted helm. Most humans looked on Space Marines with awe and fear; she showed no such reaction. Amongst creatures like Gzrel and his Harrowing, any other response was dangerous. She would learn, or die before she did.
    ‘Do you know why my lord summons me?’ he asked as he walked to the open hatch.
    ‘Another ship has found us,’ she said. He almost stopped in surprise. If the ship had come from the warp then he should have felt the psychic bow wave as it ripped back into reality. Also there were no alarms, no shaking of the Titan Child as it fired its weapons. When ships met in these regions the outcome was always written in blood.
    Carmenta filled the silence, as if sensing part of his questions. ‘It is a warship,’ she said.
    Gzrel must be nervous, he thought. The Harrowing were still struggling to wake the Titan Child , even with its former mistress as a slave, and the Blood Crescent was a carrion thief rather than a warrior. Gzrel would not want to risk his prize in a fight he could not be sure of winning.
    ‘The ship has hailed us and requested that they send an emissary to speak with your lord,’ continued Carmenta.
    ‘They wish to treat with us?’
    ‘They say they are seeking something and are willing to give great rewards if aided.’ Ahriman felt suddenly chill, but could not say why.
    ‘He has called us to discuss whether to receive this emissary, then?’ he asked as he stepped through the hatch after Carmenta. She made a low sound that might have been a laugh.
    ‘No. Your lord has agreed. The emissary is already here.’
    For a moment Ahriman thought he heard a chuckle fading in the gloom of his chamber before the hatch clanged shut.

III – Visitation
    III
    Visitation
    They were waiting for Ahriman. Gzrel had decided to meet the emissary

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