Hope had abandoned Keshet long ago. At least, that is what she said when anyone asked what she hoped for. Eleven years ago she had been the youngest of The Seven at seven. She did a fair job of playing off that she didn’t remember; that she’d been too young and too traumatized; that she only remembered the order to never talk about her past. Unfortunately, the memories haunted her all too often including dropping one of The Seven off onto a black ship as she was brought to the orphanage.
She remembered seeing the madness start to take the two oldest of The Seven just as it had taken her brothers. Thankfully, she had been spared reliving another she trusted and cared for succumbing to the madness. Keshet blinked away the image of Timon, her oldest brother, trying to kill her before being attacked by a daemon. She remembered and still felt the call of the green gem and its artifact.
Keshet was the last of her family and almost the last of her people. She could never return home. It was forbidden for anyone to go there. Finding the ruins and the green gem had been an accident. She had just been exploring for a way out of the hole she found herself in when chasing her wayward horse. If only she hadn’t fallen that day, if only she hadn’t stumbled over the gem, if only she hadn’t shown her uncle the rusted metal discs, if only… If they ever found out that it was all her fault, not some random person now dead. If only the Inquisitor’s psyker had looked far enough back into her past… If only she had in fact forgotten, but if onlys never got her anywhere.
Keshet had to lock all these memories and wishes back away like she had tried during her verbal inquisition at seven. She could not face her memories; she had to find the peace that so oft faltered. She had to block the memories to dull the call of what she guessed was a dark god’s calling card. Her mother had started teaching her to pray before she could walk or talk. The skill had saved her life more than once and yet it was being so elusive today. What change was coming that would challenge her unforgetfulness, her devotion to the emperor god?
Keshet turned at the door opening. Something was definitely up. She bowed deeply to the Celestian who was saying. ‘I know you are at prayers, but you are requested in the office.’ Keshet nodded and stood. One of the highest ranking sisters of her order was here to escort her to the office. This could not be good.
She guessed at what would be waiting inside the office and guessed right, but was surprised at whom. She bowed deeply to the first Inquisitor she had ever met, the one who had held her life in his hands when she was seven. The Celestian closed the door behind her as she was dismissed by the Inquisitor.
Once they were alone, the Inquisitor said something that made her blood run cold and brought the darkest memories of her past directly to the surface. “I come seeking Lady Marion Keshet Macquvern formerly of Zirconia.”
“You find Novice Keshet Progena of the Adepta Sororitas, Inquisitor. How may I be of assistance?” She defiantly replied realizing that the psyker had seen more during her psychic inquisition than Keshet had been told. The Inquisitor wanted something from her, from her unforgotten childhood, or he would never have given away that her birth name was known. Keshet had never uttered her name beyond Keshet since she’d been found. She couldn’t face the pain of the memories of the last time she’d been called by her first name.
Keshet smiled at the look her gave her. It had strengthened her spine eleven years ago and it did the same now. She’d had eleven years of training in the faith her mother had devoutly clung to and the light of her faith would not be quelled by the look from anyone. If he wanted that look to work on her, the Inquisitor should not have sent her to the orphanage ordered to not reveal her past. The images of warp spawn, daemon kin, and the things that had happened in her past were a lot scarier than one mere Inquisitor.
“You can answer my questions, child. Why would one of The Seven whose mind was cleansed into thinking he was a Vorg citizen break into the Sanctum Dialogous on Solomon? And try to take this?”
Keshet wondered if this was another test or what because ‘this’ could not exist. ‘This’ had been buried when he’d razed her homeworld. ‘This’ was why she felt the call of the dark god so strongly of late. On closer look, it was not the green gem she’d seen before, but very similar and almost identical. “By Inquisitional Order Septimus Siete Seven, I cannot discuss anything in my life prior to joining the Schola Progenium on Iocanthus other than that I am formerly from feudal world in the Josian Reach Subsector.” Keshet added under her breath, “And sir, please for the light of all that is holy do not make me touch that.”
The Inquisitor’s face registered her muttered comment and that she was afraid of what he held for some reason. “Eleven years and no one has doubted your loyalty, your faith, or your devotion. You don’t have to be afraid of a paperweight. Talk Keshet.”
“It is not a paperweight, sir. By the holy light, it is not. And I cannot talk due to Inquisitional Order Septimus Siete Seven.” Plus, she did not want to talk, did not want to remember, did not want to relive the worst year of her life, and did not want to ever vocalize what happened. They had hoped she would forget. She had hoped she would forget. Instead, she remembered and felt the need to atone for what she’d innocently caused to be unleashed.
“I, who issued Order Septimus Siete Seven, hereby revoke it for the purpose of this conversation. Talk Keshet. I am told it does help.”
Keshet closed her eyes and prayed for guidance and strength before talking. “It is not a paperweight. It is not quite identical to the key to the vault where my uncle unearthed the artifact, but it calls to me just the same. Yes, I saw the artifact that opened the warp on my homeworld. My mother’s brother found it. Records of families were lost before you arrived, sir. That is why the connection was probably never made by the rest of The Seven. I would say that whichever of the men tried to steal it did not have enough faith to resist the dark god calling through it. At least now, I know why I always felt compelled to go to the library, to be one of the Dialogous instead of the Militant, and feared to do so as well.”
“You’re not seven anymore and terrified beyond reason. And since you obviously remember, I’ll have the full story now.”
Keshet slipped into her prayer position, the only one she could face her memories in without striving to actively block them. She told the Inquisitor the story as it unfolded before her eyes.
“It was my sixth birthday and I had finally been given permission to ride Silver for the first time alone. It was just a ride around the paddock with the stable master watching over the fence, but still it was special. Then with a clap of thunder, the ground shook and Silver panicked, bolted, and jumped the fence. I held on for dear life, praying for the strength to survive, to get Silver to stop, and to not let go. The ground shook again; the true earthquake. The ground beneath Silver and I gave way. Silver jumped again and I fell. I rolled just like Jessup had showed me to. Papa was going to be so mad that I’d fallen and lost Silver. I had to go get Silver or I was in for worse trouble than I was for leaving the paddock. I ran, but the aftershock caused a hole to open up under my very feet. I couldn’t avoid it. I fell into the hole and hurt my arm. I cried out for help, but knew I had to get out because the ground was still shaking and unstable.
I stumbled along and tried to find a way up. I tripped over something and fell. My knee landed on something sharp. It was a green stone, a gem like the one you are holding. I tucked it into my pocket because it was pretty. I heard a voice like the cleric talked about at chapel, but it felt wrong somehow. Maybe it was because I hurt too much or was too little to answer the emperor’s call. I wanted to do the emperor’s will, it was the right thing to do, but I couldn’t go on. I couldn’t go to the place the gem was guiding me to. The ground quit shaking so much and I sat down and cried. I had failed. I’d left the paddock, lost Silver, and couldn’t follow wherever the emperor’s gemstone wanted me to go. My birthday was ruined. I started playing with the dirt and rocks around me to calm myself and found something cold. It was some rusty metal discs tied together with metal twine. There were seven of them in all. Who had been here before?
The ground had just opened up. I offered a quick prayer of thanks and for guidance before looking around some more. I found a coin separate from the discs and not rusted at all, but it did have the designs of all seven metal discs on it. What a present from the emperor for my birthday. Maybe he forgave me for not being strong enough to answer the call from his gem. Then I heard Uncle Hashid and Jessup calling my name. I yelled up at them and they rescued me. Uncle Hashid took one look at the coin, discs and gem and realized I’d found a ruin. He claimed for everyone that he found it when looking for me. I let him because I wasn’t strong enough to serve the emperor. I just wanted to go home. I kept the coin, but gave Uncle Hashid the rest.
Papa couldn’t hear the emperor calling through the gem. Papa said it was because the emperor had already called him to service and he had done well. Mama laughed at that, but then she heard the call from the gem like my brothers, my uncle and I.
It took them seven months to clear a way into the heart of the ruin and reach the inner temple. The gem opened a vault that contained the artifact. It looked just like one of the metal discs expect larger and made of stone. They kept looking for more artifacts. A set of stone artifacts would be so much better than one to show Zirconians honored the emperor. Uncle threw a party for the most powerful lords and ladies and showed them the green gem and discs so they would know what designs to look for. Imperfect representations seemed to pop up everywhere after that.
And then my brothers had been fighting and one of them was bleeding and touched the artifact. I can’t tell you which of the twins it was, but the warp stone pulsed and glowed green with streaks of rusty brown. Warp fissures instantly appeared throughout Zirconia. Warp spawn poured out of the fissures and later daemon kin joined the exodus onto our planet. Two-thirds of the Zirconians died immediately. I saw others go mad. People I trusted with my life changed overnight. My mother’s family watched over us, but the emperor seemed to have forsaken us as Papa had died that first day.
For three weeks the daemon kin and warp spawn poured onto our planet. Something about them called to our very blood to join them, to relish the warp, the chaos; but Mama was devout and we prayed daily, hourly, as much as we could to the emperor to guide us. If people missed services, we heard reports of them shortly; raping, pillaging, and mating with daemons. Mama tried to shield me from the worst of it, but they kept coming.
I wanted to believe the emperor was who talked through the gem, but I fear it wasn’t and that’s why the gem and discs felt wrong. Only the coin felt right, and it still does. I had tried to explain that the artifact had opened the warp when it got blood on it, but people wouldn’t listen to me. I was too young and my brothers denied getting blood on it. An idea came to me one day during prayers as I held my coin. Blood from fighting had awoken the artifact. Blood offered to the emperor god to use to rid us of these daemons might put it to sleep. I went after that very service before I could get scared and fail the emperor again. I prayed to the emperor that I wouldn’t make things worse, clutched the coin, and tore a scar open. I dropped my blood on the artifact and hoped for the emperor’s blessing. The artifact glowed again with a bright blue light and the openings to the warp disappeared.
The three weeks of them being open had ruined our planet and the daemons were now trapped. The number of those of us uncorrupted by their presence was dwindling. My faith wasn’t strong enough to get rid of the daemons, but at least the warp spawn were gone and no more were coming through.” Keshet shuddered unable to continue, unable to face those last two weeks on Zirconia.
Keshet felt a presence in her mind and one of the last memories of her homeworld played out in her head. _’Come here, little sister. I have a birthday present for you. The daemons told me it was you that trapped them here, that broke the warp fissures. Come out, come out, wherever you are. Ollie, Ollie, Oxen Free, Marion. Your blood closed it, your blood must open it. Come out, come out, wherever you are Marion. Ollie, Ollie, Oxen Free. I see you Marion. Come out and play nice, Lady Marion. I’ll be your Robin Hood and rescue you. Come out Marion! If I have to drag you out of the cupboard, it’ll be all your blood I take! COME OUT MARION!’ CRUNCH! The daemon bit Timon in half and as it snacked I snuck away as quiet as could be. The stable has places to hide. Hurry, but be slow. Noise lets them find you.
I’m sooo cold. I wrap myself up in a horse blanket with Mama’s family seal on it. I crawl into the tack box, it’s warm and dark. I cry myself to sleep. I’m the only one left of our devout group. Timon had killed everyone in the chapel including Mama trying to get them to tell where I was. I failed again, is it worth praying? There isn’t hope any longer. I’m not strong enough to pray on my own. The emperor won’t listen to me. I failed again.
I would rather die than help the daemons reopen the warp fissures and let the spawn back. I have to get away from the artifact or they will use me to rewake it. I’m too little. I try to pray. If I run they’ll find me. I’m too scared to leave. I snuggle deeper into the tack box. I try to not make any noise. I’m so hungry. If I die here, they won’t find my blood. I hear men using the hay to rape women. I hear daemons mating with men and women alike and then eating them. I lose track of everything, but being hungry and thirsty. Why won’t the emperor let me die? I’m tired, but they might come for me if I fall asleep again.
That sounds like a ship, but no one should come here. They’re going to die too. It’s all my fault. More people are going to die because of me.
No, don’t find me. Don’t FIND ME. They’ll take my blood and open the fissures. No! NO! Blackness enfolds me.
The darkness fades to reveal more darkness. Am I still in the tack box? No. Something’s here watching me in the darkness. Moving will draw its attention. Why am I not hungry? Am I dead? What evil is watching me? I whimper as a door opens revealing light. ‘Good. She’s awake. Let’s begin.’
“NO! NO!” I scream. I try to run. “I won’t let you reopen it. Don’t take my blood! Leave me alone!” I cower in a corner against a metal wall. We don’t have metal walls. Is it rusted? Where am I? The darkness takes me again.
My mind feels fuzzy. I feel safe. I can’t be safe. Emperor what did they do to me? Where am I? I’m not hungry. I have to go potty, but where? I open my eyes. There’s light. No, they’ll find me. Wait, they have me already. I close my eyes and whisper, “Potty. Need to go potty.”
A voice like Mama’s says, “Okay. Let’s go. What’s your name little one?”
“Ma…..” No. Never. Timon. NO! The pretty arc the emperor sends after a storm. My second name, “Keshet.” I slowly open my eyes to see who has me. Emperor be praised. The woman wears his symbol. I’m safe. Mama’ll be so happy to see her. Anger rolls through me. Mama’s dead. Timon killed her. “Why did he let everyone die? Why didn’t the daemons go away too?” Then fear hits and I wet myself. “Inquisitor’s Ship. He’s going to kill me isn’t he?”_
The memories kept playing out, but Keshet the adult felt the presence in her mind fade. The Inquisitor knew the rest. So why should he relive it with her? After a time, Keshet collected herself from the past and turned to the Inquisitor she had not known was a psyker and asked the same question her seven year old self had, “So, now you are going to kill me, right?”
An emotion blinked in and out of the Inquisitor’s eyes; regret maybe. Keshet wasn’t sure. She watched him look from the green gem to her and back again several times. “You passed your inquisition, child. This was not another one. It seems we should have looked deeper into things back then though, but you were the youngest; the most traumatized. Have you heard from any of The Seven?”
Keshet was taken aback. “To talk to them would violate your order. Two died on your ship. A third is now dead I’m certain because of the penalty for breaking into the library. I don’t know if the girl survived the black ships or served the emperor in death. That would leave two other, but I have heard from no one besides you from my past. My past is as dead as my planet. Hope abandoned me long ago. I live to serve the emperor and do not talk of Abandoned Hope, sir. I try to forget, but know I must atone.”
“Where does the paperweight call you?”
“It called me to the library, but the call felt wrong. Having it in the room with me, it calls me to the void. There are lesser calls I feel as well. I know the one on my homeworld, but there are others. Faint, but there. They feel wrong. False calls, but they are there. I know it is not the emperor’s will, but it tries to pass itself off as if it were.”
“I know the pattern of the warpstone it is the key to. I feel its counter prayer glowing bright and blue inside.”
The Inquisitor’s eyes sharpened. “How do you remember the designs?”
“My sixth birthday coin” Keshet answers realizing that she hadn’t told him she still had it.
“Eleven years and you still remember?”
“Your team let me keep it sir. I still have it. It’s in my quarters. Shall I go get it?”
“In a moment. You closed the warp fissure with your blood and faith. Your memories say only your blood can open that stone again. If anyone attempts to enter the forbidden planet of Abandoned Hope, you will be put in protective custody. Is the clear?”
“Yes, sir. Shall I?”
“Of course. And before I forget. Happy Birthday Keshet.”
“Thank you, sir.” Keshet said opening the door to discover no one outside it. She hurried to get the coin.
When she returned, the Celestian was there saying ‘At your command, Inquisitor. I shall do so immediately.’ The Inquisitor took a rubbing of her coin, had it tested for taint by several people, and once it was declared untainted returned it to her safekeeping and dismissed her.
She found the Celestian outside her quarters with all her belongings packed. ‘You have been assigned as a liaison to Inquisitor Esailla. The Inquisitor is willing to transport you aboard his ship until you can meet up with Inquisitor Esailla. Pleasant travels, Novice Keshet.’