Author Topic: Brotherly Bonds  (Read 3556 times)

Offline Dosdamt

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Brotherly Bonds
« on: August 19, 2009, 03:56:45 PM »
"It's been a long time."

The younger of the two held out his hand. The second took it, shook it vigorously before embracing his brother.

"How long has it been?"

"Too long, I suspect."

"You would be right, you would be right. How are you Vincent?"

"I have been well."

Vincent paused for a second to consider his words.

"It was somewhat... Unexpected."

The older man laughed gently, smiling. Time had been unkind; or perhaps it was more circumstance, to his appearance. Barely fourteen years seperated Vincent and his peer, but their faces were considerably different. While Vincent was still very much full of youth and healthy firm vigour, the older man's dark skin was scarred and weathered; a greying goatee beard clung to his slightly wrinkled skin on his face. The same greying hair curled on his head in a close cropped crew haircut. The man had seen many theatres of war and conflict; his eyes, windows straight into a soul that had seen too much were a testament to that.

"Time changes things. Time changes all things in fact, none can stand against its relentless march. And time has changed one thing of special interest to myself."

"Landen."

The old man sighed.

"Alas, I must lament for our youngest brother. He's brought shame upon you, me... On himself and more importantly on our mentor."

Vincent nodded his agreement.

"And, I have seen your anger Vincent. I know you dislike him as much as I have to. He's spoken to me in recent years. He spoke of your encounter in the church."

Vincent's hand instinctively cradled the point the blade had pierced his stomach and slid into his guts. He remembered the blood and the pain, and the priest, and the darkness. He remembered the darkened moments he had spent brooding with his scar, his memories. He remembered the long road he had walked getting himself healthy and fit again. The year he had spent honing his body. Only one thing he had thought of and contemplated; only one desire had driven him.

Revenge.

Vincent's face looked decidedly dark and resolute.

"I assume you have a plan?"

Othello smiled.

"You'd not expect otherwise, would you Vincent?"

Othello grinned wolfishly, taking a seat opposite his younger brother.

"Yes, there is a plan. Things are in motion, things worthy of you and I, and worthy of the revenge to be extracted on Landen."

"There is a dark power, brother, a dark power beyond the four, beyond comprehension, beyond mortal and moral reckoning, beyond the hells the Malleus stand against. Few know of it, him, and even fewer would dare admit to his existence, but he is there, gnawing away. He calls for blood Vincent, not in the usual sense, but blood nonetheless. It cries out in pain from the depths of the Warp, a forgotten relic hated by his bretheren but essential in keeping the balance between the four."

"Because of that, they hate him, and as such he was birthed in their hate."

"Tell me Vincent," Othello said, turning madly on his heel as his eyes locked with those of the steely witchunter.

"What do you know of Malal?"

****

There are always prodigies.

Enigmas.

Genius'.

Men born with gifts natural, unnatural, given by a greater power or pushed upon them by lesser beings.

Some men are born with Fate's eyes firmly on the back of their head. Other men are born far from Fate's gaze, and are able to forge their own legend through sheer strength of will and action.

Othello Dosdamt was all of the these things, and none of them.

****

Row upon row of stasis tubes.

In each of them, a pale pallid corpse, each one twisted and contorted in the final throes of resistance, pain, hissing fits, anger, rage, hysteria before the stasis field gripped their form and trapped them indefinitely.

Those viewing casually would see the agony in their eyes.

Those viewing carefully might see bodes adorned with wounds, gashes and jewellery, sparks of silver and other precious metals and mutilations taking shape and form beneath the frosted stasis tubes.

Those with a trained eye would see something far more sinister.

****

Darkness fell around the citadel. The front of his operation, hidden in darkened depths bordering the ghost stars. Here, on the very edge of the galaxy looking out into oblivion he could ponder forever with it stretched like a canvas before him. Few stars were visible here - strangely the sky was half filled with stars - those behind in the known galaxy and the blackness in front of oblivion.

He'd stray there, once, in his ship moving further and further away from the Astronomicon until he broke his resolve.

Othello always said it was essentially to wander into oblivion until you broke, because next time you faced down that same evil you would be stronger in mind and body.

How true it was could only be judged by the man Othello had become afterwards.

How large an action was required to prick up the ears of the entire Imperium? Who knew anymore.

Horus had been the last man to do that, that cataclysmic night aboard the Eye, that galaxy shattering blow. Who else could ever hope to create such a roar across the Aethyr, the galaxy of men and further out beyond.

Could one ever hope to catch the attention of an immortal in such a way?

****

"Pilgrim!"

The booming call of the Arbites officer rang across the hall at the lone figure stood in the centre of the holy hall. The ceiling fled for miles above them - this was a true holy site, a site where the True-Emperor stood thousands of years ago and proclaimed this planet free. This planet, once under the yoke of a terrible regime freed by the True-Emperor. Murals adorned every wall, ceiling and floor telling the story.

"Pilgrim..."

The Arbites tone was low and sinister now as he approached the figure, who stood silent and still before him. He drew his shock maul, charnging it with a hum. Those who did not acknowledge did not deserve leniency. He went to swin-

The shock maul clattered to the floor, the Arbites sprawling holding his arm and screaming in agony. In his face, he could see a fluttering Inquisitional seal.

****

The Pilgrim left the church behind him, walking at a leisurely pace. Occasionally, something would twinge; he would hold his abdomen for a moment, over the scar...

This was not the place.

Salvation was not here. He mused for a moment that perhaps he would never find nor deserve salvation. He had had his chance to forever earn a place at the side of the Emperor; but that chance had gone now, and he had been left scarred.

Even underneath the thick carapace he could feel it, throbbing and reminding him of his failure like a burning pyre that constantly occupied his horizon. It always pointed towards him.

From his pocket he brought fourth a thin detonator, and squeezed his thumb down on it.

Behind him, the church went up in a fiery conflageration.

No, no redemption lay there, not for anyone.

****

The hostile wind sung a chill lullaby across the open plain. This place was desolate; infinite white stretching as far as the eyes could see. Blizzards swept back and fourth at a whim lasting seconds, hours or days. Ahead it lay - the citadel of St Hahrius. The place of his final victory and his death.

The sky was morbid grey, foreboding and staring down on the Pilgrim as he moved through the thick snow. His bag weighed down heavy on his shoulders as he moved onwards steeling his resolve.

He coughed hard, his lungs burning as he produced another handful of bloody phlegm.

Exposed here in the elements, he wouldn't have long to live. And yet miles of glacial tundra still lay ahead. He coughed again, ignoring the pain. His limbs burned with lactic acid and his fingers with the numbing pain of frostbite and yet still the scar hurt more than any of them.

And Death was not far behind him.

****

The tundra had given way to barren grassland. The Pilgrim had found himself an oasis to stop at to tend his wounds, his aching bones and his flaming fever. The oasis was a small bustling village on the edge of the desert, the final staging point of those on the long pilgrimage to the citadel.

He staggered into the camp, his legs barely carrying his tiring frame. Exhausted, he slumped down by one of the campfires and let his eyes shut.

****

Slicing blade.

The... church....

NO!

"I'm sorry."

****

The Pilgrim awoke in a pool of his own sweat. The dreams had returned again, always tormenting him. He checked his things - the explosives, the sword, the pieces of dried meat and the precious water. All was there. The campfire was dim and dank now, burning down to the last embers. A dishevelled man sat across from him, and upon seeing him stir poured a second cup of whatever hot drink he was himself drinking.

"Ye've been out for some time, mi'Lord."

He offered the cup again, slightly more enthusiastically. Pilgrim sat up, and took it gingerly. He took a sip, recognising the bitter taste. Cafbroth. He choked down another gulp.

"I've seen ye're ilk on these paths before. Pop'lar, it is, with ye're sort."

Pilgrim locked eyes with the old man.

"And what kind is that old man?"

"Inquisition."

****

The desert paths were well worn and flat. Dusty floated across them, meandering as slow as the pilgrims slowly ascending the steep hill towards their final goal - the imposing citadel perched on the top.

It's huge walls did nothing to reduce the grandeur of the citadel itself, which speared the sky. Pilgrim almost expected to see the sky rain blood from the wound, so deep in the centre of the unending grey.

"It runs for hundreds of metres into the sky. The blood of a thousand thousand heretics was shed on those mighty walls as they broke like waves against the shore."

The old man pointed to the ramparts.

"That's where my great great great grandfather fought. My family have been on pilgrimage for 6 generations returning here to honour him. He was brought back to us, and we now come full circle and back to him."

He cradled a vid-slate in his hands, which was worn by time and fingers.

"These are his final moments... He was a sergeant, leading his men, wearing a cam on his helmet. We've treasured this for years, revered it. He was in the service of a saint, yes, a great man, a great man."

He motioned to the Pilgrim, who took it and flicked the play button.

Horrible, flickering images of flying bullets, screaming men and the great height of the ramparts on the citadel walls flashed across the screen. Lasfire illuminated the screen red, screams crackled out of the worn speaker.

The vidslate went blank.

Fifteen seconds of footage, perhaps a few seconds more.

"That's all we have," said the old man, taking back the slate, "But we know him by his records, his distinguished service to the Golden Throne."

The old man slowed down, wheezing.

"Do excuse me, Inquisitor, but this servant has seen too many winters."

He laid down his heavy back-pack, and unfolding a small chair sat down on the side of the road.

****

Campfire again. The two of them sat in the horrid chill of the desert rubbing their hands. The moonlight cast an ominous shadow down the hill from the huge citadel. They still had a long hike ahead.

"Why're ye here, Inquisitor?"

The Pilgrim took a sip of his scorching drink, and swallowed it thoughtfully.

Silence hung in the air.

"Redemption."

****

The hill was gradually becoming steeper. The wind whistled down the hill, bringing with it the horrific smell of rotting flesh. The Pilgrim moved the scarf down his face, seeing for the first time the lines and lines of crucified bodies on the hill. Hundreds of crosses littered the hillside; some of the occupants still alive and screaming in pain.

He hadn't noticed before, but overhead a swarm of carrion birds circled waiting on their next meal.

Closer now they came. The ground was stained red here from all the blood that had been shed in recent times. The Pilgrim knelt down, taking a handful of the dirt and rubbing it between his fingers. Oddly damp, he took it to his nose breathing in a deep smell of crimson and iron.

The floor of the church.... The damp of his own blood....

Behind him, still climbing the hill was the old man, his bag jangling with his accumulated wares. He wheezed heavily as he came alongside his younger travelling companion.

"The first path of penance begins here, Inquisitor."

He wheezed again, taking in a deep lungful of the rank air.

"Oh yes. Not far now."

The Pilgrim continued onwards.

The closer he got to the citadel, the louder the wailing became. Those who had been crucified had been tortured before - he recognised the marks all over their bodies. Brutal, uncompromising floggings. Vicious incisions into the main nervous system. Hordes of needle marks trickling eyelets of blood. Eyelids missing, eyelids sewn shut. Fingers missing, burn marks, fingernails missing, teeth cracked and broken, lips ripped off, ears torn off, toes missing, acid burns, lacerations, bruises, razor thin slice marks, whole sections of skin flayed off.

The pieces of skin hung loosely over the faces of those to whom the torture had been inflicted, with the letters "H-e-RR-e-T-i-K" tattooed into the flayed skin. The Pilgrim stared in wonderment at the variety of deaths, the horrid fascination of the scene and the citadel still towering overhead.

Overhead lightning dazzled across the sky and thunder roared.

"There's a storm coming old man," the Pilgrim said, turning to his acquaintance.

"I suggest we stop here for the night."

****

The scar, the terrible noise. The drowning red mist, fog, rain, flood.

The never-ending thud-thud of a heart too stupid to tell when it's dead.

The burning ire of inflamed hatred and the addictive taste of vengeance.

Lost and damned... Lost and damned... Lost and damned...

****

A-ha, but Vincent... Will you ever find me?

****

Terra past him by ethereal and dreamlike. From the view on the monorail he could see little through the blacked out windows and the smog that hung heavy over the majority of Terra. The throne world indeed - a smog ridden polluted hell hole was a more accurate description.

He took himself around the various sights - the Primarch's hall, the Golden Throne, all nauseatingly boring and punctuated by constant security checks. This was no place for an Inquisitor, surrounded by grandeur and flute-like ivory towers.

He snuck off the monorail at the next stop, taking a brief walk through the crowded streets, the massed thronging hordes of pilgrims to take in the sight of Church of Saint Sebastien.

The statues of saints bored him briefly as he wandered amongst the horde, keeping himself steady in the push. He came to one side of the hall, and with a flash of his seal ghosted past the security and into one of the small anterooms.

"Hello Othello."

"Hello old friend."

The two men shook hands as the door closed behind them.

****

Othello left the church, his heart pounding in his chest. He had barely asked for the transfer of Ordo and submitted his first few works on the daemon, but already he was in demand. And there was no higher demand than those who had asked for him by name.

He ran his hand through his hair as he got back onto the monorail. This was huge. Absolutely huge. He had been an Inquisitor for a long time now, but he had not been overwhelmed like this in all that time.

He was breathless and shaking.

He ran his hand back through his hair, and breathed deeply.

The spaceport was barely a few hours away, and Outreach a few days travel from there. He would need to prepare.

****

Outreach came sooner than he had anticipated, or at least it felt that way. It had crept up on him, and now as he flicked through the sketches on his data-slate, he couldn't help but feel he was very quickly about to find himself out of his depth.

Outreach was a cold, distant planet, a murky black planet of which there were few official records, and those were hard to access.

It was a cornerstone of the Inquisition - all three Ordos had significant presences on the planet, not to mention the Librarium Sanctorum, within which was the largest repository of Inquisitorial writings in the sector. Only the collection on Holy Terra came close to matching the volume of texts.

It was here Othello had done most of his research on binding and chaining daemons. Before leaving the Xenos for the Malleus, he had spent four years studying in the Library, and another five working with several Inquisitors already of Malleus in the field. It had been a hard nine years, but from that he had come out sharper, wiser.

A scribe, a mere waif of a man who was desiccated and pale, approached Othello as he stepped from his Lander down onto Outreach. The air was still horribly noxious and oppressive, neither properties bothering the wiry savant who approached him with a loping gait.

"Inquisitor Dosdamt?"

"Othello-"

"....Dosdamt?" the wiry man replied, over pronouncing the 'D' with severe disdain.

"Yes, I am he," Othello said raising an unimpressed eyebrow which was shrugged off by the scribe as he handed over his missive.

Three days.

He would have to wait here another three days.

Sighing, he nodded and headed for his quarters.

****

"BRING IT DOWN!"

In retrospect, he mused, attempting to bring down a Tyranid warrior with a cadre of death cultists armed with shock mauls was perhaps not the greatest ideas... He ducked under a raking talon that sailed mere centimetres over his head... But so far he felt they had the upper hand.

Around them the body of the battle raged - the skittering, squealing mass of chattering 'Nids fought tooth and claw to break the Imperial lines, which were holding admirably. The Guardsmen were fighting like hellions, supported by Othello's personally requisitioned and armed force which fought much as he expected.

They were remorseless expert killers, constantly advancing, flamers burning brightly and evil playing in the centre of their eyes.

Overhead bomber engines wailed as they screeched overhead chased by packs of winged monstrosities.

Othello ducked again as one of his cultists was flung overhead by a thick muscled extremity. The fight was brutal, lightning fast - the beast moved so fast he could barely keep track and it was at the centre of a blurred assaulting horde of assassins with flashing shock mauls. Sparking electricity played over the creature's carapace as it snarled and flashed its limbs back and fourth in the centre of the whirling melee.

Othello crouched, looking for an opening only to have the grounded cultist use him as a springboard to vault back onto the creature. Othello watched him glide through the air, landing on the shoulder of the beast and immediately begin to thrust the weapon into the eye of the creature making it screech brutally.

It reeled as the cultist continually smacked it around the face with the sparking shock maul until, finally and monumentally it toppled over as the cultists fled the falling beast like rats leaving a sinking ship.

Othello breathed deeply, and walked over to the hulking mass, kicking it with his boot.

"Get it in the containment cell."

****

What are you thinking?

When you stare in my eyes... What are you wanting, beast... What are you thinking?

Do you think?

I can see sentience in your eyes, creature, I can see your lust for my death, but not just that.

You are looking past me; you are looking on to a billion more worlds with envious, ravenous eyes.

You are not just one.

You are all.

We come one.

Tell me, what does the oblivion of your thoughts sound like, creature?

A trillion chattering voices?

....Or just one?

****

It's always been inside, he knew, but now it roiled and boiled deep inside, bursting to get out. It played down his fingers as he sat contemplating the battle. It was still raging in the distance.

Here, on the mountain top, he was far away from the main cut and thrust of the battle, but he could hear the pitter-patter rain of spores on the roofs of his temporary head of operations. The air conditioning was beginning to choke on the microscopic viral spores that were being released into the air in their billions.

Still, in its cell, it waited.

Beast...

It barely moved, merely snarling whenever Othello moved to look up it. Even as he moved his flaming hand, all blue and green and iridescent, only its cold black eyes followed his hand, the rest of the beast merely coiled like a viper.

Othello looked away and let the flame die on his hand.

He'd have to unleash it... If only to save himself.

One man before the breaking waves of a biological tsunami.

****

This was a calm space.

The edges of the Aliestran plains, where civilisation met wild flowing fields and neverending greenery. He came here to think, to muse, to create. And no greater task had ever required all three, for now was the time for him to construct his greatest work.

Time, and time again, a generation of Inquisitors would pass into and through the Malleus, and one would be chosen, from scores and scores within the Malleus.

Othello had no clue how he'd been chosen, or even why. His proposal can't have been different to the two or three hundred he guessed the council would have seen over the few months they spent on Outreach. Perhaps it was political, an attempt to "score points" over the Ordo Xenos. Othello knew such rivalries existed at the top of the Ordos.

He put down his glass of wine, and gazed out across the neverending plain. The tall research complex was his, and his alone, on the edge of Resian City, a city on the southern, wetter continent of Aliestra. The block stretched far into the sky, with his penthouse accomodation at the very top. The full length glass allowed him to look out over the plains, watch the clouds roll over it and discharge their innards. His view stretched for miles, far out into the wilderness.

Why?

Perhaps there was no why.

****

Beast

What is it of you I see in myself?

What is it of you I fear lies within?

Your eyes beast, you look at me and you see yourself staring back.

Your mind beast, I look into it and I hear myself speaking back.

Just what are you beast, what dread peril do you pose, what greater evil drives you on, what primitive notion or impulse keeps you moving?

Just what am I beast, why do I fascinate you as much as you fascinate me, what mutual interest do we share, what dark secret do we share?

What is it of you I fear lies within?

Do I dread to release all that I have suppressed?

Do I dare breach the damn to stem the storm?

****

It starts inside.

It builds, like pressure behind a dam.

Each time you cut away the pressure, flaming fissures burst fourth from your hands like great nuclear gouts of destruction.

At first, only sheets would burn at night.

Now, you have to seal yourself away just to keep yourself from tearing your world in half.

Every night now, and sometimes during the day, it bubbles away like magma beneath your skin.

What price sweet release?

****

He looked out over the battlefield from his high vantage point. He could see across the sea of seething tyranids like a god looking down on the life he had just created. He looked to his hands, wreathed in flames and gazed out over the battlefield.

Humanity was losing.

The teeming, innumerable horde came fourth in legion, a mass incalculable.

The wind blew overhead taunting him. The earth cried out for the halting of the bloodshed, to stop the rape by this most animal and primal of forces. The storm raged harder, the only onlooker enraptured with the combat showing delight with handclap peals of thunder and laughter as lightning flashing down from the sky.

He could feel the itching, scratching, chittering; the terrible noises of the Hive Mind in full song pressing in on his sanity.

His body buckled, he fell doubled over on one knee.

"Is this what you want?" he screamed, wailing to the heavens.

"Is this what you want!"

His clothes ripped at the seams, torn by some terrible telekinetic power. Great tattoos, warding runes to keep his powers in check that had long since failed now roiled and glowed on his skin. They seeped light out into the wider world blinding anything looking even vaguely in his direction.

Naked, weeping holy light, he looked to the sky in a final plea for permission.

He held out a quivering arm, and closed his eyes.

****

He had been in the citadel for some time now.

The abbott was strict, uncaring, cold; Vincent found himself drawn to the goat more and more with each penance session. His withering verbal assaults, straight out of the Ecclesiarchal libraries of litanies, made his heart feel nearly warm and human again.

Each day would begin the same way - they would trudge out into the courtyard, and praise the breaking sun in the name of the Emperor.

Then, the penance would begin.

Back breaking labour, scrubbing the floor until his knuckles bled, or shifting huge piles of stone and minerals in the deep mines below citadel, or shining the statues of the saints and martyrs contained within the main hall until they held a high sheen. His palms were cracked, dry and broken from the chemicals used and wept blood almost constantly - that was why, at least for a few days until they sealed up, he had been left in the chapel to pray for his penance - not to say that the floggings stopped.

He stretched his back, feeling some of the newer scabs open up and weep blood. Here, he felt finally at home and truly in a place he could atone for both his, and Landen's, crimes.

****

"Vincent Dosdamt, Ordo Hereticus."

"My lord! Please, come into our humble citadel."

When he and the old man had arrived, there had been little fanfare. Another pair of travellers, nothing more, nothing less, until Vincent had revealed his true nature to one of the drill abbotts.

He had revealed his seal, and was quickly taken to the chief abbot of the place. The old man had craggy features, and brutal scars that spoke of decades of hard conflict. He had rejuve scars that laced his inner forearm. They had been joined by ritual tattoos; the man was obviously terrifyingly fanatical in his dedication to the Emperor.

They spoke at great length about the reason he had come to the citadel, of his crimes before he had arrived, about Landen, Othello, his old master and of course, his travelling companion.

The old man was given shelter, food, and a place to pray and, presumably, live out the last parts of his life. Vincent felt he owed the man a debt, and as they shook hands and the old man smiled at Vincent, he felt the debt repaid.

After he left the old man behind, he and the abbot had talked at great length of the punishment and penance he would pay.

****

"There are no names here, there are no prior lives here. There are no ranks. You are not what you were previously. You are now the true servants of the Emperor, and serve here you will."

The abbott's booming voice filled the hall. Vincent's previously long, flowing black locks had been sheared from his head leaving only uneven stubble on his scalp. He was dressed in the same clothes as everyone else in the lines in front of the abbott - a simple long sleeved tunic, tough pants and a pair of leather shoes.

The abbott looked over the assembled rabble, who stared back at the imposing figure.

"Let the Emperor's will be done."

****

His back was hot, stinging hot, throbbing as blood rushed to the skin. Contact between the brutally barbed whip and his flesh had been non stop for the past fifteen minutes. His torturer, the ever willing abbot, stood nursing his aching arm and shoulder from the brutal, downright savagery of the assault.

Vincent clenched his hands, trying to usher some feeling back into his numb limbs. The blood had long since retreated from them. Feeling tingled back into his finger tips, a somewhat small but welcome distraction from the throbbing agony that pulsed from his back.

But it was worth it in the end.

He heard the abbot run his hand down the whip, and roll his shoulders in preparation for the second half of the penance. He tightened his grip on the leather roll in his mouth, and prepared for the worst.

****

"How long have you been here?"

"Long enough."

"What brought you here?"

"Service. The Lord sent me here, a long time ago, to serve in His name."

"Yes, but what really brought you here?"

"What do you mean?"

"It is hard to hide the truth from such as me."

"And what is my truth?"

Vincent smiled.

"Your truth, abbot?...."

****

The months rolled by.

Vincent quickly found his old strength returning to his limbs as he toiled, seemingly neverendingly, in the mines, across the main body of the citadel and in the vast archive. Being one of the few penitentials in the place who was literate, he found himself seconded more and more often to the library; he wasn't especially thankful, but the work was interesting enough and kept his mind at least partially active between the backbreaking labours.

He also found a strange kinship developing with a few of the penitentials - no names, as ever, only the numbers they had on their foreheads. Sixty-two was a quiet young lad from a nearby system, sent for penance after he had had a rendezvous with the daughter of a local chief. He was stocky and tall, but moved with an awkward gait that perhaps spoke of the weight of his guilt over the act. Vincent had yet to piece together the exact details of the crime, but his gut told him there was little chance she had been a willing party.

Onehundredfourteen was a more brash man, an ex-commissar if Vincent was any judge. His attitude suggested he had come here voluntarily - he worked tirelessly and constantly, and without the harsh and neverending tirade of abuse the others gave the holymen when they were not present. His square jaw, the penal tattoo on his upper arm, the hardness of his stare all spoke volumes about the man. Even when he fought one of the other penetentials, a broad brutal looking thug, he held himself with the dignity and pride of a commissar.

For a moment, Vincent stopped and stared at Onehundredfourteen, trying to gauge the type of man he truly was. What was his crime? Why had he been brought here?

Vincent sighed, and looked back to his pick. There was still work to be done.

He knew where this path lead. He had seen him, in his dreams. He burnt, quite like a large pyre, an ancient burial rite for both of them. The light from the fire burnt his eyes as he stood watching the red, yellow, orange flames dance as if charmed by the wind. The flickering embers that were spat into the sky became red starfalls a few seconds later. As he watched them, he felt they were a beautiful expression of both him and his brother. On fire, bright, burning, but only for the smallest time in the larger scheme of the universe around them that grew ever so bored with them, and let them consume themselves, stars and supernovas.

Disappearing into the black background that consumed all the light around them, the embers were snuffed out like so many lives on any one of the innumerable planets orbiting the innumberable stars that made up the Imperium.

I can only hope to consume him in my death throes.

****

There are pieces of research that even the most liberal minded Inquisitors within the Inquisition would question, in terms of value to the Imperium, the intellectual value, and the future applications of the research for the advancement of knowledge within the Inquisition.

Generally, research carried out by the Inquisition is for one cause - the advancement of a political agenda. Knowledge has very little power within the Inquisition, at least, real power, the power over one's peers, one's foes in indirect terms - which is, of course, the most powerful type of leverage over any fellow Inquisitor.

Within the realm of Xanthism, there are many names synonymous with this particular kind of dark research. Any of the luminaries, or the illustrious, or even the infamous can spring to mind.

Othello Dosdamt considered himself to be amongst the elite group of Xanthitic Inquisitors who pushed forward the agenda of Xanthitic supremacy within the Inquisition.

****

"How can we not conduct a debate on this! Don't be so tyrannical! There must be debate. We cannot simply build this... This."

The voice let a hand drift out into the light and point to a spinning holographic blueprint that hung lazily in the air, spinning to allow all to see its vast scope and potential.

"And you say this can be expanded infinitely?"

"Nearly, Inquisitor. Nearly."

The third voice was careful, postured like a hissing snake looking to strike. The second voice was enthusiastic, a juxtaposition to the desperate and aggressive first.

"The prototype was a success," the second voice continued, "And so the project should continue as we have discussed."

"You believe this... Monstrosity should be built? You have belief this thing will aid the Imperium? This is nothing more than a graveyard for good intentions, mark those words well, Inquisitors, because it will also be a graveyard for both of you."

"Darius!" the second voice exploded, passion and infuriated mentorly rage spewing fourth, "You will sit and you will listen. This project is crucial. We will spare nothing in the persuit of the completion of this project."

"Thank you."

"This isn't over."

The first voice stormed from the room, the door in the background slamming shut loudly.

"Darius will be back, Othello, be patient with the boy. He's merely afraid of the scope for abuse of this project. He will return, in time. Be it a year from now, or longer, he will return. Alas, Darius has burnt many more bridges than he knows, and even now he is being tracked by various bodies within our Order. He will come back."

"Is he needed?"

"Yes."

****

"You are insane, Othello."

Lightning crashes over head. This world is dying, quickly. A malignant tumour eats away at its core, killing the world. Life is scoured from the surface in great gouts of warp energy. Those who had lived here are now dead, consumed in slave labour. Another gout of warp energy flares through the skin of the planet, killing scores.

At the centre of the madness, two Inquisitors stood face to face, the world spinning and coming apart around them.

"You think this is insane? You think this is the end? My boy, this is the beginning! Look at what I have created! Look at this power! Harnessed for use by the Imperium! This world was dead, condemned a thousand times over before I ever set foot here - don't doubt that, boy."

"Arrogance, Othello! Bluster and nothing more. You've condemned this whole sector to destruction! What did I say all those years ago. This is a graveyard for your best intentions, Othello, and now it will consume us both. On that, I swear."

"You believe that drivel, Darius? You genuinely believe that? You are more naive than I had ever thought. This is nothing, Darius, nothing. This is not even a setback!"

A huge hunk of earth tore itself from the skin of the planet, spinning into the air on a current of warp energy before exploding in the air, showering the surrounding areas in hundreds of tonnes of burning earth. Both Othello and Darius ducked as the earth flew over head, crashing down all around them. The dirt beneath them, and around them, roiled as it soaked in the devastating energy. The stone began to liquidate, hot air rising as the stone turned burning orange and became superheated magma.

Both men settled their stance on their dwindling island of earth being gradually eaten away by the heat all around them. The air became hot and oppressive, both men breaking into a severe sweat as they circled one another.

"Is this what you wanted, Othello?"

“No. But you’ll never live to tell anyone any different.”

Othello summoned a gout of flames from his hand, bright and searing which ripped over Darius, rendering him naught but a blackened skeleton. Overhead, an orbital cutter circled before racing down to pick up the stranded Inquisitor.
It is never too late! - Mentirius

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Offline Dosdamt

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Re: Brotherly Bonds
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2009, 03:58:26 PM »
Time and ticking and time. Months.

The dank conditions on the freighter weren’t getting any better. Down in the slums a little shanty town of travellers and some of the lesser indigenous workers had formed, though there was little sense of community. Crime was rife – murders, beatings, fighting over the meagre scraps of food those who were travelling had brought with them. Nothing grew in the hold, and it stunk of human waste.

The uppers – the real crew of the freighter – would occasionally come down into the hold drunk and leery. They would visit the passengers and parasites with violence and rape without discerning those who ran the ship and those who had ran aboard. Fear had overtaken the town with suspicion it’s willing accomplice which only served to turn the residents against one another.

The shanty town ran the length of the ship, some four kilometres, in one of the basest levels. The ceiling was not especially high though it was high enough to allow two storey buildings to be constructed from sheet metal and old containers. Rough shod streets had been constructed. Places aboard the ship ranged in price, depending on how the passenger wanted to travel – down here, in the suffering, a month’s or two labour would buy passage.

Pure cash was less – imperial credit notes more, barter goods varied on their resalable value at the destination but an electronic purchase was the most costly as the uppers could not cash or realise the value until they hit port. Even then, the transaction could bounce.

To ride with the uppers was nearly quadruple the price – to ride on the captain’s deck was twenty times the cost, and to do that one had to pay in cash up front.

Landen had paid cash. There was scant little to be had on the last backwards hole he had dropped onto and so he hadn’t enough to travel with the uppers. He sighed, he could’ve used his Seal and simply taken the whole ship but the periodic access he’d had to the Conclave had confirmed his suspicions over what his enemies knew of his activities and movements. It wasn’t good news.

He’d heard from several of his closer allies that there had been a cell organised, and already they were sweeping through his former haunts. It was likely they’d follow his movements. Through Lagarris. Through Van Der Laariman, through Eurydice and back once again to Aliestra IV. Once there, they’d find the terrifying ruin of the planet and no doubt they’d begin to pick up his trail once more.

There were only so many streams you could splash through and struggle before the hounds caught up relentlessly – and, though he would’ve resented to admit it, his fellow Inquisitors were formidable blood hounds. Especially when it was fresh, heretical blood; blood which needed letting. It was in the air, across the Conclave, and steaming through the Ordos; the scent was out.

Landen sighed. It was going to be a long, dank route back to the Virtue.


Othello laughed. What else was there to do?

It hadn’t been a total failure, though to call it a success would have been a ludicrous stretch of the most optimistic of language.

He had alighted the planet shortly after disposing of Darius into the very quickly liquefying surface of the planet. The planet going that way had always been a possibility. A minute one, granted, but one that had come to fruition which meant that he’d need to work out the design flaw and that could take another couple of years. Of course, he’d work at it relentlessly.

The obsession was gnawing at him. The prison was a peerless work of art, it was just… Less than perfect; all works in progress were, he supposed. The deaths had been inevitable.

And for the best, he added, as he flicked through the schematics. Of course they were. Darius was nothing more than just another doubting fool, an idiot, a fool with no direction and no real belief in his power as a member of the Inquisition. He’d been easily driven into the idea by the rest of the sponsors. He’d buckled under the pressure as the thing came apart. And he’d screamed like a girl as he’d been pushed into the burning lava which burnt away his flesh and charred his bones and consumed him completely.

He pinned the schematics up on the wall. There had to be a missing link, something he’d never considered. Something he’d missed or ignored or overlooked or hadn’t understood fully.

Something that he had not planned for.

Some variable he had not accounted for.

Something he hadn’t seen coming.

It twisted his insides. The death of Darius paled into insignificance in comparison to this problem.


“Why do you endure here Vincent?”

Vincent lifted his head – his neck strained as his muscles were exhausted and his body felt heavy. He left his brush in the dirt, and pushed himself upward onto his feet. Those around him looked at him, then back to their brush. They’d gotten used to seeing Vincent disappear on a regular basis now. There’d been several years of camaraderie beaten into the assorted motley band of penitents at the Citadel. They’d rallied behind Vincent because he’d been the default option – they saw his tattoos and knew immediately about his position. They didn’t dare ask why he was here – they didn’t ask about the scar across his chest and gut.

And the years had suited Vincent. The quiet suited his thoughtful personality and he had had enough time to actually think about his situation and the situation with Landen. He hadn’t been stupid enough to believe any of the reports that had come from his spies on Aliestra – there was no way Landen had died.

The planetary scouring had clearly been another fabrication as well. Vincent couldn’t accept that Landen would ever have been that stupid or reckless. Aliestra meant more than blood and life to all three brothers – it was their home and their origin – all their families, as tenuous as the generations might have strung them out, were located on Aliestra and both Vincent and Othello were childish enough to carry through grudges with Landen.

Vincent sighed. It was all small fry. The citadel, the dusty, sandy, horrendously depersonalized mountain of human suffering had taught Vincent enough about the value of human effort. Vincent saw in his fellow convicts the value of humanities effort and sweat and need to survive. The need to constantly strive against the norm; the need to avoid death at all human costs, regardless of who was to suffer and die according to the scheme.

Vincent smiled and picked up his brush. It wouldn’t be much longer. The abbot had spoken to Vincent and discussed the inmates. Vincent had selected a number of them for extradition to come with him at the end of Vincent’s self imposed sentence. There wasn’t long left – maybe twelve to eighteen months. Once the months were crossed off, Vincent knew exactly what he would do.

Othello was a menace, fine, he needed stopping.

But Landen, Landen needed killing. He needed killing as soon as possible.
It is never too late! - Mentirius

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Offline Dosdamt

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Re: Brotherly Bonds
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2009, 03:59:05 PM »
“You’re sure you can manage this monster, Othello?”

Another meeting about the failure and about the next phase in the plan; the prototype had failed and the prison had unleashed several horrors onto the planet which had then been torn to pieces. The aftermath had been a terrible sight to behold but Othello still firmly believed in what he was planning and what they were going to build. More than that, he had the zealot’s belief that what they were doing was right. It showed in his eyes as burning passionate flames.

“The system is manageable. The truth of the matter is, Inquisitors, that because we were relying on humans to perform the role of jailers we were doomed to fail from the start. We have to minimise the amount of human intervention in this matter, we cannot allow a mistake to let them back loose. The new system proposed removes the need for almost all human roles in the prison. I know my idea is… Controversial. A lot of you may not agree with this, but I firmly believe this is the only way to ensure security in the project.”

“It is an abomination, Othello, it is madness. How can you say this is the only way to secure the creatures in their cells – there must be another way? There has to be another way!”

Othello looked on the voice and shook his head.

“No, no there is not.  I have meditated long and hard on this one. I have thought for weeks on end, struggling to create something fiendishly clever enough to secure the monstrosities away – but know this, they are each as individual as the body they occupy, and each one has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Our project should not be limited in scope – Inquisitors, understand, we cannot look to simply cater for perhaps twenty or thirty of these entities. That would be to understate the problem.”

Othello looked around the room. The flames of the zealot danced in his eyes.

“These creatures are terrible beings, honoured guests, they are an abomination to all that we hold dear and all that is sacred in the Imperium. We cannot destroy these things; never truly, we merely cast them back into the breach from where they birthed. And, Inquisitors, know this – the results of the prototype categorically prove we cannot assume ourselves to be clever enough to secure these creatures away ourselves.”

Othello stopped his pacing for a second, not less than coincidentally in the spotlight of the room.

“There is always a cost for every action. For each action a toll and a reaction, my master told me, and I’m sure it is a maxim with which you are all familiar. We are looking to free ourselves from the influence of taint and from those in our ranks who harness these beasts to further their own ends. The price of freedom from their terror, the toll of our actions, as we decide today, will be blood. Now, this may be the blood of hundreds of our brothers as they fall in combat to these terrible beasts – or it may simply be one cost in blood.”
Othello smiled grimly.

“My own. Sacrifice, Inquisitors, sacrifice is necessary to ensure the satisfactory conclusion of this experiment. I am willing to enter into a pact of blood with this monstrosity to secure the future of this project.”

“This is madness, Dosdamt. Absolute madness! What ludicrous sentiments are these? You would strike a deal with one Devil to imprison another? You would wield the same weapon as they threaten us with?”

“No Inquisitor, this is not a weapon, this is a prison, a safe for these daemonhosts to be stored in. We do not send these creatures home to burst back through into reality. We do not allow them to vandalize our world any longer. We keep them locked in a mortal body for all eternity, in the confines of the prison. I am personally training specialist teams, which will be at the disposal of the Ordo Malleus, that will be experts in capturing these beasts and restraining them. They will then be brought back for processing. Additionally, you will all have access to all the information and resources you might need via my primary agent.”

Othello looked into the gloom. He was there alright, sitting pretty, the first of them.

“Who?”

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Othello began, “May I introduce you to….. Jeremiah.”


Vincent pulled his pick out of the dirt with a deep breath. His skin was bark brown and the star above was beating down with horrendous intensity. He’d been working on the garden – such as it was – in the garden for a few months, breaking down the useless arid soil to hopefully reseed, replant and reinvigorate the dirt to help the citadel become more self sufficient. His presence had ensured the future of the citadel – he hadn’t disposed of his seal and had been requisitioning everything the Abbot needed to run the place for a few years now – but his penance time was running short now.

In good conscience, he couldn’t simply let the place run on the hand-outs of the Administratum, especially if they were forced by him. His time in the citadel had confirmed to him the necessity of becoming self sufficient and the citadel at large needed to learn that lesson.

He left his pick, and climbed nimbly up the wall of the citadel to look out across the wastelands. The pilgrim trail snaked back some few miles into the distance, though the number of people walking it now had tailed off somewhat. Not many people came here anymore, at least not by choice, not as actual pilgrims. But even the number of penitents was tailing off a little – they were dying or simply leaving after serving their terms.

The band that Vincent had selected from the couple of hundred left in the citadel had all remained planetside, regardless of whether their terms had run or not. Vincent had taken those who had been able to leave aside and told them of his vision – they agreed to stay willingly, accepting that they would only ever be known to Vincent by their penitent number and, to a man, that they’d likely be killed in action. Even Vincent understood he’d likely die in the struggle – it didn’t matter much, though. His one overwhelming, overpowering, train of thought had been the need for vengeance with Landen.

In his chats with the Abbott he’d spoken at great lengths about his younger brother and about the conflict within himself over what was the correct course of action to take on Landen. While Vincent could pretend to dress it up as a need to protect the Imperium, it only really came down to the need for vengeance. Landen had near gutted him and left him for dead. The Abbott understood but had still offered his own opinion and guidance.

“He should be tried, Vincent. Bloody simple minded vengeance and the death of your heretical brother at your own hand do nothing to re-dress the balance of justice in the eyes of the Emperor. Of course you can preach the creed and kill the heretic regardless, without trial and all of that nonsense. But the truth is, Vincent, you need to bring him to trial and expose his darkness – the light is the greatest disinfectant for the diseases of this life, including heresy most foul.”

The words had played on Vincent’s mind for some time. And this was very much the crux of the internal debate – could he, or should he, simply murder his errant brother? It was a thought he’d never considered he would have to debate for any great length of time with himself. It had always been simple but the battering debates with the Abbott had worn at his conviction. There was a lingering doubt of uncertainty about how he would play it out now.

Vincent sighed. There were still a couple of months left. He didn’t want to leave as torn over the future as he had been when he’d arrived, that would essentially render his entire time at the citadel a waste. No, he needed a conclusion and a focus. The sharp end of the task was coming ad he would have to be ready to act decisively.

His fingers ran down the scar.

Because, he thought to himself, Landen would.


Landen hefted his bag onto his shoulders. Violence was about to erupt down in the squalid hold again and he needed to find cover. He’d been very adept at avoiding conflict since boarding this ship, some months back, but the violence was getting worse and worse and it was inevitable he would get sucked into it eventually – he just wanted to postpone that day for as long as possible. Once he revealed who and what he was, there were two or three ways the situation could go, and always one of those results was death.

He crept across the dank street, such as it was, as the voices began to cry out in protest and frenzy. The crewmen had come back down looking for blood and sport. They’d not been frightened off by the really rather vicious resistance the passengers had put up against them. A few crew had been killed and their weapons taken from them.

Some of the passengers had themselves brought weapons, ranging from crude knives to small las weapons. They were armed and determined - the crew were drunk, brash, aggressive - but the crew had superior numbers to call upon, and though they stood together for a short while the passengers would quickly crumble if one or two of their number fell in the conflicts. And they were numbers which couldn’t be replaced.

Landen sighed as the gunfire broke out again. At least it wasn’t the sound of projectile weapons this time – Landen had cringed as he’d heard the discharge of projectile weapons during the last gunfight. He could see some fuel lines over head, along with what looked like coolant lines and waste lines as well. One breach of one of those and the place would be filled with a lethal liquid of one kind or another. Gunfire snapped across his thought train again and again. He crouched down further in his temporary shelter. It wouldn’t take long for one side to break and back down. He could sit it out until then. He checked down into his satchel, just in case.

There they were – his ebony handled auto-pistols. The ebony had taken a long time to procure but had been well worth it. He’d maintained them to perfection, too. They worked like a dream and he could virtually cut a man in half with them in a hail of bullets. They’d stay restrained, however, until absolutely necessary. He couldn’t risk revealing himself, not yet.

Overhead flashes of las-weapons singed the ceiling around some of the more volatile piping. Landen shook his head in anger at the lunacy of it all. It was likely he wouldn’t be able to stay his hand for much longer. The gunfire lasted for a few more seconds before there was a cry of pain. More shouting quickly went up – the passengers were splitting up and dispersing back into the slums.

Landen sighed and drew his collar up around his neck. He slunk a little lower into the shadows and breathed deeply. His hands crept back into his bag, just in case, his hand easing around the handle of one of his pistols.

“I haven’t seen you before,” said a glowering face. It was a grim visage, and illuminated by the dim light it looked significantly uglier than the face probably was. Landen didn’t take a second chance and pulled out the pistol, stuck on single shot and shot the face through the very centre. The head recoiled out of the hovel and the shot rang out loud and true. Brain matter splattered out into the air and gouts of blood splashed all around the twitching body.

Landen drew the other pistol from his satchel and slowly got to his feet. He clicked the catches onto full automatic. His blood was raised now. He didn’t much care for the fact he was using projectile weapons. He was going to kill, and kill indiscriminately.

Passengers.

Crew.

Landen stepped down the street. At the bottom the crew were gathering en masse. They’d seen one of their own killed and there was revenge to be had. At the other end, the passengers were assembling again, partially rallied because of the stalling of the crew in their action. The passengers had been heartened by this and were re-grouping. Landen looked at each end of the street still seething with rage. He knew every time the rage took him, it took him one step back towards where he was trying to move away from. His breathing was accelerated. Adrenaline wasn’t just pumping through his veins; it was virtually all that was in his veins. His heart was racing and trying to smash through his ribs.

And in this darkness, he knew he had to stop this now or he’d end up killing everyone down here. He could still feel the pull of the terrible rage.

“Inquisition!” finally he burst.

His seal was revealed from around his neck, and through it a beam of light coruscated out into the darkness illuminating the hold. In his eye twinkled the bestial wrath he’d barely contained moments before; he breathed deep, calming breaths which barely soothed the animal in him.

There was still a hold on him, aye, there was no doubt;
It is never too late! - Mentirius

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Offline Dosdamt

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Re: Brotherly Bonds
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2009, 03:59:40 PM »
“Why do you feel guilty for his crimes? You couldn’t have stopped him, Vincent, you didn’t have the tools, the means, or the knowledge. You couldn’t possibly have stopped him. And his crimes are his own, Vincent, know that truth.”

Vincent had met with the Abbott in the centre of the citadel. Here they were shielded from the dusty acrid winds, and plants grew quite abundantly. Creeper vines snaked around pleasant wooden garden furniture. The grass was rather green and looked healthy especially compared to the charred brown bracken that ran between the citadel and the space port, where it grew at all. Vincent and the Abbott sipped water from wooden cups – crafted by the inmates, incidentally – which stood on a firm stone table. The sun lazed in the sky, oblivious to the time of the day. The sun always seemed high and hot in this place.

“I could’ve killed him – I hesitated and he didn’t. That was the difference – not his witchery, not his power – it was my inaction. Oh, I should have killed him Abbot there and then; I should have ended it all then. Instead he’s running free and loose, there will be deaths and I have heard of his further heres-“

“Don’t you see Vincent?” snapped the Abbot, “This guilt you bear over him is invalid; you are not to blame for his sins. Don’t you see that? Every day you bear this weight it will crush you a little more. And with this weight on your hands, do you think you can possibly act?”

The Abbot took a swig of his water and sighed. The Abbott looked old now to Vincent – old and worn out; perhaps troubled by discussions Vincent had had, really quite frankly, with him of his brother’s actions. He certainly didn’t look like the man Vincent had spent severe amounts of time below the Citadel with.

“You cannot allow him to continue his actions, Vincent, but you cannot take responsibility for them either. You must choose to absolve yourself, and when you do that, you’ll know the right course of action.”

The Abbot looked him square in his eyes.

“You’ll know, Vincent, whether to bring him to justice or to leave his corpse out in the dirt for the vultures. I can only advise what I believe is right, in context, from my understanding of the situation. I cannot guarantee it is correct, Vincent, I cannot tell you that.”

Vincent sighed and nodded.

“I came here looking for answers and punishment for my sins. I think perhaps I was looking to punish myself for letting Landen become what he has. Perhaps… Perhaps you are right, Abbott. I will think on what you have said.”

The Abbott stood, nodded and left his hand on Vincent’s shoulder for only a second before leaving. Vincent’s shoulders sagged and he buried his head in his hands for a second before snarling his frustration. He knocked over the cup the Abbott had been drinking from with a slap of his right hand in an act of petulance and sighed again.

The wounds had healed, aye, but the scars were still settling.


Vincent strode into the sunlight of the exercise area. Approaching him were fiftysix and onehundredfourteen, who both nodded to him as they stopped by Vincent.

“Well met, nineteen.”

Vincent nodded back to the burly 114. He looked stronger now – ever since he’d finished his penance 114 had been holding his posture straighter, a little taller making him seem far more intimidating. He’d even crowned his head again with his Commissar’s hat – Vincent had been right in his assumption. The chained eagle confirmed his guess to be entirely accurate – he’d been part of a penal legion, probably the commanding officer. What he’d done to end up here, Vincent had never dragged out of him and he didn’t really care to. It was enough to know that the man had served his time and was looking all the better for it.

56 was looking healthier too. His back was knotted with thick scars and one wrapped down his clean shaven head, down over his left eye to his jawbone, but other than that he was a picture of youthful power. His muscles were steely and taut over his bone structure which was thick and powerful. He was even confident enough to speak more now, and would regularly engage with Vincent enthusiastically over the possibility of seeing the stars.

“114, 56,” Vincent nodded, “Well met and glad tidings. It’s good to see you men. You’re well, I see.”

56 nodded keenly.

“Ready when you’re good to go, Inq-… 19.”

“Aye, you’d do well to remember the number boy,” said Vincent smartly, “I’m still an inmate, and you’ll do well to use it when I’m a freeman like yourselves.”

They both nodded back to him – they understood what Vincent meant. When they had committed to his cause, they’d committed to leaving their past names and lives behind them. The records would show they died here in their penance time. They’d die and be reborn here.

“Sorry 19,” 114 replied, “I know what we must accomplish in our work beyond here. The Emperor will one day grant 56 some guidance, and some brains, I’d wager, but we’ll not see the day too soon.”

Vincent smiled as 56 scowled ever so slightly at the jibe.

“What of any of the other inmates? Who can we trust? I’ve seen enough of them to form my own judgement… I’m not sure.”

“I would not take thirtyeight, twentynine, or fourtyfour. And sixtytwo is out of the question entirely,” began 114, “Some of the others are borderline but-“

“That isn’t what we’re looking for.”

“Exactly.”

“What about …. Him.”

The way 56 said ‘Him’ left a chill in the air. Vincent looked at 56.

“Who?”

114 glanced at 56, and shrugged.

“They’re committed, that’s for sure,” laughed 114.

“Who…?” said Vincent, pacing the word.

56 looked to Vincent and smiled.

“The only man to ever refuse a number in this place…” said 56 with a true sense of awe in his voice.

“-and it’s a woman.”

114 smiled deliciously.


Penitent 000.

Time served – 0 hours, 0 days, 0 weeks, months and years.

The cells were a horrifying place, even as Vincent stalked them as a visitor. This was the only place in the citadel that still sent a chill down his spine – largely because of the beatings he’d been subjected to down here. The earth under the citadel should’ve been cold and soothing – however down here the air had grown oppressive and choking because of geotherms that lurked below the surface. They heated the rock all around them making the air choking hot. Some parts of the rock were porous as well, letting through water which ramped up the humidity. It made the perfect atmosphere, along with the screaming and the stench of blood for breaking people.

She hadn’t broken though.

Real time served – 14 hours, 4 days, 156 weeks; just a little over three years. Time was still ticking quickly as well.

Vincent picked his way through the corridors quickly. Though he knew he was probably in the best shape of his life, the air was so thick and hot down here he was sweating and his chest was heaving. He took the final few steps. The noise down here was truly cacophonic. The brutal crack of bullwhips mixed with the screams of the penitent joined together to form a rather harrowing mix of metronome perfection and screaming anguished melody.

Then there was the howl of the electro whips. Vincent didn’t wince when he heard them anymore. There was an inevitability of the crackling slap down the flesh of your back and you had to be able to take that. His nerves did jangle, however, with painful memories. The scars on his back juddered with reminisces of the very real, very vivid pain.

He took another step and heard a very feminine cry in the air. It was barely a whimper and one that was encased behind lips clamped tightly shut. Was that her? He couldn’t be sure. He took another step, thinking to himself for just a moment – wasn’t the colony all male? Wasn’t that the idea – remove all possibility of sin? At least that was the theory – rape wasn’t uncommon in the Citadel though it was severely punished. The question remained though.

Why was she here?











Johnny was shaking. He tried to light a cigarette to try to calm his nerves but dropped it into the dirt. [EXCOMMUNICATE], he thought, oh my Emperor’s bones. What in the hell were those things? And how… Why… What… Jeanna. He couldn’t comprehend anything about the situation. His personal reality was having a caving in session and he was at the centre of the rubble and the ruin.

He tried to calm himself down but how in the hell could he? The cortical implant in his head was blaring on all military channels about the lights and the violence at some isolated house. It wouldn’t take long till agents of all kinds were all over the damn area.

Johnny was very quickly realising that playing Inquisitor wasn’t a game he was very fond of. He wasn’t going to relinquish the seal – that would be exceptionally foolish – but perhaps it would pay to lay low for some period of time. Probably indefinitely, Johnny decided, as he rubbed his hands over his shivering torso. He sighed, and tried to think of a route out of here that didn’t involve him ending in a locked cell. Or shot. Or tortured. Or dead. Or stabbed. Or mutilated.

He leaned against the vehicle, taking out another cigarette, a little more carefully, and lighting it in his mouth. He took a long deep drag on the thing and exhaled slowly and deliberately. He sighed, and looked down to the floor his hand still shaking. Where was Jeanna? Where the hell was she? She was a machine, Johnny would swear to it, it shouldn’t matter how far ahead he’d gotten she should be catching up. She wouldn’t be dead – Johnny was sure of that. She was too mean and far too determined to simply keel over and die without finishing off her role. No, she was a natural born fighter with a spine of pure steel, and without her around Johnny was beginning to feel very small and very vulnerable indeed.

Johnny looked up at the stars and said in a voice just audible to his own ears
“I am truly [EXCOMMUNICATE]ed.”


 
The first thing Landen noticed as he arrived was that the bridge was ostentatious and spacious. It was considerably larger than other merchant bridges he had seen; it was a powerful command deck for a captain who very clearly liked to be in control. While the panels were coated in gaudy gold, silver and chrome colourings they were all very functional and displayed vast swathes of command information into the bridge. All of the gold and silver panels were covered in detailed spirals and patterning which was ornate beyond functional need. The patterns depicted angelic figures battling with darkened devils. It seemed like a prayer that the Gellar field would hold and keep away the devilry of the warp.

There were monotask servitors at each information station - also coated in the lavish metallic colours – collated this information at the speed it was transmitted to produce what Landen assumed were summaries of the situation at each terminal.

This information then appeared to be being transmitted to a terminal on the arm of a large command chair. The chair lay back from the very centre of the room that was coated in soft looking leather and had an extremely detailed looking arm terminal. Data washed constantly over the view screen of all kinds.

In the centre of the room was the navigator, suspended in sound and grav dampening liquid. The navigator was naked except for cables snaking into her to extract urine, faecal matter and to feed her. There was another cable that allowed her to breath, a thick rutted pipe that fixed a smooth mask over her face. She floated easily in the middle of the liquid, gently swaying with the movements of the vessel floating through the Warp – the liquid appeared to be highly sensitive to the movements of the vessel through the currents and eddy of the warp.

Landen could see that the ball of liquid was made to be able to rise up into the ceiling, presumably into some observation lounge to allow the Navigator to see even better into the Warp. There was simple vox circuitry around the edges of the sphere that allowed the navigator to communicate with the outside world, though a red light suggested this was off at present. Landen noticed her third eye was open and she was presumably looking out into the Warp, perhaps re-plotting their course.
 
Just as Landen made the assumption the Navigator began to rise and disappear from view. He watched with interest as the Navigator disappeared into the room above.

“Fascinating, isn’t it?”

The Captain, Landen presumed. The voice was riddled with authority and as he spoke the words rattled strongly around the room. The harmonics had been altered, Landen noticed, to exaggerate the voice of the Captain to give it a deep, bass ridden sound. With but a glance Landen caught little of the room and even less once the hatch shut tightly.

“I acquired the Navigator and her associated apparatus just a few years ago. She’s shaven months off my best routes, in turn earning me a rather small fortune. I’m very impressed with her. They say it’s something about the way they can feel the Warp currents in that sphere that allows them – her - to navigate the currents better. The feeling of sanctuary, of focus, within the womb like ball gives them stability and allows them to focus completely. Not many houses use that equipment, and even few commit to that individually. Fascinating though, isn’t it?... Forgive me for rambling on; Now, Inquisitor, what might I be able to do for you?”

The voice came into view. The Captain was a veritable juggernaut of a man – tall, muscular, a square jaw and short shaven hair. His chest jutted out athletically and his arms were thick with muscle and sinew. Landen could see the Captain was clearly a fan of juvenant treatment, as his face was relatively youthful compared to the depth of time Landen could see in the Captain’s eyes. No full juvenant treatment could ever hide the passage of time behind the eyes. Landen thought about his own eyes – eyes that had perhaps seen too much.

The Captain locked eyes with Landen, clearly not cowed by the immediate threat of the Inquisition. This captain had perhaps dealt with one, or more, Inquisitors in his time. Such were the vagaries of warp travel and the management overhead of having and managing a full fleet of vessels, that a significant number of Inquisitors chose to travel with merchant ships across the stars. Most merchants knew how to be discreet and a good number also knew the best routes. Most knew how to avoid detection and how to dispense with checks, sweeps and the like from local security forces. All of these were valuable skills, especially when one needed to be as quiet and as stealthy as possible. They were skills that Landen valued and needed above all others at this moment in time.

“Safe passage, Captain, that’s all I ask, just to your destination. You’ll see I’ve paid my coin, like the rest. What I want is no more violence down under. I’ll happily stay down there.”

“Are you asking, Inquisitor, or demanding? I might wonder if there’s even a difference when the person asking is a member of the Most Holy Orders.”

Landen stared impassively at the Captain, who waited for a few seconds for a response from Dosdamt – it didn’t come.

“I can’t control all my men, Inquisitor, not all the time. Incidents are inevitable on a long voyage.”

“Consider it a demand, Captain. One you will fulfil.”

Landen’s tone of voice was steely and resolute.

“Are you trying to intimidate me, Inquisitor?”

“I should hope I don’t have to, Captain. As a loyal servant of the Emperor, I am sure you will simply cooperate.”

The conversation was becoming really rather strained, really rather quickly. Landen knew that travelling alone was a risk, even for one such as himself – this situation was very quickly exaggerating that risk.

“Let’s not turn this conversation into a murder, Inquisitor.”

“I agree Captain.”

“Then as a reasonable man, Inquisitor, I am sure you will agree that you’re in no position to bargain or make demands.”

“Are we negotiating with one another or threatening one another, Captain?” Landen replied.

“Dear Inquisitor, there’s never really been a difference. And certainly for you, there’s no difference – you’re not in a position to do either.”

Landen restrained himself. He knew the Captain was right but had to somehow turn the situation – without violence – to his advantage. He could of course bribe the Captain with more Imperial Bonds that he could imagine but despite all the show of wealth around them and the fineries the Captain wore Landen didn’t believe material wealth would really appeal to the Captain.

“We’re not yet on first name terms, Inquisitor, or even last I might add.”

“I am Inquisitor Landen Dosdamt, Captain, and you?”

That had swung it. The Captain’s face had partially drained of colour – Landen knew he was considered a monster across a handful of systems and naturally his reputation seeped out of them into the adjoining systems. Traders talked, at great length and in great detail, and Landen’s own puritan, public actions, along with some artistic embellishment – meant he was widely feared. There were of course hints about Aliestra and so on – but nothing had slipped into the public domain that Landen was aware of that would damage his reputation with the normal folk of the Imperium.

The Captain looked like he was coming slowly down from his assumed position of power, to a position that looked up at Landen.

“Confirm his seal.”

The steel in the Captain’s voice was beginning to melt away. His voice had wavered just slightly as he had given the order. A naval rating stepped forwards with a dataslate – Landen pushed his seal into the connection which caused the slate to whirr for a few moments. Blinking at first, Landen’s name flashed onto the slate and sat there as permanent as carving into a gravestone.

Throne alive, thought the Captain.

“Well met, Inquisitor Dosdamt. I am Captain Amose.”

“Captain Amose,” Landen nodded back carefully. He didn’t take his eyes away from the Captain.

Atmosphere oozed for a second between them. The air was becoming chilled – not especially cold – but moving with a glacial tension between the men facing one another. Landen still had his pistols quite prominently on show. The ebony handles were prominent and bared like vicious canines. Amose had done the same – his own proud pistol, a snub nosed single shot shotgun from the look of it, rested in his belt with a chrome handle embossed with the name “Jenni”.

“The intractable hound himself, then; Inquisitor Dosdamt. I’ve heard of you, Dosdamt, I have no idea how you got aboard my ship, but I would like to know the reason why, and why you care about those below.”

“I’ve told you why I’m here, Captain. I just want a bunk and a few months quiet till we reach our destination, that’s all.”

Landen waited, before adding.

“They’re innocents, Amose. Stupid innocents. They’ve no great feud with you. Leave them be.”

Amose still looked alarmed, but calming somewhat. It had probably just been the initial shock of discovering which particular Inquisitor he had aboard. Time ticked past for a few moments as the Captain thought. Previously he had thought himself in an unassailable position – but Dosdamt was no fool and likely had men secreted throughout the ship. They would make themselves known if he were to make a move against their master. Landen was glad of the little Amose knew of his true, more precarious position.

Amose sighed – there was little choice in the matter.

“Take him to some of the capital quarters on the ship. Make the Inquisitor feel welcome. And get me Bosun LaFarge.”

Landen nodded, and left the bridge.


Landen got his wish. Amose became most amiable and Landen found himself actually quite liking the flamboyant captain. Beneath the combative speech Landen found a deep thinking man, a man largely of morality and strength who was keen to develop his trade and his ship.

Landen was also right in his assertion that it was likely Amose had seen many of the Inquisition – he had. Amose spoke rather proudly and at great length about the Inquisitors he had served – some of them Landen knew, others he had heard of – some simply passed him by in the blur of stories. Amose was an old man – significantly old – and he had seen many years and numerous adventures. With that came a raft of interesting and captivating tales. Landen and Amose stayed up late many a night recalling times past. Landen spoke little of his own adventures, preferring to listen to Amose’s own adventures.

Landen quite enjoyed the gentle camaraderie – the rest would do him good before they broke realspace and the race back to the Virtue began again in earnest. The pursuit would begin again as well - it wouldn’t be long either – Landen had used his seal on board. Once they ran into real space that use would transmit itself eventually back to the Inquisition central repository. He was in no doubt that his name would have enough markers next to it to ensure that someone would spot that use.

Landen didn’t have the technical knowledge to alter the code within the seal to stop it doing just that. He simply couldn’t remember how he had done it last time.

He sighed and wondered if Amose had any Cult Mechanicus aboard – or perhaps someone with any idea of how to stop the seal broadcasting. He would have to find a way quickly – he couldn’t leave even the slightest hint of his passing this way. That could potentially ruin his chances of getting back to the Virtue. That was all that mattered for now.

Amose’s crew were a ragtag bunch, split just like the passengers into Uppers and Lowers.

He didn’t care much for the lower dregs of the crew, though he did spend time understanding who was making gains, showing ambition and who was genuinely brilliant in his vast lower crew. They were invited to become Uppers – and that suggested to Landen that perhaps the old man had a few men of his own in the Lowers. He surely had to, to be able to control them and to be able to gain such swathes of information on them.

Those he felt were worthy became Uppers, true uppers. They dwelt on the crew levels and were treated significantly better. There was a full chapel on this level, and a significant number of training gymnasia, weapon racks, libraries and miscellania to allow the crew to both entertain and educate themselves.

Landen observed a great number of these sessions. It had been a long time since he had needed to think about immediate support and gathering a retinue, but he had to now. Of course his network of contacts, eyes and ears were still out in the great unknown but they weren’t combatants and most of them simply took the cash for the information. In all honesty, a significant number – perhaps even as high as ninety nine percent – were likely to be virtually useless at hand when compared to the value of the information they could provide.

An immediate worry was the lack of an astropath. Without it Landen could not access or send messages across the Astropathic network – and while it was easy for largely mechanical servitors to download the information while in the warp, outside in real space he genuinely needed one to stay in the loop. Then there was the logistics, and the trust issues, and the ability issues, not to mention delegation and organisation.

That meant finding a new chief of staff. He would also need a savant of some kind, someone sharp and intelligent enough to put the pieces of his investigation together with him. They would need to be specially trained – probably within the Administratum.

All this was going to take time and requisition, things he was short on. He couldn’t trade on eluding his pursuers forever – it simply wouldn’t happen. There would eventually be a confrontation.

Landen also thought about perhaps taking an acolyte or two. Proper juniors to carry on his work after Landen himself had passed on. The weight of time and responsibility was aching on his shoulders, after all, and Landen felt he couldn’t be charging around the galaxy his entire career.

He sighed – there was so much to rebuild. So much, in fairness, he had torn down with his own hands.

He’d been observing many of the classes but no one had shown themselves to be outstanding. There were a few who were somewhat talented but nothing that particularly caught Landen’s eye. No doubt, they were tough and dedicated men and women, but none of them really shone in any of the classes. Landen knew he would need a cadre of toughened fighters but on top of that he needed thinkers, logisticians, savants, and medics. He wasn’t likely to find them here, he had to conclude.

A pity, really – Landen had developed a good relationship with the crew. At first they looked on him with fear and doubt. They’d avoid him in corridors, whisper behind his back about those Landen had killed down in the slums and spread rumours about his past. Landen persisted, however, and they found him to be likeable and charismatic.

Landen even took the time to help take a few of the hand to hand combat classes. Sparring again warmed his bones and fired his blood. He felt, after several decades of being under a soporific haze for so long he was finally beginning to find his feet again. His muscles were finding their strength again. Every day he found his head becoming clearer, mind sharper, thoughts more focused; the sequence of events were stringing together to form a distinct picture of the past – and the way forwards.

Landen was aboard the vessel for a further fifteen weeks after his initial encounter with Amose. His mood lightened, and though he knew he was likely pursued by a pack of Inquisitors, agents of Othello and hordes of the Chaotic forces he had turned his back on, he felt there was some optimism in the galaxy.


After alighting the merchant vessel Landen made planet fall on a small rock known as Litsia. Litsia was a small world, tactically inconsequential with a loose population of migratory hunter gatherers and a larger grounded farming population. There were rolling grasslands that seemed to go on forever. Great giant grox – much larger than the standard imperial breed – followed millennia old migratory routes across the Great Plains and with them followed the hunters, great predatory beasts and summery weather.

To dismiss the hunter gatherers as primitive was pure folly – they simply chose to follow their ancient way of life. They followed a simple lifestyle. They lived a sustenance lifestyle, and only used the very basics of Imperial technology. Landen had been here for less than 3 months when he was significantly younger, and had enjoyed the company of the hardy Litsians. Landen felt that the world was of such inconsequentiality that spending a few weeks here wouldn’t stymie his journey badly.

As the lander burst through the atmosphere Landen gazed out down the amazing sight of the tall ice-capped mountains he’d know in his younger days lounging by the rolling plains. He saw one of the huge herds of grox snaking for miles across the grassland, and one of the tribes dragging their lives with them alongside the herd. Warm, rewarding memories of his time on this planet flooded back when he was learning how to survive in the wild with the tribe, some essential training for a young acolyte too used to the ease of urban imperial life or so his master would have insisted.

He stopped off in the capital, Diemos. Diemos was a thronging, busy city with a lively market, a swelling population and a strong Ecclesiarchal presence. Landen liked the city because it wasn’t a hive city – it was alive in a way that most hive cities were dead. The architecture was organic and traditional. It was largely constructed from great blackstone carved from the local mountains and dragged here. There were also great steel buildings – the steel was also mined and refined on the planet from great mines at the two poles of the planet. The styling was rustic and a reflection of the transient lifestyle of the tribes. The buildings looked sturdy without necessarily looking entirely permanent. Just outside the city limits were great camping fields used by passing tribes as a stopping point for trade and re-supplying. Landen watched from one of the balconies as one of the tribes were packing their tents, and another waited just on the borders of the camping ground.

Landen went to the market first, simply to take in the sights and the drama. All around him traders called out their deals and merchandise and people bartered passionately. The place was a lively exciting swirl of voices, smells and sounds and there was a great mix of all things – silks, skins, spices and more exotic goods such as weapons, energy cells and even bionics. Landen felt at ease, if a little cold and tired. At one stall there were great slabs of salted meat hung on hooks, looking entirely delicious. Landen bought some to gnaw on as he strolled around the market. It tasted coarse and rugged.

Landen walked a while, considering his next moves while absent mindedly chewing on the meat. He would have to access an astropath, and soon. He needed to link back with as many of his agents as he could and find out what they’d been able to find out about Othello and Vincent. He’d also need to find out about those who were chasing him; names, leads, how close to his trail they were. He also needed to chase down the Virtue.

And still the retinue problem lingered. Worse than that, he had lost all his texts, his library, his research and his fortress. He didn’t have any of the tools he had had previously, except the suwayyahs – but they were out of reach for now. He hadn’t abandoned his ambitions yet of truly turning the power of chaos against chaos. But that took resources, cover stories and enough smoke screens to ensure anyone who even began to look into his activities would find themselves locked in a maze of deceit and mayhem. He would probably be forced to hit one of the nearby Inquisitorial archives – one filled with proscribed material.

One filled with danger and a full compliment of dread guards.

He took another bite of the jerked meat and let out a deep, long sigh. It had taken him so long to build up his inner circle before – and that was with the support of his former master, his brothers Othello and Vincent and while he was still an Inquisitor in good standing.

Now he was an outcast, unable to use his seal and without any external support.
“Well,” he mumbled to himself, “It’s a good job I like a good challenge.”


It was up in the new quarter of the city which had been built only recently. The buildings were steely, strong and riddled with imperial cult iconography. Imposing eagles looked down on the streets. There was a clear pointer towards the house of the astropath – an open eye in the talons of the Imperial eagle.

The house was somewhat ramshackle and run down, however. The house was clearly damp and pipes were leaking down the side of the house. Landen could see a large angelic stature – the astropathic amplifier – that came out of the house, the roof and into the sky. The angel was missing a hand and half its halo.

Landen walked up the path, somewhat hesitant. Astropaths were crazy at the best of times. They existed somewhere between reality and the warp, in a strange hinterland all of their own – even individually. They could see into the future, transmit messages across the galaxy and bolster the powers of psykers around them. However some of them could barely mumble five words in a coherent sentence.

The Astropath was a wizened old man riddled with socket ports, dead milky white eyes and creaking bones. Landen could hear him wheeze from miles away. He looked virtually dead on his feet. He rolled his eyes and steeled himself for a conversation with the crazy old man.

“Hello.”

His voice was reedy but had a certain warm ring to it. Landen smiled weakly. This could go either way.

“I know why you’re here, young man. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the hounds that have your blood.”

“I don’t need a risk assessment, astropath. I need access to the astropath network.”

The old man looked Landen up and down with his dead white eyes, somewhat surprised.

“Not even a kind word from an old man, young man? A word of worldly advice and warning?”

“Ok, I’ll bite.”

“Naginata.”

Landen narrowed his eyes.

“Say that again…”

“Naginata.”

“Where did you hear that??” Landen exclaimed.

“I… I…”

Landen waved his hand and shook his head.

“Look, just, uhm, nevermind. Just get onto the network.”

Landen checked his messages with urgency. Not much that required his immediate attention. A few of his agents had picked up some noise related to Othello further towards the Segmentum Solar. Only a few hints and whispers – nothing concrete and certainly nothing worth investigating in person because heading that way was certain suicide, especially since a few of his other agents had suggested that there were many active Inquisitors and their networks looking quite diligently for Landen.

The Virtue had been forced to move on twice to avoid being checked over by local authorities. The Virtue was certainly not a standard vessel, and if Landen remembered accurately it was still riddled with contraband cabins and artefacts of interest. They would also turn the vessel over to the local Inquisition; something Landen could not countenance. There was one message from one of his contacts who’d heard a rumour about Vincent – his lunatic brother had allegedly taken off on a pilgrimage of sorts. His contact had followed him across a dozen worlds - on each world there had been a terrorist incident. It didn’t take much to put the pieces together.

But just why was Vincent doing such things? It didn’t add up to Vincent’s usual settled, partially Amalthian leanings. They’d all been targeted at holy structures – cathedrals, monasteries, reliquaries and the like. Very few human casualties in fairness, but people had been killed. All razed to the ground. Explosions, flames, mayhem; nothing like Vincent’s usual methods and the messages ran out very shortly before Vincent was due to arrive on a penitentiary desert world. That would have to wait as well.

Only the Virtue mattered for now. Once he had his capital ship back, he could begin moving more freely. That was all that was on his mind; the Virtue was an incredible ship. A huge Inquisitorial dreadnought, it had been to hell and back with Landen and like him, it was still fighting fit. The rumours of his brothers could wait.

Then there was that word – Naginata. Landen hadn’t heard it in a long time – he’d forgotten about it, if he was perfectly honest. It had been a fallback position Landen had prepared a long time ago. A long time ago, back before he’d been chasing his Xanthitic ambitions. He didn’t even know if it was still operational. He keyed in the activation word.

Seppuku.

The reply would be due in less than three days – if the place was still available, he’d get the Virtue and head straight to Naginata. If not – the Virtue would do, for now, as his base of operations.

The fact this had come out of the blue was somewhat surprising however and it disgruntled Landen. He hadn’t even remembered he had set up the facility all those years ago, and for it to be activated out of the blue like this was excessively suspicious. Still, he remembered now what he had in place at Naginata – and it would prove to be a fine base for him, for a short while, before he moved on.

“What word, then, my lord?”

The astropath had clearly been appropriately trained – he was entirely oblivious to anything being sent or received through his head.

“Fine enough word, old man.”

Landen dropped his payment onto the desk of the old man – a fat imperial bond. The thick sound of the paper hitting the desk was unmistakable to the astropath.

“Good enough word for a tip, I might say, my lord?”

“Fine enough, friend, fine enough.”


Three days passed like the passage of a billion years. Aching seconds into burning minutes into torturous hours - Landen was restless all the while, waiting. In some ways he disliked incredibly that Naginata had spoiled his rest on Litsia. He’d expected to be spending a few curt days here, sampling the markets before he’d find a merchant vessel to travel onwards with towards the Virtue – but no such luck. He couldn’t be entirely certain without accessing the records for the naval station above the planet, but it appeared that very little was scheduled to come past the world for some time.

Landen spent his time around the capital, just waiting. He was restless and tried to burn time in bars and pacing listlessly in his accommodation. His room looked out over the city – it was a penthouse in one of the temphabs in the very centre of Diemos making it a good haunt for Landen to simply wait in. Without much interest he watched the clock and the ants below teeming in the streets pass him by agonisingly slowly.

Down in the bars he found himself ill at ease – while the drinking holes of Diemos were friendly enough, they weren’t fully friendly and fights broke out sporadically. This set Landen on edge leaving him feeling even more agitated and itching to move on. He had successfully resisted the urge to check in with the astropath – no doubt there would be agents of one kind or another following his trail now, given it was likely his seal signal had been pinged off to the nearest Inquisitorial fortress. He’d have to risk breaking cover and accessing the astropath in the next three days, of course, but doing it sooner would simply jeopardize his current position.

It is never too late! - Mentirius

http://thementalmarine.proboards.com/index.cgi <- The Mind, for all your irreverent nonsense needs

Offline Dosdamt

  • Inquisitor
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Re: Brotherly Bonds
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2009, 04:00:29 PM »
There’s an animal in all of us. Deep in the core of us, down beneath the layers of personality, beneath the layers of consciousness, beneath the conscience, beneath morality and beneath humanity – with all of the unnatural consciousness and all of the aspects that make up the beast known loosely as human lives the core of our being – the homo sapiens that clubbed the Neanderthal to death. With all the pressures bearing down on the beast, is it any wonder that when it is let out, it won’t be restrained and put back away?

Othello knew this truth more than most – indeed, on the battlefield that day with the on-rushing power of the Hive Mind and a teeming biomass of destruction in front of him, Othello felt his conscience and his consciousness and his morality and his humanity just snap like a twig and there it was – everything he’d fought to restrain since he was a child springing fourth from his finger tips. Playing and dancing and coruscating out of him and suddenly it came fourth in a burst of light hotter than any star. It exploded out of him and the battlefield had been left nothing more than a smoking ruin.

And in that second, Othello knew that everything had been changed forever.


“Othello. I want to call him Othello.”

The mewling baby seemed subdued once pressed into his father’s arms. The beaming parents both looked on at their son, who was restlessly struggling in his father’s arms.

“Ok. It’s a good, strong name. Othello it is.”


By the age of 3 Othello had burnt down his parent’s house five times. Each time his parent’s had pleaded stupidity, ignorance, or some freak household accident. They knew it was their son. They’d both seen flame playing on his fingers from time to time. There were scorch marks on toys that matched perfectly with his fingers.

The boy was speaking now as well – not malformed, garbled sentences but true structured standard Gothic sentences. The boy was also alarmingly intelligent – he would dance circles around the Arbites who came to call after each event. His story would align perfectly with that of his parents and would be delivered in such a way that would melt the hearts of the Arbites.

Manipulation and deception came easily to Othello.

His parents, however, began to become concerned when it became apparent Othello was enjoying toying with the officers.


By four Othello had been taken in by the Inquisition on Aliestra. His witchery had been revealed during the death of his family. The family house had been filled with monitoring equipment and while Othello had found and destroyed some of it, he hadn’t been able to destroy it all. The boy had been arguing with his parents over something minor and in an act of petulance he had incinerated them both. Charred skeletons remained.

Guilt from the act had quickly overwhelmed Othello, and he had since just been walking through the family residence unleashing flames from his fingers. The house was soon in a huge blaze behind the distant Othello who stood in front of the burning wreck. He didn’t look repentant or guilty or annoyed – he just looked numb. His eyes were glassed and hazy. His arms hung loosely by his side.

The Arbites had arrived in vicious mood and subdued him immediately and with no small amount of force – the boy had sharpened up but had been barely able to raise a flaming fist in defiance before the first shock maul smashed him around the head and left him unconscious on the floor.


Othello had tried for weeks to control it. He couldn’t risk having himself evacuated from the planet before he had it under control. But every day, without fail, the light would come out again and there would be another terrible cataclysm. Some days it would only be once or twice. Other days he would be exploding more than hourly.

The epicentre was growing deeper and deeper into the earth every day that Othello broke his control over it and the flames were set free. Ash was burnt into smaller pieces of debris until they were completely annhilated. Earth was vaporized around him. Each day his team would come down from orbit to help him get it under control. Teams of sanctioned psykers would risk the journey down to the surface to help him figure out how to keep the fire inside. Some days they’d see the chain reaction coming as it built up inside him and manage to flee in time. Other days they wouldn’t, and another team would have to be assembled from Othello’s rapidly dwindling staff.

From his lonely crater Othello would requisition further support for his staff on his capital ship up in orbit. They’d bring in the new recruits, and fire them at the surface. They’d watch from the bridge floating high above the epicentre and watch the flares as Othello erupted like a volcano time after time. His senior staff, who’d been ordered by Othello to remain in orbit, were beginning to worry he’d never cage it.

His chief interrogator and second in command, Jenni Vaistallan, had already pointed all of the capital weapons down at the surface squarely onto her master’s head. She didn’t believe that Othello would ever recover. But her master had given her every chance to prove herself, so she figured she owed Othello at least one chance to get it under control. She just wasn’t sure how long she was prepared to let that chance run for.

Already the knives were out in his staff – there was little loyalty in them. Othello had bred them to be fierce, ambitious animals, and indeed his breeding served them well. But as he was now vulnerable, they were all liable to turn on him. The leader of the pack was weak, and that meant that the leadership was available to anyone cutthroat enough to simply take it. Jenni had real loyalty to her master, though even she would admit it was running thin now. Time was ticking, quickly, and the longer they lingered, the more it increased the chance that Othello would be discovered as an unstable psyker and questions would begin to be asked of Jenni and why she hadn’t enacted the duty she had, until now, avoided following through on.

Sharp questions, they would be as well. Pointed – perhaps even heated…

Jenni sighed and slunk a little lower into the command chair – she would have to sit and ride this out for now. Another month or two, she figured, and then that would be all she could abide – she would have to kill him at that point.


“Do you know what I am, boy?”

Othello looked up at the distant figure. He was shrouded in darkness, but Othello could make out details in the murk. He was a tall man, wearing a hood that blocked out most of the features of his face, but that was a trick of the shadows. Othello knew the man wouldn’t have blocked away his eyes. Othello’s keen intellect took in all the details of the man, running them passed everything he’d seen in his young life. He could only come back to the Arbites – they shared a similar double headed eagle to the one the man wore around his neck – the Aquila of the Imperium.

“You’re Arbites.”

“Wrong, boy, but a good effort. You’re probably too young to have heard of my Order. With good reason, too, I’d say. You’ve a sharp mind, boy.”

Othello stood defiant against the man, at least, as defiant as his tiny frame would allow him to stand. His face was more a comedy caricature of what someone looking defiant would look like as opposed to the actual sneer of defiance.

Othello’s hand began to glow, this time voluntarily.

“A fiery temper too, it seems. Do not try it, boy, I warn you now.”

It was too late; Othello threw a great gout of flame from his fingers outwards in a reaching gesture at the man. The flames seemed to part and filter around the man till they subsided from Othello’s fingers and the boy was panting and sweating from the effort.

“A foolish effort boy and a misinformed gesture; I warned you not to do that, and now you must learn your first lesson – the lesson of consequence…”

For the first time in his short life, Othello knew what real fear felt like.


Othello breathed deeply as he jogged across the crater. The sky of the world had blackened severely from the amount of ash that was pushed into the air every time it was let out. For miles around him, there was just wasteland; flattened, darkened ash lands. His staff had taken soil samples – there wasn’t even bacteria left in the soil anymore, Othello had burnt it all away.

Every few weeks he had to move on. He was slowly destroying the planet; everything he’d hoped to achieve by standing against the Hive Mind he was erasing through his own lack of control. There was nothing he could do – it was becoming more and more regular now. He’d sit for a few hours thinking he had it under control before he’d erupt again. The craters were expanding and growing. The scorched ground was sweltering and roiling. The black ground seemed to go on infinitely all around him.

And a terrible beat in his ears all the time… His heart.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

He kept on jogging. The exercise focused his mind, gave him purpose, and that purpose helped to keep it restrained and under the skin. He kept on running. Footfall after footfall in the soft black ash, his eyes on the horizon and his blood thundering through his veins – this was the only way he knew to keep it down.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

Naked and determined, Othello kept moving. The ground was easy under foot – it was soft and flat. He could move quickly and languidly. His skin felt good in the open air. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep it from consuming him.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

It was always there. It always had been, biting at the edge of his consciousness. He’d had to connect to it more than most members of the human species – the brutality and primal nature of the Id had been something he’d had to tap into to do some of the things he’d done in the past. The nature of the work the Inquisition had to do required that.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

But now it was unchained. He couldn’t put it back in its box. It was refusing.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

There was one more thing, though, that was proving hard to accept.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

He liked it.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

He liked the feeling of being unrestrained. He liked the feeling of pure wanton destruction. He liked the feeling of absolute and complete chaos in his veins, in his head.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

He was addicted to the feeling of being completely out of control.
It is never too late! - Mentirius

http://thementalmarine.proboards.com/index.cgi <- The Mind, for all your irreverent nonsense needs

Offline Dosdamt

  • Inquisitor
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Re: Brotherly Bonds
« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2009, 04:01:18 PM »
Othello was now 10 years old.

He’d been in the company of Dosdamt for 6 years. Technically not true – he’d been in the academy of Dosdamt for 6 years. During that period he’d grown considerably, racing from a diminutive stature into a tall, wiry frame that looked primed and ready to be bulked out by brute musculature as he grew through his teens and into his twenties.

Othello’s keen intellect was also absorbing everything that was thrown at him – galactic, sector and planetary economics; mathematics; languages (High, Low, and Formal Gothic, Aliestran); Administratum procedures and protocol; Terran and Aliestran philosophy; Terran and Aliestran literature; Schola Psykana and Schola Progenium training; physical training including martial art;  and even some lessons in the way of the Ominissah. Everything came easily to Othello – nothing stopped his mind developing.

His anger had also been beaten out of him. His encounter with Dosdamt had left him with a good sense of his own ability, mortality and great deal of fear for the man. Regular beatings and berating from the tutors had stymied his rebellious streak though not erased it completely. He was a little more human, perhaps; a little more modest and certainly more empathetic.

He was also in the midst of a generation of similar children. It appeared Dosdamt had been dragging in children from far and wide bringing them to his academy on Aliestra. There were years of children, up to the age of eighteen, above Othello in the academy. The academy itself was a vast campus on some forbidden stretch of Aliestra. Othello judged from the stars they were somewhere on the north eastern coast of the largest continent – though he hadn’t been able to explore far enough from the grounds to assess the local flora and fauna.

In Othello’s initial year he had been one of seventy eight. At the end of his sixth, he was one of only forty seven. Their numbers dwindled for a variety of reasons. One boy had been gripped by something unholy and had been shot as he had a fit and spewed his own blood onto the floor. A girl had broken down in a lesson and gone completely catatonic.

Another girl had slashed her own wrists in her room.

Othello had heard the screaming and gone running to her room. He barged in to find her spraying her own blood from her wrists all over the wall and the floor, the furnishings and the door. Othello immediately went to her aid gripping her wrists tightly trying to staunch the flow – but as he gripped he could see it was already too late and his was a pointless endeavour. He wrestled with her all the way until her death, blood all over him as he tried in vain to stop her death. As the tutors arrived Othello was holding the girl in his arms on the floor, looking slightly shaken.

As they arrived, his mind hardened and focused; reasoning took over.

“I didn’t kill her, if that’s what you’re thinking;” he said flatly, “The blades she used are on the floor. I’ve not touched them.”

Othello stood up, letting the corpse slump off him. Blood ran off him loosely.

“Go and clean up,” one of the tutors said, examining the body. It was obvious where Othello’s hands had been over the wounds on the wrists – there were greasy finger marks and already coagulating blood around those marks.

Another one of the tutors nodded at Othello as he left the room.

The experience had shaken Othello but it had brought the reality of the situation home to him – while he was somewhat flourishing, some of his peers were suffering.

* * * *

The times they spent with Dosdamt were always exciting, enthralling and dangerous. Dosdamt was a huge, physically imposing presence in any room. He wore what seemed to be excessively exaggerating carapace armour which made him seem like a man mountain. He looked excessively fearsome. Othello only saw him four times after seeing him in his formative time at the academy, a period which totalled 14 years; Dosdamt was probably away on business the majority of the time.

The Inquisition, as he’d come to understand it, was an almost mythical organisation. No one spoke of it in the academy. It was an esoteric concept – a wild fantasy. Only when Dosdamt returned to the place, accompanied by an outbreak of cherubim, adepts, savants and armed thugs did the idea of the Inquisition suddenly become real and vivid.

Whenever he returned Othello would give a tutorial to each of the groups – from the 18 year olds down to the youngest class filled with children. He would be reading reports almost constantly and seemed to be thoroughly in control, despite the carnage of savants around him. He was the serene eye of the storm in the centre of his own storm.

* * * *

One time, when the academy assembled for prayers Othello noted the numbers in each year – predictably they dwindled until the final year where there was less than a handful. Once they reached the final year, that Othello understood was to be his eighteenth year, the youngsters disappeared.

Some he had seen again – a young woman who’d left when Othello had just joined had returned in his tenth year by age to give lessons in martial arts. She left the school as a wiry, tough whippet – when she returned she looked strong and healthy enough to break through walls.

Othello decided she probably was – he attended her classes for his year and noted how she moved so easily and fluidly. She had a deceptive strength about her – the older children would spar with her in their own free time. In his free time, Othello would watch. It was clear she could quite easily tear them apart – quite often it was simply a merry dance, she allowing the student to attack and wear themselves out before she would unleash hell on them. Broken noses were common as were black eyes and severely bruised ribs. One student had tried to block one of her attacks and had his arm snapped like balsa wood.

Ironically, that very year they’d begun the breaking exercises in Othello’s – first thin pieces of wood, then thicker and tougher pieces. Othello didn’t pick it up at first – his first few weeks attempts had resulted in only bruised, blackened knuckles and severe frustration. Drills would follow routines would follow sparring and then – breaking. Other children had mastered it immediately, and were able to smash the wood immediately.

Othello struggled to accept that his physical strength could destroy the wood and go through it. His mind, focused on the physically real, couldn’t grasp how he could do it. He had rigidly enforced his view of reality – it helped keep the flames inside.

“Is there a reason you’re struggling, Othello?” she said.

She’d barked it loud enough so the other students could hear and they stopped eager to see a show. Othello scowled – he hadn’t expected this.

“I do not possess the physical strength to effectively penetrate and destroy this piece of wood, ma’am.” Othello replied sharply.

“Ludicrous nonsense – physical brute strength is nothing compared to belief, technique, and the application of the idea that you can break the wood,” she replied whip crack sharp, “Show me your punch.”

Othello drew his hands to his sides, set out into a ready pose, before unleashing a thunderous punch onto the wood. It rattled in its holder and Othello cursed under his breath at the pain lancing up his arm.

“The technique is fine. I think we have a problem with belief, Othello. Do you not believe you can punch through this wood – how can that be so when more or less everyone else in the room can?”

She smiled at the class.

“They are no stronger than you are, and no more able than you from the point of view of technique. What they have is conviction in their own ability to break these pieces of wood. I would suggest, Othello, that you believe that you can smash the wood, and that you apply that idea to the situation at hand.”

Othello looked at her.

“There will always be barriers, in whatever profession you choose. You must always be responsible for breaking those barriers. This is a representation of that idea.”

Othello looked back at the wood. He’d never let anything beat him before. Glistening in the surface of the wood was a sequence of knuckle marks from where he’d tried, and failed before.

“Your failure is staring you in the face, Othello.”

She shifted to his side as he stood, nearly shaking with rage.

“I suggest you do something about it,” she whispered, “Or I will speak with Dosdamt.”

Othello stepped back, and plunged his fist downwards. Nothing.

“Again.”

Slam.

“Again.”

Slam.

“Again!”

Slam. Nothing. Othello flexed his hand and rubbed his knuckles.

Othello sighed, and without needing another instruction set back into the ready pose. His eyes focused on the wood – singularly, everything else was pushed aside and left to his unconscious mind. Only the wood remained, on the blocks of plascrete which held it above the ground. Visualising the situation, Othello willed his mind to envisage his fist passing through the wood, the wood splintering and himself falling to one knee with carry through from the punch. It was simplicity itself – the punch, the strike and break, and the carry through.

He rose up the fullness of his height, feeling his whole body loosen then tighten as he prepared the blow. His eyes didn’t leave the centre of the wood where his knuckles had previously hit ineffectually into the surface; he felt his torso twist slightly to generate the power for his punch. His arm came straight out from its drawn back position, not deviating in a swing which would only waste energy. His fist came straight down and punched for a target some distance directly behind the wood. His whole body was channelled through his knuckles, and with a mighty crack the wood splintered around his fist as it plunged through it. Othello came down quickly to one felled knee, breathing deeply with exertion.

“About time Othello,” she said, decidedly unimpressed, “Welcome to three weeks ago, we’ve missed you. Now, load up your block and break again. When you’re comfortable, I suggest you hurry to catch up with the rest of the class. Dillyn – please help Othello come up to speed.”

* * * *

The first time Dosdamt visited, Othello remembered it vividly and somewhat surreally – he was but a small boy and Dosdamt had come to them early in his second year. He seemed so different to the figure Othello remembered in the dark. He was a colossus, a giant brute of a man. The class had been ordered to assemble in the drill hall, where they sat in rows expectantly waiting for Dosdamt. The look of awe and downright fear on all of the faces, even the tutors, suggested that everyone here had been hand-picked by Dosdamt. As he came to a stand still at the front of the class, there a frosty silence in the room and strangely the breath coming out of each of them danced as vapour into the air.

Othello felt like a miniscule speck before this giant of a man – like something so insignificant in a great puzzle he couldn’t and wouldn’t ever figure out. The rattling pendant at the front of Dosdamt’s chest – a huge obsidian I, three bars of gleaming silver behind the I, and great silver skull in front with a single ruby eye – looked like the most powerful image Othello had ever seen.

“You’re here because you have potential. I’m sure I’ve spoken with each and every single one of you – I expect dedication, discipline – application.”

He turned on his heel.

“I expect each of you to realise your potential. This is an opportunity. Treat it as such. The Emperor on Terra has seen fit to bless you all with incredible talents, psychic powers we are tempering with virtue, discipline and prayer – great intellect we are harnessing and feeding. Physical fitness and ability we are nurturing through exercise, ritual and routine.”

He took a few steps, before turning quite sharply to face the assembled throng of students.

“I do not expect you to throw these gifts back in the face of the Emperor.”

* * * *

Othello found confidence in his own abilities in abundance after the breaking. He excelled in physical combat, being able to beat several of his peers at once in ground, striking, and armed combat. He was especially fond of armed combat and fought with a large, double handed sword that he hefted easily as his muscle mass and size increased quickly.

His discipline over his psychic power was growing too – no longer did flames sometimes leap from his mind at night when he was asleep. His Schola Psykana tutors found him to be an easy, affable student with enough dedication to listen to everything they taught him. They presented him with exercises, he listened and applied them. There had been no lessons in using the flame yet, though; only ever control, control, control and the steeling of his mind against the perils of the Warp.

But something was missing – an overriding purpose. Of course, Othello enjoyed the challenge, routine and discipline of his classes. He was regularly top of several of those classes. With each year that passed, the class dwindled and he remained. Some were let go because they weren’t achieving. Some more of the students killed themselves; crippling injuries were common too. Drop out after drop out left only seven in the class by the time Othello was eighteen.

But that didn’t change his sense of drift. Just why was he here?

* * * *

As each year passed and class sizes dwindled, whenever there was an opportunity to speak with Dosdamt the session would be more intimate and personal. At age fifteen, Othello was one of only twenty four. Dosdamt had entered towering and imposing, though less armoured than before. Gone was the bulky carapace replaced with the easy yet hideously intimidating robe Othello remembered from his past.

They were in one of the classrooms, a bulky, choking room filled with large desks and a great holo-screen at the front. The students sat facing the front, where Dosdamt himself had sat down onto his chair.

“What have you learned this year? Dillyn, will you speak first?”

“Aye my Lord,” she replied.

He gestured for her to stand, and uncertainly she did.

“My Lord, I have learned the value of humility in the eyes of the Emperor. I know my strengths, but to boast of them and think myself to be great before I have proven myself great is a heresy. I must act to prove myself great.”

“Yes!” exclaimed Dosdamt, clapping his hands together with great enthusiasm, “Excellent. This is a core belief I want you all to have – until you prove yourself great with great actions, you cannot ever truly be great. You may sit here at the top of the class- “ he glanced quickly at Othello, “- and you might think of yourself as a great being. You might think of yourself as a great achiever – I have nothing more to prove, you might exclaim.”

Dosdamt smiled.

“But until you have proven yourself great in the eyes of the Emperor, your tutors, and let us not forget the eyes of your peers, you are nothing. Good Dillyn, very good.”

She smiled and nodded.

“You may sit down now. Othello, I would hear you next – what say you? What have you learned?”

Othello nodded and stood up. He looked around the class, shuffling nervously on his feet.

“I have learned that without my companions, I am lost. I have learnt to rely upon my self, in previous years, but this year, I have learned the value of having people you may rely upon.”

“Good, a good lesson! Excellent!” he said, again clapping his hands before continuing “– collaboration is a vital part of our ability to function as a society and as human beings in our endeavours. We must all have a strong support network around us.”

“Why do you let so many of us die? Our group is decimated; if this continues, we will have no peers to rely on!?” asked Othello bluntly. He stared directly at the Inquisitor before him.

“A good question – some people will not realise their potential. Some people are only weak links in a chain – and any chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Your chain around you is snapping at its weakest points, and you are all re-forged stronger. Know this – one day you will all have to make a choice, and that will be your choice alone to make. You will not be able to rely on the strength or the counsel of others – it will be on you. And there will be a cost and there will be consequence.”

Dosdamt sighed.

“Those around you, who are dying, are being crippled, are dropping out, are mentally unstable, are killed; they are an example of cost and consequence. You all persist here. You toil – and the potential cost and consequence of that choice is death, be crippled or being maimed. As we can all see, I hope, these are very real risks. Keep that with you all – there is always a cost and there is always a consequence of each decision you make.”

The room was silent for a few seconds as the words sunk in.

“Good, Othello, thank you for your input. You may be seated now.”

Othello sat down, the words still ringing in his ears. Was it a choice for them to be here? It didn’t feel much like a choice, especially for Othello. It never had. As the discussions went on, Othello could not shake the feeling that the decision referred to by Dosdamt really hadn’t been made by any of them at all.

* * * *

The last time Othello spoke with Dosdamt, before he’d formally finished his training, was in his final year. Othello was a young man now. He’d grown into his frame – he was heavy set and brutal looking. He’d shaven his head, right down to the skin, exaggerating the look. He was intimidating, though his voice was still gentle, but even that had sharpness, a considered tone and pacing which was ice cold. He’d learned fast, but had been smart enough to pick up on subtexts in lessons, on nuances and what appeared to be the real agenda behind some of the things they were taught.

Dosdamt had returned a few months before Othello was due to finish in the academy. Time hadn’t touched Dosdamt – even now, he looked huge in his armour to Othello. The man still looked like a colossus, though now he addressed each one of the students individually as he entered the room, he looked more like a mentor to Othello – he wanted to learn from him. He wanted to be like him.

* * * *

“Dietrich, Ezekiel, I have news, brothers.”

The two acolytes stood and turned to face their master Inquisitor, Othello Dosdamt.

He was a large, stern man, shaven headed, clean shaven, and a weight of presence and muscle that oozed authority and gravitas. He had thick, strong carapace armour that covered the majority of his body and bulked his physical presence up to be alarmingly large.

The way he moved in the armour was the way a predator might circle prey. He motioned to the acolytes to sit as he stalked into their quarters.

“You have both served in my company for many years now, acolytes. You have served me well in the roles of savant, interpreters, Interrogators and men at arms. In all these tasks, you have excelled.”

“Thank you, Inquisitor Dosdamt,” Dietrich replied, “We learn and grow under your tutelage.”

Ezekiel nodded his agreement with the statement, adding “As we live and breath, Inquisitor, we learn in your presence.”

Othello waved away their statements, “Enough of that nonsense.”

“Listen, and listen well.”

He paused for effect, before turning to Dietrich.

“Dietrich, first of my acolytes to come this far without failure, without death – I have petitioned my brothers in the Malleus on your behalf for you to be handed seal and standing. Pending final approval, you are hereby an Inquisitor, Dietrich.”

Dietrich nodded back to Othello, holding back his excitement at the prospect of being made a full Inquisitor.

“You are welcome to serve another few years as a member of my warband and retinue, Inquisitor, until you find a place of such time and opportunity where you might begin to formally grow your own infrastructure. Mine will remain open to you for a decade after that, until you’ve made good your growth as an Inquisitor.”

“Thank you my Lord, your offer is generous and I will accept to stay on.”

Othello nodded and looked pleased with the result. He looked at Ezekiel next.

“Note this moment, Ezekiel, and note it well. The price for this success was blood, sweat and hard work. The consequence of his decision to toil, to endure, and to break through failure is that Dietrich is now a full Inquisitor.”

Ezekiel nodded complicity.

“Good,” said Othello, hefting himself back to his feet from the seat, “Note this lesson, and note it well.”

Ezekiel nodded again as Othello left the room.

“Inquisitor, eh?” Ezekiel said smiling, “Hahaha, Horus and his schemes be damned, eh, you made it!”

“Yes!” exclaimed Dietrich, laughing. They shook hands eagerly, laughing.

“Inquisitor Dietrich Van Der Laariman – doesn’t it just sound…. Perfect.”

* * * *

“Kill him! Dietrich, shoot you clown!”

Othello’s voice rang out true and hard. There was a hail of fire incoming on his position from a sniper, a few storeys up above them. The sniper was secreted in the building, hidden from Othello by enough plascrete to make even pot shots with his bolt pistol virtually pointless. Dietrich, however, had a perfect angle on the partially derelict structure.

Dietrich rested his rifle on the half ruined wall in front of him, and took his time. The sniper ahead of him ducked back out of cover to take another shot at Othello, rendering him invisible to Dietrich – no matter. The sniper’s rifle was unsophisticated and crude. He’d need to re-load … now. Clunk. Click. The sniper began fishing around for another bullet as Dietrich took aim.

He pulled the trigger back with extreme delight. The bullet caught the sniper square through the side of his head, emptying his brains all over the side of the building. Othello stood up after hearing the shot.

“About time Dietrich. Throne, what’s wrong with you? Damned be the day I gave you that seal, I swear unto the Emperor you’ve gone backwards!”

“Sorry Lord, just a struggle to get the angle exactly right,” replied Dietrich, getting up from his position. That had been the last of the first wave of resistance. The rebels would know they were coming now, but that didn’t matter too much – so long as they made the base by nightfall. If they didn’t make it by then – well, Dietrich didn’t really want to consider that option. There were far too many strange things happening at night, and they needed to break the siege now before it got any further out of hand. The rebels had taken a firm grip of the Imperial Guard base, and dug in as it was, it was going to be hard to evict them.

Worse, Dietrich knew, as well as Othello, who was heading them up. He’d never expected to experience internecine warfare so early in his career, but it had come and he was dealing with it.

He’d already killed an acolyte he saw himself in. He’d carved him up, up close, with a knife, repeatedly knifing the youngster as they grappled on the floor until the youngster had stopped kicking and struggling. Dietrich had stood above him, breathing deeply, covered in the blood of the young man. He was barely a man, probably in his early fourties with light rejuve. Dietrich was barely five years older than him, he had wagered grimly with Ezekiel. Ezekiel hadn’t been bothered by the affair, and took delight in setting the body on fire.

“Heretics make my blood burn,” Ezekiel had said, “I’m just spreading the feeling.”

That Othello indulged this kind of behaviour had puzzled Dietrich, but he didn’t question it. After all, he’d let Dietrich in on some of the very light details of the Aliestran Project of Othello’s master, Dosdamt, and who was he to criticize the man letting him on such a wonderfully delightful idea. It was barely the basics, for now – the concepts, some of the basic ideas. Dietrich hoped that Othello saw in him someone to take up the project on another world. He hoped Othello would give him the full details, in time. If Othello knew them, he hastened to caution himself.

If that meant he’d have to indulge Ezekiel’s behaviour for now, well, so be it. That would be the action he’d take. The research was too valuable.

Dietrich hopped the wall, stepping through the rubble, and over the rough ground. This was his operation, largely, he’d been responsible for tracking them down through the various traders and illicit activities they’d been indulging in that had meant there was a trail for Dietrich to follow. It hadn’t take long to follow them back here. That there was Inquisitorial sponsorship behind this whole mess hadn’t shocked Dietrich, just disappointed him. He fingered his knife gingerly. It was alien to him now. Before, it had been virtually an extension of his body.

Othello came to him, rattling his arm.

“Come on – move on. We need to make time, and we need to make it quickly.”

Othello pointed at the twinned retinues coming up behind them and moving ahead of them.

“This is your show, Inquisitor Van Der Laariman. Let’s see what you’ve got.”

Dietrich eyed his old master warily – was this another test? Perhaps – everything was a test with Othello. Dietrich nodded, and stood up a little straighter.

“Move yourselves, Throne damn your lazy hides. We must break this rabble, and break them soon. We cannot abide another night like last night – and the Emperor is with us! Move you dogs!”

* * * *

Othello coughed and staggered slightly. His legs were weak from a lack of oxygen, and his ears were still ringing. His lungs stung from all the smoke, and as he moved out of the mess, into the sunlight he smiled a grim, long smile. He sat on a convenient pile of rubble, breathing heavily. He moved a hand gingerly over his face, wincing at the burns which covered all of his face. It would scar, that was for sure. He followed them around his head, noting they covered the entirety his skull – so be it, he figured, that was how it would have to be - the price and consequence of achieving their objective. He sighed deeply as he heard footsteps behind him – he recognised the heavy, aching footfalls of Dietrich and the lighter steps of Ezekiel behind him. A few more pairs of feet were falling as the survivors came out into the light.

Dietrich slumped down opposite Othello. He was a state. His eyes were red and shocked, thin veins all over them making them look pure red. His hands were covered in blood and black dust. His clothes were scorched – Dietrich had been lucky, he hadn’t caught the full force of flames like Othello had – but his armour had suffered great rends all over it. Scores from thick, strong claws had ruined it. Dietrich looked largely unhurt, though the way he walked indicated he’d taken more than a few knocks. Broken ribs, twisted ankle, and broken fingers, if Othello was any judge of biology. He’d been beaten up, then. Nothing serious.

Ezekiel looked considerably worse – while there was nothing, at least on the surface, that would scar, he was still covered in blackened skin. He held one of his sides – splintered ribs, probably. He too was limping; Othello could see his shins were bleeding, filled with shuriken. Perhaps he hadn’t heard when Othello had barked trap. That would serve as a lesson to him. Othello would have him running laps tomorrow as penance. Then Othello glanced at his eyes – his irises were tiny and shrinking rapidly. The whites of his eyes were dominating – perhaps Ezekiel was going into shock.

Othello sighed and hit his communicator, indicating it was safe for the Medicae and Forensic teams to approach.

“Thus ends our association, I believe, Dietrich,” said Othello, even as the wounds on his face and head wept blood.

Dietrich looked at him incredulously, somewhat taken a-back.

“I suppose it does, doesn’t it,” he said, with some effort. Dietrich’s lips were swelling.

“Yes. Thank you for your help, Dietrich.”

Othello stood, and brought the communicator to his mouth.

“Alpha team, casualties.”

++ Reporting none from our team. Reporting overall casualties as twenty three from forty three. Of four VIPs, one unaccounted for, none accounted for as dead ++

“Three?” said Dietrich, looking at Othello, “There was only myself, you, and Ezekiel? … Othello?”

“Excellent. Thank you, Alpha team. Zero team, do you have him?”

“Othello, are you listening to me?”

++ Zero team counts one fox with the hounds. Fox is alive. Right where you said he’d be, Inquisitor ++

“Excellent, prep him for leaving. Transport, get me dusted off in the next ten minutes.”

Dietrich looked up again at Othello.

“Four… You bastard. You never wanted to kill him, did you? This wasn’t part of the plan, you bastard.”

“Our association is ended, Dietrich, I suggest you go about your business, because I intend to go about mine.”

“No, no, you listen to me you dishonest ass, you said you wanted him dead. I was working to that assumption you arrogan- will you stop when I’m speaking to you!”

Othello turned on the spot, and glared.

“Our association is ended, Inquisitor, and our business together concluded. I have what I came for; I do not need you for anything else. And you may keep Ezekiel, for all he’s worth.”

“Now listen here, Oth-“

Othello moved like a striking snake, autopistol drawn and between Dietrich’s eyes before he could blink. He stood on the tip of his toes, trying desperately not to agitate Othello further.

“Listen to me, Dietrich, and listen well – you’re in a new game now, and that game is real politick. That game is the Inquisition – and I am a master at this game. I suggest you learn very quickly what this game is about – because the lessons are over, Dietrich, and I really will have no issues with exposing your brains to sunlight if you get in my way.”

Othello’s eyes looked crazier beneath the mass of burnt and breached skin that was Othello’s head and face at present.

“For sparing you this day, there will be a time I will come to you, and make you an offer you will not refuse. Do you understand, Inquisitor?”

Dietrich nodded rashly. He didn’t really understand the connotations of that sentence, but the gun to his head was a catalyst for his rapid decision making faculties he found at his disposal at present.

“Do not push me further, Inquisitor. Our association is ended.”

Othello jutted the end of the gun into Dietrich’s head, just hard enough for him to know Othello was being entirely serious. Dietrich stepped backwards in shock as Othello turned his back on him again, and made his way across the square to the descending drop ship that was coming down through the clouds.

* * * *

“Hello, Dietrich.”

Othello. That sinister bastard’s voice hadn’t changed over time. It hadn’t got any kinder. It still had awful overtones of supremacy and arrogance.

“I’ve come to make you an offer you won’t refuse….”

Dietrich sighed. Othello was consistent, at least. He turned, and faced his old master. Othello grinned malevolently.

* * * *

“Hello Ezekiel.”

Othello. He’d left him half dead with Dietrich all those years ago on that Throne forsaken rock, basically to die. Dietrich had taken him as his acolyte, and Ezekiel had come into his own shortly after that. Othello – he’d barely thought about his old master in years. There’d been the note, of course, when Ezekiel had gained his seal, but he’d thought it bluster or arrogance. To hear his old master, well, that meant what he’d written on the note was accurate. Ezekiel turned, and knew the words before they came out of Othello’s mouth.

“I’m going to make you an offer you won’t refuse…”

Ezekiel even knew what this as about. He let the silence linger for a few moments, before sighing. He didn’t bother turning to face Othello.

“You murderous bastard.”

“I know.”

* * * *

Lord Inquisitor Dietrich Van Der Laariman stood before the academy, panting with the exertion. The conflict had been brutal and painful, and even now he was aching. This reminded him of another scenario where Othello had been driving the agenda, some years ago. That time, he’d had a gun put to his head, and he’d been told he’d be made an offer he couldn’t refuse.

He’d nearly refused, mind, when the offer actually came through. However, once Othello began to reveal some really rather notable indiscretions Dietrich had indulged in, the offer because irrefutable.

Dietrich sighed – it was all somehow very inevitable. He knew Othello was watching from space. He, and the rest of them here, had had their brief. They knew what they had to do.

Dietrich checked his bolt pistol was fully loaded, and waved his battalion forwards. They’d take this place before morning broke.

Ahead, the first gunshots were being fired. Dietrich took a deep breath and began to follow the kill-teams in.

* * * *

++ Don’t burn anything! ++ hissed Van Der Laariman across the communication channels, ++ Do not burn a Throne damned thing. Save everything! ++

Dietrich was stalking through the academy. All around him he could hear the echoes and the shrieks of combat. The place shook with a small explosion. Ahead the rat-tat-tat of auto-gun fire echoed loudly.

++ Alpha team in, Inquisitor ++

++ Yes, Alpha team? ++

++ Mi’Lord…. They’re children… I mean… Throne, Lord, they’re childr- ++

++ Do as ordered, Alpha team. Kill everyone who is not the target or any of the primaries. Understood Alpha team? ++

++ Aye, but, Inquis- ++

++ Understood, Alpha team? ++

++ Aye my Inquisitor ++

In another part of the academy, lasguns opened fire and the blood of innocent youths desecrated the ground.

* * * *

“Bring me anything labelled ‘Eugenics’ or ‘Project Aliestra’. Tear this damn place apart – and begin planting that evidence for hell’s sake. Where are the primaries, damn it, do we have the target yet? What is going on you throne damned amateurs?”

* * * *

“This was naught but a deal with the Devil, wasn’t it, Othello?”

Othello smiled – the whole cell was here, each of them indebted to him, or being encouraged to follow his requests. They were all struggling little flies in his web – at this point, a discussion about predators would be pointless because they all didn’t know the first thing about predatory creatures. They were simply being consumed by one.

“Yes, gentlemen, and lady, this was, indeed, an orchestrated event. But the target was never my goal – that was merely a score to be settled and I didn’t need my hands to be dirtied by this whole affair.”

Othello cast his smile out again, the way a shark smiles when it smells blood.

“No, this was another layer of control over you people. The planted evidence, the crooked trial, it was all… Magnificent. And the way you all acquiesced to be a part of it… Delicious.”

Othello began walking and circling them.

“And, the final prize from this escapade – all the documentation I need on Advanced Accelerated Psychic Human Eugenics; Cloning and the Human Mind; and, my personal favourite, the death of the idea of Inquisitorial unity. Lady, and gentlemen, welcome to the end of the Inquisition.”

Othello laughed, and smiled.

“Give yourselves a round of applause, cry out in joy, even! Put a little happiness in your lives. Because, lady, and gentlemen, I am going to use you all to cause the greatest war the Inquisition has ever seen. And, you’ll all fight on my terms, using my weapons, for my cause.”

Othello laughed again.

“I’m going to make you all an offer you won’t refuse…”

* * * *

“Othello! Othello! Did you know they’d do this!”

“No, brother, I didn’t.”

“Why, Othello, why damn it… Why couldn’t you stop this? Why didn’t you stop this? Throne, damn it, Othello why…?”

“Landen, you must understand. Lord Inquisitor Van Der Laariman is a very powerful individual. He’s got… Connections, everywhere. I couldn’t have stopped this, even if I tried. I came as soon as I heard.”

“Where… Where is Vincent?”

“I have no idea, Landen. Listen, you must be calm about this. You must think rationally…”

“Oh shut up, Othello, with your damnable ideas of logic and rationality. He’s dead, Othello. Dead. Murdered, that trial was a sham! Trial? Trial? Witchunt was more like it. They were looking for blood, that’s all. His idea is dead, Othello, it died with him.”

“No, Landen, wait, don’t-“

“No, Othello, no. His dream burnt with him, down there. I will burn away half the galaxy looking for the scum that did this, and I will inflict a terrible vengeance on them. Mark my words, they’ll burn. I’ll kill them all.”

“Wait… Landen… Throne.”

Othello smiled as Landen left the bridge. Perfect.

* * * *

“Did you have anything to do with this?”

“No.”

“Don’t lie to me Othello, I know you and your damned games. You can’t lie to me.”

“And I wouldn’t lie. Look, Vincent, you must understand. I came as soon as I could. Landen is out of control. He’s already killed Inquisitor Gheysa. He caught her on the surface of Aliestra. She hadn’t left yet as she was wounded slightly in the conflict. He brutally murdered her Vincent. I’ve tried to speak to him – he won’t listen to me, fool that he is. He’s going to kill them all Vincent, without trial.”

“Throne… Are you sure?”

“He’s enraged, brother. I tried to calm him but he was having none of it. He wants blood and vengeance… I’d go down and speak to him but I don’t think he’ll respond to me.”

Vincent sighed.

“It should fall to me, anyway, brother. Some peace needs to be kept, we can’t keep tearing each other apart. Have you seen the times, brother? War is raging across the whole galaxy, and war is tearing apart the Inquisition. This couldn’t have come at a worse time, damn it.”

“So you know what you must do then?”

Vincent let his head hang slightly.

“Yes, brother.”

Silence hung in the air.

“I’ll go armed.”

* * * *

“Welcome, class, to the Inquisition. I am Inquisitor Dosdamt. You are the products of my academy. You are the results of many years of your effort, your tutor’s efforts, and you are the future. Even now, though, I hasten to add, you have a severely high chance of failure. You may die. You may be driven insane. You may consume yourselves. But know this – you are acolytes now.”

Dosdamt smiled at the class.

Othello was in complete awe of the man.

“Welcome to the future.”
It is never too late! - Mentirius

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