The Devine Adoratrice (Short Story)
The Devine Adoratrice is a short story by Graham McNeill. Originally published in the anthology The Imperial Truth, it was re-published online in May 2014, as it acts as a prequel to McNeill's novel Vengeful Spirit.
Decades before Horus's civil war sunders the Imperium, Raeven Devine, ruler-in-waiting of the world of Molech, prepares for his Becoming, the rite that will elevate him to the rank of Knight and bond him with the mighty war machine that will be his steed for years to come. But traitors within the Sacristans have other ideas and a shocking act of betrayal sets the stage for one of the bloodiest battles of the Horus Heresy...
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Raeven Devine, the younger son of Lord Cyprian Devine, spends a langorous evening in bed with his mistress, Lyx, who just happens to be his elder half-brother Albard's wife. While they are naked, he notices a small tattoo of the Serpent Cult on her body, and chides her that she could get in a lot of trouble if anyone besides him saw it.
The next day is his Rite of Becoming, and on the morning, his mother, Lady Cebella, bustles into his chambers, orders Lyx out through the servants' entrance, and proceeds to make sure her son is presentable for his great day.
Albard and Raeven are conveyed together to the dais where their father is already mounted atop his Knight. Just as they dismount from their carriage, a wild-eyed Sacristan bursts out of the crowd and runs onto the dais with a bomb strapped to his chest - not a conventional bomb, but rather an electromagnetic pulse device, which disables Albard's antiquated suit of power armour (which he insisted on wearing to adhere to tradition), and, calamitously, the neural implants pacifying the beasts drawing the carriage. They go berserk, goring and trampling several of House Devine's retainers, impervious to las-rifle and stubber fire. Raeven is about to flee, but when his path is blocked by one of the animals, he grabs his brother's power sword - which, since it relies on its now-disabled power field, is not even sharpened.
Lord Devine, whose Knight was at the edge of the blast and only temporarily disabled, moves into action, killing the beasts with his weapons but suffering two near-fatal wounds in the process. Barely conscious, he orders both his sons to proceed to the Sanctuary to complete their bonding with their Knights immediately. As Raeven struggles to help his brother, he is surprised to hear the crowd cheering his name - from where they stood, they did not see Lord Devine attack the beasts, they only saw Raeven standing over his defenceless brother with a non-powered sword.
As the Sacristans bind Albard and Raeven into the mechanical harnesses that will bond them with their Knights, one bends over and whispers into Albard's ear, "the Serpent Gods live..."
The next day, Lyx reports to Lady Cebella that things worked out almost exactly as they had planned, maybe even better: Albard was so traumatized that he failed to bond properly with his Knight, while Raeven did so perfectly. Lady Cebella grouses that she expected Lord Devine to die in the attack, yet he is stubbornly holding on to life, meaning Raeven's ascension as the new Lord will have to wait for another day. Lyx reminds her that, by accident, Raeven has become a popular hero, and it will serve him well in the months to come. Like all wives of the heir-presumptive to House Devine, Lyx has been groomed as an Adoratrice, a priestess with a limited gift of divination. She confides to Cebella that she has foreseen a great battle coming to Molech, in which Raeven will play a pivotal role.
Cebella and Lyx agree that, despite their differences, they both love Raeven and want him to rise as high as he can - and their conversation reveals that they are actually mother and daughter, and Raeven is unaware that his mistress is actually his own twin sister.
- "Divine Adoratrice" was a title given to high-ranking women in Ancient Egypt (typically the Pharaoh's wife or daughter) who served as the high priestess of the cult of Amun.