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Default Under the Red Sky: Capter Two...Revised

Two



Cannoness Preceptor Alena Aris of the 2nd Preceptory of the Order of the Argent Shroud sat up in bed, sweat running in rivulets down her icy cold brow. She looked around the room to see it empty, saver herself and her few personal possessions. The sister tossed the covers aside and slipped off the edge of her bed. She lit the candelabra by the door to her chambers and looked into the mirror next to her armoire. Her face looked back at her, the face she had known all her adult life, except that this face was white and glistening with sweat. She brushed the wisps of damp, black hair away from her face and rested her head on the wall. That damn dream had come again.

For the sixth night in a row the Cannoness had awoken from her sleep, mouth open in a silent scream. The dream was one of pure evil and violence as she recalled what little she could of it in her half-sleep.

The skies burned crimson above her head as purple lightening and black clouds raced across the horizon. Red rain fell from the sky and covered the vast field before her in water the color of blood. She looked from side to side and saw a vast army, hundreds of thousands strong stretching across the floor of a vast desert canyon with high cliffs on either side. The army around her stood in stoic determination, their banners waving in the swift, canyon gusts. Each flag bore symbols she knew well, flags of Imperial Guard regiments fluttered next to banners of some of the greatest of Space Marine chapters with towering icons of the Ecclisiarchy and the Inquisition scattered about. She saw massive cannons of Imperial Guard tanks and Adeptus Astartes war machines standing under the shadows of the huge forms of Adeptus Mechanicus Titans of all sizes. Overhead, the sky was filled with circling air-craft, watching the vast throng below like scavenger birds waiting for their prey to die.

Across the great field was another, great host of warriors. These men carried desecrated banners and standards made of human flesh bearing all forms of unpalatable icons to their foul masters. The signs of Tzeentch, Khorne, Nurgle and Slaneesh were all evident alongside those of the icons of the Black Legion, Word Bearer’s and Emperor’s Children, all former warriors in the Emperor’s name ten millenia ago at the birth of the Imperium. They had brought their own machines of destruction, corrupted Titans and tanks on the ground while their own fighter craft wheeled overhead, their wings the first notes of the coming symphony. But most prominent of all was the Eightfold star, the dreaded icon of Chaos Undivided. Eight silver points splayed out in all directions with a vast, yellow eye at their center. The horde howled it’s fury at the servants of the Imperium as they goaded them and challenged them to attack.

Time seemed to stretch on for an eternity as the two forces faced off, waiting for the other to make to first move. Eventually it came and the battle began with thunderous crash as many of the cannons behind Alena opened fire. Silence rained for a time as the shells hurtled toward the enemy, their cries stifled by the report of the massed artillery. Then with the finality of death itself, the shells plummeted to earth, their explosions sending corpses and wounded flying into the air. The sound was deafening as the armies engaged in one thunderous wash out of sound. Guns fired, men bellowed orders, cannons roared and the ships overhead screamed their battle cries as they darted about trying to gain the upper hand.


The only thing Alena could remember about what came next was pure confusion as the armies struggled for dominance across the vast canton. After a time, she recalled the last few moments of the dream and it came upon her like a tidal wave.

Alena looked about as she pulled her Power Sword from the torso of a Word Bearer and saw that her allies of the Imperium, were being slowly driven back towards a vast mesa of rust red stone. All around her, men were dying in their hundreds as the two armies struggled to drive the others from the field. But both sides knew the other would never surrender until they were wiped out to the last man, the consequences of failure far out weighed the prospect of death. Moment by moment, the forces of the Imperium were being pushed back and all seemed lost. Just as Alena felt the Imperial line about to snap under the pressure, she heard a call. Somehow the call raised itself above the din of battle and Alena paid it heed.

“Fight on my fellows! Fight for the glory of the Imperium, the Emperor and all that you know! Fight or be crushed under the boot of corruption and pestilence! By the Throne, send these dogs back to the abyss! Show them the fury of the Emperor!” Alena saw a flag begin to move forwards, she couldn’t tell which army the flag belonged to, the dust was to thick in the air, but she knew it was friendly. The flag moved ahead slowly at first, barely moving as the minutes wore on. But as more time passed, the flag gained momentum as it bobbed up and down amidst the tide of battle. Alena saw her allies rallying around the flag, following it and watching it’s every move. The Imperial forces gained momentum with the banner, slowly turning the tide of the battle. For a moment, favor seemed to shift to the servants of the Imperium but as quickly as hope had been restored to the army, it was swept away like a child’s toy in a swiftly running river. There, on a ridge, just behind the enemy line, stood a man. Not just a man, a Chaos Lord. He stood and surveyed the field, his eyes, scanning the tumult for something, somebody. With nought but a whisper, a bolt of violet lightening shot from his hand and incinerated a knot of Guardsmen. Seconds later, he repeated the gesture, but instead of blasting the men with lightening, these men were consumed in green flames, their skin rotting off as the fire danced about them.

The Chaos lord stood in silence for a moment, looking to the sky and he grinned the most evil of grins. Then the man fell to his knees, his eyes glowing red with hate. Slowly, he started to rise into the air, his arms spread out, in his right hand he carried what looked like a large axe. As he lifted ever higher into the air, the axe glowed brighter and brighter. Eventually it was so bright that Alena could no longer stare at it. Then the most horrible of sounds came from the Chaos Lord as his body was ripped asunder, and in his place stood a sick parody of his human form, but this monstrosity was no human. It was nearly fifteen feet tall and had a pair of rams horns spiraling about his head, his mouth was filled with razor teeth accompanied by three black, serpentine tongues. His skin was the color of Jete and his eyes burned blazing red. In his right hand he still carried the axe, but it was much larger and more fearsome now. It’s head was shaped like a human skull and it’s handle appeared to be made out of human femurs fused together in some arcane fashion. The monstrosity leapt from his ridge and made a bee-line for Alena, cutting down swathes of soldiers, both friend and foe. Shrieking men went flying in every direction as the titanic beast plowed it’s way towards her. She saw the daemon-thing lift a man into the air and throw it casually to the side and suddenly, she was knocked to the ground. As she rolled onto her back she felt hot breath on her back and she looked up, there above her, was the twisted face of the Chaos Lord.

“Well now.”

It said in a pleased and merciless voice,

“look what I have here.” Alena couldn’t move, not because she was afraid, but because the thing’s massive boot was lightly pressing on her chest, making even breathing a chore.

“Well sister, let me tell you that you have the honor of being my first blood sacrifice to the Chaos Gods. You should be honored, it takes a great deal of prominence to earn such a gift”

the creature said as it raised the axe,

“your blood will serve my needs well”

it said as it swung the axe towards Alena’s helpless frame, she couldn’t help her self and out of sheer instinct she covered her head as the axe rushed towards her...


That was where the dream ended, night after night she awoke just as she was certain death was coming for her. But it never came, something prevented it each night and that made the dream that much more unbearable, the lack of finality. If she died in her dream at least she would have had a sense of closure and finality. This endless waiting was unbearable. For a moment she wondered if it had been a dream even. She had heard stories of all manner of people having premonitions in their sleep, being able to see into the future while they lay in bed. She wondered if it was something similar to that? But no, it was impossible, all of the stories she had heard had happened to people much younger than she and in many of the instances, those who spoke of their dreams did so in the last moments of their life, just hours after they awoke from their seer dreams. Second sight, the kind used by Imperial psykers of all backgrounds, was completely out of the question, that ‘gift’ developed at a much younger age and besides, she was a Sister of Battle, she and all her ilk were pariahs, untouchables. They had no psychic reading in the warp and were simply unable to manifest that ability in any way shape or form.

Regardless, the dream made her feel uneasy and she got up to dress herself, morning chapel would be starting in a few hours anyway and she decided she was finally going to write down all she could of that cursed dream. As she pulled her loose, grey cloak over her head, she pulled the modest, wooden chair away from her equally modest desk and sat down. She reached to her right and slid a thin stack of yellowing papers over to he while simultaneously snatching up a quill from the ink well to her left. She put the quill to paper and began to write.


***

Alena opened the door from her room and stepped out into one of the vast hallways of Convent Prioris, the Adepta Sororita stronghold on the holiest of worlds in all the galaxy, Terra. She was garbed in her ceremonial robes that she had worn to every morning mass ever since she had been promoted to Cannoness Preceptor. The bulk of the robe was a shining silver, the primary color of the Argent Shroud, the sleeves, collar, hood and bottom of the robe were pure white and the back of the robe bore a black skull encircled in a black halo. Her long black hair fell about her shoulders like silk, her bright blue eyes gazed around the hall and her mouth formed a slight smile. No matter how many times she saw this place, the sheer size of it still amazed her. The ceiling was nearly fifty feet high with huge supporting collums that ran up either wall until they met in the middle forming a vast archway over head. In between each pillar was a long banner bearing the symbol of one of many of the systems under Imperial rule. Alena could only imagine that the serfs in charge of maintaining the convent had given up long ago trying to keep up with the ever changing borders of the Imperium and that many of these worlds represented here were either destroyed or forgotten to history. She brushed her hand along the long scar that ran from her left cheek down into the neck of her robe and she cringed. The scar was still a bit tender from her last engagement against a rouge psyker and her cult following on the forge moon of the planet Gyris.





The witch had emerged and essentially taken over and halted all mining on the moon, who’s precious ores were used for forging Imperial star ships and other large weapons of war like titans and Baneblades. The witch and her cult had assassinated the moons Governor Mechanicus and began to use the moons valuable forges and refineries to build her own army so that she might spread her blasphemous influence to other worlds. That was when the Ordo Hereticus stepped in. Alena and a battle group of her sisters had been dispatched to investigate and eliminate the psyker and her heretical cult before it was allowed to spread to Gyris and beyond. It was a relatively routine mission the way the Inquisitor had described it, go in, smash aside all resistance and arrest the psyker. But when the Inquisitor Lord, Malograd Hefth, and the Soroitas arrived out of the warp just beyond orbit of the moon, it was a far different story.

Even from such a great distance as it was, Alena could see that the planet was a beehive of activity. Smoke billowed from the moon’s vast factory complexes and she could see massive war machines being built in old shipyards and docking bays. The Inquisitor had told them that they need not worry, these were just simple slaves carrying out their traitorous master’s orders and that they would not stand in the way of the attackers. So Alena and her sisters prepared to teleport on to the field, accompanied by the Inquisitor, his retinue and a squad of Celestians specially attached to Alena’s preceptory by Cannoness Superior Hellen Carmines. The tech-priests prepared the litany that would ease the Machine spirit of the Lunar class Cruiser ‘Steeled Retribution’ .They walked around, swinging censors in sync with the rythem of the chant.

Eventually, the senior tech priest said in his synthetic monotone,

“My lord Inquisitor Hefth, the ships machine spirit has been placated. We will teleport you down to the surface whenever you and your companions are ready.”

“Then send us down Tech-priest. We are ready.”

“As you wish, so shall it be.”

and with that the group of soldiers had vanished. The familiar feeling of her body being pulled at in all directions overcame Alena in the split second transition between ship and surface and she had to struggle to keep herself from vomiting. She was a Cannoness Preceptor but the unnatural feeling of teleportation was still enough to make her sick. She collected herself before anybody noticed and she spoke aloud,

“Where is our target Inquisitor? I wish to end this as soon and as smoothly as possible.”

“Patience sister”,

said the Inquisitor Lord,

“I have intentionally had us teleported very near our target. The heretic is close.” Alena nodded, her face dour beneath her helm. Alena unholstered her Inferno-Pistol and drew her power sword from it’s sheath and said to her fellow sororita,

“Be wary sisters, keep your eyes sharp and your wits about you. We hunt this witch for the Emperor, bless his name, and we must not fail.” Her sisters nodded and replied as one,

“We are his holy fire, his righteous flame. We shall cleanse his domain and purge his worlds of all those who would defy him.”

“In the name of the Emperor, the Throne and the Imperium. Blessed be” finished Alena as she rubbed her Chaplet Ecclesiasticus between her thumb and fore-finger, the icon giving her strength from it’s mere presence. Her fellow sisters hefted their Godwyn-De’az pattern Bolters, flamers and meltas in their mailed hands and they formed up behind her in a tight formation they would normally use for boarding actions aboard enemy ships. The Inquisitor turned to Alena and whispered,

“Stealth is of the utmost importance now sisters, if we alert our target to our presence all has been for naught. If we fail however, I have instructed ship master Bellus to target this factory complex with ‘Steeled Retribution’s’ main cannons. The Imperium will be rid of this heresy no matter the cost.”

The group moved slowly and quietly through the dark tunnels and passageways of the underground mining complex, their senses alert for the slightest sign of attack. The walls of most of these tunnels were lined with various tubes, pipes and cables, all having some purpose to enhance the efficacy of the mining crews as they worked ten stories below the surface.

Alena took a glance over at the Inquisitor Lord and tried to sum up his character. Hefth, by all outward indications, was an average man. He was of average height, he had short brown hair and his could have belonged to any man in the Imperium. The only indication that he wasn’t an ordinary citizen was his clothing. He was garbed in a long black cloak, the tails trailing down to his angels. He wore knee high black boots, each boot had a large silver and crimson ‘I’ branded onto the front. He wore a thin suit of customized, silver flak armor beneath his coat with a similar ‘I’ stenciled onto the left breast. Around his neck hung several long chains, one bearing the golden twin-headed Imperial Eagle and the other yet another ‘I’ this one had a small, white skull set in the center, the badge of an Inquisitor Lord. Bolted and secured to his armor and coat were many purity seals, the yellowing paper sealed to his armor by a thick gob of red wax stamped with the seal of the Imperium. He had a few small implant cords running from his temples into the back of his cloak, their source concealed. The cords no doubt enhanced his senses, making him the ideal leader in situations like their present one.

The party wandered through the dark tunnels for what seemed like an eternity, occasionally stopping so that Inquisitor Hefth could consult with his retinue. Eventually the Inquisitor’s Sage, a small man clothed in a brown robe whispered,

“She is here lord, just beyond these tunnels.”

“Where is she Hapris? What room is the witch hiding in?” the sage closed his eyes for a split second and said,

“This room here” he said , gesturing towards a large iron door at the end of the hallway. The door was rusting at the edges and it appeared to be entirely solid.

“This door seems to be a solid barrier of iron.” said one of Alena’s sisters. Alena turned to her and saw that she was holding a melta-gun.

“Then you shall be the one to remove this barrier sister.” Alena ordered and the small group moved to the door. The sister aimed her melta-gun at the door and said,

“No obstacle stand before the daughter’s of the Emperor” the concentrated heat melted through the door in seconds and before the door had time to cool, the party was through the entryway.

All around them were rag-tag soldiers armed with las weapons and stubber rifles. Their armor was crudely forged together sheets of thin metal and they all were covered in black and grey dust. Before any of the heretics had time to speak, the witch hunters opened fire and began the bloody work of slaughtering these fools for their heresy. Beyond the fray , upon a large makeshift riser, stood the heretical psyker. She was tall and thin, with long, wiry limbs that gave her the appearance of having been stretched. Her sunken eyes were rimmed with black bags that gave her a skeletal appearance. She wore tattered robes that fell about her shoulders, great chunks of the fabric torn away by scrapes and falls in the mines. The witch realized what was happening and shrieked,

“I will have your head Inquisitor! Go my minions, bring me the heads of these Imperial lap dogs!”

“You will pay for your crimes witch!” bellowed Hefth as he plugged a las round into the face of a guard point blank. He drew his chainsword and tapped the activation rune, giving life to the biting teeth of the weapon. The Inquisitor’s retinue cut a bloody swath towards the riser at te back of the room, the pair of warriors who accompanied the Inquisitor, smashing aside all comers with their full body suppression shields and burying the biting edges of their axes into flesh. The sage lashed out with close range mental attacks, blood spraying from eyes, ears and noses as he smashed his targets brains with his mental powers. Even the Inquisitor’s Familiar was taking the lives of these heretics, it’s single red eye shooting short range bursts of las fire into any attackers, the rest of the retinue happened to miss. Alena led her sisters forward into the fray, their guns blazing as they plowed onward towards the witch. Alena cut down a pair of guards with her power sword, the energy from the blades killing the men upon contact. She raised her Inferno Pistol and pulled the trigger, a beam of pure heat cut through three of the defenders and they howled in agony as their innards were scorched.

“I have committed no crimes Ordos whoreson!” cried the psyker back at Hefth, “the only person to have committed any crimes here is your blasted Emperor and his narrow minded dogma!”

“Blasphemer!” shouted Alena, “it is by the Emperor’s grace that you have lived these years! You shall die for your actions!”

“Silence sororita whore! You nor your emperor have no claim over me!” the psyker lashed out with mental lightening and felled a sister near to Alena. The sister fell as the blue bolt struck her upon the chest, blasting a hole in her armor. Alena growled as she stepped over the body of her fallen sister and she let loose with her Inferno Pistol, the weapon cut a swathe through the oncoming ranks of traitors, dropping a half dozen of them to the floor. One guard had leapt at the Inquisitor, a vibro-axe held in both his hands. From her perspective, it was clear the Inquisitor nor any of his retinue had noticed the man and Alena squeezed off a burst from her pistol and the man keeled over in mid air, his body knocking several of his fellows to the floor as his lifeless corpse crashed into them. Inquisitor Hefth called over to Alena,

“much appreciated Cannoness, I shall not soon forget that!” then a thundering footfall echoed from behind the psyker and he body guard on their raised dais. Another crash followed swiftly after the first and then another, and another. Then, without warning, the wall behind the psyker exploded outward. In the hole stood a mighty war walker made in the likeness of a Penitent Engine. A man sat in a seat in the center of the machine, he had no straps to secure him and he smiled a maniacal grin of pleasure. The machine stomped toward the Sisters of Battle, it’s left arm a giant claw and it’s right a massive saw blade.

“Bring it down sisters! With melta, purge this unholy thing from this field!” called Alena as the monstrosity drew nearer with each massive step. Melta weapons melted parts of the giant walker, but none brought it down and eventually it reached the sister s of the Argent Shroud. In it’s claw it grasped a silver armored sister of the Celesirans and crushed her with a loud crunch as the claw tore through armor and bone. The man laughed and tossed the sister to one side and raised his steed’s saw blade and sliced through a pair of battle sisters, their red blood spraying the front of the machine. Alena howled in rage as he raised he power sword and ran full tilt at the metallic beast. Before the driver noticed, she was on top of him, her power sword cutting through cables and pistons. She swung her sword and brought it down on the war machine’s saw arm. She beat the arm’s elbow joint with her blade, hacking at it until the arm fell to the floor with a loud clang. She holstered her pistol and with her free hand, she pulled herself up on to one of the hip joints. She swung under claw arm and wrapped her hand around a bar of the driver’s cage. She looked the man dead in the eye and rammed her power sword through his chest, the blade bursting out the opposite side of the machine. She paused only to pull her blade free and jumped from the disabled machine. As Alena landed, she saw the psyker. She had a look of utmost loathing on her face and she bellowed to Alena,

“you shall not defeat me so easily sororita concubine!” the witch lashed out again with blue lightening, aiming it straight for the Cannoness. The attack looked certain to kill Alena but she raised her sword and the blade deflected the arc of power, sending it off into the air. The witch grimaced and picked another target, the battle sister standing to Alena’s left. The lightening ripped through the sister’s armor and left a smoking hole where her heart would have been. Alena made the sound of an angry dog and bellowed,

“you shall kill no more of my sisters witch!” and sword grasped in two hands, charged the heathen. It only took a few moments for Alena to close the gap between her and the renegade and in one leap, she landed upon the dais where her nemeses stood. Alena lashed out with her blade, slaying two of the witch’s guards in one swing. The remaining three guards closed in on Alena and she gritted her teeth beneath her helmet. The three men raised their vibro-blades and attacked. Alena easily parried their strikes with her weapon and in one fluid motion, severed the head of one her attackers while simultaneously side stepping her other two adversaries next attacks. Alena lashed out with her left hand and her metal gauntlet slammed into the nose of one of her opponents, the man crumpled to floor, blood flowing from his shattered face. Her third and final attacker ran at her in a last desperate attempt to protect his mistress. Alena took one step to the side and slashed the man across the chest as he ran by. his body went limp and his body launched into the air, careening into the battle below.

“It’s just you and me witch” growled Alena, “none of your pathetic guards to protect you now.”

“I don’t them to defend myself sororita” chimed the witch, “I am perfectly capable of doing that myself!” the witch sent a ball of blue warp energy at Alena and she barely had time to react. At the last second Alena dodged the ball of pure energy and rolled to the floor. As she leapt to her feet, Alena drew her pistol and as fast as quicksilver, she aimed the barrel at her foe and pulled the trigger. The witch raised an energy shield just as the super heated shot was about to strike her and blocked the attack. In two strides Alena was upon the witch with her sword in hand, as she lashed out with the energized blade, the witch reached into her rope belt and withdrew a small, vibro-sword. The two blades met in a shower of blue and orange sparks as the witch focused a measure of her warp spawned ‘gift’ into the blade.

“You cannot defeat me Imperial wench, I have all of the Immaterium at my disposal, and you” said the heretic as she pushed Alena away from her, “have only your Corpse-God to protect you!” The witch lashed out with a burst of unnatural wind and sent Alena flying back into the wall. She crashed into the stone with a loud crack and she crumpled to the floor, dropping her sword and pistol as she made contact with the earth.

“First I shall have your head, then I shall claim the head of the Inquisitor” said the witch as she turned Alena over onto her back, “then I shall incinerate your precious sisters in warp fire!” the witch cackled as she drew the blade down the side of Alena’s face, drawing a long cut from her cheek to the base of her neck. The witch kneeled in to deliver the killing blow, knife raised when Inquisitor Hefth shouted out,

“look to your death witch!” the distraction was all Alena needed and she kicked out with her feet, connecting the bottoms of her boots with the chest of the psyker. Alena felt ribs and sternum shatter under the force of the blow as the witch fell backwards.

“Cannoness, catch!” called the Inquisitor Lord as he tossed a long, silver rod towards Alena. She reached out and caught the thing and looked at it, a power steak.

“I bring this message from the Emperor, blasphemer. None may deny his will.” whispered Alena to the witch and she plunged the steak into her enemies chest. Instantaneously, the steak was engulfed in flame and faster than the eye could see, the flames engulfed the witch, burning away all her flesh and innards in an instant. All that remained of the heretic was her, lanky bone structure, her ribs and sternum fractured a dozen times. Alena rose to her feet and looked out at the rabble of warriors before her. The fighting had come to a complete halt as the psykers guards looked onward towards Alena. They all dropped their weapons and one man shouted,

“Spare us my lady! The witch had turned us from the light of the Emperor with her warpcraft! Do not kill us, we repent. Please, in the name of the Throne, please spare us!” Alena gazed down at the man, who had climbed up the dais and was now groveling at her feet.

“I am not in the business of mercy, traitor. You have forsaken the Emperor and his divine will, you and your fellows will burn in the fires of purgatory. Sisters, show these men the Emperor’s light!” the man looked up at her as she raised her sword and swung. The man’s head hit the ground with a satisfying thud, his body going limp. The Ordo Hereticus soldiers began the bloody work of butchering these deluded men.

When the work was finished, the room was soaked wall to wall in traitorous blood. The small group of Imperial soldiers stepped from the room, their war gear soaked in blood. The party stalked grimly back to their teleporter homer and signaled to the Tech-Priests above them. When they were all aboard Inquisitor Hefth turned to the Tech-magi and said,

“We have cleansed the heretic, call in the Arbites to secure this rock.”

“Of course my lord.” the Tech-Priest bowed low and hurried from the room, his crimson robe billowing behind him and his mechanical limbs hissing and grinding.




She was snapped out of her revery by the sounds of two men having a hushed discussion. The two men turned the corner to Alena’s left and she saw it was Inquisitor Hefth and another Inquistor she didn’t recognize, the two men were bent forwards and speaking just above a whisper, but Alena could tell by their body language that their discussion was of some importance.

“Are you sure Ruskov?”

“Without a doubt Hefth. The Emperor’s Tarot has shown me this multiple time in addition to my own investigations.”

The man called Ruskov was much larger than Hefth, with deep, brown skin. His dark head was entirely shaven and gave off a slight sheen under the biolume lamps floating in the hall. He wore a long red cape and silver carapace armor with a large red ‘I’ in the center. He had high, gold pouldrons that came up nearly to the top of his head. His arms were bear from the shoulders down except for the electoos that glowed on his biceps. He had silver carapace leggings with skulls on each knee and a large tome strapped to his golden belt. He carried a holstered bolt pistol and a large sword in a scabbard across his back.

“This is dire news indeed my friend. Have you told any one else of your discovery yet?”

“A few men, Lord General Millitant Mathias Pruge and Admiral Kearan Gilton. Both are sending large forces to aid in the defense of the system.”

“Both men have immaculate reputations, you pick your agents well comrade.”

“This mission is of the utmost importance, we cannot afford any less.”

“Agreed, but surely that cannot be all. There must be more men if this force is as large as you say it is?”

“I have arranged to meet with Lord Calagar of the Ultramarines, Grand Master Licus Kuuler of the Iron Centurions and Commander Dante of the Blood Angels. I have good relations with these men and I do not doubt that they will come to our aid.”

“You have my aid Ruskov. I shall-“ he was cut short as the two men noticed Alena staring at them.

“Good day Cannoness! I hope the Emperor finds you well this day?” said Hefth, a smile on his face.

“Good day lord Inquisitor. He sees me fine, how does he see you?”

“He sees me well. Cannoness, this is Inquisitor Lord Pitor Karkov, an old friend and servant of the Imperium.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you Inquisitor.” said Alena as she took a bow.

“The pleasure is mine sister. But come with us, there is much you need to know.”

“If you will forgive me lord, I was just I my way to morning mass in the chapel.”

“This news is far more important than morning mass sister. The weight of the Imperium hangs in the balance.” Alena raised her eyebrow and said,

“Very well Inquisitor.” The three companions set off down the hall at a hurried pace. Eventually the three came to the quarters of the Cannoness Superior and all three kneeled. The made the sign of the aquila on their chests and whispered a brief prayer and stood. Inquisitor Lord Karkov rapped the door three times and stepped back in line with his companions. A moment later a woman’s voice emanated from the room,

“Enter.” the three stepped into the room and before them sat a large crowd of Alena’s sisters of the Argent shroud. As far as she could tell, it was every Cannoness in the Order that was currently stationed at Convent Prioris. She was shocked, never before had she seen such a gathering.

“Ah, you have arrived Inquisitor Ruskov” intoned Cannoness Superior Hellen Carmines, “does this me wan we can finally begin?”

“Yes cannoness,” said the dark skinned man, “We may begin.”

“Why have you summoned us from mass? What is so important that we must forgo our daily rituals?”

“It is a matter of utmost importance lady. One that may change the course of the Imperium.” All the sisters looked at him, their gazes so intense they seemed almost palpable.

“What have you discovered?” asked a Cannoness to Carmines’ left.
“This information may not leave this room. If it were to fall into the wrong hands the results would be catastrophic. What I am about to tell you and the consequences from the results could be damning. The very foundations of the Imperium could be if the wrong outcome should come to pass. As this point in time, the future existence of the Imperium is uncertain.”

All the people gathered in the room stared at the Inquisitor, eyes wide.
“Tell us Inquisitor” said the Cannoness Superior, “what do you know?”

WE ARE THE SONS OF SANGUINIUS AND WE KNOW NO FEAR

Back in the 40k saddle after a long break.
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