Among the “Big Eat”
It was… deliciously frightful, the way all the ingredients came together, each individual piece melting and mixing into the greater whole as Sibyl and her patron looked on. The Maw would never let her touch the brew while it was under flame, of course. But years and years of faithful tasting and testing had granted her a certain… supervisory trust, and she was permitted closer than any other could have come without fear of joining the meal.
They had stopped amidst the carnage of their most recent battle, not because they were beaten but because they were hungry. It had become a sort of a ritual as their motley crusade drew closer to their goal- after every engagement, Da Maw would read the fates in her cauldron, and cast her blessing over all even as each band among them in turn carried their offerings for the soup. Against the somber backdrop of the legions of crows descending on the battlefield, the night’s meal began to take form.
Sibyl had already given her contribution unto the pot. Lord Swilric had visited her earlier, bearing with him a pair of organs- one, the heart of a Duardin, the other of a Man. “Ah, my lady.” His rough lips brushed the back of her hand, and her own heart fluttered. “Look- from the very leaders of the rabble themselves! Both lie still… and yet ours beat together.” She had blushed at that. It must have been no mean task to seek these trophies out- once, she might have been apprehensive about such a gift, but now she was ravenously grateful. It was all she could do not to consume them then and there- but it wouldn’t do to spite the Maw, so into the cauldron they went.
The twin hearts had been the most symbolic contribution, she was convinced, but as size went they’d been dwarfed by what came immediately after- a gaggle of the… well, she had once seen them as brutes, she admitted, but every day they were more alike to champions in her eyes. They had come bearing the great bones of the Duardin chief’s beast, heroically slain on the field of battle, and the Maw had cracked them open to marinate and add their marrow to the brew, turning it a deep brown.
And then- Sibyl smiled at the memory- there had been the Grot. Laden down with spider eggs, he had proudly declared his burden a present “from da Unbreakable”, only for the Maw to scoop him up with one bladed prosthetic and toss him in along with his gifts. He should have known better than to come so close to the cauldron… from far off, she’d seen the Boss Git, and he’d given her a smirking, exaggerated salute even as the eggs and their silk dissolved into the soup. He was a gentleman, and a scoundrel, she reflected.
The other group of beast-hunters’ contribution had seemed a trifle… strange, to her, when she first saw it. It was no secret that the green-skinned and frost-skinned hunters had a fierce if jovial rivalry, and since the former had brought such a mighty offering she had thought that the latter’s tribute to the cauldron would be more than a single woman. But as they drew nearer she realized- it was not a Man, but an Aelf, and one who bore the marks of a priestess of their shadow-god no less. The hunters must have ranged far and struck fiercely to capture her- no wonder they thought the Hag Queen worthy tribute.
The camp stilled as she was drawn near to the cauldron- her eyes were wide, and she began to struggle, clearly realizing what fate awaited her. “No! Blasphemy! You fools- you cannot deny Khaine his due!” She was lifted bodily by the Ogors flanking her, to be dropped before the Maw. “For this, my temple will kill and kill again, until you are all tributes to the Lord of Murder!”
For a moment, Sibyl’s patron regarded the Aelf curiously, and then nodded. “Be purified”, she said in a basso voice. Then she struck, almost faster than sight, impaling the Hag Queen through the heart with one of her meathook-hands. The Aelf died instantly, face contorted into a furious expression, and the Maw nodded to herself again before plunging the bleeding corpse into the now-bubbling stew. At once, the broth began to foam and boil, and a pungent cloud wafted out of the cauldron and into the ranks of onlookers, carrying with it a heady scent suggesting sweat and offal. Sibyl’s stomach growled in an unladylike fashion, and she knew that she wasn’t the only one for whom the brew had already stoked a deep, gnawing hunger.
The Maw leaned over the edge of the cauldron, pensive, staring into its depths, and Lady Sibyl craned her neck to see as well- but all that appeared to her was broth and bubbles. Still, her patron seemed to find something more than that in the swirl of ingredients, because she smiled broadly and turned to the assembled.
“We continue da march!” A whoop escaped Sibyl’s throat, before she blushed and placed one hand over her mouth. Other members were not so restrained, though, and the camp echoed to their clamor. “We is gonna go to Amasya. We is gonna butcher all dat stands in our way, so da cauldron tells me. An’ dere, we is gonna find da maw dat will eat da wurld. And when we wins… when we wins, we is never gonna be hungry again.”
The Big Eat roared even louder then, but it was lost to Sibyl as the Maw turned and smiled benevolently on her, nodding. A spoonful of the brew was gone in an instant, followed by another and another, until she was lapping it straight out of her hands even as it ran down her cheeks into her decolletage. It was most undignified, but she could hardly have cared less- only her patron’s hand on her shoulder caused her to pull away.
“Good, eh? It gonna get better, though. When we gets to Amasya… den, den after da final battle, we is gonna eats da gods demselves, in da greatest feast da world has ever known.” The Maw’s words sent a shudder through Sibyl, and she closed her eyes, imagining the entire world swirling down into the pot, mixing together into one rich and creamy broth. It was… frightfully delicious.
The hunting had been good, and a butchered sky-whale even now rested in their hold, but Angeja Brasshook had not donated anything to the stew, and she forbade any of her crew from joining in the festivities. So long as the pods and herds continued to follow Da Maw dat Walks, so would they… but it was one thing to be a member of the Big Eat, and another entirely to lose yourself in the Maw’s dogma like all the rest of the army. There was something unnatural about that filthy cauldron, something beyond the Maw’s natural charisma, and she wanted no part of it.
Besides… it was more than passing strange, wasn’t it, the way their leader dragged that ghoul around like a faithful dog, singing her praises. No, they would follow, unto the gates of Amasya and beyond if there was wealth to be had- but the Kharadron had always kept their own council.