It was the sound of a thousand gnawing maws, of chitinous legs scrabbling against one another. It mixed with unnatural, almost whispered gasps from a throat that no creature of this galaxy could make, high-pitched and keening. To a normal human ear, the sound would register as a primal threat, a terror to flee from, a reminder of the brutal, uncaring nature of a harsh universe.
It was beautiful. It was rapture.
Apostle Galius Shupro closed his eyes and let the sound wash over him. The Great Plan, conceived so long ago, was now well into its final stages. To those outside, the small and nameless cargo vessel he was aboard would seem insignificant beside the great, ponderous vessels of war that launched fire and fury into the void. Only those of the Brotherhood knew that they now carried the greatest prize of this war. That, and the means of its resurrection - the Merged.
They had been human once, members of the coven just as he was, but they had since been elevated to something so much more. Arms stretched and melded into heads until it was impossible to tell where one creature ended and the other began; a great circle of flesh. Skulls and mouths extended into organic machinery, all directed towards the delicate work of restoring a small, broken object that sat upon a plinth at their center.
“The Heart of Zaral,” it had been called, by those who forged it and by its many, many bearers in the millennia since. At the height of its power, it gave those who possessed it the ability to command whole armies of inhuman beasts. Even the divine creatures of the Allfather could be harnessed and set to the task of conquest.
The stone had been diminished since. Nearly destroyed. This small fragment was the last remaining piece, possessing but a fraction of its original power. Yet, the Allfather’s creations still felt its pull. It was Cha-Dawn who had isolated the strain of psychic signal that called the Vessels of the All-Father that assaulted the surface, and he who had uplifted the Merged. When the stone was restored, Cha-Dawn himself would have the power to take hold of whole Choirs of the Allfather’s blessed creations. By his will alone, he would bring about the Time of Rapture.
Shupro smiled at that thought. To have a hand in the great Unmaking, to see the glorious future beyond, to bring the race of man to truly ascend. All of it lay before him, now. He would see this galaxy brought to true glory. Piece by piece, life by life, the new would consume the old, as it always had.
A chime broke Shupro from his reverie. He turned towards the chamber’s viewscreen, and immediately prostrated himself before it.
“Rise-my-child,” said a soft, monotone voice, “for-de-liv-er-ance-is-at-hand.”
Shupro’s head turned upwards, his eyes shining in utmost reverence. To even look upon the Voice of the Allfather filled him with a serene joy like nothing else. “My Lord,” he said, “we have the stone, and the Merged have begun their work. Even now we make our way towards your vessel.”
The child did not nod, but his expression showed a sort of acknowledgement. “The-All-fa-ther-be-praised. You-have-per-formed-ad-mir-ab-ly.”
“Thank you,” Shupro said
“Yes?” Shupro asked. “How shall I be of use to you, my Lord?”
“What?!?” Shupro leapt to his feet, and began to sprint towards the door to the ship’s bridge. “Lord, we will be there at once to defe-”
Shupro stopped, his whole body held fast by Cha-Dawn’s powers, even across thousands of kilometers in the void.
“There-is-no-thing-that-can-be-done-my-child,” Cha-Dawn said. “Your-death-would-not-save-me. It-would-on-ly-de-liv-er-the-prize-to-our-en-e-mies.”
“Lord Cha-Dawn,” Apostle Shupro pleaded, “please, don’t leave us. The Brotherhood is nothing without you.”
“Do-not-de-spair. This-bo-dy-is-sim-ply-a-ves-sel,” the child said. “Take-the-stone-to-Nam-i-er-a-Three. Co-ord-in-ates-are-be-ing-trans-mit-ted-to-you-now. You-are-a-wait-ed-by-breth-er-en. There-I-will-be-re-born-and-we-shall-call-forth-the-All-fa-ther. There-we-shall-be-gin-his-true-work. We-shall-cleanse-all-flesh-and-bring-glo-ry-un-to-him.”
Though it pained him to do so, Shupro nodded in assent. “As you command, Cha-Dawn.”
Cha-Dawn’s image flickered and faded. Pursing his lips in uncertainty, Shupro made his way to the bridge, giving the order to flee. He would not fail his Lord. It was a matter of faith.