The acolytes’ Cutter departs the Reliant Dawn’s hectic and noisy flight bay.
After a quick journey through Juno’s upper atmosphere, the sprawling metropolis of the capital Vesuna Regis looms below. Vesuna Regis is an assemblage of impossibly ancient battle-scared constructions, littered with statues weathered to vague outlines.
New structures have been thrown up around those that have come crashing down due to the weight of age and the ravages of war, but with each generation, the refined forms and masterful techniques of the past have been lost – replaced by pale imitations of the originals. Many of the structures resemble mighty bastions, from which ragged banners sway in the breeze.
Almost all of the greatest edifices of Juno are riddled with craters and fractures many thousands of years old. All is dilapidated grandeur. Despite the damage, the world still retains a palpable air of age and power that few can deny.
High among the spires, Corvath chooses a landing pad almost scraping the edge of the atmosphere. The acolytes notice that the small outcropping is far more ornate than that of a standard void port.
As the shuttle descends, the acolytes catch a glimpse of many other groups arriving and entering the spire. Some of these groups are Valdane’s other cells, but most are absolute strangers – complete with bizarre modes of dress and sporting unfathomable weaponry.
As Corvath sets the shuttle down and the rear ramp descends, Murco stands waiting, cowl and cape billowing in the stinging winds.
“Hurry,” he yells over the roaring wind and sounds of shuttle thrusters, “they’ve started already. It doesn’t look good.”
Although still unsure of watch is transpiring, the acolytes proceed inside. They make their way through the massive spire doors and down an ornate main hallway. At the end of the corridor, the hallway spreads out, leading to numerous entrances to a large central amphitheater. The acolytes push their way through the onlookers spilling out into the halls.
The amphitheater is carved from what appears to be a single piece of marble and is complete with numerous viewing galleries and massed seating, packed to the brim. Many others stand among the various archways and entrances, hushed, trying to hear the debates in the lower bowl below.
A massive round oak table sits at the centre of the room, around which only the most senior members of the inquisition are sitting. The table is an incomplete ring, allowing members to walk into the middle and speak in plain view of everyone present. Some chairs around the table are occupied not by people, but rather muted green holograms, flickering up from ancient devices.
Servo skulls record the ongoing proceedings in a number of different audio and visual formats.
Valdane walks throughout the lower pit, his booming voice echoing around the massed gathering.
“My brothers,” he bellows, “the Great Devourer is at our doorstep. This may be the most dire situation this sector has faced in two millennia!”
Murmurs and hushed whispers are heard around the crowd. Commotion forms in pockets here and there.
“Even with all the might we have assembled here, this threat poses the gravest of dangers. I call you to action. We must combat this threat in force.”
Another senior Inquisitor slams his fist on the heavy wooden table. Some of the holograms flicker.
“Nonsense Valdane!,” he says, “You hold no sway here. Not after the debacle on Thaur. The loss of an entire shrine world! And now the loss of Praxos! Do you know what the Combine asks as recompense?”
Jeers and cries permeate the room. Many of the acolytes glance among themselves. It’s clear that many are missing the ten-year-old context of the Thaurian Incident.
Suddenly, another Inquisitor yells.
“You’re not even from this sector, you Calixan scum! We take no orders from you.”
“And if they arrive in force?,” Valdane responds, “An entire hive fleet? What then? What say you then?”
A very rotund Inquisitor chuckles. His laugh resonates about the chamber.
“You see one filthy xenos and you call for a Conclave.”
A few other laughs break out, echoing around the marble amphitheater.
“The Beast of Praxos,” he continues, “Bah! Like with Thaur, you’ve managed to destroy any actual evidence!”
Yet again, more laughter rings out.
Valdane continues, almost pleading to his supposed colleagues.
“You all have read the reports! Every day more and more astropaths claim to have seen the shadow in the warp!”
Now commotion, whispers, and murmurs join the laughter.
While Valdane continues his pleas, dead silence ripples outward from a passageway in the lower bowl. Clad in ancient Terminator Armour, a white-haired figure approaches. The weight of his boots pound loudly across the ornate floors. Whispers make their way around the viewing galleries as the huge figure sits at the head of the table.
“What say you Glastus!?,” a voice rings out from the balconies.
Commotion fills the chamber again with incomprehensible yelling and shouting sounding from about the room.
The figure, Glastus, raises one of his massive gauntlets and silence falls again.
An ancient, deep voice sounds from his amplified vox grille.
“I have seen worlds of the Jericho Reach burn… For the sake of the future, we will not allow Valdane’s past actions to cloud our judgement present. The Vaxi Atrocity has separated us, and the incident at Thaur has further divided our Ordos. Although I do not foresee this task mending Hark’s wounds, it would be foolish to dismiss these claims outright. Should Valdane err, he shall fall further from grace. Should this be a fruitless attempt to court favour from this Conclave, his crimes shall be addressed. However… should he be the herald he claims to be… Well, we shall then all be thankful.”
Murmurs from around the galleries indicate a divided opinion of the Lord Inquisitor’s words.
“I must also bring you news from the fringe,” Glastus continues, “Juno’s great astropathic choirs have lost contact with Myros Kappa.”
Commotion breaks out. Glastus raises his gauntlet again to restore order.
“The Lords of the Deathwatch have been informed. The Watch Fortress stands vigilant. But for now, I see no reason to muster our forces. This silence could be nothing more than a flare in the Pandaemonium. For now, we wait. Our agents will search out the truth. So I have spoken. So it shall be.”
Glastus rises slowly from his massive chair. In the quiet room, the whines of his armour’s ancient servos are clearly audible.
“Be unwavering in your duties,” he says, “The Emperor protects.”
The crowd, although divided, almost in unison replies, “The Emperor protects.”
As Glastus walks to leave the pit, he clasps a firm gauntlet on Valdane’s shoulder and then continues walking past.
Valdane looks frustrated, almost defeated – a sight the acolytes had never thought possible.
A figure in the crimson robes of the Mechanicus priesthood rises to Valdane’s side. With masterfully crafted bionic limbs, he hands over all kinds of dataslates and spools of information.
The acolytes file out through the crowds, heading to Valdane’s chambers. Murco leads them down busy side hallways where numerous other cells are busy attending to their own masters.
Reaching Valdane’s chambers, the door to his office is open. He sits with his back to the entrance, atop a small throne. Looking out to Juno’s surrounding wastelands, the Inquisitor is deep in thought. A violent lightning storm rages far off in the distance, obscuring the horizon.
After a long pause, Valdane informs the acolytes of their new mission. They are to gather all the information they can regarding Myros Kappa’s silence and to determine its fate. In order to gather more details, Valdane tells them to seek out Graxon Pol – the Inquisition’s watcher over Juno’s astropathic choirs. Perhaps he knows why communications have ceased.
Before Valdane has a chance to speak again, a vassal enters and whispers to him that The Lord Captain Anzaforr has arrived.
Valdane nods and dismisses his acolytes.
Juno’s astropathic chambers are located in another of the capital’s few remaining hive spires. Here, private landing pads jut out into the sky to receive the rare few visitors to Juno’s Adeptus Astra Telepathica. The short flight over gives the acolytes another excellent view of the crumbling city.
Landing, the acolytes see that the level of security at the Astropathica is high. Unlike most hives’ security, the details here are Imperial Guardsmen – members of the Grand Army of the Processional – rather than just Planetary Defence Force troopers or Juno’s planetary enforcers.
Eventually, the acolytes make their way inside. The Astra Telephatica’s spire is filled with vast chambers of hushed silence. Like the landing pads, here too has a high level of security. Adepts move about with dataslates in silence. Separate armoured Astra Telepathica watchers keep a close eye on the astropaths coming and going through the halls. Astropaths, although common throughout the Imperium, are often mysterious and solitary figures. Now, up close, the acolytes see that many of the psykers are without eyes, or that they keep their eyes shielded from reality by ornate blindfolds or metal banding.
Located somewhere here, is Graxon Pol.
As the central chambers are off limits to visitors, the acolytes convince a young adept to retrieve Pol for them.
Eventually, emerging from the chambers’ massive entryway is an ancient looking man – his true age is betrayed by the burden of his psychic duties and the excess of scar tissue covering the small amounts of skin visible under his robes. With an odd gait, he slowly approaches, balancing himself on a walking cane. He introduces himself as Graxon Pol, servant of the Holy Ordos Askelline.
The acolytes question him at length about Myros Kappa and the other worlds of the Stygies Cluster. Pol explains that over the last month, Juno’s astropaths have seen Myros Kappa fade away slowly like a memory. Now, they only hear silence – complete nothingness.
First, there were reports of deaths among Myros Kappa’s astropaths – sudden and violent. The Astra Telepathica attributed them to a waxing of the Pandaemonium, but Grax was not so sure. Then the messages of those who remained on Myros Kappa became more and more erratic, like at the edge of sanity. Their messages turned to nothing but flashes of darkness and shadows in the Warp. Then, panic – followed by silence.
Now, Grax explains, similar reports have started to flow in from Myros Kappa’s neighbouring world, Cel, and that communications have only just started to become scarce. Cel’s chief Astropath Ascendant, Elsharna has expressed serious concerns regarding the phenomena and has explained that there is unrest among Cel’s population.
Grax informs the acolytes that Elsharna is the best bet to get the answers that they seek. The acolytes thank him and depart the spire.
Climbing aboard their Cutter, they determine their next steps.
In the meantime, Ishamael journeys to the Basilica Regis, the largest cathedral on Juno. Finding a solitary corner, he gazes out into the Warp. After some time, he sees flashes of his future – empty space, a planet stripped of life, and shadows moving across the void. Shaken, he returns to his comrades and informs them of what he has seen.
The acolytes decide that their best bet is to journey to Cel to retrieve conclusive evidence of the Tyranid menace. Perhaps if they can gather enough information to convince the other members of the Conclave to act, it may not be too late to save the agri-world and restore Valdane’s reputation.
The acolytes find passage to Cel aboard a Rogue Trader vessel – purchasing room for their Cutter within the ship’s cargo bays. They soon depart Vesuna Regis and Juno, beginning another journey to the edge of Askellon.