The initiation process
It is not an honour to fight alongside the Sagodjur Fjorlag as a scout. It is something of great shame in the Emperor's sight - you are incomplete, the broken crystalis of a malformed butterfly that will never rise to see the light of day. You are unworthy of the wargear you are let to borrow; you are unshod, for the ground your masters tread is holy and you are not - you are mortal, they are above mortal - you still see value in your life; to them, life is nothing.
But do not worry. Red Pyramid Strandvaskere is watching over you, and he will force you to deserve the armour you will inherit.
"The stealers of sons descended and took them away again. Again, alay! So many youths, they fought the monsters but were consumed. Why? In my lifetime, why again? So much the poor boys did wrong, but 'twas no more than impetuous youth, was it not? Was it? My poor child..."
1. The Entering
It begins on a spur of inspiration by a Pyramid, perhaps through gyromancy or by the tarot. The black thunderhawk Daliah of the reclusiam is boarded by a squad of chosen Astartes and the mad descent from the Doom Chair to the space hulk's heaving hive-city heart is made. A hundred youths are forced into its hold as per the inspired Pyramid's dictation, and any resistance is met with complete intolerance. And oh, is there resistance.
Frosti the apothecary makes his only contribution to the induction at this stage, removing any offending organs or unsightly mutations from the youth's bodies; being the barber-surgeon he's the only one with fingers dexterous enough to shear a scalp without taking it clean off. The limbs of the youths are bound to impossibly weighted shackles, and after a march of three days through the madness of the fortress-monastery and its imposed dark, they are left to wander the labyrinthine dungeons carved deep beneath Mount Nowhere, beneath the Doom Chair. They will remain down there until madness descends or they escape the dungeons - because down there they will catch whispers of a god, the Praetorian, missing and lost, and those rumours are meant to lead them out. Those who escape are left to endure the horrors beyond the foggy slopes of Nowhere until they are slain or return weeping to the dungeons.
90 of the first hundred survive.
2. The Milling
Now escaped from the rootwork of nameless tunnels, the youths must endure a period of brutal penance hand-prepared by Strandvaskere the Red Pyramid: each trial is fashioned after the mortal failings of the individual, so as to clear the conscience of sin and render it either pure, or at least broken enough to not care. A single youth may be chained from the ceiling of a room, a prisoner as he always was and forced to escape before the cell door is forever locked; brothers may be forced to kill each other as they wished to in past life, but now to find the knives and saws lodged under one another's ribs to cut the ever-tightening chains from their wrists. Sometimes one will be forced to decide the fate of his past life companions, but it all leads to one thing - death and the completion of the Milling, through death or no.
The Milling is perhaps the shortest of the trials, but those youths who complete it are rendered almost completely mad.
3. The Outlast
The mouths of the youths are sewn shut. They are drip-fed every two days and made to repent of the sins of their past life by the Red Pyramid, to ensure the were paying attention during the last trial. They are moved to cells deeper and narrower, to the asylum under the Doom Chair where failed Astartes are kept hidden in shame from the rest of the Imperium. There is one exploit within each cell, and the youth must find it; and through blood and pain, he will overcome - only to break free into another, much more difficult and logicless puzzle. And so on. Even if many were to gather together for safety, their chances of escape are muddied in their current of mad brains; and with mouths sewn shut, they can't converse with each other anyway.
The five terminator suits belonging to the Lords of the Sump, the chapter elite and body wards of the Chapter master, beat a perpetual patrol throughout the asylums under the Doom Chair, lest in remaining immobile they break down. These empty shells can smell defeated freedom from anywhere and nothing escapes their eyeless gaze; to complete their next task the youths must escape them and find one of Frosti's abandoned apothecarions, where a false sense of security holds them until madness or suicide takes over. And at that point the reclusam draws them back from the edge of insanity - often a little too late - to prepare for the next stage in their evolution.
4. The ingestion
Now the youths' eyelids are sewn to their eyes, locking them in place and as a result unable to detect changes in light or motion. The process begins of implanting the new organs and the hypnotherapy which tricks the body into accepting the strange things. Being the sons of Dorn, the Betcher's gland does not function; the Haemastamen is more often than not withered and dead by the time it is implanted (the body's subsequent attempts to reject the poisoned blood manufactured by this gland may lead to what is called black-head disease), so is the Multi-lung - but they are implanted anyway, for ritual and superstition have risen above practicality and reason.
That the Sago Astartes often culture their gene-seed and attached organs in the bodies of gryphons is not a secret. But knowledge of it may be enough to find your shadow detach and stalk you - not quick enough to catch up and kill, but then we're all mad here so it's really only a matter of time before death's appeal outshines a life of perpetual flight and hiding.
Strange feathers may begin to sprout across the aspirant's bodies, upon their brows and the backs of their hands. Wasted limbs may rise from their shoulders or their spines, twitching without control and having no use. If this occurs, the individual is noted down and if the reclusiam thinks it necessary, they may see to the youth at a later stage. The Ingestion is ended after as many years as it needs take with the implanting of the black carapace in a horrible festival without documentation, save that it is called the mass of the holy absorption.
5. The Hunting
Simply put, a dragon is hunted and slain. By every sense other than sight. The youths are each given a combat blade - which is more often than not a sharpened block of iron or even a tool the apothecarion cast out - and a bolt pistol with a single bolt. Originally the aspirants were transported back to their home planet to find their quarry, but since Nastrond's destruction they are instead led out into the wilderness beyond Mount Nowhere and given to fight a deep denizin of the space hulk which the youths are told is a dragon. They never see them, none see them, they need not know.
6. The Dropping
The librarius takes over from the reclusam and psychic training begins in earnest. After a year of preparation the youths are removed to the Mind-Forges in the upper spires of the Doom Chair. Suspended in a near-vacuum state, the incapacitated youths are made to duel with the will of the warp, released into the mortal plain by Thurs and their staff monitoring them. Small creatures at first are manifested, malignant imps which caper about and bite; bigger then, everchanging, fleshy things with teeth and beaks and numerous eyes; bigger then, birds with clawing fingers who spit flames - and then the dead. The spirits of Sago Astartes past rise from their halls of rust and blood and contend with the youth's minds, and every daemon before is nothing compared to the generation dead.
7. The Returning
At the very last, as the initiate finally accepts his doom; he gives up his life for nothing, nothing. The moment the reclusiam have awaited, the correct moment in which he slips from that last crumbling brink of madness. But the instant before the leap is made or the razor is plunged in, he is caught up and forced back to full health - his eyes and mouth are torn open and through two apocalyptic yearsworth of psychochemical bombardment he suddenly becomes an Astartes as his body changes shape and muscle tone bursts and flows into forms it remembered but never had.
Were he faithful, the Praetorian's vision would have been the last thing to leave his mind's eye before the blackness set in. It would be the first thing to come back as he dons the ancient ochre and black plate of the generation dead. The Astartes will take up his wargear to march upon his ultimate fate wherever it may be sought for the glory of him and He on Terra - and, hope beyond hope he may yet find his Primarch.
Out of the hundred youths we followed this last decade, only one survived to the end. He has known darkness and pain few others would dare to know. Some of the uncountable scars plastering his body might pass away but the horror in his mind will never leave his waking eyes - yet he endures, screaming in triumph atop the great sewage-stained mound of corpses he trampled to find Throne forsook him long ago and doom chose this path for him from the start.
For this reason the Sagodjur Fjorlag are always filled with dismal thoughts. They are sadistic masters of escapology who delight in nothing but the torture of their enemies. The rubber cape and boots worn with the Gudbrandr power armour are synonymous with the Doom Chair, the abattoir that gave these butchers of Throne their hellish birth. The darker, the more cramped and cubist their battlefield, the more fatalistic the relish with which they fight - yet all with an abandon almost reckless, for fear is naught and death is less...
For what concern is theirs in this? Life is nothing to them, be it their own or their allies.
++O Red Pyramid, live forever.
It has come to my attention that the Dhalia has extracted a tithe from the barony of Cludge. All to the good; a hundred less pewling mouths to feed equates to a burden of TH4,370/40 per annum lifted from the baronal stipenduries. This will negate the potential requirement for a train robbery to be planned for the next fifteen months - doubly expedient as finding logs to block the track is becoming extremely difficult, O Red Pyramid as my esteemed colleague would know. And if one or two had the lack of sense to put off that immoral human habit (that being dying) long enough to be made a Fae beast, all to the good.
Now, I am writing my esteemed colleague because that barony so happens to be my own. I know your wish would be to place every last one of your survivors to the Blodfjord, that being your own Folk once upon a past life, but I would ask that you gently nudge our character of mutual interest towards use of the holy bolter in a supportive role to heavier arms platforms. As I am certain you are aware, the Crowbacks (who so happen to be my own Flokk) are shy one member, brother Osgoth having Succumbed to the wounds inflicted on him by the worsted Louspedoodle during the action against the dreaded Lombelwhopper in the Scrum system 545.M35 (our first loss bar one in five years - and a sore one at that, were he not so obsessed with treacle tart and rice pudding).
I would also ask - nay, I impel you, exercising my full authority as gunslinger baron of Cludge - that you rename our character of mutual interest from SGGSGSADDEDG020554 to a name of more regional significance such as Turvoldr, as Turvoldr is a much easier name to remember than whatever Throne-cursed naming convention the reclusiam conjure up with six syllables and all sorts of accented letters I can never keep up with. No offence intended personally.
Please forward your reply to our esteemed colleague Geri (the one with DCCW dexterous enough to carry an envelope, besides he owes me a favour) at Arming Sump 4.
I await your response on broken bottles.++
Sergeant-baron Fanrir, 8th Folk 1st Flokk “Chasing the Dragon”