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The Beguiling (Short Story)

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The Beguiling
Author Sandy Mitchell
Publisher Black Library
Collected in Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium

What Price Victory

Cover Description

On Slawkenberg, Ciaphas Cain is a long way from the front lines and that's precisely what he wanted. However, Chaos is present on Slawkenberg and Cain finds himself back in the firefight against his better judgement.


About eight months into the Slawkenberg campaign, Ciaphas Cain is getting bored. The Valhallan 12th Field Artillery has been doing its part for the Emperor, while remaining a comfortable distance from the actual enemy. Cain's boredom stems from the fact that he has exhausted the planet's limited recreational opportunities, but his friend Lieutenant Divas misreads this and suggests that Cain do a reconnaissance sweep of the forward positions, since there have been reports of something strange happening. Cain, interested enough to do a bit of exploring, agrees.

Accompanied by Jurgen and two eager young Gunners from the battery, they are driving a Salamander Scout to the forward observation post, when they see a roadblock manned by Nurglite cultists. Cain hurriedly calls down an artillery strike and Jurgen steers the Salamander off the road. The attackers are obliterated, but so is the road, forcing them to find another route back to base through the thick forest.

They are approaching what looks like a settlement, when a damsel in distress hurtles out of the woods, screaming for help. A few Nurglite pursuers appear and are dispatched without much difficulty. The next thing Cain and the Valhallans know, they are being effusively thanked and welcomed by the nubile students of the local finishing school and their headmistress, Emeli Duboir. Without much persuading, the Guardsmen agree to spend the night.

After an evening of being wined, dined, and fawned over by Emeli and her charges, Cain is invited to Emeli's private chambers. But before accepting, Cain tells Jurgen to get back to the Salamander and vox the battery; as pleasant as their circumstances are, something doesn't feel right...

In Emeli's bedchamber, she starts to entrance Cain, confessing that the girl they found was bait to lure the Nurglites, but Cain and his guardsmen are much better prey. She encourages him to give in; she can already see that, under whatever face he puts on for the outside world, he is first and foremost a self-seeking rogue, and his soul already belongs to Slaanesh. However, Cain's will to survive trumps his selfishness, and he breaks free of her hypnosis and shoots her between the eyes with his laspistol.

Staggering downstairs, he is too late to save the two Gunners, who are consumed before his eyes by the female cultists. Just then, a troop of Nurglite soldiers storm in and start shooting up the place. Cain flees outside and is relieved to see Jurgen waiting for him in the Salamander. Cain calls in an artillery barrage, obliterating both Chaos factions. In the aftermath, Cain makes up a story that praises the two fallen Guardsmen's valour and omits the part about them being used as possible Daemonhosts.

Cain would be happy to close the book on the event there, but admits that, even a century later, he still sees Emeli in his dreams and worries about where his soul is really bound for...