INQ28 – Dramatis Personae
Various members of the Holy Ordos of the Emperor’s Inquisition and their affiliates as well as some of their enemies
I. Inquisitor Antrecht & retinue
Inquisitor Lazarus Antrecht, Ordo Malleus
There is no simple truth when it comes to Inquisitor Lazarus Antrecht of the Ordo Malleus: Some say he is a loyal servant of the Throne. Some call him a dangerous radical. Others maintain that he has turned, fallen away from the light of the Emperor and come to worship the ruinous powers.
Many have tried to ascertain which school of thought within the holy Inquisition Lazarus Antrecht follows. It seems reasonably certain that he was once an Amalathian, but his ideals seem to have changed somewhere along the way. There are those who now call him an Istvaanian, perhaps even with Xanthite leanings, while more jaded members of the Inquisition argue that Antrecht is the sole follower of the philosphy of Antrechtism, a true army of one. The truth is that Lazarus Antrecht would probably laugh at all of those attempts at classification: It is for him alone and for the God Emperor of Mankind to know where his true allegiance lies.
The fact that Antrecht shows only disdain for those who question his loyalty to the Emperor and the secrecy with which he surrounds himself have convinced more puritan elements within the Ordos that he is a dangerous heretic who must be taken down for the good of the Imperium, and many have tried, among them his former friend Inquisitor Gotthardt of the Ordo Hereticus. So far, he has managed to elude his pursuers, but he has been forced ever deeper into the shadows, manipulating and plotting where other Inquisitors would conduct their work more openly. This suits him fine, however, for Lazarus Antrecht is a true puppetmaster, highly intelligent and with piercing insight into the inner workings of the Imperium. By sheer necessity, Antrecht has become well aquainted with the shadows, and it is no wonder that his retinue comprises many colourful indivduals from the somewhat …darker corners of the galaxy.
Accordingly, there are few means that the Inquisitor would refrain from using. He is convinced that every tool has its use. And in Lazarus Antrecht’s world, almost everything can become a tool at the right time.
Whatever it is that the Inquisitor truly seeks, one thing is clear: Those who find themselves between him and his goals have to face a formidable and resourceful opponent.
Magos Explorator Hiram Zeiss
Magos Hiram Zeiss has always been a treasure hunter of sorts, but in his case, the treasure in question is knowledge. Educated on Mars, Magos Zeiss quickly displayed a thirst for knowledge that even his senior Mechanicus priests found slightly disquieting. Additionally, all attempts to keep his questing mind contained within the confines of a Mechanicus Forgeworld proved futile. Magos Zeiss was thus elevated to the rank of Magos Explorator and inducted into one of the Explorator fleets constantly scouring the galaxy for lost knowledge from the Dark Age of Technology. It was during this quest that Zeiss and his team came under attack from a Xeno-cult on the world of Varunth Minoris, and the Explorator party was nearly wiped out. It was only through the intervention of Inquisitor Antrecht that Magos Zeiss survived. He has been a member of the Inquisitor’s entourage ever since.
It would, however, be very naive to think that his association with Antrecht is based on some kind of gratitude: Aloof and emotionless beyond measure, Magos Zeiss has simply realised that the Inquisitor’s highly unconventional modus operandi is very likely to lead him to all kinds of forgotten places and, by extension, to many caches of forgotten knowledge as well.
In his pursuit of knowledge, Hiram Zeiss has gone further than most members of the Mechanicus, and it is his relentless quest for things some would say were best left forgotten that have alienated him from his fellow Magi. At best, the techpriests of Mars regard him as a wayward child. But there are also those who think that Magos Zeiss is walking a very dangerous road and that his quest had best be ended before he ever reaches the end of it…
The Mandalorian, Bounty Hunter
Not much is known about the mysterious figure frequently accompanying Lazarus Antrecht on his more “colourful” outings. He is a Bounty Hunter, that much is clear. A sellsword to be sure. And, without any doubt, a professional. Few have seen him without his trademark suit of battered armour of an unknown provenience. However, those who have managed to catch a glimpse of his features and body maintain that his skin is a milky white, making him look more like a ghost than a man.Whether this strange feature is caused by his habit of always covering his body or is the product of something more sinister seems impossible to ascertain. Some whisper about an army created from the genestock of the Imperium’s greatest, a force of Albino warriors surrounded by misfortune and secrecy. And while no one would ever openly confront the Mandalorian with these rumours, there is a name that follows him wherever he goes, a whisper, passing through the shadows: “Afriel”…
Inquisitor Antrecht still thought about Rikkert Nozick from time to time, and it was always a bittersweet memory. When Antrecht had come to Barsavia Hive to investigate the actions of the notorious Heretek Amnon Helix, Rikkert had been there from the start, trying to be helpful and ingratiate himself with the Inquisitor. Still, he had been a competent guide and managed to open quite a few doors in the hive, so Antrecht had indulged him.
Then the young man had asked to be inducted into the Inquisitor’s retinue, and while Antrecht had laughed at the audacity of the idea, he had still seriously considered it. He hated to let a potential asset go to waste, after all. But he had felt something in the young man that he did not like, some kind of inner flaw or deficiency, hidden by his eagerness to please. And while Antrecht could not quite put his finger on what it was that was bothering him, he had felt that there was a thirst within Rikkert Nozick that could never be quenched by service to the God Emperor alone. So Antrecht had turned him down and set off into the underhive on his own.
But fate is a harsh mistress, or so they say, and so when Antrecht was dangling above a yawning chasm, bloodied and broken after his confrontation with the heretic Helix, just barely hanging on with his last ounce of strength, it was Rikkert Nozick who had slipped from the shadows and offered to save the Inquisitor. He did however have one condition: Antrecht’s life would be saved, but Rikkert would join him as a member of his retinue when he left the planet.
Antrecht had little choice in the matter if he wanted to live, so he gave his word. He limped from the underhive, hurt but alive, leaning on his new “apprentice”, for that was how the young man had come to see himself.
The Inquisitor had other plans, however, for he simply could not trust a man who had used a moment of weakness to haggle for privileges. But then, a promise had been made, and Lazarus Antrecht knew a lot about the importance of promises.
Fortunately, fate intervened again: An interesting opportunity presented itself soon afterwards and so, when Inquisitor Antrecht left the planet, young Nozick joined him as a permanent member of his retinue. His wish had been fulfilled.
All this Antrecht remembered. And as he cast a sideways glance at the pale creature floating along next to him, he could not help but think that there was still much of the young man he had encountered in Barsavia Hive in its sharp features. The Daemonhost noticed Antrecht’s attention and bared its iron teeth in a rictus grin. Yes, even now, the resemblance was uncanny.
Inquisitor Antrecht still thought about Rikkert Nozick from time to time. And it was always a bittersweet memory.
And a reminder to always be careful what you wish for.
Officio Assassinorum Operative Sigma
Bodily functions normal. No apparent damage. First attempt at movement proves futile. Arms and legs restrained. Head also restrained. Shackles show no signs of yielding.
“It seems our guest is awake.”
A voice. Male. Mocking undertone. Humanoid individual (owner of voice?) steps into field of vision. Human male. About 6 foot tall. Dressed in plain clothes. Appears to be in his early sixties. However, subtle signs of rejuvenat treatments. Also hints of augmentic implants on the back of the head. Facial features reveal individual to be Inquisitor Lazarus Antrecht, Ordo Malleus. Primary target.
Another voice, originating from previously unnoticed individual in the shadows. Voice heavily garbled by use of vocal synthesizer and thus not clearly identifiable as male or female .
“The shackles should restrain it yet a while longer, and the drugs are still working. But considering its accelerated metabolism, I’d prefer it if you had your conversation while we are still safe.”
Shape and posture of individual suggest extensive bionic augmentation. Red cloak suggests affiliation with Mechanicus cult. Subject identified with a probability of 76.6% as Magos Explorator Hiram Zeiss, reported M.I.A during mission on Varunth Minoris. Secondary target.
Estimated distance to primary target: two steps. Estimated time of battle until termination of vital functions: three seconds. From there, distance to secondary target: one step. Estimated time until termination of vital functions: four seconds.
“I know what you are thinking”
The primary target.
“Let me assure you, your estimations are, shall we say, a little optimistic. But you are free to try, of course.”
Another attempt at escape. Restrains prove unyielding again. No possible way of reaching primary target at this time. Conserve strength. Try again later.
“Well, there really is no talking to you, is there?” Aside to secondary target: “Hiram, would you be so kind? I suppose I should enjoy this conversation more it if our guest were somewhat less…single minded.”
Secondary target seems to be manipulating a console. Pressing buttons. Result unkn…
…To begin with, pain. Lances of white hot lightning, piercing to the core.
“What you are feeling right now is the removal of certain…substances from your bloodstream. Since your organism has been attuned to these substances for Throne knows how long, you may find the resulting sensations to be somewhat disagreeable. Naturally, our good Magos Zeiss assures me that he has taken ample preparations to steel you against the more …debilitating physical effects of your deprivation. “
And then, beyond the pain, something far worse. Something like an echo in the back of the head…
“There are some things, however, that we cannot spare you.” A pause. “ It appears that you are now suffering from the early symptoms of a most vicious disease. We call it ‘sense of self’.”
Awake again. Antrecht is in the room. Straining to understand his words. There is so much pain. And things far worse. Nooks and crannies where there used to be only the surface of a lake, undisturbed and pristine. But no longer.
“Let me explain to you how this matter will be resolved. I shall pose you a question. I shall give you a gift. I shall make you an offer. And then, everything else.
But first, the question.” Antrecht’s face is now entirely without humour. “The question is: Why?”
What does he mean? What does he want? It is growing more and more difficult to hold his gaze. If he would only say something. But he is just
…sitting there looking.
Awake again. “Back to the question at hand.” Antrecht again: “Why all of this? Why want me dead?” He comes closer, gazing at me once again, unrelenting. “Not why your masters want me dead, mind you. I know that. Why do you want me dead…Operative Sigma? What do you stand to gain from this?”
What… do I
“I promised you a gift, Operative Sigma, and you shall have it.” A smile. “I shall give you the most valuable thing in this galaxy. I shall give you a choice.”
The sound of the shackles springing open is very loud.
After a seemingly endless moment, Antrecht smiles:
“Very well then. Shall we talk about the offer I mentioned?”
The main tenet of the Istvaanian creed is that it is unending conflict alone that allows the Imperium to prosper. What better embodiment for this philosophy, then, than a creature that can only prolong its existence by fighting?
Inquisitor Antrecht first saw the being called Klytus in the slave pits of St. Sabasto’s Reach, fighting for his life in more ways than one: The Chrono-gladiator’s internal clock was just about to run out, leaving him with only seconds to live, and so he tore through his opponents with wild abandon, desperate to prolong his existence. Then, as a cruel kind of recurring spectacle, the ringmaster would reset his clock after each fight, keeping him suspended in a stasis field until the next time, repeating a cycle of desperation and slaughter over and over again. Antrecht was disgusted and fascinated in equal measures.
When Antrecht’s investigations revealed the planet’s Circus Imperialis to be a front for a cult of daemon-worshippers, the ringmaster sicced Klytus on the Inquisitor, promising him to end the vicious cycle if he managed to take Antrecht down. It turned out however, that he had misjudged the gladiator’s will to live after all, for it was him that Klytus turned on instead. He had been a plaything far too long, and if he had to die, he would at least take a dangerous heretic with him.
As Klytus lay dying, Antrecht intervened, for he hated to let a useful asset go to waste. Magos Zeiss managed to keep the Chrono-gladiator alive and he became a member of Antrecht’s warband. From now on, the time he won in battle would be his to keep.
The long years of chemical treatment and crude surgery have all but erased the man Klytus may once have been. The real or imagined transgression that originally led to his fall into slavery and to his transformation has been lost forever in the mists of the past. All that is certain is that his body is now disfigured and misshapen, useful only as a tool for killing. And whatever remains of his mind is impossible to guess, for he is taciturn and solitary when off the battlefield, his frenzy and brutality snuffed out. However, Lazarus Antrecht has begun to suspect that something of the man may yet be left inside the beast, and he sees Klytus as a handy tool as well as an entertaining continued experiment…
Twist Sniper Elias Cobb
Elias Cobb was born into this world sickly and malformed, a victim of the polluted environment in the lower levels of Hive Primus on St. Sabasto’s Reach. His mother must have abandoned him out of shame, for he was found on the doorstep of the “Emperor’s Angels Orphanage” by Corwyn Helsrich, a priest looking after the orphaned children of the Hive’s Alestius sector. Helsrich was a grizzled veteran of the Imperial Guard, a hard but just man, whose time on the battlefields of the galaxy had taught him much about the best and worst mankind had to offer. He had developed the view that humanity and purity could sometimes be found in the strangest places, and so he took in the young twist child where any other priest would probably have left it to die.
In the following years, Elias was raised by the priest to be his assistant, making himself useful around the orphanage. Under Helsrich’s tutelage, he also grew to be a devout follower of the Imperial Creed, thanking the God Emperor every day for the gift of life he had been given in spite of his impurity. And thus the story of Elias Cobb could have ended with the young man eking out a simple but content existence in the lower levels of the hive. Alas, it was not to be.
Elias’ life changed when the local Church of Redemption’s acolytes burned down the orphanage and all the souls within while he was away running errands. The zealots had been watching the priest and his mutant protegé for some time, and Helsrich’s tolerance had attracted their ire. So the only life Elias had ever known went up in flames, and his chance at redemption in service to the God Emperor was seemingly lost along with it.
Inconsolable, Elias let himself drift through the underhive and became an easy prey for the slavers. He was captured and brought to the slave pits. And there, his life would have ended, if fate had not intervened yet again: Inquisitor Antrecht came upon the young twist in the underhive’s work camps and enlisted his help in exposing the slavers of the Hive’s Circus Imperialis as heretics. And once the cult was extinguished, Antrecht offered the young twist a permanent place in his retinue.
Of all of Antrecht’s henchmen, Elias Cobb is without a doubt the most unquestioningly loyal one, for he sees the Inquisitor as his saviour. He has shown great talent as a sniper and tracker and serves Antrecht with all his heart. Still a devout believer in the teachings of the Ecclesiarchy, Elias feels that his work for the Inquisition is a way of atoning for his sin of being born a mutant.
Arco-flagellant Enoch 451
In the long years of his career, Inquisitor Antrecht has been forced to use rather “unconventional” means more than once. So it is no wonder that his work would attract the attention of the Ordo Hereticus’ more puritan members sooner rather than later. Consequently, Antrecht has had to deal with the Ordo’s scrutiny on more than one occasion, but few of these confrontations have been as monumental and – ultimately – tragic as that with Inquisitor Ferrante.
During his long fight against the heretic Amnon Helix, Antrecht was forced to use some extreme measures, which earned him Ferrante’s scorn. The Witch Hunter declared his intention of bringing Antrecht in for strict questioning, but his quarry managed to elude him time and time again. Ferrante was man driven by the fires of fanaticism, however, and when he could not apprehend Antrecht, he turned his attention to those close to him instead. Towards this end, he managed to capture Antrecht’s Interrogator, Hamlin Rheden, laying an inescapable trap for the Inquisitor, for he knew Antrecht would try to free his disciple.
He had been right: Antrecht came out of hiding in a desperate bid to free Rheden, only to be confronted by Ferrante and his henchmen. Little is known of the two Inquisitors’ confrontation, but it marked the last the galaxy had ever seen of Witch Hunter Ferrante, leading some to suspect that Antrecht may have had a hand in the Inquisitor’s disappearance (or even his death) and earning him the undying enmity of Ferrante’s own pupil, Holm Fiegmund — a situation that would, in time, have its own dire ramifications.
Ever since Antrecht’s confrontation with the Witch Hunter, an Arco-flagellant designated “Enoch 451″ has been a member of the Inquisitor’s retinue. Beyond that, nothing is known with any degree of certainty.
Enoch’s trigger word is “Discipulus”
Arco-flagellant Molotov XXVIII
The man who should become the being called “Molotov XXVIII” was a devout believer in the Imperial Creed and a lay preacher on the Shrine World of Tabeathah. His piety managed to attract quite a large number of followers, inspiring hope and religious fervour in those who came to listen to him. This rankled the Cardinals of Tabeatha greatly, however, for they only allowed their own version of the Imperial truth and feared the growing popularity of the preacher’s teachings. So the man was abducted under cover of night and subjected to arduous torture in an attempt to make him confess to being a sinner and a heretic. But the faith was strong in him, and he could not be broken. It took the punishment of arco-flagellation to wipe his mind clean and end his existence as a human being. Instead, he was turned into a mindless killing machine and left in the dungeons of the great Vetranio Cathedral to wither away or be used in some religious war.
But his captors had been ill advised, for the loss of such a prominent figure incited a religious frenzy in the believers, and they stormed the cathedral, killing the Cardinals who had taken their leader from them. When Inquisitor Antrecht arrived on Tabeatha in the wake of the violent uprising, in order to investigate whether the Cardinals had been influenced by the ruinous powers, he found the lone Arco-flagellant in the catacombs beneath the sacked cathedral and took him along when he left the world. Through a twist of fate, Molotov XXVIII would be allowed to do the Emperor’s work once more…
Molotov XXVIII’s trigger word is “Advocator”
II. Inquisitor Gotthardt & retinue
Inquisitor Erasmus Gotthardt, Ordo Hereticus (formerly of the Ordo Malleus)
Once he was one of Inquisitor Antrecht’s closest friends, and both of them worked tirelessly to smite the daemon wherever it was found. Many were their exploits in the service of the Ordo Malleus, and their friendship endured through all the hardships they had to face during their arduous work.
The two of them went separate ways when Antrecht set out on a quest to take down the notorious heretic Amnon Helix, and they did not see each other for a long time. So Gotthardt was all the more shocked when he heard the accusations leveled at Antrecht after the disappearance of Witch Hunter Ferrante. He could not believe that his friend could have fallen so far, so he sought him out in order to make him see reason.
During their confrontation, Gotthardt implored his old friend to finally come clean, to accompany him before the Conclave and deal with the accusations. Gotthardt felt that they were beginning to work out some kind of understanding, but then the rash and fanatic Inquisitor Fiegmund, an erstwhile pupil of Ferrante, interrupted their discussion and tried to apprehend Antrecht by force. In the ensuing three-way fight, Ferrante was attacked and horribly maimed by Antrecht’s Daemonhost, while the Inquisitor managed to get away. Afterwards, the Inquisitorial Conclave at Pervatia Secundus addressed the question of how best to stop Antrecht. Inquisitor Gotthardt was thorougly examined and interrogated due to his connections to the fugitive and the grievous injuries dealt to another member of the Holy Ordos, and there were those who suspected that he was Antrecht’s accomplice in the matter. Riddled with doubt over what he had witnessed and weakened by his long interrogations, Gotthardt adressed the Conclave:
“You may keep arguing about whether there is any method to Lazarus Antrecht’s madness. You may keep searching for a name to give to his philosophy: Call it Istvaanianism or Antrechtism or call it by its true names: Madness. Heresy. That is the only classification I need. And though I may weep for the friend I lost, I must not waver in my task. For he whom I knew is dead and gone, and the last service that I may do him is to run down and take out the monster that he has become.”
A Rogue Trader in the employ of Inquisitor Gotthardt
Cpt. Esteban Revas, formerly of the 126th Haaruthian Dragoons
Esteban Revas was born the second son to Haaruthian noble and famous war hero Bestrald Salazar Revas (first through the breach at Aisenfeld!). With his brother Ramon inheriting the vast family holdings, it was obvious that Esteban’s career lay with the military. He quickly had to learn, however, that this life pursuit would always be overshadowed by the exploits of a father he had scarcely known and whose only legacy to him, apart from a pair of enormous footsteps to fill, was the service of one Trooper Salvador “Sal” Koltz, a crafty and unexpectedly cunning individual, having sworn his life to serving the Revas family after being saved on the battlefield by Bestrald Revas.
Esteban served diligently in the Haaruthian military, making Captain rank in the 126th Haaruthian Dragoons before his 30th birthday and earning his fair share of recommendations and orders of merit. However, he could never quite shake off the feeling that he wasn’t living up to the Revas family name.
As is the norm with Haaruthian aristocrats, Esteban lived by a code of honour and chivalry that, though romantic, was often thoroughly at odds with the grim realities of the battlefield. So while the upper echelons of the Haaruthian Dragoons would pride themselves on being chivalrous and gentlemanly, the rank and file would quickly find out that honour and sportsmanship held very little value in trenches and on battlefields across the sector. To Esteban’s merit, and maybe through regular contact with his rather down to earth retainer Koltz, he saw the problems of the clashing philosophies of warfare, and while imbued with a certain arrogance and pompousness, wouldn’t tolerate unfairness and wanton wasting of lives by fellow officers. However, this led his superiors to suspect that “Bestrald’s boy” might be too soft for the soldier’s life, and Esteban found himself relegated to more and more pedestrian assignments, which enforced his feeling of failing the family name.
His one escape from this feeling was to seek out an area of expertise that would not fall under the long shadow cast by his late father, so he took up Haaruthian fencing, dedicating himself to becoming a swordsman without compare. His performance in the various contests held both on his homeworld and between different guard regiments earned him the praise of his superiors and the rank of “Regimental Champion”.
It was in this capacity that Revas was called back to Haaruthia along with his regiment when the world was hosting the Festival of the Sword Saint: The aim of this event, held every ten years in honour of the Imperial martyr Sabasto, was to select the best swordsman of the entire sector.
Esteban trained for the festival like he had never trained for anything in his life, seeing this as his one chance at eclipsing his father’s glory and thus finally proving worthy of the family name. And his efforts were even magnified when it became known that Lord Sebastianus Danver Balzepho Vlachen, the sector governor’s own grand-nephew would be attending the festival: The man’s enthusiasm for swordplay was well known, and Esteban hoped that he would maybe even be able to suitably impress him to be offered a position in his personal retinue. That would give him a chance to finally gain advancement and prove his worth.
Esteban was overjoyed when he was among those selected to serve as liaison officers for Lord Vlachen’s retinue, hoping to earn his ear and sympathies even before the actual festival began. Those hopes were rebuked, though, when Esteban’s superior told him that he was not to serve the lord himself, but rather Inquisitor Erasmus Gotthardt, travelling with the retinue. Esteban had heard whispers of the man, of course: Gotthardt had been suspected of being an accomplice in the attack on a fellow Inquisitor, but the Inquisitorial Conclave at Pervatia Secundus had exonerated him. Still, even beyond the Ordos, a shadow of doubt remained. Esteban felt like he had been passed over yet again.
His first meeting with Inquisitor Gotthardt did little to put his mind at rest: Gotthardt seemed like a frail and broken man, still weak from his questioning at the hands of his fellow Inquisitors. Still, Esteban was determined to perform admirably in his service as a guide and liaison to the Inquisitor, even though he was barely able to mask his disappointment.
Over the next days, though, Esteban had little time to lament his misfortune, for as a Regimental Champion, he was himself a participant in the festival, trying to excel for the honour of his regiment. The rest of his time was filled with answering all kinds of questions from Inquisitor Gotthardt, whose frail appearance couldn’t conceal a razor sharp mind.
Esteban’s performance in the contest was flawless: Where his superiors might have been able to stall his advance in the regiment, they were powerless against his brilliance with a pair of fencing irons: Though the festival had attracted noted swordsmen from all over the sector, one enemy after another was defeated by Esteban’s superior swordsmanship. And even Lord Vlachen had begun to notice the young captain winning such honour for both his regiment and his homeworld.
The presence of such a high dignitary was not a coincidence, of course: Haaruthia’s noble houses had long been trying to elevate their world within the sector, and they hoped to be able to interest Lord Vlachen in Haaruthia’s young ruler, archduchess Cyrine di Cristofalo Civatte. If they were able to arrange a marriage, Haaruthia’s ruling family would finally have ties to the Imperial house governing the sector, elevating the world’s importance above that of its rivals. So the Haaruthian aristocrats made sure that Lord Vlachen and the archduchess met each other at as many social functions as possible, and the fact that a Haaruthian had managed to become such a likely candidate to win the contest was an additional boon to the plan.
The final day of the competition came, and the fight between Esteban and his last remaining rival, a master swordsman from the Alcain system, drew a massive crowd. Many nobles from all around the sector were in attendance, as were the archduchess and Lord Vlachen. It was in front of this crowd that Esteban managed to best his opponent, winning the contest and becoming, for all intents and purposes, the best fencer in the whole sector.
Esteban was beyond himself with joy. He had managed to become the pride of both his homeworld and regiment, and he nearly burst with pride as Lord Vlachen himself toasted his victory during the lavish celebrations. In fact, the sector governor’s relative suggested a friendly sparring between Esteban and himself, wanting to “sample the best Haaruthia had to offer”. It seemed like Esteban was at long last given the recognition he had craved for such a long time. Only Inquisitor Gotthardt seemed taciturn and sullen, which Esteban saw as petty jealousy on the old man’s part.
In any case, Esteban was determined to perform at his absolute best during the sparring match with Lord Vlachen: The latter seemed like a man of honour, and Esteban was reasonably certain Lord Vlachen was testing him, trying to ascertain whether Esteban was worthy of his time.
Shortly before the fight, Esteban’s superior requested his presence. Esteban suspected that it was merely to wish him luck, but he was wrong. The superior made it perfectly clear that Esteban was to lose the match. Haaruthia’s future was at stake here, and the petty ambitions of one man could not be allowed to stand in the way of Haaruthia’s manifest destiny. In order for a possible match between Lord Vlachen and the archduchess to remain an option, the lord was not to be slighted by losing a sparring match against a mere soldier.
Esteban’s insides turned to ice. But he was a soldier, so he obeyed.
The fight came, and Esteban quickly found out that losing convincingly could be just as difficult a task as winning: Lord Vlachen may have been a powerful noble, but he was an average fencer at best. But Esteban did as he was told, losing the match to the nobles’ polite applause.
Then, with the battle already decided, Lord Vlachen contemptuously gave Esteban a deep cut on his cheek, using the sharp point of his dueling irons. Turning away from his bleeding opponent and facing the crowd, Lord Vlachen announced that he was disappointed that even Haaruthia’s best fencer was not able to best him, claiming the title of the best swordsman in the whole sector should, by all rights, be his. The Haaruthian nobles were only too happy to oblige.
For the rest of the night, Esteban was left to nurse his wound as well as his wounded pride, while the nobility was quick to congratulate Lord Vlachen on his victory and his newly acquired trophy. Then, as the small hours of the morning drew near, Vlachen and the archduchess rose. In a bid to woo the powerful noble, Haaruthia’s young ruler had invited him to a tour of the palace gardens by night. Vlachen accepted, and requested none other than Esteban to guard the both of them, along with Vlachen’s personal bodyguard. This was to be Esteban’s “consolation prize”. Again, he obeyed.
After strolling through the gardens for a while, Vlachen and the archduchess retired to one of the luxurious parlors to have a conversation in private, ordering Vlachen’s bodyguard and Esteban to stand guard outside. Esteban was feeling ridiculed and uneasy in equal measures, but what was he to do?
After a while, a female scream came from within the parlor, making Esteban draw his weapons and run inside to protect the archduchess. Only for a split second did he wonder why Vlachen’s own bodyguard seemed largely unfazed, even amused, by the situation.
Inside the parlor, Esteban witnessed Lord Vlachen forcing himself upon the young archduchess. Lady Cyrine was trying her best to fight him off, but this only seemed to make him even more aroused. Esteban knew about the nobility’s plan to offer up the archduchess to Vlachen in a bid for more power and influence, yet when he now looked at Cyrine, he saw nothing but a frightened child. So he demanded that Vlachen step away from the archduchess and be arrested for his crimes against House Civatte. But the powerful noble only laughed, leering at Esteban that, after all, he had promised to sample the best Haaruthia had to offer.
When Esteban remained steadfast, Vlachen ordered his bodyguard to take care of the matter, and the man drew his own weapon, engaging Esteban in a fencing duel to the death. Vlachen’s bodyguard was a masterful fencer in his own right, but in the end, he was no match for the regimental champion of the 126th Haaruthian Dragoons: Esteban killed the man and tried again to apprehend Vlachen. The noble was furious by now, proclaiming that he would succeed where his subordinate had failed. After all, he had already beaten Esteban once. Drawing his sword, Vlachen flew at him in a blind rage.
But Vlachen wouldn’t have been able to best Esteban during the contest, had the fight been on equal footing, and he learned so now to his detriment: Only a few flurries of attacks and ripostes, then Esteban sliced Vlachen’s face open with a well-placed attack. Howling with pain, the lord collapsed, surrendering his weapon, while Esteban tried to console the shaken archduchess.
But then, the palace guards arrived, alerted by the commotion. Vlachen ordered them to arrest Esteban, who he said was a dangerous traitor that had killed his trusted servant and friend, and had also attempted to assassinate the archduchess. Only by Vlachen’s intervention had the worst been averted, but his bravery had seen him grievously wounded by the traitor’s hand. Esteban was immediately seized and taken into custody.
After a night of questioning and thorough beatings, Esteban’s superior arrived to present him with a rundown of the situation. The case seemed simple enough: His ambition and pride spurned by losing to Vlachen, Esteban had tried to get his revenge on the noble. He had also tried to hurt or even kill the archduchess, seeing her as the reason his personal ambitions had been shattered. He was sure to be found guilty, and death by firing squad was the obvious outcome.
Esteban professed his innocence, pointing out the archduchess would be able to vouch for the purity of his motives. His superior coldly claimed that the archduchess would do no such thing: Once again, Haaruthia’s fate was at stake. One man’s life was a small price to pay. With that, he left Esteban. Then the interrogations resumed.
After a day and a night, the questioners suddenly let up, and the door to his cell opened, admitting none other than Inquisitor Gotthardt. The Inquisitor claimed that, as a member of the Ordo Hereticus, he was claiming jurisdiction over Esteban’s case on the grounds that there might be a heretical background. Though Esteban’s superior protested, Gotthardt told him in no uncertain terms that his authority in this was absolute and had best not be questioned.
When they were alone, Gotthardt asked Esteban to present his own side of the story. Esteban told him about the events that had transpired, and Gotthardt seemed thoughtful. Then he left.
The next day, Esteban was visited by his brother Ramon. Once again, he professed his innocence, but his brother only told him that he had brought an irrevocable stain to their family’s proud name. He also informed him that, as far as he was concerned, he no longer had a brother. Then he too left.
Esteban was shattered. His whole life had been spent striving to do the honourable thing and thereby doing justice to his family name. But now, he had damned both himself and his family by doing what was right. And nobody was prepared to acknowledge the truth. Esteban was just about ready to face the execution detail, and that is what he told Inquisitor Gotthardt when the old man returned to his cell.
Gotthardt had other plans. He told Esteban that Lord Vlachen had already left the planet, furious and never to return. Haaruthia’s nobles were in an uproar, most of them crying for blood. Esteban’s blood. However, Gotthardt had also talked in private with the archduchess, and Lady Cyrine had corroborated Esteban’s version of events, if only unofficially. In any case, there would be no way to rehabilitate Esteban, for Haaruthia’s ruling class had simply chosen not to acknowledge the truth. He would lose his rank, his title and his name would be struck from the regimental records. And he would die by firing squad. Or he could join Inquisitor Gotthardt, to become a member of his retinue.
Esteban laughed at the idea: Everything he had ever cared for was lost to him now. Why take the coward’s way out just to save his life? If that was his only option to survive, he would rather die. This was his choice, if he had any say in the matter.
Gotthardt agreed that the choice was ultimately his. However, Esteban had learned that there was a distinction between doing what was accepted and doing what was right. He had taken a decision, and that decision now made him eligible for service in Gotthardt’s retinue. The old man told Esteban that he was not offering him a stay of his death warrant. He was offering him a chance to do the Emperor’s work. He also informed him that one Trooper Koltz had tried, repeatedly and in danger of being executed himself, to intervene on Esteban’s behalf. Then he left Esteban once more, to give him time to think.
Shortly afterwards, Inquisitor Erasmus Gotthardt of the Ordo Hereticus and his retainers left Haaruthia for destinations unknown.
To date, there is no mention of a soldier called Esteban Revas in the regimental records of the 126th Haaruthian Dragoons. Lord Ramon Gaius Belsazar of House Revas has repeatedly distanced himself from the actions of his late brother who was, by all accounts, a notorious felon at best and maybe even a dangerous heretic.
The last remaining trace Esteban has left on his homeworld Haaruthia is the boarding list in the memory engrams of a servitor doing service in the hangars of the Asuncion spaceport, noting that Inquisitor Gotthardt’s retinue numbered exactly two persons more when he left Haaruthia than when he had arrived.
Trooper Salvador “Sal” Koltz
Personal retainer and manservant to Cpt. Esteban Revas
An Imperial noble and born psyker, isolated from society for most of her life due to her strange and frightening powers. Inducted into Inquisitor Antrecht’s retinue.
A veteran member of the Riftyr Hiveguard on Saarthen IV, capital world of the Metyan Subsector of Velsen. After long years spent in the perpetually gloomy and rainy underhive settlement known as “Ashertown”, Ingram was recruited by Inquisitor Erasmus Gotthardt after a joint operation in the depths of the Hive.
PeeDee the Monkey
Many Rogue Traders like to flaunt their wealth, dressing in the finest clothes and carrying priceless artifacts. Iskander Gagarin is no exception to this rule, always cutting a dashing figure in his sharply cut uniforms and rare furs, armed with weapons that are either highly exotic or priceless family heirlooms. However, one of Gagarin’s favourite trophies is a living being: A small, excessively augmeticised monkey going by the name of PeeDee. This small creature is a highly complex familiar, possessed of an uncanny intelligence and capable of completing complex tasks that would baffle any servitor. Usually dressed in the same vibrant colours as his master, PeeDee isa sign of the Rogue Trader’s wealth and taste, but also a highly useful retainer in his own right. Indeeed, creating a familiar of such complexity is a task for the brightest minds amongs the Genetors and Magi Biologis of the Adeptus Mechanicus. And, as a matter of fact, it is rumoured that Gagarin won his favourite pet during a protracted game of Regicide against a particularly eccentric member of that secretive order…
III. Inquisitor Alvar & Retinue
Inquisitor Titus Alvar, Ordo Xenos
House Alvar has been one of the more influential noble houses for centuries. As a scion of the house, Titus Alvar grew up in luxury and power, the intricacies of the Imperial courts with their waxing and waning support for one house or another a game he quickly mastered. Maybe the search for new and more immediate thrills was what made him enter that perilous region of space known as “The Veil of Impurity” time and time again, and tales of his exploration of ancient ruins, of treasures discovered and adventures survived, made him the talk of the courts he had left behind. As a matter of fact, one of his expeditions into the treacherous cluster of stars resulted in a standoff with Inquisitrix Cimbria Carscallen. Under normal circumstances, someone running afoul of the Ordo Xenos would have been executed without second thought, yet Carscallen must have seen something in Alvar that made her reconsider. And so, Titus Alvar, noble, adventurer, became an Interrogator in the Emperor’s Holy Ordos of the Inquisition and, in time, an Inquisitor in his own right.
Though the years of doing the Emperor’s work may have somewhat mellowed his once flamboyant lifestyle, Titus Alvar very much remains a socialite and a political animal. His standing as a member of an influential noble house makes him a common guest at social functions all over the sector, and the tales of his exploits have led some of his peers to suspect that he is a glory hound, first and foremost.
In truth, Titus Alvar is, above all else, a pragmatist: The trappings of nobility are as much of a useful tool to him as the artifacts he has recovered on countless expeditions or the retainers, some of them quite exotic, that comprise his warband. Meanwhile, some of Alvar’s colleagues have grown suspicious of the Inquisitor’s continued expeditions to the Veil of Impurity and some of the alliances he may have forged there…
Professor Abelard Marbray
one of the Velsen Sector’s pre-eminent capacities in the field of Xeno-archaeology, and a member of Inquisitor Alvar’s retinue
a Kroot pathfinder serving in Inquisitor Alvar’s retinue.
IV. Inquisitor Fiegmund & Retinue
Inquisitor Holm Fiegmund, Ordo Hereticus
also called “The Maimed Man”
A mysterious assassin and member of Inquisitor Fiegmund’s retinue
The Skull Collector
Ever since he was horribly maimed in a fight against Inquisitor Antrecht’s Daemonhost Zalambur, Inquisitor Fiegmund has been heavily dependent on a coterie of servo-skulls. He now employs the services of a small, masked mutant that was originally found by an Adeptus Mechanicus team doing reconstruction work on the derelict hives of the purged world St. Berthold, preparing the cities for resettlement. The mutant would have been executed under normal circumstances, yet he demonstrated an uncanny talent of constructing extremely advanced and effective servo-skulls for some reason, and it is this capacity in which he now serves the Inquisitor. He also seems to be obsessed with the shapes and intricacies of the human cranium, collecting all the skulls he can for his work. And while he uses some of them to build more auxiliary contraptions for Fiegmund, he is allowed to keep some of his bounty, though no one can say to what purpose…
V. Various others
Praetor Janus Auriga, of the Golden Legion Astartes Chapter
Seneschal Secundus Goswinus Baehrn stood at the edge of the landing platform, his robes flapping about him in the icy breeze. Baehrn prided himself on being a thoroughly unemotional person, but even so, he had been extremely nervous, ever since the news had reached him half an hour earlier: The Astartes gunship “Falco Aureus” had made planetfall and was approaching the Hive Primus with an urgent dispatch for the Lord Governor himself.
Direct dealings with the Chapter were few and far between these days, and mostly limited to the most prestigious social functions, which was why Goswinus Baehrn had never actually laid eyes on a member of the Adeptus Astartes up close during his fifteen years in his fairly prestigious position. Under normal circumstances, the task of welcoming a representative of the Legion on Bastold would have fallen under the purview of Senschal Primus Mathewelin, but the old man had retired to his chambers the prior night, with a generous supply of amasec and Obscura and, it was whispered, in the company of several women of questionable renown. In any case, Baehrn had been unable to rouse his superior, which now left him the highest-ranking official to deal with this unforeseen event — He could only suspect that the Seneschal Primus would have to say something about this breach of etiquette at some point in the near future. In fact, there would almost certainly be hell to pay later in the day, not a doubt about it, yet even this prospect was nothing against the mounting sense of dread filling Baehrn as he saw the Astartes vessel approaching: The gunship came in low against the rising sun, as if for a covert attack run. It was a blunt, brutal shape, not unlike a fist, the roar of its engines growing from clearly audible to almost unbearable, as it drew close to the landing platform.
The gunship touched down at the very centre of the platform. Baehrn could see its golden bulk, the exquisite scrollwork and lettering in High Gothic proclaiming its many glorious years of service, yet also the scars and welts that spoke of a life of constant battles. The Seneschal Secundus drew himself up to his full height as the front ramp opened with a hiss, taking a deep breath and sending a silent prayer to the God-Emperor to grant him composure.
“They have sent us a statue!” That was his first thought as he saw the massive golden figure standing at the top of the ramp: A perfect rendition of an Astartes in gold, its armour beautifully detailed, its arms clutching a boltgun across the chest in the most iconic pose imaginable. Baehrn almost laughed out loud as relief flooded through him — the Golden Legion merely wanted to provide an overwrought – and fairly narcissistic – gift to the rulers of Velsen, doubtlessly to be unveiled during a suitably extensive and garish ceremony.
This feeling was short lived, however, and quickly replaced by utter dread as the golden figure started marching down the landing ramp in precise, measured steps.
It was all Goswinus Baehrn could do not to cringe in fear at the approaching giant, and he bowed his head in supplication instead, making the sign of the aquila. When the low purr of active power armour finally emanated from directly in front of him, setting his teeth on edge, there was only a very slight quaver in his voice as he intoned the formal greeting in High Gothic:
“We welcome thee, protector of Velsen, in this hallowed fulcrum of our realm. It is our honour to lay eyes upon thee, and thine every wish shalt be our command, honoured battle brother of the Legio Aurea. The Emperor Protects.”
“Who are you?” The armour’s speaker systems lent the voice a slightly metallic quality, but it was powerful and deep underneath. A voice that demanded instant obeissance.
“Seneschal Secundus Goswinus Baehrn, my lord, member of the household of House Vlachen and most obedient servant of the Lord High-Protector, the Emperor bless his name.”
The giant in golden armour kept staring at Baehrn through glowing blue eye lenses for what seemed like an eternity, but could only have been a few heartbeats, then he lowered the massive bolter, securing it to his thigh with a soft metallic clank. He reached up towards his laurel crested helmet, disengaging the seals with a hiss. When he lifted the helmet free of his head, Baehrn could see a grizzled face, stern and lined, yet with broad features that instantly marked its owner as something more than human, and crowned by a crest of hair so bright that it appeared white. The Astartes’ eyes were of a piercing blue, and as Baehrn did his best to hold their gaze, he felt as though he were being evaluated, no, …targeted. Then The giant spoke:
“I am Praetor Janus Auriga of the Golden Legion, envoy to Lord Commander Prabian. I am here on the Lord Commander’s orders, to speak with Lord Governor Vlachen, that I might advise him in the the governing of Velsen.”
“Advise…the Lord Governor?” Baehrn almost spluttered: “My lord, that…”
Auriga interrupted him briskly: “The Lord Commander feels that, in the light of current events, the Chapter should take a more active role in guiding the sector. I have therefore been commanded to take the legion’s customary seat on the council.”
Baehrn could barely keep his emotions in check, reeling as he was from the implications of the Praetor’s words: The Golden Legion’s seat on the council had been vacant for a very long time – so long as to make the office seem more than a symbolic gesture than anything – and he doubted even the older members of the noble houses could remember when a member of the Chapter had actually traveled to Bastold to speak on behalf of his Lord Commander on the council. The mere revelation of this latest development would throw the council in an uproar. All of this went through Baehrn’s head, as his mind raced to find an appropriate reply.
A non-committal “…my lord” was all he could safely come up with.
“I will need accommodations for myself and my retainers.” The Praetor indicated a small group of robed figures exiting the gunship.
“It will be done, my lord!” Baehrn was glad the conversation seemed to be on terra firma. “It shall be attended to at once. And I will send notice to your quarters, once the council is back in session, so that you may speak to the representatives…”
“Negative!”, Auriga interrupted: “I will address the council now!”
Baehrn almost reeled back, as the terror came flooding back in full force. “NOW? But, my lord,…the council is in recess right now. The council members will…”
“Are the council chambers still located in sector C-34 of the central spire?”
“Y…yes, my lord.”
“Good. Then I will meet the council members there.”
With these words, the giant in golden armour started to march towards the Hive’s interior, with a very agitated Senschal Secundus doing his best to keep up.
Things on Bastold were about to change.
Sister Euphrati Eisen, of the Order of the Martyred Sword
When the Crusade army of St. Sabasto moved to reclaim the Velsen Sector for the Imperium of Man, a detachment of the Adepta Sororitas from the Order of Our Martyred Lady joined the crusade and fought alongside Sabasto for the entire duration of the campaign. After the saint had sacrificed his own life to guarantee the reclamation of the sector, those Sisters reconsecrated themselves in order to honour the martyr, becoming the first members of the Order of the Martyred Sword.
Sister Euphrati, named for a particularly beloved Imperial saint, is one of the sisters of the Order who have been requisitioned several times to aid the Ordo Hereticus Velsen in operations of utmost importance, and so far she has excelled in her service to the Ordo and the Velsian Ecclesiarchy.
Interrogator Brynn Yulner
Magos Zoltan Phract
Zoltan Phract is a Tech-Priest of the Velsian Adeptus Mechanicus, whose recent accomplishments have made him a rising star within this secretive order, in spite of his relative youth. His rise to prominence began during his tenure as representative of the Adeptus Mechanicus in the directorate controlling the ore-rich mining world of Silon Minoris. When the mutant workers of the world raised up their arms in protest against their life of slavery, it was Magos Phract’s decisive and, some would say, chillingly efficient chain of countermeasures that ended the workers’ revolt and insured the mines didn’t suffer from a noticeable decrease in productivity.
Genetor Karras Grendel
“There are those within our order who consider my fascination with the organic a waste of time or even misguided. To those I reply: There can be no question as to the superiority of the divine machine over the frailties of the flesh. Yet it is only by considering the flawed, organic machines willed into being by this universe, that we may find the tools necessary to mend that which was created broken.”
Genetor Karras Grendel, Discourses on the Merits of the Organic
Fabricator General Calista Syntax [dec.]
Former Magos Intendant of the Korhold Forge World and a long-time acquaintance of Inquisitor Lazarus Antrecht. Killed by the Heretek Amnon Helix.
The Brothers Galth
Who can say where the Brothers Galth truly came from? All that is certain is that they worked as overseers in the slave pits underneath St. Sabasto’s Reach’s Hive Primus when Inquisitor Antrecht investigated rumours about a chaos taint within the world’s ruling class. He encountered them in that hellish place, and while Antrecht may have made some staunch allies during his stay in the slave pits, the Brothers Galth were not among them.
Cluggan Galth was a monster, an imposing slab of muscle, as immune to physical pain as he was to pangs of conscience, yet also dim-witted and simple. His brother Augustus – malformed and diminiutive in stature, but wily and cruel nonetheless – was the one to watch out for. He had clawed his way to the top of the underhive, due to his own devious machinations as much as through leaning on his brother’s physical prowess. But he wasn’t content with his standing and nursed ambitions far above his station.
All that came to an end when the results of Antrecht’s investigation deprived the planet of its elite: When the corrupt rulers of St. Sabasto’s Reach fell, the slave economy they had established was thrown into an uproar. And all that the Brothers Galth had worked so hard to attain was lost.
This could have been the end of their story, but Augustus had always been good at recognising opportunities. So when the lesser nobles houses began a struggle to fill the vacuum of power that had been left by the Inquisitorial purges, The Brothers Galth earned a new place for themselves, working as enforcers and bounty hunters for the world’s up and coming nobility. And even though their new employers may have found the twisted creatures distasteful, there was little question that the brothers got the job done every time.
Their service eventually earned them a writ from the new planetary governor, affording them all the rights of an Imperial citizen as well as free passage through the whole subsector. And so the Brothers Galth embarked upon a new journey, their single ambition to run down the Inquisitor whose deeds had cost them everything…
“Say, you ever heard of Decius Freeman?”
“Nah, couldn’t say I have. Wait, you mean that twist revolutiory riling up them workers on Silon Minor? The one sold out his fellow conspirators in the end, trying to save his hide before the cartels brought in the heavy hitters?”
“That’s the one, although that’s not the way I hear it told. Ask the right people, and they’ll say he was actually the one being sold out, only that, once that rebellion had been quelled and the dust had settled, no one was that all intent on finding out the truth of it.”
“What’s it to you, though? You turnin’ into some kind of historical expert on the matter of the twist freedom movement, or what?”
“Feth, I was getting to that, right? So, just the other day, a twist hunter came by the Virgo, down in sector eleven. One big fether, I tell you. Ugly too. All muscle and scars and gristle, and with a gammy leg. And I gak you not, he was using a mean looking shotgun as a crutch.”
“Said he was looking for Reuban Nonus. Said the two of them go way back. That he owed him. Only thing is, he got that look in that one good eye of his when he said it, made you feel like old Reuban wouldn’t be all too pleased to be paid back what he was owed, if you get my meaning.”
“And did you tell him?”
“Me? Throne, no. I reckon if someone needs to find me, they ought to know where to look. And if they have to ask others for my location, well, maybe I don’t want to see them all that badly. That twist didn’t get a word out of me, and he was putting on his best scowl too, by the look of it. Told me to come find him if I remembered. Told me he goes by the name of Decius.”
“But you didn’t remember anything?”
“Nah, course not. But you know how it goes in the hollows: Some Asher down on his luck musta told him where to find his old friend, because next thing you know, Old Reuban’s floating face down in one of them culture tanks, down at the hydroponics.”
“Gak! I hadn’t heard that! Say, didn’t Reuban used to work on Silon hisself?”
“That he did. Never did want to talk about his time in the mines, though. I figured it must have been terrible on that world during the riots.”
“And you think that twist did him in? The one with the gammy leg?”
“I’d bet my last cred on it. And you know what? If there are any more guys in the sector being owed by that Decius fellow, they had best keep out of sight. Throne, all that talking is giving me a sore throat. You still drinkin’ that?”
Amnon Helix/Amnon the Shaper/Amnon the Defiler
A former Genetor of the Velsian Adeptus Mechanicus turned notorious Heretek. Inquisitor Antrecht’s personal nemesis.