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Short Fiction

Pleasures of the Palate

Pleasures of the Palate

Written by Troy Sterling Nies
The following is an unofficial Warhammer 40,000 Short Story
Reading Time: 16 minutes

INQUISITION CASE FILE TYPE:   MOST WANTED, CASE STUDY

TARGET: SLOBODAHN HUSQUE, MASTER CHEF

PLANET: SCINTILLA

HIVE: SIBELLUS

LOCATION: (REDACTED BY INQUISITOR, ORDO HERETICUS CLEARANCE REQUIRED)

There is no love sincerer than the love of food.  – Ancient Terran Cultist

Rickety crates held together with razor-wire scrap, twine and plasti-tape were carried in by the straining and hunched hive-porters.  A rotund and stinking greasy looking man, naked from the waist up, thumbed and grunted directions for the porters to deposit their burdens.  Not moving quick enough, the foreman bared his yellowed and in some places, missing teeth and hissed vehemently for their lack of speed and for generally being a blight unto the hive through their whorish mothers’ wombs.  His bald pate glistened with sweat, rivulets running down the back of his bull-thick neck, beady eyes scrutinized each shipment as it passed by.  As the porters passed the hulking brute, they lowered their gaze.  In groups of two and four, they carried all manner of crates, barrels, boxes and cages – filled with every imaginable type of live game, legal and otherwise.  He’d spur on the ones that irritated him least with a kick from his gore covered boots.  He’d sometimes thrashed those who irritated him most with a whip-like implement that appeared to end in a collection of animal tails and sinew tied into knots with sharp pieces of bone and teeth.  As they passed the beast of a man, those who were struck dared not cry out lest they earn further discipline from the jailer-like foreman.

The atmosphere of the outer alleys of the freight reception area and connecting tunnels were much cooler in comparison to the sweltering heat of the kitchens just beyond.  Billowing clouds of steam poured out from within the kitchen and into the alley bathing all of those who entered, the grease-laden humidity palpable and oppressive.  Despite the pervading and uncomfortable miasma, the scents emitted from within were mouth-watering.  Pungent herbs and spices, sweet and spicy fruits and the fatty meats ferried in from off-world and even off-system (in some cases, quite possibly captured and sold via clandestine Rogue Trader rare-game hunters) assailed the olfactory senses causing the mouth the water uncontrollably. 

If one examined the ‘hired help’ closer, it would become apparent that some wore blindfolds and black leather silver-studded dog-muzzle-like masks.  These were strapped on and in some cases, sewn to their heads and faces.  This was to prevent them from visually enjoying the masterful delicacies prepared within.  Some of the lesser servants who were not considered worthy of enjoying even the scents let alone be honored to taste the foods were further ‘prepared’ to serve the kitchens.  In their particular cases, the olfactory portion of the brain along with the sinuses were cauterized via long and slender needle-probes which were inserted through the nasal-lacrimal duct and straight into the sinus cavity.  Those ‘initiated’ forever experienced everything they smelled and tasted as a malodorous, sulfuric scent – very similar to burnt and rotten egg.  Serving the Master Chef was considered honor enough, let alone to actually be in the presence of his ‘heavenly’ creations.

Only a select few were considered worthy to directly serve under the Master Chef who reigned over the kitchen domain beneath the (REDACTED BY INQUISITOR).  Those who were spared and privileged to keep their gustatory and olfactory senses served directly under the famous (or some say, infamous) Master Chef, Slobodahn Husque. (pronounced SLOW-BOE-DAWN HUSK).

Slobodahn Husque was not an immense or grotesquely obese man, nor was he svelte.  He slovenly existed in the in-between of overindulgence and lackadaisical in regard to personal appearance and hygiene.  Yet, somehow, his presence demanded the attention of all those in his proximity, as if he occupied more square footage than his frumpy frame required.  He sat, perched, like some ruffled vulture atop a towering wooden “stool”.  To simply describe it as a barstool would be a great injustice, for Slobodahn commissioned it to be crafted from the rare Nalwood, and required that it have a ladder ascend the full twelve feet to the seat portion of the elaborate sitting-construct.  The stool-legs were the thickness of a man’s thigh and the intercrossed rungs were nearly the same.  Carved into the structure were various glyphs and designs, mostly comprising the elaborate recipes that had earned the Master Chef’s repute.  In many places it was unreadable as his greased and food-soiled hands had filled in the recesses over the years whilst he used it to support himself as he climbed the ladder.  The ladder was perhaps the only ‘exercise’ of any kind that the master chef had experienced in his years at the (REDACTED BY INQUISITOR) and recently altogether bypassed the ladder in favor of a series of steps built to the top of the chair.

Slumped atop the stool-throne, he peered through the myriad of pot and stove steam, in constant observation of his kitchen lackeys.  After having recently ascended to the peak of his stool, somewhat out of breath, he mused that he would simply have the ladder and stairs removed and a lift installed instead.  His beloved stool was his ‘throne’ and he greatly enjoyed the view it commanded over his bubbling and steaming kitchen domain.  He sat with bulbous chin propped by his pudgy hand which was anchored via his elbow on his edematous thigh.  His pulse was irritatingly noticeable as it throbbed in his goitrous throat, and he noted to himself that he would soon required another dose of the drag-root sedative or perhaps he would consider trying the Farcosia that was currently all the rage.

Heavy lids nearly covered his bulbous and injected eyes as he stared down amongst his servants.  He spotted his recently acquired Boucher.  It didn’t have a name, rather, just the title.  The hulking brute of flesh and machinery stood nearly eight feet tall, a construct made from the punished or perhaps honored frame of an Imperial Ogryn.  As he watched it hook and slice the rib cage of a large bipedal beast, he recalled the trade he had made to acquire the servitor.

Several weeks ago, Husque had originally spotted the servitor unloading large foodstuff crates from one of his Rogue Trader off-world providers.  After a lengthy series of haggling, he managed to secure ownership from the swarthy and somewhat ill-reputed rogue trader known as Elias Ventroux.

Rare-game, exotic spices and sometimes slaves were Ventroux’s income flow and he had managed to evade Calixis charter hounds for some generations.  Due to Ventroux’s fame, Husque knew the price would be steep.  He was, however, pleasantly surprised at the ease of trade when he mentioned throwing in several doses of Farcosia in addition to the usual flesh-slaves that Husque procured from his under-hive contacts.

After further deals were made with clandestine tech-alterers, a meat-chain and carcass-hook replaced the servitor’s hands.  Now, his Boucher made quick work of the slabs of meat, carcasses and other unidentifiable masses of flesh that were brought in by the cage and crate-load.  The screech and whir of the blade was and additional bit of ambiance added to the usual clank of pots and pans, bubbling fluids and sound of high-heat frying that was music to Husque’s ears.  What the servitor lacked in finesse he made up for in spades in production volume.  Never mind the gore-mess in his area, the Grillardin and Friturier cleaned up after him.  Indeed, they were quite happy to do so and pleased with the volume and availability of meats.  They would then, in turn, grill or fry rapidly in an attempt to sate the never-ending demands of the (REDACTED BY INQUISITOR) decadent appetite.

It was this insatiably decadent appetite that weighed on the infamous Chef’s mind.  A written request was received by his scribes and presented to him a fortnight ago from an anonymous lord of (REDACTED BY INQUISITOR).  At first, he thought is some sort of joke or trick, perhaps, from one of the competing Chefs across the sector.  His position at the court, he believed, was greatly sought after and one that imbued a sense of constantly having to out-do his previous creations to adequately continue to secure his lofty culinary kingdom.  It was highly unprecedented for one of his notoriety to be commissioned by such an impersonal means.  Surely one who held the rank the this particular ‘noble person’ had would have gone through the appropriate niceties and quelled social protocol requirements.  He expected this so-called ‘noble’ to have the wherewithal to present with a courtship of sorts before even entertaining the idea to begin the delicate process of commissioning the grandeur of palate that Chef Husque commanded – let alone have the gall to simply send a note in such an impersonal manner.

Much to his scribe’s dismay, who stated it appeared to contain a valid stamp of (REDACTED BY INQUISITOR), he immediately dismissed the request as a hoax, even an insult.

Several days later, after he had all but forgotten the request, he indulged himself in viewing some of the kitchen scullion training.  The overseers were having a particularly difficult session with the newly purchased slaves from Rogue Trader Ventroux, an additional part of the Boucher trade that Chef Husque managed to haggle out of the shrewd Rogue Trader.

After viewing the session for mere moments, Chef Husque became incensed, immediately realizing the low quality of slaves he had procured.  They were unwilling, dissident and outright unruly.  Open defiance to the handlers, even so far as throwing the practice plates at them escalated quickly to a near revolt in the kitchen training facility.  After the uprising was quelled via the handlers’ shock-mauls and nets, Chef Husque took it upon himself to discipline them with gusto.  Each slave was stripped naked and secured to a pole with rusty chain to wrist and ankle manacles.  The system allowed little in the way of movement and the length was such that each could not stand entirely erect, but hunched over as if adjusting the laces or buckles on boots.  The others were secured with shock-collars and forced to stand in a circle around the display of punishment.

Chef Husque flayed each and every slave in clear sight to their now panic-stricken associates.  There was no end to the depth of torturous cutlery that the master Chef employed.  Repeated lashings with wet leather whips infused with the spiciest oils known to the sector, vigorous back rubbings with electro-grater, spankings with spike-spatulas and white-hot giant spoons barely touched the surface of his repertoire.  The beatings continued to an ecstatic state for the Master Chef, with him occasionally emitting a lusty howl or a hissing response to the slave’s cries for mercy.  Eventually, the horrid Chef’s breathing came in ragged gasps, his face beet-red and eyes bulging.  He panted while hovering over the near crippled form of a young man, gobbets of sweat and spit trailing from the Chef’s face, each drop taking the level of pain higher a hundredfold as it landed on the slave’s flayed back.

The Chef had given each of the slaves a horrid wilting stare, with each averting their gaze in utter fear.  Husque, at this point, noticed the state of his uniform, the Monarchial Chef Jacket now stained a sweat-infused shade of yellow, spattered with different shades of bloody vermillion and large yellowing sweat-rings expanded outwardly from his arm-pits. He could smell his own stink, a blend of his usual musky spice-heavy odor coupled with feces and urine.  His exertion onto the slaves was such that in his state of pain-infecting bliss, he would occasionally lose bodily control.

Handing over his whip to a nearby grinning handler, Slobodahn gave orders to now, “Initiate them!”.  This consisted of the fitting of the blinders, scent-hoods and olfactory cauterization.  The slaves milled about in newfound panic upon hearing the order, wondering what possibly could be worse than what they already had endured.

Husque, now spent, stumbled out of the training facility and smiled as he heard the snapping crackle and pitiful screech report of handler activated shock-collar and slave response behind him.  He sundered in joy as he imagined the ozone tang and acrid taste of their burnt flesh that would soon saturate the air of the initiation chamber.

After stopping in the kitchen briefly to grab several bottles of amasec and a wheel of koodra cheese for a little night snack, he eventually made it to his bed chamber.  He contemplated just flopping onto his rumpled and sweat saturated bed, but even his current state of stink was unappealing to his senses. 

He peeled off his chef jacket, stained pantaloons and loincloth, was about to toss them in the laundry chute but on second thought, instead, slid them into the incinerator shaft.  Moving to the walk-in closet, he grabbed the next chef outfit by the hanger and briefly examined it.  He immediately focused in on a solitary curled hair that presented itself near the lapel.  He snarled in disgust, tossing the uniform into the laundry chute while vowing that he would personally shave and then flay all of the laundry staff on the morrow.  He then grabbed the next uniform and inspected it in a likewise manner.  It appeared impeccable, and, eventually, he grunted in approval hanging it as he did every evening on a hook next to his bed to be ready for the morn.

Slobodahn wandered to the nightstand and grabbed one of the bottles of amasec he had placed upon entering.  He quickly uncorked it and stood, naked, before his standing mirror as he drained the entire bottle.  Head cocked-back, bottle glub-glub-glubbing, a rivulet of wine ran down the corner of his mouth, neck, breast and then followed the convex curve of his ever- expanding paunch.  As he chugged, he watched in the mirror from the corner of his eye as the dribble approached his loin.  Just as it reached the tip of his manliness, he had drained the bottle, but dropped it, startled as he saw movement in the mirror behind him.

The bottle shattered upon the hardwood floor as he spun, his arse hitting the other bottle upon the nightstand, sending it to the floor.  It rolled towards the closet, the glass on wood sound coupled with the pounding of his heart in his ears.  Thinking an assassin had come to take his life, he reached out for anything, anything to defend himself – and found himself holding the wheel of koodra cheese.  He looked at it sheepishly and then covered his privates with it, resigned to die with a scrap of dignity.

The figure was darkly clothed and cloaked, with hood up.  He figured it to be woman, but only because of the slight, wispy frame and quick glimpse of knee-high, black-polished leather riding boots.  The figure was in a shadowed corner of his room where another standing mirror was positioned.  He blinked, not believing what his eyes had witnessed, for it was much too soon for the amasec to have affected him.  But, he believed he had seen the figure step out of the mirror.

“How…” he gasped.

The figure remained in the shadows but held up a thin, pale hand, insinuating a pause.  Husque’s heightened sense of smell and taste immediately detected the being’s scent-aura – a signature mix of burnt but sweet spices and oiled leathers.  The cloying heaviness of it caused Husque to swallow loudly and lick his lips greedily.  He felt the sudden urge to taste the figure, to eat, the figure.  He blinked repeatedly, thinking perhaps this was all a dream – the sensations were overwhelmingly vivid, how could it be otherwise?

The figure stood motionless for a few seconds and then in a fluid motion slid from shadow to shadow, the shadows behind it growing about it, eventually nearly enveloping the room in darkness.  Husque was riveted by the spectacle around him, the scents, the trance-dance movements of the figure as it moved closer to him and the darkness – it was so, so dark – but it welcomed him.

The beings mannerisms were certainly peculiar, even to his standards.  Deep down in the recesses of what was remaining of his sense of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, he could not help but feel a thread of threat involved even though the clandestine individual was exquisitely polite.  He knew this, despite not being able to recall it actually speaking, because it emphatically ensured the validity of the written ‘request’, even going to far as to using chefs’-cant speak infused with the proper accolade-laden titles that had been conferred upon him by his prestigious colleagues.

The figure left in the same manner it came, and Husque stood for long moments, naked, before the mirror, gazing into it at the reflected mirror behind him, hoping, expecting the figure to return.  Eventually, he snapped out of the dream-like reverie and looked about the room as if wakening from a dream.  He was about to dismiss it as such, perhaps an after effect of such an exciting day, what with the flaying and all.  Moving to find his night robe, he took exactly six steps and cried out in agony as he sliced his foot upon broken glass.  Dropping the cheese wheel, he fell into bed, cursing and groaning as he held his foot.

Eventually with some effort, he pulled his foot up to inspect the laceration.  He grimaced as blood dripped upon the floor and mingled with the spilt amasec.  Husque stared at this for a moment and then bent over the edge of the bed staring at the mess upon his hardwood floor.  He reached out and idly traced his finger through the blood and wine and then glanced up at the mirror.

He crawled out of his bed, standing, broken bottle shards crunching and cutting underfoot but somehow now unnoticed by Husque.  He smiled pervertedly into the mirror.  With his bloodied finger, he delicately placed it upon his protruding tongue.  He clenched his eyes shut and a moan issued deep from within him.  A shudder ran through his body, rippling from his jowls and reverberating to his arse.  Smiling, he glanced into the mirror again and watched himself lap and lick the remnants of blood from his finger with grotesque facial twitching and unintelligible gibbering.

He was now completely convinced  that the commission was real and that upon completion, untold fame, fortune and pleasures of the palate and beyond were his to have and command.  Such a request – a commission, emboldened the Chef’s bloated ego to newfound heights.

Never breaking gaze from the mirror, he imitated the shadowy figures motions.  He writhed and gyrated and slid about in his own blood, spilt amasec, broken shards with chest puffed out.  As he danced, he proclaimed aloud to himself how he, and he alone had been requested to provide the heathens of taste a delight from within the heavenly library of gustatory pleasures that was his kitchen. He could only pose for so long, as his constitution was not up to it and he eventually succumbed to his bed, almost immediately falling asleep.

His dreams were vivid, fascinating, sensual and full of fluid writhing cloaked figures suggesting, guiding, offering rare ingredients from across the sector, from places profane and beyond.  Tastes unknown to the human palate’s experiences would be unlocked by him, provided by him, as he awakened their souls to new levels of consuming.  He would be considered a god amongst men.

INQUISITION CASE FILE TYPE:   MOST WANTED, CASE STUDY

TARGET: SLOBODAHN HUSQUE, MASTER CHEF

PLANET: SCINTILLA

HIVE: SIBELLUS

LOCATION: (REDACTED BY INQUISITOR, ORDO HERETICUS CLEARANCE REQUIRED)

STATUS:  AT LARGE

WANTED ALIVE FOR INTERROGATION REGARDING SLAANESHIAN CULT ACTIVITIES

About the Author

Troy Sterling Nies is a classically trained and award-winning composer. His music has been placed in a variety of media including film, television, stage, audio dramas and video games. Some of his most notable works include HPLHS: The Whisperer in Darkness, The Call of Cthulhu & Dark Adventure Radio Theatre.

Website

TroySterling.com