His Purpose

Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim, dark future there is only war.

His Purpose

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Sun Jul 24, 2011 1:15 pm

How did I gain this exalted position? The extraordinary origins of that, Unknown Reader, are to be found in the abbey of my roots, the abbey of my dreams – the abbey that, even now, I dare not name.

-oOo-


He bent forwards, the dried-fish stink of his breath enveloping my face. The thick bristles of his cheek scratched my beardless one.

‘I’ve watched you in the choir – such a pretty voice, admirably suited to your face. Sing for me now.’

I tried to back away, but he used the motion to force me against the cold outer wall of his chambers. His saturnine face filled my sight; his strong hands clasped my arms to my sides. ‘Are you teasing? Of course you are – an inquisitor’s will must be obeyed. And you, my pretty nightingale, will obey it.’

I struggled, but his grasp was unbreakable. ‘You cannot do this thing,’ I gasped, twisting my face from his, ‘It is forbidden to our order!’

He grinned widely – a rare expression for him that added to my terror. The stink of fish was overwhelming. ‘Ah, your pious celibacy – foolish suppression of natural urges. How much pent-up desire you must suffer! Come, as inquisitor I am here to help. No? But I am the Emperor’s will. Would you deny Him?’ With a quick movement he spun me around, pressing me against the stone. ‘Submit to the Emperor’s wishes, then.’

‘You blaspheme! The Emp–’

‘I cannot blaspheme!’ He pulled my body away from the wall, slammed it back, knocking breath from my lungs. ‘Enough banter – tomorrow the orks could breach the walls and all would be slaughter – and you, a novice, would deny me this. Very well; if you will not give, then I shall take, and you will suffer accor–’

A red flash, bright enough to outshine the room’s glow-globes. Everything suddenly seemed to lift centimetres into the air and drop instantly back. The mullioned windows exploded inwards – a deadly shower of lead and glass. And then the roar of the explosion – and nothing.

-oOo-


I woke to early morning sunlight and the all-too familiar pounding of ork ordnance. Or perhaps it was pounding in my head.

In a crumpled heap of black dressing gown and night clothes, Inquisitor Ko lay unconscious or asleep beside me, a trickle of dried blood at his temple. It is strange how pathetic and vulnerable even such powerful men as he can appear when indisposed.

I pushed myself upright, stifling a groan, then stood, wincing. Trying to avoid crunching the glass sprayed about the room, I made my way to the door.

One particularly lengthy shard caught my eye. I bent to carefully lift it, turned back towards Ko.

Who would know?

But I heard shouting from below – they were coming to check on the inquisitor.

I dropped the sliver and departed his chambers.

-oOo-


Ork raids were common here, though rarely on such scale. They had come three months ago, sweeping aside our negligible orbital defences to make, the planetfall in the centre of our cluster of newly-founded towns – and razed them in weeks.

We were an infant colony, only just beginning to consider this world a home, and our contingent of Imperial Guard was correspondingly small. Nevertheless, they made a magnificent stand against overwhelming odds, buying the colonists time to flee. Even when the Guard could contain the enemy no longer and the towns were taken, their disciplined retreat kept the orks from harrying the defenceless civilians, allowing both to gain the ancient fastness of the abbey.

Where, void shielding hurriedly energised, the siege commenced.

All that said, however, I cannot help but be eternally grateful to the green-skinned xenos savages. It was their unwitting intervention that foiled Ko’s despicable lusts. One of their flying bombs –fiendishly piloted by those sub-ork creatures, the grots– had navigated a weakness in the abbey’s void shielding, only to be destroyed by a lucky volley from the Imperial Guard’s patrolling sentinels. The resulting blast, however, shook the abbey’s east side appallingly.

And Inquisitor Jorgiot Ko’s chambers occupied the top floors of a minor eastern tower.

-oOo-


I saw Inquisitor Ko again three days later. The choir had been summoned to what was then considered the abbey’s deepest sub-level (two others have been found since, even deeper, but I will not discuss them or their contents now). We had followed the flickering torch of our aged choirmaster, Brother Took, down low-ceilinged stone corridors, glimpsing in the many side chambers the still-glowing screens of cogitators and control equipment of unknown purpose and unguessable antiquity. After what seemed hours of walking, during which Brother Took had us hum The Happy Emperor to alleviate our uneasiness, we finally entered the Hall of Relics.

Here a few glow-globes had been teased into life, but their wan light, coupled with the room’s immensity, only served to accentuate the prevailing darkness. The Happy Emperor faltered into silence as we gazed in awe and some fear at what we could discern of the hall’s shadowed contents (I will not list those holy objects here – catalogues are available, and –for those holding the necessary status– viewings can be arranged).

A murmuring became apparent, which presently resolved itself into voices raised in argument. All of us recognised Inquisitor Ko and our abbot, Beraph Franx.

‘… Desperate times, Abbot! How long do you think the people can subsist on dried fish? The generators falter and the abbey’s void shields will fall, what then?’

‘We store many varieties of dried fish, Inquisitor, the people will come to appreciate their subtle differences. Though not having directly suffered –as you have– the consequences of shield-flicker, I am aware of it. I trust in our Emperor that we will be rescued before the generators stop spinning.’

‘From where? The greenskins push from one side of the Reach and the Word Bearers the other. Who can help that do not need help themselves?’

‘As I said, I trust in our Emperor. Still, I see no reason not to seek our own aid, hence…’

‘But your methods, Abbot, your methods! It will take an age to discover its destination like this. We’ve lost ten probes already. And now choirs!’

‘The portal doubtless possess a machine spirit, Inquisitor, perhaps we can further arouse it with holy hymns. Ah. They have arrived. Brother Took, I trust your boys are in good voice?’

Rounding a huge canister of ornate wood, we had reached the masters of our abbey, both official and unofficial. They stood in a large space cleared of the general clutter, before what appeared to be a monstrous free-standing mirror. Its frame, fully four meters square, was of a dull metal I did not recognise; and neither did I recognise the intricately-embossed symbols covering it in what seemed utterly random fashion. Thick cables had been stripped and jammed into recesses at the mirror’s base suggestive of sockets (obviously the correct plugs were unavailable), from where they snaked off into the shadows.

As we assembled before the mirror at Brother Took’s muttered instructions, an ambient whining became apparent that set my teeth on edge.

Inquisitor Ko, scowling, dressed in heavy black trousers, shirt, and cloak (relieved only by his red inquisitor’s rosette), stepped to one side and spoke quietly into a vox unit. A small medical patch was affixed to his temple. I wondered if he knew I was present, or, in his inherent arrogance, whether he was even concerned.

Abbot Franx, attired in the ubiquitous beige habit our order demands, stepped forwards, smiling his fat, reassuring smile. After briefly blessing us, he explained why we had been summoned.

‘I will not mince words, boys. Times are grim, and the outlook still grimmer. The Emperor has sent the orks to test our faith, courage, and ingenuity – to see if we are worthy of His Imperium. Our ingenuity we have proven, with the awakening of this,’ he indicated the mirror. ‘What you see here is a xenos artefact, a portal, possibly eldar, possibly even older, we cannot tell. Whatever its origins, it is now made holy and righteous having been bent to our will. What records we’ve found suggest it is the last of a network of such things, decommissioned in the most ancient of times for unknown reasons. It is a possible means of escape, boys. However,’ and he smiled again, somewhat impishly, inducing a nervous chuckle from my fellows, ‘We do not know where it leads.’

Inquisitor Ko stepped forwards, interrupting. ‘Your words border on rhetoric, Abbot, and we haven’t the time –nor I the patience– for them.’ He turned to address the choir, and I was aware of the others bridling at his open disrespect. ‘You are to sing to this portal’s machine spirit in hope that it will somehow reveal its destination. Why hymns would excite a xenos device I do not know – the theory is not mine. However, I will indulge it, and, at its sure failure, perhaps the good abbot will indulge me.’

His gloomy face broke into the malevolent grin I had witnessed during his attack, chilling me more than the cold draughts of that giant chamber.

‘So,’ he finished, raising his arms in mockery of Brother Took’s usual actions, ‘Sing for me.’

He stepped to the side, once again conversing with his vox unit – and, as he did, looked directly at me in a manner that left no doubt he was all too aware of my presence.

We pointedly waited for Brother Took’s command before launching into Adamantium Ne Plus Ultra. In spite of our uneasiness, in spite of the prospect of being torn limb from limb by millions of slavering orks, we were in good voice. The words lifted to the unseen heights of the hall, billowing holy rapture through the air like the sweetest incense. And I was lifted with them, closing my eyes as I was overcome with pious wonder and delight. We had become Metatron, voice of the God-Emperor. And what machine could not but heed His voice?

I opened my eyes to look at the portal – it was still the same. Perhaps this particular machine was deaf, or had no appreciation for orthodox canticles.

Abbot Franx seemed pensive, wringing his hands nervously, glancing between portal, inquisitor, and us. Ko continued to address his unseen assistants through the vox unit, his expression again saturnine. As I watched, his frown deepened. He shook his head in obvious aggravation and bellowed, ‘Enough! It has no effect, Abbot! More direct action is required.’

Our abbot strode forwards, his manner imploring. What was he so afraid of? ‘Inquisitor, that was only the first of –’

‘No. It was first and last. My team observed no response on any plane, with any instrument. If we want to know where that portal leads, someone will have to enter it. And if that person perishes… Well, perhaps sacrifice is what the machine requires.’

He marched up to the choir, face set. There was a collective gasp from my fellows when they realised his intention, but I knew they had nothing to worry about. Twice he sadistically walked up and down the line of trembling boys, before stopping and facing me. ‘I choose you. Make the Emperor proud.’ Seizing me by the cowl, he yanked me to my feet and commenced to drag me towards the portal.

I confess I began to scream and kick. I heard my fellows shouting from the choir, the voices of Abbot Franx and Brother Took rise in shock and anger. What they said I do not know, for I was consumed with terror at the prospect of being thrown into that eldritch device.

Ko stood me before the portal, clamping me in place with powerful hands on my upper arms. Beard once more scratching my cheek, he said, “Hush, little nightingale. What is it the Tau say, “For the greater good?” Think of it that way. I said hush!’

He cuffed the side of my head, knocking me to the ground. I began to whimper, to plead for help.

Again, he dragged my to my feet, facing the portal.

A change had come to it.

The silver sheen I had taken to be mirrored glass had become agitated. Geometric patterns like interference on a pict screen appeared, merging and interlacing with head-searing complexity. My whimpering stopped as my eyes began to follow the ever-more complicated designs, sucked along the convolutions. My mind screamed that I should look away, but I could not. I was being thoroughly hypnotised.

For an instant –though perhaps I imagined this– the patterns took on a recognisable form – an elongated humanoid skull, stylised and bleak. Then the portal fell black and I was looking into void. The transition was so rapid I felt myself to be teetering on the edge of a precipice, and I jerked back in Ko’s now limp grip, knocking us both to the floor and possibly saving our lives in the process.

A cannon roared. Something large rocketed upwards over our heads, careened off the unseen ceiling and impacted on the wall behind. Ancient stonework erupted, showering everyone in chunks of black marble and dust. I awaited the explosion of fire and death that was surely imminent. I thought an ork missile had impossibly hit the hall, even though we were many meters below ground.

The explosion never happened.

Dust slowly settled. The inadequate lighting more hinted at movement within the wafting clouds than illuminated it. A figure was clambering upright – a very large figure indeed.

With a yelp of fear, I scuttled away from Ko back to the rest of the choir.

A voice, vox-assisted, deep and strong, boomed out, ‘I heard singing, and a plea. Did someone call for help?’

-oOo-


His name was Ged, but everything else about him was a mystery.

He was of the Adeptus Astartes, so much his huge size and distinctive armour revealed. However, the armour was so battered and gouged no flake of colouring or even fragment of purity seal remained to denote chapter. And the Space Marine himself was of little help as –once they had overcome their initial amazement– the near-frenzied welcome of Abbot Franx and abrupt questioning of Inquisitor Ko quickly exposed the superhuman warrior as a hopeless amnesiac.

Coughing at the dust still labouring the air, Abbot Franx said, ‘Honoured Brother, are you injured?’

The Marine slowly dusted himself down and stepped free of the rubble of his explosive arrival. I found myself awestruck at the power such simple movements as these somehow conveyed. His immense strength was clearly evident even when it wasn’t being employed.

‘No, good abbot, I am not. My armour has resisted stronger impacts than that… I believe. Apologies for the damage.’

Our abbot gestured this aside: it was of no concern. He blessed the Space Marine and bade him welcome, introduced himself and the inquisitor, gestured vaguely in our direction and labelled us simply ‘Brother Took and the choir.’ For an electric moment, as Ged looked at us, and in spite of the void black of his helmet’s lenses, I was sure his vision met mine.

‘What is your name, Marine?’ asked Ko, rather pointedly interrupting Abbot Franx’s enthusiasms.

‘Ged.’

Ko paused, obviously expecting more. Ged remained silent, simply looking down at the inquisitor, whose head barely reached his cuirass. I relished the tableau, as if the Marine were a monument and Ko simply a tiny admirer. The inquisitor was once the most powerful man I knew, but I realised then that there are orders of magnitude even amongst the powerful – and that there are different types of power.

‘Succinct. Thank you.’ His tone was sarcastic, but the Marine didn’t seem to notice. ‘Where have you come from? Where does that portal lead?’

Ko bordered on insult by neglecting proper forms of address, but Ged was unfazed. ‘Brother Inquisitor, it leads nowhere.’

‘Nowhere? But you came from somewhere within it. How can this place be nowhere? Elucidate us, please.’

The Marine’s massive hand went up toy his helmet, as if to scratch in consternation a scalp it could not touch. ‘I recall nothing. Emptiness. Void. Limbo. How many ways, good inquisitor, would you have me describe nowhere?’

Ko’s perpetual frown deepened, if it were possible. He took a step back, as if Ged’s immense bulk bothered him. He attempted a warning tone. ‘Do not mock me, Brother Marine. This abbey is in dire straights. We seek egress or rescue. As you do not offer the former, what of the latter? Where are your brothers? Are they a sizeable fo–’

Without warning, the Space Marine suddenly slumped to the stone-slab floor, actually cracking the thick granite in the process. Huge head bowed to his gorget, he rested his hemi-spherical couters on similarly-designed poleyns. Abbot Franx moved forwards, concern on his fat face. He hesitated before laying a reassuring hand on an enormous, battered pauldron. ‘Are you ill? Shall I send for the –’

Ged’s voice was slow, laboured, as if the Marine struggled to remember things much better forgotten. ‘My brothers? They are with the Emp… No. They were taken… Slain… At least, I think… Pray they were slain… In that place the Emperor would be denied them. Slain by… But by what adversary? More than that – what were their names? This much I should remember, surely? By all that’s holy, I should remember their names!

The last was bellowed, and emphasised by his right fist smashing into the floor, shattering another slab. Abbot Franx jumped back in shock.

This was unprecedented behaviour for a Space Marine. Even Ko seemed perturbed. To see the Emperor’s finest so obviously overcome with grief and futility felt like witnessing blasphemy. We were watching the ultimate the Imperium of Man had to offer on the point, seemingly, of nervous breakdown.

Call it action without conscious thought; call it the Will of the Emperor. I rose from my cowering position amongst the choir and walked to the hulking Marine. His pauldrons above my own shoulders even in his slouched position, I reached upwards to place my hand where Abbot Franx recently placed his. The ceramite was cold, almost frozen, but I did not break the contact, briefly wondering if sensors in the ancient armour registered my touch. ‘Can I help, Lord?’ I said.

I heard an incredulous snort from Ko, but ignored him. With a light scrape, the Marine’s helmet slowly turned to me. This close, I noticed a bizarre lattice-work of thin scratches covering the whole of the armour, reminiscent of the hypnotic patterns of the portal. My eyes wondered along the intricate lines, until, after what seemed a full minute of silent regard, Ged spoke.

‘A… Boy? Was it you I heard singing? You sing beautifully.’

This honour was too much for Ko. ‘Insolent whelp! You dare – !’ Ko’s hand moved to grab my wrist, but, impossibly quick for its huge size, Ged’s power-glove wrapped around the inquisitor’s thick bicep… And squeezed.

‘An offer of assistance is hardly the action of the insolent. Please step back, Inquisitor.’

Without waiting for his compliance, Ged forced the other to obey. I heard servos whine – he was employing the boosted might of his armour, exhibiting his strength. I glanced at Ko’s face. He was sweating with the strain of keeping his expression set in spite of what must have been considerable pain.

At last, Ged released him. Never during the incident had the Marine’s regard left my face. Ko hissed, rubbing his bruised bicep. ‘A rash act. It will not be forgotten.’

‘Really? How I envy you, I having forgotten so much.’ With his next words, Ged dismissed the scowling inquisitor. ‘What is your name, boy?’

‘Seraph Gidion.’ I thought I might stutter, but my voice remained steady.

‘I accept your offer, Seraph. Help me to stand.’

Help him to stand! I knew he needed no aid (and if he did, it would have to be in the form of a small crane), nevertheless I pushed my shoulder into the pit of his right arm and he pretended to be assisted upright.

He grunted. ‘Very good. You would make a capable squire. Consider yourself employed. Now, Holy Abbot, what terror is it that molests our – your abbey?’

-oOo-


Brother Took lead the choir back to the dormitory. I found myself unable to stop smiling as they filed past, looking on enviously at my new-found position as a Space Marine’s squire.

Without further word, Inquisitor Ko had faded into the hall’s many shadows and disappeared.

Once the chattering choir were out of earshot, Abbot Franx spoke. ‘We are below Jorge’s Leap Spire here, the abbey’s penultimate tower and an excellent observation point. Come, honoured Marine – and squire, of course,’ he added, good-humouredly, ‘There is an elevator.’

Ged’s power-glove resting feather-light on my head as if I were a human walking-stick (thumb and little finger on my shoulders amongst the folds of my cowl), we followed the abbot through the dark relics.

Presently we arrived at a large concertina door. With a grunt and somewhat blasphemous curse, Franx tugged it open – its clatters and squeals shockingly loud in the hall’s encompassing silence. We entered a green-lit elevator cubical that smelled of machine oil and –for some Emperor-known reason– honey. Effortlessly, thanked with a smile from the abbot, Ged slid the door closed again. At an ornate control panel, Franx depressed the topmost of many brass buttons. With a teeth-shaking rattle the elevator rose.

The abbot sighed and turned to face the Marine. ‘Good Brother Ged, I must ask you not to, eh, antagonise the inquisitor.’

Stooping slightly to keep his head from the cubicle’s greasy ceiling, Ged asked, ‘Really, good abbot? And why is that?’

‘He is Inquisitor, brother Ged. One word from him and the Ecclesiarchy would declare us heretics. Our cloisters would resound to the high heals of the Adepta Sororitas!’

‘You do not love your Emperor, then? You preach contrary to doctrine?’ I could hear amusement in Ged’s voice, but it went unnoticed by Abbot Franx.

‘Brother Marine! Of course we love our Emperor! We simply follow a less, um, oppressive path to His Appreciation. We would try to teach the Unsure and the Unbeliever the Error of Their Ways, rather than force Awareness.’ (Abbot Franx, was, of course, a practiced orator. It was actually possible to hear the capitals in his words).

‘Hm,’ said Ged, ‘Sometimes it is hard not to view the Imperium of Man as ovines requiring stringent shepherding to keep them within the fold. Softer methods seem inadequate. Still, I will not argue theology with an abbot! Why is Inquisitor Ko here?’

As the elevator rattled upwards, the Space Marine was told of the relatively recent rediscovery of this world after its mysterious abandonment millennia ago, of the colonists beginning to make it their own, and of our order’s occupation of this utterly ancient abbey and responsibility for its priceless libraries and relics. ‘Inquisitorial interest was inevitable. While we would protect the books, it is, purportedly, Ko’s duty to protect us from the books – or at least any he considers detrimental to our well-being.’

‘Is this not, in general terms, the very definition of the inquisitor’s role?’ Ged asked.

Franx laughed in a rare show of rancour. ‘Definition, perhaps; but in my experience it is rarely the motive for any inquisitorial undertaking. Ko cares little for the well-being of monks. To date he has sequestered seventeen books, twenty-two scrolls, and five artefacts, deemed, ah, unsavoury. All reference to these items in the catalogues now read, “Heretical/ Blasphemous – destroyed.” But he has not destroyed them – he keeps them. For what purpose only the Emperor knows.’

‘You suspect an abuse of power?’

‘It exists! As do other abuses of his power – but those I will not dwell upon.’ He glanced sidelong at me. Was he aware of what went on three nights past? Or was he referring to the general awareness of Ko’s despicable lusts? ‘But what can I do? I am abbot of an unorthodox order, one negative mutter from Ko and I am abbot of an heretical order!’

With a shudder and rather frightening clunk!, the lift stopped. Before Abbot Franx could struggle with the door again, Ged flicked it open.

Cold mountain air and bright sunlight met us as we strode out on to topmost weapons embrasure of Jorge’s Leap Spire – refreshing us after the musty depths of the Hall of Relics. At the crenulated wall, in the shadow of the defunct and unguessably old cannon, ears assaulted by the near-constant ork barrage, breath clouding before our faces (except for Ged, as I recall, his triangular helmet grill remained clear – doubtless a rebreather function), we gazed out.

Our abbey sits at the end of a deep, short gorge, splitting the foot of the western-most mountain of a range girdling a full sixth of the planet’s northern hemisphere. Lacking regularity and devoid of symmetry, the construct would hardly induce professional rapture in the Imperium’s architects. It was little more than an amalgamation of towers of different height, girth, and style, linked with similarly diverse sky bridges. Canon embrasures sporting suitably eclectic, museum-worthy ordnance, were dotted seemingly randomly – suggesting carbuncles. The wide bailey, where beautiful rose gardens once bloomed, was crowded with the tents and fires of the colonists. Close against the immense curtain wall (the composition of which is still hotly debated amongst metallurgists), were the precisely arranged barracks of the Imperial Guard, with their strutting sentinels and rumbling salamander tanks.

And over the wall through flaring void shields were the orks – idiot savants of war.

The gorge was once a pleasant place consisting of narrow metal road (of the same mysterious composition as the abbey’s wall), jumbled lichen-crusted rocks, mountain grasses and flowers. Raptors and wild felines were often observed hunting there.

No longer – the ork war machine had come to taint the land. The unnatural, vibrant green of their hides was the gorge’s new carpet – an undulating, reeking mass of brute xenos power. Milling about seemingly purposeless, they slavered and bit, bickered and bellowed, guffawed and grunted. They were so many they overflowed from the gorge’s mouth, spreading over the foothills where their motley collection of siege engines maintained a continuous barrage of missiles, bombs, and detritus.

Before the abbey’s squat barbican a huge bonfire had been lit, a pyre into which randomly-selected prisoners were thrust – their terrible screams parodied by the malicious, abominable greenskins in what had become a nightly ritual. Greasy black smoke from the fire now hung in a permanent pall, unstirred by the still air at ground level.

With a creak and a thud, a trebuchet arm swung upright, lobbing a spinning ball that quickly revealed itself as a writhing knot of grots compressed tightly together with chains. The detestable little creatures’ screams were curtailed by a wet slap as they impacted on the void shields, inducing bellows of laughter from their masters.

The scene spoke for itself. We awaited the giant’s comment.

However, he wasn’t looking at the horde – he was enraptured by the abbey itself.

‘Brother Marine?’ said Franx.

At last Ged turned to face us. ‘Honoured abbot, why are they here?’

‘The orks? For their barbaric entertainment, why else? They practice invasion and war purely because they like –’

‘No. I mean, why do you suffer them on your doorstep?’

Franx became slightly irritated. ‘We have no means of brushing them from it, honoured brother. The worthy Imperial Guard are too few to repel them. We have only the shielding – and that falters.’

Ged gestured expansively towards the abbey’s towers. ‘But what of the defences?’

‘The batteries?’ Franx shook his head sadly, “They are decrepit; aeons old.’

‘They where built with aeons in mind. Abbot, you do not minister an abbey – you care-take a fortress.’

For a moment Franx was nonplussed, and so was I. Something in Ged’s words implied his presence when such weapons were new!

‘Well, erm, I admit some yet show signs of life – the odd beep and twitch, a glowing tell-tale or two. However, we can quicken them no further. They do not respond to our ministrations.’

‘They will respond to mine.’

Franx stared at the Marine, and I watched his fat face slowly break into a wide, tentative smile of hope. ‘You can awaken them?’

‘I can.’

‘I knew it! Emperor be praised! He sent you, didn’t He? He rewards or faith in Him! It is your purpose to free us!’

For some reason Ged looked at me as he replied, ‘Yes. Surely it is my purpose.’

-oOo-


The next few days were a whirl of inspections, meetings, and the awakening of guns. During them I gained inkling as to just how old our saviour was, and to the evident affinity he shared with this abbey.

In a dark control pit beneath one of the elegant phased-light projectors, I watched in wonder as Ged’s giant gauntlets –each digit equipped with magnetic ‘tip-reducers’ he had discovered somewhere– flew daintily over the studs of a keyboard, teasing the ancient weapon to battle readiness. Then I looked in greater wonder at the Space Marine himself as he asked, ‘Squire, who, or what, are the Adepta Sororitas?’

‘Lord? Do you je–’ I caught myself, but too late.

‘Jest? No. Consider it a symptom of my amnesia.’

‘Erm, as you wish. The Adepta Sororitas are the military might of the Ecclesiarchy, and by extension the Ordo Heriticus of the Inquisition. Many simply call them the Sisters of Battle.’

‘An all-female order. Hm. One wonders as to the sanity of that. When were they founded?’

‘At the end of the Age of Apostasy.’

‘Age of what?’

Lord!

Much later that same day we climbed seemingly endless spirals of steps to gain an emplacement unresponsive to remote commands. I was bone weary, and lagged behind the Marine by some distance.

Suddenly he stopped and turned to face me. ‘Why do we climb these bloody steps, squire?’

I groaned inwardly, too tired for the lesson in life I suspected I was about to receive. Nevertheless, I stopped to pant, ‘To get to the top, lord,’ hoping the obvious answer would suffice.

‘But there is an elevator. Come.’

We ascended to the next landing. There Ged stood before the slightly curved inner granite wall of the stairwell, and began to stroke its surface with wide sweeps of his hands. Was he mad? ‘Lord, are you –’

‘Insane? Only south by southwest. Ah!’ I heard a loud click! and felt a low rumble. Dust sifted from the wall. The outline of an arch became apparent. More rumbles, and stonework ground aside to reveal a shadowed iron cubicle. A recessed lumen flickered into bright life. Ged stepped forwards. ‘Come on, boy – get in and catch your breath.’

The air in the cubicle was musty, but quite breathable even after the door trundled shut. We began to rise. I watched stone scroll surprisingly smoothly from ceiling to floor.

‘My lord, how did you know of this?’

‘Doesn’t everyone? Those interminable stairs spiralled around something, didn’t they?’

After that he would talk of nothing but our work at the emplacement.

At a midday meal in the abbey’s common refectory, Ged’s towering form at my side as I chewed mechanically on dried fish, I suddenly realised that I had never witnessed the Marine eat, or even remove his helmet. Now somewhat at ease in his company, I voiced both observations between picking tiny bones from my teeth.

‘Perhaps I do not eat, Inquisitor Gidion,’ he said with amusement. Then his tone changed. ‘Perhaps all that I am you already see – a suit of power armour imbued with the essence of an eternity-dead Marine. Perhaps I am fearful that if I removed my helm only my desiccated skull would be revealed, lolling from side to side.’ He suddenly performed a grotesque little jig, inducing amazed gasps from other diners already fascinated by the Space Marine’s presence. ‘There,’ he said, amusement once more evident in his voxed voice, ‘Did you hear it rattle?’

Direct questioning gained nothing concerning Ged’s history – the wall of his amnesia was impenetrable. But there were allusions, and in one of those secretive rooms I had noticed off the interminable passages leading to Hall of Relics, one was made.

He was tapping indecipherable codes into a cogitator that regularly emitted rude noises to his considerably ruder curses. Of no immediate assistance, I began to rummage through the various items that had been stored in the room over the unguessable years. I discovered a small stack of paintings, one of which depicted with unsettling skill the multifarious hordes of Chaos. I called Ged’s attention to the work.

For what must have been a minute he gazed at the painting, and then said, ‘A skilful representation – the artist conveys tentacle and claw, tooth and sucker, pestilential bubo and ossific outgrowth, very well. But how could artwork ever hope to even hint at the mental manifestations? Chaos whispers and giggles. It knows your darkest dreads and desires better than you yourself. It taunts, threatens, cajoles you with them until they eclipse all – even the honour and duty due brother and Emperor. How could art convey that?’

‘I- I do not know, Lord,’ was my stuttered reply.

‘No. I pray that I don’t, either.’

-oOo-


Ged’s presence brought hope to the abbey, and, amazingly, something close to an holiday atmosphere settled upon it. The Marine’s appearances in the colonists’ tent town, en route to meetings with the Guard’s officers, often induced spontaneous cheers and applause. He acknowledged these only by a raised gauntlet – I, however, grinned like a madman.

Not all was happiness and hope, however. It soon became apparent many of the ancient batteries had indeed, and in spite of Ged’s lauding, suffered time’s ravages. Furthermore, those yet operable would be insufficient to clear the orks from our ‘doorstep.’ A desperate sortie was planned – a do-or-die charge consisting of the entire contingent of Imperial Guard and those colonists predisposed to battle.

Ko’s lusts continued to overcome him.

During the resurrection of a particularly stubborn focussed-sound weapon, Ged deemed an appeal to the machine’s spirit in order. The choir was duly assembled and I could not resist re-joining their ranks to lose myself in Soul of Gear and Differential. After, when our song had achieved the desired effect and the weapon began to vibrate with barely-contained acoustic power, I dallied to catch up on recent gossip. Commenting upon the absence of one of our best trebles, I knew the reason before I even heard the explanation – my fellows’ sidelong glances, flushed cheeks, and angry frowns were answer enough.

‘He has sang to Ko.’

That damned euphemism.

The boy would be in his narrow bunk in the dormitory, intimately bruised, mentally broken. Absolutely ashamed. Perhaps one of the senior monks would visit him, perhaps even Abbot Franx himself, to commiserate, to pity, to say that, for the good of the order, he must keep the inquisitor’s vile actions secret. Maybe, within days or years, he would suicide. Maybe he would leave the order. Or maybe he would continue as if nothing had occurred, the episode only revealed and relived during twitching nightmares.

What would I have done?

-oOo-


The appointed day came. I climbed up Jorge’s Leap Spire once again, and from that vantage watched all through the cold clear night as the floodlit Imperial Guard prepared for the dawn sortie – overhauling their salamanders and sentinels, stripping down their myriad hand weapons. I watched too as Abbot Franx and other senior monks mingled with the soldiers, sprinkling holy waters and waving sweet-scented thuribles, chanting the blessings of our beloved Emperor to prepare the soldier’s spirits for battle. Ged was there also, helping with the preparations, his mere presence an encouragement.

Why was I not at his side? For the same reason I would not be riding to battle with him at the force’s fore. He had revealed my appointment as his squire to be the sham most took it to be, and banished me to this embrasure (its canon one of those we had been unable to resurrect). ‘I cannot perform my duty as a warrior tormented with worry that you will be spitted upon an ork pike. I will come back for you… Well, I or the orks and their pikes, of course.’

I ignored his dark humour and tried to argue, but, for the only time during my friendship with him, he would not listen. Unsure if I was bitter and disappointed or abjectly relieved, I made my way here.

For the umpteenth time, Ged looked up at me, doubtless zooming in with the aid of his helm’s –his?– wonderful augmentations. Initially I thought he merely assured himself of my location, but the frequency of his attention in spite of the busy preparations he was involved in suggested otherwise. He remained concerned though I was out of immediate harm’s way. Why? Something to do with the battle? Did he dread its outcome? Suspect failure?

The prime bell tolled.

It was the first time I had heard it since the siege began. The orks, aware of the Imperial Guard’s muster, had finally ceased their barrage. Rank upon rank of vulgar xenos savages stood almost still – the pall from their terrible bonfire physical manifestation of their eager expectancy.

Orders were shouted over vox amplifiers. Tank and walker engines roared, belching black exhaust fumes into the cold air. The Guard began to form up before the barbican.

Shivering violently, teeth chattering, stamping my feet and rubbing my midriff to counter the leeching mountain air, I turned to look up Emperor’s Eyrie – the abbey’s tallest tower. Where their viewpoints allowed, at other inoperative embrasures, windows, balconies, bridges, and down in the colonists’ tent-town, more watchers did the same.

Part of me desired the kiss of sunlight on the tower’s peaked plasteel roof as the herald of heat it was. However, as it was also the signal to commence battle, it was to be dreaded, too. You will forgive me that I moaned aloud when it did occur.

Up on Emperor’s Eyrie, observers voxed techs in the abbey’s depths. Keys were depressed to close some relays and open others, energising/ de-energising contacts, re-directing unfathomable powers.

With an audible fizz that contemporaneously relieved a pressure I had been unaware of from my mind (as if those eldritch energies affected me cerebrally), the void shields fell.

And the abbey’s ancient defences awoke.

Light provided the first volley. Rainbow lances –some of colours I could not name– spiked silently out from the towers, incandescing ork warriors and turning their vehicles to slag without appreciable dwell-time. Sound followed – concussive cacophonies whose mere leakage shook abbey and gorge to their foundations; while their focus ruptured internal organs and vibrated hardware into component parts. Then missiles screeched into the fray, inferno exhausts scorching their embrasures black. Some were simple line-of-site rockets, targets selected by cogitative equipment of intelligences surely surpassing proscribed limits. Others actively sought their own victims, coursing low over the battlefield – hounds hunting conies.

Visible ripples of shock passed through the savages as they panicked at this totally unexpected form of attack and stampeded in every direction, clawing at their fellows in madness and fear. How had these weapons –surmised defunct simply because they hadn’t been previously employed– been suddenly energised? Why now? What other nasty little surprises had the abbey to offer?

One or two, yet.

Next came those weapons I had no name for, the terrible creations of the ancients without comparison in our dark millennium. Coruscating globes floated over the combat, spearing shafts of green energy that instantly decomposed those they struck, leaving only dust. Skimming discs of impenetrable black sucked up orks in a dismembering maelstrom generated by pressure differentials between this world and whatever dimension the discs were gateway to. Twinkling silver mists engulfed their victims, pulsed once, passed on – leaving behind broken creatures desperately clawing at their eyes, unable to bear whatever the mist had revealed to them.

But the energies that supplied these hellish mechanisms would soon flicker and die, and the ammunition for the more conventional weapons was finite – the orks, due to sheer weight of numbers, would regain the advantage. So, while confusion and terror possessed them, the third –and final– stage of retaliation had to be initiated.
An argent flash from the bailey – my lord flourishing an ignited power sword atop a rumbling salamander.

Rattling into their wall recesses, the barbican’s gates flew open. Sentinels bounded onto the forecourt in a bracketing stance, nimbly avoiding smoking craters and ork debris. Rocket pods flaring, lasers scintillating in the dust-laden air, they ripped into the compacted and now thrice-terrified orks. A trio of salamanders followed, heavy bolters and autocannon blazing, Ged standing on the turret of the foremost and now brandishing a huge black boltgun.

Let the barbaric bastards wonder at the presence of a silver Space Marine in their midst!

Foot-soldiers interspersed with the remaining sentinels flooded after. A wedge was rapidly formed –Ged’s salamander its tip– that commenced a deep puncturing manoeuvre into the enemy’s heart.

The orks were in utter chaos at this new onslaught. Xenos limbs and torsos, preternaturally-bright red blood fountaining like a propellant, shot into the air before the wedge’s charge – a grisly wave breaking before the prow of a battleship. The purple flash of a re-ignited power sword flourished high, visible even through the roiling smoke and dust, was the last I saw of Ged in battle.

But the greenskins’ numbers still told. The wedge began to falter – the orks simply could not get out of its way quick enough and were forced to stand and fight. The path cut through the horde was closed off and flooded from sight. Thus surrounded, those ranged weapons not accounted for by the abbey’s defences were at last brought to bear. Clouds of smoke, balls of fire, explosions of dust, began to pepper the wedge itself. I saw a sentinel decapitated, its volitionless legs continuing on to crumple against the flank of a salamander. I saw another tank instantly destroyed by a suicide-dive from a grot-piloted bomb, its blast radius engulfing scores of foot-soldiers in an inferno of shrapnel and flame. I saw an Imperial Guard incendiary-man’s head blown to pieces, his weapon spraying liquid fire over his comrades as his body convulsed. I saw…

I saw so much death happen in so many different ways I wondered at the reason for life.

A soft footstep behind.

‘Impressive, isn’t it, my starling? Such powers our ancestors wielded. And the Guard! How brave.’

Inquisitor Jorgiot Ko.

He strode forwards to view the havoc, not even panting though he must have climbed the stairs in order to come upon me without the warning of the noisy lift.

His head bandage was gone, but other than that he remained the same as I last saw him – proudly tall, severe, saturnine – the very picture of inquisitorial authority. The red rose on his chest glittered in the morning sunlight.

He looked down at me, and my heart swelled in terror as that dreadful smile slowly stretched his thin lips. I knew myself to be a mouse, toyed with by a feline prior to the kill.

‘Doesn’t look too promising, does it? If they win through that it will worthy of a song, don’t you think? And who better than you to sing it, eh? What? You expected me to be with them?’ He pointed at the smoke and carnage. ‘Perhaps you think it my duty? But what does a pretty little starling know of an inquisitor’s duties? Besides,’ and here I glimpsed his white teeth as he actually grinned, ‘How else could we meet without that damned Marine-chaperone of yours?’

His intentions were obvious. I launched myself away from the wall – but he was quicker. His forearm was suddenly crushingly tight against my throat, his other hand clamping mine behind my back. With a grunt he half-marched and half-dragged me to a shadowy alcove beside the lift.

The bristles of his beard again scratched my cheek as he said, ‘It is a peculiar, even perverse, truth of human nature to want what you cannot have. Still more perverse is the fact that those lucky enough to achieve their desire often consequently lose all interest – the chase being all. Will it be the same for me, do you think? Will you hate me if it is?’

He changed his grip on my neck; squeezing my nape tightly, he bent me forwards. I tried to scream, but my larynx was too crushed to enable anything more than a croak. ‘Calamity! The starling has lost his voice! If you try to kick, I will break your legs.’

It was going to happen. He was going to ruin me as he had so many other boys. He was going to –

I was released.

I whirled around. Behind Ko stood Abbot Franx, a small pistol to the inquisitor’s temple. I had never seen such a grim expression on his fat face before – that, coupled with the flush of climbing the stairs, made him seem positively demonic.

‘I suspected this. I had you watched. This stops –’

But Ko interrupted, and my heart sank to see the glee on his face. ‘My dear fat fool of an abbot. Stopping the inquisition in its holy duty is best done with a bigger gun.’

He whirled, a swirl of black, surprising Franx and cuffing the pistol from his grip before smashing a gauntleted fist into the abbot’s face. Blood, mucus, and teeth erupted, and Franx fell to his knees with an almost feminine squeal.

‘Now, as they say, where were we?’

Ko advanced upon me again. However, he had not seen what I had – the elevator’s activation. Only when the doors shot back with such force they buckled in their runners and he felt the near-simultaneous thud-crack! of almost a tonne of ancient warrior leap to the flag stones behind him, did the inquisitor realise his doom had come.

He made to turn, but was enveloped in an unbreakable bear-hug. Ko became a black fly wrapped in the legs of a huge silver spider by the name of Ged.

‘Gideon,’ boomed the Marine’s amplified voice, ‘This can be ended here. The battle provides the means. The choice is yours.’

No. There was no choice.

I nodded.

The servos in Ged’s arms began to whine and Ko’s eyes began to bulge.

‘Stop,’ I said.

If Ged thought I had changed my mind, he soon learned otherwise. I approached within centimetres of the pair. Lightly, almost caressingly, I ran my hand along the inquisitor’s midriff to his hip. For a moment I let it linger there –and actually witnessed hope flicker over his face that I might yet comply with his atrocity– before gripping his beautifully-made dagger.

At last realising my intention, and in spite of the immense pressure of Ged’s arms, Ko managed to scream once before gagging on a thick, gauntleted finger forced into his mouth.

The blade was as sharp as it was beautiful.

-oOo-


Obviously, the orks were routed (this account would not exist otherwise); and it was indeed a victory worthy of song. Shaken by the onslaught of the abbey’s defences, the orks never succeeded in properly rallying against the much smaller force of Imperial Guard. The majority were slain within the gorge, the remainder during a harried retreat.

Ko’s corpse, with Abbot Franx’s aid, was secreted to the battlefield… to be eventually ‘found’ and listed amongst the valiant dead. The majority of the inquisitor’s team decamped to make report to sector headquarters, leaving Franx free to once more oversee abbey and doctrine as he wished. A replacement for Ko was inevitable, but, given the Administratum’s legendarily convoluted internal workings, would also be some considerable time hence.

Ged decided to re-enter the alien portal. ‘I am an anachronism here. But more importantly I have left brothers in that void, victims of a fate I cannot –to my shame– recall. My duty is clear.’

At the appointed hour of his departure, after many farewells, blessings, and effusive thanks, from Abbot Franx, the abbey’s other dignitaries, and officers of the Imperial Guard, he made to step through the hypnotic silver veil (somehow energised without the aid of hymns, sacrifice, or the terrified pleas of choirboys).

I was dismayed to think he would say nothing to me, but the worry was unfounded. He suddenly whirled and squatted with that inconceivable show of speed of which he was capable.

Vox unit casting so only I could hear, he said, ‘They say I was sent by the Emperor to deliver this abbey. Perhaps. However, I believe He had another purpose, and that His Will is not always concerned with the multitude. Common sense dictated I send you to that embrasure – but something other, a doubt, an instinct, argued differently. Even as the battle raged, even though I should have been satisfied as to your safety, my thoughts dwelt upon you. Though orkish matters remained in the balance, I was nevertheless compelled back to your side. It was contrary to the Emperor’s wishes that I left you alone.’

I did not know how to reply, and only looked at my twin reflections in his helm’s wide, fathomless eyes.

He stood then, and rested a huge hand lightly upon my shoulder. ‘Farewell, my boy. Honour the Emperor’s grace to you – doubtless He has some purpose in bestowing it, hm?’

With that, he stepped through the now limitless black portal. For the instant his hand remained upon my shoulder it became intensely cold, searing my flesh even through the wool of my habit. Then he was gone.

-oOo-


Research in the abbey’s vast libraries has revealed the eldritch portals –left behind by an unknown xenos race– to have once been a common method of interplanetary –if not interstellar– transportation during ages past. Their use was curtailed, then abandoned, when Chaotic influences and insurrections were detected within the folded dimensions the portals employed.

The last to be decommissioned was the one now encased in plasteel and adamantium in the Hall of Relics.
As its shutdown commenced, so the rotted records patchily tell, Chaotic abominations spewed from it and overran the abbey (then indeed considered a fortress, as Ged once defined it). At great cost they were beaten back by Space Marines to their point of ingress. But the portal was now a gateway into the immaterium, held gaping by infernal powers and uncontrollable by its operators. The Marines had no option but to enter and fight the demons from the threshold, thus enabling the aperture to be sealed behind them.

In this they were successful – and never heard of again.

Their chapter remains unknown – the relevant sections of the records lost. Only a few names remain as part of an honour roll – halfway down which is the entry, ‘Brother Gedditch Lot, Adeptus Mechanicus aspirant.’

-oOo-


The frostbite wounds I received from my last contact with Ged are now ridges and puckers of white scar tissue. It has become my ritual to stroke them lightly prior to sleep.
Last edited by Chun the Unavoidable on Sun Jul 08, 2012 10:24 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: His Purpose

Postby relkan811 » Sun Jul 24, 2011 7:18 pm

That was an awesome read! I really like how you wrote this. Thank you for posting this story!
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Re: His Purpose

Postby Gaius Marius » Sun Jul 24, 2011 8:54 pm

Damn excellent Chun.
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Re: His Purpose

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Tue Jul 26, 2011 6:47 am

Thank'ee both for your time and comment. Glad you liked it. (And it would seem welcome is due to relkan811!)
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Re: His Purpose

Postby Rhamah » Wed Jul 27, 2011 6:27 pm

Another favourite of mine, sir Chun. I applaud this again, for it was a great re-read.
The Tyrant Reborn.
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Re: His Purpose

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Wed Jul 27, 2011 8:06 pm

And ta to you, too, Rhamah.
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Re: His Purpose

Postby Mossy Toes » Mon Aug 01, 2011 12:16 am

Solidly enjoyable, and a source of inspiration for my own "The One-Eyed King."
What sphinx of plascrete and adamantium bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination? Imperator!
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Re: His Purpose

Postby Ghurlag » Mon Aug 01, 2011 6:13 pm

A nice, enjoyable distraction. I must admit, at first I was sceptical. "What's this?" I asked. "A void-shielded abbey and an Inquisitor on a virgin colony? Oh no!" But you were many steps ahead of me, it seems, and I ended up thoroughly hooked. A great, compact little tale.

As the misty veil of Albion is cast aside, we turn our gaze to the war-torn island of Albany, where the Red King vies with his former master for the control of a realm in dire threat.
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Re: His Purpose

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:37 am

Thanks, both. Ghurlag: this was the first all-40k story I ever wrote, so there probably are a few fluff-inconsistencies in it. ;)
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Re: His Purpose

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Sun Jul 08, 2012 10:26 am

Well it's been more than a year since this was dug up, and what ill has fresh air ever done to a corpse?
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Re: His Purpose

Postby Mauthos » Mon Jul 09, 2012 9:53 am

This was an unputdownable story for me, really enjoyed it! Great Stuff :)
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Re: His Purpose

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Wed Jul 11, 2012 6:46 am

You're very kind.
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Re: His Purpose

Postby kurisawa » Thu Jul 12, 2012 3:36 am

Very accomplished, Chun. I enjoyed this very much.

I liked how you used the first person POV, the language really brought your character and setting to life.

I was impressed with how the POV character viewed the marine. The god-like, inhuman nature of the Astartes really came through.

The Inquisitor was a real villain! I wondered who he was speaking to by vox before the marine arrived.

I confess to having an irrational hatred of Orks in WH40K literature, but despite this affliction I really liked the story. Thanks for sharing.


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Re: His Purpose

Postby Chun the Unavoidable » Thu Jul 12, 2012 6:48 am

Thanks for your time, Kurisawa.

I'm not keen on orks myself - they're far too comedic. However, as an army, they seemed best suited to this story. I think Ko was simply speaking to one of his entourage (if I remember correctly). I usually try to portray my SMs with more humanity than a lot of people like (it makes them more interesting to write), but they must still show something 'other' and/or 'above' the norm, so your comment about Ged being 'god-like' is a welcome one.

Again, thanks for reading.
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