Sword & Spoken Word

Transmission Intercepted on Demaris

FIrst Voice: “Hey, sumwun get da Kaptin.”

Second Voice: “No.”

First Voice: “Shuddup you git. ’E needz ta send some boyz down here. Da air pumps is on fire.”

Second Voice: “E can’t.”

First Voice: “Wut? Dere’s smoke everyware. Why not?”

Second Voice: “Cuz da Kaptin is on fire.”

First Voice: “OOoooo… errr…. sumbudy git to da barrix and tell da boyz to cum here and put dese fires out?”

Third Voice: “No.”

First Voice: “Why not?”

Third Voice: “Cuz da boyz is on fire.”

First Voice: “Wut? All of dem?”

Third voice: “Well…. lots.”

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Private Journal of Harlan Autumnhall #8

Dear Anastasia,

You’d like Lyra. Tiny, cute as a kitten, bouncy and friendly and cheerful and just a bit naive. Not as serious as you. Not a worrier. You’d like her.

The Orks, however, did not.

We trailed, masked by ancient stealth machinery, through the curtain of Ork asteroids. Sweating in silence as rocks tumbled past the great dome, balanced on their pillars of hydrogen fusion fire. Somewhere behind me, a voidsman muttered prayers to the Emperor. I did not pray. I never pray. Every moment I breathe is a gift, a blessing, not a possession, not something that I own and might fear the loss of.

For I am already dead.

Men whispered, though kilometers of hard vacuum lay between us and the alien. They did not want to speak. They scarcely dared to move. I saw a seasoned ex-Lieutenant of His Holy Navy jump when I raised my voice and gave the word. A single word.

Now.

The Choir circled her, eight ranking adepts of the Astra Telepathica, the fat one who is forever muttering to himself, the hulking brute who scourges himself with whips to make the power come, the pretty one with her miraculously whole eyes and the brand of Inquisitorial sanction burned into her forehead. Their hands joined, their voices raised. Reality rippled about them like a curtain of steam.

And the child raised her arms and heaved, as if hauling herself upward, and hung suspended in the air, swaying slowly back and forth in some unseen ripple of the warp. Reality bent toward her, a thin skin stretching over the vast ocean of raw energy. I felt it tug at me, drawing, wanting, beckoning. Calling.

I wanted to join my voices to theirs, but I did not know the words. From somewhere, impossibly far away, Brother Alrick sung the Rune of The Emperor’s Creed, a counterpoint to the Astropaths’ chanting. His words of holy light cut through each pause, shattering the dark whispers that gathered at the corners and edges of their voices, in the silences of their song.

Flames whirled in the air about Lyra, danced upon her skin. Patches of her pink dress crumpled into white ash and fell away, costly Illyrean Moth-Silk vanishing like touchpaper. And she heaved again, the unseen link dragging the circle of Astropaths to their knees like a chain of fallen dominoes. Blood began to trickle from the fat one’s nose. The pretty one’s face froze in an expression of awe or ecstasy, weeping as if she beheld the most beautiful thing in the universe, and never would again.

Lyra giggled, high and thin and pure, like a little girl at play.

Moving as one in a dream, I bent half an ear to the faint chatter of the vox. Orkish voices screaming reports of fires breaking out. Voidsmen reporting torpedo traces as weak-minded gunners on Ork vessels began to open fire upon each other.

We hung silent in the gulf of the void, tumbling in the wake of the Orks as they tore each each other apart. And all through it, Lyra laughed.

When finally her feet touched the deck again, I saw what I had known to look for… the fear in the eyes of hardened men. The averted gaze, the slightly withdrawing step, the pale faces and clenched hands. I’d seen it before.

I would not have that. She’s just a little girl. A little girl with a precious gift. Not an animal. Not a monster. With two long, deliberate steps, I reached her side.

And I swept her up in my arms and kissed her full on the lips, in front of the bridge crew and senior staff. And I carried her exhausted body down the stairs to the command suite, and made her a hot fudge sundae.

And Dr. Prescott dressed the burns on my arms and neck.

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Funerary Service for the Men of the ISV Beacon of Faith (Excerpt)

Any man, when pressed, might struggle to survive, to preserve his own existence. But when the five thousand men of the Beacon of Faith pressed by the enemy, when their strength was overcome, they chose not to struggle for their own survival, but for ours. They chose to be a Beacon of Faith indeed, and purchase the lives of others with their sacrifice.

There is a special sadness that accompanies the death of a serviceman, for we’re never quite good enough to them-not really; we can’t be, because what they gave us is beyond our powers to repay. And so, when a serviceman dies, it’s a tear in the fabric, a break in the whole, and all we can do is remember.

It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of the Imperium, in defense of us, in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like High Lords, grave and gray haired. But most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives — the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for humanity, for us. And all we can do is remember.

- Funerary Address by Bishop Mikael Arint of Demaris

Somewhere in the universe, a coin flip lands on its side.
Somewhere in the universe, a drop of water saves a life.
Somewhere in the universe, a pebble stops a landslide.

Perhaps it is because someone believed hard enough.
Perhaps it is because, secretly, destiny can be fair.
Perhaps it is simply because the universe is a vast place.

Yesterday, I was very cold.
Yesterday, I was alone, and hurt, and I despaired.
Yesterday, I wanted to run away.

Today, I am going to believe hard enough.
Today, a pebble will stop a land slide.
Today, I am not going anywhere.

- Inscription on a monument (author unknown)

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Private Journal of Harlan Autumnhall #7

Dear Anastasia,

I’m late in writing this, but it’s turning over in my mind, and I cannot sleep.

I’ve been to the Edge, and looked out across the Void, at cold clear stars far beyond our reach.

It’s strange… the Maw is no different from anywhere else, in the fabric of real space. The Nails has excellent telescopic gear, anciently manufactured in the workshops of Mars. mounted high on the great dome. I looked across the Void, and saw… nothing. Clear space and distant stars burning.

It is only in the churning chaos of the Warp that the way is blocked.

Point your prow at the Rifts of Hecaton, burn your engines at crushing acceleration, and in a thousand years or ten, you will be there, safe from warptides, heedless of Terra’s dwindling beacon. But those thousands of years block us just as effectively as the churning of the Warp.

The ancient flame of Rune seems so close that I could almost pluck it from the lens, cup its light within my hands.

Sometimes our very powers cripple us, leaving us shackled to whatever shortcut or ease they furnished us with.

I came here to seek my fortune, not in golden Thrones, but in some sort of place, something to be if I cannot be what I was. And there are thrones enough here within reach, of gold and glory both. Perhaps I will somehow be able to unpick the impossible knot, reclaim what I was, hear your voice again. Few things are impossible to a man with freedom, power, and time.

So why risk it all for… what?

An uncertain map to the unknown? With no promise for the end, but the uncertain observation that others desired it? A tiny point of brilliance a thousand lightyears away?

But that point in the telescope pulls at me. If I go here, if the map is true, if I and my crew survive the fickle Warp and a thousand dangers of voyaging beyond the great beacon’s light, I will be the first human to see it close. I will have traveled further from humanity’s cradle than any man in recorded history.

Have I caught the explorer’s disease? Is this what drives men into the black? The simple burning need to know what is there, to see it?

My Navigatrix says this can be done.

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Private Journal of Harlan Autumnhall, #6

Dear Anastasia,

The man Phineas Ardentus is a guest aboard my ship. At least, that’s what he thinks. Trouble is, now that I have him, I’m not sure I want to give him up. I don’t quite know why.

Lyra is soft-hearted and doesn’t want his kids to lose him. Maybe it’s that.

But father would have said that one does not destroy a resource that may be of further use unless it becomes a liability.

And I’m guessing there with a good percentage of father in whatever mix they…. no, won’t say that. Not even here. I never told the real you, and I’m not about to commit it to paper.

But I’ve got him, and I’ll figure something out, I suppose.

Anyway, I’m on Footfall (that’s the station on the far side of the passage out of Imperial space), and a fellow Rogue Trader named Seldan Forsellis wants my help rooting out some Orks who are threatening his colonies. Thing is, I’m not sure it’s Orks. Might be a trap.

For him.

I’m not sure I can commit my men to battle this soon. They are slightly underequipped, and haven’t had the kind of training time really necessary to forge them into a cohesive fighting force.

They are ex-convicts from the ass end of space, tough as a Space Marine’s boots. But they are not trained to fight as a unit. I have ex-Imperial Guard, I have ex-Navy, I have a Sergeant at Arms who scares the most hardened convicts, and a Master at Arms who scares even him. I’ve beaten them black and blue with training swords, earned their respect. They’re working hard.

But it’s not enough time. This is training. Teambuilding. Not miracles. No magic.

I’m not strong yet. Not even as strong as when I had a Navy frigate in my pocket on Heptapyrgion. I have the metal, but I will need more time to beat it into a sword.

I will be have to be smart about this.

Love,

Harlan.

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Report of Por'Vre Sa'cea Harish

Aun’el Ho’sarn Zen’zeramacht:

Your instructions have been carried out.

The {Thief Merchant? Seller of Brigands?} Har’lan Au’tum’hal has been gifted with a Hunter Cadre of four-eights Shas and several engineers. {Boots of the Warrior Caste?} has accompanied them as a {Gifter of Tongues?}.

Each has its instructions, according to its duty.

In answer to Your query, I do not think we can assume the Har’lan is wholly {naive? oblivious? unenlightened?}

It is powerful in a society where selfish {untranslatable, resembles the number "1"} engage in destructive struggles. It will believe we have hidden motives and goals. But it will not know what they are.

- Por’Vre Sa’cea Harish

Por’Vre Sa’cea Harish:

Our victory is inevitable. Its very acceptance of Our offer is the victory of the Greater Good which We desired. It implicitly admits by this action that the benefits of cooperation outweigh the risks.

It will spread this truth within the hu’mans. The other tasks are useful, but unnecessary if this victory is achieved.

- Aun’el Ho’sarn Zen’zeramacht

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Intercepted Intelligence Report

Patron:

While my role is to report facts, not to analyze them, I fear that from the tenor of your most recent instructions, I may have failed to convey my previous observations in such a way as to make the implications clear.

I am neither placed to examine the… special… components of the Take The Nails, Too , nor trained to make any sense of what I might see.

This is not necessary.

I sent you the transcript of what Lord Autumnhall said to the Tau. This is explanation enough, if we look carefully.

It was no idle boast, what he said. The man is a master swordsman of almost inhuman skill. He defeated a genestealer in close combat. Even with that Astartes Deathwatch Marine standing next to him, he may well have been the deadliest man in that room. And one must understand his answer to the question in light of that.

When he said that the gun may have range, but a fight does not always start at range, that is all we need to know. Harlan Autumnhall is a man who trusts himself, trusts his skills, not tools or firepower. He is a man who wishes to be close to his enemy, to overpower him with his skill, his speed, his ferocity.

And so it will be with his craft. Whatever it was that made it disappear from the Navy’s augur, this thing is not for fleeing, nor for hiding. It is for striking from the range of a blade.

- Your Watchful Eye

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Transcription: 6th Autumnhall Investiture Triumph
The Words of Cardinal Torasi Ignato

Faithful souls, we are gathered here on this day to bear witness to the ascension of a holy herald and emissary of our most Divine Lord. We pray that the Emperor grant gravity to his voice, righteousness to his insights, and strength to his hand.

Sir Harlan Thaddeus Autumnhall, the first of your name, Lord of Aquitaine and faithful servant of The Emperor – are you willing to take the oath?

Resp: I am willing.

Act: The claimant is anointed with blessed oil.

Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the realms you claim in the name of The Emperor?

Resp: I do so swear.

Will you, to your power, cause law and justice in piety to be executed in all of your judgments?

Resp: I will.

Will you maintain the laws of The God-Emperor and the true profession of His Gospel?

Resp: I will.

Will you maintain and preserve, inviolably, the settlement of His Church, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in His Lex Imperialis?

Resp: I will.

Our gracious Emissary, to keep Your Eminence ever mindful of the law and Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and government of Imperial Servants, we present you with this book, the most valuable wisdom that this world affords. Here, within, is Divine Enlightenment.

Act: The Lex Imperialis is given to the anointed.

Behold, O Emperor, our seeker, and look upon the face of Thine anointed. For one day in Thy courts is better than a thousand in darkness.

Almighty Emperor, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts with righteous fire, that we may perfectly serve Thee, and worthily magnify Thy Holy Name.

Let us pray.

O Emperor, who providest for thy people by thy power, and rulest over them in stern discipline, grant unto this Thy servant Harlan Thaddeus Autumnhall the spirit of wisdom and government – that being devoted unto Thee with his whole heart he may so wisely govern – that in his time, by sword and spoken word, Thy Church shall prosper by the blood of its enemies, and Imperial devotion may continue – and that so persevering in Your Righteous Wrath unto the end, he may by Thy fury come into Thy everlasting domain.

Amen.

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Brother Bartram's Call to Righteousness, Special Edition

After months of cancellations and reschedulings, our petitions were ignored, and the Scurrilous Heretic Lord Harlan Autumnhall was permitted to cavort under the eyes of the good people of Hive Tarsus and of the God Emperor Himself, reveling in his temporary victory.

But despair not, brothers! The justice of the Holy God Emperor will always come to pass. Our Faith may be tested by this trial, but we shall continue to fight the good fight and we shall prevail!

For your humble servant has gathered, from this blasphemous event, new evidence of fresh crimes against decency, morality, and the Holy God Emperor. Yes, your humble brother and faithful servant of the Holy God Emperor did risk his very soul to serve the cause of righteousness, and attended this wicked gathering himself, in the guise of a servant.

Fear not, your brother will scourge himself free of sin in a holy penance for having stood in proximately to such evil without cleansing it with fire.

But in addition to his past wickednesses, the Heretic Harlan Autumnhall is now guilty in that he:

- Did give at his inauguration a most wicked speech, scoffing at the virtues of decency, morality, chastity, and honor, even as he most blasphemously claimed to serve the God Emperor, whose holy name should not ever be blackened by the unclean tongue of such a sinner.

- Did conspire with other lewd and wanton individuals among the idle rich to commit the sin of dancing, which promotes lasciviousness and occasions lewd and unchaste desires.

- Did serve to his guests intoxicating drugs and liqueurs, which tempt men to revel in enjoyment of their own lives, rather than in service to the God Emperor.

- Did place on the display the bones of vile tyranids, secretly for the purpose of worshiping them, while covering his sin by claiming slain as war trophies, slain with his own hand. (A transparent lie… they are both enemies of the Emperor, and therefore allies to each other.)

- Did openly consort with the unclean xenos, in the corrupt and polluted form of two “tau representatives”, which were not only suffered to attend the inaugural reception, but actually welcomed as “honored guests”!

- Did in some vile fashion, not yet clear to your servant, force the representative of the Most Holy Inquisition, and his ally, a pious and sacred knight of the most righteous Adeptus Marines, to act as escorts and protectors for these xenos abominations, rather than striking them down on the spot with righteous fury for their sin of existing in the Emperor’s universe.

- Did wickedly promote and engage in all manner of sinful revels, unpious celebration, and other enjoyments which make men unmindful of their duty to the God Emperor.

- Did incite his crude and brutal servants to cast your brother out as an “impostor”, thereby not only obstructing him from his righteous duties in gathering intelligence on the enemies of The Most Holy Master of Mankind, but also inflicting painful and unrighteous bruises upon his nether parts.

No, good brothers and sisters, your friend Brother Bartram is no imposter. It is the vile Harlan Autumnhall who is the imposter, posing as a servant of the Emperor, when in reality he is the vilest of selfish sinners, possibly an unclean sorceror and worshipper of xenos abominations and the Ruinous Powers themselves, who listens to dark and evil whispers from the Warp!

And on the day when the righteous cast this villain down, Brother Bartram shall be there, to call due an account for these crimes, and for the most unnecessary bruising of his hindmost parts.

space_breaker.jpg

Shall I have this one sorted out, my lord?
- Ulrich Malmstein

Certainly not. Silencing lunatics just draws attention to them. If we ever need to get rid of him, we’ll have servants leak even more ridiculous accusations for him to print, and let him get laughed off Hive Tarsus.

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Foxxy Roxxy's Juciy Tidbits, Special Edition

That’s right boys and girls, after months of cancellations and reschedulings, the big par-tay you’ve all been waiting for finally happened for realz…

… And guess who scored a guest pass!

That’s right, your girl Roxxy here with the inside scoop on the HAWTTEST event of the season, and Oh. My. God. Emperor. is there ever an inside to scoop!

We all knew Harlan Autumnhall was the HAWTEST thing to hit the market since, like… ever. And we all knew that his family’s deep pockets were gonna guarantee that the celebration was gonna be OFF THE CHAIN, but even by the high standards of yours truly, this was REDONCKULUS.

Inquisitors! Space Marines! Xeno ambassadors! Genestealer trophies!

But you’re here for the juicy bits, aren’t you? Well, perk up your ears, kiddies, because your fearless reporter (that’s me!) has got the straight dope on just who might have the inside track to the heart (and other bits, tee-hee! …by which I mean bank accounts, doncha know?) of the Calixis Sector’s most eligible bachelor!

Mister Harlan, magnificent cagey bastard that he is, played his cards close to his chest, dancing with just about every girl present exactly once… starting with Lady Selena Veltenstone. That’s his pet Astropath, for those of you who aren’t keeping score. Not much competition from that score, though, unless he’s, like, a total pervert (and not in the good way that Roxxy secretly hopes he is!). Cuz she’s, like, eleven.

(Seriously, though, whoever wins the big race is most likely gonna find she has an extra teenage daughter as part of the package. Like, a creepy psyker teenage daughter. Brrrrrr.)

Anyways, Harlan tried not to show any favoritism, but Roxxy’s got sharp eyes, and with a good disguise and no silly press pass, she got the low-down on just who’s got the inside track, and who just… doesn’t.

No way:

- First of all, Kiya Cloud was no-where in evidence. If the rumors are right (when are they ever wrong?) and she’s his squeeze, then she’s gotta be throwing one HELL of a tirade now. She was never a serious contender because, like, who’s ever HEARD of her (huh?), but now she’s just been told that, loud and clear.

- ESLUTsabeth Blackley looks like she’s trying, from the way she grabbed a double handful of his ASS and practically stuck her tongue in his ear. Seriously, though, Lizzie, who do you think you’re fooling? You might have an AWESOME rejuvenant team, but you’re over two hundred years OLD, and you’re not anywhere near his rank, and everybody knows you’re a RAGING SLUT, anyway. Die in a fire, Lizzie.

- Daviana Krin. Girl, you need to eat a sandwich or three, because anything you wear just looks like a sack. No wonder Harlan let even that slut Lizzie cut you dead. Go hide your ass in the Golgenna Reach, girl… at least until you figure out how to put some curves on it.

Inside track:

- The Forsellis sisters. Scuttlebutt has it Himself is partial to redheads (somebody fetch Roxxy that bottle of dye!), and they certainly fit the bill. Besides, your fearless reporter SAW Selene and one of the twins go into one of the private rooms with him, and while she didn’t HEAR any hanky-panky going on, it did sound like they had a LOT of catching up to do, so there no ruling out the possibility that there’s already been some hanky AND panky (possibly even spanky) in the past.

Now, most people would put their money on Selene. She’s the oldest, so whoever gets her, gets their mitts on all that Forsellis loot (almost makes Roxxy wish she were a boy), and Harlan’s no dummy… he’ll see the sense in mixing business with pleasure.

But personally, I wouldn’t count that twin out yet. I think it was Sibelle. Simone is rumored to still be sweet on Christophe Armengarde (Come on, girl. Like, SOOOOO last year. And NO, Roxxy did NOT write a breathless column back then about how utterly HAWT he was. She just DIDN’T. She was saving herself for Harlan.)

Anyways, Sibelle may have a trick or to two up her sleeve yet. She certainly wasn’t backing off last night. If she could persuade her father to split the estate, Harlan probably wouldn’t care about the title too much. And both the twins are just as pretty as their sister (can’t call ’em HOT with the way they all dress, though… seriously, girls, would it KILL you to show a little SKIN once in a while?)

- Felicity Lockhart. Okay, so it’s not the BESTEST financial move Himself could make. But have you seen how SEKSI this girl is? He has to have noticed. I hate her already. Somebody bring Roxxy her head. I’d be SOOOO grateful.

- Elizabeth Orleans. Yeah, I know, what the hell, right? She’s all business, and dresses like a guy. Soooooooooo boring. Girl, you got loads of nice hair and your nose is cute, why would you do this?

But from an all business view, not a bad move. Her connections with his resources and cunning? Meh, I hope not. God Emperor, that would be drab. They were certainly into their dance, though. And I think I saw her crack a smile for maybe the very first time in, like, her life. And then for the second.

- Me!

What? It could happen. Our dance was LOVELY. And I got a kiss! (Okay, so it was on the hand. Shuttup.) Dun think he knew who I was without my signature pink hair, but your intrepid girl reporter squeezed her bootylicious self into something SEKSI, and Himself’s eyes were CERTAINLY wandering. Maybe his hands a little, too.

If only I had brought a glass slipper to leave on the steps. Hey, a girl can dream, right?

So who is Roxxy’s money on?

Well, pleasant dreams aside, the smart bet is probably Selene Forsellis, although personally, your girl would cover her options with a little side bet on Sibelle.

Orleans is the smart business move, Lockheart’s the girl most any man would want to wake up next to, but let’s face it, the Forsellis girls are a close second on both fronts, and Himself thinks with both heads.

But the race ain’t over yet, girls.

Advice from Roxxy: you want Harlan, cosy up to that creepy psyker girl. He takes her, like, everywhere, kneels down to look her in the eye when he talks to her, and he even carried her upstairs HIMSELF when she fell asleep. He may be too young to be her dad for realzies, but it looks like our man of the hour got himself a stepdaughter before he got himself a wife.

Get her to start calling you mom, and it’s wedding bells, and you’re the next Lady Autumnhall.

Roxxy would do it herself, but psykers are scary. She’s just gonna have to hope. And maybe bring a glass slipper next time.

space_breaker.jpg

For your attention, my Lord. Should I have it suppressed?
- Ulrich Malmstein

Oh, so that’s why that strange giggling woman had dyed her hair brown. No, Malmstein, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

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