Arnell's Ascendancy [Novel length, Part 2]
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The white armour of Alica was set against the deep blue of her tabard and the white weapon casing of her bolter mirrored the dedicated attention to repair that her armourers had shown after the last battle.
The only that was black was two rosary beads which hung across her chest on a string. The two black beads were surrounded by two eighteen white ones.
Holt had often asked her about the beads and all that she said that they presented acts of sin and repentance. She had also said that the white ones represented acts of sin that she had repented for through her acts, and black ones had represented acts of which were yet to be redeemed in His eyes.
In times of quite, Alica had a habit of handling her rosary beads with her left hand. As she played with the beads in her hand, Alica heard the footsteps of someone coming down the hall.
Turning to face the stranger, she felt her hand drop to her side and it begun to rest unceremoniously upon the hilt of her white saber.
It was just another low ranking cleric, thought Alica as her vision came to rest upon the stranger walking down the corridor towards her.
She gave the cleric a nod of acknowledge out of duty as he passed.
Her thoughts returned to her rosaries, and with it, her hand returned to its former position, toying with the beads.
A familiar voice broke her train of thought quicker then a bolt shell out of the blue. Turning around in short order, Alica's eyes met the stare of an Assassin.
Seeing she was in no immediate danger, she glanced around uneasily. The cleric had gone, and it had not been long enough for him to make it the rest of the way down the corridor.
A sly smile broke across Alica as she realized that Alexia had fooled her once again.
"Nice of you to relay my message to Holt, just what did he say?" spoke Alica, breaking the silence with her calm voice.
"Holt sends his regards as ever, and permits you to take three squads down to the surface to aid in buying some time for the Imperium to muster a proper evacuation."
Alica could not discern any emotion from Alexia, neither from her tone, or from the unblinking eyes behind the face mask. Her posture gave nothing away, although Alica could tell she was ever-ready to strike at any foe that presented itself if need be. She had often studied Alexia's fighting technique and knew she could adapt quickly if needed.
Alica's mind reeled at the simple life of the Assassin. To kill in His name, to be told how to think, and how to feel. To be a mindless killing machine in the service of Inquisitors and the High Lords of Terra.
Such thoughts were dangerous if she was to speak out with them, but Alica knew better then that.
"I must ready my troops then Alexia," said the Canoness, her hand still clasping the black bead in her hand as she walked down the corridor away from the Assassin.
Upon reaching the end of the corridor, Alica looked back. Alexia had gone. Alica smiled warmly.
Alexia slipped silently through the doorway. She danced across the floor in quick jumps, easily dodging the cunningly placed laser alarms set across the floor. She rounded the corner with grace and ran down the corridor, silent as ever.
Slowing only at the end of the corridor, she scanned the window frame nearby. She cut two thin wires which ran from the window to an alarm box with her C'Tan blade.
Lifting the window, she cut two more wires that were concealed in the window frame with her blade.
With the window now free from alarms, she slid the window fully open in almost perfect silence.
Glancing around briefly, she checked that she couldn't be spotted as she slipped out of the window.
Hanging on two crampons, she climbed her way up the wall without noise.
Alexia reached the first set of windows on the third floor of the complex, and glanced inside the nearest window. It was clean, nobody inside.
She scuttled across to her left and looked inside. Clean also. Something beneath her caught her attention.
Two Guardsmen on patrol duty.
She remained a motionless statue hanging on the site of the new Governor's palace as the two Guardsmen passed beneath and around the corner, out of sight.
Scuttling back to her right, Alexia checked the last window on this level.
The Tyranids were bold, Calistro gave them that. They had managed to seed the world with their offspring before being picked off by the guns and ordnance of the Imperial Navy.
Turning his attention to the string of transports which new drifted in and out of the system. Calistro noted that they used the usual trade route through the system, as were undoubtedly ferrying Imperial citizens off Torrin before the Tyranids came and attacked.
With his mission of observing the direction of Imperial evacuation completed, Calistro brought his ship about. The Chaos fleet slide along a course which would allow him to slip away from the Imperial forces without being detected, using the sun to block his escape trajectory.
A klaxon sounded on the bridge of Unrelenting Foe and he felt the shudder as his ship transited into the Warp. The swirling energy filled his vision and despite his oath to Khorne, he had always wondered who held the greatest dominion in this realm of Chaos. The sheer scale of the Immaterium amazed him and he was fascinated to look at the lurid colours which cast themselves upon his vision when he entered the Warp. It took a few seconds for the daemon in the ship to filter out the spike in energy and relay the real important information to Calistro.
His vision shifted from bright greens to dark blues and reds. He saw lines of energy, vortices of energy which were both a trap and a lure. He knew better then to guide his ship into one of those ebbing spirals of doom. He instead stayed on the deep blue track of the "normal" space in the Warp, if there were such a thing.
He guided his ship around and set a course that would take him back into the Eye of Terror.
The bridge was unusually cold, thought Adual. It sent a chill down Adual's spine even with the benefit of his battle plate.
Something was certainly amiss here.
Where there was usually chatter from the human serfs about day-to-day duties and status reports, there was silence.
Worse still was there not a soul in sight. There weren't even any bodies.
Something malign was at work here, and Adual certainly didn't like it. He slowly withdrew his weapon from its scabbard whilst he walked further onto the bridge.
Something flashed past him. Something not quite there. He felt a cold hand run up and down his spine as the ghost circled the Tzeentchian Lord.
He felt the presence push itself into Adual's mind, easing its way through Adual's mental defenses.
As it did so, the voice became clearer and louder, "surrender…. Surrender your will and you'll be spared death…. Embrace Slaanesh as your master and truly live!"
Adual brought felt the urge to submit grow, but he fought it back. Taking strength from the fact he now held his force weapon steady in his hand, Adual continued to fight the presence within his mind.
Forcing the voice from his mind, Adual unleashed his attack against the now solid creature which now flaunted itself across the bridge with casual moves of its body.
He felt a surge of warmth wash over him as he brought his powers to bear. Blue lightning leapt from his fingers, and lanced across the room towards the taunting daemon.
It was too quick and Adual's powers struck the far wall of the bridge. The console he struck exploded in vivid colours. When the flash of colour was gone, the console was no more and it was replaced by a large gaping mouth which spoke in indecipherable tongues.
The Tzeentchian servant lashed out again, but instead of using bolt of change, Adual switched tact.
Adual threw his hand out before him and the air in front of the Lord exploded in intense white, then the air flashed blue, then red and then green. The Tzeentchian Lord smirked as he realized that the Warp creature was caught in the warp flame's embrace.
The Warp creature screamed in high pitched tones whilst it faded out of existence beneath the sheet of Warp spawned flames.
With the abomination gone, Adual stood into the central dais of the bridge and leaned over the empty seat which was reserved for the ships navigator. "Damned Slaanesh, you do insist on testing my patience" uttered Adual.
"I felt it entering our universe, sir" the voice was shaky but very familiar. It floated from one of the open hatchway that Adual had entered from.
Adual turned to face the voice. The normally bold and resolute form of Navigator Genus presented itself in the open doorway. He was a shadow of his former self, his face gaunt and his eyes sullen. The Navigator was still wearing a grey gown lined with black piping that he had been wearing the day before.
"What exactly happened, Genus?" demanded the Lord, straightening up his posture as he spoke.
"It… the beast clawed its way through to our universe. Despite the wards and my best efforts, it made its way through to our realm. It killed the crew in a matter of minutes. I was only spared because…. Because I had fore-warning and left the bridge as it clawed its way onboard"
Lord Adual's face suddenly hardened as the full implications of the Navigators words struck him. Genus was no coward, and Adual knew something else was amiss.
A bolt of daring colour shot from Adual's gauntlet and struck Genus square on, turning the skinny form of the Navigator into a chunk of flesh in an instant. For a brief instant, Adual saw the form of yet another Slaanesh daemon dissipate into vapour as the fleshy chunks fell to the floor.
Pacing over the fallen body, Adual searched the corpse whilst he holstered his sword.
Finding something in what used to be pocket in the Navigators clothing, Adual drew the scrap of folded paper out into the open. Unfolding it slowly, Adual's eyes widened at the parchments contents.
The Librarium onboard the Scourge of the Damned was the most impressive that Holt had ever had the privilege to enter. Massive oak shelves lined the walls and filled the vast space. Leather bound tomes lined the shelves. Holt could only guess at the sheer number of books contained here.
As the Inquisitor strolled down between two shelf stacks, Holt admired some of the spines. Scions of Science, Destroyer's Keep, Doom's Peak and The Madman's Journey were a few of the titles which caught Holt's eye.
As he delved deeper into the library, Holt noted the increasing reliance of candles for light. At regular points, a long free standing candlestick held four candles aloft to ward away the gloom.
He continued to snake his way through the Librarium until he found what he had been looking for.
Mars Aran was seated at a dusty, heavy, oak table. Books were sprawled across the table, and the Librarian had his head deep in a book. The remains of two candles soiled the bottom of the candlestick. Solidified wax had pooled where it had dripped onto the wooden top of the table.
Holt pondered how the Librarian could read in the gloom, but quickly put aside such thoughts as soon as it struck him that Mars Aran was a Space Marine, and that his vision had been enhanced, and not only his considerable fighting abilities. The Inquisitor smirked at himself for not realising such a fact before now, and his mind suddenly realised that is why the Librarium was in perpetual gloom. Space Marines needed little light to read by.
Holt tried to decipher what the Librarian was reading, but in the gloom, all he could make out in the darkness was that the book was incredibly ancient.
Unable to read any text in the darkness, Holt turned his attention to the Librarian himself. In the darkness, he could see that the white battle plate he wore had not been repaired since he was last in battle. Scars pockmarked his shoulder guards, and his armoured colour was discoloured with alien blood.
Mars Aran himself was near bald, with wisps of fine grey hair crowning his head like a halo. Eight service studs were pressed into his forehead, forming a line of brass and silver.
"That book too good to talk?" enquired the Inquisitor, his voice low and calm.
The Chief Librarian looked up from his book. "I presume you want to see me about my visions?" The Librarian's voice was confident, almost flaunting the knowledge that was his to command.
"You presume correctly, Librarian" amusement played upon the Inquisitor's face as he spoke.
"I do so enjoy your directness, Inquisitor." smirked Aran as he continued "The visions hold true as they did before. Arnell will gain what he needs in the coming days, and with that, a greater threat to the Imperium will be unleashed."
"And what of Gemiel? Any vision pertaining to her?" asked the agent of the Ordo Hereticus.
"She now resides within the Eye of Terror, and my visualisations have led me to believe that she has, or had, agents in this region of space. Perhaps cultists. Perhaps daemonic allies. My visions are unclear."
Holt's face hardened at the last revelation.
The Librarian's voice took on a solemn note as the Librarian continued, "your job is not to root out the Slaaneshi elements here. They are an internal factor within the Four Winds, and my future sight has given me hints that they are a spent force, a small trail of blood in the maze of futures."
Holt forced a smile before turning away from the table. Before he left, Holt heard the Librarian speak once more as the Inquisitor walked away into the shadow "Canoness Alica will die if she is allowed to travel down the surface. That, I can be sure…"
The Chapel was filled with Sisters. Pale flesh and deep blue robes were visible in the candlelight, and the Sisters sat on the pews within the Chapel, their heads bowed in prayer.
Behind the alter, Alica stood, her eyes and heart were full of fire and passion when the Inquisitor slid in silently through the double doors.
Alica stopped in her iteration upon seeing the form of the Inquisitor take a seat at the back of the Chapel.
Regaining her place in the prayer to the Emperor quickly, Alica continued.
Holt glanced around, and counted thirty Sisters of Battle. Three squads of ten. He listened for a moment to the Canoness' carefully selected words.
"We are His chosen, and it is our sacred duty to help in bringing light to every corner of His domains. But tonight… tonight, sisters, we have a new purpose. Our purposes are no less holy now. We are here to aid in the Imperium's evacuation, to slow the spread of the alien menace as best we can. I have asked you all here to lay down your lives in the hopes of buying enough time that more of the Imperium's believers make it to safety…"
Holt felt the passion in her voice, the conviction and frowned to himself at what he must do.
Around him, the Sisters continued to listen, and pray. He noted a distinct lack of reaction from the Canoness' words when she mentioned laying their lives down.
He had seen this mind set before. He also noted the lack of armour, especially so close to the coming conflict. Before traveling to the Chapel, Holt had studied the scheduled transports off the Scourge of the Damned. Alica's sisters were scheduled to make planet fall in less then an hour.
Snapped back to the sermon, Holt nodded as he saw Alica shot a glance in his direction. "Honoured Sisters, make preparations, we travel to Torrin within the hour." Alica noted a shallow frown appear on Holt's lips.
Holt waited for the oration to finish and the sisters to file out of the Chapel, leaving Alica and Holt alone together.
"Sisters Repentia?" asked the Inquisitor when he was sure that he was out of ear shot of Alica's sisters.
Alica nodded her reply before speaking "After the Tarsiss Three Second War, our Order has been cursed and blessed by large numbers of Repentia. It's a shame that many of them turn to such an selfless act when we could use more Sisters of Battle."
Holt waited a few seconds before speaking.
"I have removed your name from the disembarkation lists" Holt remarked bluntly. The Lord Inquisitor noted the look of rebellion in her eyes. He knew he had to silence the rebellion within Alica before it took root too deeply. "And don't go against my wishes, Canoness. I know you're questing for a noble death, but today is neither the time nor place to for fill your death wish."
Alica merely stared at the Inquisitorial agent, her carefully composed face changing ever so slightly to reveal a hidden understanding.
"I trust you won't go against me, Alica?" asked Holt at last.
Alica waited a few minutes before answering as she considered her options.
"I will not, Inquisitor."
The bridge of the True Domination was silent and foreboding. Arnell stood on the central plinth, his imposing figure dominating the bridge. He wore his suit of Terminator armour, it's deep red armour plating marked with blood stains and gouged deeply with battle scars.
The bridge itself was a remarkably large space. Various types of consoles lined the walls and at each station, stood a serf. From casual regard, the serfs looked to be human. They all wore dark robe which covered them from head to toe. Upon closer study, one knew that they were drawn from mutated stock, a few of them having three or more arms and a couple had two heads. However, the darkness of the bridge and the black robes they wore just about any physical flaw could be concealed from prying eyes.
The door hissed open to Arnell's right. Without looking around, Arnell knew who had just entered onto his bridge.
"The time has come to move off, master" spoke Calistro, note of mild humour intoned in his voice.
"You think yourself worthy to order me around, Calistro?" barked Arnell, finally turning to face his Lieutenant. For the first time in several hundred years, Calistro felt the full burn of Arnell's personality behind the skull face mask of Arnell's Terminator armour.
"I don't think myself worthy enough of such an honour, Lord" soothed Calistro, "it just appears to me your conspiring like a Tzeentchian dog behind closed doors and not confronting your enemies as you always have, Lord."
Calistro felt Arnell's gaze drop from him as the words sank in. Arnell had been plotting in secret. He had kept himself to himself the past few days. Finally, his mind returned to the truth of the matter, the truth of why he had been plotting all this time.
"I hide not from glory, nor from death. My 'allies' have deemed fit to tell me of the future, and the steps I must take to ascend to daemon hood" boomed Arnell, his voice echoing harshly.
Calistro bowed slightly.
"Now tell me, what of Gurin?" demanded Arnell, his voice still full of force.
"The world is stripped of all life and bio matter. It is a rock, sire. The Tyranids merely passed it by as you predicted they would" snapped Calistro, speaking clearly for his master as Arnell walked around the room, glaring over his mutant serfs as they went about their duties.
The Chaos Lord circled around the room and assumed a position before his Lieutenant, face to face. Arnell's voice was a low whisper, "And what of Mutan?"
"He has seen fit to relieve himself of duty, master" answered Calistro, his voice equally low.
"Have the Tyranids begun attacking Torrin?" asked Arnell, his voice strong and loud again.
"They have, my Lord"
Part 3 Here