Garufel hated being in the Chamber of Judgement. He had hated the very thought of it ever since coming to this world to live, ever since being recruited by the Collectors ten years earlier. Her Infernal Majesty's Gallery was bad enough with all its lurid depictions of horror and torment; but at least Garufel could distance himself from those artworks and see them as mere representations of what their creators had only imagined, or what might have happened in the distant past. The Chamber of Judgement, however, was so much more than a mere depiction of horror and torment — it was horror and torment. It was a solemn shrine to the Queen of Pain Herself.
Garufel had been here only once before — ten years ago, in the early days of his recruitment, as part of his induction tour. On that day, he swore never to step into this room again, and hoped that he would never be promoted to a position where he would be required to attend this accursed hall.
Yet this morning — the first morning back from his second offworld vacation — Garufel's fear had been realized. The guards had appeared at the door of his apartment and ordered him to accompany them immediately. Both guards were canine splices — like himself — but at least twice as massive. When the armoured wolves refused to explain the reason for the summons, Garufel felt no urge to protest or press them for details. All they told him was that he was wanted in the Chamber of Judgement. The very mention of that place had sent stabs of cold dread right into his gut.
They know, he thought to himself. They know.
Garufel and his escorts had spent five whole minutes in the elevator, for the Chamber was positioned deep down in the bowels of this subterranean world — far below the dwellings of Her Infernal Majesty's mortal servants. It was almost as far down (and Garufel shuddered at this thought) as Her Infernal Majesty Herself.
They had ordered him to enter the Chamber alone, take a seat in its very centre, and await his unnamed interviewer. They had spoken almost as if they were afraid of entering the Chamber themselves. Garufel reluctantly had done as told, if only because he feared the consequences of disobeying. His steps were slow and soft along the whole one hundred and fifty metres to the isolated chair at the centre of the Chamber.
After half an hour of waiting, Garufel still could not get used to the place. The centre of the Chamber was a simple stone disk sixty metres wide atop a massive column. Eight broad lamplit bridges — their stonework as smooth and curved as polished bone — led to the chamber's centre. The bridges were all suspended over a basin that was red and swirling with a mass of mouthed tentacles. It was all artwork, of course; but the sheer scale of the mosaic made it unbearable to view. Yet even this was tame compared to what loomed far above — at the centre of the multi-ribbed Chamber, a vast lamprey mouth yawned above him, lined with many fishlike gelatinous eyes. The hideous face radiated hundreds of tentacles like a sun of blood, each tentacle screaming silently through thousands of dark mouths.
The Chamber had been built almost three thousand years ago, in honour of the transapient Queen when She had owned a smaller, simpler body. To Garufel, it was an obscenity, an abomination. Like most recruits, his mind had not yet been touched by the Queen, so he could not understand the sheer time and dedication — the love — that had gone into the construction of this vast, ancient temple to such monstrosity beyond mortal grasp. It was a thing of horror meant to last forever, and it violated his senses, sanity and soul. It was all he could do to sit there facing the barren floor of the disk, keeping the abomination out of his line of sight.
Throughout his life, with rare exceptions, Garufel had felt small and insignificant. The Chamber of Justice did nothing to alleviate that feeling.
The voice was comfortingly familiar — feminine yet deep, soft yet heavy, like whispering thunder. Garufel turned to face his former mentor, towering over him like a mother tiger over her cub.
The massive Siberoo strode gently around him, then turned and knelt down on the stone floor to face him. Skalosak was basically a white tigress from the waist up, but her tail and hips would have made a dinosaur envious. Around her waist she wore a black leathery belt with a pouch attached to each side. Despite common jokes to the contrary, belt pouches were not redundant on a giant marsupial. They were for small tools, not Garufel-sized passengers.
A mild sense of relief began to flow into Garufel's frozen nerves. Skalosak was not very high up on the local food chain, being a mere lieutenant. Perhaps this issue was not so serious after all. Perhaps his transgressions would incur only the mildest of punishments, such as added duties on top of his training.
Besides, he knew that Skalosak would be lenient.
"Do you know why you are here?" the Siberoo asked as she leaned forward, all the way forward, until her piercing blue eyes were level with his. By now, her forelimbs and handpaws rested on the floor before her, as if she were a colossal housecat at rest.
Garufel pretended to ponder over this question, hoping that his reason for being here was not the obvious. For thousands of years, the Chamber had been a place for meditation, court cases, legal interviews, and — at its most amiable — ritual promotions. A small part of Garufel hoped that he had been summoned here for the latter. However, promotion usually meant meeting the Queen face to … face. Garufel did not want that. But then, neither did he want them to know his secret. Nothing could be worse than losing his secret.
"No," he finally replied. "I have no idea."
"You're lying," Skalosak stated softly. "I think you know very well why you have been summoned here."
Garufel stared at the floor before him. He felt as if lead was expanding in his chest.
"When you were holidaying off world," said Skalosak, "did you remember this place clearly?"
Abruptly Garufel looked up at Skalosak. "Of course," he said. "Why wouldn't I?"
"Are you sure? Because as soon as you go into hibernation on the way to the first wormhole, your memories are edited so that you remember this world as something completely different."
Garufel sighed at the sheer absurdity of his mentor's words. Was this another test of some kind? "Even if that's true," he said, "it didn't work on me. I remember havi-"
"And as soon as you go into hibernation for the last time on the way home," Skalosak continued, "your previous memories are restored. Furthermore, all memories of having false memories are corrected. When you awaken on your way to this world, you think and act as if you never forgot what this world really is, or what we really do, or what Queen you really serve. Memory editing is, among many other things, a vital security measure. Do you understand?"
Numb with shock, Garufel nodded silently.
Skalosak bowed her huge head just a centimetre, as if confirming something. "Do you understand what this means?" she said. "If we can alter your memories, then what else can we do?"
Garufel was too terrified to even speculate, let alone answer. He averted his gaze from the giant marsupial and stared at the stone floor.
"Yes," said Skalosak. "Your suspicions are correct. We've downloaded all of your holiday memories."
She paused for a few more seconds to let the revelation sink in, as if Garufel needed any further torment.
"Allowing selected citizens to go on offworld vacations is more than just a privilege," she continued, her pace faster, her tone more academic. "It is a strategy. It is one of many strategies Her Majesty uses to collect information about the galaxy at large. Once your memories have been copied, Her Angels pick up far more details than your filtered consciousness could recollect. But that is not what concerns your fellow mortals right now. The Blood Angels have shown us your activities. We know your secret. We know what you get up to on your little vacations outside the system."
Garufel began to shudder.
"Garufel, look at me."
He could not.
"LOOK AT ME!"
Instantly he jerked his gaze up and stared into the Siberoo's icy blue eyes.
"Why do you torture small animals to death on your vacations?"
"I … I …"
"Do you feel threatened by them?"
His words, his very breath froze like a rock in his throat.
"By squirrels? Do you feel threatened by squirrels? And chipmunks? Do they scare you? Are you defending yourself from them?"
He shook his head violently.
"Then why do you do it?"
Garufel froze up again, desperately grasping for an excuse.
"Why?" Skalosak repeated.
Like water trickling from a melting icicle, a vaguely coherent excuse began to seep into Garufel's frenzied consciousness.
"You eat real meat sometimes on your vacations," he said. "Real meat comes from real animals. How is that any different?"
"I do not spend hours flaying and dismembering small defenceless animals with rusty instruments while I use drugs to keep them alive and conscious!" the giant marsupial roared. "I do not impale baby possums in full view of their restrained mother! I do not focus microwave beams on living creatures' body parts so that they slowly boil from the inside out, then start again on the next limb just to hear them squeal louder!"
"They all end up dead," mumbled Garufel. "Dead is dead is dead."
Skalosak slowly bowed her head, keeping her gaze fixed upon Garufel. That look had always made him nervous, even when Skalosak was in a playful mood. Right now, her gaze terrified him, enough to make him want to recant his words.
"After all that we have taught you," she half-whispered, half-hissed, "you resort to the laziest excuses imaginable. The refusal to measure, the refusal to analyze the difference between ideas, between different actions, is antithetical to the very concept and purpose of justice. Look around you. You are in the Chamber of Judgement. If you are going to defend yourself, then at least use your fucking BRAINS!"
Garufel's breaths quickened silently, nervously, as he lowered his gaze away from the giant feline's.
"Now, let me repeat my initial question," said Skalosak, her voice marginally more controlled and calm. "Why do you torture small animals on your vacations?"
"I … well … you said it yourself. Our minds are altered when we leave this place."
"Is that your excuse? Really?"
"Well … while I'm here, I know that we have rules, but-"
"Are you saying that as soon as you forget about our code and our Queen, you have nothing to prevent you from engaging in acts of sadism?"
Garufel scratched his muzzle nervously. "Well, if I forget everything I've learned here as soon as I leave it, then how am I supposed to know what I'm doing is wrong?"
"How are you supposed to know?" The Siberoo sighed massively. "How are you supposed to know? Well, let's see, perhaps there were all those convoluted steps you took to prevent being found out by the local authorities? You knew very well that others disapproved of your actions. You knew very well that the benign democracy your altered mind believed this place to be would never approve of your actions. And even as you were living here, even when your memories were as clear as our regulations would permit, you made plans to visit specific types of worlds. Terraformed worlds based on Old Earth, with wild plains where you could find the six species you loved most to target. Worlds without angelnets, where security and surveillance were lax. Is that not true?"
"You guess it's not true?"
"I guess it is."
"Well I don't guess it's true, I know it's true. You planned your sick acts of cruelty in advance even while living and studying here among us. Even with your memory of this place edited, you still put your disgusting plans into action without hesitation. And all for what?"
"Why. Did. You. Torture. Animals."
"Well, I, er … I wanted to … I have this theo-"
"Cut your pathetic mumbling and ANSWER ME!"
The roar hit Garufel's face like a shockwave. In shame, he heard himself whimper like a pup.
Skalosak was sometimes snide and sarcastic with her peers, but never this angry. This level of anger she saved for criminals. He was being treated like a criminal. This is what he had always feared might happen — to lose his secret, and then lose the respect of those he admired. This was the low point that he would have to strain to crawl out of.
Garufel tried to remember the first time he had tortured and killed a mouse, at the age of six. He tried to remember the feeling of absolute control, of total mastery of a living creature's fate. It made him feel powerful. It made him feel important. It gave him the dignity, the choice, the influence, that he never would have had as the second youngest in a brood of nine.
Was that an acceptable excuse?
Perhaps he could have blamed Second Contact.
Like many colonies throughout the galaxy, his world had been settled centuries ago as a safe haven from the influence of superintelligent beings and all-pervading technology. However, as was often the case on such worlds, technology returned as the centuries passed, and his people rediscovered the engine, the radio, the computer, the nuclear missile.
Then, just as the world's squabbling nations were approaching something akin to consensus, the transapients came, towing a wormhole in their wake.
The godlike machines parked their wormhole at the outer edge of the system — as close as safety would permit. They transmitted one brief, simple message: You will all have access to the greater galaxy in ten years. Please be patient. Please use your time wisely.
Like many other worlds that had been given the same test, Garufel's world had plunged into confusion, international bickering, and, finally, all out war.
Perhaps he had earned the right to survive. He had more or less been the runt of a struggling family in an insignificant village in an ailing nation on a backward backwater planet that simply could not cope with a simple reminder of its inconsequential role in the universe. Yet he demanded survival. It was his right. He could not accept the possibility of not surviving. So, when the planes flew over bearing the enemy's emblem, sixteen-year-old Garufel did not hesitate to slap on his gas mask and rush into the bomb shelter and bolt the door behind him. The screams and wheezes and choking coughs of his family outside did not make him budge from his corner. Did he only imagine his mother calling out his name? Whatever the case, it was too late for her. It was too late for all of them. The chemicals had touched their skin. He cried and rocked back and forth and waited for the noise to stop.
If there was a God — a real God — then He favoured the strong over the weak. Garufel did not want to be weak, small, insignificant. He wanted to survive. He wanted to prove his worth to the universe, to a God that relished in slaughter and bloodshed. He wanted to keep doing what he did, even beyond the end of the world.
But he knew that Skalosak would never accept that excuse, so he had to think of something better.
"I just … I just enjoyed it."
"You enjoyed it."
"Yes. I enjoyed it."
"You sick fuck."
"I'm … I'm sorry."
"Garufel, I had such high hopes for you. Ever since we found you alone in that bomb shelter playing with rats, I swore on my son's ashes to give you the life that had been taken from you. To show you wonders you had never imagined, to give you knowledge and privilege and luxury you could never have had on your world even before the Civil War. I defended you when others doubted you — not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I liked you, Garufel. I genuinely liked you. For a short while, you were like … you were almost like a son to me. And I do not use those words lightly. I promised my own peers, my own superiors, my own Queen, to make you a better person. And all this time you've just been pissing on my feet and setting me up to make me look like an idiot."
Garufel whimpered, his chest and throat aching — not for Skalosak, but for himself.
"Are you, Garufel? Are you sorry? Are you really sorry? Can you prove that you're sorry, Garufel? Can you prove that your remorse is a real thing that can be measured, like oxygen in your blood? Like the synapses firing in what passes for your brain? Would you like to prove your remorse to me, Garufel? Would you?"
"If you are truly remorseful for your actions, Garufel, then you would agree to embark upon a rehabilitation program under my guidance. Would you like to commence such a program?"
"Because if you successfully complete this program, you would be cleared of criminal charges. But we can only begin once you have understood exactly what this program entails, and have agreed to the conditions under your own free will. I cannot force you to agree, nor trick you into agreeing. The decision must be yours and yours alone. Do you accept these conditions?"
Slowly, Garufel felt the lead weight in his chest dissolve. So all he had to do was to agree to some sort of counselling program, and all his sins would be forgiven? Was it really that easy?
"If you agree, then the program will commence immediately. Right now, in the Chamber of Judgement. You will have no time to prepare. And your program will begin with this."
Skalosak reached into her belt pouch and produced a small round translucent patch stuck to the black leathery underside of her finger. It reminded Garufel of those scratch bandages that had been so common on his homeworld.
"What is that?"
"Your sins," said Skalosak. "The Blood Angels have created perfectly detailed simulations of each and every one of the tortures you inflicted upon every single one of your helpless victims, based on your memories. They have recreated those tortures from the point of view of your victims. They have recreated every single thing they would have seen, heard, smelt, tasted, and — most importantly — felt. If you agree to this program, you will experience every single horrid sensation that your victims experienced, starting from this very minute."
By now, Garufel's entire body was trembling uncontrollably. His bones and veins stung all over.
"Is there an alternative?" he whined plaintively.
"I am not permitted to tell you what the alternative is."
At that moment, Garufel guessed the alternative. Execution. Swift, simple execution. After all, it was a rare but accepted punishment on this world for Collectors who had gone bad. Surely the same punishment applied to recruits as well. And surely, without a doubt, having a recruit being executed would look bad on Skalosak's record. Yes. That explained Skalosak's behaviour. That explained everything.
"I can't accept the treatment," he said.
Skalosak closed her eyes. "Garufel, please consider this. You have little time to choose."
"But I can't! How can I? I can't handle that level of pain! I'll go crazy!"
"I will be there at the end of every simulation, Garufel. As much as I detest your past actions, I will applaud your courage in facing the consequences. I will be there to comfort you, I promise."
"But nothing is worth that torture! Nothing!"
"And you would know, because you inflicted it yourself. You enjoyed giving it, but are afraid to receive it. I have heard this so many many times. The hypocrisy and despair of a coward. You disgust me."
For a moment, Garufel burned all over with shame. Of course he could never accept the treatment. Who would? But perhaps he could make himself sound brave to the one he had once respected.
"Did they simulate everything?"
"Everything. In every vile detail."
"Even the raccoon?"
"Especially the racoon."
"But I … used a rusty saw …"
"On its muzzle. Yes. I saw that. It sickened me. And you will experience all the pain you inflicted on that poor creature, again and again and again. Starting this very minute, if you have the courage to face up to your crimes. You will feel everything. You will not faint. You will not black out. You will experience this agony for hours on end with no intervals, no distractions, except the dread of anticipation at the start of every replay."
"This is not justice!"
"Isn't it? This is not the Utopia Sphere, Garufel. This is the realm of the Queen of Pain. Justice is absolute here. You are held responsible for every action that has not been coerced."
"But … they were just dumb animals!"
"So were we, ten thousand years ago, before the humans and AIs tinkered with our genes. So was Her Infernal Majesty Herself, five thousand years ago, before Her torture at the hands of a petty little sadist like you, before Her transformation."
Garufel had never brought himself to believe that legend. What sane entity could possibly believe that — even over thousands of years — a small feline could ever be transformed into the hideous abomination depicted in the mosaic above him? To say nothing of that greater, roaring, squelching continent of horror, far far below … He could believe that the Queen of Pain may have been the result of some large scale ultratech experiment gone hideously wrong. He could believe that She may have been the neglected child of a mad AI God. He often secretly hoped that the Queen and all her screaming multitudes of eternal victims was just an illusion, and some distant god was having a laugh at the expense of tiny gullible mortals at the beck and call of a mere puppet. But there was no way that thing could possibly have started life as a common domestic cat. It made no sense. No godseed could be that powerful.
Not for the first time, Garufel felt grateful that he had not been brainwashed like the fully trained Collectors he lived and worked with.
Nonetheless, for ten years he had kept his doubt a secret. His doubt was nowhere near as shameful as his activities, but he always felt it best not to share his opinions with his peers. The threat of scorn was enough to unnerve him, to say nothing of any possible punishment for heresy.
"But unlike those 'dumb animals'," said Skalosak, "you will know and understand exactly what is in store for you."
"I have to accept the alternative."
For endless heartbeats Skalosak was silent. "Are you sure?" she said softly.
"Of course I'm sure! Nothing could be worse than this treatment you propose!"
"Garufel, the program was not my idea, but believe me when I say that some small part of me, some barely-there microscopic part, still cares for you, which is why-"
"YOU DON'T CARE FOR ME!" Garufel screamed. "YOU ONLY WANT TO TORTURE ME! YOU ONLY WANT TO USE ME TO PRESERVE YOUR STATUS!"
"I want you to face up to the vileness of your actions."
"YOU HATE ME!"
"I hate what you have become. I want the old Garufel back."
"I WON'T ACCEPT IT!" He got to his feet and backed around behind the chair. "You can take your program and your simulation thing and SHOVE IT WHERE THE LAMPS DON'T SHINE! AND I DON'T MEAN YOUR POUCH, YOU FAT FREAK!"
"Sit down," said Skalosak. "What do you think I'm going to do? Chase after you? Pin you down and force the nanobots into your skull? You're the one who makes the decision here."
"And I decide to have nothing to do with your stupid treatment. I don't want it. I would accept anything else but that. That's my decision. It's final."
He returned to the chair and sat down, feeling the tension begin to ebb away. At that moment, he was prepared to die. Death was better than torture. Anything was better than torture.
Even Skalosak's stare. Her long, penetrating, impenetrable, unrelenting stare.
"It's final," he repeated, in case Skalosak had not got the message by now, or refused to believe that he was not stupid enough to choose torture.
"I only wish I could give you one more night to think this ov-"
"It's FINAL! Now GET THE FUCK OUT! I HATE YOU! I NEVER WANT TO SEE YOUR FAT ARSE EVER AGAIN!"
The vast marsupial sighed morosely, then rose to her feet and strode heavily around the chair.
"I shall pass on this matter to a higher authority," she said flatly from behind Garufel.
And who was this "higher authority"? Garufel wondered. Was it General Tassolok? Judge Nyamora? Who cared? At least he was never going to see Skalosak again.
"I shall purge my memory of you," Skalosak added from further behind. "Every trace. It would be less painful that way. Goodbye, Garufel."
And good riddance, thought Garufel.
Long minutes passed. Garufel sat alone on the chair in the middle of the Chamber, with nothing and no-one to keep him company except … even now, he dared not look up.
After rubbing his weary eyes, Garufel stared at the stone floor before him. Was it just him, or were the lamps dimming?
He wanted to look around, but that would mean catching another glimpse of that horrible mosaic, above and around, as big as a sky …
"Hello?" he cried. "I'm still here."
The voice, part thunderclap, part jet engine, part silken predatory roar, shocked Garufel to his feet. For the first time, he was forced to look all around him, shuddering uncontrollably at all the mouths and tentacles.
"Who … who is it?"
OH, I THINK YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHO I AM, MY PRECIOUS LITTLE PUPPY.
"Your … Your Majesty?"
IT IS I, MY DARLING GARUFEL.
Garufel dropped to his knees and bowed to the growing darkness. "It is an honour to be in your presence, oh Mighty Queen," he spoke in wavering words.
BUT THE HONOUR IS ALL MINE, LITTLE ONE. I AM THRILLED WITH THE CHOICE YOU HAVE MADE.
"Th-thank you, Your Majesty."
IT IS YOU I MUST THANK, FOR OFFERING YOURSELF TO ME SO FREELY.
Garufel had felt terror many times before, but nothing like this. Terror stabbed him in the guts, in the spine, in the heart, in the head, again and again and again. He wished the terror would kill him and get it over with.
"Your M-m-majesty? I'm afraid I do not understand …"
OH, BUT YOU DO UNDERSTAND, MY LITTLE PUPPY! OF ALL MY PRECIOUS SUBJECTS, IT IS YOU WHO BEST UNDERSTANDS THE LANGUAGE OF PAIN! YOU, LIKE MY FIRST TORMENTOR, WHO TAUGHT ME THE LANGUAGE OF PAIN WHEN I WAS SMALL AND HELPLESS, AND NOW DWELLS DEEP WITHIN ME, RACKED WITH AGONIES THAT WOULD MAKE ENTIRE WORLDS SCREAM AND WRITHE AND SHATTER!
Garufel opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out but a wordless wavering whine. He was crying. Crying like a pup trapped in a nightmare, the worst nightmare any being could ever have.
Then the Chamber began to shake.
BE PATIENT, MY CHILD, FOR SOON YOU WILL BE WITH ME, SOON YOU WILL BE INSIDE ME. I SHALL EMBRACE YOU FOREVER, SUCKLING YOU WITH OCEANS OF PAIN BEYOND YOUR WILDEST IMAGININGS.
Below came the deafening blast of shattered stone. Garufel ran. He ran along the trembling bridge, ran between rows of dim and flickering lamps, leaving a trail of piss behind him. Only once did he glance over his shoulder, in time to see the great stone disk rise atop its shattering, splintering column, moaning like a dying whale as millions of tons of stone scraped against millions of tons of stone. Then the disk collapsed like an upturned table, smashing bridges in its wake. Garufel slipped and fell in his own piss, flailing and scrambling. Far above, great cracks grew and branched and grew in the Chamber like black lightning, roaring like thunder, defacing the ancient visage of the Queen.
"WHYYYYY!" screamed Garufel. "WHYYYYYYY!"
MY TEMPLE IS A TINY, TRANSIENT THING, LIKE A SOAP BUBBLE. A FEW THOUSAND YEARS IS BUT AN INSTANT IN THE LIFE OF THE UNIVERSE. AND THE LIFE OF THE UNIVERSE IS BUT AN INSTANT TO THE INFINITIES OF LUSCIOUS TORMENT I HAVE PREPARED FOR YOU, MY CHILD.
Garufel picked himself up and ran. He could not think. He was a creature of instinct, terrified, wanting only to flee. Behind him, the bridge collapsed in crunching waves, metre by metre by metre.
Finally he came to the wall of the Chamber. He flailed and punched and clawed bloodily at the trembling stone, but no door could be found.
"SKAAAAAAAAAAL!" he howled. "SKALOSAAAAK! HELP MEEEEEEEE!"
SKALOSAK DID OFFER TO HELP YOU, GARUFEL. AND YOU REFUSED HER OFFER. NOW SHE DOES NOT KNOW THAT YOU EVER EXISTED. NO MORTAL KNOWS THAT YOU EVER EXISTED. ALL RECORDS OF YOU HAVE BEEN ERASED. EVEN THIS CHAMBER WILL BE WIPED FROM THE MEMORY OF ALL, FOR YOU ARE INFINITELY MORE PRECIOUS. YOU BELONG ONLY TO ME, NOW AND FOREVER.
The last lengths of the bridge twisted and splintered and moaned before crashing upon the basin with its shattered siblings. Within seconds, the cracks in the stone basin widened, swallowing the remains of bridges and lamps and columns. What lay below was not darkness, but a sickly reddish glow, as if the planet itself was bleeding.
I HAVE PREPARED WONDERS FOR YOU, MY CHILD. THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS OF STINGING TENTACLES TO EXPLORE EVERY MILLIMETRE OF YOUR BODY, INSIDE AND OUT. YOU WILL SWELL WITH EVERY TOUCH, AND YOU WILL SWELL TO GREAT SIZE, VASTLY GREATER THAN THIS CHAMBER. YOU WILL NEVER BE SMALL AGAIN. YOU WILL NEVER BE INSIGNIFICANT. I WILL DEDICATE EVERY MILLISECOND TO THE PERFECTION OF YOUR TORMENT. YOU WILL BECOME A HOWLING, WRITHING, FESTERING MOUNTAIN OF PUREST AGONY. YOUR AGONY WILL BE A WONDER TO BEHOLD, EVEN FOR THE NETHER DAMNED. AND YOUR AGONY WILL GROW WITH YOU, FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER.
The sprawling jagged jigsaw of stone fell away, piece by piece by piece, into the blood red depths far below. Down there, at the bottom of the mist, a mouth the size of a city yawned, a hundred thousand eyes the size of hills stared in hunger.
Standing on the last shuddering shard of stone bridge, Garufel howled piteously. He howled for a mother he knew he would never meet in Heaven. He was still howling when the stone fell from under him, taking him with it. A million Blood Angels greeted his descent, surrounding him and his escort of shattered stone in a whirling funnel of spectral fins and tentacles. Their infernal choir was piercing, shrieking, as they praised the eternal torment that awaited him below.
And the Queen's booming roar joined them in lust.