Al'Ashir stared up at the double-headed eagle mounted on the wall. It was welded from debris of their battle with the demon, it made up in significance what it lacked in material worth. The room was tiny, barely four yards by ten, and the only furniture to speak of was an aging wooden podium that barely held his prayer book but it was a space for His Word.
And the Word would be heard.
For a couple of medium weight golden thrones he'd negotiated for a grocer to deliver supplies before and after every prayer service so that all who came to hear the word might leave with their bellies full. Far too few of the Lurkers had regular access to healthy meals for Al'Ashir's liking.
His first services had been given to mostly empty rooms, a few of the especially devoted Imperial ex-pats bothered to make the long trip down to his church twice a day but most had chosen to pray at their personal shrines if they bothered to pray at all. Fighter pilots were a notoriously private lot, choosing to worship their favored saints by flying rather than prostration.
Fortunately the possibility of a warm meal did not long go unnoticed by the poorer residents of the babylon station, even at the cost of a sermon. He spoke of loving one's fellow man and of the great saints, telling of battles and heroes of the Empire. It was unlikely that Al'Ashir would convert them all but each soul that listened to the Word was that much closer to salvation. They giggled at his poor English and Inerlac but it was well received over all.
What continued to surprise Al'Ashir more than anything was the unsupervised, and sometimes parentless, children who ran wild in the lower sections of the ship. What sort of a station had no school? How could generations of station dwellers be expected to do their job if they could not so much as read or write their own names. Once his congregation got up and running he would establish a school, sooner rather than later.
However it was neither the flow of parishioners nor the lack of education that troubled Al'Ashir in his new role as Bishop of Babylon. It was the xenos. It was on a lesser feast-day morning of Second Vec'so, a martyr famous for having protected his world from an Eldar attack, that Al'Ashir noticed something troubling.
There was a xenos in his church, listening to his sermon. Al'Ashir supposed it was to be expected on a station where the xenos mingle so close to their human betters, but it was not the xeno's presence that unnerved him greatly. It was the questions the xenos asked of him after the service. The Markab had questioned him on the nature of sin and repentance, asking him genuinely provocative questions.
By all rights he should have just cast the beast out of his rectory and told it to ask it's own unnatural gods of such things, but he did not. He and the Markab chatted about their respective faiths for hours after the service. The next service there were three Markab attending.
And they were by no means the only ones. Statuesque and lithe Vree and well coiffed Brakiri found their way into his flock, listening politely to his sermons out of curiosity or hunger. What unnerved him the most, however, were the xenos who came to his sermons with the Imperial ex-pats. There was at least one Minbari who always showed up with a broad shouldered pilot of Amon stock by the name of Kegg, chatting with him and laughing about some private joke between the two of them.
However there was trouble on the horizon for him. He could be sure of that. Galut was already trying to convince Al'Ashir to baptize some of the Drazi into the Imperial faith. Precisely how he'd convinced the handful of Drazi to agree to baptism was beyond him. He'd only narrowly managed to dissuade the Drazi and Galut by telling them that he wanted them to learn the word of the Emperor in full before he was willing to baptize them.
He'd hoped it would make the problem go away but it seemed to have only delayed the inevitable. The Drazi followed Galut to services, listening to sermons, waiting for their religious education to be complete. If only all human devotees were that dedicated, the Horus Heresy might not have been.
His subtle hints to Galut had been totally useless. The Drazi liked Galut. Galut liked the Drazi. They were his friends and he wanted the best for them, “They good. They deserve heaven. Help them.”
Though the Word was in Galut's heart heart His Way and His Word seemed to be at odds. The Imperial credo held little room for his desires. “Do not trust the xenos for he will approach you with honeyed words and false promises, he will lead you to ruin.”
But the more time Al'Ashir spent with the xenos the less literally he wanted to interpret that passage. Was that the danger in trusting the xenos or in trusting the wrong xenos? Was it wrong for the Imperials to treat the xenos with the same dignity the xenos showed them?
The credo also gave warnings against witches but the Empire employed billions of them as astropaths, navigators and even psychic Inquisitors. If they could co-exist with the psychics then why not with the xenos? No, that was a sin to even think. But it was a sin that was long past he supposed. In accepting the aid from the Centauri were not the members of the Endless Bounty already branded as xenos lovers?
No, no sane man could brand them as traitors for surviving just as no sane man would criticize him for bringing the word of the Emperor to those who would hear it willingly. It was not the fault of the xenos that they were born of the wrong mothers. There was good in these xenos, perhaps enough that they could even find some measure of salvation.
And who was he to rob them of salvation?