Blackened Streets & Darkened Skies: Dark Heresy

Caliber Rehn-Justies: Beginnings

Caliber was born on Hive Tarsus to Hadrian and Sylpha Rhen. His parents were poor factory workers who were able to make ends meet, but were not earning much more than that. Shortly after Caliber’s first birthday, his father volunteered for The Imperial Guard and was shipped out to one of the Emperor’s wars. It was hoped that he would advance in rank and that this would lead to a better life for his family. Those hopes died with Hadrian in his battle after landing on a distant war torn planet.

Sylpha’s income at the factory was not enough to pay for all their costs of living, so she was required to supplement her income with petty theft. She was caught committing her crimes on three occasions. The first two times, she explained to the arbiters that she was a single mother because her husband had died as a war hero. She used that argument and her graceful beauty to convince the court to grant her leniency. Unfortunately, there was a colony ship in orbit the third time she was caught. The court had become impatient with Sylpha’s criminal behavior and bored with her feminine wiles. The court sentenced her and her son to exile. She and Caliber were transported up to the colony ship Light of Exploration for relocation to an unnamed colony world.

Sylpha knew that she faced certain death if she tried to raise 3 year old Caliber by herself on a savage world. So Sylpha began looking for a new husband and attracted the interest of Marcel Justies, one of the ship’s enforcers. He married her and moved his new family into his quarters, saving Sylpha and Caliber from the horrors of colonization faced by the rest of the unfortunate pioneers.

Sylpha knew that she and Caliber had to keep Marcel happy and content. If he divorced Sylpha, she and her son would be settled on the next colony planet. Sylpha was a perfect dutiful wife. Young Caliber changed his last name to Rhen-Justies shortly after the marriage to show his love and appreciation for his new stepfather.

Marcel arranged for Sylpha to get a secretary job in the Office of Captain’s Adeptus Arbites, and he also had Caliber enrolled in acolyte training so that he could become an enforcer like himself.

In addition to finding work for his wife and arranging training for his stepson, Marcel treated Sylpha and Caliber well at home. He only beat them when he was drunk, and he was very discreet with his extra-marital trysts.

Caliber completed his training and became one of the ship’s enforcers. He was a common sight to the colonists because he would take extra shifts. Mainly, he took the extra shifts to earn extra thrones. But in addition, Marcel seemed happier if Caliber was not at home. As Caliber grew in size, strength and combat ability, Marcel grew more uncomfortable in his presence. Since Caliber loved his stepfather, Caliber gave Marcel as much time alone as he desired. Caliber was well known to all of the guardsmen. His extra shifts resulted in Caliber getting the opportunity to work with every single enforcer on board. Eventually, even the captain of the ship was scheduled to share duties with Caliber.

Captain Janos Greconno spent several evenings speaking to the young man and was quite impressed with him. As they got to know each other better, Caliber talked about his family and the captain talked about his wife. Caliber learned that Janos Greconno had a married life not so dissimilar from his mother’s. Mrs. Greconno also enjoyed her alcohol and often made bad choices when her judgment was impaired. Sadly, she was not very discreet, and stories would reach the captain’s ear about her and a man she was seeing. This of course angered Greconno greatly. But, Caliber discovered that he could improve the captain’s mood simply by talking about himself and his plans for the future.

One evening, when Greconno returned to his quarters, he found his wife dead. All deaths of ship personnel had to be investigated, so the captain immediately called the Office of Captain’s Adeptus Arbites. Sylpha received the call and assigned the investigation to Caliber. When Caliber arrived, he found the body of Mrs. Greconno lying on a couch. On the coffee table in front of her, there was a tea setting, a suicide note and an empty box of potassium cyanide. Caliber’s forensic investigation found the poison in her teacup and verified that it was the poison that killed her.

When Caliber presented his findings to the court, he testified that the suicide note was written in Mrs. Greconno’s handwriting. He submitted the forensic results and also included financial records showing that Mrs. Greconno had purchased the poison at the ship’s last port of call. The strong evidence and testimony led the court to conclude that Mrs. Greconno had indeed committed suicide. Captain Greconno was very appreciative of Caliber’s work to reveal the truth.

Within a month, tragedy also befell Sylpha and Caliber. It happened on one of those rare evenings when Sylpha scheduled Caliber and Marcel to work on patrol together. When they were touring the upper decks of the colonist cell blocks, Marcel fell to his death.

Caliber’s official report stated that Marcel was feeling ill and needed to take a break. The report said that Marcel leaned on the railing with both hands, and the railing snapped from the support posts at each end. It described that Marcel was caught off-balance, and fell over the side, to the lowest deck 200 meters below.

When investigators arrived on the scene, they discovered that the maintenance crews had been extraordinarily lax in their duties. In addition to the faulty railing, all security cameras in that area were non-functioning. However, several colonists witnessed the accident. Captain Janos Greconno encouraged them to cooperate with the Adeptus Arbites, and several submitted official testimony that Caliber’s story was complete and correct. The captain was pleased that the colonist’s assisted the investigation, and he made sure that they received additional pioneering equipment when they were settled at their new homes. Caliber was very appreciative of the captain’s assistance in revealing the truth.

Caliber stopped taking additional patrol shifts so that he could spend more time with his grieving mother. Captain Janos Greconno also took to spending time with Sylpha. Captain Geconno and Sylpha found that since they both had lost loved ones that they were uniquely able to comfort each other. Love bloomed between the two of them, and one month after Marcel’s death, they were wed.

Shortly after his mother’s third wedding, Captain Greconno arranged to have Caliber transferred to another colony ship called The Hope in the Darkness. Captain Greconno promised that Caliber would have a better life aboard The Hope than he could have aboard The Light.

At first, Caliber’s new life aboard The Hope was very similar to his life on The Light. He got along well with Captain Tiberius Maceadon and the rest of the crew. But it was not long before he noticed that on occasion, settlers would end up missing. Investigators on The Hope determined that the missing individuals got into altercations with their fellow settlers and wound up getting shoved out an airlock. Caliber thought that was odd because the missing people tended to be men and women of higher social status. He thought that they would have been able to settle differences peacefully. Caliber began to quietly investigate the instances himself and quickly determined that the evidence provided by the investigation teams was falsified. His investigation intensified when he learn that the man he replaced had also disappeared mysteriously. Eventually, Caliber learned the truth. The captain and senior officers were heretics that were offering human sacrifices to the daemons of the void. Caliber knew that he was in danger because he could be the next offering on the captain’s bloody altar. He continued to collect evidence and compiled a secret report on the heretical activities of his new ship.

Eventually The Hope in the Darkness made port at a planet where an inquisition was underway. Caliber made some discreet inquiries, and arranged a meeting with a woman on the inquisitor’s staff. Her name was Kira Van Eisen, and she was very interested in the report that Caliber turned over to her. When they parted, Kira stated that they would meet soon.

Soon was the evening of the next day. The inquisitor herself, Lady Esailla Kane, informed Captain Maceadon that she was arriving to inspect the ship. She claimed that she was going to commandeer the ship to transport heretics to Scintilla for special interrogation. When she arrived with her entire staff, Captain Maceadon personally lead her and her people on a tour of his ship. But The Lady’s claim for visiting the ship was a ruse. In reality, Lady Kane arranged the tour so as to position her people in strategic locations. When they reached the engineering section, Lady Esailla’s people sprang into action and forcibly took control of the ship. Then Lady Esailla explained to the captain that he and his entire crew were going to face charges of heresy.

Caliber faced inquisition too. The Lady’s psychers determined that Caliber was not a heretic. As they delved into his mind, they discovered that he had a capacity for unusually high loyalty to those he cared about. They informed Lady Esailla of this and explained that a minor adjustment to Caliber’s psyche would create such feelings of loyalty to her. She knew that Caliber would never find a starship captain willing to take him on board. And she felt that Caliber would be a useful member of her team. So she ordered the adjustment.

Caliber now loves Lady Esailla in the same way that he used to love his mother. He cares for her happiness and well being. And he will do anything in his power to aid her and protect her.

Anything.

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Dark Tidings and Distant Rumors [Game Intro Story]

Inquisitor Esailla Kane set at her office desk located deep inside her estate, an old merchant’s household in the upper mercantile district of the Hive, on the Sector Capital Planet of Scintilla. The Number House, as it was called, had been previously owned by a jewelry importer family who had be rounded up by Esailla for smuggling warp tainted artifacts of true heresy onto the planet. The household was so named for the fact it was build with the old family’s tradition of having an exact number of types of rooms like the thirteen bedrooms, seven bathrooms, four dining rooms, and so forth.

Esailla could have had her residence in a more highly placed district like many of her peers did, but having a household in the anonymous and heavily populated mercantile district allowed her a degree of concealment from those in higher ranks. In fact, she went out of her way to keep a low profile around her estate which only housed herself, Kira, Serenity and four house servants with Caine Abnett’s team only staying at the estate occasionally. The Number House was Esailla’s quiet retreat from the nosy, dirty environment of the Hive world of Scintilla, but more than that it was her center of operations on the planet and stronghold with a fully equipped armory when times called for such things.

Esailla was looking at the report she had just received from Caine and it was disturbing, but at the same time uplifting. For the first time in over a year, a sign had surfaced that would hopefully lead to her target, Torian Grover. Torian was a heretic that had eluded her and her mentor Inquisitor Host for over forty-three years, and he had only gained in power and corruption during his flight from the Inquisition’s justice. Now on the hive world of Laskin in the Sub-Sector of Drusus Marches, Gregan Hephastus who was a psyker and a servant of the heretic priest Torian had been spotted by Caine’s team and stopped from making his exit from the planet. Now hiding somewhere in the dark streets of that hive world, he was Esailla’s lead to finding and bringing down Torian and that was why she now set in her office awaiting Kira’s arrival.

Kira walked in dressed in a form fitting red suit and a well made black fur lined overcoat carrying a data slate in one hand and a cup of hot tea in her other. “You wanted to see me, Lady.”

Esailla looked up at her Interrogator, “Yes, how soon can arrangements be made to leave planet and make our way to the world Laskin?”

Kira paused for a moment to set the hot tea in front of Esailla before looking down at her data slate, “Well that depends on the urgency of departure, at the current moment we have none of our usual contracted ship captains in system so I would have to negotiate passage with a new captain and that means interviews, at the longest a week.”

Esailla didn’t seem pleased by the news, but her emotions were kept well guarded as she looked back down at Caine’s report. “I don’t know if we have that much time, but see what you can do Kira with as much haste as possible.”

Kira nodded, but before leaving the room spoke up once more, “Inquisitor you have received a request from the Inquisitor Tyburn Graves for your assistance on a matter on the planet of Iocanthos.”

Esailla sighed and reached for the data slate to read the request before answering, the mission briefing which detailed the request for aid from the settlement of Stern Hope on the agri-world of Iocanthos where a new cathedral has been raised in honor of Saint Drusus. The incident reports that had obligated the request for aid are vague and suggested suspicious disturbances, possibly psychic or warp-based. Inquisitor Tyburn Graves has a Acolyte already on planet by the name of Aritsarchus the Seer who passed on the request is awaiting further orders and assistance before investigating into this disturbances. “Somehow it doesn’t surprise me that Graves is calling in his mark in this way. Rumors that he himself doesn’t want to check on, so he sends the ‘women’ do his dirty work. I don’t have time for this. I can’t ignore the request either. Have all of the new members finally settled in yet?”

Kira walked over to look out the large glass window onto the garden that lay behind the estate, “Well, yes, except for the young lady from the Adepta Sororitas who is expected to arrive any day now.”

Esailla set the data slate down on the desk, “Okay, three days after Keshet’s arrival I would like to set up a meeting for the rest of the Acolytes that should give me time to discuss things with our new member and let her settle in before heading out into the field. I and Serenity will be leaving after that with you staying behind to oversee the logistics of this mission from Graves for the rest of the Acolytes and provide any other support they may need while I’m away.”

Kira turned back to the Inquisitor, “Lady Esailla are you sure they are ready for this? This will be their first field mission and if I’m to stay here at the estate and you are away hunting Torian that means they will be on their own.”

Esailla was silent for a few moments as she bowed her head of her desk, “I believe this mission is no more than a nuisance that Graves didn’t want to take care of himself and I do not have the time so it falls on them to complete it. That said we both know the first mission is a test that we must all face. I just hope none of them are found wanting, and we can only trust in their abilities and skills and the guiding light of the Emperor to see them through it.”

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Alora Fair's Story

Alora Fair set looking out with an emotionless face onto the walkway that ran in front of her small corner stand where she sold smokes, reading material and a few snack items. Alora worked at the shop because it was what her new master had told her to do, she knew that the shop was a front for the Order of Inquisition use as a dumb drop as a discreet place for Acolytes to pass along messages to their higher ups. Alora knew that she was technically a member of the Inquisition an Acolyte herself, but that meant nothing to her, only that her new master was an Inquisitor and since Alora served her new master she in turn served the Inquisition.

Alora didn’t feel boredom despite the fact that all she did was sit here day after day with very few customers nor did she feel pride as an Acolyte, she felt very little of anything because she was a Mind Cleanse; her old master had called her a Doll and therefore could not feel emotions like a normal people. Alora had very few memories of her life and knew that those few she did have may be false ones all she knew was that at some point during her initiation in the dark holds of the Black Ship she was wiped of her mind to safe her sanity and reprogrammed as she was now. The only thing she knew as facts were that she had once served Lord Spencer of House Vanrush a now dead heretic and she now served Inquisitor Lady Esailla and every night brought with it nightmares of flames, an older sister holding her close and screaming in the darkness.

Alora’s shop was in the midsection of a newer Hives on the Sector Capital World it was neither rich nor poor and saw people from each of those social standings. So, it was ideally placed for anyone of any social background to approach. It was a far cry from the Noble House Estate that Alora had once lived in with her old master Spencer. If Alora felt anything for her former master, it would be disgust. Spencer had received Alora from the Order Telepathica because Mind Cleanses were too vulnerable on their own and where always give over to ‘trust worthy’ individuals to oversee them. Spencer had been far from trust worthy; he had used her as his personal Doll and bodyguard and had even used her command words to make her do things that had forced even her to cry herself to sleep.

Alora had been in Spencer’s care for three years when events came to pass to see an end to her service to her old master. She knew of the spy who had walked the halls of her master’s House, she had wondered if he was an assassin and hoped that she would not be around to stop him if he were sent to kill her master, the heir to the House. In the end, the spy had only been the catalyst to her master’s end as he had discovered the heresy that Spencer was worshiping and in turn sent the Inquisition to her old master’s House. When the Inquisition came with force and flame, they spared very few of the Noble House’s members. And when the Inquisitor Lady Esailla stood before Spencer, he had ordered Alora to attack, but he had failed to tell her who to attack a mistake he made only once as Alora turned on him sending her knives into his cold heart with the words “No more” being whispered to her old master.

After those events, Alora was taken into Lady Esailla’s custody. The Inquisitor was quick to learn Alora’s command words and in so doing became Alora’s new master. Lady Esailla had only used Alora’s command words to give one order, “Follow my orders and see to your own well-being child.” With that, Lady Esailla made Alora one of her Acolytes and saw to her initiation into the Order of Inquisition. So, Alora found herself for the first time looking to her own ‘wellbeing’ and was given task that left her to her own devices a thing that had never happened to her before. At first, Alora had felt something that must have been akin to fear if she knew what that was, but as the months pass by she learn to look after herself and do her job with a high degree of skill. Alora had quickly adapted to not having someone oversee her, something that many believed Mind Cleanses just were not able to do.

It was due to her ability to adapt and learn that Alora looked up with a ghost of what one may say was surprise on her face when she saw Lady Esailla and a young girl named Serenity Marra walking up to her small shop. As the Lady cut through the crowd, Alora had the time to notice Serenity looking at her with a guarded manner. She knew that Serenity was trying to decide just how best to deal with Alora if she went wild and Alora for her part was wondering how best to kill Serenity is she threatened her new master Lady Esailla.

Esailla for her part looked at the two young ladies like a mother looking at quarrelling siblings and broke the silence of the group. “Now ladies please play nice. Alora I’ve come with good news you have a new task. I am gathering a new group to oversee some of my more minor affairs and you will be joining them. I wish for you to serve and protect them as you see fit.”

Alora was quite for a few moments as the realization that her job here was done; part of her wondered at just what was ahead of her. Some would call it fear or excitement, but for Alora emotions were never that strong. “Yes my Lady I will do so” was all that she said in response.

Lady Esailla smiled at that with a nod but the seemed to take in Alora’s surroundings in the shop and the dress she was wearing and answered. “Well good Alora, but before you join your new group I think I shall take you clothes shopping and you also help me pick out something for Serenity here as she seems to think that battledress is the only thing worth wearing.”

With that Alora stood and left the little shop to join Lady Esailla for a day of clothes shopping and it was only the most perceptive or someone who knew Alora that would see that shadow of a smile that played across her face as she walked down the street behind the Lady and her young companion.

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“A Coin, Daemons, Death & an Inquisitor for her Birthday”
Keshet's Back Story

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.”

“Anything else?”

“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.’

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