The Gate of Screaming Skulls splits down the middle and tears asunder. The first ever uninvited guest of Commorragh stands in the broken portal. Stepping over the threshold is a creature, an abomination so horrible every head turns in the Gate’s direction, be they slave or master, dead or alive, near or far.

Skorrax the Unbroken – Warhound, World Eater, Traitor – revs his chainaxes. Gore sprays from the adamantite fangs, splattering across the hundreds of mangled corpses at his feet. Rolling his shoulders, he calmly walks into the tide of Drukhari pouring forth.

They will kill this interloper. This mon’keigh infected, perverted, twisted by the Primordial Annihilator. Their ferocity, viciousness and preternatural grace do them credit, but nothing else. They die in brief conflagrations of hate and rage so intense it blinds them.

‘Kaela Mensha,’ they whisper in awe as Skorrax’s pure, undiluted bloodlust overwhelms their finely attuned senses. The chainaxes blur through their flesh with wet growls and sickening crunches.

Archon Xeraxus of the Blade Wing Kabal takes a step back. His Incubi form a defensive perimeter around him, but Xeraxus knows this to be futile. He had seen the mon’keigh gods walk the stars an age ago. He survived then and he would do now as well.

‘What do you want?’ he hisses in the disgusting mon’keigh tongue, each word filthy and crude. He expects no response, yet Skorrax answers between disembowelling two wyches.

‘Help,’ Skorrax says, his voice so dead and calm, the stark contrast with his unbridled rage hits Xeraxus like a gut punch. The Archon waves his forces back and they comply all too willingly.

‘You don’t look in need of help,’ Xeraxus ventures, gambling his survival on diplomatic skills honed in the bloody politicking of Commorragh.

‘The Butcher’s Nails. My Nails. They are broken. None could fix it. Your kind understands pain. Maybe one of your artisans can fix it,’ Skorrax says.

‘I can guide you to one,’ Xeraxus replies. Monsters of all kinds lurked in the lightless warrens of the Dark City. One more wouldn’t hurt. Especially if letting it through will save his Kabal from utter annihilation.

‘No tricks,’ Skorrax warns the Archon. Perhaps for the first time since his birth, Xeraxus is sincere when he makes the promise.

‘The haemonculus, Vakillar U’riss, might be able to grant your wish. The lair of the Excrutiatress is this way,’ Xeraxus motions towards the ebony spires of Commorragh and leads the way. His Kabal follows at a distance, unwilling to put themselves between Skorrax and the Archon.

‘Kaela Mensha,’ they whisper again and again. The procession gathers more and more of the dark kin. They wander from flensing dens, flesh pits and flaying parlours, all drawn by the unadulterated aura of utter murderlust exuded by Skorrax.

The Unbroken ignores the growing crowd. He does not feel threatened. They are famished beggars of torment, a pale shadow of their true potential.

None interferes — neither the weak, nor the mighty bar his path. Skorrax’s presence is a unique entertainment they intend to savour to the fullest.

‘Behold, the lair of the Excrutiatress,’ Archon Xeraxus waves theatrically at the haemonculus’ domain. Skorrax marches in without a word, leaving Xeraxus to wonder if he made the right choice. He departs with haste, unwilling to find out first-hand.

The Excrutiatress’ tower is a wonderful amalgamation of physical disfiguration and mental anguish. Every chamber is a deadly trap, every corridor a fatal mistake waiting to happen. Monsters lurk behind corners, creatures of a dozen origins melded into singular forms.

Like moths to candlelight, the abominations are drawn to Skorrax. A veritable carnival of horrors – slithering, snarling, screeching – yet they die all the same.

As Skorrax stands before the mangled corpses, he feels nothing. His mind is clear and calm. The fusion of rage he achieved upon ascension fuels his soul with infinite hate, blindingly perfect, yet devoid of joy.

On that day, Skorrax had faced the Blood God. Weighed down by a mountain of skulls and oceans of dried gore, Khorne was trapped on his own throne. When the God of Murder offered Skorrax a place by his side, he rejected the offer and cast himself from the pinnacle of immortality.

If he wants to avoid Khorne’s fate, he has to retrace his steps to mortality. And for that, he needs the Nails working again.

‘What is it that you seek, child of carnage?’ The Excrutiatress asks, entering from a hidden doorway to stand amidst the aftermath of Skorrax’s handiwork. Vakillar is an incarnation of everything that is loathsome about the Drukhari. All of their dark desires made manifest.

‘The Nails. Can you fix them?’

The withered crone cackles as she floats closer. Appendages reach out to Skorrax. The biological ones recoil in horror—the mechanicals twitch and spasm in minuscule violence.

‘The machine, I can fix. But you have ascended beyond mortality. There is no fixing godhood,’ Vakillar coos, mesmerised by such an incredible find. Blood that had long since congealed in her veins now runs hot. Long forgotten fervour smoulders in her wizened chest.

‘I must be broken again,’ Skorrax grunts. ‘To descend.’

‘I will do it,’ The Excrutiatress’s eyes gleam greedily. ‘For a price.’

‘Name it.’

‘Tell me why. Your genesires, your brothers, your very kind strives to achieve godhood. So why do you, out of them all, spurn this glory?’

‘I have walked the path. Seen its terminus.’

The ancient haemonculus draws closer, enthralled by the proximity of such arcane knowledge.

‘The Dark Gods. Do you know why they are so intent on interfering with the Materium? Why they seek to break it across their knee?’

‘Pray tell,’ she murmurs in ecstasy.

‘They are afraid. Not of us, but the one thing that they have absolutely no power over. I have seen it. And now I run from it. Unlike the Dark Gods, I can at least do that,’ Skorrax says, shuddering within his crimson battleplate.

‘What is it? What could possibly terrify the Primordial Annihilator?’


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