Author Topic: Where Darkness Dwells  (Read 8172 times)

Offline TheNephew

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Re: Where Darkness Dwells
« Reply #15 on: August 12, 2009, 01:26:09 AM »
The vidscreens in front of Stobek displayed the blocky mass of the approaching shuttle, transport of Inquisitor Aw’cer, an aging and somewhat bookish fellow of uncertain reputation.

The small dossier Jayna had provided was vague, giving little information about the Inquisitor beyond the impressions of a few library officials and archivists. They had warmed to the man, the reports conveying in the most respectful manner that Inquisitor Aw’cer Diori was well mannered and humble, a good scholarly individual and sound in his faith, if not his grasp on reality. Stobek was encouraged – perhaps here would be a first encounter not marred by posturing and manoeuvring.

*

Stobek met the Inquisitor at the airlock entrance. He had been told that Lord Diori would be coming alone, part of his habit of keeping small a retinue. Therefore Stobek had decided not to meet him with a fanfare and a fifty man escort, but rather just himself and Jayna – he suspected that trouble would have arisen had she not been present at the first meeting.

“Welcome to the Capital Gains, Lord Diori. I am Kasimir Stobek, here as a coordinating presence in the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the loss of contact with Fahrech and its subsequent infestation. I hope we can help each other in the coming weeks.”

The prepared speech came out stiffly, Stobek worried, but he had long ago decided that it would be better to be overly formal than friendly, jovial and deemed an idiot. He studied it’s recipient, searching for a reaction, positive or negative.

Inquisitor Aw’cer Diori was an old looking man, emaciated and wreathed in scraggly hair. Tremors shook his hand as he reached to clasp Kasimir’s, maybe the result of some wasting disease. Or perhaps simply his age. The reply came with a smile and a warm look in his eyes.

“My pleasure, I’m sure, Inquisitor Kasimir Stobek, though I’m more usually Aw’cer, if you don’t mind – I’m not a great one for standing on ceremony, you see, for I find little time for it at my age, advanced as it is, and I find it grates on the nerves when among fellows and friends, hmm? I do much prefer a less formal mode of conduct upon a first meeting, and indeed during later ones, should they occur, to set an agreeable mind-set for the proceedings where possible. Of course, if you’d prefer not to dispense with such titles and honours I’ll be quite content to maintain the tone at a high, rather than lower it with such familiarity. I’m sure it would not be the first time I’ve offended a good man with a perceived lack of deference or respect. Regardless, I trust that we shall be of great use, indeed help, to each other for the duration of both our stays here, fruitful may they be.”

This speech was clearly not rehearsed, delivered in a friendly tone at something barely more intelligible than a mumble, each sentence tumbling out after the last as if the whole reply were tacked on as an afterthought. Stobek felt a slight flush of guilt as he recalled the legions of travelling tinkers that travelled the transport links of home, agreeable and polite and slightly bumbling. Aw’cer was certainly far more pleasant than most Inquisitors Stobek had met and served under. And as far as being among fellows, Jayna had said that he was the leading representative for the Inquisition here – the mistake of assuming his Inquisitorship could be rectified at some later point.

“Indeed, Aw’cer, I expect that we shall have much to discuss and plan. I certainly hope that it will be as bearable for you as it will be interesting for me. Perhaps we could take a drink and sort out our objectives here? There’s no amasec, but I believe there is some decent brandy available.”

As he turned to guide Aw’cer in the direction of the reception room, Jayna stepped forward, a significantly less friendly look on her face accompanying a tense stance.

“Inquisitor Diori, my I ask who you are broadcasting to?”

“I’m sorry” The question seemed to genuinely perplex the Inquisitor, before his face cleared again and he raised the satchel held under his arm. “Oh yes, no, of course. I’m very sorry about that. This, I assume, is what you are referring to? I have an accompanying scholar back on my shuttle, bedridden, unfortunately, an awful case of Kurabatan bloat pox, a skin disorder. Boils and such, lesions, you know, springing up all over his body. Quite rare, as I understand it, so a cursed piece of luck for him. Most unpleasant, caught from a librarian from one of the little backwater monasteries out there, I expect. Does an awful lot of travelling. When he’s not ill, of course. The hings he gets up to are quite remarkable. But yes, I’m broadcasting to him so that he can stay up to date – dear boy gets awfully het up when he’s not ‘in on the action’ you know, works himself up into quite a state if he’s not elbow deep in the good work. I must apologise again for not telling you, but I was quite absorbed in your little crest on the shuttle – a merchant vessel, presumably? Naturally I’ll switch the device off if you’d rather, but if it’s no trouble then it’ll save me recounting the affair to the invalid, hmm. Oh yes, the crest, a scarlet ibis it appeared to be, the ship’s not of the Antillen system is it, I don’t suppose?”

Jayna seemed unimpressed with the older man’s reply, and seemed about to counter with a further challenge. Eager to avoid an ugly confrontation on his first meeting as a senior Inquisitorial representative, Stobek broke in hastily.

“Roston, yes, I believe so. The transponder will be fine – I take it that it is in some cryptographically protected from prying ears?”

“But of course!”

“Of course – I needn’t have asked - my apologies for any offence that may have been caused. Shall we take those drinks?”

*

“With respect, I simply feel you’re being too open with Inquisitor Diori. I’ve had little time to investigate him further, since he mixes little among our colleagues, and seems to take his privacy as seriously as any recluse. He came aboard this ship broadcasting everything he heard to parties unknown without warning or permission. I don’t like it, and I don’t think it is wise to trust him.”

Jayna’s objections had been raised almost immediately upon Aw’cer Diori’s departure, and she had continued to lay out her argument in a respectful, well considered and ceaseless stream that had only just been neatly concluded nearly twenty minutes later.

Inquisitor Aw’cer Diori, as Jayna had expounded at great length, represented a massive unknown in this operation. All that was known was supplied by the man himself, a source not to be trusted without references, and the vague rumours that he was a daemon hunter in his youth. His reputation with others of note was neither good nor bad. His activities were solitary and low profile. He had few known associates within the Ordos, fewer still declared allies. If anything, most disturbing about him was that Jayna knew so little about him – Stobek had only the faintest grasp on the full extent of the nebulous web of contacts, informers and moles that Vahen utilised in tracking the activities of most of a sector, but they could tell him nothing of Inquisitor Diori.

Aw’cer Diori was a man of unknown means as well. He had arrived aboard a shuttle, but it was unclear whether he’d travelled far, been carried aboard a trader as Stobek had, or had simply been nearby and had heard of Fahrech’s situation. Apart from this one announced companion, the contents of this shuttle were unknown as well. At least Aw’cer had been honest about the broadcast – it had been encrypted at a level that none short of the Inquisition would have been equipped to decrypt. Stobek had asked, and been told that it ran with a skeleton crew extensively supplemented by servitors and automata. Inquisitor Diori had said he occupied much of his time reading, though had been evasive as to what his current research was investigating, beyond it being occasionally aided by a handful of scribes and savants. It would seem Diori preferred to avoid running the massive rosters of subordinates that came as second nature to so many Inquisitors of his age.

Jayna’s concerns had raised a lot of his own for Stobek to consider. It was just fortunate that he was in the dark as to the overall aim of the activity here, or how to achieve it. Presumably there was nothing he could have given away.

Offline TheNephew

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Re: Where Darkness Dwells
« Reply #16 on: August 23, 2009, 02:56:40 AM »
Nails scraped on the worn metal of the walkway. The toes of one foot were sticky, a reminder of a trial passed. The light here was bright and clean, incongruous with the scene beneath. The occasional wet slap or thick crack rose from the quiet huddle below. Foot after foot, to make progress. There would be a door at the end of this walkway.

The nauseating stench had been left behind long ago, sealed from this white expanse by another door. There the walking had been slower, the path less clear. But despite a swimming head, foot after foot, it had been left behind.

Beyond the door was a warm darkness. The air was humid and earthy. Fronds waved in a soft breeze. The sea of greenery swept away to the darkened edges of the chamber, barely within sight. In the distance, the far end of the zone, there was a hot glow of flame. Progress. Another door, eventually.

Here the portal would not open. Behind the door felt cold, content to be alone. Unwelcoming. Return, another path. Foot after foot, above the rustling leaves. The walkway stretched away. It was infinitely long, the walk longer than could be comprehended. Perspective returned, and progress was made.

The flames grew closer, passed to the left. Voices might have passed, briefly, once, below. There was apprehension, briefly, but it too passed with the voices. Up here, it was safe. Another door, eventually.

Here, finally was a corridor. A relief, not to be hovering over a drop at last. And yet there was more progress to be made. There were more doors. Further chambers.

*

“Gnomen! Come in. Have you any news? Throne, you look tired - join me for a brandy?”
« Last Edit: August 23, 2009, 03:05:58 AM by TheNephew »

Offline Dosdamt

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Re: Where Darkness Dwells
« Reply #17 on: August 25, 2009, 09:42:05 AM »
43 Years Previous

Rain drops pool on an open pipe high above the ground. The pool fills, crests, and a single drop falls.

Flying through the broken gutters and wires, the drop twists through the darkness.

At the bottom of the stack, a man falls to his knees, and screams.

****

43 Years Previous

“Tell me, Marius, what do you see?”

“I see a pointless endeavour – a foolish, human endeavour. I see people scurrying around like so many brainless drones. At the heart of this endeavour, I can see the beating heart of a heretic. I can see him, in the dank centre of this filth pit, with all the rats scurrying around him. They’re serving him, and they don’t even know. It disgusts me.”

“And how many have to die to kill this heretic?”

Marius let his teeth slide out from underneath his lips – his smile was sinister, like a maniacal predator watching his prey. His eyes narrowed as his malevolent intent – no matter how well directed – surfaced onto his face.

“As many as it takes.”

“Sign the warrant.”

Marius slid out his seal and pressed it into the wax on the warrant. For a brief second, a metallic hand could be seen holding the seal. The imprint hissed for a few seconds as the clearance codes burnt into the electro-receptive wax.

“You’ve done a great thing here today, Marius.”

The ship shook as the ordnance flew from the prow. The two figures watched the world burn with a quiet sense of satisfaction.

****

43 Years Previous

From his knees, he could barely see the torpedoes streak across the sky. He knew what was happening, though, and screamed again.

The flames raced across the surface of the planet.

As the explosions reached the man, the only thing the cyclonic torpedoes vaporised was the puddle he had been kneeling in.

Somewhere, a man falls to his knees and screams.

****

11 Years Previous

“I’ll not do your dirty work again, not again! Damn you for your arrogance and your assumptions. Damn you to a traitor’s death. This is madness. Damn you and your plans. I’ll not do this.”

“Marius…. You don’t have a choice. I’m about to make you an offer you can’t refuse…”

****

Entry, Journal of Inquisitor Marius Priouchz.
Date : Unknown


I’ve been working for the Black Prince for way too long and it seems my sanity has finally caved in. In the pursuit of his dream, I’ve killed, maimed, and destroyed. I don’t know how much time I’ve got left here, but the end of this gun looks awfully appetising right now.

He has come to me with one final, terrible task. At first I refused and attempted to send him from my bridge, but I couldn’t – he wouldn’t, and he has leverage. Terrible, terrible leverage – it appears with each act I’ve committed for him I’ve simply let myself slide closer into his coils.

And I thought he’d let me be. We’re all just pawns in his little game of regicide.

I hate that I will do this for him, but I won’t shame my master and die a publically humiliated traitor. I’d sooner meet my fate on my own. I know I deserve a heretic’s death for this, and no doubt it will come. I just hope it will be quick.

I’ve trafficked more people and psykers out of the Black Ships and the Noir Lanes for the project. I’ve no idea where these people are going, but I doubt any good will come of it. He asks for them to be branded – particular marks and scored wounds in them. I know what the marks are – I just don’t want to admit it.

It is to keep the beasts out and to keep the beasts in.

I see him holding a book; it is a simple volume but the text inside is small and hard to decipher. I haven’t been able to discern the exact nature of what is inside, but I think it’s a prophecy, a myth or a legend of some kind. He’s trying to unleash something; I know that’s the truth of it. He won’t tell me what it is.

I had my astropath dig around in the logs, there’s a planet at the centre of all the communication activities from him. It’s a complex maze, he said, back and fourth and through tunnels and vassals. I’ll track his home down, though, and I’ll burn it to the ground.

My interrogator is infiltrating their organisation and every communiqué that is coming back terrifies me. Jarryt thinks there’s a web of deceit we are all struggling to climb out of.

Desperate. Pitiful. Wrapped in steel bindings. Perhaps we’re simply tightening the noose around our hate filled necks.

I try to write his name. I try to speak the terrible evil, but my hand is crippled with a palsy of hesitancy and my mouth pauses and chokes on the hatred.

This is a sickness. We’ve all caught this contagion.

****

Final Entry, Journal of Inquisitor Marius Priouchz.
Date: Unknown


This is the final entry I will make in this journal. It has charted my years in the service of His Most Holy Ordos, my successes, the deaths of no less than forty two of my retainers and staff and my final descent into the way of the radical.

What is left? Probably nothing.

I’ve made good instructions to send my vessel into the star of this system. I am to have the vessel cleared of all staff under emergency evacuation – on board I will simply let myself and the ship be destroyed in the fire of the star. My final act of consecration to get the stench of the damnable acts I’ve done out of my hair.

The final act – and perhaps the most despicable – was the assault on a convoy of Black Ship armoured carriers. The goal was to disrupt their collection activities which we had done previously, working for some months with underground operatives smuggling psykers off planet – we gave them arms, heads up about where the Black Ship teams were planning to hit and when, and critically, I gave them some significant muscle.

The resulting clashes were exceptionally brutal. The Sisters of Silence had to withdraw for three weeks to lick their wounds and let their injured heal. Hounds were all over the place – bounties were put on the heads of every single one of the smugglers. It wasn’t long before both sides had ground into a deathly attrition. It was then we struck.

We hit a convoy, and hard. They had rounded up a nest of the smugglers and psykers and were trucking at high speed to get back to their landers. I had ordered the landers destroyed – when they came into view of their transports, they found smoking ruins. As they drove on towards the warzone dismayed at the horror of the scene, I unleashed hell.

All manner of heavy ordnance disabled their transports quickly in a terrifying burst of power. The ground shook as the terrible weapons surgically disabled their ground vehicles – we then began the assault. They couldn’t stand before our wrath. I personally cut down the Inquisitor who was leading the Black Ship teams in the assault, watching her die on the end of my sword. I watched the life leak out of her eyes and knew that this was the last thing I’d do in the name of the Black Prince. We took the psykers, and those we had smuggled “out” of the underground, and went back to Babylon.

What a terrible sin that place is – I watched the terrified faces of the psykers as they were lead inside, unaware of their fate inside the factory of Babylon. They trudged in, chained and suppressed – but I knew they felt it. They felt the evil lurking in the bowels of the Babylon complex below them. I could almost feel the ground rumble with the hunger of the beast. I shivered as I stood in the wind, wrapping myself tighter in my long jacket.

He came out to me, in person – not sending one of his subordinates. He looked me in the eye, smiling.

“I know what you plan to do, Marius. I don’t need – or want – anything further from you. You are released from any bondage to me, and are free to do as you will.”

I couldn’t look him in the eye. I simply walked away.

I’m writing this as the ship drifts across the centre of the solar system on its last voyage. Nothing will remain of the ship afterwards. It will burn up in the great heat of the star, a shining burning metaphor for the divine golden light of the Emperor, and his wrath filled judgement for the traitors against the Throne.

I will be glad to be rid of it – all of it. This wretched life – that choice – it wasn’t a choice, it was a sentence, and he used all the leverage he created to mould me into the puppet he needed. You could argue I hung myself on a rope of my own creating.

Perhaps. All I know is my end is near, and I am thankful.

****

Orbit, Fahrech

The distant station looked tiny to Aw’cer Diori as he stood aboard the ramshackle bridge of his ship, staring down at the construct below. He simply stared for a few minutes, letting time drift around him for some time. He wasn’t sure of the next course of action. The meeting with Stobek had been a sober, quiet affair – nothing formal – but stiff anyway. And Diori didn’t like – one bit – the stern companion of Stobek, Jayna Kann. The way she held herself, the way she spoke – everything about her was purely animalistic – and more than that, pure killer. Unashamed, heartless, killer, and Diori’s continuing physical deterioration meant he was more vulnerable than ever to those with her talents.

He’d look to be considerably more compliant with her requests. At least the conversation with Stobek had gone well – for a few hours they had first exchanged experiences and stories, followed by plans, stratagems and intelligence. Diori had pointed out the importance of the library in his schemes, and that he – with his experience and his specialist staff – should be allowed to assault the library. Stobek had agreed, though Jayna didn’t appear to be impressed – perhaps she saw through his intentions.

Stobek seemed to warm to the idea from Diori that waiting a few more days wouldn’t hurt – after all, the message from the station seemed to indicate they’d find the place in a ruin, with few survivors, if any at all. Domonechz was still alive. His crimes remained known for now, but the messages from Davide indicated heavily there had been significant heretical activity and the video message playing on repeat did nothing to allay his fears. Still, the meeting with Stobek had been productive – that had been the important thing.

“Did she make you as moist as I am?” Agares asked, lingering somewhere near the back of the bridge.

“I heard it in her voice. So deliciously unsubtle – so firm, so calm, and ever so sultry – I’d love to have her here. Kill some of the crew over there together. Kill her. There’s nothing as delicious as slowly killing a natural born murderer.”

Agares revealed his cruel grin, though Diori was entirely disinterested in the daemonhost. The host lingered for a few moments, angry at being ignored, before it removed itself from the bridge.

Diori continued to stare. Down there in the library he knew things were waiting for him, wondrous books and lore that he should acquire – needed to acquire – and he would use whoever arrived at the station to meet that end. People fell for the bumbling old sage act easily. Of course, his hands still shook, and he struggled physically – but these attributes hadn’t deadened his mind or his ruthless streak.

“Inquisitor.”

It was the familiar voice of his chief savant, Dawson Phisk. Phisk was a brilliant mind, confined brutally into a paraplegic body after a violent encounter with a daemonhost. Phisk was once an interrogator rising through Diori’s ranks. The incident had shattered his spine, and more than that, it had shattered his confidence in the line of duty. Since then, Phisk had confined himself to the role of chief savant.

He had committed to the role by getting himself pneumonic augmetics – his mind was at the core of an array of cogitators and processing units. He had spent three years learning how to use them appropriately before he had returned into Diori’s service.

Phisk’s chair was a huge – it had to be. It housed the bloated, broken body of Phisk, as well as all the cogitation units. The chair moved slowly and with a loud whine of the cooling stacks and fans. The augmetics feeding out of Phisk’s head interfaced directly into the huge humming, whirring chair. The mass of wires coming in and out of Phisk’s head looked like thick dreadlocks.

“Inquisitor. We have finished cross-referencing the Black Prince throughout the library. We found a book. A journal – something overlooked in the inventory. The journal of Marius Priouchz. It is a harrowing read, a horrible descent into madness – and that madness came from working in the service of the Black Prince.”

Diori didn’t bother to look up. He simply kept on staring into the distance. He had confidence that he would find something eventually in his library. It was a matter of time. Something had to have been overlooked. This was vindication, and the reason he had worked his savant team of four to breaking point.

Diori sighed.

“Leave it at my desk in the study. I will see to it in there. Leave me be, Phisk.”

In his chair, Phisk moved his head as much as he could to indicate he was to comply.

The bridge quietly emptied around Diori, and he was left alone with his thoughts.

****

Unknown Location, Galactic East

Fahrech.

The thought of the place rattled around in Junious’ head, minute after minute. He’d been told to go to Fahrech by the Child. There hadn’t been anything other than visions, fleeting visions of a place struggling in the grip of a terrible horror. Screams echoed around in his head from the visions, screaming people having daemons bound into them. Psykers having sections of their skin flayed from their body and replaced with scrolls of warding runes and wards. Then they would have the daemon unleashed, raw, into their body.

He could see their bodies twist and contort to make room for the daemon as it took up residence in their body. He knew what was happening inside was even worse – the psyker’s soul would be consumed in the process, utterly annihilated by the daemon who would feast on the soul on entry. Trapped in a prison of flesh, no route out into the warp for the soul, it was doomed.

And this process didn’t simply happen once – it was happening over and over again. Twist psykers. Straight psykers. Astropaths, telepaths, sanctioned psykers, raw psykers – young and old. They were forced to suffer in agony and in fear.

It was a twisted, sickening place and Junious planned to bring the sword and flame to the old mining station. Kely looked up from her book, sensing that Junious was on edge.

“You’re thinking about Fahrech again aren’t you?”

He could hide little from Kely. They weren’t lovers – they had avoided that particularly thorny issue between colleagues, at least until now - but they had spent more than enough time around each other coupled with their mutual psychic talents to result in a special kind of empathy between the two.

“Yes. I can’t wait until we get there. I need to shut the place down, if only to stop these damned dreams and visions.”

Kely knew they were getting worse and worse. The longer it took to arrive, the worse it would get. There was little talk about how – between the two of them – they’d manage to scour the place, but that was a secondary concern. It was important that they got there and assessed the situation. If needs be, they could call on further aid. Junious sighed and adjusted himself in his seat.

The journey through the gate had been exceptionally disconcerting. Their train – a huge, ornate, black titan of a vehicle, hit the portal moving ant a distressing velocity. There had been a loud snap and a horrid feeling of dislocation in their limbs as the train crashed through the barrier of reality, and appeared some thirty seconds later on Versson, a similarly developed planet to the one they had left behind. Appearing out of the gate they had emerged into a smoggy, dark industrially built up area all around the great golden gate. The rattle and hum of manufacturing– super heavy tanks and munitions – echoed all around and even through the thick, luxury windows of the train.
“It won’t be long,” Kely replied, “Just a few more systems to get across. And we have the contact – Nimo.”

Nimo. He was a rogue – well meaning usually – but a rogue nonetheless who had seen his fair share of tight situations. Junious had known him in another life, through his old master, Jaydred Taren – indeed Nimo had known Jaydred for many a-year. Junious had chanced that the wily rogue trader would be looking for some easy credits and in the area, as it was down one his old routes. As it happened, Nimo had experience of Fahrech and was heading there himself to conduct a trade. Junious hadn’t told Nimo of his own reasons for going to Fahrech, only that he had Inquisitorial business there. Nimo hadn’t bothered to push for a more detailed answer, just quoted a generous price.

The station had arrived sooner than Junious anticipated. Aching, he stood and stretched and retrieved Reprive, clothed in its heavy casing. Kely fetched the rest of their meagre belongings.

This was what they had come to – a depleted staff of two, both of them exhausted from the chase of Nine Eyes and his vicious allies and servants. Junious breathed in the air deeply – it was crisper and fresher than he expected. Perhaps he would be able to find further hands and help on this world. The station was ornate and seemingly ancient, yet the place hadn’t been ravaged by time. There was a huge mural on the floor of the station that was kept impeccably clean. All of the statues were still sharp and perfectly sculpted The place was bustling, hundreds of people coming back and forth from the huge train in the very centre of the station.

The station was at the top of a mountain range, which explained immediately why the air was crisp and clean. The world, while heavily industrialized, had clearly not yet been poisoned by the presence of those manufactorums. Junious and Kely moved through the station anonymous in the crowd and through towards the exit.

****

Some months previous...

From – Vasilli Domonechz
To – Alistair Shelley

Subject – The Wendt Conclave

Alistair,

I hope this communiqué finds you well and with friends. I hope you remember me – the Inquisitorial conclave on Vessa IV, some thirty years ago. We discussed, at great length with Wendt, important business with regards to the scourge of the Thorians and their very specific and insidious type of heresy.

I have encountered further people with similar problems to those we discussed. I am having trouble caging these beasts. I contacted Wendt, but there has been no reply. I thought you might have a unique perspective, perhaps even in advance of the knowledge of our mutual friend.

If you would be happy to accept an invitation to talk in person, then I will willingly send co-ordinates of my current base of operations.

Regards.

-Vasilli

****
« Last Edit: August 25, 2009, 09:44:01 AM by Dosdamt »
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