The punch caught him full in the face.
The creature that used to be Pilot Corvin snarled gleefully as blood splattered the wall next to him. Lazarus flew backwards, barely able to keep hold of his cleaver as he fell. A grunt of pain escaped his lips as his back slammed hard into the bulkhead. He looked up at the twist form of his former crewmate; arms swollen with daemonic muscle tearing his uniform, his eyes glowing a lurid yellow, the pupils, now bestial slits. As often seemed to be the case with the chaos gods, they had reforged their victim’s body from the divine image of the emperor into a terrifying beast. Gone was the typical symmetry that nature seemed content to follow, replaced with an unnerving aesthetic nightmare of inequality and conflicting proportions.
“Corvin, listen to me!” The Preacher gasped, trying to regain his breath, “You must fight it! This is not you…you are a good, honest, servant of the Emperor, I have seen it in you – fight it, man!”
The yellow dimmed for a split second, enough to see a look of pained remorse; a pleading fear. Lazarus pushed himself to his feet, “That’s it!” he encouraged, “No heathen power is stronger than the Emperor’s love – look to him, Corvin!” The yellow was held at bay for a heartbeat before returning with force, washing over the terrified, wide eyes of the pilot, and cementing its control by lashing out with a distorted, impossibly muscular arm. It caught Lazarus, despite his efforts to dodge, and again threw him from his feet.
The Preacher spat out a lungful of air the clawed hand hit him. Was it too late? Should he accept the loss of this soul and kill the foul creature that now took its place? He looked up again, remembering that second of fear in Corvin’s eyes.
“No” he thought. He had to fight; the pilot was not lost yet. He forced his aching body to its feet, tucking his blade into the ties of his apron, and surged forwards, grabbing Corvin by the head, one hand either side, clamping his head still, forcing him to look into his face, “Listen to me, pilot!” he ordered, ignoring the angry thrashing as best he could, “Pray with me, Pilot Corivn” he beseeched, his mind reeling through a thousand litanies to find one he thought the unfortunate soul before him would connect with even in this state.
He picked the Prayer of the Lost and the Endangered…it seemed fitting.
“Most powerful and glorious Emperor,
Who commands the winds and eddies of the galaxy,
We miserable men are adrift in peril,
We cry unto Thee for help,
Save us, or we will perish”
He looked Corvin’s face and saw his lips start to move, mouthing the words loosely, slow, behind the timing set down by Lazarus, but the recognition was there. The Preacher continued, more loudly – filling the corridor with his prayer;
“We see how great and terrible Thou art.
We fear You and offer our awe,
We fear naught but your Wrath,
And beg a chance to prove ourselves.
So let us not die in the tumultuous waves of the warp”
Corvin’s lips continued to move even as his arms flailed wildly, one caught Lazarus again, dropping him to one knee, but the Preacher continued, “Pray with me, brother! Most powerful and glorious Emperor….”
He continued, chanting the verse over and over. Not letting up, ignoring the blood trickling into his eyes from the claw marks on his forehead, ignoring the aches which surged through his every muscle as line by line, syllable by syllable he could see the change in Corvin receding.
Finally, the man fell to his knees, clutching his face, “Emperor protect me!” he wailed, as he rocked back and forth on his knees.
“And he will…” Lazarus said, putting a hand on Corvin’s head, a contented smile on his lips, “…and he will….”
His basking in the majesty of the Emperor was shattered by several shotgun shells firing off at close range. He turned and found another creature only inches from him, dropping to its knees, blood pouring from it.
“You need to keep your head in the game, Brother” said Krell in a feral snarl, a look of stubborn resolve on his face as he funnelled shells into his weapons.