Requiem
Bloodthirster.jpg

For every battle honour, a thousand heroes die alone, unsung and unremembered!
— Evocation to the Immortal Emperor

Rollando summons the Sword – right into the Eldar host's torso. The mirror masked man slumps in horrible death. The acolytes vaguely recognise the baroque sword Rollando used on board the Misericord, but horribly mutated; it looks like blood, sinew, and bone sprouting straight from Rollando's arm. Aenid and Sanctus Machina are frozen in horror, although Calpurnia is buoyed by her pure faith.

The masked people explode into a multicoloured flurry of weapons Rollando parries all but a nick, which he contemptuously brushes off. One of them runs toward Aenid, lifts her in his (or her?) arms, and runs off toward the pavilion. Aenid is terrified — as only a daemonic presence can terrify a true servant of the Emperor. Sanctus Machina composes himself, but cautiously steps away from Rollando. Calpurnia draws her laspistol and shoots at Rollando, but misses.

Rollando starts running after Aenid and her captor in the direction of the pavilion, yelling, “Let her go!” He deals a mighty blow to the Eldar. The sword cuts right through the Eldar and even slices through Aenid's armour, but without wounding her. All she can do is gather her wits, and turn to run for cover of the pavilion.

Sanctus Machina unleashes his luminen blast from all four mechadendrites at Rollando, hitting him squarely and wounding him in the lower back. Two large dark armed figures emerge from the pavilion, and fire at Rollando, without hitting him but providing cover fire for Aenid. Over a nearby hill, more Eldar swoop in on jetbikes. Calpurnia's next blast also hits Rollando squarely, but he doesn't seem to notice.

The Eldar jetbikes' shuriken cannons hit Rollando but he doesn't seem to notice. Where he was hit by Sanctus' luminen blast, however, the skin cracks open and a leathery tail unfurls. Another luminen blast arcs and hits but Rollando seems unharmed.

Aenid reaches the pavilion, barely noticing the Eldar there who are shooting from the openings. Another Eldar, dressed very simply but elegantly, bows to her and gestures for her to follow him inside.

Dodging more shots from Calpurnia, Rollando turns around and charges at the “Eldar” that hurt him twice – or, as everyone else sees it, Sanctus Machina. “Die, Eldar scum!” he howls.

Inside the pavilion, the Eldar brings Aenid to a grinning mask and a thin, elegant sword mde of something that is not metal, gesturing for her to take them.

“Will this help my friends?” she asks. The Eldar nods. With a reluctant sigh, Aenid takes the mask and the sword. Instantly, she feels joyous and light-hearted.

Meanwhile, Rollando cleaves through Sanctus Machina's cloak but the techpriest invokes the protection of the Omnissiah to dance out of the way. Sanctus uses his maglev ability to retreat back behind the Eldar.

Rollando sprouts leathery batlike wings with the consistence of raw muscle, and opens them to pursue Sanctus Machina! He swings his sword through the tangle of Eldar, sending limbs flying and blood spurting. His head is now a snarling demonic snout and he bellows unintelligible threats.

Soothed by the joy inspired by the mask and sword, Aenid turns to join the fray outside. She sneaks up behind the Rollando demon, just as Sanctus Machina goes running past her toward the minimal shelter of the pavilion. The sombrely dressed figure waves him in.

All but forgotten, Calpurnia finally scores a solid hit that would kill anyone else. Instead, the additional damage finishes peeling off what was left of Rollando from the now-towering daemonic form. Behind him, Aenid gathers all her might and strikes a devastating blow with the Eldar sword —

And brings the demon down with a blinding flash of light. The lights swirls around his prone form, and he reverts to Rollando's form, horribly injured, missing an arm, and clutching a baroque sword. Standing over him is a shape that looks like Arbites armour as interpreted by Eldar Harlequins which Calpurnia has trouble recognizing as Aenid. The Eldar start gathering their dead. Calpurnia, bemused, pokes at Rollando's unconscious body with a booted foot. He's still sporting the demonic snout. Aenid flicks the daemonic sword away with her own.

Inside the pavilion, Sanctus Machina apologizes to the Eldar for his companions' behaviour, saying he had not been informed that one of them was a demon. The figure bows, then walks out toward Aenid. He bows and speaks: “Our Shadow Seer has been slain. We must attend to the rites; we will speak later of our bargain.”

Aenid walk to the pavilion and returns the grinning mask and the sword, instantly returning to her normal self, at least as far as mood goes; her armour is still multicoloured. She then returns to get Rollando's body and starts dragging him towards the pavilion as well. Calpurnia would prefer to burn his body.

While they argue, Rollando wakes up. “Where… Are we on the Misericord?” He then realizes his arm is missing. With his left hand, he feels his face – and starts screaming. “End it! End it now!”

Calpurnia looks at him with a mixture of severity and sadness. She murmurs an evocation: "For every battle honour, a thousand heroes die alone, unsung and unremembered!” then levels her lasgun and shoots him between the eyes. She holsters her pistol, makes the sign of the aquila, then covers him with her commissar greatcoat before incinerating the body.

What seems like a day passes, have rites for their dead. One comes to speak to the remaining acolytes. “Our Shadow Seer is dead, which makes things difficult. We must wait for another, but our Solitaire will communicate with you through the Dance.”

Calpurnia is reluctant. Although Sanctus Machina argue for getting the information they came for, Calpurnia does not want to have any truck with the xenos anymore. She argues that the Eldar are responsible for Rollando's corruption, while Sanctus believes Rollando brought the demon here. Looking for guidance, she idly opens her copy of The Imperial Infantryman’s Uplifting Primer – and finds the Death Notice form. After a long discussion, Calpurnia turns to Aenid, who also prefers to leave. They start walking, and immediately find themselves at the exit of the Library.

Left alone with the Eldar, Sanctus Machina is told he can ask all the questions he wants – but there is a price. He asks his questions without risk of being accused of heresy. “Did the Omnissiah exist separately and before the Emperor?”

In answer, the Eldar Harlequins dance shows two people which Sanctus somehow recognizes to be two humans, who would become the Emperor and the Omnissiah but neither yet a god, both clever and powerful. Eventually, much later their followers would fight one another until a truce is arranged and they are declared co-equal and two faces of the same power.

Next, Sanctus asks about the Logicians and how they relate to the Order of the Serrated Query. He learns that the Logicians save been active here in the Josian Reach sub-sector. They were experimenting on Fenksworld to create super-soldiers but the experiment got away from them; they are responsible for several wars in Calixis sector and operate a techno-assassin cell. Some organization, possibly the Serrated Query, is manipulating or allied with the Logicians.

Finally, he asks for information about the Machenko Dynasty's money laundering operation. He learns that they are operating all over the Josian Reach, but all the money seems to be funneled to an unknown planet which Sanctus will have to locate later on a star chart.

Before he leaves, the Eldar want to give Sanctus Machina Rollando's ashes and the sword. He refuses to touch the sword, saying he does not want to touch it; they say he brought it here. He says he did not, and knew nothing about it when he came. At last, he comes up with a solution, using the servo-skull to wrap the sword in cloth and carry it in its mouth. He stats walking and finds himself immediately face to face with Calpurnia and Aenid at the portal, as they seem about to step in.

The latter have no memory of ever stepping through the portal into the Library, but see Sanctus Machina emerging with the servo-skull carrying the cursed sword they last saw on the Misericord! Pas Palacious closes the doors behind Sanctus Machina and locks them. After a confused conversation, where Sanctus gives the gist of the story but omits all mention of Eldar… Calpurnia asks Governor Palacious for the use of a stasis field to isolate the sword.

As for what he discovered in his research, Sanctus discusses only – once alone with the acolytes — what pertains to the Logicians, the Serrated Query and the Machenko Dynasty. A little research shows that mysterious planet of such interest to the Machenko Dynasty is a forbidden world blockaded by the Imperium, called “Abandoned Hope.”

About this time, the acolytes receive a call from Proctor Reeves; the Arbites believe they have located the hideout of the 212th Volg Volunteers. It is an estate in the upper levels of Hive Volg, believed to be abandoned. The acolytes are scrambling to respond – when Sanctus Machina realizes that a snatch of the song the Eldar performed.

And it won't go away, no matter how he tries.

Quotes

“So let me check here… You were presented with two options, both pretty bad – to screw the party or screw yourself — and you managed to find a third one that combines the worse effects of both?”
— Mark (Sanctus Machina) to John (Rollando)

“No, you can kill him – I know you want to.”
— Laura (Aenid) to Sophie (Calpurnia), regarding Rollando


Image: Greater Bloodthirster of Khorne sketch for the Warhammer: Mark of Chaos PC RTS videogame, from GameDev.net. No copyright challenge intended.

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