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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
What is up, heresy online:victory:!? Bringing you something I recently wrote down, hope you guys enjoy :grin:!


The New Word


Chapter One: Underground Metro

Lyra Savakis. The Superiors saw a young girl in her early twenties, chestnut colored hair styled in a fishtail braid. Four years’ worth of training had given her middling, athletic build a more robust edge over some of the other girls. Her skin was a natural light shade of beige, on the verge of becoming bronze in her prime years yet to come. Bright oceanic eyes gazed through a window on the metro-bus taking them through the hidden places of a vast Hive city. Her face was like most of the other girls raised alongside her in the scholas: sculpturesque, hard, and radiant. Nothing stood out about her, but the Canoness must’ve noticed something in her that no one else could.

An endless stretch of underground walls are blurred by the constant motion of metro-bus. It must’ve been speeding at a minimum of eighty miles per hour; she could even feel the pressure in her gut despite her power armor. A silver bullet in the dimly lit darkness. Engines scream to the top of their capacity. Thrusters and stabilizers constantly wobble to keep the anti-grav train in suspended motion. The nightscape of Helike came through the darkness on occasion. The capital of the Hive planet Tyrannus.

Her wary eyes fell upon anyone in her vicinity; usually, she’d be sitting in her seat with a look of mild contempt plain on her face. Having to travel with the common citizenry often provoked similar expressions. Those were the days she would proudly where her helm to hide it. There was no reason to in this instance, the train was nearly empty save two dozen battle nuns of the Adepta Sororitas. Many dressed in resplendent blue battle robes that one would usually don over their armor. Half of the women riding the train wore none. The initiates must’ve felt empowered by the bolters that glinted in the light. Lyra knew that she did.

A tiny smirk crossed her lips at the memories that surfaced. Oh holy of holies, grant her the strength that saw her through the massacres of Dynara and Itanos. Bless her with the strength and immortal essence of St. Celestine, and reunite all mankind under the one true Imperium of man.

The metro-bus began to skid into a gradual halt. It slid forward for a few more kilometers before coming full stop before a station atop a great vista overlooking Itanos. The Hive city awaited them like a tempting mistress, calling to them to explore every inch of its surface in a never ending adventure. She could see the estates of the nobility and the Imperial palaces reach out into a star littered night. Below her was the heart of villainy and corruption: the under city. The city of lights looked to be in the midst of a festival. Fireworks spiraled up into the stars like surface-to-atmosphere battery barrages.

A shame the deed of the day would be killing. To stamp out anything that moved if it resembled the hedonistic cultist, the abhorable demon, or the pitiful undead. Whichever one crossed them first.

Arva was sunk into an adjacent seat, blinking the sleep from her bleary-eyed stare. She extended Lyra a nod. “I’m ready to crack some heathen heads. How ‘bout you, Lyra?” Her exhaustion was completely acceptable. The hour was late and the last minute debriefings had stolen some of their energy. Like Lyra, she too was dressed in thick royal blue robes. The pair of them looked like clerics, not initiates belonging to the Order of the Emperor’s Grace.

“I am ready.” Lyra eventually spoke, staring down at her bolter intently, inspecting every piece of it like she always had since the beginning of her training.

Sister Meril’s matronly voice grated through her V.O.X. grill, taking on an aspect of war Lyra had never quite experienced before. “Whoever dies this day, I certainly hope you two are not among them. Give our foes the flames of retribution and the honed steel of your ammunition. All of you!”

Arva and Lyra both bowed their heads slightly and uttered in reverent tones. “Through fire and steel, we give the enemy our absolution.”

A proven Sister shouted from the front of the train. “On your feet! Sororitas! On your feet! The train has stopped! Ready your weapons! Be ready to kill anything! Welcome to Itanos!”

The air was crisp and cool; the essence of winter had touched the city, though no snow was falling outside the station. The noise of anti-grav cars and ground vehicles disturbed the night, but could not drown out the sounds of gunfire. When the train left, all of them would be trapped in the heart of Itanos. Where that was, Lyra did not have the faintest clue, but she was here to deliver the Emperor’s will. With any luck, she’d do so under his cloak of protection.

Canoness Kaska Rosi glided off the station train. Trailing her resplendent armor was a Golden Fleece cloak, laced through the open maws of stuffed Falxian Lion Heads. The metro lights made the sienna skin on her naked face gleam like polished stone. Dark jade eyes swept through the throng of her soldiers and trainees. Her lips uttered benedictions and prayers on the star struck recruits. The bodyguard and able bodied sisters formed a tight noose around them. “One dozen initiates and a hand full of battle sisters… Not odds I would like, but there’s no time like the present to start shaping this rabble up. Move them out!”

Meril laughed at the tenseness in her girls’ posture, trying to relieve the hesitation in their expressions. “Do not let fear cloud your judgment now; you were all only boasting a day ago! Perhaps we should pray as we march?”

“From the lightning and the Tempest”

“Our Emperor, deliver us”

“From plague, temptation and war”

“Our Emperor, deliver us”

“From the scourge of Kraken”

“Our Emperor, deliver us”
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
The march had taken them from the lonely Metro-Station overlooking the hive city of Itanos. Canoness Kaska led her humble troop deep into the Itanos under city to lead the rest of her Order in the midst of a massive battle being waged there. The Imperial Guard of the 89th Itanos Volunteers along with elements of the 5th Conorag Bloodhounds, 7th Hammers of the Golden Throne Armored Regiment, Order of the Emperor’s Grace, and the Sundered Legion 3rd Company Space Marines to fend off an assault from the forces of chaos. The Thousand Sons had plagued the sector for centuries, bringing war to the peaceful planets within the Tarmathon Sector. An army of cultists have been mustered to wage war upon the surface while the Thousand Sons disappeared from the solar system two years prior.

“I am ethereal. A being of flesh as much as I am one of imagination. I sit upon the edge of your mind, listening intently to your thoughts and telling you how to proceed with your pitiful, pathetic life. I am your heart’s true desire, the reason it beats so impulsively, all to pump fresh blood into that exhausted, limited mind of yours. Imagine me and I shall come to you, speak to me and you shall hear my whispers, Empower me with souls and see your greatest desire fulfilled upon a whim. The name I have given myself for the sake of all mortals is Nyst, a greater demon and champion of Tzeetch. Why am I so much more powerful than my kin, because I was created and shaped by twisted eldar minds that worship my lord and patron? You may sup from this cup of knowledge mortal, go ahead, it is my gift to you, take it.

Lriean Tarithinon checked the rising levels in disgust coming over him. The Greater Demon perched atop a ruined throne looked through his mind and soul. She could feel him out in a heartbeat. The greater demon possessed the form of a mutated centaur, a mythological figure from the ancient days of the mon-keigh. Its lower body was covered in slimy, diamond hard reptilian scales, supported by four stallion like legs. Reptilian feet armed with thick claws and a glistening tail nearly the size of Lriean himself made the rest. Upon this lower body was the form of a slender woman, her naked skin a pale blue that was barely visible in the ill lit darkness. Such a forbidden sight remained hidden behind two columns of beautiful black hair coming down either side of her face. The soulless pits of her eyes leered at him and she smiled, revealing a shark’s mouth of teeth and slithering green tongue.

The infamous demon the legends called Nyst, reached out with her humanoid arms and beckoned him to come closer. Lriean did not feel much obliged to do so. Instead he dropped the silver cup in his hand, raised his las-gun at the greater demon. Staring down any demon always took a deep long look into oneself. After all, the Warp was forged by the dreams and desires of the sentient races. Nyst knew what he desired. She had what he desired playing through her fingers. Ar’ka’ram’s soul stone burned furiously in the demon’s grip. A legendary Exarch from the artificial planet of Ulthwe, sister craftworld of his home Teyl-Jhen. How many Farseers and Autarchs would pay handsomely for that, it could be worth far more than this warp thing knew.

He braced himself for the demon to try and strike him through sorcery. “Let’s not play this game with each other. I don’t like it. You must be tired of it after the millionth time. I would hope so anyway.”

Nyst snarled in her many voices voice, appearing unsatisfied with the reaction from the eldar outfitted in loose Imperial fatigues. “I do not believe you actually understand your peril, little Lriean. But alas, maybe I’ll oblige you.”

The greater demon stared at the jewel, full of longing for the soul within. Her alien pupils shrunk to the size of a small coin, gazed out into nothing. Lriean watched her commune with the warp and watch a dozen different futures in the span of a few breaths. He blinked and the moment ended. Nyst cracked the stone with a powerful bite. A demonic roar erupted from her throat the likes that Lriean had never heard before, bursting with satisfaction. Ar’ka’ram screamed out for the last time, evaporating into Nyst’s very being. She cast the stone before the eldar’s feet, nodding her approval as it shattered against cold steel. “I shall part for a time, little Tarithinon. Perhaps we shall meet again when you are more sensible? I haven’t given up on you yet, Lriean Tarithinon.” Nyst lazily rose to her feet. She hissed at the alien archeologist. A passing warning as she faded away into mist.

“Ashes and Dust, Lriean. I am ethereal, you are but the former.”

Lriean kneeled down to pick up the shattered fragments of the soul stone, letting it fall through his fingers before he sighed hopelessly. He soaked in the sight of the ruins around him. Dank, dark, and foreboding. None of that had deterred him from arriving in the city of Itanos and finding this subterranean ruin deep within the bowels of the hive city. The cultists that had originally been here had let the place fall to ruin; many of the light fixtures had been busted or flickering in and out of existence. And the plascrete walls had been caved in during the warfare that this place had saw probably years ago.

Why a throne appeared at the end of this chamber was beyond him. This was no longer an age of kings, but one of governors and palaces. He studied it a little while longer, imagining Nyst lounging there like a Queen of shadows. Heroes of the Honored Dead had attempted to dethrone the Demoness from her position of power more than once. No one had succeeded over the centuries, not even the fabled Tiger of Teyl-Jhen: Farseer Raihan Tarithinon. Maybe Aryriel, Raihan’s only child would have attempted to follow in his father’s footsteps. He was more of a warrior than a demon-hunter. And his exile during the war for Tarmathon IV did him no favors. Wouldn’t be a bad idea to visit him one day, he could use some well-honed muscle like him working with the crew.

“Qu’nalan.” Lriean lifted two fingers to tap into the comm-bead linked on his left ear, listening to the soft static for a moment before a voice registered him.

The tone was darker than his and more hushed. “Lriean. Did you acquire the stone?”

“I ran into a little trouble, well more than that, but I managed. The stone is useless now.”

A moment silence spelled out the disappointment. “I see. Well get back up here, it’s time to leave this place in search of something else. Qu’nalan out.”

Didn’t Qu’nalan know that there was a war waging out there right now? What new leads could he possibly have that they hadn't talked about? Well, he would know when he spoke to him in person. Time to leave here. Whatever this place was.

Lriean threw his las-gun over a shoulder and began to trek off into the distance.

“Lriean.”

“Huh? Who goes there?” The relic hunter called out, placing a cautious hand on his las-gun. He cast glances into the darkness, yet saw nothing.

Taryi’s voice carried over the darkness, echoing in the haunting quiet. It interrogated him softly. “I am only curious. Why don’t you possess the soul stone of Ar’ka’ram? If you needed aid, you should have called upon me. I would have gladly come with you.”

Lriean gently dismissed the notion with a wave of his hand. “No offence, Taryi, but I don’t think your acquired skills would have helped me much.”

The Howling Banshee emerged from the darkness in the direction he was heading. Her curly auburn hair bounced with every step, threatening to cover her bright jade eyes and the dark inked tattoos partially covering her face. She was clad in sleek armor that fit tightly around her slender frame and held a two handed executioner in her hands. Taryi Iuduo loomed one full head over the strangely dressed Lriean. Her gaze fell over him like a stern mentor rebuking a student who had just made a grave mistake.

“Then what happened?” She interrogated again, curiosity peaked at the actions of her fellow kin.

The archeologist kicked aside some bones. “Nyst is what happened, I never thought I’d bump into such a strange demon of legend, but here we are. Talking about it after the fact.”

Taryi’s eyes widened a fraction, uttering the name to herself as if contemplating what implications the name had. Then the look in her eyes suddenly steeled into a sterner expression. She looked Lriean up and down. Took in his current state of being. “You look no worse for wear. Why is that?”

“She simply left after taking what she wanted. I’m not sure what else I’ve could have done, given the circumstances.”

“Or course not.” The howling banshee stated, unimpressed. “Let us move, I’m sure you desire to leave here as soon as possible.”

The two began to retrace their footsteps back the way they came. They stepped through a ruined corridor with its walls gutted and littered with rotting carcasses and skeletons. On what portion of the walls that had held out for all these years had various types of graffiti and messages sprawled across their surface. An elevator shaft soon revealed itself that would take them out of the dreary pit they had descended into.

Lriean pressed the button according to the highest level. The elevator doors squealed shut. “You didn’t by chance find anything of use down here, did you?”

“No.” Taryi studied him with an incredulous look, examining his face to see if he was being serious.

“Just wondering.” Lriean said distracted. Other things were weighing down on his mind. “What was Qu’nalan doing before you came down here?”

“Waiting for you.”

Taryi’s shadow fell over Lriean like a giant even from across the elevator. She wasn’t only taller than him, her figure was far more robust in muscle mass than his own. Taryi was a proven and veteran warrior, Lriean was an accomplished archeologist. He kept his dark blonde hair cut short plain and short, finely kempt and nearly covering his large silver pupils. He was well aware that Taryi’s shrine greatly respected strength. There was no telling why she agreed to join the expedition or even bother listening to Lriean. She didn’t have an eye for the tedious side of unearthing artifacts and it definitely bored her. When the boredom becomes too much, she simply leaves the job for a week or two. That never failed to distress Lriean more than anything, considering the constant dangers his work put him in. He may have been the leader and brain the rest of the team connected to on paper. But in reality, he had no leash on either of his companions.

A bell ringed within the elevator and the doors came squeaking open. The open night sky proved a welcome change, even mostly covered by towering sky scrapers raising countless stories into the next level of the Hive. Taryi and Lriean entered a small plaza, completed with a small garden and Imperial chapel in the midst of it. There was a massive demon looming around the chapel, easily matched Lriean’s height, built of crimson sinew and muscle. A wicked tongue licked hungrily at the air and beady red eyes stared into their souls from afar. The bloodletter held a demonically forged blade in its right hand, nothing else in its left, but it looked poised and ready to strike.

“Qu’nalan!?” Lriean called out, but there was no answer.

Two more appeared out of the shadows, coming to stand near their comrade and leering as they began to slowly approach. Each of them looked menacing in their own right. The pair of Eldar instantly grabbed their weapons and stormed off into two different directions.

Lriean kicked his las-rifle from single shot to full auto and opened up a salvo of las-bolts that punched the one of the far left- the one nearest him- in the chest several times. The monster took the bullets in stride and laughed confidently at the upstart. It roared out the demonic challenge before three blood letters sprung into a charge of their own. Lriean opened fire again at the same target. The first blasts hit the beast’s legs and torso before working their way up to the thing’s face. The blood letter shielded himself with the massive bulk of its arm, raised its sword up to cleave Lriean who simply rolled out of the way as he fired.

The Eldar Relic hunter sprang to his feet, ducking beneath an arched swing meant to cleave his head off. He brought his bayonet up, but the blood letter’s arms were still covering its face. Instead he swung the knife on the edge of his las-gun into the things gut, managing to stab twice before the red demon brought its elbow down on his temple and sent him spinning away. The minion of Khorne pressed his advantage. The hell blade swung around its head, brought down in an overhead strike.

Lriean dived and rolled away from the attack, barely managing to not be scathed by it. He threw the las-gun at the demon to temporarily halt its momentum. In that space of time, he drew his shuriken pistol and unleashed a flurry of laser fire that would have shredded a lesser man in an instant. It merely injured the blood letter, causing it to recoil from Lriean and use its sword as a shield.

Taryi twirled around the first blood letter to reach her, stabbed in with one side of her executioner, impaling the thing in the gut. She remembered to twist before departing the blade from flesh, bringing the blade back around to parry the second blood letter in a shower of sparks. The two power weapons clashed for a few seconds. Each one struggled to gain an edge over the other. She flipped backwards before the blood letter could bring his blade back for another strike, cleaving the first she had engaged in two with an effortless strike.

With a howl of rage, the first member of the hellish pack departed. It gently melted into a fine mist and fell back into the realm of nightmares. The second seemed undeterred, instead pumped its blade into the air and roared triumphantly over the screams of its dying comrade. It called to the shadows in a diabolic tongue.

“Cursed thing, I’ll slay you and your entire ilk!”

More blood letters came roaring out of the darkness, blades burning brightly with hellfire and murderous intent in their eyes. They stormed forward across the plaza to lock arms with the pair of eldar and claim their souls for Khorne. They split into groups like the first three: two for Lriean, the other three for Taryi. They howled like wild animals in the night, already covered in the blood of many innocents.

“Lriean! Taryi! Look out below!” A voice shouted from the rooftops, Qu’nalan stood atop a housing block over-looking the plaza, clad in the armor of the Dark Reaper and cradling a tempest launcher in his arms.

Qu’nalan fired twin rockets into the rushing hoard of blood letters, aiming for the pair that were chasing after Lriean. The first rocket scathed the blood letter that Lriean had been blasting away since the fight began, the other one had landed perfectly between the other two lagging behind. The blast gouged out layers of asphalt and blew apart one of the blood letters in a gory display of blood. The second was flung across the plaza by the blast, twisting an arm and snapping it on impact with the asphalt where Taryi was currently fighting.

Disengaging from combat, the howling banshee gracefully darted from the other blood letters to the injured one, effortlessly leaping over it and inserting one end of her blade between the thing’s spine. She spun on her heel toward the other three, staring them down as they meant to surround her. A knowing smile crossed her lips and she charged into them. Lithe and agile like a lioness, Taryi easily climbed up, leapt over the hunched blood letter, and took off one of the slavering creature’s leg below the knee.

It naturally collapsed, trying to reach out for the Aspect warrior with the intent of savagely pulling one of her arms off. In a split second reaction, she answered with a quick thrust from her blade into the demon’s gaping mouth. The blade erupted out the other end in a spray of blood. It slowly began to fade back into mist, but still kept a firm grip on her arm.

Grunting in surprise, Taryi twisted and pulled against the demon’s superior strength. All the while she watched the other two charge her down. But an idea popped in her head at that moment she heard the rocket come down. She fell gracefully onto her back, rolled to one side with all her strength, pulling the fading demon on top like a human shield. The first rocket buried itself deep into one bloodletter’s gut. It promptly blossomed in an explosion of blood and mist, the shear force sent the second flying and bought her a little more time.

The red hide protecting her vanished. Once again her strength was her own to command. Taryi flipped to her feet and let her executioner fly from her fingers toward the last one trying to erect itself near the chapel wall. The blade impaled the demon through the stomach, carving itself into the cold metal of the chapel and pinning the blood letter against it.

“Lreian!”

Lriean kicked his kneeling blood letter in the teeth, bringing his bayonet from his re-acquired las- rifle right into the beast’s eye socket. Not even flinching from the grotesque pop, he slid the bayonet out of the gun and proceeded to fire the remainder of his ammunition into the blood letter stuck upon the chapel. The las-bolts hit accurately and in dense succession, repeatedly blasted away at the minion’s face until only exposed, bullet ridden brain matter remained.

“Are you two alright?” Qu’nalan asked, but did not stop for an answer. “I’m making my way off this roof top!”

Lriean shrugged at Taryi with a grim smile, wiping the sweat off his face. “What’s next? Haha, zombies!?”

The howling banshee smiled back, shrugging carelessly as well. “I wouldn’t joke about such things here. Who knows, perhaps it will be.”
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
“We can move the imperial guard companies up through the Tesian Highway,” Canoness Kaska was surrounded by generals from all aspects of the Imperial forces participating in Operation Phoenix. A tactical display highlighted the many different zones, representing allied or non-friendly territory. Within each of those territories a series of troop formations and base-outpost locations dotted the immersive map.

She continued discussing the trivialities of war with her cabinet of advisors. “From the District one-thirty-one slums… there we can launch a spearhead through the traitor’s decimated center. The window will be small before the hell spawn plug it back up again. If the timing is faulty, we’ll have to redirect our heavy artillery onto them.”

Lyra observed the inner-workings of the command center in a look of silent fascination. Masses of adepts, Imperial guard, and agents of the Adeptus Mechanicus labored like slaves under the demanding conditions of maintaing a headquarters. Twice as many servitors were working at the cognitors, or moving and setting up equipment, and working on that blasted telecommunications array that had been down all night. The Bodyguards of the High Command lingered in every corner of the room. All of them eagle-eyed and glaring each other down like there would be a reckoning soon to happen.

Lyra remained uncertain on Kaska’s intentions, however. Why had so many initiates been brought into the presence of the most powerful men and women on the planet? Emperor be merciful, even the inhuman Adeptus Astartes had sent an envoy Captain to make sure everything was in order for the coming purge. Veteran Chapter members stood guard over the front entrance. They had bolters clad across their puffed out chest and had their helm slits locked onto their commander. The Emperor’s Grace newest recruits –which had swelled to nearly a hundred during the battle down in the hive- sat aside from the maintenance and evil-eyed guards at recess tables meant to seat the entire command center at full capacity.

Hedia occupied herself with smoking a cigarette with Keleos and Lexina. They kept their eyes on the Superiors and boasted of the kills they claimed when they appeared distracted. Lyra couldn’t see the point in bragging. Every kill scored by an unproven earlier in the night had been taken from a shambling horde of undead. She sniffed apprehensively. Even a twelve year old could dispatch a thing already dead and crippled by a previous death. Given that the child had the right weapon and been drilled in its use.

Lyra’s personal reward was the experience of standing beside five hundred of her own in the midst of battle. The rank and file of the Order thrashed every attempt by the zombie horde to swamp the makeshift battlements and trenches raised with corpses crushed beneath rubble. The Initiates had their chance to fight from the front under the Order’s Battle Standard. The Celestians kept their flanks shielded while the regular sisters threw up a wall of burning promethium with a hundred flamers. Canoness Kaska was forever at their back, screaming at her troops to fight, but not firing a shot. They all knew her gaze was watching them for the slightest fault. Just one weakness to be denied the dream of fighting the Emperor’s wars.

It was strange that Kaska never mentioned the pride that her girls’ possessed. Lyra knew they would rather die in the midst of a flesh-eating horde of rotten corpses than being reduced to the menial roles in the Schola for the rest of their lives. Especially after enduring the training. There was little motivation that could harden the resolve of a Battle Sister more. They were all living proof that a destiny could be something far more than their origins would have settled them with. On occasion, Lyra caught the Canoness’ sideward glance aimed directly at her. It was nigh imperceptible. No one else had even noticed.

Arva lifted her face from the dataslate she had been going through for the past hour. “We didn’t lose anyone. Did you notice?”

Lyra gently inclined her head. “Of course. Those vile undead weren’t a challenge against all of us fighting together.”

“Glorious,” Arva corrected. “Our victory over the forces of Chaos was glorious. They came in endless hordes in front of our guns. We scourged their unholy disease from our dominion on the battlefield… Ever wonder how much longer until we’re fully initiated?”

“After we strangle our first traitors?” Lyra suppressed a nagging giggle in her throat. “Deliver our absolution to the repentant. Exercise faith in our abilities, our sisters, and Him on Terra. We should be welcome after we’ve done all those things a few dozen times over. I would imagine things playing out that way, at least.”

Her comrade tucked her head into her hands. Her sigh was one of resignation. “If we love our Master-“

“Then we shall obey His commands.”

Across the command center, Celestian Enora seated herself in a great chair just behind the Canoness. Even in full battle plate, she crossed her legs and folded her arms with a half-finished cigar in her mouth. None other than Delphine’s shadow fell over her. Enora looked up, instantly realizing that the other guard was ready to strike her until she relinquished it. Enora flashed her perfect teeth in a smile. Fresh smoke came wafting out from her lips, she beckoned Delphine to join her.

This one had piqued Nyst’s interest. One look into Enora’s eyes uncovered the lock guarding her mind. She flexed invisible fingers with magic-imbued puppet strings attached. Resistance proved a thorn in her side at first, Enora struggled and kicked back with mental strikes. A typical firebrand. The Greater Demon tightened the web around the struggling human trying to cope with the pressure overtaking her mind. Enora immediately slackened the moment she succumbed. Her eyes gently fell shut and her snuffed vessel came under possessive influence.

“Come now, love. A puppet’s dance to entertain me for a while. The Master has spoken. Canoness Kaska must face her fate in this very place!”

“Enora?” Delphine’s voice cut through the suffocation of silence inside Enora’s mind. “You look spaced.”

She breathed in heavy, rugged gasps. They came in no small amount of anticipation. “Here.” Enora pressed the cigar stump into Delphine’s hands. The devil behind the veil made Enora wink like her casual self. “There’s something I need to do. Hold my seat, would you?” She climbed up to her feet and began stalking away from the others.

Enora’s little acquaintance stared at her retreating back, slack-jawed. “What, by the High Lords of Terra, do you have to do besides guarding the Canoness!? Hey, Enora!?” She talked far too loudly for her own good. Yet a distraction was something she could ill afford in this moment. “That’s not frakking funny, okay. It’s insubordination. Kaska will you whipped through the streets!”

“Gods, be quiet!” Enora craned her head back at Delphine, her face twisted and devilish enough to freeze her in shock and horror. Just the emotion Nyst was aiming for. Transfixed on Delphine, whatever remained of Enora ripped out her bolt pistol and lined a shot on Canoness Kaska through an omniscient seventh sense.

“Canoness!”

Kaska’s head popped like a hammer swing into the back of an overripe fruit. Splinters of bone and a stream of brain matter fell from the gaping wound in her skull. Fresh blood spurted from the ruined mess. The corpse wavered for a moment, then crumbled in a heap over the tactical map. The first screams hadn’t swept through the room before Nyst unloaded Enora’s clip into the nearest seniors of the Sororitas. Their bodyguards were on their feet in an instant, but not before ten more of the senior staff collapsed like lifeless dolls.
Delphine smashed into Nyst shoulder guard first, throwing her over the table atop Kaska’s stiff, leaking corpse. Enora’s companion was quick on her feet when she realized the danger. The Celestian lashed out in a strange sideways uppercut, the admantanium covering her knuckles fracturing Enora’s jaw like a piece of glass. Nyst’s superhuman strength slammed Delphine into the command room floor hard enough for an audible crack to be heard within that armored shell of hers. Blood from her own ruptured organs gushed from her mouth even as a possessed Enora locked her in a chocking grasp. She poised herself to tear the tendons in her neck in one twist.

A sure thrust of a power blade parted the flesh around Enora’s sternum. The electro-magnetic field sizzled the blood and hideously burned the flesh. Her demonic keen of agony was enough to bleed Delphine’s ears into deafness. The Second Blade, Anatolijus Petrakis, towered triumphant over the corrupted sack of flesh. Delphine could only read the Second Blade’s lips, muttering something to the creature inside Enora. Her blade flashed again. Enora’s head toppled away, rolling beside Delphine’s.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Doors laden with bronze and steel buckled inwards from the combined efforts of Lriean and Qu’nalan. The chapel built for the Imperial faith fell short of impressive. Lriean strode through the pews and incense burners until he reached the little altar under stained glass portraits. No priests. Images of howling Blood Letters came to mind, already soaked in the blood of innocents. He shook away the thought, spun around to face his friends. “The hell was all of that back there, Qu’nalan? Not even a signal to say there’s danger lurking nearby?”

Qu’nalan possessed an appearance of an Eldar who had spent half his centuries perfecting the art of killing. Like Lriean himself, Qu’nalan stood a head missing under Taryi. His figure was compact, except his arms, having been honed with carrying his tempest launcher across countless battlefields. Lustrous leather black hair he kept trimmed into a short shag, a nice complement to his square jaw and stern brown gaze. The sheer dark of the Dark Reaper armor fit him like a glove. Made him into a warrior of silent contemplation whenever he don his equipment. One who knew death and respected it in all of its countless forms.

Qu’nalan threw the tempest launcher onto the altar and stood there, perplexed. He always tried to do this. Every time he entered a religious sanctuary unfamiliar to the Eldar race, he always desecrated the altar in whatever way he could, so long as the shrines were empty. A leering grin formed on the Dark Reaper’s thinned lips, his voice ghastly. “I was given little time to even maneuver before they emerged from the alleyways, like spectral ghosts. They must’ve seen me waiting for you outside the ruin, and figured they’d wait to come after you two after I fled. They would have torn me apart had it not been for your perfect timing.”

Taryi approached him from behind, laid a gentle grip on Qu’nalan’s shoulder. “Your sense of courage aside, you mentioned something interesting to share with us?”

“True.” He replied. “Our employer came to us earlier in the night. She’s waiting to speak with us.”

Taryi didn’t hide her grimace, shaking her head at the Dark Reaper. “How intuitive. What was the message? A warning, perhaps, about unknowingly delving into a demon infested pit of hell?” The tone wasn’t comical, far from it actually, but her laughter lit up the place.


The coin-sized piece set between Qu’nalan’s fingers glimmered with an intricate circle of runes in its center. He named but one and set it down on the altar. A holographic image formed in the air above the emitter, taking the shape of Spirit Seer Mae in her long elegant robes and heavy shock of auburn hair that fell to her calves in twirling locks. Mae’s mystic voice cycled through the technological commune purer than the sharp clarity of a crystal. “Fate must smile upon you again, Lriean. You’re the one to usually undergo the commune during the first signs of danger. You possess the stone?”

Lriean rubbed his left temple rather intensely. “No.” He answered apologetically. “I encountered some serious trouble at the foreseen location. A demon- quite massive in scope and something I’ve never really before… I’m certain it was Nyst.”

Mae suddenly turned away from the three Eldar, keen disappointment in her deep breathing. “I have misread the runes… I’m divining a streak of misfortune, myself, never mind you three children.”

Lriean’s female companion muttered an encouragement. “The dark pantheon has a way of twisting the strands, Seer. Fate is a fickle mistress, anyway, our past is proof enough of that.”

“Of course,” The Spirit Seer looked up with somber eyes, brimming with hope. “I know that kind of treachery more than most. You have been keeping my daughter in good health, Lriean. For that, you have my sincerest thanks.”

“An Amazon like her doesn’t need much help,” Lriean rolled his shoulders. “Qu’nalan and I are far more grateful for her aid. It’s proven invaluable in a handful of tight spots.”

Lirean could feel Taryi’s stare boring through his back, even when addressing Lriean’s employer. “Mother. Ar’ka’ram is no longer of this world. How much longer until we’re allowed to sail back home?”

Mae‘s chastisement came gently. “Not one soul of our kin should be forsaken to the fate of damnation. Your loss is the Craftworld’s loss, and all of us will mourn the passing of the venerable Exarch. However, my dear, the path you must take on this planet shall be long and arduous, I’m afraid. There is a place, lost to the ages of man and their rapid evolution, where ten thousand lost Eldar souls are buried.”

They all uttered the name written down the ages in legend. “The Ghost Crypts.”

“Yes.” The Spirit Seer affirmed. “The servants of the Changer will pose a constant threat to your progress, but I must implore you to continue seeking out this site of buried massacre. Be wary, Nyst’s omniscient gaze will forever be tracking your footsteps, noting your progress.”

Grim laughter reverberated off the enclosed space within the Chapel, pulling everyone’s attention into Qu’nalan’s direction. The Dark Reaper fell into rickety wooden pew, sighed heavily. “Just the three of us? Unless you plan to give us a small war host, we won’t cover a fraction of this place! Not even in a century’s timeframe.”

A moment of silence permeated and chocked the air inside the chapel walls.

Mae simply sounded worried by something, contemplating her next choice of words. “Destiny isn’t something to desire in every instance of life. Those chosen by the Gods to challenge Nyst have known nothing but the eternal depredations of Chaos. My old mentor simply reminded me that it was the way of things, the “infinite scheme of the universe”. His words may still be true, even after his passing. I believe that if you three were fated to combat this creature, it is because she chose you for her new game of conquest. The Gods always have a plan, and that includes the darker powers… I cannot expect the three of you to handle this task by yourselves. Hmm, perhaps, working in collaboration with the Inquisition can be a means to an end for both sides of the coin.”

Lriean barely flinched at the name; it had no more fear attached to it than any other demon out there. Even so, the eldar relic hunter loathed the idea of working with actual fanatics. “Hah! What? I’m sorry, Seer Mae, but that sounds like the farthest thing from pleasant or sane, for that matter.”

Mae finally caved. “The Council has received a personal invitation from the Ordo Malleus. An Inquisitor of some repute on Tyrannus is requesting Eldar expertise on scourging the infestations of Chaos that are not so visible to the naked eye. Lriean, I’ve appointed you for an emissary. I will contact the Ordo Malleus at once, prepare for your arrival and stay in the capital, and discuss the details with the necessary contacts.

“I shall arrange a contact for you to meet; she may prove to be a great boon on this subject. Go to the research facility of Gythium: the fortress monastery belonging to the Order of the Emperor’s Grace. It is based in Helike. She will meet you there.”
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks :), I'll try working on more sometime around the weekend, hopefully I'll more up by then:eek:k:.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
For an Imperium built upon lost technologies, the Fortress Monastery of Gythium brimmed with the cutting edge. The home of the Emperor’s Grace glittered from the highest peaks of Hive Helike’s government palace complex. Massive walls and battlements, gold pleated, bristled with countless artillery pieces and massive cannons primed to strike the largest battleships from Tyrannus’ atmosphere. The complex within was built on intricate networks of High Gothic bridges, flanked with fully bloomed flowerbeds, connecting one hundred and thirty seven isolated research spires and living quarters for the Adaptus Sororitas into one fortress. Waterfalls that could sweep away a smaller city came falling from the Hall of the Order, swelling every pond and pleasant stream inside the Courtyard of the Keep to near over-flowing.

From the highest Saint to the lowliest Schola girl, all those who stood for the Order of The Emperor’s Grace assembled in the Courtyard of the Keep. Soldier, fanatic, and servant stood organized together ten thousand strong, rank-and-file, enjoying the glistening rays of the sun from one of the coldest peaks on the planet. Envoys from the Sundered Legion and the Imperial Guard permitted to attend the mourning were also present, bringing with them an Honor company garbed in full ceremonial wardrobe.

The massive statue of the Emperor himself overlooked the gathered flock of his faithful. Soon-to-be Canoness Anatolijus Petrakis stood proudly beneath his ever-watchful gaze. Her armor was gold pleated and silver admantanium, draped over with royal blue and snowy robes of her Order. Flowing long hair aged to snow, came down in flat bangs on her gaunt and slightly sunken features. Uplifted in her hands, the Hammer of the Mithridite caught the sun’s glare against the polished onyx and silver pattern.

The speaker network carried her voice throughout all of Gythium. “I knew Canoness Kaska Rosi, only in her prime years as commander of our sacred order. To her death we salute.”

“Our honored Canoness, we serve, hail the holy throne of Terra.” Ten thousand voices echoed the short Psalm, ten thousand fists clashed against their chest plates.

“Her soul has been accepted among the saints that reside beside the holy Throne of Terra. We all must embark on that voyage one day. But sisters, let it not be in these grim, dark days, when war is being waged on a galactic scale, the very genocide of Mankind at hand.
“Canoness Kaska has passed down her role as commander of the Order of the Emperor’s Grace. I, Anatolijus Petrakis, shall swear to do everything in my power to deliver my Order, all of Tyrannus, and all of the Tarmathon Sector into an age of peace and prosperity. So that we shall once again look to the future with hopeful eyes and await the Emperor’s inevitable return.” She lowered her sword, sheathing it once again in its scabbard and greeted her comrades once more with a stern gaze.

Lriean watched the innumerable ships sailing just above reach of the sky. Regiment ferrying transports ascended and descended through the atmosphere, accompanied by a legion of lesser vessels. He laughed inwardly at being literally on top of the world, observing the wake from a battlement overlooking the courtyard. He couldn’t help being somewhat impressed, seeing the capital of an entire Hive belonging to the largest race in the galaxy had to impress very much. Qu’nalan and Taryi were leaning over the pulpits, listening to the Order’s new commander.

Sister Celestian Philemon Demarchis of the Order of the Sacred Rose hadn’t left Lriean’s side the moment they entered Gythium. Her thick layers of clothes were a mix of ebony and ivory, matching her braided hair, but not her youthful age. Philemon had her gaze beaming down into the assembly, a defiant smile on her lips and a fist curled against her chest. Lriean noticed her glances at him several times. She attempted to ease the tension with a welcoming smirk before turning her attention back onto Canoness Anatolijus. The only thing he knew about her, was that she had served the Inquisition all her life, apparently. No one had spoken a word after an hour’s trip up to the Hall of the Order, but Philemon appeared ready to broach the silence.

She spoke to him in a firm, welcoming tone, taking her hand off her chest to shake hands with the alien. “I welcome you, Lriean Tarithinon. Qu’nalan Morlankris and Taryi Bel’thorn, on behalf of the Inquisition and the Order of the Sacred Rose, I bid you welcome.” Philemon gave a low bow and turned back to Lriean. “Your employer mentions that you are from a highly respected house. Mae spoke similar of Taryi as well. I’m honored to receive all of you.”

He took her hand in a firm shake. “Oh I see, you must know all about me. Mae does love to talk about her prodigies.” They shared a polite laugh.

“Prodigy is it?” Philemon teased lightly. “I was told all Eldar are masters of their craft, impregnable even.”

The alien archeologist leaned in closer. “When you live a thousand years, it’s hard not too, eh?”

Philemon inclined her head in agreement. “True enough, Lriean. Though I must admit, I was expecting some fearsome alien assassin to greet me this morning. A pleasant surprise that you look nothing of the sort.”

“Don’t underestimate me, Ms. Demarchis.” Lriean winked in confidence. “There’s more warrior here than you think.”

Lriean gestured down at the assembly. “What’s all of this happening down there? It looks like you’re gearing up for a war.”
The sister of the Sacred Rose’s face of cheer suddenly sank into sadness, as if someone had just struck her. Her voice took on a more somber tone. “Sisters from the Emperor’s Grace are mourning the loss of their Canoness. A tragic tale, a weak and frail Celestian under the name of Enora apparently succumbed to demonic influence and murdered our commander before anyone could take notice. How suspicious…”

“My sympathies,” Lriean replied. “But tragedies aside, I believe you know why I’m here.”

Philemon arched one brow at the comment. She studied Lriean’s expression to see how serious he was being. “Of course I do, did you expect anything less from Ordo Malleus? I mean, I understand you aliens are often ignorant of our ways-“

Taryi grinned from ear to ear, glare dagger sharp and gleaming. “And often with good reason. Why try to understand blind faith in genocide and xenophobia? It is a pitiful outlook on the universe. Those who would wield such weapons against us –well, there’s no point in debating their inevitable fate, is there?”

Philemon stepped back; face fresh with the shock of a verbal lashing. A long period of silence fell upon the lone battlement while Philemon contemplated her next choice of words. Lriean sharply mouthed a rebuke, but Taryi brushed him aside like chafe. Philemon smiled in unhidden disgust. “I can smell the scent of charred and unclean flesh all around you, enough to churn my stomach.” She turned to Lriean, disdain weighing heavily on her frown. “I suppose every scholar and wise man requires a blood hound to guard them in the darkest times. Just keep her on a leash, and a very short one at that.”

The Eldar archeologist immediately set about easing the tension, but Philemon hastily interrupted. “Let’s not draw this out any longer than it needs to be. I will take you to Inquisitor Arruns Ulpius.”
*************
The tensions between the Banshee and the Sororitas lightened the further they pushed into Gythium’s mosaic halls, filled with splendor and reverence in equal measure. Philemon must have swallowed her pride and forgiven the transgression. By all the dead Gods of the Eldar, Lriean knew Taryi would never apologize over such a slight. Their human envoy formally invited them into the halls of the Ordo Malleus. “Please, do not be afraid to enter, or we’ll have to drag you before Arruns’ presence.” Lriean could taste the threat in her tasteless joke.

Placid streams poured through the recesses between sweeping mosaics mounted along entire stretches of hall paths. Each of them depicted the race of men enduring in their current era: infamous victories and notable conflicts involving the Ordo Malleus and the elusive characters that commanded the organization to every corner of the Imperium’s galaxy. Desolated battlefields, filled the never-ending hordes of lifeless Orks and Hives engulfed in the flames of battle, brought by the nefarious Eldar. Banners from a hundred different Astarte Chapters hung from the great ribbed vaults. Each piece of heraldry was some fraction of history and culture woven into the fabric that made up the Inquisition. The four of them emerged through a massive archway, held in place with columns cloaked in strange patterns of scripture, and completed with the Imperium’s iconic Aquilla unfurling its wings from atop the arch.

A mysterious figure cloaked in black fabric and a witch helm that shone like the moon, sat in an oval chair by a collection of glassine tables on the edge of a waterfall. The chest piece of wraith bone over his chest was a deep crimson, similar to the semi-crystalline stones on his wardrobe. On his waist, a witch blade, sheathed inside an elegant rune-sealed scabbard marked him for what he was.

The Warlock greeted them with a sign of peace. “I sensed something would be off today. I read the runes, but they spoke nothing of a most welcome encounter in this morbid museum. How do you fare, my kindred?”

Lriean bowed in respect. “More fortunate than we probably have a right to, but that won’t stop us from taking it all in stride.”

The Warlock’s laughter poured through the helm, mimicking the flow of rushing water rather than a laugh by the eldritch properties of his war gear. “I am pleased to hear it. Before you ask, we shall meet again soon and be properly acquainted. Remember my name, it is Kasilienesh.”

Philemon verbally instructed a pair of Grey Knights to lift their halberds from the Inquisitor’s quarters. The doors swung open with the hisses and clanks of invisible servos. One of the bio-engineered humans gestured for them to enter. The Mon-Keigh reclined in his leather chair looked like a muscle bound serf in spite of the ebony corselet and greaves, crimson cloak emblazoned with Ordo’s insignia, and an Inquisitor’s rosarius dangling from his neck. Dark green eyes looked up from a weather-beaten hatchet face, looking down a hooked nose that had healed from many broken angles. Stringy ashen blonde hair clung close around the sideburns and imperial styled pointed beard. A young warrior he likely was in his prime, but an elderly sage was all that remained before Lriean.

The Ordos Malleus Inquisitor gestured them to sit down in the four chairs conveniently placed in front of his desk. The Inquisitor snapped his fingers. An aide appeared from the shadows and bowed. “Remove there reports, hand them down to Jelenn. She’ll know what to do with them.” The old man still had some sternness in his backbone, Lriean could tell through the un-trembling hands and proud stare. Never had Lriean met an Inquisitor burdened by the shame of guilt. It looked like things would remain that way for a while longer. The Eldar archeologist felt himself being dissect by his calculating appraisal, which then turned to Taryi, then Qu’nalan. Even Philemon, who appeared removed from the entire situation.
The voice he regarded his guest with belied his robust bulk: deep, nasally, and resolute combined into one man’s throat. “I am a foreigner. That is what I am on this planet, Tyrannus. That is a fact, which makes myself in many aspects, about as alien as anyone of you three. That truth in turn, is compounded by my divine right to command in the Ordo Malleus, as an Inquisitor. I understand what you likely think about that, but before long, you’ll find out that I always try to speak the truth on many things. However, in spite of the obvious truths of the human society,” The Inquisitor broke into a lopsided smile. “I’ve lived here and know the Emperor’s servants who have pledged fealty to the continued existence and protection of this marvel of faith and Imperial ingenuity. And with that knowledge, I unfairly, deceitfully, and in secret passed judgment on the Tarmathon sector as a whole.

“Tell me, what would the Eldar make of that information?”

Lriean exchanged puzzled glances with his other companions; Philemon remained content listening from her chair. He turned back to the Inquisitor and answered with a quick shrug. “That would depend on your judgment, Inquisitor.”

The Mon-Keigh barked with hearty laughter, immediately remembered himself and reigned his emotions. “Would it satisfy you to see countless billions burning in agony, Tyrannus put to the torch by my own hands?” Every remnant of kindness vanished from the Inquisitor’s squirming stare.

Hesitation wedged the words in the Eldar’s throat. Lriean swallowed them and tried again. “Is that your judgment?”

“Arruns Olpius, Inquisitor of the Ordo Malleus.” Arruns answered, a broad smile breaking the awkward tension. “I am the High Command, the Company Captain, and the will of the Ecclesiarchy on Tyrannus. All of the Imperial forces planet side and beyond the gravity well answer to my orders. I am a hammer of demons, and a shield of those who would come to humanity’s aid. I can provide protection –hell in the warp, I can supply you every resource under my jurisdiction. So long, as you supply the means to an end, Lriean.” Arruns snapped his fingers again. His aide approached from Lriean’s right, extending Lriean a steel plated case.

Lriean politely pried the case open, inspected the contents, and accepted the offer. The Inquisitor and he exchanged a handful of smoky air bubbles from the lho rods. “Our contacts didn’t mention specifically what you were expecting from us, Mr. Olpius-“
“Arruns, please.”

Lriean felt his lips going tightly drawn in suspense. “I need the terms you agreed upon with the Council of Seers, Arruns.”

The Inquisitor nodded his understanding. “Yes, that is important, isn’t it? The terms are what I state them: I want the Ghost Crypts discovered and secured. So long as your Council allows that they undergo a complete purge when they are discovered, I’ll lend you whatever assets I can. I will also promise to keep you safe from the predations of demonic forces.”

Qu’nalan broke his silence. “You think the Ghost Crypts are the source of Tyrannus’ instability?”

Arruns inclined his head, a degree more bleak than his usual demeanor. “I know it. Ten thousand Eldar souls buried somewhere beneath our soil, a tourist attraction for demons beyond number. If the crypts do exist, it is probably stuck in limbo, lost between this reality and the immaterium itself. Such a place could create and spit out the vilest creatures, such as Nyst, for example. The demon you seek protection from.”

Pallid skin around Taryi’s cheeks suddenly flushed in a deep strawberry red, Lriean noticed some veins beginning to bulge when she spoke out. “Relating that thing with the burial ground of our ancestors is more than a stone’s throw past insulting and intolerable.”

The Inquisitor raised a hand to still the murmurings. “I said I liked to tell the truth whenever possible. I am also good at telling the intentions that lurks behind others. I am glad you don’t wish destruction on the upstanding citizenry of the Tarmathon sector, but you’ll get that and a perilous danger to your own world if the threat is not extinguished. You can go run to your council. They will certainly tell you the same thing I have. I am not asking you to put your trust in me, but your own commanders. They have invaluable experience on sensitive matters like these, and they have chosen you to see this through for them.” Arruns grimaced. “It’s in times like these that I’ve always favored the Imperial tradition of cremation.”

Lriean tore himself from his chair, followed by his companions. “I’ll have to confirm your terms with my employer. Why she didn’t bother mentioning this beforehand is beyond myself.”

Arruns pursing voice stopped him short of exiting the office. “We Imperials have a saying for things like this: “Do not try to understand the mind of the alien nor heretic, for to understand them is madness.” That is no insult to your origins, but you must understand that the nature of Chaos is literally unfathomable. If you try to answer, the questions that any soul is tempted to ask about matters involving the nether night, it will destroy you or worse, you will seek to join in its insanity. When you come back and start working for me, you’ll remember the saying before long.”
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Chapter Two: Alumni

Two years later…

“I am power.”

“With your power, I am your servant.”

“I am ethereal.”

“With your blessings, I am no longer mortal.”

“I am favored.”

With your attention, I shall bring thy armies forth.”

“I am blessed by the Gods.”

“With your endless sacrifice, we pay tribute.”

“I am immortal.”

“With your benevolent wisdom, we make our endless war.”

“I am demonic.”

“With your words, we honor the Gods.”

“Through your Gods, does the galaxy burn.”​


One must slumber. A popular saying among her kindred in the Forlorn Tower, there was never a servant of the Gods that never faltered by exhaustion. All had their time. Even Nyst confessed to becoming weary of the long war. She had slept away under the ruins of old Tarmathon IV for four millennia then. The Greater Demon giggled deviously, recalling four thousand year old memories of her Master’s initial arrival. The young prophetess had stumbled upon the site of the final battle waged between the Eldar and the forces of Chaos. Alone, a young Eldar girl all by her lonesome chose to delve into the black depths of Xen Rogo’s subterranean fortress. Three centuries later, the scars that lingered within still writhed as flesh wounds punctured through flesh. Such was the mark of Xen’s patron, Nurgle, the God of Decay.

Nyst managed to sleep through that conflict unscathed, with nothing to wake through the millennia except a paltry sacrifice of cattle. When she arrived, the strands of the universe seemed to connect in rapid sequence, spinning an intricate web that promised something more than the usual slaughter of innocent worlds. One soul entered where there were none, surprisingly seeking enlightenment beyond the galactic plane. She descended down through the ancient graveyards, brimming with bones and the signs of blasphemy. She continued her descent through the forgotten libraries, spending four weeks researching the preserved texts. Disease infested everything in the catacombs below, but none touched her flesh. For two more days, she did not realize that the deceased had freely given up the gift she sought.

Not until she stumbled upon a lone chamber, buried in broken stone, dominated by a throne forged with pure sapphire and gold. Nyst slumbered on the throne since the passing of the last leader of the cult, feeding on the energies of the warp and fallen alike. The young girl climbed the mountain of shards and debris the throne overlooked, more determined than ever to meet her destiny or find it. With an air of caution, the prophetess took for herself a tattered flag of the lost cult and approached the throne. Nyst stirred at the warmth of her soul, emerging back into the land of the living with slow and purposeful blinks.

The isolated systems of the Tarmathon Sector would forever tremble at the union.

Nyst had been a juggernaut in those years, there was nothing she couldn’t conquer with her dominating presence and power. The course of the Tyrannic war, however, had greatly debilitated her ability and position inside the solar system. She must have been slipping, to displease her master so much that she handed her off to a footnote Sorceress. Now there was no champion worthy of leading the demonic horde back onto Tyrannus, unless Nyst anoint herself for the task. Such a thing would be conceited and greedy of her; there was no glory in the entire galaxy she had not already earned. She never considered herself a notable commander in either regard, but she would if that was her master’s wishes.

Nyst sat on her hind legs from the top of the porcelain stairs leading up to the throne. Arms folded, her soul-burning gaze observing the chosen and their meticulous ritual. The gathered cultists bowed down on their knees until their faces scraped against the floor. All knew the sworn oath to the Dark Gods by heart. Hearing the pledge recited again, it stirred a long trampled sense of pride in her. Pleased beyond words, Nyst only smirked at the masses gazing up at her. A thousand and a half ex-soldiers employed under the Kyveli house remained unmoved with expressions set in stone. They were ready.

The voice of the Ethereal poured from her lips, one hundred voices belonging to one being. “So long as the galaxy burns in our name, I shall bestow upon you my gifts. More importantly, favored mortals, the marks of favor of our chosen Deity. Do not be superstitious like these slaves beneath the yolk of your nemesis. You shall know my power is real through ascendancy, the single greatest moment in your brief existence when your life suddenly becomes infinite with new possibilities. This planet still writhes in the flames of chaos even in the noted absence of the Thousand Sons. They have abandoned you! Now the war has turned ill. Brave souls, I do not wish to consume your essence upon a whim, but for once in the entirety of the time I have known you do I wish to reward your twisted sense of true faith.”

The chosen lowered their heads; Nyst spoke to her leash-bearer without looking at her. “They are ready. Your own personal army, as you requested. A true commander does lead by example; they would follow you into places no one will ever return. If you did so, of course.”

Theodora Kyveli leaned forward in her blanched throne, trembling softly in anticipation. The young Sorceress wore some ornate priestly attire, all manner of beige and white cloth weaved in layers around her body. Flowing, tannish hair hung down in a series of braids. Lavish jewelry hung from her neck and fingers, none of them arousing any suspicion with ties to heresy. “Perhaps you should nominate yourself for ascendancy instead, after all, your current form seems to pale in comparison of greater demons. You have explained your rites of ascendancy to me. I will be forthcoming: while the demonic form maybe holier than our wretched flesh, it is through our birth right that humanity will rule this galaxy, not vagabond demons.”

Nyst chortled like an elegant woman, driven by a sickening sense of arrogance and cruelty. “I have considered the possibilities. I would not particularly admire my so-called sacrifice, a banishment into the warp beside the Changer himself. Then I would live every moment of my life in regret, not being able to consult the lost mortal souls of this plane. I would lose my touch.”

Theodora did not appear to be listening, inspecting her vassals as if she were already molding them. And those pitiful trash Theodora called Sorcerers had the gall to try to reign her in for similar conduct. “Once they’re… transformed, they will fight for me?”

The Greater Demon inclined her head sharply. “Like you were their own fresh and blood or even better, treasured lover.”

Theodora visibly paled at the image, reclining back into her throne. “So long as they remain loyal. I’ll give your compliments to your master.”

Nyst flopped her massive tail onto Theodora’s armrest, a note of impatience slipping through her slightly bared teeth. “Don’t thank me just yet. They’ll be far more effective than the regular rabble you were using for the Imperial’s target practice. However, when the time comes to test them, there still maybe some faults in their design. But again, it is what you asked for.”

Theodora raised a glass in the demon’s honor. “Then in due time, we’ll topple the Corpse-God’s yoke on this world and live free in everlasting glory!”

The assembly echoed as one. “Yes, in everlasting glory.”
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
The Metro Operators voice blared through the bus. “All passengers, be advised: Three minutes until anchor at Phocis station.”

That time of the day again, when skies painted in shades of red, orange, and pink arrived with the waning sun. Lyra watched roiling cloudscapes roll across the backdrop from within the rapidly decelerating metro-train. Sat down on the top of the world, she felt like nobility despite every rule of her upbringing screaming against it. The Grand Central Station remained perched above the strongholds and facilities of Gythium. It was a vital mode of transportation, the only link with the rest of the monastery to the Hospitaller’s District.

Grand Central Station burgeoned with Imperial citizens, dressed in fanciful garbs with a pious edge to them. A few curious stares fixated on her, but she paid them no heed. The invitations received, Lyra remained in contentment. Governors, planetary commanders, and all the highborn aristocracy came to pray inside the grand cathedral of Saint Agnes. It’s golden spires rose somewhere from the miniature city of the Hospitaller District.

Lyra unlocked the clasps around her helm, stepping beyond the doors of the cramped metro-bus into the glaring touch of the sun. Back in the days of her candidacy, she could recall the fighting that had taken place in the subterranean transportation routes. The trains filled with scared citizens seeking refuge from a plague of un-death and a host of Sororitas soldiers guarding them with their lives. Winged demons came swooping through the narrow caverns, smashing through the windows into the defense of the sisters. The train smelled with the stinking rot of the demonic dead, but she and her comrades had managed to hold out against the onslaught.

“Sister Lyra! Here!” A young woman, cloaked in a scarlet linen dress half emblazoned with the Hospitaller’s mark, suddenly waved frantically from an empty sidewalk. She had golden blonde hair swept to the right side of her face, broad smile beaming at a puzzled Lyra. She came up to the battle sister’s shoulders when Lyra casually approached her, frail fingers taking her own gauntlets in a handshake.

“Lyra Savakis of the Emperor’s Grace.” The Sororitas bowed deep in her oceanic blue and white robes, relishing in the freedoms of being unarmored. A dusty tome peaked from under her shoulder, scratching against the pistol holster attached to her waist. “Blessed to receive you again, Idola.” She turned towards the lurking stranger beside the Hospitaller. “Who might this be?”

“Ah,” Idola replied, “This is my friend and co-worker, Desma.”

Lyra looked over the Hospitaller with a glint of curiousness, absorbing each bit about her different from the human anatomy. Jet-black hair flowed over her ebony skin in lengthy plumes that spilled onto weak artificial shoulders. Cutting-edge augments crafted into fully functional bionic arms reflected the sun’s cascading rays into the nooks and cracks of the road. Both of her eyes had also undergone replacement, exchanged with sterile silver interfaces. Her movements were deft and efficient, only one leg falling with a heavier clang before Lyra’s feet.

“Desma Tasso. Volunteer at the Hospitaller H.Q.” Desma answered in a mechanical trance, though her voice lacked much of the metallic edge. She extended her hand in greeting, steel-forged fingers wrapping round Lyra’s palm like a serpent’s trap. “The honor is well received, Lyra Savakis.”

Lyra suppressed the sympathy from appearing on her face. “Sister, once?”

“Before my wounds became too much to bear.” Desma’s silver eyes clicked from one side to the next, whirred and coiled to take in the station’s environment. She reverted to Lyra, expression weighed with boredom. “Fortunate for myself, I retired from the Order very early in my career. I think about the reason, and know it was probably why I survived the war until its end.”

The Sister of battle looked at her in surprise. Both of the Hospitaller agents shared odd glances with one another. She gripped one of her metallic biceps. “The long war never ends, Desma. And you look like you can still carry a weapon to me, but if rules deem you unfit to serve then I won’t be the one to the chastise you.”

Desma’s stoic expression held up unscathed. “I assure you I can hold a weapon, but my I.Q. requires me in the field of medicine and surgery. Away from the more unappreciated minds, I could say.”

Lyra bit her tongue a moment too late. She paused to let the moment sink in. “If being appreciated means mending pitiful corpses while we take the glory from our enemies, so be it.”

“If that makes you content,” Desma smirked. “Then I am willing to drop the conversation, before it becomes awkward.”

“Agreed,” Lyra said. “Idola, if you would lead the way.”

“Of course,” Idola chuckled nervously. “It is up these stairs just outside the station.”
******************

One hundred and thirty six voices within Saint Agnes rose up through the ancient cathedral. Each voice resonated across marble floors, littered with rose petals. Psalms of the Convent reached up heavily burnished walls of bronze bricks, to the highest pulpits on the back of the building where the entrance lay. Lyra bathed in the angelic sounds, singing the litanies known throughout the centuries. Idola and Desma sung their praises alongside her, the latter of the two surprisingly beautiful to the ears.

Beside her in the pews with Lho-stick smoldering in between her lips, Arva expelled a mouthful of smoke, and quickly choked on the inhale. The odor mixed with the lingering scent of incense and rose water in the air challenged her lungs to breathe in so much smoke. Her friend did not seem too preoccupied with the choir’s worship, her interest far more in line with keeping an eye on the strange figure sitting with them.

Lriean lightly shrugged at Arva’s unwavering watch. He threw his hands behind his head, sighed with the relief it brought. “This is so relaxing. Much different from home, but I love how you humans come together and share this belief that your Emperor shall one day return. It’s similar to our own religion, actually, one day our last living God will be born anew.”

Arva slammed the butt of her bolter down into a pew. That one had the bark of a vicious beast. “Likely best if you don’t bring up your heathen gods in our holy shrine, alien. You forget your place! No one here wishes to hear anything save His name inside this sanctuary. Understand?”

Despite her growling, a lopsided grin appeared ready to break her façade. The two of them shared knowing grins. Lriean feigned his apologetic face for the pair of Hospitallers, turning back around at their blank looks of puzzlement. “Suit yourself. These other two you have brought along look as if they have never seen an alien in the flesh. Try not to worry yourselves; it’s only unnerving me a little.”

Desma cut her voice short, looking pointedly at Arva. “What is it?” She gestured Lriean with her metallic fingers. “Emperor above, he’s nearly humanoid.”
“Is humanoid,” Avra corrected. “Eldar are probably the farthest things from human when comparing the physiology of our minds with theirs. Do not let their deceptive guises fool you; they are utterly fickle and random in their nature. Also corrupted by psychic taint, very isolated, vicious raiders, and what not. You get the gist, I assume.”

Lriean narrowed his eyes into sharp slits. “The Imperial Primer I see. You have to love ten millennia of xenophobia and tactics thrown into one massive book. I thought only the Imperial Guard was only issued those things?”

Lriean had apparently risen in respect in Arva’s eyes, who appeared surprised –pleasantly, for once. “I didn’t know you were familiar with it. Any good soldier will read at some point in his life. There are enough instructions in there to kill nearly every xenos species known to man, in over a dozen different ways each.”

“Are you still staring at me?” Lriean glanced over his shoulder to find Desma studying his pointed ears.

Desma may have looked abhorred at Lriean while she probed through his hair, in true Imperial fashion. However, underneath he knew she was trying not to look fascinated. “You’re an Eldar, correct? Excuse my manners, but I’ve never came into contact with one myself. I’ve heard your people our quite rare?”

The Eldar inclined his head in affirmation. “Rare as they come, for a galactic power. Most of our kind lives on the floating trade ships the size of planets, others in the backwater Maiden worlds, or in places I would rather not explain in detail.”

Idola winced at the alien archeologist’s clothing, a Commissarial suit, black trench coat, and hat. “You are aware that wearing those clothes doesn’t make you look like one of us, right?”

Lyra twitched the corners of her mouth in a distasteful smirk. “Thank the Emperor! Someone in his or her right mind for once. Did you ever find out who permitted that outfit, Arva?”

Arva shook her head. “Inquisitorial seal is stamped all over it.”

“Bah!” Lriean dismissed his critics, accepting an offered Lho stick. “As a leader of the Expedition of Halicarnassus, Inquisitor Arruns and I have agreed to access to certain military grade uniforms. I find humans are far more comfortable when aliens look the part of an Imperial Auxiliary. I mean, it just earns so much more respect than your run-of-the-mill mercenary does. Tell me I’m right.”

Arva intervened again in Lriean’s logic. “You’re an advisor, Tarithinon. A Commander will lead the dig, Emperor guide your soul if a real Commissar stumbles onto your disguise.”

For a simple archeologist, the Eldar had influence far beyond his guards. Wielding such power, as the arm of the Ecclesiarch demanded much from the honor of the Order. Even from a support role, soldiers ingrained in the Imperial dogma would have difficulty swallowing orders from a xenos. Yet his position and leverage proved irrefutable in the chain of command. To disobey an order from a Commanding Advisor was to answer before the Inquisitor himself.
He lifted up his cap and set it down on the pew. “Hmmm. I have acquired squad Averticus to be my bodyguard for the duration of this exploration. Having a group of iron-fisted maidens of the Adeptus Sororitas, I look forward to seeing the action we’ll be delving into together.”

Rings of clean vapors pushed through Arva’s nostrils, the hazel in her pupils were beginning to dilate. “Our orders are received. Obey your superiors and submit to their will, for they keep a vigil over our souls.”

“We shall do this with joy and not with complaining, for that will grant you no advantage over us.” The others intoned together.

Lriean bowed his head. “Pray your God on Terra will protect my soul as well.”

Lyra sniffed disbelievingly. “Don’t worry about our God, Lriean, our strength is more than enough to suffice for you.”

Idola elbowed Desma’s rib and both of them bowed low. “We expect to be called into service either on the war front or the expedition. Put in a good word for us and we’ll see about following your combat group.”

The ebony Hospitaller clapped her hands together and knelt down into the rose water. “Sister Lyra, Arva, and Commander Advisor Lriean: I bid you farewell. May the warp break in our stride…”

“May He be the light in the darkness.”

Lriean sent them off with a wave. “Isha guide your way.”
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
The Next Day…

A sudden barrage of knocking on her door snapped Lyra from her sleep. Oceanic eyes fluttered open with reluctance; she sighed heavily and found herself lying in bed. She immediately turned to another one undisturbed. Arva was sitting over her desk, reading another data slate. She managed to pry her attention away long enough to glower at the commotion.

Glistening sunlight poured through a clear windowpane that took up the entire left wall. Beyond it, only a portion of Gythium was visible alongside Helike’s tallest spires. Her dorm was far from Spartan, not fashioned for the sole purpose of a strict military existence. Three shelves crammed with books lined walls of sandstone, within reach of a wooden desk crafted from fine mahogany. Golden Aquila hung all around the room, pinning banners and overlooking the other icons of Imperial heraldry set up about the place. Ornate weapons mounted on racks rested in between their beds, a sharp contrast to the provenza marble floors.

“Lyra !? Arva!? Are you in there!?”

Arva whispered to no one in particular, standing up from her desk and beginning to stalk across the barrack dormitory room with a disturbed look. “Who the hell is this?” She pressed a button on the keypad, quickly followed by the quiet hiss of machinery.

Sister Superior Karyiake snapped off a salute, a fist across the chest. “Morning, girls. May I enter?”

Arva’s insolent scowl struck from her lips in an instant, looking dumbfounded. “Sister Superior! Uhh, Karyiake isn’t it? Of course, Superior.” Arva stepped aside for the veteran member of the Sororitas, who stepped into the room and greeted the two of them with a gracious smile.

“Apologies for the intrusion. You’re probably wondering why I came here today, especially on such short notice.” Karyiake cleared her throat and cast an expecting stare at Lyra until she shook her sleep-addled eyes fully open.

Lyra kicked off her sheets, leaping to her feet in her nightgown. “Forgive my manners, Superior, I was not expecting guests.”

Karyiake took a moment to admire the view outside, watching the bulky structures of the fortress-complex radiate with a holy glimmer. She approached one of the desk chairs and took a seat. “As I was saying: I know Averticus has been diligent in their duties, protecting the Inquisitor’s guest, and achieving other honors during their time here. I have been talking to Meril about your long list of exploits. I could not help but notice the lack of interesting notes these past few months. Meril believes you have the talent, but your ability to kill is waning with the passing of each day. Perhaps you two are not fit for guard duty, less your ability goes to waste. I have considered, maybe the both of you need a reminder of what it means to serve in the Imperium’s armies. There are some heretics worth hunting and I would have your participation. So, what say you, sisters?”

Lyra faced the situation and asked first. “Is there a disturbance in the peace? How difficult are the odds? How many of us are going?”

Karyiake looked to Lyra with no small amount of expectation. “The mission will be dangerous. Rogue Psykers and other forms of the malevolent witch will have a strong presence there. The objective is deep within the Teshkeran wood, inside the District of Athenai. You know large estates and manors, and plenty of private troops. Enough to make a small army out of.

“I understand if you would disagree, but it’s nearly time to have you pair assigned to a full tactical squad.”

Lyra instantly perked up at her last sentence. “That time already, ma’am?”

Karyiake nodded her congratulations. “It has been two years since your training and initiation. Both of you have served with honor and have never questioned your purpose. I’m proud of that.”

Both of them bowed deeply in gratitude, intoning together. “The honor is ours. We accept this promotion, Superior.”

“Very well,” Superior Karyiake rose up from her seat. She approached the entrance and stopped short. “You are no longer part of Averticus. Your new superior officer is Sister Superior Anthanasia Soukis of Angelikii, a squad of thirteen, now fifteen. Prepare to be tested; the coming days like these are rarely easy. Do well enough and she may assign you roles that are more specialized. Find her in the training grounds from eight in the morning to noon. Now, if you will excuse me, I must take my leave.” Karyiake slipped from sight, leaving them to their own devices.

“Great.” Arva quipped, her tone bitter sweet. “Feet first into another hell pit we have burning down in the rich districts.”

“You don’t like these fights?” The Sororitas with the fish-tail braid leaned heavily on the wall. Her vision was still bleary. “Rooting up heresy keeps the citizens safe. Cleanse it quickly before the seeds take root or risk the order and stability of the world. You’d be surprised by what characters can emerge due to lack of vigilance, I’ve heard of worlds being reduced to meteors because of rebellions and treacherous betrayals. Whoever’s head they want, if he or she is important enough, could be the gateway for some unforeseen threat to attack us from nowhere.”

Arva picked up her data slate, rummaging through the contents again. “It is the pious soul that bewares the heretic…”

“One moment of laxity equals a lifetime of heresy.” Lyra concluded.

“I need a smoke.” Arva abruptly leapt out of her chair and made her way to the door. “I’ll be outside.”
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Alright, we got a semi-long update here, hope you guys like :D!

Somewhere in the upper echelons of Hive Helike…

The Tylissos Interstate cut a deep swathe through upper Helike, weaving through the long canals and lower financial quarters built along the banks. Convoys of an Imperial coalition choked the roads for miles; spear headed by companies of the Emperor’s Grace led by none other than Canoness Anatolijus Pertrakis herself. Hundreds of Rhino transports, Excorsist artillery batteries, and penitent engines grinded through the labyrinth of the Hive city, backed by tenfold Imperial Guardsmen companies.

The highway stretched outwards about ten lanes, split into two. The armored columns of the Ordos Militant spread across the incoming land in three separate convoys that stretched back toward the Tylissos. Valkyries and other fighter squadrons swept ahead of the mustered military force into the midst of an urban jungle. One that would soon swallow all of them whole the further they marched. Coordinated Orbital bombardments rained down from the Imperial armadas anchored above the atmosphere. Entire swathes within the city were nothing more than smoking craters in the surrounding urban sprawl.

Sister Superior Anthanasia had been speaking encouragements throughout the ride, steeling their nerve over the noise of the Rhino’s engine. Only five of Angelikii rode this transport, due to their squad’s size. Lyra and Arva settled for listening through the loud speaker. “My sisters, be brave in the face of death and you will receive two outcomes: either an honorable embrace or a glorious victory. Our forces make their way to the Teshkeran forest. Much of the wealthy deserted this place on the eve of the Thousand Sons’ invasion of Tyrannus. Our target still lurks here; apparently, intelligence says she is a witch of extreme magnitude, protected by a personal militant group. Let’s focus on what is real instead of fearing superstitions. We take her head, dead or alive before the sunset and all heretics die by the sword. Understand?”

Alexandra looked in the new blood’s direction from beside the hatch. She bit her lip in nervous anticipation. “Hey, you two ever saw a Psyker?”

Arva shook her head, slightly embarrassed. “The Astropaths back at the monastery.”

The other sisters snickered amongst themselves. Alexandra wagged a finger. “No, I mean a rogue Psyker, a witch or sorcerer.”

“Like she said.” Lyra responded bluntly. “Never.”

Alexandra lent her advice. “No doubt there’ll be one during the fighting. Just watch yourselves; a psyker can kill you in a hundred ways through your mind alone. If it is skilled, it’ll kill you through fire or whatever unnatural power. That and they are very susceptible to demonic possession. You don’t want to see a sight like that.”

“Or fall under demonic influence yourself,” Nomiki, the seasoned veteran, entered the conversation. “You’ve trained all of your lives to ward your own souls. Keep your faith strong, your mind guarded, and kill any witch you come across the moment it reveals itself.”

Thea clambered down from the turret ladder, her armored heels stamping into the metal of the vehicle. “What’s going on? Arva, your turn, get on the turret.”

“Nothing.” Nomiki and Alexandra replied at once. They moved their feet for Arva and Thea to slide past each other.

Thea took Arva’s spot by the rampart, facial features utterly calm like she was spaced. “It’s a fortress. It’ll take all day to take it.”

Alexandra arched a brow. “You got a look at it?”
“Yeah,” Thela unloaded a clip from her bolter, quadruple checking the weapon since they had departed Gythium. “The place is surrounded by a huge barricade, built with steel, has battlements and everything. Nearly there, too.”

Nomiki toyed with the robes pulled over her armor. “How many traitors you think are in there? Superior mentioned a militant group, who would serve under a heretic’s banner for credits?

The fish-tail braided new blood shrugged her shoulders. “A thousand? A couple hundred? Who knows how long the target’s been out here recruiting.”

The four Sororitas shot up at the sound of their Rhino’s heavy bolter opening up. The speed of the armored column suddenly doubled, they all braced themselves to the weapon lockers. A sharp whistle dulled by the thick steel plating came through, a deafening crash of impact quickly followed. The transport vehicle grinded down to an abrupt halt, and everyone snatched up their weapons as Arva slid down the ladder.

Sunlight swept the cramped interior of the vehicle in a bright wave, hitting the group square in the eyes with a glare that blinded.

“Out of the vehicle!” Alexandra stormed down the ramp first onto the highway, the others hard on their heels. A mass of half-naked, crazed chain sword wielding Repentia squads rushed past them, whipped into a fury beneath the lashes of their Overseers. Lyra looked on them with mild shock. The majority had their heads shaven and literally covered in rags. Alexandra whispered in her ear. “The cannon fodder. Come on, let’s move.”

Anthanasia’s voice came through the comm. links inside their helmets. “Alexandra, lead the others down to the next transport.”

Alexandra tapped into the channel. “Right, Superior. Heading your way.”
Only a hundred of the on-foot infantry were amassing on the highway, but their numbers were beginning to swell. The four of them maneuvered past tank squadrons and bristling artillery batteries, until they came upon nine other Sororitas waiting for them on the edge of mustering. Other vehicles were already beginning to pull up into position on the other side of the highway, disgorging another mass of troops into the road. All guns were silent, except for a minor skirmish happening on the front. Before Anthanasia could address her squad mates, Angelikii stood surrounded by a mass of Imperial Guard and other foot infantry of the Order.

Breathing in wonder, Alexandra pointed into the sky. “By the Throne, look at that!”
Off in the distance, a formation of clouds slowly parted, evaporating in some strange phenomena. Large pillars of energy rained down from the gaping wound in the skies. With the momentum of an unstoppable force, entire swathes of Helike’s surface turned to slag by relentless explosions. One brief flash of unbelievably blinding light, followed by a fallout so strong, entire skyscrapers simply disintegrated in the fallout. The earth quaked beneath their boots, everyone held a hand over the eyes before a wave of black ash and embers rushed through the highway.

“Let’s move,” Their Superior ordered, leading by example as she ran down the exit ramp to join the one thousand troops moving into an elite suburban area.

The Repentia squads rushed past in an effort to screen them from any ambushes or assaults that may surprise them. Large hulking machinery in the form of skeletal Pentient Engines moved with them on hissing pistons in support of the Ordos Militant’s chafe. The palaces and antique mansions built along the Teshkeran woods were unscathed and empty. Only stone gargoyles remained to stand watch from the high walls, unless the enemy had strategized to fight a guerrilla battle from lavish building to lavish building.
Anthanasia inclined her head toward Lyra and Arva, and then gestured toward the road they had left to cross. “These streets should be unoccupied or so our recon and intelligence say, but there will be a lack of fighting here anyway. I am aware of your experiences in the merciless scraps in the city streets, but this situation is going to require a little tact. Our objective lies in the center of a recreational forest. You may have seen the barricades surrounding it. It’ll be nothing but trees and a few winding paths from here on out.” She regarded them a moment. “Have you ever fought a siege before?”

The two sisters shook their heads.

Her superior nodded empathetically. “Then you’ll stay by my side, understand? We have the superior numbers, but the combat is going to be rough, I can feel it.” She turned to the rest of her squad. “The ruinous powers would see humanity slaved from one side of the galaxy to the next. Any man or woman, who fights for them, deserves only mercy through our weapons. Rebuke the heretic!”

“Rebuke the Heretic!”
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
“Remember, silence is the key. They must know we’re approaching, but if we mask our strike, it will still be unexpected.”

Teshkeran wood glimmered in the warmth of the midday sun, dense foliage swaying in a whispering wind. They had hiked through serpent creeks and riverbanks, marching up increasingly steep hillsides for what seemed like hours. The first companies of the Imperial army weaved through the trees, spread in a loose formation that made the overall assault wave difficult to see. Twigs snapped under their boots, but each noise came far in between one another. The noise of flowing waters and local birds masked their approach, but how well remained to be seen.

Lyra maneuvered through a bed of exotic flowers the stealthiest she could manage in her bulky armor. The heap of admantanium looked slender and tight fitting compared to a Space Marine, but for an average human it weighed her down far more than she would have liked. The servos in her suit aided her in maintaining balance, so she wouldn’t fall downhill. She couldn’t help overhearing Anthanasia speaking with the other officers in the battle group through the comms. Words exchanged on how to best approach the fortress, apparently on the very peak of the hillside they climbed.

“We should order an artillery barrage and send the guardsmen up there until they choke on endless dead: our own and theirs.”

“We shouldn’t risk an artillery barrage until we find a wall of enemy resistance that we’re hard pressed to break through. We should test the defenses first before we begin lashing out blindly at our foes and letting them know we’re here.”

“If they aren’t aware already, then I question their competence.”

“Point taken, one way or another, they’re going to surprise us somewhere. Testing the defenses will probably lead to further casualties, but let us not waste our heavier guns on the walls. I don’t think they’ll crumble very easily, if we use a sustained barrage and can’t breach that way, we’ll wish the shells had been saved for the actual complex.”

“I won’t stop you in your righteous wrath, Anthanasia, but I would rather spare us the loss of unnecessary casualties.”

“Test the wall, and then begin our assault. If we falter, then deploy the Seraphim. Problem solved.”

Anthanasia looked indifferent with her helmet. “Oh hells fine, send the guardsmen up and we’ll follow on their heels.”

Nothing remained visible through the tree line, except a few spiraling silver-white towers and a rather large barricade of unadorned steel. The barricade held many firing slits, arranged in order like rows and columns, indicating multiple levels within the wall. An advantageous position, one the militants could cling to for days if pressed. The wall divided into small bulwarks, ending and beginning with massive, closed pipes. No defensive weapon emplacements within sight and the wall itself looked unmanned. It was probably a lure.

The order handed down to the Imperial Guard, small battalions of men and women came jogging through the snaking trails leading up to the gates of a silent fortress. The strategy was to assault from every direction. The guardsmen formed layers of loose rings around each other and stayed in place until further instructed.

Arva was suddenly by her side, crouching in the small undergrowth. “No guards. Maybe they retreated?”

“Doubt it.” Lyra quipped, pressing her back firmly against a redwood. “Perhaps we overestimated their numbers and they don’t have men to properly defend the barricades. I’m more worried about getting through those walls. I hope we won’t have to scale it.”
Anthanasia’s rebuke came quiet and swiftly. “Observant, Lyra. But if you wouldn’t mind shutting your frakking mouth!” She turned back toward the Imperial guard. “Don’t forget, the gates can be breached with Krak grenades. We’ll just have to see how much the enemy will object to us doing so.”

The signal passed through the channels. A couple hundred guardsmen advanced on Angelikii’s side of the barricade. Camouflaged in their surroundings in their beige and khaki uniforms, they melded into the backdrop. The Sororitas did not fare so well in their royal blue and white heraldry, forcing them to keep low and behind the trees.

Move up. Anthanasia signaled. Quietly.

The Imperial infantry charged up the remainder hillside, their voices silent and their guns raised. They practically strode out of the wood when they realized nothing had happened. There was no ambush. Or least one they could see.



The bulging pipes popped open and unfurled menacing twin-linked heavy bolter and missile turrets. Automated by patient servitors or calculating A.I., the turrets cut a bloody swathe through the unsuspecting guard. A hundred shell casings were on the forest floor before Lyra could manage to blink. Rattling constantly, the machines tracked their deadly gazes back and forth, maiming the retreating battalions sprinting back into the haven of the wood. Bodies littered the ground before wall, shredded and disturbing to look at.

The missile turrets tracked a different kind of prey, locking on to the still forms of the Sisters of Battle and sending a salvo of missiles into their source of cover. Violent explosions rocked the forest, pulverizing redwoods and sisters hidden behind them. Trees collapsed in the wake of the destruction, forcing Imperial soldiers to dart out into the open. Mysterious figures materialized at the firing slits on the wall, wearing masks and dressed in silver and sapphire carapace. Their weapons unleased a ripple of violet, withering las-fire into the open targets. Hell-guns.

One of the Superiors shouted over the sudden barrage. “Send up the Repentia!”

The Repentia revealed themselves in a fanatical charge. The tirade of muzzle flashes immediately slammed into them, but they pressed on, driven by their cruel slave drivers into the fray. Small groups of them went down to the heavy fusillade, until the wrath of the heretics became too much and forced them into cover with the rest of the assault group.

Anthanasia barked at her squad members. “Heavy weapons, move to the front! I want those turrets out of commission! The rest of you, settle in and kill those cultists! She raised her bolt pistol and loosed a couple rounds, scoring a kill out of half a clip. “We need more guardsmen up here!”

A Repentia behind Lyra sagged against a shattered stump, leaking all manner of viscera and fluids from the gaping wound in her head. Another squad member took a stray bullet through her neck guard and fell backwards. Follow orders. Lyra remembered herself, and leaned from her cover. Her bolter rattled in her arms in small burst, unable to tell if she actually hit anything. The firing slits were too small.

Guardsmen set up their large tubes, loading missiles and firing them towards the butchering defensive emplacements. Too few became shredded, torn from their mounts and going up in a blaze of fire. Others dispensed payloads from their grenade launchers, exploding against the bulwark. The occasional group of militants went down here and there, replaced a moment later.


“Suppressing fire, suppressing fire!” The surrounding trees erupted with golden discharges from the surrounding companies. Las-fire hit the wall like a deadly tide, burning through the firing slits and hitting marks. The defensive fire from the wall slackened in some places and renewed in others, but the defense held up to the attack.

An unfamiliar voice commanded over the comm-bead that linked each unit in the Order into seamless communication. Only the Superior’s voice came on, unless someone specifically tapped the channel. The screams of the dying did not distract that way. “We knew they’d be dug in! Send the order to deploy the Seraphim!”

Alexandra shouted through her V.O.X. grill, amplified over the crescendo of war as she pointed to the massive double door gates of thick steel slowly creeping open. “Gates opening!”

Anthanasia cursed in mild wonderment. “Anthanasia Soukis of Squad Angelikii, reporting an opening at the gates! Might be a sally!”

The response came swiftly. “Understood, all squads keep an air of caution about you; prepare to annihilate anything that comes out beyond those walls!”

A loud rumbling filled the air, followed by the grinding of treads when the gates fully peeled back. An armored column came riding out, spearheaded by three hulking Leman Russ Demolishers outfitted with plasma cannons for main guns and secondary. Following their trail, a convoy of Chimera transports eight deep charged into the teeth of the loyalist formations. They pushed down the winding path the Imperials had followed, guns blazing as they penetrated the loose screen of infantry, sending them out of hiding.

Plasma cannons on the tanks fired from different angles, scathing blasts of pure energy that immolated surrounding foliage and melting through the cover of the redwoods. Even power armor could stand little against the unstable energies; Lyra looked on in horror as it sloughed off their bearers in a molten river. The fortunate ones simply melted away in split second flashes of sapphire light.

The Imperial Guard fared even worse against the tracking multi-lasers on both sides of the Chimeras. They scattered from the combined fire of half a dozen turrets assailing them from both sides, slicing through the bushes and tall grass with deadly precision. Heavy weapon teams responded with a flurry of missiles that battered and tore through the mechanical beasts with abandon. Orange fire from the multi-meltas soon lit the air, parting through the reinforced hulls like butter and atomizing the crews within. Two of the surviving Demolishers pushed through the burning husk of the lead vehicle, unleashing suppressive fire for the ramparts that dropped on the Chimeras. Cultists armored in carapace disgorged from their transports, firing wild volleys into the swarm of loyalist.

“Contacts! Three O’clock!”

Heaving with the effort, Nomiki lifted her melta and fired a stream of super-heated liquid energy at one of the Cultists diving into the forest. The blast easily punched through the tree he leapt behind and in turn reduced him to atoms. “Artemis! I need someone to defend me from assault!”

Las-fire rippled in great waves inside the forest, Lyra could feel them honing in around her. Swallowing her fear, she leaned out from her cover, drilling one of the archenemy with three bolter shells to the chest. The lower half of the corpse crumbled, the other half splintered off in different directions. One of his comrades received a shot to the sternum, blowing it out of his chest, but he kept his balance as if the wound was minor. Finally becoming aware of her, he raised his hell-gun, firing a couple shots before charging headlong into Angelikii’s position.

Arva shouted, “Throwing frag!” She threw a loose grenade amongst the squad of cultists coming into her range. A deafening cough gouged Lyra’s ears, climaxing with a choir of screams that comforted them.

Sister Sofia fell with a shrill scream, body chewed by another turret that had found her. Two members of Angelikii dead.

Alexandra and Hesper decided to break off from the remaining squad to deal with the defensive weapon emplacements themselves. Smoke screens popped the moment they charged through the storm, forming large fogs for the two of them to vanish inside of.

“Get the Repentia up here!” Anthanasia cursed through gritted teeth, drawing her chainsword when a foe suddenly leapt into her with a saber. The masked assailant moved fluidly in spite of his armor, throwing up a wall of well-timed strikes against her own sword. He possessed practiced martial prowess. She ducked under a coup-de-grace, parrying a rapid counter-strike that forced her back a few steps. The militant struck purposefully at the blade another time, pulling her sword far enough to left to attack with his other dagger. The strike came down like lightning, Anthanasia tried to lean away and the dagger wedged itself into her neck guard.



The blade’s very tip pricked the skin around her neck; she dropped her sword, and answered with savage thrust of her armored kneecap. The blow caught him in his extended leg, the bone crunching audibly above the knee. He staggered, trying to put more strength behind his attack. He raised his saber for a cleaving strike, but Anthanasia fell into a sideways roll, ripping the dagger free and snatching up her chainsword. She switched the activation rune on the blade, making the militant rethink his approach.

She smiled at him briefly, and then pressed her own attack. The whirring edges of the blade easily cleaved through the saber he raised in his defense. The cultist leapt backwards, weaving his dagger in an elaborate pattern. He paced around, trying to draw a circle around her, but Anthanasia charged into him with a sideways sweep. He responded by leaping into the blade, letting it carve through the carapace deep into the flesh beneath. She noticed the black blood spewing onto her gauntlets, before she realized the dagger still glinting in his hand.

Lyra’s shadow fell over the pair locked in combat, smashing her shoulder guard into the cultist’s open wound. The force of her charge threw the cultist off Anthanasia and into the dirt. Lyra hastily raised her weapon, finger tugging at the trigger. Then her Superior raised a hand, stopping her even in the den of battle.

Anthanasia stood there for a moment, sucking in air through breathless gasps. She looked at Lyra moments later. “Wait. I want to see this bastard’s face.” She kneeled down before the corpse, hesitated, and then snatched away the mask concealing the face. The skin beneath was incredibly pallid, blood stained eyes glaring back her, and the expression was twisted, one of agony and suffering. “Possessed. I should have known. Take a good look into his eyes, Lyra. That is the look of damnation. That aside,” She gave Lyra a look of gratitude. “I owe you my life. From this day forward, I will raise you like you were my own child.”

Anthanasia clapped her savior’s shoulder guards. “Let’s rejoin the battle!”

Arva exchanged fire with a pair of armed Storm Troopers, nailing one between the eyes, and grazed the other’s shoulder. A few traces of laser punched through her armor and fell back into cover with a cry. Anthanasia and Lyra rejoined her, the latter coming over to gauge her wounds.

“It’s not fatal.” Lyra sighed in relief, ruffling Arva’s hair from behind the tree. “Stay from the fight for now, I’ll try to keep you protected.”

Chainswords revving in the air signaled reinforcements from the Repentia. They came storming into the archenemy troops beyond the wall. Thunderous cracking from the Retribution squads’ heavy bolters covered their approach. Their timely arrival took second precedence under the Seraphim’s entrance, flying above the forest canopy on trails of flame burning from their jetpacks. Imperials throughout the woods cheered them on, watching them landing behind the great barricade keeping them at bay.

Anthanasia raised her blade over the Imperial forces. “Counter-attack, Sisters! I want to be one of the first behind the Seraphim into that palace!”
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
“Do I enjoy the eyes of those naïve to the true ways of the Universe, constantly fixed in horror as they bear witness to the endless spiral of debauchery that consumes those that follow me. It’s so…elegant, the way each act of the play hinges loose just a fraction of their sanity, opening their minds up to me in complete transparency before it is said and done, and the stage closes after one final encore. However, the encore never ends, now does it? For every thousand souls transfixed on our every whim, born in madness, born in sadness, there is tenfold waiting to be shown… life’s true pleasures.

“Slaneesh, Prince of Pleasures, Queen of Excess, for your entertainment I dance my dance upon the world, flaying skins day by day, uplifting souls to your absolute delight! Take them in exchange for your favor! For all I wish are the eyes of the Seer who flirts with both time and space, reality and the other dimensions, and who sees the future infinitely before them! Give me the eyes of those that see, and yet are blind!

“For it is through the eyes of the Seer that I shall fall upon the ilk that I so desire with tooth and claw!”

Xag’rish twirled on the tips of her toes, her motion so fluid it reminded Theodora of the storied Eldar Harlequins. The Demonette’s unnatural dance made her ache behind the eyes. “Speak his name, Mistress, you have dabbled in the arts, but I find this strange. Your possessed do not worship, they do not sacrifice, but have paid the ultimate price for a subpar reward. Benefits you all the more, Mistress!”

The Demonette’s physical form looked familiar in one aspect; she held a minor form compared to her other kin. The Herald of Slaneesh stood lithe and tall, skin smooth lavender and increasingly scaly and horned around the facial features. Her beauty was feral, possessing grace and lacking the horrid appearance that put her to ilk shame. If not for her crab claws, Theodora would have guessed she was an Eldar, fallen to the depredations of Chaos.

The Sorceress reclined into the stony embrace of her milky throne. Her lips curved into a sly grin in Nyst’s direction. “Yes, yes, they are a bit drab aren’t they? Nyst, I wish your tantalizing speech had not tempted all my forces. Now they are just puppets. I hoped some of them would have proved more intelligent in that regard, but alas, your presence has set our flock on a more fanatical course!”

The Herald’s tone held no mockery, but something akin to warning rose in her voice. She smiled a most polite smile. “Why does this one address “Nyst” as a pet?” She bowed low to show her apology.

Theodora looked flamboyant in her lavish priestly robes, draped in all manner of jewelry like her usual self. “Because she is my pet! Temporarily, of course. My master praised my faithful devotion and gave me the demon to defend me from any threat, within or without. She will remain by my side until my master returns for her leash.”

Xag’rish decided that she loved it.

“Melodramatic, aren’t we?” Nyst unveiled one hundred teeth through a yawn. “You must forgive her, but I am Nyst, leashed and bound as you can see. My patron God desires I have the ears of the mortals and give them the word of the ruinous powers. Betray my master’s servant and I’ll destroy you until the end of the century.”

Xag’rish inclined her head sharply. “Understood, my liege. Now I only lack the name.”

Theodora waved her hand in dismissal. “His name is Lriean, Xag’rish, but there are others. Track his progress until he uncovers the Ghost Crypts. Kill him if he meddles in our affairs, but I wish him alive if possible. That aside, I need one more mission completed for me. Mae. Destroy what you will, but come back to me with the notable spoils.”

Xag’rish’s voice rose in a shrill crescendo, until no higher note was possible. “The eyes of the Seers shall be mine and yours! I will dispatch my legion at once!”

Nyst giggled softly to herself, tail flopping lazily onto Theodora’s armrest. “You see master!? This one views you only as a gateway, a meat puppet destined to do mischief upon the galaxy. Surely no meat puppet can truly rule why such baleful gazes seek to gain an advantage over you?”

The Sorceress laid a hand on the Greater Demon’s head. “Try not to worry, Nyst. The master promised me she could help us. Space and time is not a hindrance to you demons, so go on, Xag’rish. Assassinate the marked soul I have given you and go about it as you wish. I want this “Council” of Seers decimated!

Xag’rish bowed once again. “Your bidding, eternal, Mistress!” The demonette vanished behind a flash of light.

“Lriean,” Nyst purred the name, her gaze narrowing in suspicion. “I’d wager he’s forgotten all about me.” Her lips fell into an exaggerated frown. “On second thought, I’m likely etched into his memory.”

Theodora slammed her palm into the grooves carved into the throne. “That damn archeologist, he need not serve me, the alien! I need him to open the way. The Eldar Gods seem to favor him-“

“Or the family line,” The Tzeetchian demon interjected. “Tarithinon is a proud family name, venerated by the Eldar on his home planet. Not that Lriean is anything of note himself. His cousin’s father proved to be the last obstacle in our path of conquest.”

Theodora chided her slyly. “Confident. I admire that, but I wouldn’t be concerned if the Inquisition wasn’t backing him.” She looked up from perfectly manicured nails into Nyst’s curious stare. “What?”

The Greater Demon laughed at the Priestess’s uncertainty. “I’m more concerned with this horde of rabble at your gates. It does not require a genius to see your palace fall.”

“Chafe.” Theodora climbed to her feet, her demonic guardian following from a distance. “Go and allow them inside. When they find themselves within our halls, fall upon them with everything we have.”

“Your bidding, eternal.”
----------------------------

A voice uttered from the nothingness, clearer than a crystal surface that called to her. It pushed into her outer mind, careful not to step over invisible boundaries. Her body stirred, pulse coming in a slow rhythm, and the pumps of her heart beating with absolute clarity. The thrum in her ears increased, threatening to lure her back into a picturesque reality.
“Wake up.”

A faint breeze washed over her skin, yet she did not wake. The mysterious voice called out, reaching her with something other than arms that tugged at her psyche. She muttered a groan in protest; her mind slapped the presence away.

“Arise, I see you there.”

“Awaken again… out of your war self, become who you always were. It is safe to open your eyes to the world, child. Cruel as it maybe, wishing it away will not give you any solace in your trials to come.”

A gloved hand that was not her own brushed aside the auburn locks from her eyes. Taryi winced from the brightness of the sun. Kasilienesh lingered over her, sitting in a green meadow and casting a number of marked stones into the air. Each of them glowed with white light, swirling around in quickened pace. Through the blank glare of his Witch Helm, he regarded her impassively. “Somewhere you were destined to be. You should not keep the mask on forever. It gnaws at your inner self and could potentially consume the present you.”

Taryi could hear the drowning roar of nearby waterfalls spilling into a placid lake so blue and green; it reminded her of the shores of Teyl-Jhen. She woke up on the banks of the glistening body. The fingers on her hand were perfectly still and calm, she reached and dipped her bare hand into the warm crystalline waters. They were deep within a valley, surrounded by humans treading through the hills below without a care in the world. Golden palaces glittered in the backdrop.

The Howling Banshee forced herself up, looking to Kasilienesh for the first time in real peace. “I feel… satiated of my bloodlust.”

“Good child.” The Warlock cloaked himself in robes of the deepest black, adorned with gems and runes of the most crimson red. White wraith bone on his helm glared back at her, but Taryi could feel the purity of his presence soothing her spirit. “You should rest a few days; learn what it is to be yourself again, perhaps.”

Taryi sat in a cross-legged position beside her new mentor. “What is there to discover on a human world?”

Kasilienesh looked back on the palaces sprouting over the earth and rising untold kilometers into the sky. “Go observe their plays, visit their places of tourism, and see things how a human would see. You are concerned?”

Taryi picked at her flamboyant black and white dress of a high-gothic style. Her spirit suddenly ached for her armor. “Where is Lriean or Qu’nalan? They would be without my assistance, should I leave for a couple days.”

The Warlock appeared lapsed into trance. The runes whirled around him playfully, no doubt showing him insight into the future. “Resist the call of your war-spirit,” He answered in a drone. “It will not serve you in this place. In fact, it seeks you to serve it. There are no enemies here, only contemplation, prayer, and peace. You must master the calling. Your companions have no need for such things. One is not a warrior; the other can lift the mask at will. They will depart soon for the tombs of Argos and I too shall leave with them.”

The Banshee sighed under her breath. “You would simply leave me out in this world alone?”

Her mentor looked at her sideways. His response came in his soothing voice. “Others will be here to guide your way. I’ve secured Philemon to be your personal guide. Do not lose her or you will wander through Gythium for days on end. I’m certain you’ll find your time together enlightening.”

Taryi began to gaze on, flustered. “I am the most experienced of the team. You do not think I can fight, but I assure you I am the deadliest blade of all!”

“Of that I have no doubt,” Kasilienesh replied lamely. “But your spirit is worn thin, rest your mental state for what is to come.”

“And what is it that is to pass, honored Seer?”

The Warlock of Ulthwe held no grim prophecy in his voice, but something akin to intrigue. The runes fell to the ground, one after another. “Something that cannot be foreseen. The answers will come in time, I assure you.”
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Lriean raised a glass frothing with Atola, uttering the words in flawless gothic. “How do you humans say it? “Cheers”! A trait gained through all the years studying the High Gothic language. Such things are the boons of life; Philemon looked a degree more comfortable, echoing the toast with her perfect accent and tongue.

The oxygen lingering in the bar weighed heavily with ashen smoke, exhaled from a dozen sources throughout the “Drunken Cherubim”. The sound of every emotion known to human and eldar was playing out in an audible level of noise. Multiple conversations commenced at once, mingled with soft laughter, sly jibes, and hostilities tempted Lriean to drain away all his troubles. Human alcohol was incredibly unrefined, but sometimes one simply had to make due.

The Eldar Relic Hunter pinned himself in one corner of the bar along with the other four in his group. Philemon beamed into her pitch-black glass and drowned it in four gulps. Taryi leaned over the table, sipping lightly on a bottle of Drake’s Fire with Qu’nalan, who amazingly appeared outside of his aspect armor for once. He had finally relented and adopted Lriean’s Commissarial Outfit, looking mildly ridiculous with the cap to top the cake. Initial embarrassments aside, he actually looked to be enjoying himself.

Lriean threw an Atola down into his throat, the rasping continued for a couple minutes. “So, Philemon,” Lriean sunk into his booth. His eagle sharp vision scanned through the room for anything interesting. “What exactly is your line of work in the Inquisition anyway? I hope Arruns did not redirect you from anything of importance just to lounge with us!”

The Celestian’s eyes gleamed with interest upon a topic pertaining to her. She slammed down another shot and proceeded to explain herself. “I am Arruns’ ambassador, but I officially work for the Order. I meet other people from the different factions within the Imperium seeking an audience with the Order or the Inquisitor himself. It is tiresome and boring work, believe me, but at least it wins over the battlefield. R&R can go a long way, even among those stiff as the Sororitas.


“Do you meet many xenos?” Lriean refilled his glass after her, nodding his head as she shook hers gravely. “Just imagine if every opportunity was as lucrative as this, it leaves a fine taste in your mouth, no?”

Philemon’s eyes narrowed suspiciously in Lriean’s direction, trying in vain not to scowl openly. “There isn’t much to anything lucrative about consorting with xenos, Lriean. The goal in mind is to fend off the fanatics who would pursue me endlessly until this world is oblivion. Not everyone is on the hunt for alien technology.”

“Right, right,” Lriean put his hands up defensively, smirking while he feigned defenselessness. “Keep in mind that I also find things of interest for the Imperium as well. Eventually, the Ghost Crypts will be discovered and we’ll put an end to this entire ordeal. You’ll soon be thanking my colleagues and I.”

Philemon nearly spat in disgust. “We’ve been combing the Under City with a fine tooth comb. All that we’re digging out from the ruins are more cultists and demons. Being such crafty aliens that you are, I hoped that you unearthed something of worth.”

Lriean replied rather haughtily. “Then you’re in luck, Ms. Demarchis, I have the information you desire.”

“Lriean!” Taryi hiccupped and gasped faintly, her pale skin flushed with crimson. Despite her merry swaying, she seemed even more reclusive than usual, to Philemon’s dismay. She continued sucking through her straw, a dozen different thoughts rushing into her mind all at once. “Ah, forget it, little Mon-keigh. Go ahead and listen to him, let them go their deaths and leave the females of the group to live another day.”

Qu’nalan set his straw down, imperceptibly bracing himself for the incoming argument. One look in Lriean’s direction had the relic hunter shifting the conversation onto Taryi. “I see you’ve been talking with Kasilienesh, after all. I thought you would go your own way the moment you met him. Listen…” He gestured at Qu’nalan. “This is just something we need to accomplish by ourselves. Given that you’re having trouble removing your war-mask.”

“You… whelp!” Taryi visibly flexed her knife pointed ears, glaring in disbelief. “You know nothing of the ways of the Howling Banshee, or our Exarchs, or what it truly means to don the war mask. Then again, I do not expect you to understand, you’re the farthest thing from being a warrior.”

Qu’nalan mobilized to limit the backlash, one hand keeping her at bay from assaulting a shrinking Lriean. “Taryi! Calm down, you are gathering stares. Everyone should take some time away from the war mask when the time calls for it. Just because we are in the midst of a war does not mean that recuperation has become a luxury. Indeed, it is a requirement and one that you’ve shunned long enough.”

Taryi decided to change the conversation, furrowing her brows. “Where is Lyra? I have not seen her in the past few cycles.”

Lriean rested his head on the palm of his hand, looking somewhat reminiscent. “Oh her? She’s doing something rather important right now, no need to bother her.”

Taryi engulfed her drink in one swallow, slamming the glass down and peering directly at Philemon. Her words hinted at slurring. “That will not do, she was just learning her proper place in my presence! I don’t think I will ever trust your kind, despite your kindness. However, perhaps we will have the honor of crossing blades one day. It is the only embrace I willingly give mankind.”

The Howling Banshee recovered some of her sternness, but Philemon’s only response was a devilish smile. “You would not wish to cross blades with me, little Eldar, I could snap you like a twig. None-the-less, I wish I could spare my soul the despair and impurity of consorting with Xenos, but what can a girl do, given the situation?”

The female aspect warrior grinned, feeling the bonds of camaraderie forming between themselves. “Perhaps we should leave these men to their fool notions of glory and treasure?”

“Just one more question,” Philemon purred triumphantly, basking in the disapproving look Taryi had written over her face. “What is the information you gathered that you’ve yet to share with me? You didn’t think Taryi’s outburst would make me forget, would you? I am surprised you are not curious yourself, young Banshee.”

The young Banshee huffed in a silent fume, taking the bottle from Qu’nalan’s hands. “I am likely three times your age, little Mon-Keigh, remember that the next time you choose to address me as such.”

“Most women your age would be flattered to be called anything associated with youthfulness, if only we were all so lucky. Besides, you look slightly younger than me so I will refer to you as if you are.” Philemon turned her attention to Lriean with expectation.

Lriean’s laid-back posture suddenly burst into animation and began retelling the fabled story. “There’s not much to say, I’m afraid. You see there is a great tomb at the very bottom of Helike, built in honor of some long dead hero of the Imperium long overrun with the taint of the ruinous powers. Legends say that an Eldar by the name of Bel’atha died deep inside those tombs. He attempted to slay a great adversary down in the catacombs, deep within the Ghost Crypts. Ten-thousand eldar lie buried down there, whatever Bel’atha discovered, it remained hidden with his death. Our intelligence on the location is surprisingly lacking. I wouldn’t doubt the climb to get there is froth with peril.”

Philemon listened to the legend with obvious scrutiny and shrugged her shoulders after realizing the tale had ended. “Where did you learn this?”

Lriean smiled slyly. “Our own sources. Evidence seems to point in the location and this is something I would not miss for all the credits in the galaxy. This will be dangerous work, not like the usual archeology digs. Moreover, those are always a zone for danger. I need a large team –massive, mainly military protection. Throw in some Tech Adepts, some laborers, and some mighty guns. That should be enough to get us through the gate. Arruns promised, but I think he needs a gentle push to mobilize sooner rather than later.

“What?” Taryi squeezed the glass in her hand and for a moment, Lriean thought she would crush it in her grip before she slammed it back down. “I’ve been working with you two for how many years on this mission and now that we may finally be reaping some of the results we’ve so tirelessly worked to achieve, you see fit to drop me here on the eve of our greatest discovery!?”

“Stepping stones, Taryi,” Qu’nalan soothed in his dark, whisper voice. “We’re skipping one way and you’ve been tossed another. Mae ordered your “R&R” or however the humans call it. Spend some time sharpening yourself for the real work that has yet to begin. We’re only delving into the first leagues, it’ll require days to get the troops organized down there. Do not think we haven’t noticed your growing impatience, it looks to us like you tiring of our tedious work here. That alone causes us some problems of our own. Just take some time off, clear your head, and we’ll see you again when you’re refreshed.”

“I am not weary of our travels together,” The Howling Banshee sighed softly, placing a hand on Qu’nalan’s and glaring into his eyes with an apologetic look. “Even if this is what Mae wants, I cannot see why we must do this for a race that is not our own.”

Qu’nalan gently squeezed her hand and smiled broadly. “I understand that, but you will just have to trust them. You will understand in time, as will we all.”


“Oh?” Philemon’s looked on in confusion, turning towards Lriean for an answer. The young Eldar merely shrugged and a made with both of his hands the shape of a heart. She suddenly understood.

Lriean let loose a cheery laugh that earned knowing smirks from his other three companions. “Don’t forget we’re also doing this to not to be hunted by ancient greater demons, that’s always important. I think I’ll buy us another round, huh?”
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
Really short :p, but an update none-the-less.

Chapter Three: Don’t Forget

The doors to landing zone 81-48 slid apart and Lriean silently snuck up on an Imperial Officer with his eyes set out over the railing. Under the lift, the docking zone brimmed with men and women rushing around in a frantic rush. Imperial Guardsmen under the command of the Inquisition marched into their respective aerial transport vessels and fighter craft. All of them are laden with supplies and other luggage; the trip would be a long one, after all. One by one, they threw their belongings onto the grounded craft, funneling up the ramparts like rats. Lriean approached him by the railing, Kasilienesh and Qu’nalan joining them a moment later.

Kasilienesh unclasped his helm in his gloved hands. The Warlock possessed a look wizened by the centuries. The skin looked both vibrant, pale, and set slightly by light creases. He glared into Lriean’s gaze with large, black pupils expanded by a sense of urgency. He confessed, it was the Warlock’s medium length Mohawk cropped in the center of a shaven skull, turned silver through the ages that shocked Lriean. The voice poured from his mouth like psycho-treated crystal. “The hour is late. The descent will postpone should we arrive by sundown. I long to see the tomb of our fallen ancestors.”

Qu’nalan interjected over the entire racket inside the landing zone. “For a Warlock, you are very impatient.”

The Seer from Ulthwe replied stoically. Lriean noticed a smirk on his lips, however, brought on by a sense of anticipation. “I wish to confront a future I cannot see. Looking through the strands of fate is enjoyable. However, there comes a moment in one’s life, when trying to read the future becomes a little tiresome.”

A hand shook the Warlock’s shoulder; he glanced in Lriean’s direction. “You believe the Ghost Crypts are really down there?”

The Warlock looked on Lriean, his expression worrisome. “They must be. All things lead to this moment. I’m more concerned about what we’ll find down there. One millennia beneath the earth, the thought of infestation makes my blood freeze.”

Qu’nalan cherished the thought with a mischievous grin. “That’s why we have the army. They’ll likely be abandoned, that’s my sixth sense.”

“The tomb is a very large one.” Lriean flicked out a Lho-stick and held it out for the Imperial officer to light. “Lower Helike is always dangerous these days. Expect all but nothing.”

Kasilienesh slammed on his helm, taking up the sheathed Witch Blade Qu’nalan had so nicely offered to carry. He slung it over his shoulder. “No more distractions. It is time we face destiny. Correct, Kindred?”

Three dozen slender figures emerged from the open entrance into the LZ. Cloaked in robes blacker than Kasilienesh’s eyes, decorated in crimson runes and semi-crystalline gems. Sheathed Witch Blades hung across their backs, the overall aesthetic completed with bleach-faced Witch Helms.

A member amongst the council inclined his head an inch. “The random hand of Fate guides us to purpose. We are eager to uncover the truth.”

Qu’nalan appeared at ease with the apparent risks that they were about to take. He seemed just as eager as his elder Warlock, in fact. Lriean couldn’t precisely blame him for that. All their effort and toil they had poured into this effort was finally about to net some results, if fate and fortune would have it. “Let’s board before the expedition leaves us behind.”

Lriean formed his fingers into a “thumbs up”, a gesture he learned to express his approval. “Shouldn’t I be telling you that, friend? Colonel, status?”

The Colonel announced with a crisp salute. “Commander Advisor, you will be pleased to know that our forces in Hangar Bay 81-49 will be fully prepped and boarded in 0015 hours.”

Lriean raised his thumbs. “Good, let’s go kill us some demons! Honored Seers, onto the lift!”

“Hey, operator, wait!” A woman’s voice barely resonated over the commotion of all the sky craft being prepared.

A woman, geared up in a master crafted carapace and a well-dressed female Psyker came rushing through the doors and around the corner. Both of them nearly barreled onto the lift in beside Lriean and his team. The riot geared lady lifted up an Inquisitorial Rossette to Lriean’s nose. She nearly fell into his chest, panting heavily. “Commander Advisor Lriean Tarithinon? I am Inquisitor-Acolyte Jelenn Vadoc and I am coming with you. I’ll explain on the way.”
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks :grin:! Yeah, it's a lot to read, but I've seen many longer ones(and much more epic). Don't worry, I think we're entering the final stretch of this story:victory:, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
A lengthy update here:victory:!


Once upon a time, many years ago, Philemon Demarchis occupied herself with the burden she intended to inherit when the Celestians welcomed her into the core. She never concerned herself with her own problems during those days. She placed the Order before herself. In turn, she received her dream reward. Canoness Kaska still ruled from her portion of the Ecclesiarch with an iron fist and lauded over her Order with wisdom and virtue that could make the High Lords beam with pride.

Kaska’s Celestians squirmed beneath her heel for decades, fighting a war that would never end until the extinction of Mankind. Therein lay the problem, none of her closest allies –at least those who had survived the war on Tyrannus, never truly thought like the Canoness. Well, number enough to cause a schism within the Order. Once Philemon had ascended to power inside the Ecclesiarch, those who would shatter their oaths began their scheme to succeed.

Philemon was the founding member in her malicious plot. The objective wasn’t to overthrow the Imperial rule or deliver into the hands of the ruinous powers. Neither will her decade long comrades that had risen through the ranks beside her, taught the rank-and-file, and survived a planetary siege together be slaughtered in their own keep. They had seen much of their world overran with the insane demonic legions from the warp. The only plans she kept in store for anything would be for herself, for once, and the others she had managed to persuade to her view on things.

Consultation with the alien is her job. In any other profession, it was heresy, punishable by all manner of death. Arruns couldn’t have known, not even through interrogation. The memory suppressor, a strange liquid coursing through her veins the Tau envoys had given her on the day she swore her allegiance to a new cause. Any recognition of certain memories with the potential to cause high alarm would potentially scrub her memory bank for anything that could link her to betrayal. Fortunately, nothing much of anything barring the Inquisition and they no longer expected her anymore.

Philemon softly brushed her snowy braided hair from her face, staring a deathly glare into her cognitor monitors. Tight in her other hand, a bolt pistol rested on the top of her paperwork stricken desk. She remained alone in her office, organized to the extent of an Astartes living quarters, decorated with her myriad of successes. The Ambassador from the Order of the Sacred Rose relaxed in her chair, but not her mental sharpness. A half-empty bottle of Heretic’s Bane came off the desk. She smiled like a cunning fox as the Holo-Vid of Philemon’s recommendation and support to be an Ambassador of the planet. Her most crowning achievement.

“Never in the six millennia of Tyrannus’ existence, has a warrior wielded her silver tongue as if it were her only weapon. Though she upholds the laws of the Order, she uses diplomacy –not blind faith- as a shield not only for one, but also for humanity. There must always be sacrifice. Consorting with Xenos and other unexplained phenomena done by her judgment and discretion. Thus, the prevalent standards and rules that govern the human faith must not apply to every thought or word she utilizes in gaining us the greatest advantage we can hope to gain through words and not war alone.

“Diplomacy, like in all things, is simply another battle. What humankind experiences when reverting to these more passive methods of war is a series of revelations that not only cleanse the soul and sharpen the awareness, but empowers our resolve in not tolerating anything unholy and unclean.

“Why, you ask? Because we finally come to realize is that the society and virtue of the alien is compounded on cowardice and lies. For every lie an alien speaks that believed by the unwary, a thousand or more human souls perish in this reality and soon join another. Thus, those who paid the price of their lives serve as an example and become a parable told to a ten-fold more of the masses. The sin is heeded and a stem of heresy is purified; those people are cleansed of alien taint.

“When a world finally becomes aware of the deception aliens naturally employ in their tactics, diplomats are but another set of weapons to disarm them. Perhaps momentarily, I admit or even over a lasting period of peace. Diplomats can and will aid us in delivering the Emperor’s judgment to those who have done us wrong for untold millennia. Philemon Demarchis is another weapon with a similar purpose that I, noble Lords of Tyrannus, recommend whole-heartedly to serve as an ambassador of our esteemed Order.”

Philemon struck the deal well before that infamous moment in her career and remained a sleeper agent since. There was little point in waiting any longer. After all, there was nothing else to for her superiors. She contemplated one more moment longer before accessing her private emergency V.O.X. network. She instantly connected with all of her contacts within the Order on a moment’s notice.

She finally succumbed to temptation.

“All hands report to the Gaze of Stars, I repeat, all hands, report to the Gaze of Stars, Retribution Class Battleship. Operation Empyrean Sun is commencing…”

Now she had to leave.

She casually shut down her cognitor station and leaving everything where it was. Her fingers punched in a high-level code into her security lock. The steel slab unlocked, she emerged into a reception chamber layered with checkered black and white tiles and draped in the heraldry of the Sacred Rose. Her attendants were gone, following their orders. That was good. She needed her allies already in the dockyards boarding her former Canoness’ Esmeralda’s flagship by the time she arrived. Her friend and commander waited there, no doubt. Time of the Essence.

“Philemon.” A warning came out of nowhere. The voice was familiar. Philemon surmised as much the moment she stepped into the grand halls of the Palace. She turned to the owner of that voice. A very lithe creature with pallid skin, pointed ears, and ghastly eyes stared deep into her.

Philemon gestured at the Imperial robes the Howling Banshee was dressed in. “You do not look like one who has come to settle a conflict, Taryi. How did you find my office?”

The young howling banshee was missing her double-bladed weapon. The peace in this place and no doubt, Kasilienesh’s ramblings were weakening her a great deal; a temporary drop in guard at best. “Perhaps I came at a wrong time. You seem a great deal preoccupied and not at all welcoming. I simply asked around.”

“You’ve caught me at a critical moment,” Philemon smiled her usual warming smile, but Taryi could sense tension lurking behind her movements. Almost as if she wanted to reach for the grip of her pistol and finally end her. “Did I ever say that I’ve never ridden myself of the healthy suspicion I give any alien creature. I consider that double for you high born Eldar.”

“Then I would say you were somewhat wise in your thoughts. Your feelings are not entirely misplaced.” Taryi politely smirked back, putting her hands on either hip in some form of triumph. “I accidently “had my way” with one of your converted acolytes, she rambled on about some mischief you were intending in a pool of her own blood.”

Philemon caught her own breath in her lungs when her acquaintance suddenly pulled a wicked-like dagger from her pockets. “A bluff I’m afraid. No one would allow you to get away with blatant murder in this palace. They would gladly take any human word over an alien’s.”

Taryi kept up her look confidence. “That is why I did it when I was sure we were alone in her own chambers. She even gave me directions to this place before I ended her and more importantly, a link into your private network. I’ve caught an ear-full of those loyal to your little cause, I did not know you had your own ship. I would very much like to admire it for a while.”

“What do you want Taryi?” Philemon found her tone growing with her impatience and calmly took a few steps away from her office door. A hand finally snaked her way into the folds of her robes, certainly reaching for the nearest weapon. “That warlock fossil from Ulthwe’ must have put you up to this.”

The two of them carefully exchanged estimating glances up and down their forms, assessing their advantages and disadvantages within such a narrow corridor. “Calm yourself, ambassador. I do have my sources, but let us put that aside for the moment. I have little love for your Imperium, so I actually applaud and respect your courage and tenacity. I wish to leave this world alongside my comrades, but in order to do that I must swallow my pride and save it.”

Philemon smiled very slyly.

“You don’t expect me to lift a finger for you, do you? I don’t know the source of the demonic incursion if that’s what you’re asking.”

Taryi flashed a flawless grin. “Lies and greed, you’ve been spinning an invisible web that no other fool could see, but I am clearly no fool.”

“Haha,” Philemon deliberately pulled her bolt pistol out of her clothes, taking her time checking the chamber and bringing into position to fire. “I’m sure that’s only because your infernal masters must tell you everything. You are no more special than a mere human, only vulnerable to random acts and warp spawn. If they possessed any form of piety and wisdom, they would have told you that I speak the truth.

Although, truth-be-told, I thought Kasilienesh would be the one to instigate this little investigation, not you. He is just like you too, all caught up in this mission for anything else to be a concern.”

“This doesn’t need to end in bloodshed. Just tell me what you’re hiding, anything will help!”

“Oh, but it always does in end in blood, Taryi. I never had any qualms with you or your friends, but that doesn’t mean others tolerated you as much as you would believe.”

“That’s hardly surprising.”

The grizzled veteran slowly lowered her weapon and holstered it. Just as quickly, she raised an Lho stick to her lips and lit the tip. She waited a moment before inhaling the intoxicating aroma and allowed the wafting smoke to come drifting out of her nostrils. “It doesn’t matter anymore because the war was won, the Thousand Sons took flight and we’ve enjoyed our triumphs since then. The real issue now is the Imperium is seeing aliens freely roaming one of its worlds. Aliens from a rare and malicious breed are working in tandem with a radical inquisitor, who has not much helped in healing Tyrannus of its woes. “When will you realize that it’s not entirely about the mission? Yes, demons still infest the bottom pits of our cities. What Hive World doesn’t have this kind of refuse in their wretched places? ”

“No one should ever trust an Eldar, they may be arrogant, but it’s more than that. Wherever they appear throughout the galaxy, colonies vanish, planetary strongholds are razed to the ground by some alien menace, and entire star systems shudder in agony and righteous fear where the Eldar sing in their strange whispers.

“When Anatolijus Petrakis comes back from upper Helike, she’ll not only purge you or worse, subject you to interrogation. She will begin her real campaign to shroud herself and her Order in the eternal glory and favor of the High Lords of Terra. She will begin by tracking down your home planet –and they know that it is a planet, not those massive starships rumored to annihilate entire sector fleets- and she will sack it.

“Really, I’m surprised you’ve come this far with us, especially since your Seers have been feeding you so much critical information about our intentions.”

“I was not guided by the Seers in this. I would not be pressing you for information otherwise.” Taryi appeared as if she had her worst lifelong fears finally confirmed for her, but she bore it with a haughty snarl and the promise of blood in her eyes. “They haven’t spoken to us for the past few weeks now, not that it would have been necessary had things simply stayed according to plan. So, where is the treasure? And I need something of worth.”

Philemon stared at her icily, each second she gave it more thought, the more she began to feel satisfied.

“Sometimes I forget what kind of aliens you are. There’s probably not much you’re going to be able to find that doesn't require anything less than an excavation team down in the under city. But there are some stored in the chapels throughout the palace, you’ll have to fight your way through, preferably when no one is visiting.”

“There’s always someone visiting those kind of places, but I get your point. Therefore, your acolyte did not manage to live before she told me about your destination. Will you tell me where you are headed? Out of the system or somewhere nearby?”

“I’m traveling to the Eastern Fringe, where an eternity of fighting will matter little once I’m there.”

“The Tau Empire?”

“Yes, but that’s all you’ll get out of me.” The Ambassador of the Emperor’s Grace turned on her heel and began a brisk walk towards the nearest hangar bay ferrying bodies towards the dockyards waiting in orbit. “So if you’ll excuse me, there’s somewhere I’m needed. I hope you can find an escape route out of this mess. Take care of yourself, Taryi.”
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
The Cathedral built in honor of Saint Agnes rose up from the clutter of the Hospitaller Quarters, a moat filled with steel and ferrocrete instead of water. Expansive and misshapen low walls blocked in portions within the back alleys and streets, all leading into the pinnacle of worship on Tyrannus. Grand Central Station resembled the Polis on the hill overlooking the city. Erected from such heights, it was probably reckless and insulting to those below the nobility, but ultimately it proved to be symbolic in the unwavering faith of the more fortunate in the Imperium of man.

Idola stalked the corridors of the Hospitaller Quarters from the breaking of the last sunrise to the appointed time. Evening came and gone, leaving the Charity Gardens basking in the soft glow of the moon. A humble meadow of flowers blossomed where other structures were no longer feasible. Gifted to honor those who sought out the cure for many ailments that beset mankind. Without them, an uncountable amount of souls would depart from this world to the next.
The open walkways cut a scenic route across the gardens. Idola briskly walked through the paths, taking great pains to stay in the light and not idle too close to the dark. She glanced around at the armored Sororitas patrolling the area, taking shifts back and forth through the paths and guarding on the High Walls isolating the Hospitaller Quarters. If the automated turrets caught her too near the shadows, then someone could potentially mistake her for a thief or infiltrator.

“Idola?” The sister halting her looked like she was off duty, lounged on a resting bench with her helm sat down beside her. Sister Korolia drunk from a leather skin canteen, some of the husk left her voice. Her expression cringed with a sluggish look of exhaustion. The hours on duty inside the Gythium Monastery demanded much, even from the well-drilled Sororitas. “Nice seeing you around.”

Idola hoped her bright, cheery self would uplift Korolia’s spirit, but sighed in defeat when she realized it would not. In fact, the Sororitas herself seemed weighed with concern. “There’s a prayer session among my Cloister before the curfew. Anything interesting on the day shift?”

Korolia took another swig, rasping like an injured cat. Must have been alcohol. “Nothing to concern yourself with, good Hospitaller. Unless you can count an intruder on Palace grounds. Rumors have it that it may be an apostate.” She looked on her pocket watch. “I should be having reflection now, but alas, there’s no refusing the call of duty. Just stay near the garrisons and patrols, keep safe, basically.”

Idola stepped backwards in a mild shock, Korolia noticed even in her drunken stupor. “Sure thing, Sister Korolia. I bid you farewell and a good night. A Hospitaller has little worth against an apostate. I hope the rogue is captured soon.”

Idola followed the long road slashing through the Charity Gardens until she found herself standing before the Tribulation Gate. Normally, such a massive gate would remain open well into the night. The way was shut. A massive mural etched into each hundred-ton door entreated her eyes to find wisdom in the details.

“Wonderful.” Her sigh lingered, breathless. She could study nearly all the aspects of the scene of triumph and carnage in the brilliant light its guardians had shone over the area.

“It seems recently finished,” An anonymous woman suddenly voiced behind her back, causing the Hospitaller to spin around in the voice’s direction. “The mural I mean, considering there are no depictions of the God Emperor or his sons in this one.”

“That’s because the Tribulation Gate pays homage to our Saint Zenovia. She was one of the first of the Sororitas in our Order to follow in the footsteps of Celestine.” Idola gently knocked her head. “Apologies, I’m not trying to babble.”
A noble woman, wrapped in a fine lion coat around her wealthy trappings emerged from just beyond the lamppost’s light. “Strange isn’t it, how the inner cogs and machinery of this place lay bare beside the doors. A structural weakness in case of crisis.” Her arms folded, her pallid skin indicating he had been waiting out in the cold for hours.

Idola extended her hand in welcome and dipped her head in a gracious nod. “I am called Idola myself. Can I help you -ahh, you haven’t given me a name to call you by, My Lady.”
“Helena. My name is Helena. Lovely to meet your acquaintance, Hosptialler Idola.” She gently brushed aside her flowing black hair, pointing to the sealed gate with a hand gesture. “So she isn’t a martyr?”

“Who?” Idola blinked absently. She felt her hand slip from Helena’s grasp.

Helena chuckled behind a polite hand. “Saint Zenovia. You did not mention her passing. I am merely curious.”

Idola cut short her instinct to face-palm her forehead. “Well that is the legend. I’m not sure whether I believe it or not, but I suppose it couldn’t do any harm believing she’s alive.”

“You think her legacy would be more useful if she were dead?” Helena looked into Idola’s eyes with an unnerving sense of expectation. She must have realized Idola’s sudden discomfort and immediately shifted gears. “I’m not boring you, am I?” She waited for a shake of Idola’s head. “Listen, I am looking for an esteemed guest to guide my way to the Cathedral. I have come to worship for a short time. I would be honored if you could see me through the gate, like an escort perhaps? I loathe the idea of traveling this road by myself.”

An answer was not forthcoming; Helena leaned in, her curiosity piqued for a response. “Well, there isn’t a problem.” The young blonde replied. “I’m heading in the same direction. He heals the broken hearted and the wounds: a creed of the Hospitaller.”

Helena’s ears flushed to a noticeable red like her cheeks. Nobility always had a problem accepting their flaws in front of the more common people and women involved in the priesthood and ecclesiarchy. “Do I appear so injured to you?”
Idola began to ramble without thought. “Your rigid stance, you’re used to standing at attention. You are not tense, but have been alert since I’ve ran into you. Lastly, your poise is very defensive. I find that strange… I suspect you would’ve broken my neck had I bumped into you instead. I can see a las-pistol hidden beneath your robes.”

“Impressive.” Helen twitched a barely noticeable smile, clearly taken back in surprise. She seemed out of her comfort zone.

Hopefully Helena would not look down her nose at the way pride beamed from the Hospitaller’s eyes. “I spend many endless days treating the wounded and helping them back on their feet. Usually, things seen in war leave a gaping hole in our spiritual defenses. So I do understand your want for a stronger bond with the Emperor. May he always deliver us. Were you in enlisted in the Guard, PDF?”

Helen regained her composure, tugging on a skull shaped necklace from her dress. The long-standing Imperial medal had three gems inlaid with the color of fresh blood. “Are you kidding? Guard, of course, anything less than that would be below my stature.” Helen quickly regained her composure and pulled a skull shaped necklace from her dress, inlaid with three gems the color of fresh blood. “Are you kidding? I’m too highborn for anything beneath the Guard. Lieutenant, actually or formally known. I have a dozen more medals like this, but nothing quite beats the Crimson Medallion I am afraid. I always keep this close to me.”

Idola nodded to herself, thumb under chin as she absorbed the information. “That medal speaks a lot about you, Helen. Such things can remind a soldier of all the good you’ve done in the Emperor’s armies or simply evoke very troubling memories.”

“I don’t need anyone to tell me how I feel about my service, no offense.” Helena quipped. “I really do mind waiting out in this cold, by the way.”

“Weapon,” Helena looked up, hesitating before Idola’s extended palm. “The guards will check you at the gates. I’ll hand them over.”

The humble pistol plopped into her grip. “I see the safety is set. Good.” The Hospitaller gestured for Helen to follow and the two proceeded up towards the Tribulation Gate. “Sergeant Spiros! We seek passage through the Tribulation!”

A figure clad in darkness shouted from the top of the great gate. “Wondered when you were going to ask! Tens of thousands pass through here during the day! You really think we’ll open this gate up for two to enter by night?”

“I do not see any reason why you could not!” Idola replied. “Opening the gate takes literally the push of a button!”

“I suppose we could let you enter, but surely you know about the lockdown, Miss Idola?”

Now Idola was the one folding her arms. “I spend all day tending to Tyrannus’ old and infirm! If you can’t give me access, I’ll have the Mistress of the Watch come by and flog each and every one of them.”

Spiros waved his hands in a strange pattern. “Alright, alright, don’t get upset! Just don’t make a habit of walking through here during a lockdown, okay?”

Idola was more than happy that Spiros could not see her silent fume of impatience. “I thought this was just a checkpoint, not a lockdown?”

“It will be if we don’t find someone to kill by the next morning!”

Helena interjected her own thoughts into the bickering. “Has something happened? I can’t imagine a single intruder should cause so much distress.”

Spiros dismissed them, sinking back into the shadows beyond the gate. His voice still echoed in the silent night. “Depends! Which no one can classify as of now! Go ahead and pass, Guards will check your I.D. on the way through!”

The naked intricacies of machinery were set in motion, all the parts controlling the movement of the Tribulation Gate set into motion. The noise was deafening at first. The one hundred ton doors slid apart with a thunderous grinding. Idola understood fully why the Guardsmen did not wish to open the gate. The process was painfully slow and noisy, taking overall about five minutes before deemed clear. The mural she had been observing vanished beyond the thicker walls holding the gates apart.

One of Spiros’ men were waiting on the other side, voice muffled through his rebreathe faceplate. He had a las-rifle slung over his shoulder and reached out with armored gauntlets to accept both of their proof-of-self. “I.D. please, madams? Do not have any cognitors out here to pull you up from the system. Apologize for the inconvenience. Off world, huh?”

“Yes.” Helen nodded. “Conorag.”

“Uh-huh, any of you care to explain why you’re passing through this checkpoint in the middle of the night? Are you in possession of any weapons we should be aware of?”

“Yes, we have one.” Idola gratefully passed over Helen’s pistol to the second guard. “Some of my co-workers in the Hospitallers always meet in the Cathedral for nightly prayers. I am on my way to meet them, though I suppose I should have taken another route. I am leading this good woman here to join us.”

“Is this right? Exactly how old are you Helen?”

“Thirty-two.” Helena’s face flared up again and only then did Idola realize the age difference between them. Helena managed to retain a natural beauty with her life after the Guard, but was quite a ways more refined and regal than the average recruit was. She must have been an officer, a royal one at that. Under all that heavy clothing, her poise indicated that she had a soundness to her muscular system. Whether that was born from heavy training or actual frontline experiences, Idola would never be able to guess.
“Pardon his manners, Madam,” Said the other guard apologetically. “You look somewhat younger than you say. How long ago did you come to Tyrannus?”

Idola bit back a less than pleasant retort, mainly concerning about where he could shove that rifle of his. “Are you serious?”

The noble woman smirked rather weakly. “I’ve been here for four years now. You would have to pull my record up from the system, which you have said you could not do. Are you going to keep us here all night?”

The Guard stared at Helena for a long moment and chose to ignore a heavily insulted Idola. Helena herself simply glared back undeterred. “Spiros doesn’t know me well enough by now?”

The Patrol exchanged wary gazes with one another for long moments. A minute had passed before the soldier with an attitude relented. “Very well, pass, but don’t come through here during a lockdown or checkpoint in the middle of the night. It is no longer going to be an excuse in the morning, so do your best finding a way going around the quarter.”

The pair waltzed through the gates unopposed. “Of course. Later, Spiros!”
 

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I like it thus far (haven't read it all, but I'm all this I can read, then five minutes later, I'm all oh something else is happening). I liked how you described the greater daemon (pure description-porn, a good thing of course), but you went a little much to the fantasy when it came to the characters as I would love knowing things like hair-color, skin-complexion, height, build and what they are wearing. But then again I admit that is one of the most difficult aspects to do.
 
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