Into the Heart of Darkness

Welcome to your campaign!
A blog for your campaign

Wondering how to get started? Here are a few tips:

1. Invite your players

Invite them with either their email address or their Obsidian Portal username.

2. Edit your home page

Make a few changes to the home page and give people an idea of what your campaign is about. That will let people know you’re serious and not just playing with the system.

3. Choose a theme

If you want to set a specific mood for your campaign, we have several backgrounds to choose from. Accentuate it by creating a top banner image.

4. Create some NPCs

Characters form the core of every campaign, so take a few minutes to list out the major NPCs in your campaign.

A quick tip: The “+” icon in the top right of every section is how to add a new item, whether it’s a new character or adventure log post, or anything else.

5. Write your first Adventure Log post

The adventure log is where you list the sessions and adventures your party has been on, but for now, we suggest doing a very light “story so far” post. Just give a brief overview of what the party has done up to this point. After each future session, create a new post detailing that night’s adventures.

One final tip: Don’t stress about making your Obsidian Portal campaign look perfect. Instead, just make it work for you and your group. If everyone is having fun, then you’re using Obsidian Portal exactly as it was designed, even if your adventure log isn’t always up to date or your characters don’t all have portrait pictures.

That’s it! The rest is up to your and your players.

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Crossing Blades

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It was the first time I saw an Astartes fight, and I must admit it frightened me.

The two warriors stood opposing each other and even stripped of their iconic armour it was like watching the chiselled likeness of two might gods. Their share size took my breath away, the perfection of their physique and the strength inherent in every limb unlike anything I had witnessed before. As they stood thus, crude, black cudgels crossed and awaiting the sudden ferocity of the duel I also understood the truth in old Artebalus’ words. There was a savage and brutal side to all men, but in the Astartes these qualities had been nurtured and cultivated. Perhaps less angels then and more like savage warrior-kings from a long forgotten age of barbarism and high adventure.

The pict-recorder barked with its staccato snapping sound as I fired off a few quick picts. Nothing out of the ordinary to be sure, now that I behold them with the gaze of hindsight. The likes of Miss van Draken would hardly have bothered with such, let alone comment upon such feeble attempts at capturing the glory of the Astartes. But to me it none the less seemed a moment worth immortalizing.
The man on the right was the tallest of the two dualists, light of build as such things go amongst the Astartes, but with the speed and skill at arms to make up for it. It was said of Legionary Leoniz Ricin, for such was his name, that he was more like a son of the Angel then that of Death himself, and as I looked at him I understood why. His face was finely drawn with strong, regal lines, high cheekbones and a broad, clean forehead, indeed reminiscent of Raphael Vidal’s wonderful fresco of the Primarch Sanguinius. His blond hair too, cut high at the temple and left long at the top, was reminiscent of the master of the 7th legion rather than that of his own, youthful and wholesome. Only his eyes, steely grey and cool, spoke of his true sire.

His opponent was as different too him as night was day, and indeed, even now as I look upon Gangrene Vandal I cannot help but tremble. The Marshal of Ordinance was far shorter than his opponent, of the heavy, broad-shouldered and resilient build so typical of the Barbarusian stock. Of body he had all the strength and vitality of a warrior, but his face…. it was the face of a man long since dead. His skin, the little left too him, was pallid and drawn like a dying mans, but in truth little remained. The left side of his face was but a gleaming skull, patches of ruined flesh still clinging to it in places, and of his nose and mouth there was nothing left but twisted scar-tissue and charred flesh. It was a terrible visage, summoned from some fevered dream, as if a dead man had risen from the grave. And yet, it was not his ruined visage which caused me to tremble, rather it was the mix of callus brutality and deathly humour that caused me such distress.

Hardly had I snapped my first pict-recordings however before the two warriors exploded into sudden action. Ricin proved the quickest, darting forward and fainting with his cudgel in order to deliver a thundering strike to Vandal’s midsection. The next few strikes came almost too quick to follow, blows traded back and forth with a ferocity that would have laid low any lesser man. It struck me immediately that all the glorified swordplay I had so often read off were of little interest to these warriors. Indeed, it left me awestruck and terrified all at once, for their duel was war condensed down to its most primal and savage. Yet perhaps combat between Astartes could be nothing but, mankind brought back to its ancient, brutal roots. Ricin suddenly made it into Vandal’s guard, his left fist hammering his opponent’s midsection before the cudgel was brought up to strike across the Marshal’s jaw. Vandal’s head snapped back, but before I knew it he brought it back, head-butting his opponent with bone-shattering force. As Ricin staggered the Marshal threw himself into the attack, his cudgel breaking across his opponents temple, followed by three solid blows to the face.

Legionary Ricin stumbled and a swift kick to the shin brought him crashing down, the Marshal halting his assault to stand above him. It was only then I realized that nearly every sound in the training chamber had died down, the roar of bolters and whirling of training-automata having ceased. The four other warriors previously at work within the high domed chamber had paused too watch, much like myself, several of them grinning as the duel came to an end.
THUMP!
A heavy, almost violent sound tore through the air from besides me as Marshal Vandal slowly extended a hand to his fallen opponent who grasped it in a warriors grip.

“Well fought… But I believe that makes it two out of three in my favour.”
The voice was a hoarse, electric rasp of vox-aided speech, laced with course static, but the haunting grim across his lips was shockingly genuine.

“Well fought indeed old friend! I concede, and too a worthy opponent at that,”
The voice of Leoniz was youthful and clear, surprisingly hale for one who had just received such a savage beating. Wiping blood from his eyes and temple as best he could the young warrior turned in my direction.
“Sergeant Iscariot! Now you must have a go! Surely this slight to our reputation cannot stand, and besides Gangrene will soon be so prideful as to challenge one of the 3rd at this rate.”

THUMP!

I snapped around, for enthralled as I had been I had almost forgotten who I had come here to meet. Standing near to the door was a row of simple metal posts, encased in solid flak cocoons like a man’s abdomen. Few of the men bothered with such simple devices, preferring the rigour of the training cage, but as I turned there stood still First Sergeant Aster Iscariot. I would not lie if I said he was the largest man I had ever seen, for the Sergeant of the First Squad dwarfed even his fellow superhumans. His dark, almost ruddy skin glistened with sweat as he half turned to his second-in-command, his right hand closed like a vice around the heavy blade of a massive trench knife. His voice as he spoke was like the distant rumble of thunder, distant yet forceful and inevitable.
“You know I have no interest in your games Leo, nor in humouring Marshal Vandal’s pride… It might be better if he did challenge one of the Pheonix’s sons, for such wargames is their way, not ours,”

The Sergeant turned away, his knuckles whiting around the grip of his knife as it was once more brought to bear upon the flak-clad post. I noted to my astonishment that he had hacked it almost down to the metal, each slow, heavy swing of the trench knife biting just an inch deeper. Upon seeing this I almost involuntarily took a step forward,
“What then, is your way?”
How I found the courage to speak my first words to Sergeant Iscariot I shall never recall, but as they rang out across the room I suddenly felt as if they all saw me for the first time. The feeling was an odd one, terribly difficult to place, but it was as if I had crossed some unseen and unmentioned boundary. The Sergeant turned to face me, bringing a pair of deep-set and perfectly black eyes to bear. For a long moment they rested there, and though his face remained perfectly still I suddenly noted the fatigue in the depths of his eyes. There was a terrible weight behind it, and a pain which I found hard to fathom.

“We are the Death Guard and we have no need for the elegance of our brothers in the 3rd, nor the skill of these newcomers of the 20th.”
His thunderous voice pronounced the name almost like a curse and once more, he turned to the post, knife hefted and then brought to bear.
“One man alone can murder a world of thousands. All he needs is a blade, and the will to wield it again,”
THUMP
“And again,”
THUMP
“And again,”
THUMP
“Until Death’s work is done. Such is our way,”

Exctract from Osker Weylan’s personal journal entitled “In the Company of Revenants”.
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A Warrior's Grip

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As soon as I lowered the picter’s viewfinder, I knew that I had captured something worthy of remembrance.

Even though the very structure of the Godless Faith reverberated under the weight of the firepower thrown against her sleek hull and the entire vastness of its primary launch bays drowned in the roar of returning gunships, I could not draw my eyes from the scene before me. The vastness of space lay distant and unfathomable beyond the hangar’s yawning bulkheads, but instead of the thousands of stars so familiar from the long voyage across the Ophidian lay a vastly different vista indeed. Tendrils and long strands of glittering stardust swayed across the background, dotted by a hundred flickering stars and illuminated, as if from within, by a heady, almost sensual glow. It cast my mind back to the quick, guilty picts I had shot of the dancer Mi’Leina as she performed her expressive interpretation of the “Ascent of the Phoenix”. In the same way her tender limbs had swayed and the glittering silk had fluttered before us, so did this first glimpse of the Phrygian Nebulae seem to dance before my eyes, haunting and enthralling in its almost perverse beauty.

Yet it was not this vista alone which had captured my attention, for into the hangar came the two last Thunderhawk gunships upon wings of roaring fire. Both crafts wore the blemishes of intense fighting upon their proud hulls, their bright purple livery torn by savage burns and pitted by countless shells, and yet they landed in perfect unison, unfazed by the violent thrashing of the great warship. The return of this last wing, despite the shame we had all felt since the order to withdraw came, sent ripples of tangible excitement through our little group of civilians and the human crewmen of the hangarbay alike. The reaction from the fifty odd Astartes were even more marked however. Near on every legionnaire present, whether clad in the purple or the pale, turned to face the lowered landing ramps, some rising to attention despite the damage they had sustained. And as the hissing hydraulic ramps came to a clanging halt, again in near perfect synchrony, a hushed whisper passed through the our little escort of civilians. I could not help but raise my picter once more, despite my instructions.

From the left-hand gunship strode four warriors, each boot falling as heavily and steadily as the brother besides him. They were all clad in the hulking suits of Tartaros warplate I had learned to recognize, yet their plain ivory and muted copper had been pitted and scarred by a hundred shots, splattered with old blood and blackened by the touch of vicious flames. The three legionnaires formed a line behind their sergeant as they stepped onto the deck of the hangar, two sets of archaic volkite weapons held at ease while the third warrior’s short-snouted flamethrower gave off an angry hiss of vented gasses.

However, all eyes fell upon their sergeant as he turned sharply and marched across towards his counterpart from the other Thunderhawk. Hydraulic servos gave of a teeth-clenching wheeze as he strode forth, the haft of his imposing scythe tapping a cold rhythm across the deck with every step while his heavily modified warplate hummed with archaic machinery. The pale warrior came to a halt before the sergeant clad in the flamboyant purple of the Emperor’s Children, his power armour so smeared with gore that the colour was hardly visible. For a long moment the Death Guard’s red lenses rested upon his counterparts murderous chainblade, a weapon every inch as fell as the manreaper he himself carried.
Then, with deliberate care, he slowly removed his helmet, affixed it to his hip before shifting the vicious warscythe over to his left hand. A pair of cold blue eyes, set in a sharp, gaunt face with skin as pale as milk, measured the other sergeant with a calm, inquisitive gaze before the pale warrior slowly extended a massive gauntlet.
He was offering a warriors grip.

“Son of the Phoenician. I am Davith Lamech, Sergeant of the 2nd Line Squad, 42nd Cohort, 1st Great Company of the Death Guard,”
His voice was shockingly soft for someone of his awesome stature, low and yet strong enough to carry through the now almost eerily silent hangar,
“My men were honoured to have fought besides yours… For you showed not only skill but also fortitude.”
Momentarily the silence seemed to me perfect, save for the staccato bark of a pict-recorder and the feverent scribbling of an auto-quill.
“May I ask your name…
Brother”

Before I could hear the answer, even as Sergeant Lamech’s arm was held fully outstretched the pict-recorder was violently torn from my grasp by Foreman Zarr. He formally hissed at me as he brutally pulled me away, whispering curses onto the rats and filth of Lady van Dracken’s retinue ever as he dragged me off. In surprise, and a mad attempt at shielding my precious recorder I lost sight of the two warriors… Indeed the last I saw of the hangar deck was lady van Dracken’s elegant features, a mask of intense concentration and the ecstatic joy of an artist in the midst of their art. The auto-quill flew across the parchment… and I could not help but wonder what it was she saw…

Exctract from Osker Weylan’s personal journal entitled “In the Company of Revenants”.
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Crossing the Gulf

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I had been chronicling the endeavours of the 29th Millennial for almost two years when they were recalled to Tanazi by their master to spearhead the Taming of Ouroboros Constellation. By this time I had published the first part of my book to, in this author’s humble opinion, glowing reviews back on Terra, and I was eager to see how the warriors of the 29th Millennial would handle leading an entire Expeditionary Fleet. Over the past months I had been posted on the Heavy Cruiser “Godless Faith” (see chapter 4b for more information about this ancient warship) which housed the entire 3rd Company under the command of Captain Yosuf Elarim, and we had developed a good working relationship over this period. So when Captain Elarim and the Godless Faith was tasked to lead the vanguard, and scout out the Northern Marches of the Constellation, I naturally requested to go along, a request that was granted by lord Fulgrim himself, an act I will forever be grateful for.

The crossing of the Ophidian Gulf was a tense and harrowing affair. The Empyreon was in constant flux here, and if not for the excellent skill of Fleet Captain Goscinny and her crew we would never have reached the Constellation at all. Even some of the Astartes seemed slightly worried, though their combat drills kept them occupied most of the time. None worked with greater zeal than Captain Elarim himself did, though. As I have mentioned earlier, he was a man of endless energy, able to pour his entire being into whatever he set his mind to, and with the Godless Faith nearing the Constellation he worked like a man possessed. He held hour-long planning sessions together with his inner circle, First Sergeant Elthanon, Ancient Justinian, Rasofiel of the Librarius and Eryk Dagon, the representative for the grim and secretive Knight House Dagon (see Chapter 2.3 in Book II, as well as Magister Pavus’ seminal work “Ancient Legends – A detailed description of the old and noble houses of the Questoris Knights” for more information about House Dagon). These meetings I was usually not privy to, but on one occasion, just days before our scheduled warp transition, I was invited to observe one.

It was with great trepidation that I set foot into the War-room of the Godless Faith. Gathered around a large holo-screen showing the planets of the Northern Reaches as detailed by Rogue Trader de Winter, was the inner circle of the 3rd Company, discussing where to place the first strike. Erryk Dagon suggested a concentrated attack on the Technarchs of Kovhir, whereas First Sergeant Elthanon, headstrong as always, was in favour of liberating the world under the yoke of the Devaraj. Ancient Justinian, always the voice of reason even after his near death and interment into Dreadnought Armour at the hands of Eldar raiders during the Jara Purge, wanted to coordinate with the detachments from the XIV and XX legions before committing to a course of action. Captain Elarim listened with a slight frown on his angelic face, and did not speak until everyone else on his council had said their piece.

“Brothers, honoured ser Erryk, I thank you for your counsel. Our task is a great one, and in this we cannot allow ourselves to fail. Though it is true that the Technarchs and the Deveraj are foes that have broken the most fundamental rules of the Emperor of Man, and that this is a mission we cannot complete without the support of our brothers, we must look at our most important duty as part of this Great Crusade: the reunification of Mankind under the rule of Blessed Terra. In this I suggest we focus on the crumbling empire of the Yilderin. Cut of the head of the Dynasty, and we will have forced Compliance on them. When the rest of the Expeditionary Fleet arrive they will find the disciplined armies of the Yilderin ready to serve, as well as a solid base of for further operations deeper into the Constellation.”

The reaction from the other members of the Inner Circle was varied, though not entirely out of character for them. Ancient Justinian merely said a monotonous “Acknowledged” before striding out, and First Sergeant Elthanon proclaimed with great zeal that he would lead the charge whenever the Captain gave the order. Erryk Dagon just left the room with a curt nod and a slightly predatory look on his face. The last to leave was the quiet and insular psyker Rasofiel, his lilac coloured eyes meeting mine for a fleeting moment before he was gone.

With only Captain Elarim remaining he turned to me and said with a sad smile:
“It is truly humbling, Miss von Dracken, to know the fates of a million lives rest on your shoulders. I cannot even fathom how our Lord and Father does it, but I cannot fail Him, not in this matter, or any other.”

This was the first time I had seen an Astartes display any kind of doubt doubt, but as I was going to learn later, superhumans are still humans, with all of humanity’s flaws.

From the book The Song of the Akritai, or The Journey to Perfection by Cecilia von Dracken, Remembrancer and Historian attached to the 29th Millennial. The work is censured for obliteration by the order of –REDACTED-.
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Red Snow

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A champion sleeping on red snow. Another thread cut, murder made. The champion had fought honorable, with a skilled sword arm. A veteran of many a campaign, the champion had carried himself with dignity and confidence. When the Wolves from Fenris had come to his home world, he had stood valiantly before the oncoming wave of predators. Being denied the chance of becoming part of the growing Imperium by a Tyrant he called his liege, his thread was cut, his empty body on the red snow.

Njot the Watcher, skjald of For, looked on as his pack brothers fought on, killing the remainder of the Tyrant’s forces. He felt his axe in his hand grow heavy with anticipation with what was to come. The Watcher was aware of what the Imperium thought of his legion, of his brothers. Even other legions, brother Astartes, believed the VIth to be little more than savage beasts. Barbarians with no place in an enlightened Imperium of Mankind. Njot still looked at his axe. It was a dark blade, with bright silver runes inscribed upon its face. He had wielded the weapon ever since he became a Wolf. Born on Fenris, the skjald had always preferred the axe. A weapon of war and a tool for survival. Many a thread was cut with its smile. But now he hesitated, as he looked at the sharp smile of his weapon and the champion sleeping on red snow.

For had changed. He wasn’t sure if it was a good change. For certainly had become more cunning, more predatory. Its Jarl was not an easy man to like. Choleric and quick to anger, the Jarl of For was a predator always on the hunt. His victories were told of by the Skjalds, as much as by the grisly trophies in his quarters. The heads of all the worthy enemies the Jarl had killed since becoming a member of For, each with its own tale. Now all in the company were expected to tell their own stories. Their own trophies. The heads of their enemies. Njot did not like that change, for it confirmed the opinions others had.

But he was Vlka Fenryka. Of the Rout. It did not matter what others thought was true, only that the VIth would do what no other would. To be the tireless hunters. The relentless predators. The makers of murder in the Allfathers name. That was the reputation that mattered. Even though he did not like the changes to For, he understood their reason. He respected his Jarl, The Red Blade, and willingly served under his banner.

The face of his axe caught the light of the bleeding sun as it was slowly sinking into the sea of red snow. The runes reflected in the light. The weapon swung down. A clean strike. A new trophy, a new tale to be told.

The war on this world was done for the Wolves. They had received new orders from the Wolf King. They were sent to the Ouroboros Constellation, to hunt down a psychic priesthood.

Hunt Maleficarum and make murder and red snow. For the Allfather!

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Piper Jordan

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Jordan scrubbed the last bolt for the day. Her hands were sore and her greasy fingers showed through her worn synth-leather gloves. At least today, she had been set to do something else than cleaning slag from vents and tubes, like the other pipers in the area. Hanging from a suspensor-harness on the outside of a manufactorum-spire, polishing rusty bolts, was preferred over risking sudden death inside a tight and claustrophobic pipe. Though, as orphan rugrats go, piping was a passable trade and way to stay alive on Lexx. Anyhow, a beggar-child couldn´t choose.

She retracted the goggles from her soot-speckled face and caught a glimpse at the endless row of bolts on the exterior of the pipe she had worked on during the day. Tubes and conductors intertwined with the pipe and stretched all the way down to the grim smog at street-level, about 200 stories below her. It followed a path up above her head. She could not see the end of it, due to the thick clouds of smoke and toxic vapour, but the pipe probably led up through the cover of clouds and ended somewhere near the plasma-chimney´s peak. Although pipers at this level couldn´t see the plasma-ejections that spewed into the air, they could often hear them. Monstrous gouts, like a giant throat exhaling spent air.

The street-level and sky were both covered in a layer of industrialized smog and smoke, generations in the making, but at this altitude one had a terrific view of the city. It spanned from one horizon to the other, with spires, macro-domes and mono-blocks rising from the smog-filled ground in all directions. To the south one could glimpse the fantastical sight that was the inner-circle of the city. It was far away and only as faint as the light at the end of the tunnel, but none the less, it was there. One could see the rising inner spires reaching for the sky and amongst them the gothic ziggurath of Pyronox, the heart of the inner-circle and the golden crown jewel of Technopolis. Sometimes one could see sudden flashes of light emanating from the tall walls and, if the rumours where true, this was due to foreign invaders trying to get access to the Pyronox.

Who knew out here.. These events, if they were even true, unfolded worlds away and were only based on stories told from piper to piper. Ships would regularly take off and land in and around the inner-circle, not like out here, where everything was abandoned. In the outer-circle, only the occasional scavenger-ship would land. These were often huge vessels, filled with hundreds of men and huge walkers. They came to scour the abandoned surface or break into sealed manufactorums searching for abandoned treasures. Pipers that had been too curious to such events, and who had ventured near the scavangers´ landing-points, had vanished, never to be seen again.

Jordan skimmed the horizon then looked up at the thick layer of clouds. Without the sky, it was hard to tell the pale light of day from the murky grey of night. She had to rely on other ways of knowing when and where she was at any given time. She took a peak at the data-pad on her wrist. She had to wipe dust off the screen with her worn and scrawny fingers to read the information it showed. The gyro-clock that kept the track of time, and the check-point scanner to log her movement and progress, had been ticking all day and most of the early evening, without to many glitches. Ten cycles of scrubbing on the industrial chimney-tubes was accounted for. Embedded in one of the wrist-pad´s ports was the Master´s key. It contained all the saved information and was worth at least a day´s ration, if not more. Cleaning the inside of pipes resulted in double the pay, but some days, even a lonely piper could afford to feel the wind touch her pale skin. It was dusty and semi-sulfuric wind, but wind none the less.

Jordan scanned the area with her poorly crafted bionic eye and saved the information and pict-recordings on the Master´s key. As she turned around, Jordan´s left boot slid on a dripping exhaust-vent. She took a couple of swings, hanging in the safety-harness with nothing below her but an endless drop down to the smog-covered streets. She hit the side of the chimney and, a second too late, noticed that she had failed to secure the Master´s key in the data-port. When she hit the hard metal wall with her right arm, the Master´s key slid effortlessly out of its port and plummeted down through the air, with nothing to stop it but the ground, so many stories below. She reached for it, but to no avail. Her augmented lens homed in on the falling key, but she lost sight of it as it neared the smog. Despair came over Jordan when she fully grasped what she had so clumsily dropped. The loss of a Master´s key would automatically result in annulled ration and end the contract she was bound to. A piper without a Master´s key, out here in the abandoned and dilapidated outer circle of Technopolis, would be nothing more than a left for dead rugrat with no purpose. Like the smogs living scattered along the borders of sub-level. At least up here, amongst the pipes, one didn´t risk running into them.

The thought of Lexx´s surface made her stomach turn.. The open streets and semi-collapsed alleys stretched for miles in maze-like twists and turns between the blocks and sealed manufactorums. Ever since the followers of the Omnisiah left off-world or retracted into the inner circle of the factory-metropolis, no one of importance were left to keep track of what or who roamed those streets. The best solution was to stay out of them, and when the buildings were locked tight and inaccessible, ventilation-systems, abandoned pipe-lines or just plain altitude, was the best solution for staying away. It was a long time since Jordan had left the surface, years ago, in fact. The thought of setting foot on those ghastly streets filled her young spirit with a terrible sense of hopelessness and dread. The loss of the Master´s key outweighed her despair. She turned a switch on her utility belt, the small reel started buzzing and she descended towards the streets of Outer-Technopolis.

The wrist-pad showed early evening by the time Jordan had reached the uppermost staircases that led down into the obscuring smog. Down here it looked like the buildings were submerged in yet another layer of clouds. Had she not been able to tell the floors beneath her actually were street-level, she might as well have thought that another 200 stories awaited her beneath the smog. But not according to her measuring-instruments. Just a couple of floors down in the smog she would find the intersecting roads and rails that made up street-level.

She unhooked her suspensor-cable and reeled it in. She kept the harness on, just in case she needed to ascend in a hurry. It wasn’t that cumbersome to move around in. She climbed down the railings of the stair-case and submerged herself in the smog. She activated her primitive re-breather and tried to find solid footing.

Mega-crete.. After a couple of minutes she could feel the solid pavement beneath her rubber boots. She crouched behind some abandoned crates, put on her goggles and reached for the las-welder strapped to her hip. She plugged it to a hard-wire connected to the power-pack on her back. The las-welder was a relatively clumsy piece of equipment to swing around, but when ignited, the las-edge could function pretty well as a super-hot cutting blade. She held the las-welder tightly in both hands and started scuttling about on the edges of the street. The Master´s key should be somewhere close to this block, and she knew that it would be fairly easy to locate with a short-range scan. Although she felt the stunning grip of fear of the hostile environment, nothing was worse than not finding the Master´s key. What if it didn´t survive the drop? She tried to put her frightful mind at ease and passed between rock-crete, destroyed pipelines, heaps of fuel-cans and the odd dysfunctional servo-skull. The grinning perversions were a grim reminder of what fate could eventually await her if she did not look after herself.

She crossed several mag-rails to reach the first inter-section. Her she peeked around the corner to check if the coast was clear. She could see little in the smog, but risked a scan with her echo-dotter. She scanned the area and found nothing. The key had to have fallen on the far end of the block. She advanced carefully along the massive rock-crete walls, avoiding cut cables and pulps of acidic liquid.

Suddenly she heard a sound. It came from deep within the smog, a clanking sound, like heavy metal rods hitting the mega-crete floor. After a couple of seconds she realized that it was something moving, at great pace, by the sound of it something bipedal and possibly quite big. She took a couple of steps back where she came from and her heart started racing. There were terrible stories told by the older pipers about predators in the smog, master-less automatons stalking the barren streets. Countless in number and shape, the big ones hunted the smaller ones, and so on. There was also a reason the scavengers brought their great walkers when they came here. The rumours told of great hunts and epic fights at street-level, between the wild automatons and the visitors.

The clanking accelerated towards her, but still she could see nothing due to the smog. She kept her back to the wall and looked around. Behind her was a mesh blocking a semi-collapsed tube. That would do. Jordan ignited the las-welder and swung it across the mesh. The intense heat cut the mesh into two glowing halves that fell to the ground, leaving the tube open so that she could fit inside. Well inside, she turned off the las-welder and held her breath.

Out of the smog she could see two ostrich-like legs advancing past her hiding-place. They belonged to something big. Through the haze she could see the rusty, hunch-back automaton, with its pair of arms hanging like talons beneath its metallic belly and with a gun-like device on its back. It had huge, convex lenses on each side of a small animal-like head. It made clunky sounds, and the odd spark lit from cables and pistons along its body. It looked like a nightmare. It stopped, made some analogue sounds, like growls, and then seemed to scan the area.

Whatever it did, it worked. The giant beast bent down, turned its nasty head and looked straight into the tube where Jordan lay. Before she could fill her lounges with enough air to let out a shriek, the predatory automaton was upon the tube and reached inside with an arm that ended in a sleek scythe-like blade. She screamed in her re-breather as the bladed arm passed right above her chest, and by a mere reflex, she lit the las-welder and cut at the arm of the creature that tried to snatch her. A spark lit up the tube, and while she jerked to stay away from the lashing scythe, she realized that her legs were in a vertical position. The tube was only horizontal in its mouth, and suddenly broke into a ninety degree angle straight down. Jordan panicked as she realized that she was starting to slide, and with no hope of hanging on, she lashed out at the monstrous scythe and cut the tip straight off before she plummeted down the hellish tube. Sparks lit the inner walls as the welder´s edge continued to burn anything it touched.

Panic in an enclosed environment would only grip a piper for an instant. In general, she was used to this. Jordan managed to activate her harness and started to decelerate. She stopped, caught her breath and reeled in the las-welder. She couldn´t see anything at either end of the tube, and knowing the inner workings of Lexx like she did, she was not interested in staying in here too long. When she caught the handle of her tool, she immediately went to work on the inner wall of the tube. She managed to cut a hole big enough for her to crawl through. It took some work, and the power-pack showed signs of running low, but she freed herself from the claustrophobic grasp of the pipe.

She crawled out on the other side, into a huge room that stretched for hundreds of yards in all directions. To her despair she saw what looked like foundation work, sewer-canals and waste disposal conductors. That could only mean she had entered sub-level. Though she hadn´t fallen too far, this was far enough. She had never been this low, and the terrain was foreign and hostile. Clouds of vapour shot from mishandled joints in the mega-tubes that covered the ceiling and geysers of sewer and offal occasionally ejected from the pipes along the floor. Kilometre long cords hung from huge pillars that supported the foundation-work and she was sure that there was movement in some of the dark corners. She needed to get back to the surface. She navigated her surroundings and tried to find vertical surfaces she could climb using her harness.

If time was difficult to keep track on up on the surface, it was most certainly difficult to keep track on down-under. She spent a lot of time just finding her footing and the architectural twists and turns she navigated were not meant to be crossed on foot. After a long time she came over a section that was reminiscent of a scrap-heap. As a ramshackle piper, scant in resources and being used to scavenge most of what she needed on a daily basis, she felt the urge to have a closer look. There had been no encounters down here, and she could risk it before moving on. She leapt from one railing to another and found secure footing in the heap.

There were all sorts of materials and parts scattered about in the heap. For the most part it was empty canisters, worn-out bolts or pieces of mesh. Heaps of cables lay scattered about, and broken pieces of large objects she could not identify, were in abundance. She pulled away some random plates of tin, revealing more garbage and the occasional broken luminous-orb. It was not until she stumbled in something that resembled two giant robotic fingers, that she took a closer look. She cleared the different pieces of rubble and waste around it and uncovered an arm. It was about two yards in length, and the finger-pieces resembled clamps one could find on industrial servo-arms. This was not a servo-arm though, as the machinery was much sleeker and the cords running from the hand to the shoulder looked more like muscle tissue than anything else. The more she uncovered, the more interested she became. After some time, she could see that this most certainly was an automaton that resembled the giant silhouette of a man. It was quite different in appearance to the predatory beast she had fled from on street-level, and at least twice as big. She took some steps back and beheld the semi-excavated body, like an expressionless statue in the desert revealed after a sudden storm has blown by. It was amazing, and at the same time terrifying, to behold.

She advanced carefully towards what seemed to look like a chest-plate. She tapped it a couple of times with her finger, and it resulted in a hollow sound. It was dusty, so she ran her palm across it and revealed a pad-screen, a couple of connection-ports and a production-code that spelled ED-209. Her curiosity got the best of her and she wanted to know if it was possible to establish a link between her own wrist-pad and the one on the giant´s chest. She pulled a connection-cord from the wrist-pad and inserted it in the first available port. She then programmed her own pad to scan the foreign system she had plugged it into.

The amount of information was staggering. A binary code the size of fifty-seven cubic-frames was uploading on her wrist. She could only read a fraction of it, mostly maintenance-updates. She could see that it had been stripped of most of its exterior plating and had none of its primary or secondary armaments left. As it seemed, it used to be some kind of battle-robot, armed with weapons of great destructive capability. Much of the information was in a code that far exceeded her own understanding of binaries and the last cubic-order on the rail simply read malifica over and over.

She suddenly noticed that her screen showed that her power-pack was all but spent. She didn`t understand why that could suddenly happen. Though she had used a lot of power on the las-welder, there was still supposed to be plenty left. She ran a diagnostic and the programme told her that the power-pack was being siphoned by an external source. Cold chills ran down her spine.In the same instant, the little screen on the automaton´s chest switched on and ran its own diagnostic. Jordan froze as she recognized the blue and green code from her own data-pad. She pulled the wire from the automaton´s port, cutting the connection. She jumped down from where she was standing and ran across the scrap-heap. Her mind was racing and she cursed herself for being such a fool. She caught a glimpse over her shoulder as she escaped and saw the tall silhouette sluggishly rising from the heap. It was silent as death and only the sound of meatal and glass breaking echoed through the room as it stood up in the distance. The last she saw of it was when she started climbing up a nearby-shaft. The giant automaton stood perfectly still upon the heap looking in her direction. The sense of being watched by something like that was panic-inducing. There was still some juice left in her power-pack. She activated her harness and started to ascend.

For a piper, nothing was better than ascension by harness. Neatly connected to that sensation was the ever-present threat of equipment failure, either due to poor maintenance or dysfunctional power-pack. As Jordan rose towards the dripping, mist-covered roof of sub-level, her wrist-pad alerted her of low power. The harness jerked a bit and, for each yard she ascended, the reel spun slower. At the top she activated the mag-pads in her palms and knee-caps then started to crawl along the support-beams to find a maintenance-shaft. Mag-pads worked despite power-loss, but were considerably more arduous to use. She felt her strength failing, fatigued by the hardships of the day. After some failed attempts to open an exhaust-shaft, one of the quickest ways to move around in Technopolis, she located a hatch with a retractable ladder that led to street-level. She had to connect to the data-pad on the door and run several strains of code to open the hatch, but after a while she gained access. She climbed through the shaft and slowly opened the hatch above her.

She had forgotten about thick smog at street-level, and activated her goggles and re-breather. She peaked in all directions before she risked climbing out. She had surfaced somewhere near the same block she had descended from earlier, but at a different place further up the street. Lantern-globes lit up all along the street in both directions, but shun only as far as the smog allowed. She could hear pistons and gauss-vents hissing in the distance, but nothing in her immediate vicinity. She climbed up, locked the hatch, saved the location on her pad, and ran for cover behind huge containers outside a sealed supply-elevator.

Power was scant and she had to find the Master´s key and start her ascension before she ran completely out. Twenty stories above street-level was a minimum safe distance, and with the amount showing on her screen, she was uncertain if she would get that far. Anyhow, she had to try a second scan for the key. The screen flickered as the echo-dotter made a local scan, and, no more than 200 hundred yards away, there was a blip. Her spirit rose. She advanced along the walls as before, keeping to the shadows. About half way there, she halted and hid. She heard the clanking noise from before a couple of blocks away, only this time it sounded like ha whole flock of automatons running together. She felt relatively safe that the sounds were moving away from her.

Driven by equal parts desperation and dread, Jordan ran the last hundred yards as fast as she could. She could hear the blip on her wrist-pad better and better and knew for certain that the key had to be up ahead. She ran around some huge barrels and into a semi-open area that looked like a collapsed mono-rail entrance tube. As she came out of the fog, her heart sank. A group of young kids, about ten of them, were standing around a taller one, looking at something.

Smogs..

She stopped, but it was too late. Some of them had noticed her. She could hear their data-speak, just blips with interchanging static that was impossible to understand. They all turned around and simultaneously crooked their heads, as if surprised to see her. Their faces were covered in low-tech bionics and had no visible eyes or mouths. Many had replaced their limbs with different tools and scrap-parts, probably from maintenance servitors or servo-skulls. Mecha-tendrils protruded from different parts of their shabby bodies. The tallest one, a slim boy with goggles and a breath-mask covering his face, moved over towards Jordan, holding the Master´s key in a prosthetic limb and a curved knife in the other.

Jordan pulled out her las-welder and demanded the key from him. She stretched out her hand, but the boy just spoke some data-speak gibberish, maybe as some sort of threat or challenge, and came at her with the knife. She dodged the blow, screamed an answer to the challenge, and lit the welder. The light illuminated her, and the boy took a step back, startled by the red-hot edge of her tool. They stood there and looked at each other and Jordan wondered what to do next. Suddenly her wrist-pad started beeping, and the flame on her power-tool flickered and died out. A hollow laughter could be heard behind the boy´s breath-mask and Jordan realized that her power-pack was spent. The group started beeping and pointing their needle-like finger tips at Jordan in unison, like a crowd at a game. The boy got energized by the cheer and started to advance on Jordan.

The cheering was abruptly broken by screams and panic, as the group of smogs suddenly scuttled in all directions. From the fog charged the ostritch-like beast, with its blades swinging and rotor-cannons spinning. As the beast probably had ran out of ammunition a long time ago, the blades were the most efficient. It scythed down several of the helpless smogs trying to find their hiding-places. It was a macabre scene with blood and guts spraying in all directions. Jordan used the distraction to her benefit, snatched the Master´s key from the slim boy´s bionic grip and ran for cover in the fog. The robot-beast then turned around and advanced for the slim boy. He tried to evade, but got sliced in two by a long and sleek blade that was missing its tip.

As Jordan ran down the street, towards the walls of the nearest block, she could hear the advancing steps from behind her. With an empty power-pack she could not gain altitude with her harness. She had to find another way to escape. She was fast, but could not outrun her pursuer. The pounding steps came closer and closer, and when she reached the corner of the block, she stumbled and got her boot entangled in a nest of wires. She fell to the ground.

The ferocious beast came charging out of the smog and she crawled backwards as fast as she could. She hit something behind her, turned around and saw a big mechanical foot. It belonged to something that had just turned the corner. As the beast came close enough, the newcomer simply grabbed one of its legs and flailed it high in the air. The beast was crashed into the ground several times and smashed into the side of the wall. The hulking silhouette then grabbed the beast´s other leg and effortlessly tore the body apart. Oily liquids and sparks showered from the trashed automaton, and Jordan could do nothing more than cover herself as she lay between the huge battle-robot´s legs. The two parts were dropped to the ground and the hulking silhouette came to a halt, standing there in silence.

Jordan sat on the street, grasping her key, thinking that the end had come. But none came. She finally looked up at her saviour and realized that there was no finishing blow on the way. The giant just stood there, expressionless, and with no indication that it was going anywhere. Some pistons hissed, and there was a faint rumble from its chest, but other than that, nothing. She stood up, and, when she got the chance, ran all she could towards the place where she had descended. She didn´t look back. The only thought in her mind now was to get out of the street and up beyond the smog. She ran back and forth, and finally she found the staircase form before. She ran two steps at a time until she was completely out of breath. After a long run, she started to see through the smog, and then she reached the upper most floor that actually had a railed walkway on the outside. From here on she either had to climb or go back down. She sat down and despaired. She had no power to get back to the 105´th floor were the Master´s office was located, and the mag-climb would be risky at best. It could take days, and she was already fatigued.

As she sat there, she heard the faint clanks of gentle foot-steps near the bottom of the stair-case. She could see nothing due to the smog, but she had a gut-feeling that was the sound of the automaton from sub-level. It followed her. She did not know why, and was unsure if she really wanted to know, but she knew that she would be dead already, had the giant wanted her to be. She checked her echo-dotter, and it located a huge blip standing still at the foot of the stair-case.

Then the sky rumbled. A gargantuan ship descended from the clouds. It was that of the scavengers, with the black flames of the Pyronox in the centre of a purple and yellow checkerboard pattern. It had been a long time since the last time she had seen them. The vessel flew to the open space on the far side of the mega-block where she sat and turned on its landing lights. Beams of light cut through the smog and the thrusters cleared a lot of smoke and debris from the street. It disappeared behind the block, but was still visible due to the mega-block´s silhouette. She could hear it land.

Jordan weighed her options. She could start the climb right now, but not get very far, or she could descend into the smog again. There waited the battle-robot. If it had found her all the way from sub-level, it most certainly could follow her around in the smog. Without her wrist-pad, which probably was what it homed in on, she would be lost. It was not an option to lose the wrist-pad, which now was sucking very hard on its auxiliary power-source. The third option was to go back to her saviour, if it even was that. If it stayed where it was, it most certainly would be located by the scavengers. Why didn´t it move?

She got an idea. At first she thought it was stupid and wanted to begin the climb, but then, when she heard the landing ramps of the ship opening, and loud, thumping steps echo through the streets, she decided to give it a try. She went along the railings, up and down the stairs, until her pad showed that she was directly above the battle-robot. It was only seven yards or so, but that would do. She then extended her pad´s hard-wire down through the smog, like a fishing line, until it was at a couple of yards above the ground. She ejected her small wrist-knife, ready to cut the wire at any sign of trouble. She waited a moment, then she felt a gentle jerk in the cable.

A moment later she was streaming information from the automaton. She searched the streaming for a code that would allow communication. She decided to try the manual override system. It was made to go both ways. She started typing commands.
The first was “sender-Jordan-receiver-unknown-identify”.
The response was almost instantaneously “receiver-ED209-sender-Jordan”. She then hurried on and the following stream of code was interchanged between them:

“ED209-pursuer-explanation”
“Jordan-reviver-protective protocols-Jordan”
“ED209-run-danger”
“Jordan-priority-ED209-secondary priority-stationary”
“External power source-location”
“External power source-located”
“ED209-danger-Jordan”
“Negative-ED209-protective protocols-Jordan”
“Jordan-friend-ED209”
“ED209-friend-Jordan”

She could not believe her eyes. In all her time she had never known that the rumoured, and greatly feared, automatons of Technopolis could be reached. She decided to take a chance on ED-209 as her wrist-pad flickered due to imminent power-shortage. If the automaton could locate a power-source, then maybe she could ascend again. She spent her last drop of power lowering herself down to ED. She stood in front of the great machine, and in the same instant, cones of light could be seen penetrating the smog. Huge bipedal thuds could be heard amongst hundreds of marching boots. They were here, and there was no time to loose. She spelled the final code on her pad:

“ED209-Safety-Run”
“Run-Jordan-Run…”

Her wrist-pad died, the automaton stretched out its large servo-hand and she mounted it. The arm hoisted her to its shoulder where she found something to hold on to. It turned around and, slowly, started to walk away. It then accelerated, before it broke into a run. Behind them, Jordan could see ranks of what looked like soldiers coming around the corner. They started shooting beams of blue, electric light into the smog on the opposite side. Thunder and lightning broke out at street-level. She was sure she saw a huge flock of those beasts from earlier coming through the smog, charging for the soldiers. Before ED turned into an alley, she saw a titanic yellow and purple walker, with bright cones of light emanating from its head and armaments, stepping into the battle. A floating platform, with wires like tendrils hanging from underneath it and mounting a small, corpulent man clad in orange robes on top, soared past the walker, towards the advancing beasts. He was talking into a device of some kind that elevated his voice so that it echoed all the way down to the two escapees.

The last Jordan could hear was the man´s disturbing, yet jolly, voice, saying something that sounded like “Come to me, my pretties… I have come back for you..”

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Brotherhood

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The days following the order to retreat from the Prasada came from Captain Elarim was some of the most eventful and strenuous days during my entire time with the III Legion. The Godless Faith was one of the last ships to leave Katch, and now housed not only the surviving members of the 3rd Company, but also members of the XIV and XX Legions. Of the mysterious Alpha Legion I only saw small glimpses, their warriors keeping to their designated chambers, from which they did not leave until we had rendezvoused with the Omegon II and the rest of the Alpha Legion fleet. The members of the XIV however, spent much time together with the Emperor’s Children in the days following the Storm; their shared experiences during this first part of the taming had formed into a strong brotherhood between the legions.

No other situation exemplified this newfound fraternity as an event that happened just as we left orbit around Katch. As the guns of the forward batteries of the Godless Faith spat its vengeance on the remaining defenders of the Prasada I was in the hangar bay waiting for the last Thunderhawks to return. The hangar was filled with bondsmen close to despair from the news, and even the Adeptus Astartes seemed visibly shaken. The last two Thunderhawks that arrived bore the heraldry of the III and XIV legions, though both had taken such a beating that it was hard to see which belonged to which. The leftmost opened first, revealing Sergeant Tarquin of the Sons of Biryllia leading his men down the ramp. His armour was completely covered in blood and viscera, though he himself seemed unwounded. That could not be said about the rest of his squad, as only his second Latianus as well as brothers Loquin and Kryhliq were standing on their own. I noticed apothecary Elagabalus rushing up the ramp to help the wounded, trailed by a flock of servitor orderlies.

My attention was turned elsewhere, however, as a Death Guard clad in hulking Tartaros plate had reached sergeant Tarquin and was holding out his hand in greeting to the taciturn Biryllian. I later learned that this was sergeant Davith Lamech of the Death Guard’s “2nd Line Squad”, a squad that had earned much glory during the first year of the Taming of Ouroboros for their destruction of several war machines of the dread house Mortkin.

It took a few moments before sergeant Tarquin replied, seemingly lost in his own thoughts, before he too took of his helmet and grasped the other man’s arm in a warrior’s grip. “I am Tarquin, Sergeant of the 4th Tactical Squad, 3rd Company, 29th Millennial of the Emperor’s Children. The honour is all ours, Death Guard, for the skills and courage of your men must have surely saved the lives of many of my brothers. We will always remember your sacrifice on Smirna, and I am proud to call you my Brother!”

Following this exchange, the other members of the Sons also gripped the hands of Sergeant Lamech and his men, and thus was a friendship and bond that lasted throughout the entire Taming and beyond.

From the book The Song of the Akritai, or The Journey to Perfection by Cecilia von Dracken, Remembrancer and Historian attached to the 29th Millennial. The work is censured for obliteration by the order of –REDACTED-.
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The Voice of Morkinhall

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Abacus awoke from deep slumber in his sinus-sarcophagus. He slowly forced his mind to exit his simulus-dream and opened his eyes to the real world. His body was suspended a couple of yards above the floor of his chamber and his obese torso was embedded in the sarcophagus by an array of cables protruding from his synthetic spine. He was engulfed by sinus-liquid inside the egg-shaped glass bubble, covering the majority of his huge bulk except his flappy arms and legs. A signalling rune made him aware of someone knocking on his chamber-door. He moved his hand along the outer surface of the convex globe and turned on the touch-screen. A wealth of information, measurements and graphs were made available on the glass and Abacus raised his head to skim it. He calculated and analysed all the data, then activated the omnisphere in the hall way. The picture showed a Household Squire and two Yomen outside his chamber-door. He zoomed in on the tattooed insignia on the squire´s left temple. The rune was that of the High Voice of Morkinhall Saga, and rider of the King´s Hand, Scion Eufemia. Obviously, they wanted his attention.

Abacus looked to his left, stretched out his arm and opened his clenched fist. The bionics in his palm ignited and a gravitational pull was established between his fingers and his Lexxian Mark of Office, the mighty Phonomacron. The iron staff, with a head of megaphones powered by archaic machine-spirits, soared from its rack and into Abacus´ open hand. Several cables hanging from joints in his arm connected to the device. A hose suspended from a portable power-source also connected to the Phonomacron. It had a mouthpiece in the opposite end, similar to a mouth-covering re-breather that was inside the glass bubble. It slithered its way through the sinus-liquid and connected to the Archmagos´ face. The great irony of the powerful orator Abacus, the Voice of Lexx, was that he physically lacked a mouth and vocal-cord and needed the Phonomacron to be able to speak. With his Mark of Office firmly in his hand, he tapped the head three times against the outer glass surface and turned it on. A powerful feed-back soared through the room, as the digital machine-spirits reached out from it and sought devices to connect with. They skimmed the air like sharks in bloody water, homed in on every piece of technology in the vicinity and established a two-way communications-link. In this instance, the machine spirits immediately hacked the voice-recorder in the omnisphere in the hall-way, the Yomen´s internal encrypted comms-network and the digital communicator in the Squire´s belt. The feedback made the Yomen twitch a bit, but the Squire of the King´s Hand kept his calm. He seemed to be used to the way the Lexx Supreme chose to communicate.

The Squire, knowing that the feedback signalled that Abacus was listening, spoke the formal phrases common to all Morkins: “I represent the Voice of the King´s Hand! Hear me, King Jotun!” A moment passed and then a monotonous voice, relatively jolly-sounding, but also quite disturbing, echoed form different sources. “.. Lexx will hear you, Errand Runner!” With those two greetings, the board was set and the great game of intrigue commenced. The proud Squire refused to use the respected title Lexx Supreme when addressing Abacus, and instead chose a diminutive form. The expression King Jotun, meaning “Troll-king”, referred to him being the master of the automatons that came from the Machine-world Lexx. The expression was seldom used around the King´s table, but certain Scions, particularly those of the Jorsal Saga, tended to use it when they addressed the Archmagos out of session. The Squire clearly sought to establish the rank of Lexx as a vassal of House Morkin, and the Archmagos as little more than a master of mindless machines. Abacus spoke in kind, refusing to acknowledge the envoy of the King´s Hand, the most notable knight present, as even having a Voice (something only a Scion could demand). He used the least respected term of “Squire”, namely Errand Runner, which denoted “apprentice”, and even chose to hold back the title. This was to establish that the one demanding Abacus´ attention was unworthy and not a Scion yet.

“The High Voice of the Morkinhall Saga summons you. The King´s table is set, and the Sagas present will agree on the next chapter that is to be sung. The High Voice asks for unanimity, and that all the Sagas join in leaving the Prasada to pursue the forces of the Foreign Empire to Gorydia and, from there, press them out of the Constellation.” The Squire raised his chin and spoke confidently. “So say we all!” The tone of his voice demanded compliance, and had a hint of contempt in it. Abacus processed the information. If the “Ginnungdal” was to pull anchor and leave the Prasada, there would be nothing to keep the Technarcs of Kovir to loosen the tight leech Lexx had spent generations establishing. They could even be so bold as to cut their contact with the once and mighty Forge World, and in the process refuse to be a Vassal of House Morkin. The region would certainly be open and ripe for the picking. The presence House Morkin had at the Prasada was imperative. How utterly typical, he thought, that the Knights of Morkin valued honour and fleeting reputation above sane strategy and logic. What would come of this region if the House refused to strengthen its grip on the assets it had within reach? He answered: “Lexx will lend an ear, but will raise its Voice. So shall Jotungard and Grimheim!” With this, Abacus signalled that he refused to agree on the common notion that Jotungard, the prime forge on Cydonia, included what was left of Lexx. He also implied that he would hear the proposal, but at the same time raise voices against it. Although the Voice of Morkinhall was a commanding one, it was still malleable and open to suggestion, especially if the High Voice of the Cydonian Forge agreed with him.

The Squire heard the opposition in Abacus´ words and concluded the short conversation with the following challenge: “.. Hear your words, Morkinhall shall. Listening, on the other hand, will demand more than an oiled tongue from your part!” A satisfied smirk fell on the Squire´s face, he turned on his heal and, with a gest of his hand, ordered his lackeys to follow him. Their footsteps were followed by Abacus´ voice: “Prepare your Mistress for my arrival, Errand Runner. Lexx lives to serve the noble House of the Morkin Saga.” The pacing of the Squire told Abacus that he had heard the insult and was working hard not to be publicly offended by it. If Abacus could smile, he would. He instead jollied himself with a little rhyme while he programmed the sarcophagus to open so that he could prepare for a session at the King´s Table.

Run along, little scribbling squirreling
Hastily to your Lord with your squabbling
While Lexx now serves you like a hore
In the future, this will happen nevermore

The Sarcophagus was lowered so that Abacus´ fat feet touched the floor. The glass-bubble surrounding his body opened, spilling the Sinus-liquid all over. It first lay in a huge puddle, and then slowly ran in geometric streams along the spilling canals in the chamber, before disappearing completely. His huge, naked body was soaked and, while Abacus stood with his Phonomacron in hand, four servitors came from their compartments. One dried him up, another put on his robes and a third fastened his portable power-source and servo-harness. When all was ready, the fourth approached him with a conical hat and lowered it over his head and face, like a king would receive a crown. Abacus wiggled his toes on the floor, moved over to the door, opened it and left his chamber. The only sound that echoed down the hallway was the firm tapping of his Mark of Office. Abacus was confident that someone present at the King´s Table was going to listen to him. If not, the victory House Morkin had achieved after the Storming of the Prasada would quickly turn to ashes in their hands.

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Days of Fire

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I often recall the events that led to the Sacking of Technopolis. It seems so long ago, yet the memory lingers in my mind, constantly. They say that time breaks down all things! 125 years have but polished my recollections of those terrible days.

I was a squire back then, and had only just gained access to the King´s Table. I was assigned to Svanhilde´s Household. She was the Morkintul´s spouse and it was considered a position of great responsibility to organize her affairs. I had great respect for my Lady. She was patient and dignified, and had an aura of mystic about her. This office also gave me access to the Morkintul himself, King Aun, who was widely recognized by his peers as a magnificent leader. At the time he had lost his helm, the honourable knight “Magnat”, in a violent joust against one of the House Morbius “Bloodknights”, Prince Gyaos. The tension between the prime Knight Houses on Cydonia were high after the “The Red Tournament” (a competition where all Houses involved tended to actually loose either knight chassis or scions) and this tension rapidly elevated to cold mistrust. This was true, particularly amongst the Houses Morkin, Dagon, Morbius and Altaire.

Lexx used this climate of mistrust to strengthen their own leech on the Knight Houses of Cydonia, but their true intent, particularly towards House Morkin, became apparent later when it was too late.

In those days, Lexx supplied and maintained much of the Cydonian knight-stock. This was rigidly looked over by the overseers of each Knight House, and the Lexxian Envoys, powerful Magi present at each House Government. For a long time this was a bountiful endeavour for both worlds and all involved factions, but the Regina Scientarum, the council of Lexxian Arch Magi, wanted more. When King Aun lost his knight, somenone in the lexxian hierarchy must have seen a silver lining, for shortly thereafter, the Vendigo was offered to the Morkintul as an act of good-will.

The formidable knight-chassis, a Cerastus pattern Styrix, blessed with archaic Lexxian tech, was carried to Cydonia. Little did we know that the Vendigo was a Trojan Horse of sorts, with a sinister intent hidden in its Throne Mechanicum.

When a Morkin chosen connects to the Throne Mechanicum for the first time, all of the scions assemble. This is a time of celebration and feast, and the initiate is properly welcomed into the midst of his or her new peers, through the “ritual of howling”. Not only is this individual introduced to their knight, but they are also allowed access to the pathweb, the collective communications frequency only Morkin Scions can utilize.

On this particular occasion, when King Aun was to connect with the Vendigo, a series of unfortunate events unravelled. The dignified ritual ended abruptly when the Morkintul sat down in the Throne Mechanicum and, for a lack of a better word, was instantly enthralled by its power. His agonizing expressions when the Vendigo connected to his mind, through the umbilical chords in the back of his head, was heart wrenching to behold. He made no sound in the hall, as everything was dead-quiet during those chaotic seconds, but screamed through the pathweb, resulting in several scions leaving their own thrones to aid their King.

It was to no avail. By the time anyone could reach him, King Aun´s Throne Mechanicum was already descending down towards his new confinement, which was the cold innards of the Vendigo. The Throne Mechanicum sealed shut, and the Morkintul was rendered incapacitated. Nothing could be heard through the pathweb and all communication with the knight was cut off. This led to the “Morkinhall stand-off”, where 123 scions, along with their squires and accompanying Yomen and Fay, drew their weapons and turned them towards their own Sacristans and tech-adepts (The Magos Envoy was also targeted). They in turn, along with their accompanying servitors, drew their own arsenals. Only the Magos Envoy sat calmly on his seat. Morkinhall was on the brink of becoming a battleground when a monotonous voice echoed from the nozzle of the Magos´ mask, “Lexx has your King. You will now service us!”

In hindsight we can thank the pathweb that the situation at Morkinhall didn´t spiral out of control. Someone must have made a strong appeal to calm the Scions down during the decisive seconds after the Magos Envoy performed his coup. The thirst for blood was momentarily quenched and both factions lowered their arms. Only after a while did it dawn for everyone affected that disaster in the Great Hall had been averted. Both the Household Sacristans and the Tech-adepts had no part in the plot, and where furious with the actions set in motion by Lexx. Since the Magos Envoy held the “Dead-man switch” to the Vendigo helm, the King´s men had no choice but to play docile while information about what had just occurred was gathered. The following evening, the Magos Envoy proclaimed himself Lord Protector of House Morkin and Lexx Secundus in Absentia. He did not leave the hall, fortified it with pro-Lexxian Thrall forces, and appeared to be stalling for time.

Information about the King´s state started to circle during the night and the House Sacristans worked hard in the shadows to learn what they could. King Aun was held in an artificial coma, and any attempts to disconnect him from the Throne Mechanicum would kill him. The device quickly received the name “the Thraller” and a growing hatred started to fester amongst the Scions. To risk killing the King was not an option for the King´s Hand and other means to solve the situation had to be presented.

I followed Svanhilde the entire time. Not once did she show any emotion about what had just transpired. She went from Scion to Scion to gather information or give orders. One of them was that no Scion was to utter a single word other than through the pathweb, not to her, not to anyone, once she left each of them. She also demanded closed hearings with the Sacristans in charge of collecting data on “the Thraller”. She stayed with them for a long time.. It was only late in the night that her, seemingly aimless, plan came to fruition.

How I regret my actions that night.. They haunt me still..

Morkinhall was in a sort of silent state of emergency and paranoia slowly ate away what little trust was left. I ordered two of the Household Yomen too stand guard in front of my Lady´s quarters when she finally retreated. I had affairs to settle, in case such an event should happen (that is to say, if anything happened to my Lady´s life partner). Since I was young and inexperienced, I chose to follow protocol, not my instinct. As I stood at my post, noting down all the formalities and responsibilities a spouse has in case of the death of a Scion Life-partner, it dawned on me that she had not asked me to do so. I suddenly panicked and ran towards her dorm.

When I entered the hallway, the two Household Yomen lay stunned on the floor outside her quarters. The room was empty. I ran towards her cupboard, punched in the code and opened the doors. Her Power-suit was gone. I sounded the alarm and ran as fast as I could towards the hangar where the Vendigo was located. When I reached the platform, I saw two servitors and a suited-up Scion on top of the chassis. The servitors had just cut open the top-hatch (the edges were still glowing and burned the flesh of their hands as they pried it open), and the silhouette of the scion was climbing down through the hatchway. I screamed, “My Lady!!”, and just then, when she looked at me, I understood what she was doing. She looked away and disappeared down the hatch. I ran down the metal stairs, over the bridge along the scaffold, but I was too late. Just when I entered the top armour of the Vendigo, the searing hatches melted away the servitors´ hands and slammed shut. I fell too my knees calling for my Lady. I remember how my hands were scorched by my feeble attempts to open the hatch.

Svanhilde had chosen to take her spouse´s place inside the hated machine. When she climbed into the control room, she had found her comatose King enthralled in the mystic energies of the Vendigo´s Thorne Mechanicum. She had sat down on his lap, and voluntarily connected to “the Thraller” to share the burden. The feedback immediately sucked the life out of her, but King Aun regained consciousness and control of his own mind. I was the only one on top of the Vendigo at the time, and I could do nothing else than cover my ears due to the King´s heart breaking cries. I had to become a grown man, sitting in my own Throne Mechanicum, before I learned about the experience everyone had in the pathweb during those agonizing moments. The result of them, however, spoke for themselves.

The King was still locked forever in the deadly grasp of the Vendigo, but Svanhilde´s actions had severed the Magos Envoy´s control. Immediately, the Great Hall was flooded with Scions and Household Yomen, fighting down the Thralls guarding the Magos Envoy. The Scions tore him from his seat and gave him to the Tech-adepts. They disassembled him, until he was only a heap of parts and a nourishing liquid tank containing a brain. They piled him in a box, fitted a highly functional life-support system to his brain´s containment tank, sealed it shut, and shot the box into the sun.

The following day, three fourths of the House forces were already massing to leave for the long journey to Lexx. Light was sent to the other Leidangs spread through the Morkin sphere of Influence, and no less than eight months after the Magos Envoy´s coup, House Morkin´s capital ships encircled Tron, Lexx´s orbital space port (For hundreds of years, House Morkin had had an entire Leidang at this station. The Lexxians had simply not managed to overwhelm them on that dreadful day, eight months before). So began the sacking of Technopolis, first with a fire-rain from their own orbital station, followed by a ground assault of about 200 House Morkin Knights and all of their Household forces. Leading them was a vengeful King, helming the very instrument the Lexxians had believed would give them influence at Cydonia.

It saddens me to think of those days. I miss my Lady.. And King Aun. He died shortly thereafter due to the strain of taming the Vendigo. The dormant knight had to be towed back to Cydonia, and was not awoken again for many, many years. “The Murder Knight”, it was called. A fitting name for a knight that kills whoever is sitting at the helm. It later became part of Morkin rule and now goes by the title “Lord Protector”. It will only be helmed by a willing chosen when demand is most dire. How I hope the day of need will not come again, and that the Vendigo stay asleep forevermore.

- The personal log of Falkvor, King´s Bard, Helm of Caballarias, Keeper of the Long Song and Scion of Morkinhall.

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Eufemia sat in her hexagonal office. Her large, obsidian desk was littered with vox-reports, datapicts and “order-applicant” papyrus. Scribes and servitors went back and forth. It was the final days before the Atla, and her waking fleet, was to leave Makyra. The Morkins had freed the small celestial body from a contingency of the larger foreign invasion force, and most of the scattered population at Makyra viewed exodus along with the Morkins as a good alternative to subduction by powerful foreign invaders. They also feared the Green-skin swarm, and rumors of what nightmarish battles had transpired at Gorydia had left the Makyrans feeling trapped and without other options. A formidable feat in logistics was going on, as Makyra´s resources and population was transported onto ships in the Morkin fleet.

Atla, the Morkinhall Saga capital ship, had lay in orbit above Makyra during most of the aftermath of the Gorydian campaign, but now had to leave due to the overwhelming presence of the Foreign Empire in the neighbouring systems. Although House Morkin had fought hard battles on the surface of Gorydia, the final show down had proved that defeating both the invading forces, and the terrifying Green-skin “Warhulk”, was a monumental challenge. Priorities were in order. They had to make haste, and reluctantly left the Gorydians to the whims of the invaders. The Foreign Empire now had a strong hold along the rim of Ouroboros, but Eufemia estimated that there was still time to amass resistance against the encroaching enemy before they could find a way further into the Constellation.

Her squire entered the office. He saluted his Lady and went over to her side. She lay down a papyrus with thousands of signatures on it, all Makyran applicants wanting to join the exodus. “Brede, you bring more labour my way, no?” She picked up a pict-recorder and overlooked the manifest over the ships that had left the Atla´s fleet a month prior to the exodus. “I bring tidings, my Lady. Firstly, about the Troll-king´s transport”. Brede pointed his bionic finger at the topmost ship at the manifest. Eufemia looked up at him. “You will refrain to proper titles as long as you are part of Kansler´s Household. Leave scorn and “Nid-titles” to the Jorsal Saga. I will not have it.” The squire looked down at his boots, trimmed his mustache ever so slightly and apologized. “Forgive me, my Lady, I meant to say the transport carrying the Lexx Supreme in Absentia. Their ship will rendezvous with the capital ship Fimbul in six months…” He paused. Eufemia looked up at him. “Yes?” She looked bothered. He perched his lips. “We have received Light, my lady..” “Yes, well off-course we have! How else would the Fimbul acknowledge Abacus´ arrival?” she answered abruptly. The squire closed his eyes. “The Light didn´t stem from the Fimbul, it has come from the Margerd, my Lady. One message is via the Fimbul. The other is the King´s session at Morkinhall, from about seven months ago… We have received the latter directly from Cydonia.” Eufemia looked up from the manifest. “The Margerd..? What were their tidings?” Brede answered as clearly as he could. “It would seem that the Lexx Supreme´s mission to Kovhiri space might run into (he paused), complications…”

Eufemia remembered how adamant Abacus had been before the Atla left for Gorydia. He demanded that the House forces stay at the Prasada so that it would not break free from Lexxian bonds. During the final stages of the war at Gorydia, he had gained support from the Jotungard Saga and the High Voice at the Cydonian Forge. He was sent to regain control of the House properties in Kovhiri space, and above all else, the Prasada.

“Complications? What complictions? Speak out, man!” Eufemia´s patience was running thin. “Well, the Prasada is gone, my Lady!” Eufemia raised her eyebrows. Brede continued. “It´s not there anymore. Neither is the world of Katch, its neighbouring planetoid!” Eufemia thought for a second. “How come this Light has reached us from the Margerd?” Brede stalled himself. “Well, my lady, the Margerd has been travelling towards Kovhiri space for a long time, it would seem. They have been close enough to make long-range scans. They have also changed their course.. It would appear that the “head” we have sought to sever is not a “head” at all.. It is but a “finger”. The Foreign Empire is flooding into the Constellation at a pace far beyond our own. The Margerd´s Transit Beam is set towards a far off planet known to the cartographers as Askiya”.

Eufemia had fallen into deep thoughts. While she processed the information shared by her squire, she gazed on the wall opposite. There was the baroque depiction of Kansler during the “Battle of the Princes”; the knight-chassis of the King´s Hand about to be pierced by Jiger, the black and red knight of Prince Arkham of Morbius. She had demanded that mural be carved on the wall of her office so that she was reminded of her dead spouse Parceval. He was the former King´s Hand, helm of Kansler and dear friend of the Morkintul. Fourteen years had passed since that last battle where the King of Morkin had fought the Morbius Princes. Only the King´s forces saw the end of it… But not Parceval. His helm ended the day Jiger stabbed the chest of Kansler. Who expects to find the body of a Scion when his Throne Mechanicum is exposed to the full force of a Cerastus Shock Lance… She did… She wished… The memory of her spouse shadowed her every thought and trailed her wherever she went. Even her Seidar consort could not quench her carnal thirst for that which Parceval had given her during their time together. Her lover knew perfectly well her inner longings. So did she.

Her thousand yard stare got interrupted by Brede. “My Lady..! The Margerd and her fleet has been in transit for seven months.. This means the Verdande Saga has been drawn into this war. The Light from Cydonia is clear. The Morkintul called the Lord Protector to rise during the session at the King´s Table..” Eufemia discretely removed a tear from her cheek. She looked up at him. “This turns out to be the greatest war in our time. Everyone will want to join.. We need to synchronize with the King´s Session held at Morkinhall and find out who claimed the Helm of the Vendigo. Who received the Light?” Brede paused. “The Eistla, My Lady. The Jorsal Saga has invited all Households on board their capital ship so that the synchronisation may commence.” Eufemia rose to her full height, her lean bulk dwarfing that of her gaunt squire. She turned to him “Make the preparations. All of the Morkinhall Households will be present at the King´s table on board the Eistla. We also need to prepare to depart this system. We will set the Transit Beam for Kaylo. It is in the dark and will be a springboard from which to mount our next assault on the Foreign Empire.” Brede seemed astonished. “That is more than thirteen months away.. Surely..” Eufemia interrupted him. “The Margerd and the Fimbul are both formidable war-engines. They will handle their challenges well. We will continue to sever “fingers” so that the “hand” is rendered useless. I will voice the departure for Kaylo at the King´s Table. Make haste!” Brede bowed as he stepped backwards. “At once, my Lady!” He left the teeming office.

Eufemia looked over at the mural. How she wished her spouse were here sharing the glory, now, at what could very likely be the end of all things.

Later, the King´s table was set in the great assembly hall on board the Eistla. The great communications device, resembling a long-table littered with screens and cables networked to powerful holographic projectors along the roof, was the centre of Morkin power. Without these devices (one centred at Morkinhall, the others on board each of the House capital ships) the Morkins would not be able to coordinate their far flung sphere of influence. The House Sacristans that maintained them told stories about the days of colonization, when each of these devices where installed throughout the modules of gargantuan colony-ships. Before “the Pitch Black” (from where House Morkin derived its name), the Cydonians were believed to have come from a single such ship. Alas, “the Pitch Black” had wiped out all collective memory of such a utopian past.

It had been some time since Eufemia had been to the Eistla, as most of her responsibilities as King´s Hand were carried out either at Morkinhall or on board the Atla. She and the Kansler´s Household, along with the others from the Morkinhall Saga, joined the session. Already, most of the Households of the Jorsal Saga, considered to be the largest and most venerable of House Morkin, were already there. As the visitors from the Atla came to find their seats, the Jorsal Scions were singing an Epitaph. They had sustained losses at Gorydia, and honoured their dead by singing their memory before the session would begin. Their voices echoed through the halls of the ship, and many of the officials and commoners working throughout the ship paused in their labours to listen and honour the glorious dead.

Each King´s table had seats for all Scions of the Morkin Saga. That is to say, if they were ever at the same location simultaneously, they would fill all the three hundred (or so) seats. This was never the case. A Scion would probably never enjoy the experience of being in the same room as all other Scions during his or her lifetime. A good majority of the Scions would occasionally assemble at Morkinhall. At other times, a vast fleet out in space would be massing (like in the Days of Fire, when Technopolis was sacked), but the Order of Leidang and the impossible vastness of space, made it impossible for all Morkins to meet in person. This was remedied by synchronizing the sessions at the King´s table.

The contingency from the Atla sat down, the Jorsals concluded their song, and the laser-dish aligned so that synchronization could commence. It took but a few seconds, but for most attendees (except for the older ones, the Gandarch for one), this was a spectacular thing to behold. Slowly, the holographic image of a Scion approached each vacant seat. Some were attendees from the last session, others from years past. There were Scions Eufemia had not seen in a decade, like those of Gandagard or Grimheim, and some she had seen on departure from Cydonia (and considered friends). Amongst these were the Morkintul and the Gandarch of Drasiil Tower (the only living Scion of the entire Drasiil Saga). The Faceless Scion, the “Knight Recluse”, currently helming the dreaded Atrapos Bonachon, was also present. The enigma Scion sat down opposite Eufemia, and she could see that the mirror mask reflected no one. When the King´s table was set seven months ago, there where no one present from the Morkinhall Saga, save King Artus and his closest companions. Not until now, that was. For the shortest of moments, she wondered if the holo-dish would add her resemblance in the Recluse´s mirrored mask.

Eufemia looked up along the long-table as each hologram sat down next to knights present in the Hall of Eistla. Most of the Scions greeted their phantom peers, and salutes where politely given back. The illusion of being assembled as one unity was strong, even though one knew that decisions had been made and that half the attendees where sacattered all over by this time. All where updated on their pict-screens of the different bills and orders that had been passed during the last couple of cycles. Eufemia was more occupied by the Morkintul. She looked at her left hand-side, and there, only an arm´s length away, stood the hologram of the Morkinul. He looked in Eufemia´s direction as he sat down, nodded and then looked over at everyone present. His image flickered a bit. Eufemia responded with a slight nod and a formal, “my King!”.

She looked down at the pict-screen and skimmed some of the information, but her attention was stolen as the Morkintul started the session and several Scions asked to be heard. First in line where the ones present at Morkinhall (those that where holograms). They spoke of the disappearance of the Prasada and how Ouroboros now lay exposed. Then the attention was given to the rest. This was where the marvel of synchronizing came to show. Scions could debate their phantom peers and it would all be present in the master file, sent as Light to the next capital ship in line of session. Again, the powerful device would continue to synchronize the sessions until the cycle ended. It was then sent full circle to Cydonia for scrutiny and logging. An entire cycle would take years to complete, even though sessions where conveyed via laser-dish.

While she heard the different Voices speak their case, she gave her pict-screen information to Brede, who stood by her side. He looked more carefully through the information. While Brede did this, Thidrek, High Voice of Jorsal Saga and helm of Stallar, spoke. He told of much that had transpired during the War of the Prasada and the conflict at Gorydia. Eufemia, as well as other notable Scions, where asked to fill in with details less known to the Jorsal High Voice. This part of the session took some time, but it was necessary. The war with the Foreign Empire posed a greater threat to Cydonia than anything in the Morkin sphere of Influence. After a long debate, Thidrek ended his contribution with the following statement; “Furthermore, I consider House Dagon must be destroyed!” This was well supported amongst the Jorsals, with positive replies like “Hear, hear!” and flat palms slapping the table continuously. Even some of the phantom peers, those of Grimheim and Jotungard in particular, seconded the motion in the same way (as they probably knew that the High Voice of the Jorsal Saga would end his contributions with his famous quote).

The Morkintul asked for order and pressed that there were larger issues at stake. He then looked to the empty seat by his left-hand side and with a seemingly heavy heart, said: “In light of the unprecedented threat posed by the Foreign Empire to the Ouroboros Constellation, I ask for the Lord Protector to rise!” He paused before saying it again. “Rise!” At this point, several other Scions joined in and formed a chorus. “Rise…. Rise… Rise….” After but a moment, all Scions present, both phantom peers and attendees on board the Eistla, joined in. It was at this very moment that Brede looked away from the pict-screen in his hands. He tried to gain his Lady´s attention, but the sensation on calling forth the Lord Protector was too great. He only managed to whisper “my, Lady, you need to..” before the chorus was interrupted by a Scion that rose to the challenge.

It was the faceless one, opposite Eufemia. A silence fell first in the phantom hall, then in the Hall of Eistla. Many were astonished, as never before had the Faceless Scion joined in, or contributed anything, at the King´s Table. That was the Oath of the Knight Recluse. Now the Scion, clad in the black robes and mirrored helmet, hiding the true identity underneath, stepped aside (Everyone´s attention was so focused at the one standing that there were those that didn´t see that another, an exact copy of the one that just rose, took the seat of the former Faceless Scion).

The one standing, removed the mirrored helmet. A collective gasp went through the Pathweb form the Scions present. Eufemia could not believe what she was seeing. On the opposite of her stood Parceval; former King´s Hand; former Helm of Kansler; former friend of the Morkintul; former spouse.. Eufemia sat completely still, and she could only glimpse in the corner of her eye, that King Artus rose from his seat. Through a haze, like one hears someone calling from a distance, dreamlike, she could hear the Morkintul utter the name “Parceval..!” But, that could not be true, she thought. It had to be a glitch in the synchronicity.

At this point Parceval and Eufemia where locked in each other´s gaze. Eufemia was out of words. The phantom Parceval then looked over at his King and said: “I rise to claim the seat of the Vendigo; the Murder Knight, so that I can serve Morkinsaga as Lord Protector! Say it will be so, my King!” Parceval moved slowly towards the Morkintul, who for just the tiniest of moments had shown an expression of sorrow. Now, the phantom King had regained his stern demeanour. “Rise, Lord Protector! Claim what is rightfully yours!”

The hologram of Parceval walked along the table, and Eufemia followed him with a look in her eyes of growing puzzlement, relief and contempt, all at once! She had trouble straining herself and kept the palms of her hands firmly planted on the table top. As Parceval passed the Scions on his way towards the empty Throne Mechanicum of the Vendigo, he received looks of recognition from phantom peers and current attendees. When he reached the Throne Mechanicum, he first looked at King Artus and said: “I ask for the Ritual of Howling!” Artus looked at his friend and said “You shall have it, so say we all!”

Parceval then looked down at Eufemia, but she had turned to look the other way. Her pride demanded it. The Scions sitting next to her along the table; Falkvor; Erex; Blanzeflor; Magnhill and Vilman all saw the look in her eyes; Hell hath no fury like the scorn of a woman. She teared up, but her anger held them back. She said through her teeth: “I will not speak to you!” Behind her, the phantom Parceval rounded the King´s Throne Mechanicum and it paused just behind her. Some seconds passed. “I know you will not speak to me! Hear me then… I could not bear to do this when I was still with you. When Hamde died, a part of me died with him. I could not go on. Hatred festered in me, I knew only one thing could quench it. Prince Arkham, by mere chance, gave me the opportunity to die. I took it, on a whim, and the Recluse took me in..” The clicks and hissing of synchronicity was all that echoed in the hall just then and through Eufemia´s mind went the thoughts that she had so pondered for many years; how Prince Arkham managed to get the best of the King´s Chosen… He had let it happen. For what? So that he could leave, only to die so many years later? Passion and fury overwhelmed her. Her breathing intensified and her heart raced. Without turning, and with closed eyes, she spoke again: “I will not howl for you!”

The Synchronicity flickered and Parceval spoke again. “How wondrous it has been to see you rise to the seat of King´s Hand; How proud I am when the Kansler speaks of you; How I have longed to call out your name in the Pathweb…” The phantom Parceval paused again. “I will go now! I do not expect you to howl for me!” She said nothing. He then replied “I know!”

The hologram glitched as Parceval turned around and went over to the empty Throne Mechanicum. He sat down and the rest of the Scions rose. Eufemia still sat facing the other way, saying louder than before “I will not howl for you!” Parceval rested his head back and let the Throne Mechanicum connect to the sockets on his body and in the back of his head. His expression was calm when it happened, but all Scions knew that to connect with this knight carried with it a monumental strain. Eufemia turned to face Parceval as the machine spirits connected with his own. He looked back at her, with eyes she remembered so well. With tears in her eyes she yelled at him “I will not howl for you!!”

His Thorne Mechanicum overpowered him and started the slow descent. The strain of the binding showed in his face. He bit his teeth together, but he could bear it no longer. Just when he filled his lounges to scream out in agony, Eufemia rose and screamed with him. She screamed all of her anguish, spite, hate and regret! She emptied her lounges so that her cries could outlast those of Parceval.

Although the other Scions joined in the Howling, only Eufemia´s tormented screams echoed through synchronicity, reaching Parceval all the way down into the Vendigo.

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