The Alabaster Court

Sins hidden in the heart turn all to decay!
— Evocation to the Immortal Emperor

Aenid and Calpurnia go visit the Adeptus Arbites headquarters to look up the names on the dataslate, claiming (truthfully) to investigate Saia Strophes' disappearance on behalf of her uncle. They speak to a data processing clerk, who identifies about half the names on the list. Many are from the Middle and Lower Hives; all who were marked “Processed” have disappeared.

Two of the “processed” missing persons were from the Middle Hive, so they go speak to the families. All persons on the list are or were members of the Joyous Choir. Discreetly scanning them with the Harmony Meter reveals that all those who were listed as “viable candidates” score very high, presumably as latent psykers. The “inactives” score the same as the general population. In the next report to Narthax, Calpurnia notes that all “viable candidates” should be examined and sent to the Black Ships as needed.

Teniente Rollando Hernandez, along with his “bodyguards” Aenid and Calpurnia, shows up at the Alabaster Court for the party he was invited to. The place is dimly lit by candles. After the early, more sedate part of the evening, they witness an play hosted by a cloaked and masked man introducing himself as Chorus. The play is based on the famous story of the fall and betrayal of Cyperen, and the man cast in the title role appears to be a bewildered dupe. At the end, “Cyperen” is killed on stage by Chorus using a power sword! The finale is greeted with polite applause and Chorus unmasks, revealing himself as the playwright, Elsergi Krin.

In the chatting and greeting that follows the play, Rollando manages to insult Krin and start a minor duel, which offers a distraction and allows Aenid and Calpurnia to look around.

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Calpurnia notices a significant-looking figure, someone dressed somewhat like a priest but apparently not part of the Ecclesiarchy. He looks like an upright weasel under his cowl. Guests address him as “Your Grace” or “You Honour” and he speaks a lot about the Joyous Choir, quite smoothly. He does not seem to have bodyguards with him. He is High Priest Caros Shoal of the Joyous Choir, and eventually approaches Aenid and Calpurnia, trying to smooth-talk them and recruit them (and any other people he speaks to) into the Joyous Choir.

Rollando wins his duel and forces Krin to admit he is a talentless hack. The two actually hit it off and it all turns into one big joke. Soon after, the pharcosia comes out but the agents have come prepared with a fake to allow Hernandez to pretend to partake; his “bodyguards” are watching him like hawks to prevent him from actually taking the drug again.

A bit later, Aenid and Calpurnia notice that Caros Shoal is now talking to a robed figure that the group recognize as the augmentics-ladden opponent who killed Orday and tried to steal the data slate! They try to keep out of the newcomer's line of sight; after a few moments, Caros Shoal is clearly getting agitated. He pulls the augmented man towards the off-limit areas of the establishment. They spot Calpurnia and Rollando, but Aenid manages to evade detection and follow Shoal and the enemy.

She can overhear part of the conversation: “They must be mad in Ambulon!” exclaims Shoal. “They forget that I've made them a fortune several times over –” and the rest is cut off by the sound of a weapon firing. A few more detonations follow and Aenid recognizes the sound of meltabombs. She quickly rejoins her colleagues but before they can decide what to do next, screams start and the crowd begins to panic, as more meltabombs hidden in the columns and wall start going off, damaging the structure. Led by a decisive Calpurnia, the agents lead the crowd's evacuation to safety, then sneak away in the confusion to avoid talking to the authorities, just as the building collapses.

They return to the Strophe household and tell the news to Laurent Strophe. They warn him that this looks like a big cleanup operation, with unknown backers in Ambulon shutting down the Scintilla operation of the Joyous Choir; they expect that the assassin will come after them and the Strophes next. Laurent Strophe agrees to send Julia to safety but refuses to leave his house; instead, he reinforces the guard.

Later that night they face a well-organized attack by a group of mercenaries. After the assault is repelled, interrogation of a prisoner reveals that the high-end outfit Pressure Point was hired by persons unknown for this operation, suggesting a good deal of money went into this operation. Laurent Strophe is livid with anger at the insult to his household and his guests. He offers to provide the agents with transportation and a cover story to get into Ambulon.

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