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post #21 of (permalink) Old 02-18-11, 04:03 PM Thread Starter
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Generally speaking the common peoples of The Endless Bounty were not granted the privilege of a Noble's funeral. There were a number of crematoriums based around the plasma reactors that saw to their needs. The crematoriums had been incapacitated by the damage to the ship meaning that it could be a matter of days before the bodies were all properly cremated. The bodies would fester and rot in that time. Neither Danzig nor Father Al'Ashir wanted that. So to expedite the process they decided to simply bury the lot as Lionhearts.

Some of the nobles had protested the decision. They'd gone as far as to petition at Sáclair's seat of power in the great hall. The idea of their relatives being sent off with the commoners was 'distasteful and beyond acceptable'. Daul chuckled at the thought of the face of Bertrand Gauge and the other self-important nobles when Sáclair had let loose. Daul doubted that Sáclair would actually fire them out the airlock with the other 'useless dead weight'. Apparently the nobility of the bounty wasn't so sure, effectively silencing the privileged and self-important.

Thousands cramped into the wide space of one of the many docking bays that lined the Endless Bounty. Every crewman and noble not actively engaged in repairs was in attendance. Daul walked through the sobbing crowd of mourners. They gave the Inquisitor a wide berth. He noticed that even behind their white veils of mourning, none of the crew dared look him in the eye. Even bandaged and bruised as he was an Inquisitor was to be feared. He wished Cairn was with him. As soon as the Skitarii had been sure Daul was properly bandaged Cairn had excused himself to assist with the death preparations for the Adeptus Mechanicus. Thus it was necessary for a substitute to serve as Daul's bodyguard. Dorn was out of the question; Sáclair was loath to allow the Archo-flagellant on his ship while comatose.

How Cairn had purchased the services of one of the ships indentured Ogryn in the few short hours Daul slept was yet another of Cairn's mysteries but hire one he had. For that matter he was unsure how he'd already purchased a suit emblazoned with Daul's personal heraldry for the Ogryn. Galut was as malodorous and clumsy as one could expect from an Ogryn. Daul was reasonably convinced that Galut had eaten the wax fruit from the anteroom of his chambers but had great hulking thews as thick as Daul's chest was broad.

Daul winced as he adjusted the sword belt at his side. Even with some of the accelerated healing salves and pain killing regents applied by Cairn his broken ribs still throbbed. All things considered he had managed to escape the conflict relatively unharmed. The wide space of the loading bay was full of the bodies of those who had not been so lucky. The linen covered corpses of several hundred crewmen, nobles, and soldiers were laid out side by side on the floor of the other side of the airlock, equal in death. The Damascan tradition was to burn the bodies of the dead, any bodies buried in Damascus soil would be dug up by the native creatures of Damascus in short order. The Lionhearts followed that tradition to its logical extreme. They dropped the bodies of their dead into a sun so that they could become part of the universe they traversed.

Galut frowned and rubbed his large hands together, "I don' like funerals. Too much death."

"Nobody likes funerals Gaul," Daul had this same conversation with the Ogryn twice already. Galut was easily sidetracked, "We do them because we have to, not because we want to."

"Don' smell right sir," the Ogryn muttered. Daul was sure he saw something in the abhuman's teeth that hadn't died yet.

"Try holding your breath as long as you can," muttered Daul sarcastically, he missed the infinitely more expedient services of Cairn, "Air is where the smell is kept."

"Good idea sa' I'll do tha' eh?" The large man breathed in deeply and puffed out his cheeks as far as he could.

"It is good to see you up and about Inquisitor. The rumors of your demise were clearly exaggerations," Daul turned around and found himself face to face with the diminutive ship's Chaplain. Al'Ashir was a portly man with a thick braided beard a tall back hat. Small golden Aquilla and prayers of purity were stitched into the fabrics of his robe and hat, spelled in the flowing script of ancient Damascan. Chained to the belt at his waist was a thick tome, covered in red leather. Like all prayer books of the bounty it had been made by hand, copied and engraved lovingly by Father Al'Ashir himself. He was a man of the Emperor and a man of Faith, but not a man of blind obedience least of all to the Inquisition.

"Such a waste," muttered Father Al'Ashir looking out the airlock at the bodies stacked like cordwood, "The loss of these men and women Inquisitor."

"It was the will of the Emperor Father," Daul smiled sadly. He almost actually believed it as he said, "The Emperor has a plan for us all. You mark that well."

"The greatest Heresies are committed by the most loyal before they've ever realized it Inquisitor. Do not let your righteousness overpower your sense," Father Al'Ashir started flipping through the well worn pages of his prayer book, "Else we be forced to consign more men to the stars. Now go," he pointed to the crimson and gold silks in the distance, "You're the one who brought them here, you be the one to convince them of the righteousness of their deeds. I suspect they'll get greater comfort from your words than from mine."

"Of course Father, anything I can do to alleviate the pain of others… breathe you great lout!" he yelled up at the purpling face of the Ogryn, "Breathe! Breathe, for the love of the Emperor."

The Ogryn exhaled and looked down. Daul winced from the powerful halitosis, "It was working sir. I couldn't smell nothing! You're a thinker you is."

"Just come," Daul winced as he turned too quickly, "We have work to do."

It wasn't hard to find the Lionhearts. They were nothing if not flamboyant. Several hundred well-dressed soldiers were sitting on the floor in front of the airlock, each of them holding a musical instrument. There was not an arms length of space in front of the hundred meters of airlock door that was not occupied by a morose warrior minstrel. Song, with the Lionhearts there was always song in everything they did. When he got within about ten paces of the Lionhearts someone yelled out an order in Ancient Damascan.

Out of the lines of Lionhearts came Danzig, Sergi and Hamman. They were wore their best silk dress uniforms, crimson with gold lace sashes around their waists. Each had a saber strapped to his waist and had wrapped woolen bands of tasseled cloth around his head topping it with a black pillbox hat, "I welcome you Inquisitor. As you shed blood with the Lionhearts it is only fitting that you be here to see off the honored dead."

"I must confess I'm surprised it's Donat Enzo who is overseeing this ceremony and not Sáclair," the Captian didn't seem the type to miss a ceremony of this magnitude.

"It's an old custom I'm afraid," Danzig tucked his flute under his arm, "The Captain may never be physically present at a funeral for the Lionhearts, though he does play an important role. He must stand on the throne of the ship and personally control the docking bay doors to send them into the hereafter. It's viewed as a great honor."

"It is right to honor those who have aided in the cause of the Emperor's will," Daul sighed, "I only wish that we could have defeated Faust so that we could have properly earned their sacrifice."

Sergi adjusted the tassels from his scarf, "I wouldn't worry about it too much sir. I know that Semal would have felt dying to save what few of the Belzafesters we could was worth it." He looked pointedly at a crowd of people to the back of the wide docking bay wearing a mess of ragged dress blacks rather than the lacy whites favored by the crew of the Endless Bounty. They were hardly properly dressed for a funeral but dress clothes hadn't been a priority for the fleeing Belzafest colonists. Even at this distance and surrounded Endless Bounty the looks of gratitude from the colonists was absolute and unwavering, "It is good that we saved them."

Sergei's voice was friendly but had an edge to it. The caged Belzafest colonists they hadn't been able to save were clearly on his mind. Sergi could be a problem when Daul started checking the population for genetic manipulations.

Daul pointed to the men in crisp uniforms of the standing round the Belzafest colonists, "I see that you've appointed Osma's security forces to guard them till they've been properly screened. A wise choice."

"Indeed," Danzig interjected, "Oh don't give me that look Sergei. They were on the planet for a damned month with those… creatures. People have become heretics for reasons substantially less valid than fear for their own lives."

Sergei nodded slowly. He looked at the group with concern, "I suppose it's better to be safe than sorry. Still it's good that we save any of them at all, even if we do have to space a few heretics."

"A mere formality I'm sure," Hamman chortled, "They're a scraggily looking lot but they got away from Faust's troops quickly enough. Takes some real courage to plan hit and run attacks on those damned half-breeds. More still to chose to live in those poisoned mists for a month rather than surrender."

Danzig looked to his chronometer, "It's time," he turned to Daul, "You don't know the words to our songs of prayer but I offer you the opportunity to stand with us and witness the going of the fallen comrades."

"I accept," Daul nodded, "Without hesitation." Being allowed to stand with the Lionhearts at this ceremony would improve his political situation on the Endless Bounty substantially, "Galut, please be so kind as to stay here and stand watch." He took his place in the line of Lionhearts and recited as much of the Metzik prayers of purification as he could remember. He could not sing but it felt important to do something special for the fallen.

The inner doors to airlock began to close, separating the living from the dead. Father Al'Ashir's voice rang out over the speakers, leading the prayer chants for the fallen. They called for mercy. They called for absolution. They called for peace in death that had not been reached in life. They prayers of the Belzafesters too called for resolution and mercy but Daul noticed they added several prayers the 'Litanies of Retribution' during the normally refrain of the death rites.

The doors creaked and screeched as they met. There was a clanging and a squelching noise and then silence after the powerful sucking of atmospheric regulators ripped the usable air out of the space between the bulkheads.

Danzig put his hand up to the doors, "Farewell," he turned to Daul, "Sáclair has called a meeting in six hours to discuss the next point of action."

"Has there been any progress in determining our location?" Daul hadn't had much time for news. He'd barely had time to dress himself and reach the funeral.

"Of a sort," Danzig looked reticent to speak of it in mixed company, even his own men. He pulled out a data-slate and handed it to Daul, "Read this, it is an summary of our situation. You may do with the information as you will but I ask that you reserve any frustrations you have for our meeting after the ceremonies are completed."

Daul accepted the slate and started to read. His prayers caught in his throat and he had to stop. He stood there reading the data. The songs of the Lionhearts washed over him as he absorbed the gravity of their situation. It seemed their only paths in front of him were death or heresy. Trading with xenos, the sheer cheek of it! "It would seem we are left to chose between undesirable options."

Danzig nodded sadly as he rubbed his hand on the massive airlock doors, "I wonder how many of us will see these doors from the other side in the weeks to come," he looked morosely to Daul, "I wonder how many will not? I suppose that's up to you though Inquisitor."

Daul's eyes widened with comprehension and horror. By accepting Danzig's offer to stand with the Lionhearts in support of them he had unwittingly tossed his lot in with their schemes and those of their captain. The Lionhearts all looked at him with friendly, trusting expressions and he realized his path had been chosen for him already.
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