Unholy of Unholies
Trantio City, Early Autumn 2403
Moved by the malice coursing through his every vein, Biagino mounted the sanctuary and strode to the altar. Although the congregation’s whimpering could be heard throughout the building, he failed to perceive it – for him, the sound was buried beneath the much more powerful sensation of their fear and the delicious stench of so much warm blood. As he greedily guzzled great gulps of the despair emanating from every living soul gathered within the church, their pathetic sobbing was akin to being merely one of several subtle notes possessed by a fine wine. He had other things on his mind to distract him, not least the fact that an enormous army was camped to the west of the city, obviously intent upon doing battle.
Since late afternoon he had been mulling over what to do about the enemy. Should he meet them upon the walls of Trantio, forcing them to assault the city, or out in the field where he could bring his whole force to bear? Should he even be attempting to take on such a massive foe at all? Perhaps his mistress would prefer he retreat than risk losing the army he now commanded? He had left Viadaza with his own Church of Nagash, including his vampire thralls and the huge mob of resurrected cultists he named the Disciplinati di Nagash but referred to as his children, and a small but substantial army gifted to him by the Duchess Maria, containing powerful, arcane constructs and even a monstrous, undead dragon. Once he arrived at Trantio, this army had grown even stronger, as he, his step-get Captain Tusco and the necromancer Pascal della Cava, raised several regiments of ancient warriors, both foot soldiers and horse, from the ancient graves and burial pits of the necropolis valley of Norochia.
Yet the enemy army, no doubt a grand alliance of several states, made all this seem paltry in comparison. This was not to be an easy decision.
Once behind the altar he gave vent to an involuntary hiss and slammed his gold-topped crozier upon the stone floor, the sharp sound of which elicited a temporary silence.
His red-robed acolytes, the vampire thralls known as La Fraternita di Morti Irrequieti, stood nearby on the sanctuary, while his newly raised, fleshless soldiers lined every wall of the church, but he paid them no attention. They gave him nothing, only took from him. It was his will that lent them purpose – without him they would neither be nor do. It was the wretched huddle of people in the nave that fascinated him, for he could feed on them, play with them, delight in their dread.
Tonight, however, he wanted something different. He wanted their worship. Raising his hands to command general attention, he began.
“Let us pray!”
There was some confusion amongst the gathered, and even that gave him joy. The living were a veritable cornucopia of feelings, every one improved by a seasoning of terror and despair. He leered at them, then raised his eyes to the great church’s ceiling, and began intoning.
“Nagashi, exaudi nos.
Domine, majestatis infinitae.
Domine, fornax ardens.
Domine, virtutum omnium abysse.
Domine, omni laude dignissime.”
He fell silent and lowered his head to glare at the cowering flock before him.
“Well?” he demanded.
Someone began to sob – a woman by the sound of it.
“No,” he hissed angrily. “Say the words.”
The nearest acolyte, his face obscured by a hood, now sang in a voice as beautiful as it was terrible,
“Sanctificetur nomen tuum.”
This was followed by a stumbled attempt at repetition by the cowed congregation. Apart from the children, all the reluctant worshippers knew the words, being the same as those chanted by all Tileans during the most common service to Morr. The entire unholy mass was to be an inversion of the familiar; a profane mockery twisted to serve Nagash.
“Better,” muttered Biagino. His satisfied smile revealed the crooked fangs sitting uncomfortably large in his mouth. Then he addressed the congregation with a short homily.
“It gives me great satisfaction to see you all gathered here today. You are the last of the living in the city, and in what days remain of that life, your prayers will serve as the perfect prelude to your imminent sacrifice. Let your every thought be fearful, and all your pain and suffering be a gift unto glorious Nagash, for soon you will be his entirely, for ever more, and then all your suffering will end.”
He crooked his finger at his acolyte, who now sang another prayer, pausing between each line to allow the congregation to give their faltering repetition.
“Libera nos, Domine …
A peste et fame…
A morte perpetua …”
“Indeed, you shall never fall sick again,” declared Biagino, recommencing his homily. “Nor feel the pang of hunger. You will be delivered from all these things. Death itself shall not come to thee, and you will forget all that you knew, even the name of the false god Morr, for you will walk this earth as a servant of great Nagash, wholly beholden to his will through the medium of myself, his true servant.”
His own words reminded him that there were still creatures in Norochia that he had yet to bend to his will – a mob of ghouls and a large pack of dire wolves. And there were without a doubt still many more ancient warriors lying there he had yet to summon to swell the ranks of his army.
This train of thought was suddenly disturbed by a commotion at the back of the nave. Peering with a power of sight his old, living body was pathetically incapable of, he spied a desperate fool clambering over a pew in an pathetic attempt to flee, only to come face to face with the rank of skeletal guards. Two thrusts of a rusty-tipped spear sent the potential escapee scrambling back to the other prisoners.
Biagino tutted to show his disapproval, his subsequent sneering glare no more or less ugly than his face at rest.
“I will brook no such nonsense,” he warned. “Any foolishness will be punished most severely. There are worse ways to suffer than your present misery. Now, shall we continue with our prayers?”
Biagino himself took up the prayers once more.
“Nagash, domine et magister
Adveniat regnum tuum, Domine
Fiat voluntas tua”
Once again, the response was ingrained in the forced-worshippers’ minds, despite the unholy insertion of foul Nagash’s name in the preceding prayer.
“Nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum,” they sang with a tunelessness occasioned by fear.
Now, where was I? he asked himself. Ah yes, the valley.
Suddenly, he knew exactly what to do. He would array his forces in the valley and meet the foe there, where the ground itself would provide him with reinforcements. He could wrest magical mastery of the wild inhabitants to make them his to command also.
The enemy would find themselves facing a foe from their nightmares in a place of their nightmares.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Nagashi, exaudi nos (Nagash, graciously hear us.)
Domine, majestatis infinitae (Lord, of infinite majesty)
Domine, fornax ardens (lord, burning furnace)
Domine, virtutum omnium abysse, (Lord, bottomless pit of all virtues)
Domine, omni laude dignissime, (Lord, most worthy of all praise)
Sanctificetur nomen tuum (Hallowed be thy name)
Libera nos, Domine (Lord deliver us)
A peste et fame (From pestilence and famine)
A morte perpetua (From everlasting death)
Nagash, domine et magister (Nagash, lord and master)
Adveniat regnum tuum, Domine (Thy kingdom come.)
Fiat voluntas tua (Thy will be done)
Nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum (Now, always and forever)