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Great Unclean One
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2,611 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
1: SIGNS AND PORTENTS​




+++Tac-Logis feed (audio only)+++

LOCATION: SYRIIS VII
DATE: 582.M41

RECOVERED FROM DAMAGED SERVITOR RECORDING MODULE

TRANSCRIBED BY SAVANT EREBUS, DEPARTMENTO MUNITORUM
DATA-LIBRARY RECORD FACULTY, SEGMENTUM OBSCURUS

[Heavy weapons fire]
VOICE (i): (incoherent screaming)
[Bolter and heavy weapons fire]
[Vox source (i), positively identified as Lieutenant Sorun Karel]: What the feth?
[Lasgun fire]
[Low-pitched noises, unidentified, possibly localised demolition?]
KAREL: [Not on the floor please]!
[Heavy weapons fire, continuous]
KAREL: Keep firing!
VOICE (ii): Throne, why won’t they die?
KAREL: Keep fething firing!
[Lasgun and heavy weapons fire]
VOICE (iii): They’re right inside the fethin’ bunker!
[Vox source, unidentified, possibly Traitor]: (incoherent roaring)
VOICE (ii): What the feth are these things?
VOICE (iii): I said perimeter brea-(incoherent screaming)
[Lasgun and multiple bolter fire]
[Vox source (ii), tentatively identified as Sergeant Harol Erathen]: I’m out! Someone get me a-
[Sound of close-combat chain-weapons and organic noises]
KAREL: Harol! Motherf-
[Heavy weapons fire]
[Vox source, unidentified, possibly Traitor]: (incoherent hissing and gurgling)
VOICE (iii): Sir, we have to-
[Short burst of bolter fire]
KAREL: Feth! In the name of-
[Sustained lasgun fire]
[Organic noises]
[Vox source, unidentified, possibly Traitor]: (incoherent roaring)
[Vox source, unidentified, Traitor]: (low-pitched blasphemous intonation)
KAREL: (incoherent screaming)
[Organic noises]

+++Tac-Logis feed (audio only) ends+++​


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A good day. Many slain for our Father, and those few we lost glorified His name in their passing. The puppets we harvested were weak and irresolute, a sure sign that this world - and possibly the whole Sector - is ripe for the taking. Morsh-Hâl in particular took a glorious toll, his blade and claw liberally covered with the weaklings’ offal by the end of the day’s combat. Quorthon informs me that, with the Lord of Decay’s favour, he managed to transform the commander of the regiment we crushed into one of his Spawn; its play among the bodies of its erstwhile comrades was apparently most amusing. Sadly I missed this, being as I was occupied with the destruction of the communications and medical facilities of the prey; we also managed to appropriate much ammunition from the rearward staging areas of the Imperials’ forces. The few we bothered to take captive will be questioned and then turned or devoured tomorrow.


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TRANSCRIPT OF PICT-RECORDED DOCUMENT

LOCATION: SYRIIS VII
DATE: 582.M41

RECOVERED FROM DAMAGED SERVITOR RECORDING MODULE

TRANSCRIBED BY SAVANT ARAEL, DEPARTMENTO MUNITORUM
DATA-LIBRARY RECORD FACULTY, SEGMENTUM OBSCURUS​

[Pict-record white noise clears to] Overhead three-quarter perspective view of standard-pattern Munitorum loading bay. Barricades of sandbags and what appear to be overturned workbenches are arranged before the loading bay doors. Frequent irregularly-spaced noises are heard [possibly heavy weapons fire?] and dust can be seen in the air. Multiple human figures assumed to be armed Munitorum staff mingle with Guard [positively identified from uniform and camouflage patterns] troops behind the barricades.

VOICE (i): (unintelligible)
[Vox-source from internal compound command feed, unidentified]: Throne protect us! They’re- [squeal of static]

[Pict-record image dims for 2.4 seconds, accompanied by loud low-pitched noise - possibly demolitions charges? - before clearing] Loading bay becomes visible again, with noticeably more dust in the air.

[Vox-source from internal compound command feed, unidentified]: (unintelligible)
VOICE (ii): Feth!
VOICE (i): Stay at your fething posts!
[Vox-source from internal compound command feed, unidentified]: The fething Medicae’s gone…they’ve killed everyone in there, they’re all dead! Even the wounded and- [squeal of static which ends abruptly]

Three distinct, loud, metallic banging noises. The inner surface of the loading bay doors can be seen to deform slightly, roughly one and a half metres off the ground.

VOICE (iii): Sarge!
VOICE (i), positively identified as Sergeant Boras Castin: Hold your ground!
VOICE (ii): Sarge, they’re right outside th-
CASTIN: Hold your fethin’ ground!

Bright flash. Pict-record image whites out for 3 seconds and pict-source microphones correspondingly overload with distortion for 2.5 seconds. Image clears to show loading bay doors visibly damaged with a gap of approximately half a metre between them. Indistinct shapes moving behind gap in the doors.

VOICE (ii): They’re-
CASTIN: Fire at will! All men, fire at will!
VOICE (iii): (incoherent screaming)

Mass lasgun fire begins, directed at the gap in the doors. Image flickers as pict-recorder attempts to balance light levels between weapons fire and ambient room light levels. Activity behind doors ceases. Most lasgun fire ceases after 9 seconds. Image stabilises.

CASTIN: Cease fire!

Sporadic lasgun fire.

CASTIN: I said cease fething firing!

Lasgun fire ceases. Silence lasting 5.6 seconds, during which the smoke from weapons fire clears.

VOICE (ii): What are they-
CASTIN: Report!
VOICE (iii): Can’t see a thing, Sarge, we-

Loud metallic crashing as the right loading bay door is smashed off its hinges by something on the other side of the door.

VOICE (iii): Feth!
CASTIN: Fire! Fethin’ FIRE!

A heavy stubber, out of pict-source capture, is heard firing, immediately accompanied by massed lasgun fire. Large power-armoured figures emerge through the gap, accompanied by bulkier figures positively identified as wearing Tactical Dreadnought armour and at least two wearing bulky power armour of unidentified pattern. One of the figures in unidentified armour pauses long enough to tear the left loading-bay door from its mountings; height of figure estimated as being at least three metres, by comparison to standard-pattern loading bay door dimensions.

VOICE (ii): Holy fething Throne!
CASTIN: Keep firing!
VOICE (iii): Who the feth are they?
VOICE (iv), unidentified, possibly Traitor: (incoherent roaring)

The foremost of the advancing figures gestures in what appears to an encouraging wave to those behind him. Lasgun and stubber fire is continuous but appears to be ineffectual. Armoured figures positively identified as Traitor by blasphemous iconography. The leading Traitors reach the barricade closest to the door. Point-blank weapons fire is visible, and bolter fire is audible along with the sound of close-combat chain-weapons.

VOICE (iii): (incoherent screaming)
VOICE (ii): (incoherent screaming)
CASTIN: For the Emperor!

The huge Traitor that had torn off the loading bay door charges the nearest barricade, picks up an unidentified Guardsman by the neck with what appears to be a claw and eviscerates him with a vertical slice of its right hand, which is holding some sort of close-combat weapon. The claw then contracts to sever the head, leaving the head and both halves of the torso to fall to the floor separately.

CASTIN: Doran! God-Emperor, no!

To either side, slightly smaller armoured figures butcher the other Guardsmen huddled behind that barricade in a similarly emphatic and grisly manner. The leading Traitor reaches the barricade behind this and impales two Guardsmen simultaneously, with what appears to be a pair of lightning claws of unidentified pattern. The Traitors in Tactical Dreadnought armour, meanwhile, advance upon the other three barricades and slaughter all those behind them with a combination of bolter fire and close-combat chain-weapons; as this happens the lasgun fire diminishes and then halts. Heavy stubber fire continues for another 3.2 seconds while another of the Traitors in power armour of unidentified pattern charges out of pict-source capture, followed by organic noises which coincide with the cessation of all weapons fire.

VOICE (iv), unidentified, Traitor: For the Father!

The leading Traitor is now clearly visible, standing roughly six metres from the pict-source; height is estimated at 2.8 metres. One human, assumed to be Castin, slowly walks forward to the leading Traitor from just out of pict-source capture. No other Guardsmen or Munitorum staff are visibly left alive at this point. Castin raises his laspistol and aims it at the figure in front of him, firing the weapon 7 times until its charge is exhausted; the pistol fire has no visible effect on the Traitor. Castin then lowers his weapon and drops it to the floor, holding his gaze on the Traitor who steps up to Castin and swings its left claw upwards, with the point impaling Castin’s head through the base of the jaw. Castin, held aloft by the Traitor, jerks spasmodically for 4 seconds before falling still; the Traitor discards his body and advances forwards out of pict-source capture. One of the Traitors in Tactical Dreadnought armour pauses almost directly underneath the pict-source, glances upwards and raises its bolter. A brief flare of muzzle-flash and [Image goes black. Recording ends.]

END OF TRANSCRIPT​


----------​


We have done what we can for the moment. It remains to be seen whether what we have wrought here will have sufficiently interested the Traveller to bring him here; certainly we will need the resources that only he can bring to bear, in order for our greater plans to be realised.


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BY ORDER OF HIS MOST HOLY MAJESTY
THE GOD-EMPEROR OF TERRA

AUTHORISED PERSONS ONLY

***NOTIFICATION OF INQUISITORIAL ALERT***

CASE FILE 988.1V34D
Author: Lord Inquisitor Silas Mourne​

It is with a heavy heart that I must confirm Traitoris Extremis activity in the vicinity of the Syriis sub-sector; the Traitors have been positively identified by visible blasphemous iconography on their corrupted armour in what fragmented records I have been able to sequester from contact sites. Iconography suggests the foul Plague Marines; I have already notified the Ordo Sepulturum with all haste. There is a distinct possibility of involvement with the wretched post-Black Crusade epidemics in this and other sub-sectors (q.v. Agripinaa, Amistel Majoris); also I suspect the recently reported sightings of the accursed Terminus Est in the outer fringes of this sub-sector may not be entirely unrelated. May the Emperor have mercy on us if the Death Guard have now turned their attentions to this area of the Imperium!

Hallowed be the Throne!

MESSAGE ENDS​




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Great Unclean One
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Discussion Starter #2
2: SHROUDED INTENTIONS, HIDDEN REWARDS



“Wake up.”

A slight stirring, accompanied by an almost inaudible mumbling.

“Wake up, Captain.”

The very gentlest of slaps, to each side of the face.

“Come on, Barra. You have the Emperor’s duty to attend to.”

“Uh…whuh?”

The sleeve is rolled back, and the needle pierces the skin of the young man’s left forearm.

“Ahh…”

“It’s just a little pick-me-up. We need you awake, after all.”

Finally he stirs; his eyes are still unfocused, but at least they’re open. The smears of blood and other substances on his uniform have dried to the point where it now crackles like old, un-oiled leather as he stirs in his restraints. “Where am I? Who the feth are you?”

The older of the two men gives a small, weary smile, reaches into a pocket and places his badge on the table. The uniformed man’s eyes open wide now. “What…”

“Easy, Captain. All in good time. I imagine you have some questions of your own, but I must ask you to show a little forbearance; mine will be taking precedence today.”

“My men?”

“You know the answer to that question already, Captain.” He loosens the man’s restraints.
“I thought-“
“You don’t think. You know.”


----------​


Barra falteringly lifts the glass of water to his lips and drinks, hesitantly at first and then deeply. He closes his eyes. “Yes. Throne, I wish I didn’t.”

“What you know, Captain, is closely tied to my own interest in this region. While I am aware that this may be an…unpleasant…procedure for you, I need to hear first-hand what happened here five days ago.

The younger man’s eyes widen. “Five days? I’ve been out for five days?”

“Sedation, for the most part; you were raving.” The older man gives what looks like a sympathetic smile. “It seemed kinder to keep you under till things were in place to…debrief you.”

“Debrief?” Barra asks, draining the glass.

The older man holds his gaze on Barra for a few moments, then gestures to the impassive guard at the door. “More water, if you please, Mister Helmann?” The guard nods once and leaves the room. “Debriefing, yes. I can call it ‘interrogation’ if you like, but really that word is generally reserved for those who don’t co-operate. And your record tells me that you’re the kind of man who will co-operate with us.”

Barra nods carefully, unsure where this is going. “I, er, I like to think so, sir.”

The older man smiles with what looks like genuine warmth. “I’m very glad to hear that, Captain Barra. And, of course, an entry in your record to say that you were most helpful with us today couldn’t hurt, now, could it?”

“No, I guess not.”

The smile never falters. “Excellent.”

Returning with a pitcher of water and two glasses, the guard places both of them on the table before resuming his station by the door.

“Ahh, thank you, Mister Helmann.” He pours one glass for Barra and one for himself, pushing Barra’s glass over to him with a scraping noise that seems overly loud in the quiet warmth of the room. “Now, Captain; the first indication you had of the Traitors’ presence was…?”

Barra takes a sip of his water and rubs at his arm, then places the glass back on the table and stares into its depths for several moments before raising his eyes to the older man’s. “We heard gunfire from the northern part of the compound, sounded like bolters and maybe a melta or something, but no sign of armour or anything like that. Then the usual sort of thing you get in any contact situation, lots of people all yelling at once, all trying to report what they’re seeing.”

“And what did they say they were seeing?”

“Most of ‘em said it looked like Astartes, or something very similar. Power-armoured for sure. Some said there was a kind of cloud with them; we didn’t know what that meant until after. I knew it couldn’t be Astartes, this sector’s been quiet since the Crusade died out, so I figured they were just seeing whatever it was wrong and panicking.”

“Were your men prone to panicking, Captain?”

“You have to remember…sir, most of ‘em were green, new blood from the last Levy. Most of ‘em had never seen action; we’d lost so damn many in the Crusade, after all, most of the old hands were gone. And these guys, they were keen and all, but…show ‘em a Sentinel in the dark and they’d say it was a Warhound, you know?”

Another avuncular smile. “Of course. I understand.”


----------​


“So I got Erwon, my two-I-C, to head over and check it out while I voxed the other sectors to keep their eyes peeled and report anything.”

“Prudent.”

“And…well, no sooner have I finished telling the men to do that than I’ve got Erwon yelling at me to get my arse up there in short order. Er, pardon the language, sir.”

“Honesty involves accuracy, Captain. Carry on.”

“So I took myself and two fire-teams over to the north sector, and it was chaos already.”

An eyebrow raises. “Chaos, Captain?”

“Aye, sir, a complete mess…”

“Ahh. Of course.”

“The men were firing blind for the most part, out into the fields to the west of our position. Couldn’t see any incoming when I got there, and I was going to chew Erwon out for over-reacting when this thing lands in the mud next to him.”

“What sort of thing, Captain?”

“It was…” He reaches for his glass of water again and drains it. “It was a head, sir. All wrinkled-up looking and yellowy. And I just thought ‘what the feth?’ and then it split open in the mud where it was lying, and these flies or something came out. Was dark, so I couldn’t really see them that clear, like, but they sounded like flies to me.”

“Flies?”

“Aye, sir, I know how it sounds, but that’s what it was. Then they started buzzing round people, getting into their eyes; one of ‘em went into Erwon’s ear and he started yelling to get it out. Some of the other men were shouting about them, I guessed the damn things were doing the same to them. It looked like they were stinging people or something, people jerking about trying to get them off, swat them and stuff, you know?”

The older man takes a sip of his own water. “It sounds unpleasant, Captain. But hardly the stuff of which Black Crusades are made. What happened next?”

“That’s when they charged us. They were…huge. And they did look like Astartes, sir, but…different, somehow. Bigger. Some of them looked mis-shapen, somehow, like their arms didn’t end in the right shape or something. And there were more of those flies or whatever they were, a swarm of the damn things like a cloud around them.” He drinks more water, his eyes closing as he remembers. “They were unstoppable. We hit them with everything we had, they just seemed to shrug it off like it didn’t matter. And when they were into us, they just...they just tore us to fethin’ pieces. Closer in like that, I could see ‘em clearly, and I wish to the Throne I couldn’t. They looked like Astartes gone wrong. They had stuff growing on them or something.”

The older man locks his eyes on the captain as he recounts his tale. “Continue, please.”

“Some of ‘em had bloody great claws and stuff instead of hands. One of them…Throne, he had these damn great teeth where his belly should have been! He was just butchering men all around him. I mean, teeth? What the hell has teeth in its gut and wears power armour? They had Terminators, too, huge bastards with chain-swords and axes and stuff…and all of them were dark green, with flesh and stuff hanging off them, and this weird sign with three circles on it. It…it made my eyes hurt to look at it.”

“And that’s when you realised that they were Traitors, yes?”

Barra drains his glass again, sweating now. “Aye, sir.”


----------​


“Traitors of the worst kind, Captain.” He closes his eyes for a few moments, the lines around them momentarily showing his true age, before opening them to look directly at the young captain again. “The blessed Emperor’s own Astartes, fallen and corrupted.”

“We’d heard rumours from the Crusade, sir, that there were Traitor Marines seen, but we never expected to see them here. Especially not now.”

“Of course not. How could you?”

“I mean…we couldn’t even slow them down, never mind stopping them. Something like two platoons’ worth of men dead in the first ten seconds or so after contact, then they set to clearing the whole complex. They used flamers to smoke out the men, then tore them to shreds. Throne! It was a massacre. And all the time those damn flies, in your eyes, your ears, your mouth if you weren’t careful…”

“I have to ask, Captain, how you managed to survive yourself, given how out-matched you say you were?”

“Truth be told, sir, I don’t really know. I got cornered by this huge one of them, a Terminator, he had some huge kind of autocannon with a chainblade or something on the end of it which he pointed at me and I thought, ‘this is it’…then he put down the gun and picked me up by my neck. He stank, I mean really awful, like you’d been dropped in the latrines on a hot day and rotting meat stuck in there with you or something.” He pauses and drinks more water. “And up close I could see all his flesh, it was covered with boils and swellings and stuff, and some of it was moving, like stuff shifting around just under the surface or something. It was horrible.”

The other man’s gaze never leaves Barra’s eyes. “I know this must be difficult for you, Captain, but please try to remember everything you can. Every detail is important.”

Barra is sweating more freely now. “He just held me there, like three feet off the ground, while they slaughtered everyone in the complex. Then this other one comes along…he was even bigger, like a monster with huge claws and one huge eye, and horns and things sticking out all over. Throne…I was so scared of him. I could handle dying in action, sir, in a straight fight, I really could, but this was different. It was like they were examining me or something, and all the time all I can hear is the sounds of my men dying. I was reciting the Litany of Protection…”

“Commendable.”

“…but sir, I was so scared.”

“Understandable.” As he reaches for more water, the older man notices that Barra’s hand is shaking slightly. “Are you all right, Captain?”

“Yes, sir. So…this big one, he stares at me, then he says something to the other one, swings his claw round at my head and that’s the last thing I remember before waking up here.”

“Yes, you had severe contusions to the left side of your head when you were found. Tell me, Captain Barra; can you think of any reason why they might have spared you?”

Barra is breathing more quickly now, sweat visible on his face and hands, and looking pale.

“No, sir. I…I know they killed everyone else, including higher-ranking officers than me. I’m just a Captain. Four years in the Regiment and proud of it, but nothing special. Why me?”

“That’s a question that gives me pause, too, although we are chiefly concerned with gathering as much information as we can about the heretics’ movements. Also, there is of course the question of what to do with you now that you’ve been in such close proximity to the Traitors…”

Barra’s eyes flick upwards again, fearful now. He’s heard the stories.

The even tone of his questioner’s voice never wavers. “Are you sure you’re all right, Captain?”

“Actually, sir, I’m not feeling so hot right now. Do you have any more water?”


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As the older man turns to the guard at the door, Barra shudders and squeals with sudden pain. “Ahh! Feth!” He grabs at his right arm, wincing as he does so. The guard comes to full alert but he is far slower than the old man, who springs to his feet and kicks his own chair backwards. Barra has rolled up his right sleeve to reveal a large, angry-looking yellowish blister or boil of some kind. As they both stare closer, there is a tiny movement inside the blister. Barra yells with pain as this happens, and the other man runs to the door, yelling: “Seal this wing off! On my authority!” He turns to Helmann, the guard. “Stand outside this door, and let nobody in!” Helmann rushes to obey, and as he does so the other turns back to Barra to see him staring at the blister on his arm, which is already visibly bigger and spreading .

“What the feth’s happening to me?” he shouts as the movement within the blister becomes more pronounced, then shudders and yells again with pain. He tears open his tunic, to show patches of yellowish discolouration spreading across his chest. “What the feth is this?

The older man grimaces. “I think we know now why they let you live, Captain.” He reaches into his coat and produces an ornate bolt pistol, with gold filigree work inlaid into its sides.

Barra backs up against the wall on the opposite side of the room from the Inquisitor, eyes wide with pain and panic. A violent shudder racks him, and the blister on his right arm splits with an audible, wet sound to reveal a fat, glistening insect nestled in a welter of pus. He screams as it spreads its wings and escapes his body, the droning sound of its wing-beats clearly audible even over the sounds emanating from Barra, blood and pus mingling and streaming down his arm from the insect’s birth-wound. The Inquisitor tracks it as it circles the chamber, and as it briefly rests on a wall fires one round which vapourises the insect and leaves a small crater in the wall itself. Barra screams again, and the Inquisitor turns to see new blisters rising on the surface of his body, movement starting to become visible beneath some of them. He closes his eyes for a second, genuine regret clear on his face.

“I had truly hoped it wouldn’t come to this.”

Barra screams again, blood dribbling from the corner of his mouth as he writhes in agony. “Ahh! Feth! Help me!

“I’m sorry, but you’ve been used, Captain Barra.”

He raises the pistol again, as another one of the obscene flies begins to emerge from a blister on Barra’s chest.

“You’re not a survivor. You’re an incubator.”

He fires one round into Barra’s head, granting him a merciful release.

“…and may the Emperor have mercy on your soul.”

He empties the rest of the magazine into the body, pulverising human and insect flesh alike until all movement ceases. Only now does he realise that his own breathing has in fact speeded up somewhat, and spends a few moments calming himself down again. Holstering the pistol, and heedless of the horrified expression on Helmann’s face as he stares through the cell window at what has transpired inside, he pulls out a small communicator unit.

“Bring the cutter to the detention centre with all speed. And make sure you’ve got plenty of flamer fuel.”

A brief pause, then a scratchy female voice can be heard emanating from the communicator. “How is he?”

“He’s with the Emperor now.”

“Feth.”

“Feth, indeed. We need to move quickly; it’s even worse than Mourne suspected.”



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Nice job, Svartmetall! Pretty good so far. Normally I don't like stories told in present tense, but this one has changed my opinion about yours. Excellent job! :) :eek:k:
 

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That is as good an opening as I have ever read. I hope there is more soon! :) Your 'Nightwatch' piece was top dog too.
 

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Great Unclean One
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2,611 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
3: OFFERTORY​


The statue is crying. As he walks down the wide nave, that’s all he can think. Rain coming through the shattered window of the façade is spattering in its face and running down the front of the statue to the floor, an uncanny mockery of emotion that seems to mourn the bodies which lie ripped and torn at its feet.

A voice crackles in his earpiece. “Clear two. Proceeding three directly.” The second element of his team are sweeping the ancillary chapels and shrines to the east, while he leads his own retinue through the main cathedral. Farl stalks the aisle to his right, augmented muscles conveying an air of tightly-restrained brutality, his flamer slung over his massive back as he concentrates on an auspex. To his left, Meyer and her gun-servitor mirror Farl’s procession down the aisle; her one organic eye is narrowed, anger at the defilement of this holy place clear on her face, and her fingers are white as they grip her bolter tightly. He knows she will not let her emotions affect her professionalism, but finds the depth of her faith – which some call fanaticism, but he calls devotion - reassuring. Five metres behind him, Haldon carries his heavy stubber nonchalantly, his deceptively casual slouch masking an animal alertness and combat reflexes that have saved all their lives more than once.

The four of them advance slowly, methodically eliminating all potential hiding places as they go. Who or whatever has done this was able to enter a holy place of the Emperor in the planetary capital and, apparently, slaughter everyone inside at will; they will die for the outrage they have committed, but they are capable and resourceful and will therefore not be taken lightly. He is still concerned that the planetary governor seemed entirely unaware of the gravity of the threat from heretics even after being apprised of the events on Syriis VII itself; as he walks he replays their last conversation in his mind.​


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He smashed his cane hard on the desk in front of him.

“You were informed three weeks ago of the atrocities carried out by Traitor Marines on the capital world of this whole sub-sector, and what did you do by way of increasing security? Nothing!”

The governor blustered in return. “I did everything that was required of me by Imperial law! We increased border checks and spaceport security details, I personally prohibited all unauthorised travel and all shipments from off-world were rigorously checked!”

“Yes, yes. All the usual measures in times of unrest. Tell me something. Did the confirmed presence of Traitor Marines in the very next system not strike you as something unusual, perhaps deserving of unusual measures?”

“Well, I-“

“Does the lack of extraordinary measures taken in this system perhaps indicate that the only thing greater than your complacency is, in fact, your incompetence?”

At this the governor rose from his gilded chair, even more red-faced than before. “Now see here! I will not be spoken to like that, not even by the likes of you!”

There was a limit to what he would suffer from even the most diligent and dutiful servant of the Imperium, and this braggart was neither. He strode forwards to the edge of the man’s desk, and leaned forward till his eyes were only centimetres from the man’s own.

“The likes of me?” He kept his voice even and quiet. “Do you have the faintest conception of the things the likes of me can do? I have merely to give the order and this planet will be cleansed of all life! You think you hold the reins of power here? I’ve seen a thousand men like you, you strutting little popinjay, and I can tell you most assuredly that all I have to do is give that man behind me a nod and you will spend the rest of your days with an excruciator attached to every major nerve centre in your body.”

Behind him, Farl smiled in a manner more suited to some kind of predatory reptile, as if to make the point. Although he actually possessed a keen mind and was fond of debating the minutiae of philosophy till the early hours over a glass of amasec, Farl was happy to play the role of psychotic thug when the situation demanded, and the boosted musculature of his two-and-a-half-metre frame only accentuated this image.

The governor flinched, seeming to shrink within his robes. “I…” He swallowed, the gravity of his personal predicament seeming suddenly to affect him more than what was happening to his planet all around him. “We…”

“You wish to apologise for your rudeness, and you’ll help us in every way? I’m glad to hear it. I do so hate having to have the families of planetary governors executed by way of encouragement, the paperwork is most tedious.”

Behind him, right on cue, Farl looked slightly crestfallen.​


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“Clear three, proceeding on four directly. Lord…we think there may be movement in the adjacent chapter house; requesting permission to investigate.”

“Granted. Proceed with all due caution.”

“Acknowledged.”

They have reached the crossing at the centre of the cathedral, a wide expanse of green local marble with a high, domed ceiling. Meyer scans the space around them in all directions; as she does so, the assault cannon mounted in the gun-servitor that is slaved to her augmetic eye swivels, matching the movements of her head with smooth precision. Haldon rests his gun over his shoulder and looks around him, the towering, intricately-carved pillars of the cathedral no more than tactical impediments to him, while Farl examines the round plate of solid platinum inlaid into the small raised dais at the centrepoint of the crossing, which is cast in a likeness of the Emperor with a nimbus of light around His head. There seems to be blood on the metal, but there are no bodies near this area of the cathedral. Farl’s brow furrows.

Lord Inquisitor Silas Mourne stares up towards the apse at the far end of the cathedral, a hundred metres away. Even from this distance he can see that the frescoes and statuary there have been defiled in some way, and while the dim light of this stormy afternoon affords little by way of illumination there appears to be blood spattered liberally on the walls and floor. The defilement of the cathedral appalls him on some deep, visceral level; his unshakeable faith has seen him survive the depredations of heretic, Traitor and Daemon alike over the centuries, and to see a holy place of the God-Emperor soiled like this fills him with revulsion and a righteous fury that dwarfs even Meyer’s.

What concerns him - even more than the ingrained uselessness of the planetary government - is the fact that he has heard nothing from the detachment of the Adepta Sororitas that arrived on this world just as he was having his conversation with the governor. The Commandery of the Order of the Blooded Thorn on Marianus V were actually the nearest suitable force able to respond to potential Traitor activity, but bizarre warp activity has delayed their arrival here until after his own. Canoness da Silva should have been in contact with him by now, and the continuing silence worries him deeply.​


----------


“Lord!” Haldon’s voice is loud in the dripping silence. “Above us!”

He looks up, Farl, Meyer and the assault cannon doing likewise, to see the figure of a man far above where the domed ceiling hung above the crossing; his enhanced eyes zoom in and make out the shape of Cardinal Wulf. The Cardinal’s body has been threaded with barbed wire and hung suspended above the crossing of his cathedral, his eviscerated torso the source of the blood Farl had seen; as if this were not crime enough, he has been decapitated. Meyer mutters an obscenity as she looks, followed by what Mourne can hear to be a whispered prayer for Wulf’s soul.

“Ach…we must continue. This is vileness, to be sure, but we must press on. We will return to give him the burial he deserves, but now our priority has to be to find the ones that did this to him.”

Farl’s mouth is set hard with anger, and even the normally laconic Haldon looks grim, his weapon now held at combat readiness. They resume their advance along the half-kilometre length of the building, now walking together along the central aisle, weapons covering each side. Meyer is a few metres forward of the rest, the gun-servitor following on; abruptly she pauses, peers ahead and then makes a low, guttural sound in her throat.

“Oh feth…look. Lord, look.” She points south at the apse, having advanced just far enough to see what has been done at the apse. Joining her at her side, Mourne can now make out what has made his companion of forty years turn pale with revulsion.

Seven of the Adepta Sororitas hang at the far end of the cathedral, having been staked to the wall over a metre off the ground and divested of their power armour. Their eyes have been removed, and blasphemous symbols daubed on their robes and faces with what looks to be their own blood. Despite his horror Mourne still recognises the symbol of the Plague God Nurgle, obscene at any time in its own right but an especially atrocious sight here, fouling the bodies of the Emperor’s own in His own place of worship. The expressions on the faces of the Sisters show that they did not die easily. Farl strides forwards until he is only a few metres from the ghastly tableau, then checks his flamer before turning to look at Mourne.

“Mourne…please? Let me cleanse this?”

He can only nod at his subordinate, his mouth dry. Farl activates the igniter of his flamer and proceeds to bathe the bodies of the Sisters with fire, washing it back and forth until almost the entire apse of the cathedral is ablaze. His angular face is set like volcanic rock, illuminated by the fire he has set in the dim remains of the afternoon. The mixed stenches of promethium and burning flesh fill the dank air of the building.

As Mourne watches the bodies burn, his earpiece erupts with noise.

“Contact! I say again, contact! Hostiles unidentified, incoming bolter fire!” Heavy gunfire is clearly audible even over the vox’s limited frequency range, and Mourne is surprised to hear what sounds like panic in the voice of his usually unflappable second-squad leader. “Two do-…three down! Request immediate assistance!”


----------


He turns and barks, “To me!” before setting off in the direction of the north-eastern chapter house, part of the extensive complex of cloisters and secondary chapels that huddle around the main cathedral building. Meyer, Farl, Haldon and the gun-servitor sprint after him out of the echoing space, leaving blood and fire behind them.

The gunfire continues in Mourne’s ear as he leads his squad through the back of the apse out towards the cloisters, and as he runs he can hear the change in sound as they draw nearer to the fighting, bolter and continuous lasgun fire becoming clearly audible now without the need for a vox-link to convey it to him. Their footsteps echo through the cold stone of the cathedral’s outbuildings to the cloisters, where high stone walls encircle a manicured garden perhaps two hundred metres square. On the far side of this space, in the gloom beneath the looming wall of an Ecclesiarchy chapterhouse, the glare of bolter fire is mixed with the actinic beams of lasgun fire; Mourne can see one of his men fall even as he watches, shredded by a storm of bolter fire from a hulking shape in the shadows of the cloisters.

Meyer yells in anger, and opens up with her bolter at the shape, followed almost immediately by the assault cannon mounted into her servitor; stone chips spray as it tracks its firepower along her sight-line towards the shrouded enemy. Haldon adds his heavy stubber to the hail of fire, though it is inaudible beneath the hammering roar of the assault cannon, and Mourne’s own plasma pistol adds its voice to the chorus. After a few seconds of the cannon’s work there is so much dust in the air that the enemy is no longer visible, and they cease fire with an almost telepathic synchronisation, advancing carefully towards the spot where they last saw the men of the second squad while keeping their weapons trained on the spot where they last saw the unknown enemy.

No sign of an antagonist can be seen once the smoke has dissipated, but it is clear that all of Mourne’s second squad are dead. Most lie on the floor of the cloisters, bearing the stigmata of bolter fire, but one appears to have been sliced in two by some huge bladed weapon. Meyer watches at Mourne as he surveys the carnage, seeing the way his jaw grinds and knowing he is as angry as she has ever seen him; after the deaths of his entire second squad, and especially the obscene fate of the Sisters, this is the mood that has seen him put cities to the torch. And worse. Wordlessly, Mourne strides over the bodies of his men, seeing that the far end of the cloister is marked by a tall stone arch over a doorway into the chapterhouse. His three companions follow on, checking their weapons’ ammunition displays as they go and trying not to look too closely at the severed halves of a man that lie on either side of the stone floor.

The entrance-hall of the chapterhouse has at least some illumination in the form of lit torches on the walls, smoke curling upwards and fading into the darkness of the high ceilings above. Simple wooden tables and benches are situated around the walls, one or two smashed into kindling and one decorated with the body of a monk, skin pallid with some kind of sickness and an iron stake driven through its heart into the wood beneath. Half-way along the east wall of this hall they can see a large archway with stairs behind it leading down; lit torches can be seen along this stairway’s walls.

“The crypt. Of course.” Mourne’s voice is calm and steady, belying the raging anger within. “We are obviously being led; Haldon, take point. I need the best eyes and ears we have alert for whatever’s down there. Observe silence discipline.”​


----------


All pretence of nonchalance is gone from Haldon now, and his movements are as cat-like as his eyes as he descends the stone steps. Meyer and Mourne follow with the gun-servitor a few metres behind while Farl takes rearguard, flamer unslung and igniter lit. The steps descend in a spiral for what Meyer estimates as thirty metres before opening out onto a large, low-ceilinged chamber, simple stone arches spaced roughly four metres apart stretching off into the darkness which is relieved only by an occasional torch hanging from a wall. The shattered body of another monk lies surrounded by smears of its own blood in the middle of the floor about twenty metres into the crypt; Mourne gestures with battle-sign language to Haldon to check the body. Haldon dutifully creeps forward to the corpse, leaning over it carefully in case of booby-traps, checking for probable cause of death. He stands and signs back; blunt weapon to skull and chest, most bones broken, no sign of traps, looks safe to proceed. A drip of water from the dank ceiling punctuates his signing.

Slowly, silently, they advance, eyes constantly trying to make sense of the shadows and alert for any sound. The crypt beneath this cathedral complex is larger than any Mourne has seen, walls dotted with burial spaces for the monks who have lived here for millennia; the desecration of so vast an edifice of the Emperor’s might fills him with a very real nasusea. Here, in the foundations of this cathedral, he feels more intensely than ever that faith is the foundation of the Imperium Of Man; faith is what sustains him, and Meyer, and all the people like him who fight the darkness. He knows that the Emperor truly protects those who have faith in Him.

Meyer holds up her hand to signal a halt, perhaps seeing something ahead; she turns to Mourne, and as she begins to sign a bolt round blows off the back of her head, spraying Farl and the gun-servitor with blood and brain-matter. The gun-servitor, slaved to her nervous system, collapses to the floor as she does; its eyes have always been as blank as hers now are. Mourne stares in shock as the woman who has fought alongside him for four decades, her faith and strength at least the equal of his own, lies in a spreading pool of her own fluids at his feet. Farl is beginning to point his flamer at what he thinks is the spot the bolter fire came from when another bolt round detonates in Haldon’s gut, almost cutting him in half and leaving him twitching on the stone floor, eyes wide with uncomprehending shock. Mourne and Farl aim at the place where they saw the muzzle-flash of the enemy’s bolter, a combined gout of flame and plasma erupting out into the darkness. As soon as they stop firing they can hear the sound of something heavy hitting the floor from the direction they had been aiming at. Hearing this, Farl charges forward before Mourne can stop him, a grin of savage triumph on his face.

Mourne has time to yell “No! We couldn’t see-“ before Farl is stopped in his tracks by a focused torrent of foul-smelling ooze, exuding a stench somewhere between vomit and rotting meat that makes Mourne himself gag reflexively. Farl stands motionless in shock for a second, covered from head to foot in the noxious substance, before beginning to jerk uncontrollably as the acidic slime begins to eat into him. Mourne can see Farl’s face beginning to run and dissolve, liquefying flesh streaming over his flak armour as he screams and shudders in his agony, collapsing to the floor. He puts a plasma bolt through his loyal companion’s head for mercy’s sake, then runs to the wall and grabs one of the guttering torches.

Stalking forwards now, heedless of any pretence at stealth, Mourne shouts his fury and hatred into the darkness.

“Where are you? Show yourselves, you bastards! WHERE THE FETH ARE YOU?”​


----------


Less than a minute later he reaches the far wall of the crypt, a rough hole in the wall leading on to a narrow tunnel of crude bricks. The torch drips embers onto the ancient stone beneath his feet, reflecting jumping orange highlights off his ornate power armour and the gleaming metal of his pistol. Mourne feels cold despite its flames, his fury having honed itself to an icy pinnacle of rage that will most likely see this half this world burn before it is sated. He is gripping the torch so hard that a thorn from its haft is causing his left hand to bleed, but he does not even feel this, so focused is he on vengeance.

The passage opens into a cave, large enough to make his footsteps echo. Much of it is wreathed in shadows, but there is some kind of altar ahead with a ring of torches around it. Mourne strides towards this, as he can see something odd behind the glare of the torchlight, and as he draws closer the true nature of this cave becomes clear.

Lying in the centre of the circle of torchlight is a metal circle, almost like a shield of some kind, and on it are two human heads. One is the tonsured head of Cardinal Wulf, eyeless and pallid. Next to it, as if forming two points of an equilateral triangle, is the similarly-abused head of Canoness da Silva. There are no words to express the anger and lust for vengeance that Mourne now feels, and he simply utters a hoarse cry of rage as he turns to look for some sign of the author of this atrocity. Nothing is visible apart from a few unevenly-spaced stone columns that shore up the roof of the cave, so he thrusts the torch ahead of him and begins to hunt.

He is not sure whether he actually hears the blade descend or whether he senses it psychically somehow, but he manages to throw himself to one side just in time to avoid being bisected by a huge crescent of rusted metal that carves the air past his right ear. A hideous low gurgling noise comes from the darkness behind him, and as he turns to face the enemy at long last he can see a huge form silhouetted by the torches behind them, stalking him slowly and deliberately. He raises his pistol but the blade sweeps around and back faster than he would have thought possible, moving in a low figure of eight to cut off his right hand at the wrist. While he is still only aware of the shock, before the pain has started to feed through to his brain, the huge figure cuffs him to one side and forces him up against the nearest column of stone. The agony of his wound is still only a slow trickle as he is held there, but the pressure increases all the time as he is slowly crushed against the stone.

With an odd clarity, he can hear the pings and groans his armour makes as the metal is stressed to the point of deforming, and smell the stench of the millennia that surrounds the entity that is killing him. The gurgling noise comes again, and he realises that it is a noise of pleasure, like a feline purring; his enemy has been enjoying this game all the while, and it is a game he has played alone. The chestplate of his armour finally collapses, and he feels his ribs begin to splinter; then the pressure is suddenly relieved and he collapses to the floor, the stump of his hand finally bleeding profusely and his chest a huge mass of pain from what is probably a punctured lung. He is spun over onto his back, and for a moment he can see the face of the enemy clearly in the torchlight as he watches the blade descend.

“You...!”

There is a sensation that is too massive, too profound to be mere pain. Vision begins to dim for the last time, but he sees enough to realise that his own head is being placed next to the other two, forming a perfect triangle, before the darkness that he has fought all his life finally swallows him.​


-----------​


He has come. The Traveller is here. Praise the Father!




_____
 

·
Great Unclean One
Joined
·
2,611 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
4: CONTEMPLATION




We were honoured by the Traveller’s attentions, though Quorthon has told me that he does not yet fully understand what he has been told we must do to achieve our greater goal. My Captain of old instructed him as to how our goal could indeed be achieved, his unparalleled lore and knowledge of our father’s ways vital to our plans, yet also warned both that the risks were great and the path convoluted. No matter. What we may yet build here would be an act of devotion unparalleled for millennia; and so much must be risked, that much may be achieved. We must attempt this. We shall attempt this!

For the Father!



----------​


He watches as his gun-cutter departs, the glare of its drive piercing the smog-laden gloom of the late evening and casting his shadow vividly on the stained plasteel flooring before ascending into the ochre murk that passes for Syriss VII’s sky. Seven of His cathedrals defiled. Seven Sisters also, along with their Canoness, in the atrocity in the capital. Over the centuries, he has learned to listen to his gut, and now he has a yawning ache there that tells him there is a greater design of the Enemy being drawn here than he can yet discern, and that the longer he and those like him take to unravel its workings, the greater the toll will be. Gripping the handrail of the landing-pad’s walkway, the lines around his eyes tighten as he remembers the hideous moment when he discovered what had been wrought under Syriis City’s central cathedral, the obscenity built from the mortal remains of a Cardinal, a Canoness, and his own superior.

He had sat with Maris and Ehren in the dripping cloister of the cathedral while the foulness was put to the torch, Maris’ hands clenched white around her own flamer just as Ehren’s were on his data-slate, and prayed with them for the souls of those slaughtered by the Enemy here. Surrounded by the broken stone and ruined corpses of His servants, though, prayer had seemed a bitter consolation at best; what use were prayers to the dead flesh littered throughout this place of prayer? He allows himself a small smile at the thought of the chiding lecture Mourne would have given him at the mention of such thoughts; Mourne’s authoritarian, Thorian nature left no room for doubt or questioning when it came to matters of faith. It was no coincidence that Mourne had been about the only one who’d been able to put up with a humourless tight-arse like Meyer – Emperor rest her soul – on his team.

He’d known from the last messages sent to him by Mourne himself that he’d suspected whose hand had been at work here, but still the ancient Lord Inquisitor had insisted on taking his own team in by themselves, confident as ever that he could cope with whatever machinations of the Enemy he might uncover. Hubris had, as he’d always suspected would end up being the case, been his master’s downfall. In his own mind, the ritualised defilement of place of worship and flesh alike that had blighted this holy place – and those of six other worlds in this sub-sector – is certainty enough.

Typhus.

Even thinking that name makes his jaw tighten, both with hatred and – he readily admits to himself – fear. For ten millennia, the Herald of the Plague God has brought terror and death on a horrific scale to worlds across the Imperium, leaving billions dead in his wake and billions more cowering in fear of his works, though they know not his name. Not one servant of the Inquisition that has come face to face with Typhus has survived, and he knows that Mourne was foolish to come here without some serious firepower to back him up, given what he believed he’d find.

Typhus was here.

A legacy of misery, suffering and death unmatched by any servant of the Enemy save possibly Abaddon himself is the Traveller’s gift to the worlds of Man, century after century of plague and pestilence dotting the history of the Imperium like weeping sores on a corpse. If there is one thing he knows from studying the Captain of the Terminus Est’s works across the millennia of the Long War, it is this: the Herald of Nurgle plays the long game, and is ever laying plans that span the years just as they do the breadth of the galaxy.

Typhus was here.

While Maris reflexively checks her flamer and bolt pistol in the gathering gloom, he pictures in his mind what is even now unfolding across the worlds already involved. As the elegies begin to echo through the chapter houses on Marianus V and the flames still lick the walls of the central cathedral in Syriis City, and while his gun-cutter returns to orbit to await help from an old acquaintance, he tries again to trace the flow of events and perceive its destination, as he has done so many times over the last few days, and is again frustrated by the lack of hard facts.

Why was Typhus here?


----------​


I remain perplexed by one thing above all others – the Traveller told me in no uncertain terms during our meeting that the protagonist in our plans would come from within our own ranks, but would not tell me his identity. He assured me that I would know him when the time is right because what we require will be not just a warrior, but someone with faith enough to be what we want him to be; the one will make himself known to us, though even he be unaware of this at the time. I trust his judgement implicitly – the sheer force of his will was palpable all the while we talked, the hidden lore he instructed me in a revelation in itself, and the bounteous favours of our Father clear in the very nature of his presence - but am nonetheless frustrated that he would not just tell me who it would be.

All I can think is that this is another way of proving our worthiness, of showing that we are ready not only to carry out this grand design, but also to reap its rewards. I will, as always, trust in our Father’s guidance, but I am still tense and irritable with the weight that is now upon my shoulders, and I must confess my immediate retinue have borne the brunt of this over the last day or two.

After so many years, I must confess I find myself impatient for the hour of apotheosis.



----------​


The amasec bottle is half-empty, and Maris busies herself with fetching another while Ehren muses aloud. Kallastinian vintages are hard to come by, and this case – a gratuity from a planetary governor, grateful for the quashing of a cult of the Change God that had infested several of his cities – is proving to be most agreeable.

“What do we really know? I mean, obviously, shocking affair and all, but really we’ve got bugger all to go on when it comes to actual facts.” Unlike many savants he has known, Ehren is refreshingly honest about not knowing things – so many seem so intent on what they do know, that they cannot make allowances for what they do not. Ehren sees gaps in his knowledge as a challenge rather than an irritation, and this makes him invaluable. “We know the Plague God’s involved somehow, and that Traitor Marines in the service of said ghastly Power have been active in this area. But let’s face it, desecration aside, there’s precious little by way of clues as to what they’re really up to.”

Brow furrowed, Inquisitor Lukas Karst stares into his amasec, from which answers are less than forthcoming. It has now been over a week since his astropath sent the request for aid, and still Yelson has received no sign of a response; he had devoutly hoped to have heard something by the time he got back to the cutter from wrapping things up down on Syriis VII with the new planetary governor, whose predecessor had retired only three days before citing ‘nervous exhaustion’. “Spreading a new disease? I’ve never seen anything like that incubation thing before.”

“They’re perfectly capable of doing that on their own, without bringing in the likes of the one responsible for what went on down there.” This is accompanied by a vague wave of the amasec glass towards the crescent of the planet visible through the viewport. “That’s what really bothers me. Why the hell was he there in the first place?”

The sound of a full bottle of amasec being placed carefully among the plates, glasses and empty bottles currently littering the battered nalwood tabletop announces Maris’ return to the debate. She aims her cocky half-grin at the lanky savant, reclining in his threadbare armchair. “Well - I’m going out on a limb here, but I think it was probably something...you know...bad?”

“As ever, my dear, you display a most incisive grasp of affairs. I find myself quite humbled by your insight.” The amasec glass is raised towards her in a mocking salute. “Perhaps I should start seeking new employment? There would after all seem to be nothing impeding your imminent usurpation of my position as Thinker-In-Chief for our master!”

A single finger makes its own salute in return, while her other hand busies itself with pouring more of the fine amasec, and Karst permits himself a small grin at the banter between his companions. Between her combat skills and his mind, Maris and Ehren have saved each others’ lives – and his own - more times then he can count over the years, and the good-natured bickering they regularly practice is merely an outwards manifestation of the solid trust they have in each other. Slumping back into her own seat, Maris inhales the aroma of her drink, eyes closed like the connoisseur she is, before taking a long, appreciative draught of the stuff. “Why risk something like this?”

Ehren raises an eyebrow. “Hmm?”

“Well, think about it. They’ve got an arse-load of firepower at their disposal – just look at what they did to those Munitorum facilities – so they could have just marched in, all bolters blazing, and blown the feth out of things if they wanted to. Now someone walks into a cathedral in the capital of the whole damn sub-sector – and, if Lukas is right, by themselves – and pulls off a stunt like this? This isn’t going for body-count, this is...showy.”

Karst’s own eyebrow raises at this. “Showy?”

“Yeah. Like someone showing off, going ‘look what we can get away with under your noses’, rather than just going all-out for maximum damage. Why do that when you can wipe a reasonable-sized city anyway?”

Ehren’s glass is drained, and he begins carefully refilling it. “You’re saying it’s not part of the military campaign, but something else? Something different?”

“Stuff just isn’t adding up, that’s all. Look at the timetable. Munitorum facilities on like fifteen planets get blown to the Warp by Traitor Marines, who promptly make off with a crap-ton of heavy weapons, high-yield explosives, and other fun stuff. Regimental bases get taken apart left, right and centre. Cargo convoys across half the sub-sector arrive at their destinations in tiny radioactive pieces or don’t arrive at all. All the signs are that they’re gearing up for a full-on war, and then? The boss interviews some poor sod who turns out to be heavily pregnant with really nasty bugs, who just happens to be the only survivor from a regimental base that had gotten the crap blown out of it by...guess who? The same Traitor Marines who’ve been playing steamroller with the Guard, PDFs and whoever all over the place. And now their next move is to do stuff – admittedly, horrible stuff - in seven cathedrals, but only in seven cathedrals, with nary a nuke or a massacre in sight? It doesn’t make sense.”

“Humph.” Karst downs more of his own drink. “What worries me is that it does make sense to them, and it’s them doing something actually quite subtle in among the running-around-blowing-things-up that’s really important to whatever they’re really up to. Different, yes, but still related.”

“Subtle? You call decapitating three of the most important people in the sub-sector and putting their heads on a plate in the cathedral of the capital of said sub-sector subtle?”

“Compared to blowing the crap out of everything in sight, yes. And think about what they, or he, actually did. The heads of those three – Emperor grant their souls mercy – were arranged as the symbol of the Plague God, whose sacred number is seven. Seven places of His worship desecrated, across seven worlds, with that as the pinnacle of the atrocity.”

“You‘re thinking sorcery?”

“You’re damn right I’m thinking sorcery. And if Typhus the Herald is the one doing the sorcery,” Ehren’s jaw clenches at the name, “then it’s going to be something especially bad.”

She takes another, longer, drink. “Feth.”

“As you are so fond of saying, my dear...feth. I’m starting to think that, over and above the Traitors’ inherent fondness of blowing up anything with an Aquila on it whenever they can, the purely military attacks have been a means of inducing fear, instability and paranoia across these worlds precisely so the desecration of the cathedrals could be more easily accomplished; a backdrop of destruction serving as a canvas for their true design.”

“Very poetic, boss. So what do we do now?”

Karst runs his hands over his head, smoothing down his hair and massaging the back of his neck while his eyes move in the direction of Yelson’s quarters on the deck above. “We hope to hell that they get back to us, is what we do.”

Ehren raises an eyebrow. “Does ‘they’ mean who I think it does?”

“I believe it does, yes. I’m calling in an old debt, and hoping to the Throne they heed my call; because if they don’t, I have a horrible feeling that both we and this sub-sector are going to be neck-deep in crap.”

Again? Why don’t we ever go anywhere nice?”

“Because if we went anywhere nice, you’d go crazy for lack of things to shoot and Ehren would die of boredom?”

Maris grins over her glass. “Point.”

Karst finishes his drink. “And now, if the two of you would excuse me, I’m going to prod our pet astropath and see what, if anything, is going on.”


----------



BY ORDER OF HIS MOST HOLY MAJESTY
THE GOD-EMPEROR OF TERRA

AUTHORISED PERSONS ONLY

******
From: Inquisitor Lukas Karst

Hiram, my old friend – I find myself confronted with a matter of potentially the gravest import. You may have heard of the deaths of Canoness da Silva, or of Cardinal Wulf, possibly even of my late superior, the Lord Inquisitor Mourne; but I suspect the manner of their deaths may not have been imparted by the usual channels. Suffice it to say that I am convinced that the Death Guard themselves are now definitely active in some nefarious plot around Syriis, and there is much evidence to suggest that Typhus himself is involved somehow; I suspect Warp-craft of some dark sort, though there is no way to ascertain what now as the Terminus Est was detected leaving the sub-sector capital’s system over a week ago. Nonetheless, the very fact of his involvement is indication enough of the seriousness of this situation.

I know the Crusade has left its mark, and the butcher’s bill for your men has been steep – but I swear by the Throne that we will need the full strength of whatever help you can muster here, as soon as you can. Only this afternoon I consulted with the astropathic choirs here on Syriis VII, and they are seeing signs of some great upheaval in the Warp starting to form here, some dreadful event in our future drawing closer and swelling in magnitude. I am the Emperor’s eyes and ears here, to be sure, but - as we both know - you are His fist. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

The Emperor protects!

Lukas



MESSAGE ENDS
 

·
Great Unclean One
Joined
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2,611 Posts
Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
5: INTIMATIONS​



It saw the future and the past as one. It had always done so; such was its nature. The things that were and the things that would be, the things that had passed and the things that could come to pass, all flowing together in a stream of undying consciousness. The fleeting glimpses it had been vouchsafed of the awarenesses of those it watched left it confused. How could cause and effect be separated, like sire and offspring, with no relation to each other save that of the passing of time? All things were one, when viewed from sufficient distance; creation, destruction, growth, decay. All were one.
Life.
Death.
Gestation.
It watched, immersed in the currents of its awareness, and savoured the rich tides of expectation that flowed from those who could not see that what they laboured to achieve had already happened.



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BY ORDER OF HIS MOST HOLY MAJESTY
THE GOD-EMPEROR OF TERRA

AUTHORISED PERSONS ONLY

******
CASE FILE 988.1V39F

From: Lord Inquisitor Tarren Milos
To: Inquisitor Lukas Karst


Our listening facilities here intercepted this fragmentary message just a few hours ago and I thought you should be informed of its contents, as - based on your last report - I fear it may well be related to the subject of your current attentions (this is of course assuming that your own astropath hasn’t already alerted you to this matter). Less than a minute after this message was received, eight of our own astropaths died of massive cerebral haemhorraging and a further fifteen went irremediably insane and had to be granted the Emperor’s peace. We are still in the middle of collating the reports that are coming in, but from what I can see so far it looks like astropaths on just about every planet for a good fifty light-years in every direction have all felt the same thing, even those that did not receive the original message fragment; the overall death toll among the choirs in this region of space will likely turn out to be high.

This is what our astropaths received; according to my own savant, who was about to get them to send an unrelated message for me when it occurred, all of them spoke exactly the same words in perfect synchrony. My savant himself transcribed this, so I am as certain of its accuracy as I can reasonably be:

“(whispered unintelligible sounds)...Yersinis...(a stream of unintelligible sounds follows at normal conversational volume for seventeen seconds)...coming...becoming...coming...focus...(unintelligible sounds for eleven seconds)...coming...waves in the abyss...becoming...(unintelligible sounds, louder this time, lasting seven seconds)...coming...focus...becoming...crux...focus...becoming...coming...(silence lasting five seconds)...waves in the abyss...coming...waves in the abyss...(silence lasting three seconds)...(shouted)ESSENCE(a stream of unintelligible sounds with no break, at normal speaking volume, lasting thirteen seconds)...(shouted)BECOMING(a stream of unintelligible sounds with no break, at normal speaking volume, lasting nineteen seconds)...(shouted)REALITY!(silence)”

Needless to say, the message itself is extremely disturbing. My savant has himself had to be sedated, whether from hearing the message first-hand or transcribing it I do not yet know; I have already sent an urgent request to my immediate counterpart in the Ordo Malleus for any insights she may be able to impart. Combined with what we have to assume are the related physical effects of this message on so many choirs, I am placing the Inquisitorial forces of all three Ordos in this sub-sector on high alert, effective immediately (I’m assuming that after reading this you won’t need me to copy you in on the actual alert notification itself).
We are currently attempting to triangulate the source of the message, but this may take some time; what worries me is that there is no indication as yet of who the hell actually sent this thing for our astropaths to pick up. I’ve also set the cogitators to cross-referencing the word ‘Yersinis’, which may or may not be a name, but so far nothing has cropped up by way of results. Again, Lady Inquisitor van Herne may be useful in this department.

Lukas – I know I don’t need to tell you to be careful, but my gut tells me that whatever this is, it’s going to be a bad one. So...be careful.

May the Throne watch over you!

Tarren

MESSAGE ENDS​


----------


TRANSCRIPT OF PICT-RECORDED DOCUMENT

LOCATION: PALLIS MINOR DETENTION FACILITY
DATE: 582.M41

TRANSCRIBED FROM SERVITOR RECORDING MODULE

TRANSCRIBED BY SAVANT HERSIR, ORDO MALLEUS DATA-LIBRARY
RECORD FACULTY, DIMMAMAR VI

BY ORDER OF HIS MOST HOLY MAJESTY
THE GOD-EMPEROR OF TERRA

AUTHORISED PERSONS ONLY


******​

CASE FILE 985.IX42BA

[Pict-record shows a standard-pattern interrogation chamber, from a viewpoint halfway along one wall facing the interrogation table. Bound to a steel chair is a human male, appearing to be approximately fifty standard years of age, positively identified as Boreus Mir. Seated opposite him is a human female, appearing to be approximately thirty standard years of age, positively identified as Lady Inquisitor Dela van Herne. Mir is awakening from chemical sedation after being injected with twenty-five milligrams of dioxamine.]

VAN HERNE: Mir?

MIR: (unintelligible)

VAN HERNE (gently): Do you know where you are, Mir?

MIR: I...I’m in a room.
[Mir smiles at the Lady Inquisitor.]

VAN HERNE: No, you’re not. Do you know where you are?

MIR: What?

VAN HERNE: It’s a simple enough question, when you get down to it. Do you know where you are?

MIR: Is this some kind of game?

VAN HERNE: A game? Oh, no. Not at all. No, if it were a game, there would be dice, or cards, most likely drinks, and all sorts of other pleasant things. Instead there is just you, this table, and myself; and the time for being pleasant may well be drawing to a close.
[Mir shifts in his chair as much as his bindings will allow.]

VAN HERNE: So, I ask you again. Do you know where you are?

MIR: I’m in a fething roo-

VAN HERNE (sharply): No!
[Mir’s brow furrows but he remains silent; detailed examination of pict-images reveals that he has begun to sweat, with a concurrent increase in skin temperature and heart rate verified by bio-sensors.]

VAN HERNE (gently): You are in the Emperor’s embrace. You are in the place where there is but one choice left to you.

MIR: I am? And what choice would that be, then?

VAN HERNE: To choose the manner of your passing.
[Mir’s heart rate increases again.]

MIR: And who the feth are you, then, lady?

VAN HERNE: I know about the tedious little narcotics you peddle across ten systems. I know about the adolescents you procure for senior members of the local Ecclesiarchy with somewhat...rarified...tastes.
[Mir blanches but remains silent.]

VAN HERNE: But I’m not really interested in that.

MIR: So wh-

VAN HERNE: What I am interested in, Boreus Mir, is how you came to be in possession of this.
[The Lady Inquisitor places a small, nine-sided black box, approximately twenty centimetres wide, on the table just out of reach of Mir’s hands. Box identified as xenos in origin by abhuman writings inlaid into its sides and top in silver-coloured metal.]

VAN HERNE: I’m really quite keen to find out where you got it, who you got it from, and what you were intending to do with it.
[Mir’s heart rate reaches one hundred and thirty beats per minute, causing a warning rune to illuminate in the tabletop in front of the Lady Inquisitor. The Lady Inquisitor cancels this without looking at her control panel.]

VAN HERNE: I see you recognise it. Splendid. Pointless denials are so tedious, don’t you think?

MIR: I...

VAN HERNE: Do you even know what this is? More specifically, do you know what this can be used for?

MIR: I don’t even know who you are, lady, or why I should tell you a f-
[The Lady Inquisitor reaches into the right pocket of her jacket and places her Inquisitorial rosette on the table. Mir’s heartbeat reaches one hundred and fifty beats per minute; again, the Lady Inquisitor cancels the warning rune.]

MIR: Oh feth!

VAN HERNE: Yes.

MIR: You’re th-

VAN HERNE: I am Lady Inquisitor Dela van Herne of the Holy Inquisition of Terra. You are someone who is in deeper shit than you have ever dared to imagine, because you have been brought to me with a xenos artifact that could conceivably be used in blasphemous rituals in your possession. You recall the choice I referred to earlier? About the manner of your passing? There is a chance - a tiny chance - that if I end up completely satisfied with the answers you give me here and now that you may even be able to walk out of this room and die of old age. If I am not...well. Things will be less pleasant.

MIR: I didn’t know what it was!

VAN HERNE: I don’t care.

MIR: What?

VAN HERNE: Where you got it, who you got it from, and what you were going to do with it. Remember? That’s what I said I was interested in.

MIR: The client said-

VAN HERNE: What was their name?

MIR: I don’t remember.
[Lady Van Herne produces an ornate dagger from a sheath on her belt, reaches across the table and severs the little finger of Mir’s left hand. The movement takes one point seven seconds.]

MIR: (incoherent scream)

VAN HERNE: Are you married, Boreus?
[Mir stares at his finger lying on the table in a small, spreading pool of blood. Bio-sensors indicate the first stages of shock setting in.]

MIR: Wh...what?

VAN HERNE: It’s a simple enough question, I think. Are you married? Do you have wife? A partner? A lover, perhaps?

MIR: (whimper of pain) Kalla! Her name’s Kalla!

VAN HERNE (gently): I would imagine, Boreus, that there are things Kalla might miss more than your finger. What was the client’s name?

Mir: Tho-
[The comm-unit in the Lady Inquisitor’s side of the interrogation table buzzes, and the Lady Inquisitor activates it.]

VAN HERNE: I said I was not to be disturbed unless it was matter of the highest urgency!

COMM: (inaudible)

VAN HERNE: What?

COMM: (inaudible)

MIR: (whimpers with pain)

VAN HERNE: You’re sure it was Milos? He knows....never mind. What is it?

COMM: (inaudible)

VAN HERNE: Dear Throne...
[Bio-sensors indicate the Lady Inquisitor’s heart-rate rising.]

VAN HERNE: Yersin-...is that verified?

COMM: (inaudible)

VAN HERNE: Tell him I’m on my way.
[The Lady Inquisitor gets up from her chair and walks hurriedly towards the door, slamming it behind her.]

MIR: ...what?
[Bio-sensors indicate that Mir is now in deep shock]

MIR: Hello? Help!

[Pict-recording lasts for another two minutes of increasingly incoherent cries for help from Mir before he falls unconscious from a combination of shock, blood loss, and secondary reaction to sedation chemicals.]


----------​


It watched the scurrying activity that wove in and out through the tides of events, fascinated by the gush of emotions from those participating in the dance of reality. If it had shared their perceptions, it knew it would be thinking the word ‘soon’, although such a word had no meaning for its own kind.
Soon.
How curious a word to employ when referring to that which was eternal.





_____
 

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wow this is really good...

its very puzzling about why typhus is there, and what he is planning, keeping me on my toes definitely. well writ

i think you definitely deserve +rep+
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
6: RIPPLES IN THE TIDE (INTERLUDE)



Karst puts down the sheaf of parchment and closes his eyes, relief and pain sharing custody of his brow for a moment. He has hoped never to have to call in this debt, but such pieces have been put in play that he is now left with no other option. He will not trouble Maris and Ehren with this yet; the activities of the Herald of Nurgle have left them with plenty to absorb, and the knowledge that his companions of old were about to rejoin him in the execution of the Throne’s duty would be an unnecessary burden.


----------​


Thoughts flowing outside of time attain a purity unguessed-at by those bound to the stifling, linear currents of entropy. It watched and perceived the inchoate yet undeniable love of parent for unborn child. It watched and felt the presence of other consciousnesses as a stream feels the presence of fish. It watched and knew the inchoate bond of flesh to flesh, while remaining incorporeal.


----------​


Lady Inquisitor Dela van Herne stares through the viewport of her personal shuttle at the polychromatic vista of the nebula before her, seeing nothing. Her mind is filled with the horrors of the past and the potential horrors of the future, the vileness that may yet come to pass should she fail in her duty. She has put her name to the deaths of billions and not shirked from her task, though it gives her sleepless nights to this day; yet the possibilities of what lies ahead leave her wracked with indecision. A more apt tool than Lukas Karst would be hard to find, yet she fears – oh, how she fears – the paths they all may yet tread.


----------​


Yersinis. Ahh, he will be the one. Ever faithful, ever willing. What the Traveller revealed to me has been borne out by the path of subsequent events and his wisdom made plain, even though at first I found it confounding. The true path is ever the long one, just as the Long War is ever the just one. It is almost within our grasp now. Soon, now. So very, very soon.


----------



BY ORDER OF HIS MOST HOLY MAJESTY
THE GOD-EMPEROR OF TERRA

AUTHORISED PERSONS ONLY

******


Lukas,

No matter the times, no matter the exigencies of circumstance, I and many of my battle-brothers owe you our lives. By the blood of Dorn which flows in our veins, you know we will honour the blood-debt which cannot be forgotten.

The Iron Phalanx comes. In blood and in iron. In faith and in fury. We come.

Hiram


MESSAGE ENDS


.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
7: A GATHERING STORM​


“So it’s confirmed, then?”

“I’m afraid so. I just heard from Tertius; as of about nine hours ago, the whole sub-sector’s under quarantine until this thing is contained.”

“Shit. And they still think they’re dealing with a natural disease?”

“Well, the ones that know what it really is also know enough to keep quiet about what it really is. We really don’t want to add the news of a genuine moral threat to the melting pot; there’s more than enough panic flying round as it is.”

“Speaking of which...are you ever going to let me land this thing?”

“Not just yet; I want to be sure there’s nothing waiting in the wings with a nasty surprise for us when we get down.”

“Like Korvis? Yeah, roger that. Maintaining holding pattern Gamma till you say otherwise.”

“And if there should be something nasty waiting...?”

“Oh, I’ll be nastier. Count on it. Nothing says ‘feth you’ like a pulsed X-ray laser in the face.”

“Glad to hear it. Primus out.”

“Secundus out.”


----------​


All the pieces are now in play. I have assured Lord Kothaar that the Candidate is prepared, and we both know that every warrior we possess is in a state of readiness. Now, as the worlds we have touched with great Nurgle’s blessing move into their places and the final rites begin, I feel such excitement coursing through me as I have not known for millennia. Indeed, through all I have experienced of the Long War rarely have I felt such anticipation; perhaps only those moments of the final march on the Throne, when we first caught sight of the great walls and ramparts of the Palace...yes. Perhaps only that surpasses these latter-day moments.

The course is now set in for the final destination, the place where our grand design will be made flesh. We go to glory.

Praise the Father!



----------​


The shuttle’s landing thrusters kick up swirling billows of dust from the parched ground as it completes its descent, which blend as they rise into the pervading wind-driven detritus of the planet’s restless skies. A bowl-shaped turret containing twin-linked heavy bolters rises from the dorsal fuselage to begin a ceaseless, auspex-guided vigil even as the engines’ whine dies down to silence. Inquisitor Lukas Karst, carapace armour shrouded by a billowing cloak, emerges from a rear hatch and adjusts the goggles which protect his eyes from the driving sleet of sand and grit. Maris circles above, ever vigilant, the gun-cutter in stealth mode, while he waits for his agent in the planet’s Arbites to make contact. As he waits below the minimal shelter of the shuttle’s left wing his face is grim inside the cloak’s folds, his mind collating the reports he receives on an hourly basis from Ehren and others into an overall picture that leaves him convinced events are in severe danger of outpacing him.

Within three weeks of the desecration of the seven cathedrals, each of the worlds on which the cathedrals resided has suffered an outburst of a plague all too familiar to Karst after his encounter with the unfortunate Captain Barra. The victims become riddled with large boils, which split in the final stage of the infection to reveal fat, poisonous flies which have grown within the hosts’ bodies by feeding on their flesh; these flies then spread the disease further by biting or stinging more potential hosts. Once all the flies that can be nurtured by the tissues of the host body have hatched, what is left of the body rapidly decomposes into a noisome organic slurry. The incubation period varies between five and seven days, and Karst is now convinced that Barra – as a notably resilient and healthy human - had been kept alive and infected as part of a program to try and extend the incubation period to make the disease harder to detect, and therefore contain.

Reports are already starting to come in of outbreaks on other worlds, and the reaction of the public on those worlds where it was already epidemic could generously be described as ‘hysterical paranoia’. Rioting is becoming commonplace, with the burning of suspected plague-carriers often being the flashpoint. There are record temple attendances, usually at special Ecclesiarchy services intended to avert the plague through the power of prayer. Inter-system travel is shutting down as systems start refusing to accept ships from elsewhere, fearing infection, and quite apart from the catastrophic effect on trade this is also starting to have a severely detrimental effect on Guard movements across the sub-sector.

Divide and rule.

Karst reflects that this has almost certainly been part of the reason for the concoction of this particular blight in such a way; he has seen afflictions of the Plague God that corrupt the flesh so profoundly they can reduce a man to bloody offal in minutes, but to die so quickly is to be unable to pass a disease on to others and thereby help it spread before its first symptoms manifest themselves. In his hands is a small auspex device which he uses to scan for life-signs or electronic emissions; on Korvis V he and Ehren had narrowly escaped ambush by heavily-armed local vigilantes, terrified by the thought of potentially infectious arrivals from off-world, just after setting down. This time he is taking no chances.

So he waits, wrapped in dust and discomforting thoughts, convinced of the direness of the message before the messenger has even arrived.

This whole fething sub-sector is going to hell.


----------​


Yelson lies rigid in his cot, augmetic lungs straining to keep his breathing steady; it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep the noxious images out, no matter how hard he prays or how intensely he meditates. Over the last week – since, in fact, he received the same bizarre astropathic message that had pervaded so much of the sub-sector - he has been plagued with intense visions of rot and decay, overlaying everything he sees, and these are happening at shorter and shorter intervals. A face will turn necrotic and suppurating before him as he talks to someone. Food rots on the plate as he tries to eat. Bulkheads rust and crumble, viewports crack and smear with mould, and even the air itself seems thick and laden with the stink of untended graves. He is afraid to tell Karst about this, fearing that he will be executed for taint, and so he tries to endure, but he is filled with a sick foreboding that is becoming more palpable by the hour.

He dares not look out of his cabin’s viewport any more, as he dreads seeing what the most recent visions have shown him - space itself becoming threaded with tendrils of mould, light-years in length, a dank web of corruption that spreads insidiously between worlds like frost spreads along glass. Yelson closes his eyes, gripping the sides of his cot like a rictus, and mumbles the Litany Of Purity, over and over. He suspects that the sight of space itself becoming infected would be more than he can bear, and he is right.


----------​


BY ORDER OF HIS MOST HOLY MAJESTY
THE GOD-EMPEROR OF TERRA

AUTHORISED PERSONS ONLY

******​

CASE FILE 988.1W02B

From: Lord Inquisitor Tarren Milos
To: Lady Inquisitor Dela van Herne



Dela – you need to tell Lukas this as soon as you see him, assuming the astropathic channels are still fethed up and you can’t get it to him sooner. We have a definite match for the name you gave me from that heretic temple. Bear in mind that I had to request access to the hidden records to find some of this, clearance going all the way up to the HLs - this has not been easy.

The name ‘Yersinis’ has two matches, one partial and one exact. Now, the partial one appears to be a form of Ancient Gothic from Old Terra, roughly M2-M4; here, it’s not Yersinis but Yersinia. The full phrase is Yersinia Pestis, and it seems to’ve been the name of a fairly nasty plague which went through Merica and Europa several times, leaving quite the death toll behind it if the obviously fragmentary accounts we have are anything to go by. No real details about the disease itself or its pathology, I’m afraid – possibly something pulmonary - but it is definitely mentioned.

And now the part that really worries me. It turns out Var Yersinis was the name of an Astartes from the Fourteenth Legion just before the Heresy; the First Company of that damned Legion, in fact, the one led by Calas Typhon. And I know you won’t need the significance of that name explained, nor the fact that it appears to be an offshoot of that same Traitor Legion who’ve been causing so much havoc across that sub-sector. So. We have a name that’s both a disease, and also the name of a Traitor Astartes presumably known personally to the Herald of the Plague God himself; and that name’s apparently been being chanted by plague cultists across an entire sector. Emperor’s blood, Dela, what’s going on out there?

For the Throne’s sake be careful. And try to make sure Lukas doesn’t get himself killed; you know I have great things in mind for him, if he can manage to stay alive long enough. He has some good people with him, but most of them seem to be almost as gung-ho as he is.

Tarren


MESSAGE ENDS


----------​


With a forgotten tumbler of amasec at his side, Ehren stares at the paper containing his calculations, willing himself to be wrong. He has been doing this for over an hour, sifting through his own methodology again and again, looking for some flaw, hoping to find some gap in his reasoning through which hope might shine.

Hope is not forthcoming. There is no flaw in his reasoning, no ***** in the armour of his argument. While staring out of his cabin’s viewport at the ochre curvature of Syriis VII approximately seven hours ago, it had struck him that everybody - himself included - had so far concentrated so much on the activities of the Traitors themselves that nobody had collated the available data about the apparently random planets on which the cathedrals had been defiled; and so he has set to work comparing everything he could dredge up from the archives of the Munitorum, the Arbites, and anyone else who had ever submitted a report on the seven unfortunate worlds in question. At the very bottom of his pile of collected data lay the original planetary surveyors’ reports, some of them millennia old in themselves, containing data on such matters as mass, diameter, mineral composition, all the minutiae of a planet’s nature down to its orbital path; these same documents now lie strewn around him in the physical disorder that inevitably accompanies the working of his mind.

Everything is in motion, his tutor on astrophysics at the Scholam had told him so many years ago, nothing is ever truly at rest. He has always taken this dictum to heart, knowing that a vital part of his role as savant involved understanding that the world around him was in a state of constant change, and that certitude could become obsolescence in the change of a single atom’s quantum state. The things you don’t know will always outnumber the things you do. Don’t you ever go forgetting that. It had occurred to him that despite their differing masses, orbital radii, levels of tectonic activity, albedos, atmospheric compositions and the like, all these worlds had one thing in common – they were all in motion.

Where are they going...?

And now, having finally and with great reluctance had to resort to using a cogitator to collate what he knows about the planets’ movements and make forward projections, he looks at the orbital dance of seven planets and sees what he believes may be the shape of the Enemy’s plan. In one hundred and twenty-six hours’ time, each of the seven disease-wracked planets will occupy a position corresponding to one vertex of a heptahedron - a solid body with seven vertices – over twenty-three light-years across. Seven. The sacred number of the Plague God, whose servants have wrought such mayhem across the sub-sector. And at the exact geometrical centre of this imminent planetary configuration lies a world so far untouched in any way by the rapidly-spreading infection that has blighted so much of the sub-sector, a world that in fact seems to lack any distinguishing features whatsoever. Ehren accepts the existence of many strange things, most of which he has seen in the long service of Lukas Karst, but coincidence is not one of them. However unlikely a candidate it might seem, somehow this innocuous-looking world has to be the focus of the Traitors’ plans.

He closes his eyes for a long moment, rubs his face with both hands then reaches for the amasec without looking and drains it in one draught.

Mora. Whatever it is, I think it’s going to happen there.




_________​
 

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Good mate, real good. :so_happy:

You`ve done quite well to write in present tense like this without losing the feel of the story, really well done. :)
 

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Not going to lie, I had been kind of skeptical when I first started reading this when Serpion posted it up, mainly because I know you as a mainstay in the PLog forum and as a ridiculous sculptor.

I have, however, been very pleasantly surprised by the depth, complexity of the characters, and overall/general writing ability. Keep up the good work, mate, because this story is on point!
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
8: WAR ENSEMBLE



Sometimes I think if we have a weakness, it is memory. So many memories, accumulated over so many years, flowing together to become an ocean that sometimes threatens to drown our awareness of the present. I have seen and done so much that it becomes difficult to separate out the mundane from the profound, the blessed from the profane...but nothing is ever forgotten. The years I spent chained to the servitude of the False One are dwarfed by the expanses of time that have followed them, but still they are clear in my mind.

I remember the moment when, as I lay on the bridge of the great
Terminus Est, I heard my Captain rasp ‘More!’ as the rest of us were only beginning to regain consciousness. Wrapped in my own agonies, I did not know that was the moment when our Father’s blessings truly entered him and began the process of his transformation into the glorious Herald he is today; I did not understand the true import of what had just happened in front of my eyes, or how my own awareness was in fact beginning to change.

I remember exulting in the sight of the pestilence we had incubated descending upon the ash-covered hives of Surtr III, laughing with the sheer joy of the moment as we brought our Father’s blessings to the denizens of that benighted world; to this day they remain steadfast in their faith.

I remember the lamenting howls of Angron’s horde as they watched the combat high upon the cracked ramparts of the Palace, as the Accursed Angel broke mighty Ka’bandha and cast him down.

I remember watching blessed Mortarion’s great wings unfold for the first time, blotting out the poisoned skies behind him.

Through ten thousand years of faith and war, I remember everything.



----------​

Sat in the gun-cutter’s ready room with a plate of food he has entirely forgotten to touch, Lukas Karst reads the Arbites reports with a mixture of dismay and grim satisfaction. Ehren’s deductions have been proved correct. The ghastly disease that has marred so much of the sub-sector has finally descended upon the quiet Administratum hub that is Mora, and is spreading through the populace with distressing vigour as though attempting to make up for lost time. Whole townships have dropped off the vox-net overnight. Reports of burgeoning plague cults are coming in from affected areas across the globe, and a wave of unrest and near-anarchy has sprung up almost overnight, almost as though pre-arranged.

This is moving too fast.

The savant’s conclusion that Mora was to be the fulcrum of the whole affair has led Karst here with all possible speed, with a detachment of Guardsmen inducted from the central garrison of Syriis VII having followed in their transports. Maris has already led a squad of Guard, deeply reluctant to be dragged away from the rapidly-deteriorating situation on their homeworld, down into the underbelly of one of Mora’s few hives on an exploratory mission following a report of potential cultist activity. He is becoming increasingly worried as her latest scheduled report is over twelve minutes overdue, and combat veterans like Maris are obsessively punctual about such things; her last report had been garbled but indicated that signs of plague cultist activity in the plascrete warrens of the underhive were not only present, but plentiful. He has asked for aid from his allies of old, and he knows Lady Inquisitor van Herne is on her way, with whatever forces she has been able to gather at such short notice, but fears that none of this will be enough.

I don’t know if we’re ready for this.

Lukas Karst has always been regarded as something of a wild card by his superiors, possessed of an unshakable faith in the Throne yet always questioning his own worthiness to serve it; Lord Inquisitor Tarren Milos has been heard to lament on more than one occasion that Karst can be his own worst enemy. He refuses to hang back out of harm’s way, preferring always to lead from the front, and while this marks him out both as a courageous leader and also one deeply popular with those in his charge it also makes him far less likely to live long enough to ascend to the heights Milos has planned for him. Karst in turn would argue that unquestioning self-belief is precisely what got Lord Inquisitor Mourne killed, and that a little natural caution - even with regards to one's own self - is a good thing; this has been the subject of debate between them on any number of occasions.

He is also aware of the human cost of his actions, be it a bolt round through the head of a single man or calling in an orbital strike on an inhabited continent. The same sense of responsibility that makes Lady Inquisitor Dela van Herne force herself to watch a world suffer a virus bombing should she see fit to authorise one runs through him, too. Through this whole affair he has known that none of the worlds touched by the Traitors’ actions will ever be the same, and that some may in fact not survive at all. He knows the true purpose of the Inquisition is to protect humanity from the darkest, most profound threats to its continued existence, and he knows that sometimes – particularly in cases of infection or contagion – only the most extreme measures will suffice. This knowledge is no comfort to him, however, aware as he is of the simple human cost of so many of the courses of action he may well have to follow.

He knows there is a strong possibility that the entire population of Mora is already as good as lost.


----------


I remember the turmoil within me as I refused the great Gift I had been offered, choosing instead to continue walking the paths of mortals and by doing so play a more direct role in spreading our Father’s gifts throughout the worlds of the Imperium. My Captain of so long ago had refused the same gift for exactly the same reason, more than once, and it would have seemed impudent to do otherwise. Quorthon in particular was utterly bemused, and I suspect to this day there is a part of him that does not or will not understand my reasons. Were he offered the same choice, I am certain he would accept without a moment’s hesitation; but he is far too able a lieutenant for me to countenance his loss. I have seen so many of us withdraw from the affairs of mortals once Ascended, and we have much yet to accomplish.

Perhaps if the day came when the Herald chose finally to grasp the reward so long offered I might reconsider...but no matter. I will attend to the matters before me, and let time reveal what it may when it chooses to do so. It was in fact the debate of this very matter that first led us to conceive of this great design of ours, knowing full well the length of the journey ahead but ever willing to walk that road.

Now, the end of that road is at hand.

Now, we shall harvest the seeds sown so long ago.

And great Father Nurgle will see our work, and smile upon His devoted children.



----------​

Apparently only one of the cultists had possessed a firearm, the rest contenting themselves with whatever edged weapons came to hand; he had only managed to fire one burst from his heavy autogun at her before she cut him almost in two with her own weapon, but it had been well-aimed. The bullet hole in her leg is bleeding freely and she can feel herself slowing minute by minute. The bullet itself is still lodged in the meat of her left quadriceps muscle, producing a sickening, tearing pain with every movement. She has been backing further and further along her original route into the underhive, hoping against hope to reach the exit, but no matter how many cultists she kills their numbers are replenished by ever more shuffling, droning shapes emerging from the stinking depths behind.

Not good. Not good...

Even above the ragged chanting of the cultists, she can clearly hear the dry click of her weapon. Maris is so confident that yet another magazine will be there that when her grasping hand finds only an empty space on the grox-leather bandolier it takes her a moment to realise what is happening, and that her chrome-plated heavy stubber has just become useless as anything other than a rather unwieldy club. The rest of the squad is dead, some of them shot but the majority of the luckless Guardsmen and women butchered by the cultists’ corroded blades. She cannot run. She still has her autopistol and her flamer. The flamer would be better against the mass of enemies. The pistol will be considerably faster to bring to bear. Time is a luxury she does not have. The cultists have become emboldened by her obvious predicament and are moving faster now, their droning tritonal chant increasing in volume and vehemence.

Feth feth FETH

She drops the stubber unceremoniously by her feet, draws and puts a round through the eye of the nearest one, the liquid-filled hollowpoint round leaving a five-centimetre exit wound in the back of the woman’s skull and spraying its contents liberally over the cultist behind. The small report of the pistol - a distinctive dry crack - seems puny after the chatter of the stubber. She cannot miss, so dense is the mass of oncoming bodies. Three more cracks, and three more cultists fall, but she knows instinctively this is over. Just a few more metres and they will rush her with their motley assortment of rusted close-combat weapons, and no amount of autopistol ammo will save her then.

Maris has always known and accepted that she will almost certainly not survive the service of Lukas Karst, but to face the imminent reality of her own death is somehow simultaneously terrifying and calming. Her thumb switches the pistol to full auto, and she proceeds to empty the entire magazine into the advancing crowd, the bodies that fall back into them pushed to the floor and simply trampled as they come on towards her. This was only ever a holdout weapon, and there is only one more magazine for it.

Last one.

She smiles wryly, and takes a deep, relaxed breath.

Goodbye, Lukas. I’m sorry.

She slams in the last magazine, squares off at the enemy and tightens her finger on the trigger for the last time.


----------​

An actinic bolt of plasma streams over her shoulder with a fierce hiss, the glare making her squint automatically as it impacts with and subsequently vapourises the torso of the nearest cultist. Her finger has not even completed the act of pulling the autopistol’s trigger. An acrid blood-steam rises from the remaining upright segments of the body before it slowly collapses.

Plasma...?

She has just enough time to begin to turn her head before over eight hundred kilograms of ceramite and gene-crafted flesh pounds past her, flagstones cracking beneath its mass, plasma pistol already lowering as a metre-long chainsword begins an upwards swing into the torso of a huge hammer-wielding cultist which culminates in an explosive shower of blood and entrails.
“FOR DORN AND THE EMPEROR!”
The vox-amplified battlecry is loud enough to cause significant pain to any human within a ten-metre radius. As the chain weapon completes its eviscerating arc, the butt of the plasma pistol is swung into the face of the next cultist with sufficient force to collapse the skull into a crumpled ruin of bone and tissue before the sword completes its circle again and rises to stab through the torso of the next cultist in turn with equally calamitous results, as the plasma pistol is discharged into the main mass of the enemy. No movement is wasted. To either side of the giant warrior other forms of similarly imposing stature, armoured in quartered silver-and-black ceramite, impact the enemy’s lines and unleash a storm of savagely efficient carnage that leaves even Maris stunned on a visceral level. She has known combat in many forms - desperate hand-to-hand work in boarding actions, backstabbing viciousness in the dark heat of underhive tunnels, gun-lines mowing down xenos creatures by the score – but as she watches the fury of the Astartes unleashed on a mass of humans at close quarters, she knows she is bearing witness to a level of brutality far beyond anything she has known. This is not combat. This is pure, unadulterated butchery.

Astartes?

The towering figure pauses in its slaughter long enough to stare down at her through glowing green eye-lenses, the hiss of the cooling plasma weapon audible even to her bruised eardrums over the stuttering chorus of bolt-pistol fire which mixes with the continuous roar of chain weapons ahead of them. Blood and brain-matter slither down the surface of the polished war plate, red and light grey contrasting with the gun-metal sheen of unpainted ceramite. Larger chunks of flesh, some with sections of hair attached, are slipping from the length of the chainsword and Maris is dimly aware of being glad that she cannot hear the sound they make as they hit the floor.
“Maris Leuwen.”
She has to shout to be heard at all. “What?”
“Are you Maris Leuwen?”
I’m alive!
“Yeah...”
“I am Battle-Captain Hiram of the Iron Phalanx.”
Iron Phalanx? What the f-
“I am charged with your safety by Inquisitor Lukas Karst. The wound in your leg does not appear to be life-threatening. Remain behind me. Do not attempt aid. Do as I say at all times and you should remain alive.” Without waiting to hear any reply she might give, the figure spins to rejoin its brothers in their grisly work. The cultists are attempting to flee, but the press of their own numbers is now working against them in the narrow corridors and they are being slaughtered in droves.

Her head is still ringing from the giant’s battlecry, and the pain in her leg is becoming nauseating, but it is dawning on her that she is still alive. Not knowing what else to do, Maris picks up her discarded stubber and slings it over her shoulder, reflexively checking the fuel level in her flamer as she limps as quickly as she can in the Astartes’ bloody wake.

Feth me...these guys are every bit the laugh riot Lukas said they were.

Nice of him to let us know they were coming.



----------​


Karst looks through the training room’s viewport at the vast, iron-grey shape that now shares his own ship’s orbital path, some twenty kilometres distant. Even at this distance the Throne’s Wrath manages to loom, its blunt and graceless proportions a testament to the purpose of the warriors that inhabited it. Destruction. Nothing with those lines could ever be intended for anything other than war, pure and simple. A shoal of smaller strike and landing craft attend to the behemoth, each a potent weapon in its own right but dwarfed into insignificance by the Astartes battle-barge; Karst is struck by the sight of the scars that still adorn the vessel’s hull, souvenirs of the last time he fought alongside the Iron Phalanx. The Traitor Marines they had vanquished during the Thirteenth Black Crusade are now a memory, but the ferocity of the fighting has left its mark on everyone involved, warriors and war machines alike.

It is symptomatic of the Iron Phalanx’s approach that scars are left unattended if they do not impair martial performance; appearances count for little to ones who take the mantle of Dorn’s legacy so seriously. A tiny part of Karst’s mind reflects that this lack of concern for ornamentation is a characteristic once shared by the Traitor Legion they are now facing. He has already sent the coordinates of Maris’ last received transmission to the Astartes, hoping against hope that they may arrive in time; despite his enduring confidence in Maris’ abilities, he is desperately worried about her. He himself has been ordered by Lady Inquisitor van Herne to remain in orbit to meet her the instant her ship reverts to realspace; it is only with great effort that he has managed to restrain the urge to tell the Lady Inquisitor exactly where to stick her orders and head to the surface himself with all speed to go to Maris’ aid, and he is literally twitching with impatience. He has resorted to practising against combat servitors with his powersword, hoping that the intense physical activity will serve as some kind of distraction and help him focus; so far, however, this hope is proving to be a vain one.

And, as if he doesn’t have enough to worry about, Yelson seems to be losing his grip on reality by the hour and is now a half-sedated wreck in his cabin. Drenched in sweat and constantly muttering to himself, the pale astropath is barely coherent. The vital resource of astropathic communication is something he cannot do without, but there are reports from the Throne’s Wrath and other vessels that seem to indicate all astropaths and other psyker-sensitives in the planet’s vicinity are being similarly affected by whatever is brewing below. Two of the astropaths on board the battle-barge have already died through what the report described as ‘aggravated cerebral haemhorraging’. Again, he finds himself wondering if this is itself a deliberate part of the Traitors’ plan, or merely a convenient side-effect.

There are seventy-six hours remaining before Ehren’s deadline, and Karst senses the pieces coming together for the endgame.


----------​

In a chamber lit only by the glow of bioluminescent fungi and the emerald corposant of the Empyrean, a massive, corrupted figure kneels before an altar of three bronze discs, caked in filth and ringed with iron spikes. It is utterly motionless, and has remained so for the last twenty hours and fifty-eight minutes; to the untrained eye it would have seemed a statue as incapable of movement as the altar itself. The lines of its Terminator armour are swollen and distended, seemingly having grown as the figure within has bloated and grown itself over the millennia; baroque, pockmarked curves of ceramite and reef-like growths of metal and chitin giving its outline the unsettling air of something that has been not so much machined as cultivated. A thin mist vents from fissures along its back, emitting a cloying, sickly odour as it dissipates within the chamber’s own atmosphere.

At precisely twenty hours and fifty-nine minutes after the figure began its vigil, it rises to one knee and raises its head to face the altar directly. The dank humidity within the chamber has caused heavy condensation to gather upon the crusted surfaces of its armour, and the sudden change of inclination causes it to run in rivulets down the pallid, stained surface of the ancient ceramite, making the giant resemble nothing so much as something dredged from the depths of a forgotten, sunless ocean.

A deep, gurgling voice issues from within its horned, cyclopean helm.

Father Nurgle, hear us.
We, thy faithful children, abjure thee.
Take pleasure in the fruits of our devotion.
Grant us thy bounteous gifts.
Father Nurgle, protect us.
The hour is at hand.
Our travails have come to an end, and now bear fruit in thy name.
We supplicate ourselves before thee.
Father Nurgle, watch over us.
All shall rot.
All shall decay.
All shall fall before thee.


At the end of the prayer, exactly twenty-one hours have elapsed since the figure began its vigil; three times seven, considered to be the most propitious number for devotions and rites to the Lord of Decay. As it straightens to its full three-metre height, a sensation that is almost but not quite sound passes through the chamber, and the floor gives an almost imperceptible shudder; the vast ship within which the chamber nestles has exited the Warp and arrived at its target.

Lord Kothaar the Putrescent, Defiler of Surtr, once a favoured lieutenant of the First Company of the Death Guard Legion and leader for over eight thousand years of the fanatical warband known as Pandemic, feels the Warp-tides of the reversion event flow through his heightened awareness and knows his fleet has arrived at Mora.

Inside his helm, the remains of his mouth curve into a smile.




__________​
 

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Not going to lie, I had been kind of skeptical when I first started reading this when Serpion posted it up, mainly because I know you as a mainstay in the PLog forum and as a ridiculous sculptor.

I have, however, been very pleasantly surprised by the depth, complexity of the characters, and overall/general writing ability. Keep up the good work, mate, because this story is on point!
I hope you have learned now not to question my judgement. :threaten:


And Svart! Welcome back dude, it`s good to see this going again! :biggrin:
 
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