For an Imperium built upon lost technologies, the Fortress Monastery of Gythium brimmed with the cutting edge. The home of the Emperor’s Grace glittered from the highest peaks of Hive Helike’s government palace complex. Massive walls and battlements, gold pleated, bristled with countless artillery pieces and massive cannons primed to strike the largest battleships from Tyrannus’ atmosphere. The complex within was built on intricate networks of High Gothic bridges, flanked with fully bloomed flowerbeds, connecting one hundred and thirty seven isolated research spires and living quarters for the Adaptus Sororitas into one fortress. Waterfalls that could sweep away a smaller city came falling from the Hall of the Order, swelling every pond and pleasant stream inside the Courtyard of the Keep to near over-flowing.
From the highest Saint to the lowliest Schola girl, all those who stood for the Order of The Emperor’s Grace assembled in the Courtyard of the Keep. Soldier, fanatic, and servant stood organized together ten thousand strong, rank-and-file, enjoying the glistening rays of the sun from one of the coldest peaks on the planet. Envoys from the Sundered Legion and the Imperial Guard permitted to attend the mourning were also present, bringing with them an Honor company garbed in full ceremonial wardrobe.
The massive statue of the Emperor himself overlooked the gathered flock of his faithful. Soon-to-be Canoness Anatolijus Petrakis stood proudly beneath his ever-watchful gaze. Her armor was gold pleated and silver admantanium, draped over with royal blue and snowy robes of her Order. Flowing long hair aged to snow, came down in flat bangs on her gaunt and slightly sunken features. Uplifted in her hands, the Hammer of the Mithridite caught the sun’s glare against the polished onyx and silver pattern.
The speaker network carried her voice throughout all of Gythium. “I knew Canoness Kaska Rosi, only in her prime years as commander of our sacred order. To her death we salute.”
“Our honored Canoness, we serve, hail the holy throne of Terra.” Ten thousand voices echoed the short Psalm, ten thousand fists clashed against their chest plates.
“Her soul has been accepted among the saints that reside beside the holy Throne of Terra. We all must embark on that voyage one day. But sisters, let it not be in these grim, dark days, when war is being waged on a galactic scale, the very genocide of Mankind at hand.
“Canoness Kaska has passed down her role as commander of the Order of the Emperor’s Grace. I, Anatolijus Petrakis, shall swear to do everything in my power to deliver my Order, all of Tyrannus, and all of the Tarmathon Sector into an age of peace and prosperity. So that we shall once again look to the future with hopeful eyes and await the Emperor’s inevitable return.” She lowered her sword, sheathing it once again in its scabbard and greeted her comrades once more with a stern gaze.
Lriean watched the innumerable ships sailing just above reach of the sky. Regiment ferrying transports ascended and descended through the atmosphere, accompanied by a legion of lesser vessels. He laughed inwardly at being literally on top of the world, observing the wake from a battlement overlooking the courtyard. He couldn’t help being somewhat impressed, seeing the capital of an entire Hive belonging to the largest race in the galaxy had to impress very much. Qu’nalan and Taryi were leaning over the pulpits, listening to the Order’s new commander.
Sister Celestian Philemon Demarchis of the Order of the Sacred Rose hadn’t left Lriean’s side the moment they entered Gythium. Her thick layers of clothes were a mix of ebony and ivory, matching her braided hair, but not her youthful age. Philemon had her gaze beaming down into the assembly, a defiant smile on her lips and a fist curled against her chest. Lriean noticed her glances at him several times. She attempted to ease the tension with a welcoming smirk before turning her attention back onto Canoness Anatolijus. The only thing he knew about her, was that she had served the Inquisition all her life, apparently. No one had spoken a word after an hour’s trip up to the Hall of the Order, but Philemon appeared ready to broach the silence.
She spoke to him in a firm, welcoming tone, taking her hand off her chest to shake hands with the alien. “I welcome you, Lriean Tarithinon. Qu’nalan Morlankris and Taryi Bel’thorn, on behalf of the Inquisition and the Order of the Sacred Rose, I bid you welcome.” Philemon gave a low bow and turned back to Lriean. “Your employer mentions that you are from a highly respected house. Mae spoke similar of Taryi as well. I’m honored to receive all of you.”
He took her hand in a firm shake. “Oh I see, you must know all about me. Mae does love to talk about her prodigies.” They shared a polite laugh.
“Prodigy is it?” Philemon teased lightly. “I was told all Eldar are masters of their craft, impregnable even.”
The alien archeologist leaned in closer. “When you live a thousand years, it’s hard not too, eh?”
Philemon inclined her head in agreement. “True enough, Lriean. Though I must admit, I was expecting some fearsome alien assassin to greet me this morning. A pleasant surprise that you look nothing of the sort.”
“Don’t underestimate me, Ms. Demarchis.” Lriean winked in confidence. “There’s more warrior here than you think.”
Lriean gestured down at the assembly. “What’s all of this happening down there? It looks like you’re gearing up for a war.”
The sister of the Sacred Rose’s face of cheer suddenly sank into sadness, as if someone had just struck her. Her voice took on a more somber tone. “Sisters from the Emperor’s Grace are mourning the loss of their Canoness. A tragic tale, a weak and frail Celestian under the name of Enora apparently succumbed to demonic influence and murdered our commander before anyone could take notice. How suspicious…”
“My sympathies,” Lriean replied. “But tragedies aside, I believe you know why I’m here.”
Philemon arched one brow at the comment. She studied Lriean’s expression to see how serious he was being. “Of course I do, did you expect anything less from Ordo Malleus? I mean, I understand you aliens are often ignorant of our ways-“
Taryi grinned from ear to ear, glare dagger sharp and gleaming. “And often with good reason. Why try to understand blind faith in genocide and xenophobia? It is a pitiful outlook on the universe. Those who would wield such weapons against us –well, there’s no point in debating their inevitable fate, is there?”
Philemon stepped back; face fresh with the shock of a verbal lashing. A long period of silence fell upon the lone battlement while Philemon contemplated her next choice of words. Lriean sharply mouthed a rebuke, but Taryi brushed him aside like chafe. Philemon smiled in unhidden disgust. “I can smell the scent of charred and unclean flesh all around you, enough to churn my stomach.” She turned to Lriean, disdain weighing heavily on her frown. “I suppose every scholar and wise man requires a blood hound to guard them in the darkest times. Just keep her on a leash, and a very short one at that.”
The Eldar archeologist immediately set about easing the tension, but Philemon hastily interrupted. “Let’s not draw this out any longer than it needs to be. I will take you to Inquisitor Arruns Ulpius.”
The tensions between the Banshee and the Sororitas lightened the further they pushed into Gythium’s mosaic halls, filled with splendor and reverence in equal measure. Philemon must have swallowed her pride and forgiven the transgression. By all the dead Gods of the Eldar, Lriean knew Taryi would never apologize over such a slight. Their human envoy formally invited them into the halls of the Ordo Malleus. “Please, do not be afraid to enter, or we’ll have to drag you before Arruns’ presence.” Lriean could taste the threat in her tasteless joke.
Placid streams poured through the recesses between sweeping mosaics mounted along entire stretches of hall paths. Each of them depicted the race of men enduring in their current era: infamous victories and notable conflicts involving the Ordo Malleus and the elusive characters that commanded the organization to every corner of the Imperium’s galaxy. Desolated battlefields, filled the never-ending hordes of lifeless Orks and Hives engulfed in the flames of battle, brought by the nefarious Eldar. Banners from a hundred different Astarte Chapters hung from the great ribbed vaults. Each piece of heraldry was some fraction of history and culture woven into the fabric that made up the Inquisition. The four of them emerged through a massive archway, held in place with columns cloaked in strange patterns of scripture, and completed with the Imperium’s iconic Aquilla unfurling its wings from atop the arch.
A mysterious figure cloaked in black fabric and a witch helm that shone like the moon, sat in an oval chair by a collection of glassine tables on the edge of a waterfall. The chest piece of wraith bone over his chest was a deep crimson, similar to the semi-crystalline stones on his wardrobe. On his waist, a witch blade, sheathed inside an elegant rune-sealed scabbard marked him for what he was.
The Warlock greeted them with a sign of peace. “I sensed something would be off today. I read the runes, but they spoke nothing of a most welcome encounter in this morbid museum. How do you fare, my kindred?”
Lriean bowed in respect. “More fortunate than we probably have a right to, but that won’t stop us from taking it all in stride.”
The Warlock’s laughter poured through the helm, mimicking the flow of rushing water rather than a laugh by the eldritch properties of his war gear. “I am pleased to hear it. Before you ask, we shall meet again soon and be properly acquainted. Remember my name, it is Kasilienesh.”
Philemon verbally instructed a pair of Grey Knights to lift their halberds from the Inquisitor’s quarters. The doors swung open with the hisses and clanks of invisible servos. One of the bio-engineered humans gestured for them to enter. The Mon-Keigh reclined in his leather chair looked like a muscle bound serf in spite of the ebony corselet and greaves, crimson cloak emblazoned with Ordo’s insignia, and an Inquisitor’s rosarius dangling from his neck. Dark green eyes looked up from a weather-beaten hatchet face, looking down a hooked nose that had healed from many broken angles. Stringy ashen blonde hair clung close around the sideburns and imperial styled pointed beard. A young warrior he likely was in his prime, but an elderly sage was all that remained before Lriean.
The Ordos Malleus Inquisitor gestured them to sit down in the four chairs conveniently placed in front of his desk. The Inquisitor snapped his fingers. An aide appeared from the shadows and bowed. “Remove there reports, hand them down to Jelenn. She’ll know what to do with them.” The old man still had some sternness in his backbone, Lriean could tell through the un-trembling hands and proud stare. Never had Lriean met an Inquisitor burdened by the shame of guilt. It looked like things would remain that way for a while longer. The Eldar archeologist felt himself being dissect by his calculating appraisal, which then turned to Taryi, then Qu’nalan. Even Philemon, who appeared removed from the entire situation.
The voice he regarded his guest with belied his robust bulk: deep, nasally, and resolute combined into one man’s throat. “I am a foreigner. That is what I am on this planet, Tyrannus. That is a fact, which makes myself in many aspects, about as alien as anyone of you three. That truth in turn, is compounded by my divine right to command in the Ordo Malleus, as an Inquisitor. I understand what you likely think about that, but before long, you’ll find out that I always try to speak the truth on many things. However, in spite of the obvious truths of the human society,” The Inquisitor broke into a lopsided smile. “I’ve lived here and know the Emperor’s servants who have pledged fealty to the continued existence and protection of this marvel of faith and Imperial ingenuity. And with that knowledge, I unfairly, deceitfully, and in secret passed judgment on the Tarmathon sector as a whole.
“Tell me, what would the Eldar make of that information?”
Lriean exchanged puzzled glances with his other companions; Philemon remained content listening from her chair. He turned back to the Inquisitor and answered with a quick shrug. “That would depend on your judgment, Inquisitor.”
The Mon-Keigh barked with hearty laughter, immediately remembered himself and reigned his emotions. “Would it satisfy you to see countless billions burning in agony, Tyrannus put to the torch by my own hands?” Every remnant of kindness vanished from the Inquisitor’s squirming stare.
Hesitation wedged the words in the Eldar’s throat. Lriean swallowed them and tried again. “Is that your judgment?”
“Arruns Olpius, Inquisitor of the Ordo Malleus.” Arruns answered, a broad smile breaking the awkward tension. “I am the High Command, the Company Captain, and the will of the Ecclesiarchy on Tyrannus. All of the Imperial forces planet side and beyond the gravity well answer to my orders. I am a hammer of demons, and a shield of those who would come to humanity’s aid. I can provide protection –hell in the warp, I can supply you every resource under my jurisdiction. So long, as you supply the means to an end, Lriean.” Arruns snapped his fingers again. His aide approached from Lriean’s right, extending Lriean a steel plated case.
Lriean politely pried the case open, inspected the contents, and accepted the offer. The Inquisitor and he exchanged a handful of smoky air bubbles from the lho rods. “Our contacts didn’t mention specifically what you were expecting from us, Mr. Olpius-“
Lriean felt his lips going tightly drawn in suspense. “I need the terms you agreed upon with the Council of Seers, Arruns.”
The Inquisitor nodded his understanding. “Yes, that is important, isn’t it? The terms are what I state them: I want the Ghost Crypts discovered and secured. So long as your Council allows that they undergo a complete purge when they are discovered, I’ll lend you whatever assets I can. I will also promise to keep you safe from the predations of demonic forces.”
Qu’nalan broke his silence. “You think the Ghost Crypts are the source of Tyrannus’ instability?”
Arruns inclined his head, a degree more bleak than his usual demeanor. “I know it. Ten thousand Eldar souls buried somewhere beneath our soil, a tourist attraction for demons beyond number. If the crypts do exist, it is probably stuck in limbo, lost between this reality and the immaterium itself. Such a place could create and spit out the vilest creatures, such as Nyst, for example. The demon you seek protection from.”
Pallid skin around Taryi’s cheeks suddenly flushed in a deep strawberry red, Lriean noticed some veins beginning to bulge when she spoke out. “Relating that thing with the burial ground of our ancestors is more than a stone’s throw past insulting and intolerable.”
The Inquisitor raised a hand to still the murmurings. “I said I liked to tell the truth whenever possible. I am also good at telling the intentions that lurks behind others. I am glad you don’t wish destruction on the upstanding citizenry of the Tarmathon sector, but you’ll get that and a perilous danger to your own world if the threat is not extinguished. You can go run to your council. They will certainly tell you the same thing I have. I am not asking you to put your trust in me, but your own commanders. They have invaluable experience on sensitive matters like these, and they have chosen you to see this through for them.” Arruns grimaced. “It’s in times like these that I’ve always favored the Imperial tradition of cremation.”
Lriean tore himself from his chair, followed by his companions. “I’ll have to confirm your terms with my employer. Why she didn’t bother mentioning this beforehand is beyond myself.”
Arruns pursing voice stopped him short of exiting the office. “We Imperials have a saying for things like this: “Do not try to understand the mind of the alien nor heretic, for to understand them is madness.” That is no insult to your origins, but you must understand that the nature of Chaos is literally unfathomable. If you try to answer, the questions that any soul is tempted to ask about matters involving the nether night, it will destroy you or worse, you will seek to join in its insanity. When you come back and start working for me, you’ll remember the saying before long.”
Last edited by Myen'Tal; 03-01-14 at 04:16 AM.