Thursday, January 27, 2011

On Continuing Acolyte Adventures (The Shadow War Chronicle #2)

Inquisitor Tiraske glared menacingly at the package, now on hovering several inches above her desk.  The package had most certainly not been there a moment before.  Neither had the Eldar Aspect Warrior carrying it, but she was quite ignoring him.  Deal with one thing at a time, her mentor had always said.  The box was surprisingly practical for an Eldar creation, she thought – only slightly ornamented, and not made in some mind-twisting shape that would challenge the best artisans of the Adeptus Mechanicus to reproduce.  For a brief moment, she looked up, locking eyes with the ancient creature, and although the mask of the Warp Spider remained impassive, she thought she felt a most satisfying flicker of what might have been fear.  Then the moment passed, and the impromptu courier was gone from her office, likely no less pleased to have been used in such a mundane fashion than she had been to have a surprise guest.  The box hit the desk with a thump.
Tiraske wasted no time raising the lid and dumping the contents onto the desk – three scrolls, in cylindrical holders, numbered “1,” “2,” and “3” with the Gothic characters, instead of their Eldar equivalents.  Most assuredly a veiled insult, implying that an Inquisitor of her stature could not read the Eldar script.  Pointless, like so many things the Eldar do, she thought.  A sign of weakness.  Petty, backhanded insults are for those without the power or will to seize what they really wanted.  But it did tell her who had sent the box.  It been some time since she had heard from Ba Luith Ath, but the last time the two had met, she had been running rampant on his ship.

She unrolled the first scroll and began reading the script that could only be described as so graceful as to be arrogant.

“To the Mon-keigh known as Isamira Tiraske, that most Implacable Lady:
Although I am aware of the painfully short lifespans your people suffer from, I assume that this missive finds you still alive, and if not, I truly cannot be bothered to care.  However, I recently had an encounter with one of your underlings (or perhaps former underlings – he seemed unclear on the matter, and hence I share his doubts).

If I have not lost your flitting attention already, I thought you might be interested to know the goings-on in the life of one Imperial Acolyte Aristide de Balafrer, especially because you can do nothing about it or the crisis he faces, and I know that such powerlessness irks you Inquisitors to no end.  Consider this letter both my thanks and my long-awaited revenge for your “aid” in resolving the situation aboard my ship several years ago.  I pray fervently that you rush as headlong into this situation as you did my ship, and that your arrival is no less catastrophic but perhaps slightly more… karmic, as you might say.

I was minding my own business, tending to things of little matter (peering into the future, creating stars on a whim, altering the very fabric of my being, and that sort of mundane business that needs to be dealt with regularly) when, suddenly, I felt a most familiar and unwanted intrusion in my mind, as though someone was calling out to be saved from the searing shrapnel of some extremely inelegant explosive.  Normally, intruding into the mind of Spirit-Seer like myself would be impossible for any Mon-keigh, and irrelevant even if one succeeded, but before I could sever the link, I remembered this particular individual – a man named Aristide de Balafrer, one of your so-called “Navigators,” who had once helped me during YOUR unsolicited visit to my ship.  In exchange, I gave him a talisman of great power (that of course allowed me to spy on him (and, by extension, you) whenever I wished, but your tepid little lives rarely warranted my attention).  This talisman let him connect with me, and he requested aid for himself and a number of his companions.  Of course, I was honor-bound to allow him entry to my abode, and did not consider stranding him in the Warp for interrupting my nap important work for even a moment.

Of course, the talisman, which I assume he still has, though it will not work again, also gave me the briefest of glimpses into his mind, and here I provide a fraction of what I saw, after I waded through the dreary swamp that he calls memory, the quagmire of hypocrisy that is his ego, and the squelching morass of his sex drive:
Aristide’s party had bungled their way into being captured by the pathetic rebels of this “Candor 5” led by a man named “Tsuji,” and so Inquisitor Howitzer sent a second group sent in to finish their job, secondarily, and rescue them.  In particular, Aristide needed to be rescued, and not just from his self-indulgent self-loathing this time.  No, he needed to be rescued from the ravenous victims of a nasty virus (for which I could offer you a dozen cures if I cared), who had trapped him in a building after he blindly stumbled his way out of the rebel base in roughly the same way he got in.

At that time, the second party was having as auspicious a beginning as the first one, having lost two members in even less days of investigating, the first due to a dodging into a shot from a Lascannon and the second due to the sorts of things that kill you frail Mon-keighs, like a little bit of poison being placed in the vital organs.  Further, the victim of the Lascannon shot was gone from the bed where they had left him under the watchful eye of a non-existent guard while they cowered in their rooms awaiting the dawn.  After unsuccessfully attempting to determine the lost Acolyte’s whereabouts and otherwise dithering with a nurse, other practitioners of your medieval medicine, and a mustachioed man who they rightly distrusted (that some Mon-keighs even can grow hair there is mildly disturbing in its own right, but I digress), the group was pushed into action by a call from none other than Aristide, formally requesting that they liaise with him to discuss the matter of saving his sorry life from flesh-eating mutants that Mon-keighs apparently become when suffering from a sniffle.  And so they departed in their ground-dragger to retrieve the errant acolyte.

With something to kill in sight the group made haste, and they arrived at Aristide’s site within the hour, where he was cowering and praying fervently that he might avoid being eaten.  Unfortunately, the meeting went less well than planned when the flesh-eating invalids (who were not quite so invalid) attempted to crash the party and boorishly devour all of the food (the Acolytes).  Using the usual method of you “hyu-manns,” the party responded by firing primitive ballistic weapons at them.  Aristide went one step backward, using explosives so crude I cannot even imagine Orks would employ them to blast apart the wilting wretches.  “Fortunately,” their luck held, and the party managed not to blow themselves up with these “frag grenades” and the other deathtraps they called weapons (a “bolter,” I believe, in the hands of a tiny, extremely irate Astartes who did not board the ship, thankfully, and sundry other “tools”).

Needless to say, the “Zombies,” as several members of the party remembered them took affront to their meal being interrupted by small arms fire, and so they gave a spirited chase, though once Aristide escaped his bolt-hole and joined the others, they used their ground-dragger to bravely reposition themselves to the Duke’s manor.

Thus concluded the first scroll.


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