Askellonin Synnit

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Lost in the dark
Somewhere, she waits

Adrift again…

The contact had been lost. She could not even remember when was the last time a Thrice-Chosen had done that, prevented her from guiding those who would resist those who seek Doom. But, here she was, cut off. She hoped the priest had not perished in those murky tunnels, what little she could sense from her chosen indicated he had at least arrived and left safely. But, the priest would just have to survive alone in the dark, with only Drazitine’s book to give him company. At least the little trick seemed to still work, but it was not the most… reliable of methods. Still, better than nothing. She would have to thank her little helper for that later.

Snope’s World was mostly cut off from her, so she cast off her mind wider, and tried to decipher what was yet to come. Each Thrice-Chosen was different, with their motives, methods and allies being ever-changing, but usually there were easy patterns to look for. But, here she was, blindly reacting to the actions of a nameless and faceless monster, whoever he or she was. There were some signs, but it had taken her time – too much time – to realize what they meant. She had suspected this particular Thrice-Chosen was aware of her, but how, of this she had no idea. None of the usual portents indicating the arrival of a new Thrice-Chosen had appeared. All of a sudden, he had just been there, right after most of her chosen had died, seemingly innocently. Fear was an alien feeling to her, but she was worried. It had taken him so little time to destroy all she had built up throughout her long vigil. And now, the only thing she saw was more and more darkness. Snope’s World would be just the beginning. The Seekers of Doom were stepping out of the shadows along with the Thrice-Chosen.

This Thrice-Chosen had done none of the usual mistakes the madmen trying to become that horrifying herald of Doom did. Perhaps he had done other mistakes, but she had not seen them – because he was prepared against her. Only now, when he had begun to act more openly, could she even see the ripples of his actions. And she had even been forced to set in motion the actions of the last prophecy, even though she knew where it would lead. Worst of all, those who should have stood against what was to come had died by his hands, and she’d been forced to try her risky gambit. It was too early to say whether it would be successful or not, but it was out of her hands now. She could guide, she could counsel, she could manipulate, but she could not control them unless they let her. She could only hope they would not self-destruct until she could break through whatever the Thrice-Chosen was doing. And that they could prevent him from getting to his true goal on the planet meanwhile…

The Labyrinth of Bone. The Vault.

The Key.

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Kirje Dragos Kellille
Roskiin heitetyn kirjeen postitus on maksettu, mutta sitä ei koskaan luovutettu kuriirille.

Arvon loordi Kell, joka myös Aventinen Teurastajana tunnetaan,

olen huolestunut tehtävästämme. Jo ensimmäistä kertaa kohdatessanne meidät, piditte meitä epäsoveliaita palvelukseen. Seurattuani solumme toimintaa, en enää itsekään tiedä, ansaitsemmeko palvella Inkvisitiota sekä Keisaria.

Huolestuneena olen havainnut, että tietyt henkilöt solussamme kuulevat ääniä päässään. Järkytyksekseni olen huomannut, että he tuntuvat tottelevan, mitä ne sanovat ja jopa pitävän ideoita hyvinä. Tyrmistyneenä sain kuulla, että oraakkeli Cerra näyttää kannustavan tätä. (En missään nimessä pidä itseäni arvoisena antamaan kritiikkiä vanhemmalle operatiiville, mutta kiitän Keisaria joka päivä, että te olette nähneet parhaaksi osallistua tehtävämme valvontaan.)

Soluni on osoittanut myös devianssia luottamalla epäluonnollisen kärkkäästi Hussin palveluksessa toimivaan xenopetoon. Tiedän, että Rogue Tradereilla on oikeus olla eksenttrisiä ja osalla voi jopa olla tarvittava tahdonvoima kyseisten petojen hallitsemiseen, mutta me jopa otimme pedon mukaan kriittiseen taisteluun! Isku oli voittoisa siitä huolimatta, että jouduin taistelemaan toinen silmä pedon perässä, sillä pelkoni eivät, Keisarin armosta, toteutuneet: verenhimoinen alieni ei kääntynyt kimppuumme, vaan pelkurinomaisesti odotti takalinjoissa koko taistelun ja astui ottamaan kunnian vasta, kun kaikki riski oli ohi.
Yritin useaan otteeseen varoittaa tovereitani siitä, etteivät xenot tunne ihmiselle luontaista uskollisuutta, mutta siitä huolimatta he päättivät luottaa hirviöön.

Kolmanneksi pelkään, että toverini yrittävät käyttää asemamme meille suomia etuoikeuksia omien valtapeliensä pyörittämiseen. Sen sijaan, että olisimme keskittyneet antamaanne tehtävään, joka koski päiväkirjojen palauttamista, he solmivat ennemmin siteitä kapinallisten sekä PDF:n joukkojen välille – joista molemmat selvästi haluavat syöstä planeetan aateliset paikalta, jonka Keisari on heille antanut. Toverieni motiivina ei ollut Keisarin luoman Järjestyksen ylläpito, vaan vääräuskoiset harhat kehityksestä.
He teloittivat korruptoituneen aatelisen liittonsa merkiksi, mutta teon motiivina ei ollut Keisarillinen raivo, vaan pragmaattinen kauppa. Voisi jopa sanoa, että PDF komentajan etukäteistieto korruptiosta tekee hänestä yhtä syntisen kuin teloitetusta aatelisesta.

Tiedän olevani arvoton pyytämään apuanne, arvon Kell, mutta anon, että teette antamillani tiedoilla, miten parhaaksi näette. Mitä nöyrimmin odotan neuvojanne, mikäli näette minut niiden arvoisiksi.

Kun kaikki on ohi, odotan ansaittua rangaistustamme.

Mitä kunnioittavimmin,

Genevieve

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Matka luulabyrinttiin ja pohdiskeluja
8.206-207.885.M41, Saturna, Snopen maailma, Askellon

8.206.885.M41

Cerra otti meihin yhteyden voximme välityksellä, ja varoitti minua Hussille kirjoittamani kirjan potentiaalisista poliittista seurauksista. Kell haluaa puhua kanssani, hän sanoi, tarkoituksenaan moittia minua valtuuksieni harkitsemattomasta käytöstä. Hah. Sain Hussilta kaupungin parhaat miehen ja hyvän aseen – mitäpä väliä minulle on siitä, jos kirjoittamani paperi aiheuttaa harmia muille, jos minä ja toverini makaamme raatoina luulabyrintin lattialla. Ja mitäpä väliä tuolla paperilla on, jos Kolmasti Valittu syöksee Askellonin tuhoon?

Matkamme alkoi Hussin talon kellarien kautta. Kosteat viemärit lemusivat kuolemalle ja sairaudelle. Saasta leviää näissä paikoissa ihmisten sieluihin ja ruumiiseen, muodostaen mutaatioita ja muita elämän irvikuvia. Hyvä oppaamme Mordekai sanoi tämän epäinhimillisyyden kasvavan sitä myötä, mitä lähemmäs tämän maailman mustaa muukalaissydäntä kuljetaan. Viemärimiehillä on täällä pimeydessä omat tukikohtansa ja lepotupansa, ja tuskin olisimme päässeet ilman heitä – tai Coranian pyhää johdatusta – kovinkaan pitkälle. Mukanamme ovat Drazitinen yhdeksäs ja kymmenes kirja, joista yhdeksännettä kannan kahlittuna selkääni niin, että Garak voi sitä kirotuilla silmillään lukea. Harratos kantaa toista.

Aikamme vaellettuamme kuljimme Drazitinen vaakunalla varustetun käytävän läpi. Oppaamme kertoi tyttärensa Angelikan olevan tämän haudan vartija ja olevan kiinteässä henkilökohtaisessa suhteessa Coranian kanssa. Kuolleet naiset kertovat täällä yllättävän paljon tarinoita. Löysimme paikasta salareitin alemmille tasoille. Garak tulkitsi karttaa ja, neuvoteltuamme parhaasta reitistä edetä, löysi meille suunnan.

Laskeuduttuamme salareitille saavuimme rautakäytävään. Eräs Hussin sukukaartilainen pakeni seurueestamme tänä aikana. Tästä asiasta minulla ei ole muuta sanottavaa.

Syvällä näimme ensi kertaa vilaukselta alakaupungin asukkaita. Heitä pitää kuulemma varoa, kuten myös muinaisia laitteita hoitavia teknopappeja. Parempi antaa nukkuvien koirien maata. Meitä tarkkaillaan, mutta myös pelätään, sillä tulimme hyvissä varusteissa ja hyvällä miehityksellä. Yarl onnistui naarmuttamaan itseään terävään raudanpalaan. Täällä meidän tulee varoa askeliamme.

Löysimme reitiltä vanhan, yhä toimivan suurlaitteen – Harratos arveli sen olevan ilmanpuhdistaja, Genevieve synninmittaaja – ja sen ympärille rakennetun hökkelikylän. Huomasimme hurskaan vanhan miehen asumuksen, ja päätimme ryhtyä keskusteluun hänen kanssaan. Opimme tämän: kasvottoman kaupan harjoittajia lemmikkeineen ja harhaoppisia Echidnan palvelijoita on kulkenut täältä.

Syvemmällä kaupunkia on myös yllättävän hyväkuntoisia osioita, joissa on valoa ja hyvä ilmanvaihto. Katsastimme paikallisen kauppiaan valikoiman, mutta hänen hintansa olivat meille liian korkeat.

Myös ääniä kuuluu syvemmällä enemmän. Me kuljemme hitaammin ja varovaisemmin, jotta emme kiinnittäisi huomiota. Harratos kertoi, että alhaalla odottaa kauniiksi kuvailtu joki. Päätimme mennä sinne. Joen ympäristöä verhosi toismaailmainen usva, ja sen vesi oli kuin lasuurikiveä – sinistä ja kirkasta ja kylmää ja makeaa. Huomaan kaipaavani sitä kuin työmies kaipaa savukkeitaan. Vedessä asui kummallisia ja vihaisia vesipetoja, jotka varjelivat aarrettaan raivokkaasti. Tapasimme myös paikalta muutaman palkkasotilaan. Yarl selvitti tilanteen puhumalla. Ylitimme joen lautalla.

Joen tuolla puolen oli maalattu keskilaadukas kuva Korpista. Puhdistimme sen promethiumilla. Maalauksen jälkeen löysimme sotilaiden leiripaikan. Myöhemmin vastaamme tuli rakennus, jonka sisällä palkkasoturit ja viemärityöntekijät olivat tappaneet toisiaan taistelussa. Annoin paheelliset joen makealle vedelle, hyveellelliset Keisarille polttohautauksen kautta. Mielenkiintoisena yksityiskohtana eräs puhtaanapitohenkilö oli kirjoittanut verellään lattiaan seuraavat nimet: Wynder, Annabeth, Yerrick, Terr. Cerran ohimennen mainitsemia akolyyttejä? Elossa vai kuolleita?

Tästä kuljimme jälleen kohti asuttuja reittejä. Eipä aikaakaan, kun meitä osoiteltiin aseilla ja tunnussanaa pyydettiin. Oikean vastauksen sijaan kerroin heille edustavamme Keisaria, joten huomasimme yhtäkkisesti olevamme tulitaistelussa. Isääni osui, ja häntä kelluttava laitteisto hajosi, samoin kuin kaiuttimet. Toivon Hussin järjestävän hänet jälleen kuntoonsa. Yarl sai osuman päähänsä, mutta pystyi yhä kävelemään. Poltimme tämän kereettiläisyyden pesän ja heidän jumalankuvansa.

Matkan päästä näimme hyvistä asemista, kun isä Malvadore piti puhetta saastaiselle eläinlaumalleen, ja paljasti todellisen luonteensa. Luovutettuaan sauvansa hän mylvi demonisella äänellään, kannustaen alaisiaan metsästämään meitä. Kirjattakoon, että hän mainitsi “portille ja vankilalle” olevan vaihtoehtoisia avaamistapoja, mutta että ainoastaan “avain” pystyi sulkemaan sen.* Seuraavat hetket muistan ainoastaan katkonaisesti, sillä ilmanlaatu oli kehno ja tilanne hermostoa järkyttävä. Mielialaamme nosti, kun saimme pelastettua puoli-ihmisten käsistä isä Malvadoren avustajasisaren. Garak paikkasi hänen haavansa ja, mitä todennäköisimmin, pelasti hänen henkensä.

Laskeutuessamme kohti varsinaista luulabyrinttiä, törmäsimme yksinäiseen xenoliskohirviöön ja hänen ihmiskumppaniinsa. Hajoitimme heidän epäpyhän liittonsa tulella ja teräksellä. Taistelussa menehtyi viisi Hussin kaartilaista. Tämän jälkeen pidimme levon. Viettämämme yön aikana eräs miehistä menehtyi sairaskohtaukseen. Poltimme kaikki ruumiit.

8.207.885.M41

Aamulla huomasimme nukkumasalistamme seinäkirjoituksen Aventinen teurastajasta. Jätän johtopäätösten teon tästä lukijoille.

Lordi Jenguiniksi itseään nimittävä henkilö kompuroi leiriimme palveluskuntineen. Hän pyysi saattuetta takaisin ylämaailmaan. Kerrottuaan että Kell jahtasi heitä tänne, pienten epäselvyyksien jälkeen pääsimme yhteisymmärrykseen, ja he liittyivät seurueeseemme. Garak pohti hetken karttaamme, ja päätimme suunnata kartassa nappulalla merkityn kohdan luo. Ainakin thaurilaisittain pelatussa Kuninkaansurmassa väitän olevani oikein pätevä.

Muutamien tuntien kuluttua näimme kaukaisuudessa tulenleimuisen paikan, josta Yarlilla oli ristiriitaisia tunteita. Garak hiippaili vilkaisemaan paikkaa, ja raportoi meille näkemästään: kymmeniä tulta palvovia kereettiläiset palvoivat tulta, pitämässä leimuisia orgioitaan. Ohitimme paikan vailla menetyksiä, ainoastaan säikähdyksellä. Sydäntäni kylmää miettiä, millaisen rituaalin jätimme taaksemme.

Seuraavan maamerkin Drazitine oli merkannut maalauksella. Toiveikkaana lähdimme sitä kohti. Yllätykseksemme alue oli valaistu. Kynttilämme sammuivat, hermomme virittyivät äärimmilleen, ja raivasimme tien vihollisen väijytyksen läpi. Kohtasimme puuoven joka esti tiemme, ja sen takana meitä odotti taidegalleria, kalustettuna ja puhdistettuna. Keskellä pöytää oli laatikko, joka oli merkitty Inkvisition symbolein. Yarl tarttui laatikkoon, ja…

Ilmeisesti laatikko manasi esiin jonkinlainen Yarlin simulacrumin, johon reagoimme väkivaltaisesti. Toinen Yarleista pääsi pakoon, ja jahtasin häntä ulos ovesta jonkinlaiseen rinnakkaismaailmaan, josta oli näköala Hussin kartanoon. Huoneessa oli tehty rituaalimurha raaimmalla mahdollisella tavalla. Tutkin huoneen, josta löysin hyvälaatuisen aikaraudan. Otin sen mukaani. Minuutteja myöhemmin kuulimme huoneen ovea jyskytettävän. Jätimme arvailujen varaan mitä sen takana oli.

Tilanteen rauettua jatkoimme matkaamme ja otimme laatikon mukaamme. Huoneessa oli maalauksia aiemmin mainitsemastani akolyyttiryhmästä. Huoneen voi olettaa olevan jonkinlainen kereettiläinen pila, tapa kerskailla murhilla ja harhaoppisella huumorilla.

Tiemme jatkui, ja meitä odotti helvetinhuone lukemattomilla terillä ja leikkaavilla pinnoilla suuressa tilassa. Varsinaisen luulabyrintin sisäänkäynnillä meitä odotti Angelika valkeassa kaavussa, kuin haamu.

*Epäilen, että em. portti ja vankila viittaavat jonkinlaisen demonin tai xenon tai muun anatheeman säilytyspaikkaan. Ilmeisesti Drazitinen haudasta hakemamme kirja pystyy sinetöimään kyseisen kammotuksen, tai näyttämään reitin todellisen avaimen luokse.

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A dangerous foe
The butcher of Aventine contemplates the future

Foolish. So very foolish. Dragos Kell was not impressed by what he saw, by the priest while he was interviewed by some local newscrew. Kell did not know the details of what had happened deep below, but he could guess some things. Apparantely the new blood had found Drazitine, and based on what he’d seen, the old Rogue Trader had killed himself. Bastard must have been in stasis for thousands of years – only to kill himself? And then the whole ‘statue’ of Minos. It had stopped moving after it had delivered Drazitine’s corpse, but Kell knew the thing was still alive. Sicarius and Maximoff were more than happy to give the now immobile statue to the Inquisition, the two were already busy creating a replacement statue they’d claim was the one who performed the miraculous deed.

Common people couldn’t know that some ancient, heretical Xenotech device had caused the ‘statue’ to move. Lies would have to be told. Another lie in a sector filled with them. Another history falsified. Kell wondered how did that Sister think about all of this, about how Drazitine was now thought to be a Saint, and how the priest in her cell was giving statements supporting that claim to newscrews. She would certainly be useful when tearing down the priest and his weak faith. After all, her recorded statement so far had already been very, very useful. Too bad about the servo skull though, Dragos thought irritably, and turned to look at his men hard at work trying to salvage what they could from its memory.

“Any progress?”
“Some, but I think most of this is worthless, sir. Whatever happened corrupted the recordings, its mostly garbled nonsense. There are some moments here and there that are mostly intact, but not very many of them.”

Dragos sighed, he would have to see how useful the rest were going to be. At least he could just tell Cerra to give the debriefing to the Inquisitor, no chance at making a compilation of the footage. Shame, that would have been helpful in condemning that priest.

“Sir, we did find something you should see though. A few minutes of footage that were completely uncorrupted, and, well, see for yourself.”

Kell looked at his henchman with some surprise, but nodded and came over, away from the newscast from Drazitine’s funeral. It took a couple of moments, but soon the footage was running on a larger pict screen. It took him a few seconds to grasp what was being shown, but when he did, he smiled. “You really should have taken my offer you poor bastard.”

The priest had shown very little fear in regards to him so far. Dragos decided it was time to teach the bastard why everyone who knew the name ‘Dragos Kell’ feared the man behind it.

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Rugglugg's 'Kunning Plan A'
Kaptain Warboss Uber-Kommandant General Major Rugglugg contemplates matters

He was angry. He wasn’t sure why he was angry. Sure, there were some minor reasons, like poor squig beer, backstabbing nobs, somewhat slowly starting ground war (the boyz were going to need some swimming lessons), the loss of most of the second wave to incompetence and so on. But those were minor matters. Warboss Rugglugg was thinking about the big things. He was using ‘logik’.

It made his head hurt a bit, but as a Blood Axe, he knew some slight discomfort could result in some major victories later. Some of the boyz had been managing to get their “Spesh-Shoutas” working, and he had gotten some reports about rather… odd defeats. Not by the humie soldiers, oh no, but some other, unknown humies. And if he’d heard right, they also kept fighting against each other! Several groups of ’em even. Maybe he was angry because someone ELSE was having fun on the planet! And was ignoring the Orks, preferring to fight against OTHER HUMIES!

Now that, that was making him mad. Humies were supposed to fight against Orks, not other humies. That just wouldn’t do. He would have to send the Big Boyz to stomp all of those not-soldier humies out of the picture, so the humies could focus on fighting against the Orks. It just wasn’t sporting when your enemies are squabbling while they are at war. Or, well, the Orks did that sometimes as well, but not while there were other enemies to fight! It’s all well and good to stomp the other boyz when there’s nothing else to stomp, but humies had once again misunderstood something completely clear to the Orks, and were fighting for some stupid reasons amongst themselves. It wasn’t even about who was the boss, none of ‘em seemed to be going against the humie boss himself, but some other, arcane and mysterious reasons. The Xeno warlord could not understand what these odd humie groups were doing, or why, but he did know he didn’t like it.

Maybe if he burnt down the big humie base and sent da biggest boyz after all these stupid squabbling humies, he’d have a proper fight on his hands. Lil Daizy was also getting restless, she’d eaten three boyz yesterday instead of the usual one per day. He’d have to go take the poor thing for a little walk on the surface soon… Or, well, a flight. Or a swim. It was time to initiate ‘Kunning Plan A’.

“You gitz! Load the dakka on Daizy! Shout at dem gitz fixin-up Roks dat we need more! More Rokz! More dakka! More choppa! More boyz! More kunnin’! Kick meks until a Stompa is redy! Fetch me ’nother beer! Get me hat! Not dat hat, you git! DAT hat! Me coat of arms also! Good! Now, SPEECH!

Stop mucking aboot, time fer KUNNING PLAN! A! We’z gonna stomp ‘em so hard, dey’z gonna start fightin’ good and proppa! We’z gonna stomp all dem humies who squabble n’ don’t listen to deir humie boss, dat Sarawak! And den, den we’z gonna stomp ’em all! WAAAAARRRRGGGHHH!!!"

“Good speech boss!”

The Orks may not have a clear image on how human society works, but they do understand that a society divided is ‘mucking about’. And it is one that doesn’t give as good of a fight as it should give. Rugglugg had decided that it was time to teach the humies a lesson about a proper warlike society.

And give Daizy something to do before it ate more Orks. He didn’t have THAT many Snakebites to handle her!

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The Golden Spear
There will be blood

“Something wrong boss?”

There was no concern in Kerberos voice as he looked at Ice Heart who had suddenly stopped one of her speeches, stopping to stare through the bridge’s windows at something only she could see.
“I do not know. Did you not feel that?”
“Feel what?”
“That, shock. That, that slaughter. Thousands of lives, snuffed out in almost an instant. That power.

It was the first time Kerberos had ever heard even a hint of uncertainty in the voice of the cult leader. Ice Heart had so far been a fairly terrifying acquintance, nigh invincible monster, second only to the Crow himself and maybe Gorgon in power. But now, she was uncertain. That made Kerberos uneasy, even if he begun to consider his options. Still, probably should save that tidbit for later consideration, it was unlikely that-

“Sir! Ma’am! Something on the radar! It’s approaching fas-” the mercenary at the controls never got a chance to finish whatever he was about to say.

At first it was a golden flash, appearing the moment the mercenary begun to speak, but seconds later, it was there. An enormous golden spear. If the crew of the machine had been able to activate the shields, realign the weapons, if the spear had not been aimed at the sole weakness of the massive warmachine, it’s and been able to prepare, they could have had a chance at repelling the assault.

But they were surprised.

The spear tore through the armoured glass, through the nearest crew, through the complex machinery used to pilot the device, through the walls, through countless mercenaries and cultists, and into the heart of the monster, trailing behind it a chain of solid gold that lashed around like a snake, killing even more.
“No!” Ice Heart screamed, suddenly understanding. She felt it when the spear hit its target, the blood crystal, and she fell to her knees in agony. The spear begun to retract, ruining even more than it had done as it entered, somehow. Her clothing in shreds from the shrapnel of the impact, her mask partially broken, Ice Heart stood up, looking behind as the giant spear was approaching from behind, the chain taut and strong.

“You will not steal this from me”, she said silently, and grabbed the spear just as it was about to leave the bridge, holding onto it with all her inhuman, stolen strength. Her legs left behind skidmarks, but she finally stopped just at the edge of the ruined bridge, her feet held up against a ruined console, the fake flesh of her arms shearing away to reveal the damned bionics underneath. Her eyes were filled with red as she gazed upon the owner of the spear, a monster pulling away at the golden chain, trying to take its prize.

A daemon. A daemon prince. Of Slaanesh. Ice Heart heard as the survivors all around her were going insane from the sight of the marvelously terrifying being, and all of it filled her with rage. She needed the crystal, she was not going to let some freak of nature steal her fate from her! She knew not from whence the beast had came, the Slaanesh cult did not seem like they had the means to summon such monster, but Ice Heart cared little. What mattered, was that it was here, now, and opposing her.

“Calm yourselves you useless bastards! Activate the cannons! Shoot it you morons! SHOOT-”

There was a sudden numbness in her left arm. She wondered what for an instant, until she was pulled by the vast strength of the daemon, and Ice Heart saw what happened. Kerberos had chopped it off.
“I, Kerberos, pledge myself to thee, o Great Lady of Pain”, she heard as the spear slipped from her arms and she tumbled over the broken console, towards the cold, unforgiving sea, accompanied only by the inhuman laughter of the beast that had bested her so suddenly.

She screamed in rage the entire way down.


Hours later, the broken body of a woman washed ashore as a dark mist was slowly rising from the seas, the beaches of the Iron Isles still being mostly free of ice. She coughed and spat, slowly raising her up with her sole remaining arm, looking at the dark sky. Except, now it was not a shade of deep, dark red.

It was purple.

She saw the crashed warmachine, smoking in the water a few miles north of her, and felt rage bubbling inside of her, just as it had so many times before. A twist of fate, and her plans were in ruins. But, sitting there, she took some cold comfort in one, cold, hard fact.

She had seen where the daemon had flown before the mists had begun to appear, where it had hid itself in sanctuary.

She would regroup, she would seek allies new and old. She doubted she could right the course again, to achieve her original goal, or to fulfill Crow’s requests. To kill those who sought to save the sector that could not be saved. She cared little for that now. There was only one goal in her mind right now.

Vengeance.

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Aventine: the Summoning
FUBAR

The possessed psyker cackled with mad glee, wrenching himself out of Hermann’s hold and rushing off towards the Eldar at the far end of the vault. He didn’t get very far however, before Genevieve cut him off and her blade found his throat, decapitating him in a single swing.

A certain sense of foreboding washed over the scene as the severed head smacked against the ground. At the same time, the air around and over the scene started to fizzle and pop, obscuring the headless body as something started to form in the middle out of thin air. Something big that was made up of things that might have made sense in some other plane of existence, but here it just made your head hurt if you looked at it too closely. Yet it was all so strangely fascinating that you didn’t want to look away, despite all your senses screaming at you to run far, far away from whatever this abomination of the warp was.

By all logic, Lady appearing in her (Or his? Whatever.) full daemon form before them should have reduced him to a shivering, sobbing mess on the floor, yet Dumont felt strangely calm about the whole ordeal. Like it wasn’t really happening. Nearby, the Sororita was the only other one still standing, swinging her sword at the daemon in a mad frenzy that seemed to have little effect. Harratos was obsessively checking and rechecking his weapons, paying no attention to anything else. Hermann was staring ahead with blank unresponsive eyes.

In no time at all, things had taken a turn for the absolute worst.

‘I guess this is it then,’ Dumont thought, gauging the mad scene unfolding before him in the vault. ‘This is where I’ll die.’ The Eldar were screaming in terror, desperately firing their weapons at the approaching daemon that seemed not to mind the hails of shuriken rounds, and was now leisurely scooping them up one after the other, and doing… things to them.

Fingers closing around the handle of the holstered bolt pistol, he pulled it out and aimed with both hands. Surely it was madness, but there was not a single doubt in his mind right now. Was this how it felt to be guided by the Emperor? He wasn’t really sure, and as he followed the train of thought further, he remembered something the now former psyker had said: “the Emperor doesn’t watch over Askellon.” Whatever the truth though, he planned to go out with his boots on, spitting in the eye of this warp monstrosity as it skewered him.

There was no way to miss a target this big, though there was no knowing what might actually happen, because even the air around the daemon was not of this world, crackling and wavering with psychic power. At the same time aiming and trying not to look at the warp abomination too hard, Dumont fired. For a second it seemed as though his shot was going to find its mark, but as he watched the bolter round seemed to flicker, and made an impossible curve around the daemon before impacting at the feet of a lone Eldar desperately trying to crawl away.

Something resembling mocking laughter echoed throughout the chamber.

REALLY, NOW?

Finished with the Eldar for now, the daemon turned its attention back to the acolytes for a moment, disregarding each of them before finally settling on Hermann. Something resembling a wicked grin spread on the face of the warp abomination, and after a couple of steps it was standing over the priest.

At that point, a little too late, Dumont realized something important: the Chronodex. The chains of the lead box were still wrapped and locked around Hermann’s torso. The daemon simply ignored the extra weight and grabbed the struggling priest by his legs, then started to drag him away, lead box and all.

More booming daemonic laughter echoed throughout the underground chamber.

OH HERMANN, THERE’S JUST SO MUCH FUN WE’RE GOING TO HAVE, I CAN’T WAIT! AND THE REST OF YOU, WE’LL BE SEEING EACH OTHER VERY SOON! TA-TA!

Then, as quickly as it had appeared, the daemon was gone, giving a final mocking salute to the acolytes before disappearing in a flash of warp energy. The discharge left ripples and distortions in the air that slowly faded away.

Oscarl Dumont, standing with a smoking bolt pistol in his hand, had some trouble taking in and processing the whole situation at this point, which was strange considering the steadiness with which he’d acted just moments ago. A daemon had burst out of the psyker. Hermann was gone, and so was the Chronodex. And somehow, he was still alive. Oh yeah, and that daemon. The implications sent a chill down his spine.

“We’re so fucked right now,” he muttered, reaching into his coat pocket for the pack of lho stiks.

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The Wanderer
Who is he?

In the small town of Marik’s Bay, a stranger helped those good people evacuate on the first day of the mists. They knew him not, nor did he know them, but he helped them out of simple human decency. He knew what being lost meant, and did not wish them to suffer from that fate. The refugees fled the mists to the ports of hive Aventin. When they wanted to thank their helper, he had already vanished.

On the second day after the mists had appeared, and the sky had turned purple, a man came from the mists and helped the Machar family rebuild the small family shrine, giving them hope in these dark times. They offered him dinner as thanks, which he took, gratefully. They also offered him sanctuary, but he refused, instead walking back into the mist. While the Machars did not know it, the rebuilt shrine warded off a being that would have fed on them, had it not been there.

When the dreadful third day arrived, the crew of Sanctus Dominus, a small PDF vessel, were marooned at sea, their equipment frozen, with no idea where they were. Had the stranger not appeared, and told them how to get their way to the Iron Isles on foot, they would have been lost forever to the mists, and the horrors within. And again, once the ship’s crew saw the Iron Isles appear from the mist, the stranger had disappeared.

The mists had slightly receded on the fourth day, when the stranger appeared inside the ruined warmachine, finding his way into the structures blocked off from the outside world by the damage to the vessel. He helped even those within, as he saw even in them the spark of decency. And in these times, a spark might be just enough. He managed to clear some rubble, and a few of the soldiers managed to get through – before the rest of the rubble collapsed downwards, crushing those that had been hopefully waiting just behind the few who had managed to get through. The wanderer stated “That is all that I can do”, and dissappeared into the mist again, leaving the few astonished mercenaries behind.

A curious thing happened on the fifth day. The mists receded fully from one of the islands on the Iron Isles, and a flurry of activity followed. Of terror. Of death. There was one man the wanderer saved that day, a soldier who was about to be brutally murdered by something he did not understand. He told the soldier the route to back to his master, and the soldier followed that path. His would be murderer was confused for a moment regarding the disappearance of her prey, but she concluded that the horrors of that place must have got the soldier before she could enact punishment, punishment that the wanderer thought was unjust. There were just targets for that blade elsewhere.

The wanderer was left to witness the events that followed. And the people that went through them. For now, he just watched, unseen by the people that did not need him. Unseen by the horrors. Unseen even by Her.

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Huntress' Letter
The spider's gambit

To Harratos and his friends

First of all, I tricked you. I knew what sort of reaction my former brother’s dying words would have on my old self, what would result from that. I knew it would reduce your resources quite significantly, and that was the point – I want you gone. You’ve played your part, it’s time to let others shine. And you did well – Ice Heart’s support is gone from Kell, perhaps not in a way you envisioned, but it is gone nonetheless. Kell never got the Key, nor will he get the Chronodex – opening Echidna’s prison will be nigh impossible. Kell will still do it of course, he can accomplish the impossible after all. There will be no incompetent ‘saint’ trying to guide you, in the false hope that it will accomplish something. You are free.

Oh, and make no mistake: someone else will step up to defend Askellon. Someone always does – although, the Inquisition will not be the group responsible, and I am sure you agree the Askellonian Inquisition is indifferent at best, actively malicious at worst, so this is for the best. I believe someone who has more… selfish reasons is better suited to stopping the Thrice Chosen and Ya’Damnaiach. I wish my old self had been more pro active, but better late than never, right?

I’m sure you are curious as to why I seem to care so much. The reason is that I must – my old self took a blood oath, along with all the rest of the sorry fools who were in Drazitine’s retinue. The old man was smart enough to realize that Languin was going to become a Demon sooner or later, so he devised a way to ensure that she would keep on being loyal to the cause, so to speak. ”To the Emperor, and to whoever else might be listening, we hereby swear this oath in blood – no matter how long it takes, no matter what we shall become, we will stop any Thrice Chosen from ever fulfilling their fate. The ancient beast shall be slain one day. We shall never cease fighting for Askellon. This we swear in blood.”
I have underlined the key parts, the parts that still bind me, and the Lady as well (albeit she doesn’t know it, she just rationalizes her desire to stop the Thrice Chosen as wanting to keep her ‘playfield’ intact. The bastard wiped her own memory upon being dragged into the Warp. She doesn’t remember the torturous beginning, how everything she was got twisted through means most painful. I do. I have forgotten nothing.). Drazitine knew well how to choose his words. My old self would have been thankful for that, perhaps. After all, it ensured that no matter how cruel and monstrous I become, I will still fulfill Drazitine’s wishes. And don’t let my tone here fool you, very little of my old self remains, besides how much I loathe Lady/Languin.

Oh, and speaking of the Lady? She will be quite distracted by her shiny new toy, and I am fairly certain she will not interfere anymore in your lives, and when it comes to Askellon’s fate, she should leave meddling in that to, well, me. For a while at least.

Of course, there is still one more obstacle you will have to overcome before you can leave all this behind you – escaping this planet. Whether it is through that Tarnov’s doorway, hidden on the Witch Isles, through the portal Lady is opening for Petke on the south pole or through Kazamov’s gate, I cannot say. I know this though. This is goodbye. You will never hear from me or the Lady after this, for either you will leave all this business behind, or you will get slain by Kell if you try to interfere in his plans again.

Signed, Eizandra the Huntress

(PS. If you decide that Askellon should be destroyed and you start working for Kell, I am going to ensure your destruction. Just so you know. I hate people who meddle in things. Ironic, I know.)

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