In the spring of the year after I completed the model of Ghus the chaos renegade for the Death Squads Prisoner Exchange 2012, I wrote a short story to accompany him on his journey into the unknown. I had forgotten about it. But the up coming release of the new cultist models in Games Workshops Dark Vengeance starter box set reminded me of Ghus and his days spent on a hellish daemon world perpetrating bloody murderous pranks against the rivals of his master, Onjhazod the Skull King. Below are a few pics of the finished model and the story.
The crooked wooden door rattled as the wind drove against it. The air forced in around the ill fitted planks was hot and smelled of blood. Salt and grit driven up from the dunes swam in the air and left a thick layer of white dust on the floor and table. Outside something terrible howled in the street. Ghus sat on his haunches like an animal in the corner of the small room. The only light was a thin line of watery yellow around the rough edges of the door.
Ghus could see in the dark, ever since taking the mark of the Skull King Onjhazod. His eyes shone a virulent green through the lenses of his filter mask. They had given him the mask, equipment too, a uniform, and a weapon, along with the mark. The mark endured. The equipment did not. The old autogun was lost; kicked away into the salty muck in a trench fight over a year ago. His pack and helmet had been lost in the firebombing of Cellica Rosaug. The barbed knife, a wicked blade they had carved the mark into his flesh with and later gifted to him, it had gone, pitched over the parapet of Felash Cathedral in the eye of one of Dregoss Kuzilla’s brute squad. Everything had gone. His uniform, bright ochre on the day of reception was only stained rags now. Ghus scratched idly at the strap of his mask where it chafed his bald scalp. The hair had gone away too, whether it was a side effect of the chemical weapons or part of his pact with the Skull King he couldn’t be sure.
There was a rough cough in the dark and Ghus turned to stare at the others. They crouched in the opposite corner dressed exactly as Ghus and in the same state of disrepair. There were ten of them, huddled together like nesting Fuggs in a den. The biggest, Hunroh lifted his gas filter and rubbed at his green lit eyes with grubby fingers. The others shifted nervously as he moved. They grunted and hissed, nudged each other in the darkness then settled, back into their silent brooding. Hunroh looked up and saw Ghus watching him. He sneered, then spit into the dust and pulled his filter back over his face. Ghus held his stare and let his fingers slide along the weapon resting across his knees.
The gun was cool despite the dry raw heat of the shack. It was a complicated piece with intricate details and sleek lines where shrouds and stock plates met. Blocky and hard with a foggy silver skin. The gun was dirty, like Ghus. Its case joints and creases fouled with salt and the ever present dust of this particular piece of hell, its blunt stock crusted with dried blood. It didn’t matter. This gun was different. Unlike Ghus’ old autogun which jammed and misfired and required constant care, this weapon just worked, always. Ghus had fired it hundreds, thousands of times since he discovered it and he had never reloaded it. He didn’t even know how. This gun was his boon, his treasure, his gift. Others coveted it and hated or feared him or both because of the thing. The alien gun had been presented to him in the blue fields of Suggahest, that seething wasteland where the ground was alive and covered in an ever peeling blue crust of pus leaking scabs.
It was during a forced march, Salavore on the whip, the thrice times ten fighters jogging over the low azure hills. Ghus had lost his footing on the sloughing tissue and slid down a steep incline into a shallow ravine. The others had laughed and Salavore had kicked him hard in the face as he tried to climb out, sending him back to the bottom. It was at the bottom of that sweating pit he had found the weapon. The dusty bulk still gripped in a black scaled reptilian hand. The arm went right into the ground, disappearing below the scab surface into the raw purple meat of the substrate. When Ghus came up the second time Salavore, her blackened lips pulled back from filed teeth in a nasty grin, had tagged him with the whip. That’s when Ghus first fired the weapon. A white pulse had zipped from the barrel with a jagged squeal and Salavore’s head and shoulders had vanished into a fine red mist.
Empowered with his new weapon, Ghus had risen quickly through the ranks, from dreg to lash boss, then gangkul to junkul. He had ten fighters blood bound to him. His own mark carved into their flesh below that of Onjhazod the Skull King. Fresh meat brought squealing to this hell world in the stinking belly hold of an ancient bulk transporter, that same rotten old beast which had carried him here, to this world, this timeless hell. Ghus had trained them well, kept them alive through endless skirmish campaigns against the twisted foot soldiers of Gorogora the Soul Eater, the rival warp lord who had his many eyes firmly set on Onjhazod’s hellish kingdom. The two hell lords constantly plotted and schemed. Never declaring open war, they sent troops to raid and harass. Ghus had led missions to deface palaces and steal artifacts, to disrupt witch priest rituals and kidnap dignitaries and courtesans. Childish pranks played out by his blood cult soldiers, murder and mayhem for the sake of it.
The wind picked up and the rattling door seemed as if it would be dashed from its frame. The rough timbers of the shack began to vibrate with a mechanical rhythm. Ghus looked up from his gun. The light edging the door had gone from yellow to blood red. The door burst open with a bang like a frag grenade and a massive shape stood silhouetted in the light. Ghus knew who it was even if the jagged outline of the armored shoulders and the spikes left little doubt. Serkul Mengen, Ghus had been waiting for him.
Even though he was pacted to the Skull King Onjhazod, the blood witches’ own mark carved into his flesh, an unhealing wound for all time, Ghus was Mengen’s man. Mengen was Serkul, the boss. He was the leader through sheer brutality and cunning. He was the top man because no one could kill him. Ghus’s soul belonged to Onjhazod, but his ass belonged to Mengen. Mengen’s mark was carved into Ghus just below that of the Skull King.
“Out, dregs! Out now!” Mengen shouted over a tremendous roar of engine noise. His men scrambled out into the boiling dust and red light, Ghus shouting at their backs.
“Get them into the transport.” Mengen barked at Ghus as he came through the doorway. He saw Mengen smile, ragged lips stretching around a mash up of sharp yellow teeth set in a blackened face. Mengen clapped him on the back as he passed. “Across the void, glory will be ours!” The Serkul shouted, and then he was gone into the dust and light.
Ghus herded his command through the ruins. This was it. No more graffiti raids, no more sneak attacks on relic processions, no, Onjhazod the Skull King was marching to war and his dregs with him. The Despoiler had called and a Black Crusade decreed. Ghus followed his men up the ramp and into the transport. Ghus held tight to his special weapon, his gift, his boon. As the lander door slowly closed, he looked out on the red haze, the swirling dust and the jagged black ruins of the slums. Something terrible howled in the distance. No more, he thought. No more. Blood, glory and the generous blessings of the gods await the faithful. The blood of the unbelievers shall stain the hands of my death squad and the gods shall look upon us with great favor. Let the galaxy burn.