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Knight Errant (40K)

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Eleventh Century Remnant
 Post subject: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-04-30 07:52pm 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2006-11-20 07:52am
Posts: 2249
Location: Scotland
Not sure if I've got this right; see how it goes.


The sky was pale vermillion, and the ground turquoise dappled with teracotta.

It was the ninth day of the seige, and the hundred and fiftieth day of the war; the sky was firelight and shield light reflected off the underside of the pall of smoke, the bluegreen earth was the stain of chemical biocides and herbicides unleashed by the kiloton to sterilise the preparation areas, the terracotta marks where bombs and shells had fallen and beams and blasts raked, burning deep.

The rebel capital was encircled, and swollen with the debris of a dozen preliminary purgative operations- they had been herded here, allowed a golden road to this place. Many of the Imperial troops had noticed the pattern, and some had complained bitterly about it, knowing, foreseeing that there would be a day like this waiting for them.

Not very many, of course. That was what the commissariat and all the other brutal paraphernalia of discipline was for. Discipline here, by order, followed a very old, harsh tradition- although where did it not?

There was a road, which had once been part of a ringway round a small industrial sub-hab, along which most of the reinforcements and supplies had to come from the nearest cleansed and rededicated landing port to the bulk of the army. By that road, there was a long, irregular ill-shapen line of angular things, that looked like sculptures from a distance.


Gallows, wheels, crucifixions, floggings unto death. This was where the army staked out it's failures and renegades and malefactors, for all to see. To a sufficiently twisted mind, they were sculptures of a sort; they were certainly intended to achieve an effect on the viewer.

One of them was not quite dead, was drawing strength from entirely the wrong places- and there was a column of marching recruits approaching, on their first campaign, shivering with anticipation and dread they dared not show.

The watcher drew a cloak about himself, made himself difficult to see; something desperately bloody was about to happen, and it would be easier to study them, decide whether to help them through it or let them take their chances, if they were not aware of him- could hardly fail to be, if he were to let himself be seen.


There were perhaps as many as two thousand of them; literally, in terms of forces, they could not lose this fight- but they could have their confidence and courage shattered by such a little, inevitable gesture on the part of the enemy.

Did any of them have the makings of a champion? A useful soul, at least? The officers of the regiment were...forgettable, was the best description. A corrupt, alcoholic colonel and an operations officer who would sell his grandmother for a way out, a posing, posturing trio of old- established captains transferred in from a senior regiment, and three newly-appointed and yet to get much tarnish on their spirits.

A couple of usefully idealistic young lieutenants, although with regrettably little in their heads besides that, very depressing how that was so often the way; most reacting badly to the parade of self inflicted Imperial death they were passing by, and spooking the troops even more because of it.

A sanctioned psyker even more closed down- in terror- than the ordinaries, even less open to the things of the mind at the moment- which was probably just as well. Handful of Enginseers, smugly indifferent to the flesh- no use at all. Medicae close to open rebellion herself at the sight of the tortured dead, perhaps...too soft.

Regimental commissar and a half- squad of assistant/trainees, anything of worth, any sign of the luminous spark I'm looking for, the watcher thought to himself? Commissar had all the human warmth of a sausage machine, would probably kill more of the Emperor's loyal servants than any dozen of the enemy; for a moment the watcher wondered if he was above, when the burning moment came, putting a shot into him himself and calling it the work of the Enemy...yes, but not by much, he decided.

Among the rank and file, yes, perhaps; a couple of latent psykers in there, obviously their home world's screening wasn't good enough, was it even worth putting in a complaint? The black ships did tend to get so very prissy when they were upbraided about something; any of the missed latents a threat or an asset? Maybe- minor influences. Might change in a few seconds.


What was the old rule of thumb from the dawn of time, out of every ten men one will seek battle, three or four will fight when they must and the others are dead weight and targets for the enemy? Or was it in every hundred, one hero, three sociopaths, ninety-six more or less ordinary? Or both, contradictory as they were?

Probably the contradiction, it had been early days after all. We have to do better than that now, the watcher thought- although looking at this I wonder how. Being more afraid of our own command structure than the enemy doesn't work, not on this enemy at least. We were never supposed to be a species that could walk calmly by this, worse yet be inspired by it. For an astonishingly broad definition of we, at least.

Now, he thought, now it is about to happen. Whoever was in charge of this took an errant guardsman and stuck him there to drown in his own blood, visibly and agonisingly cast him out from the emperor's grace, on top of a low rise that can be seen directly from the city; nailed him up facing it, yet. Did they think the ruinous powers weren't about to whisper to him, that he wouldn't call on them? Did they think, at all?


Chaos' timing was, appropriately, random. The dying, crucified guardsman did not complete his final blasphemy and had the power of the warp poured into him until the column was more than half-way by.

He burst in a spasm of explosive unclean energy, which washed over the near portion of the passing troops. Mutilated a few of them, inflicted everything from warts to cancers on many, drove quite a few of them mad.

The shrieking and howling and screams were pierced through by a long chitinous ululating wail, the battle cry of the new- made beast; there was a precious second for the watcher to survey the column, look at those earlier identified as prospects, how they reacted, who ran towards and who ran away.

It was within my power to stop this, the watcher let the thought flash across his mind, but this is the lesser price, that has to be paid so the greater price later can be avoided. The drops of blood that might buy off the tide. If I get it right, that is. Not in vain. Hideously, but not in vain.

There was more power pumped into that thing than I expected they would use; of course, they're expecting to profit by it, it seems worthwhile- the guard might have difficulty felling it.


Three different sets of orders being shouted, form an orb around it and blast it, fall back to here, form by companies there; this was small-c chaos as the thing- quite an impressive beast, trailing a corona of sparks and corrosive ichor- picked its targets, rushed for the head of the column.

Men fled screaming, there was an argument as the commissar ordered his cadets after the panicking guardsmen and one of the cadets wanted to concentrate on the monster, one lieutenant smashed to the ground by a heavy weapons team refusing to fire through the bulk of their own comrades, a chaplain trying to attack the thing with the power of prayer and failing miserably;

one ordinary soldier did something effective; picked his captain's pocket, came out with a handful of minigrenades, pulled the pins on four of them and threw the lot like a hail of pebbles at the beast.

Quick thinking, there. On the other hand it probably wasn't enough, it was time to take a hand- no point finding useful potential one second and losing it again the next.

The grenades burst in the beast's path, shrapnel everywhere- tearing into it, flash and smoke surmounted by drifting green haze; there were a few lasbolts going in now, not wonderfully effective but enough to make the beast know it was under attack, sting it.


The pickpocket was looking around for anything potent enough to make a difference, knees and elbows like water but trying nonetheless; flamethrower, cleanse with fire, enough on this? Maybe. The commissar cadet who had broken from the squad was sniping at it with a laspistol, playing matador, waiting for it to charge by so he could get it in the flank with his chainblade; one of the medicae assistants was crouching protectively over a wounded man, shielding him with his body from the oncoming beast.

They were all scared, and the more they looked coldly at the beast, the more they estimated it, the more scared they realised they had a right to be. Time to do a little to restore their faith.

The psi-bolt the observer struck the chaos-spawn with would have looked a little like an aquila, if any of their eyes had been fast enough to catch it as a solid image; white diving eagle-shape piled into it, smashed into it in pure light and burnt off the miasma, left a burnt-flesh, twisted thing there, still wriggling and writhing, turning in shock to see-

dropping the illusion of nonpresence, the watcher darted through the dazed and hurt guardsmen, the spawn turned to meet him, nowhere near fast enough; half-halting and a thrust forward that pierced it under the vicious, clawed forelimb, that would do it. Pulse power through the nemesis weapon, unravel it, shred it to the winds of the warp.

Raise the thing high in the air on the point of the force halberd, let the regiment see it as it burnt itself out, purged and shrivelled to nothingness; let them know that it was gone.


The Grey Knight turned to survey the stunned guardsmen, recovering from terror; the regimental commander was making his way back from the front of the column, the commissar ranting, that fell away as he caught sight of the nine foot tall, armoured Marine.

The regimental chaplain went down on one knee; motioned most of the rest of the regiment to do the same. Most of them did, except the assistant medicae who kept working. Good for you, the Astartes thought looking at the medicae.

'Pray to the Emperor, chaplain, for salvation and deliverance from such things; not to those who merely do His work. Colonel, Commissar- three of your people in particular broke ranks- towards the abomination.' No sense doing this anything but briskly.

Their respect, their reverence made him feel terribly ashamed. He had underestimated the beast they would spare; could have stage managed that a lot better, perhaps fifty dead Guardsmen better. Too much time in these gaping guardsmen's psychic atmosphere would blunt his edge- not remotely to the extent of blurting something like that out, the thousand rites were a thousand walls against such carelessness.


Glance at them, sift their surface thoughts; simple enough. 'Private Imran Hasek, Orderly Eli Aule, Commissar-Cadet Kostikan Bohr, round up your gear.' And that was all there really needed to be. Was there purpose to saying more than that? None of them would question him- saying 'don't pray to me' was singularly ineffective, as He on Earth had found out.

Was there anything else that, hm. Could be done, might give them a better chance without necessarily tending to damnation. 'That thing was not the first, and we have much to do before we can say we have dealt with the last. Captain Tarant, your idea of the inward orb was as close to the correct way of dealing with such things as you can manage with what you have to hand.

I won't endanger you with knowledge, but if you sight such a thing again or anything like it, blast it with every gun in the regiment and keep doing so until it is no more.' Truth more or less stopped there; destruction was beyond them, but at least that kind of barrage might cause a newly entrant daemon to lose it's grip on the materium and become unstable, and it was more use than running away gibbering.

Given what they had for command, chances were they would soon be at war with the first batch of Skitarii they came across. Could anything be legitimately or correctly done about that? The munitorum could get very upset too, when a wandering adeptus started eliminating the unworthy on his own say-so. Let it shake itself out. Couldn't solve every problem in the Imperium.


'Where's your regimental psyker? Ah. You were useless.' Emphasized with a gesture with the halberd that the psyker backed away from, squealing. Was he even worth trying to recall to a sense of duty, or was he too terrified? This was within his remit.

'You are here, you exist, partly to warn and protect your comrades against things like this. You have to use your gifts- the chance can always come up against you, but you have to take it. If you don't dare try to blast it, at least scream and point. Next time- may there not be one for you, but if there is- next time, do better.

Hasek, Aule, Bohr- with me.'

The chaplain summoned up the courage to speak; 'Master- master adeptus, what will become of them?'

Did they deserve an answer? The three men certainly did, and perhaps it could be used to work on the regiment, give them a little measure of fire back in their bellies. 'Their courage deserves a larger canvas. Why wait for such beasts, when the Emperor's work can be done so much more directly? You shall assist, and we shall hunt them.'

It was better technique not to push directly; if they were the men he thought they were, go and let them follow, let their own consciences and sense of duty pull them along in his wake, let them come to the light. He strode determinedly over the crest of the hill, then slowed to let the humans catch up.


The Grey Knight seriously considered that their first task ought to be finding the commissar-general who thought that such punishments were a good idea and this a fitting place and nailing him to a tree in his turn, wired to a psyk-out grenade on a dead man switch; take care of two barbaric monsters at one stroke.

Perhaps later, when it would be more likely to pass unnoticed- but in that way? If these were his works then the man was an asset to the enemy, it was hardly wrong to do it in and of itself; but feeding someone to the dark powers, however much it may be the punishment that fitted the crime, was a far more dubious act and would hardly be understood by his brothers.

I do need a retinue, support team, warband, call it whichever, he thought; it is easy to go too far on a lonely path. More time on the codex astartes and less on the liber daemonica, too; self- knowledge and self- discipline don't protect me from losing the plot nearly as well as I had hoped.

Still, as far as I can tell I'm not corrupt. A little prone to lone-wolf vigilante justice, perhaps. Should have gone home years ago; but the travel time was always too much, and there were too many things needing doing too close at hand, and-


'Ah, my lord Astartes?' It was Aule, the field assistant medicae. The inside of his head was a promising and useful shape. Took a slight effort to focus on the physical- relatively short, stocky, endurance over strength.

'Just Brother, will do. Brother-' for a moment he was tempted to announce himself as Brother Quixote, but the scholas simply didn't teach the classics the way they used to, and they had never taught that- too old, too controversial. The Chapter guarded their own names almost as carefully as the daemons they pursued, and for largely the same reason. '-Ignatius.' He decided on.

It was fascinating to watch the frightened ex-guardsman run through the reasons and excuses in his head, trying to think of anything that would work, of anything that could persuade the grey, grim giant to let him go back to a life of as much peaceful obscurity as could be found in the Guard.

The Grey Knight actually had to do nothing; the impulses embedded in youth, in cathedra, in training did it all, and Aule's arguments defeated themselves. Are you sure you have the right?- of course I'm sure, wouldn't have chosen you unless I was. And you are up to it.

Not cut out for greatness- maybe not, but grace alights where it will. Not good enough for this- who is? We all just do what we can. Too scared? Don't be bloody daft, you're in the Guard. Besides, you've met the enemy now. Fear doesn't help. Untrained and ill equipped? All right, point. Do something about that.

Suddenly wrenched away from friends and comrades and every kind of future they had expected? That was, unfortunately, routine, and the best way to reconcile them to it was to make it seem utterly, inhumanly inevitable, they had no choice and had to make the best of it. Hadn't they all?
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rodon
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-04-30 10:23pm 

Redshirt


Joined: 2008-10-16 03:32am
Posts: 26
Eleventh Century Remnant wrote:
'Just Brother, will do. Brother-' for a moment he was tempted to announce himself as Brother Quixote


"Do not worry my lord, we shall find you a maiden to rescue. Perhaps a Sister of Battle, a Canoness mayby, otherwise a female Ogryn will do as she should be just slightly shorter than you." :wink:
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RecklessPrudence
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-04-30 10:46pm 

Padawan Learner


Joined: 2009-06-02 07:16pm
Posts: 257
Location: Largest Island, Sol III - invasion not recommended, terrain and wildlife extremely hostile.
It will be interesting to see from inside the head of a semi-renegade member of the - how did you put it in Squelch, 'double-plus super fanatics'?

This one seems to be going the pseudo-Inquisitorial route - I hope that's sanctioned by his superiors, or he may find himself in hot water - nay, promethium, with those who should be his allies. But that's pretty much par for the course in M41.

I'll make a confession. At first, when you had the viewpoint character cloak himself and be all stealthy, I was thinking 'Eldar'. It was only after that, when it became clear he was Imperial Human, that I thought Inquisitor. It wasn't until very late in the game that I even considered Astartes. This even with the title.

He seems to have a very ...human, for a lack of a better word, viewpoint for an Astartes, let alone a Grey Kight, doesn't he?

Looking forward to more!
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Eleventh Century Remnant
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-01 06:14am 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2006-11-20 07:52am
Posts: 2249
Location: Scotland
The extra double-plus super fanatics were the Deathwatch, which I am not a fan of, for reasons which are expressed coherently in Field-Marshal William Slim's book Defeat into Victory- specifically the bit about the Royal Corps of Tree Climbers on pp 455-458.

Briefly, the Deathwatch, like the (hypothetical) Tree Climbers, claim special rights and privileges by virtue of doing a specialist job- that ought not to be a specialist job at all but should be within the remit, ambit and capabilities of any regular line unit, and actually weaken the regulars by doing so. So yes, a little bit of personal prejudice showed through there.


The Grey Knights, on the other hand, do what very definitely is a legitimate specialist task, and they are very human if the Emperor's original pre- Heresy plan to strengthen humanity into a strong, independent psychic race capable of avoiding the perils of the Warp and the traps that befell the Eldar is anything to go by;
they and a handful of individuals, Inquisitors, Astropaths, Navigators, sanctioned psykers, Librarians from other chapters, Sensei and Illuminati (from the very, very old fluff) may well be the only such, in fact. And yes, Brother Ignatius knows this.
Oh, and there will be some of the Sisters involved.

More soon, probably.
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fractalsponge1
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-01 07:46am 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2006-04-30 08:04pm
Posts: 950
I haven't posted for a while in your fiction threads, mainl ybecause I don't have a lot to add but "Great Job, MOAR plz," but I really like the way this is shaping up. Grey Knights always seemed a lot more interesting than the run of the mill astartes, mainly because they seemed to actually have to think on more than a tactical level. So, ahem, MOAR plz :)
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Agent Sorchus
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-02 01:50am 

Jedi Master


Joined: 2008-08-16 09:01pm
Posts: 1116
You mentioned the Illuminati, which reminded me of the Exorcists the only (probably) known successor chapter to the grey knights. What is exceptional is that they are all given a treatment to turn them into what would be Illuminati, and as such they are the last bastion of that old bit of fluff in the new fiction. (Okay there is one or two other bits that are interesting, ie having fought in the Gothic war, the Thirteenth black crusade, the third war for Armageddon, and the Badab war, which is a lot for a chapter that has had only one character show up in one short story in total[and to stay topical, a member of the Death Watch].)

Now I happen to think that the whole Death Watch thing is a trick that the Inquisition uses to monitor loyalty and to go behind the High Lords of Terra to artificially increase the number of Marines in service. Since the seconded troops shouldn't count anymore than other troops it keeps the individual chapters from having to limit themselves. And the Death Watch with it's more flexible Command structure would be able too experiment in different tactics that the Codex Astarte doesn't allow, while also allowing the various chapters a way to keep in "touch" with each other.
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Simon_Jester
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-02 11:47am 

Emperor's Hand


Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm
Posts: 21355
Though Slim's comments on the Royal Corps of Tree-Climbers aren't quite so applicable to the context they were originally made in as they are to the Deathwatch.

Fighting aliens (the official duty of the Deathwatch) shouldn't be a specialist job. There are more than enough aliens around to require the attention of the regular Marine chapters. Drafting the most loyal (and, theoretically, some of the best) Marines into a specialist organization, pulling them out of the strength and traditions of the regular chapters, yes that does tend to weaken the line units as Slim observed in Burma.

Special Forces operations are, or can easily be, very different from line operations; a particularly high profile example being the raid just now staged to kill bin Laden. There is a justification for having a small cadre who are trained specifically to engage in really desperate missions, who are picked for having the right frame of mind more than anything else, the willingness to keep going as long as it is physically possible to do so, to not take "we're pinned down!" as an answer.*

Line units, with a (usually) clear line of communications and (usually) the ability to invoke "when the going gets tough, the tough call for artillery support," can afford the lack of that intense desire to accomplish the mission- though the best line units have it, or a version of it adjusted for the psychology of the time.

Operations staged well behind the lines, under conditions that make the use of heavy support impossible... for that, you need men who will do ludicrously risky and difficult things for the sake of doing whatever objective they were given back at base.

Again, you need the mindset more than anything else; the special selection and training is purely an aid meant to obtain it.

But even there the distinction tends to blur, and when it does (and the Special Forces are scaled up accordingly), they become a waste of manpower and so on, in the spirit of Slim's objections. As noted, "out of every hundred, one hero;" if all the heroes wind up pushing into Special Forces you've lost more by weakening the blade than you've gained by strengthening the tip.
_____________

*To take an example that may resonate better with ECR than with the rest of us, "Lensmen always go in." That frame of mind.
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Jaevric
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-02 12:09pm 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2005-08-13 10:48pm
Posts: 676
Location: Carrollton, Texas
Actually, given the two Death Watch short stories I've read, it seems the Death Watch is less "specialist alien hunters," and more "Inquisition dirty work versus aliens." Jobs the Inquistion wants done but they absolutely do NOT want to ask a standard Astartes Chapter to undertake, because they might refuse or ask potentially awkward questions like "Why?". Admittedly, in both the stories I've read the Inquisitor in question seems to be on the "Radical" end of the spectrum.

One thing the Grey Knight's attitude makes me think of is a statement from Eleventh Century Remnant's other fanfic, Hull 721 -- namely, the idea that the Jedi Council didn't like solo Jedi running around because it gave them too much time to talk to themselves or ordinary people. I'm wondering if this idea is part of the inspiration for this fic -- an Astartes, even a Grey Knight, who has been spending too much time around normal people and away from the discipline and oversight of his Chapter might have some interesting personality shifts. Astartes seem to spend a lot of time not only being indoctrinated but having that indoctrination reinforced on a continuous basis. Chaos Marines undergo the same thing, just in a different direction.
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Eleventh Century Remnant
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-02 07:24pm 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2006-11-20 07:52am
Posts: 2249
Location: Scotland
Hm. The idea that the Deathwatch are basically a political move being played on the Astartes by the Inquisition might take a little thinking to make internal sense of. I like it, but let me chew on it for a little.

Slim did suggest that certain types of operation, the small group deep behind the lines style groups, would be better suited to bein run by intelligence services rather than the army- which considering what SOE had to say about the intelligence services (very unfriendly) might not have helped either. More on this later.

For the moment,



The rebel- held capital was a city well on it's way to becoming a hive; had been, at least, before the troubles. There were weapon mounts on the walls, and although some had been destroyed fighting against the hordes to begin with, there were still entirely too many left.

They had to be destroyed before any serious assault could be mounted, and that process was well under way, the heavy guns of the Guard munching their way along the wall, a grim, predictable creeping barrage expanding the blasted zone, hopefully into a viable assault axis.

It had been a controversial decision by the Lord- General to resort to such a strategy, meaning as it did the inevitable wreck of the planetary seat of government; in fact, most of the five hundred or so regimental commanders if a straw poll was to be taken would say that it had been a cockup, a failed hammer-and-anvil move- that they could of course have accomplished much better.

Instead of driving the rebels back against the walls and guns of the city and pounding them there, they had been strong enough to break in and now the guns were pointed entirely the wrong way.


In fact, it had a lot to do with what a large and strangely difficult to see grey figure had whispered into the Lord-General's sleeping brain one night; headquarters' sanctioned psykers were fairly useless, too.

Brother Ignatius had a dislike of capital cities and the people to be found in them that went back to his own distant pre-recruitment childhood, justified itself in the dawn-time phrase "Power Corrupts", and had regrettably but predictably had a small mountain of evidence pile up in its' favour during the several centuries since then.

It was his considered judgement that, given the misgovernance that had led to so many of the people turning themselves over to darkness, the powers that were needed a good, thorough purge- and short of a nova cannon round, letting the chaos army kill and eat the upper class for him was probably the next best way to have it done.

Herding and timing the chaotics so the remaining loyalists- of which again regrettably but predictably, there had been far fewer than there ought to have been- had a chance to escape was the hard but enjoyable part, and there were now two fewer self- styled champions in the armies of the night.

There had been no loyalists left- no formed body, individual stragglers and survivors maybe- in the city, and now the entire thing was a free- fire zone, ripe to be burned to the ground. Bring it on; the world and its' people would be better off for it, needed a fresh start. The nova cannon round was contingency plan D.


In the meantime, preparation. Ignatius had set up a hide on the roof of a largish building in one of the outhabs that the city had been impending to absorb, originally a Mechanicus templum-reparatorium in fact. It had been desecrated of course, but he had got rid of enough of the filth to matter, and the overlapping psychic atmospheres made good camouflage.

Should have been called the Grey Hunters, he thought, there's damn' all chivalrous about fighting the beasts of the warp and we- I especially- strike from ambush wherever it can be done, but the Space Wolves were first founding and got to the name before we did. And if we all got what we wanted, the human race would make daemon worlds look internally consistent.

Hm. Speaking of camouflage, there were other presences in the area. Not chaotic; far too much the opposite in fact, hammer- hardened bright and bitter with a kind of translucent sine-wave quality. Not remotely sinuous, very not indeed, but they had a cycle and a circling and patterns engraved in them.

Others, too, some painfully clamped, others hot and sour and fevered, some stony and crusted with tufts of malice. Far from an attractive parade of the human. This sub- hab had been quite badly wrecked, hardly desirable real estate, and there was nobody currently billeted in it, officially at least.

There was a small argument going on, the burbles of emotion- the Grey Knight motioned to his small retinue to wait here and be ready, he could move far faster than they could.


Cut through the outer edges of the stonework, and there was the problem; the road forked just out of the hab, and on one fork sat a Chimera in plain mustard-drab Guard colours, identifying insignia heavily muted- to Astartes eyes at the best part of two kilometres range, the letters '692nd Penal Legion' in 20- point type were just visible.

Behind it were, indeed, the legion. Sentinel security detachment most of them with flamers, more chimeras bringing up the rear, a few hundred men- evidently the legion had been organised on the cheap;they were still in the remains of their old units' colours for the most part, with a mustard-coloured sack over the top. Gaggle formation.

Most of the negative waves were coming from them. The sour heat, too. On the other hand, as unwelcome as they theoretically were, they might be better in practise than the potential neighbours on the other fork of the road, as they were Sororitas.

White and red and silver, one of the minor orders militant- Order of the Sacred Fire, Ignatius thought, recognising a surge of distaste in himself and trying not to let it affect his judgement. He had a perfectly natural theologian-arcanist's loathing for the born-again hypersimplifications of the ecclesiarchy militant, and had once got into serious trouble by referring to one of the larger groups as the Order of the Shrieking Harridan.

There had been quite a lot of penance after that, not primarily for the disrespect- Brother-Captain Theophilus had rather agreed with him on that; but mainly because his tongue had slipped badly and he had come close to telling the sisters exactly why he had so little respect for the Imperial Creed, which would have been far more of the truth than it was good for them to know.


There were quite a lot of them, too, but they were still outnumbered five to one at least by the legion, a high proportion of whom had been sentenced for theological crimes, had not yet been persuaded to repentance and were barely being held back from starting a fight with the Sisters.

Much as Ignatius would like both problems to go away, letting them open fire on each other would not be a wise solution. Coming to the attention of the sisters might not be so brilliant an idea, either.

Hm. An omen, of some kind- a sign from "the Emperor", as if he was all the universe (somewhere in the sisters' heads, he was)- that this was not the place for them? Now, how blatant could he make it before it got too much?


Ignatius reached into the near warp, and found a thread. Several, in fact, almost all the usual sickly-pastel glow of what they called faith. Against the will of the actual lord of all mankind, of course, or as much of it as he had been able to express before ending in the Throne; he had said so often that he had never wanted to be a god, and nobody listened.

If the Grey Knight had one wish, apart from the obvious sensible things like a ready supply of reliable plasma guns, it would be to have carved over the door of every church and templum high and low, every consistory and refectory- every ecclesiarchy facility down to the outhouses- the age old tag, "Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain."

That probably really was the useful purpose served; to prevent the mind, to fill the heads of the common folk of the Imperium with such invincible stupidity that the powers of darkness could find no purchase.

It couldn't even be said to be the worst system apart from all the others; it was all the state could afford to manage, the very second worst possible system of all, whose main redeeming feature was that it wasn't the worst. And the sisters were the shrillest, stupidest and most self- righteous component of the system.


Another good reason to dislike the Sororitas, they gave inspiration to so many dark and twisted thoughts; and yet there, there was some of the spark he had been looking for. Among their own penal detachment by the looks of it, who were themselves causing quite a lot of dark and twisted thoughts, and desires, within the Legion.

It made perfect sense that the spiritual integrity he was looking for would fit badly among the Sororitas, fall foul of their regulations, and was currently fettered to a chainsaw and scheduled to commit suicide by enemy in the very near future. Damn.

The other thread, the faint current that didn't belong to him or the sisters- or to the libidos of the penal legion drooling and leching at the women in chains and rags- would bear watching; it was complex and pulsing rapidly, alien? Perhaps. Scratch that, almost certainly.

They had a banner, and a relic; the relic was the bones of a hand- and it was a relatively easy act to disturb it, to slip into the stream of thoughts converging on it, make the fingers fold except the index, for the hand to turn and point. It was a sign from the Emperor, honest.

Conveniently, it pointed towards what was probably the remains of a mass-transit station that served the area of the outhab, only a couple of kilometres away. It would be easy to wander over there afterwards and see what could be usefully done.

The sisters argued among themselves briefly, but seemed to accept it- aided by a little waft of suggestibility in the air; amazing how little protection against that their faith gave them, probably because they didn't rate the mind highly- and jogged and trundled off; just left the penal legion to deal with.


Just as well for the routine functioning of the Imperium-as-it-is that I have no official judicial function beyond what I can con my way into, Ignatius thought; the oppressed and downtrodden would be set free and most of the judiciary and gendarmes would be in jail- which would do terrible things to the economy. Most of this lot don't belong here.

He had mentioned the problem, briefly and without any details whatsoever, to a connection- an Arbites doing long- term undercover work- and got back the comment that it sounded like working homicide in the red light district. After a moment's thought, the Grey Knight had to agree.

Pursuing major crime against a background of omnipresent, all-implicating minor to middling crime, everything around you wrong but someone else's problem, even if they were cocking it up hideously, because you had bigger problems to deal with and had to let the little ones slide, stanch the critical and let others manage the merely chronic. Subsitute daemonic incursion for crime, and yes, that was right.

Or, as someone else-entirely unconnected- had said, why worry first about the shallow end of the cesspool?


It didn't feel like doing enough, not these days. He had been privileged, if that was the term, to see too many heresies from beginning to end, see how they began and grew, see why the peasants revolted; watch the little injuries done to the human spirit on a routine basis by the Imperial system fester and turn into full blown rebellion.

Where the theory fell down, of course, was that he more than anyone outside the grey suit knew how real and ready to take advantage Chaos was. There were damned few honest revolutions, at least not for long without the powers of darkness- of greater darkness, hm- scenting an opportunity and perverting the honourable desire not to be treated as children and animals into something that usually did involve tentacles.

Sooner or later, left on my own long enough, I'll probably lose the plot and try it myself; find a nice planet and start a revolt in the name of the human race as the living Emperor had always wanted it to be, destroy the government and the churches and try to set up some kind of representative democracy.

Except it would come apart within days and I'd be up to my eyeballs in daemons, Ignatius thought; it just wouldn't, people aren't- I'll know I've completely lost touch with reality when I start to seriously believe something like that could be made to work.


A frighteningly high proportion of inquisitors went like that, found trying to stem the tide simply wasn't enough, tried to make a difference, tried to do something radical; they usually ended up trying to use the enemy's weapons against them, and that option had a remarkable history of near total failure.

An Inquisitor losing the plot had a lot to do with why he was out here on his own, in fact; they had drawn straws, somebody had to go back and explain the mess to the Conclave, somebody had to report to the Chapter and somebody had to take charge of the cleanup operation. Mind you, that had been fifty years ago.

Hm. Enough woolgathering. What do do with this penal legion- well, why not the obvious? Best not actually talk to them, though, not in his current mood. How much energy, how much authority to spare- well, could be done relatively economically. Right.


A golden wind to shake the grass, a little flicker of time, a dancing haze in the air and in the mind, and a little retributive righteousness of his own.

That one there, that penal trooper had been a gutter teacher, running a school for orphans and foundlings; the ecclesiarchy had objected to him challenging their monopoly by daring to take care of their rejects.

Knife out, lever off the locking plate, and the mechanism was childishly simple- Ignatius had been disarming bombs like this since before he got his Larraman's organ. Lift the explosive collar free, take the sack, whisper in his ear 'You were unjustly condemned, you are released; go.'

Take the sack and drape it over the regimental commander, lock the explosive collar around his neck. 'For your delight in the misery of your fellow man, for doing the enemy's work, you are condemned.'

Repeat as often as the veil and mist of confusion could stand up under the sudden surges of joy and panic; quite well, actually- he got most of the officers of the regiment, especially the shrivel- souled hatemonger who called himself a chaplain (adding a knee in the balls for good measure), but there was only time to free a handful of those who deserved it.


Move clear, draw the grey curtain- supposedly that was a gift more or less directly from the Emperor, and where that part of the chapter's name came from; the ability to veil one's own presence, be it ever so bright. He had been able to sneak up on virtually everyone, even his own Primarchs. Very useful, for a hunter. Or a vigilante.

Behind Ignatius, mass panic; shouts, screams, prayers, curses, shots, one of the mechanicus overseers pressing the wrong detonate button and exploding one of his colleagues, anarchy.

Soon there would be a small horde of priests descending on the legion in search of what had actually happened, which might mean it wasn't much of a favour after all, but at least he felt slightly cheered up after the black mood the Sisters had left him in.

Collect the guardsmen and lead them to his hide, sort things out from there. If there was any spare time, it might be worth watching the fireworks- the comedy value of high prelates was actually quite substantial if you could temporarily forget that they actually believed most of it. It would be interesting to see how wrong they could manage to be.
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Eleventh Century Remnant
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-04 11:01am 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2006-11-20 07:52am
Posts: 2249
Location: Scotland
Hm, no comment? More anyway.



All three of the guardsmen were keyed up, made twitchy and hyperalert by the shouting, screaming and occasional gunfire in the distance; as far as the man from Titan was concerned, it was just the usual noises of Imperial theology in action.

The Grey Knight led them into the ruined hab, noticing that they all seemed to be at least marginally aware of the deeply unfriendly psychic atmosphere. 'What a horrible place.' The Medicae was the first to say what they were all thinking. 'Why here, why are we not- why isn't this being run out of some shiny headquarters?'

'Good question, with several different answers.' Ignatius said, warning in his tone. 'Start with the idea that the concept of vengeance is well known to the things of the warp, and Headquarters is much safer without me in it.'

Aule hadn't actually expected the marine to hear him; had thought he had been muttering under his breath.'I, we, my lord Astartes, I'm terribly sorry I didn't mean to-'

'Didn't anyone ever tell you that in the field you do not salute officers, because it makes them obvious targets to enemy marksmen? No? And the Guard wonders why it loses so many officers to sniper fire. Don't address me as 'lord', or anything remotely like it, I work for a living.' That joke was probably as old as armies.

'Your former regiment needed a little pomp and circumstance to help it over the shock, but in the field and on the trail I normally abhor anything of the sort- the right angles it makes in your head are as good as voxing your position to those things. No ceremony. You obey me, but you do it without fuss; "right, boss" is good enough.' Ignatius said.


'Brother, what are we?' Bohr, the commissar-cadet, asked. 'Organisation, what arm, where do we stand?'

There were many more and quite irreverent answers possible, but he had been chosen and deserved a little more than that. 'It may have been wiser to hang around long enough to tell your regimental commander and teaching officer what to put on the form.' Ignatius admitted. 'If he has any sense at all, he'll put down that you were detached to assist.'

Hasek, the ranker who give a little more time might well have ended up in a penal legion himself, probably for failure to show proper respect to an officer, hesitated but decided to say what was on his mind anyway. 'I don't get it, assist what? The marines tend to keep themselves as far away from us as possible, I mean you are, aren't you.'

'As opposed to any other nine foot tall power armoured maniac roaming the battlefield?' Ignatius said. 'Yes, but of a rare specialty, so much so that here and now, "we" reduce to "I". I need eyes- and wits, and a decent amount of high explosive- at my back, and you three voulnteered- yes, you did, but in deeds rather than words.

Bohr, what have they taught you so far about the Great Enemy- Hasek, Aule,' useful of me to pick ones with short, easily remembered names, he thought, 'what did they tell you in the regiment about what you were going to be up against?'


'Basically, that there are powerful monsters in the warp, and if you step outside the Emperor's light they can eat you- or worse, steal your sanity and convert you into one of their own. They showed us picts from the Gothic War, from the Sabbat Crusade, from Cadia.' Bohr shuddered, remembering them. And thinking how little resemblance they bore to the frighteningly fast- moving abomination they had faced themselves.

'But those were men. Warped, mutant men, renegades and traitors, they, I knew that-'

'Go on, lad.' Ignatius said. 'I give you permission to think.'

'Our tutor for that course, old Palmes, he was aware of a lot more than he was telling us. He knew, must have known, much, much more than he could or was allowed to pass on, and I think he wanted to tell us but- he'd faced abominations before.' Bohr was obviously thinking ahead, knew the answer to "why didn't they let us know".

'Thinking too much about the great powers of the warp can constitute that step beyond the light.' The Grey Knight confirmed. Although not bothering to add that they were intelligent and predatorial; they could reach in, too. 'It does take a rarely strong soul to face them effectively, and to do so again and again. Even the Schola can't guarantee that- field experience is the best way to prove a man.'


Effectively, again and again- that sounds suicidally dangerous, and there is only one of him; well, thank you very frakking much, Hasek didn't say, but thought very loudly.

Ignatius noticed, of course. 'You would have been happy serving out twenty-five years' undiscovered crime, taking your discharge and spending the rest of your days in a bar somewhere boring everyone silly with heavily- embellished war stories.

At least, you think you would have; until you found yourself being the first to spot the enemy and shoot back, the first to go forward to support your comrades, the first to rise when they call for the charge. I've saved you from a life of heroism.' Ignatius grunted with laughter. 'Your grandfather brought you up with the wisdom of an old soldier, but he left the blood of a bold one in your veins.'

Hasek was the son of the daughter of a pensioned-out Tallarn Raider, and the dried-out, tough old man had indeed been left looking after him far more often than not; had told his grandson perhaps a few too many war stories, but had failed to fix the desert people's fierce and uncompromising faith in him, at least not anywhere near the surface.


Head floundering, Aule asked the only sensible question he could think of. 'What exactly is it we've been saved for? What do we do? You killed that beast, not-'

'Yes, and it was a beast; some of them are far more intelligent, more so than the majority of men. They're not often obliging enough to travel alone. If, when, we come across a chaos- possessed magos and his horde of shrieking cultists, you get to shoot the cultists, basically. Do the mostly-ordinary fighting so I can concentrate on the eldritch.'

'Against things that aren't even supposed to exist, that shouldn't exist, that we're not supposed to know exist.' Aule said.

'But they do. The universe was always a larger, darker, stranger place than the authorities wanted you to know; they lied to you to protect you from it. I don't think you need protecting any more.'

'Would these be the same authorities,' Hasek asked, 'that staked a man out and left him for the beasts to take?'


Bohr looked as if someone had hit him on the back of the head; he realised as Hasek said it that that was exactly what had happened. He had been listening to the Commissar justifying the harshness of Imperial discipline, and- he doubled over, his gorge rose in him and suddenly he felt himself moving through the air, looking down on pavement far below.

'If you're going to lose your lunch, lad, do it over the edge of the tower.' Ignatius said, and held him while he did. It was like being burped again. 'You've just realised how terrifyingly easily the discipline of the lash can be misused to serve the enemy?' The Marine whispered to him. 'Another good reason why we don't work out of headquarters.'

To them all he said 'I won't justify that, because it can't be. I will require you all bear in mind that the authorities lie to themselves, too. They do their best to exist in a state of blessed ignorance, and often they have more success with the ignorance.

I work as far as I can from the ordinary structures of the Imperium, because without they have the strength to understand, telling them the truth would only destroy them. Not that I am not occasionally sorely tempted.' He put the Commissar down.


Picked up a little tingling in the air that said there was trouble on it's way. 'We might need to start sooner than I would have wanted, and not on the great enemy. Xenos- probably Eldar. Undoubtedly come to register an objection about something. Up.

Bohr, you fit? A laspistol's not enough. Take this.'

Normally, marksmanship was not a very high priority for the Chapter, at least not for those who had psychic force to employ instead; Ignatius had been on his own for a while, and had had to adapt. Shooting the nearly-normal ones saved energy for the more important targets, anyway.

His own favoured sidearm was that peculiar richly decorated, long barrelled bolter variant known to the few who had ever seen one as a psycannon; he had taken it from an Inquisitor whose warrant had lapsed- actually been glued to a brick and telekinetically fired down the length of his spinal cord but that was another story.

Apart from that, there was the laser sniper rifle he handed Bohr, and what he did not understand why more snipers did not make use of, a man-portable lascannon with a scope on top that he had actually borrowed, from a live wielder with their consent this time, from the Space Wolves. It made hunting daemon engines so much easier, and he intended to recommend it to the rest of the Chapter if he ever made it home.


What the frak were the psychoplastic ones doing there? Had they sensed an unfavourable change in the probable currents of the future, something he- or the rest of the army, but knowing my luck, Ignatius thought- were about to do?

It really didn't feel that they were about to do anything civilised like offer help. There were complex, swirly patterns of threat in the air, and a gloosh of landscape that suddenly seemed to have too sharp a colour definition- a strike force materialising.

Well, they are at least a psychic enemy, the Grey Knight thought; the union can't object to this one. Where's their attention flowing- southeastward, to the transtube station complex. To the Sisters. Oh, joy. Of all the people to have to turn out in support of.

'I can keep track of you on the field much more easily than you can keep track of me,' he said to his retinue, 'follow as best you can and shoot at anything not-Imperial that you think you can kill. They're two kilometres that way, planning to move and assault that way. Come on.'
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Simon_Jester
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-04 11:28am 

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Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm
Posts: 21355
I do like the effort here to strike the balance between being one of the elite who can really think and knowing perfectly well that the bulk of humanity really can't handle the truth of dealing with the demonic in the post-Heresy era...

That sniper laser- where are you drawing that from, or if you've fabricated it, how effective do you envision it being?
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Vehrec
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-04 07:01pm 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2006-04-22 12:29pm
Posts: 2204
Location: The Ohio State University
I liked the bit about the sisters and the penal legion, but was a bit confused as to what exactly he was doing there-freeing some, imprisioning others, and what was the deal with the sister? Ah well, we'll probably be seeing her soon. For some reason, I've given her the placeholder name 'Cloche', which makes no real sense at all, but I'll use it until something better comes along.

As for the laser-rifle, it sounds like a nasty job as a light lascannon with a complex sight. Of course, shots are probably very limited, but that's the trade off that you need to make for a good anti-demon weapon.
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Lerryn
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-05 08:04am 

Redshirt


Joined: 2010-03-24 09:18pm
Posts: 25
I like the story- are you going with the description of Grey Knights you put out in the Squelch thread? And I do wonder how much about his misson Ignatius isn't telling yet. Also, why he is now gathering followers.

I really like the humor in this - an Astartes being one of the few who can afford to have a sense of humor in the WH40K 'verse.
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Eleventh Century Remnant
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-06 03:31pm 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2006-11-20 07:52am
Posts: 2249
Location: Scotland
This reply comes on view 666, which is actually quite appropriate- this is just pouring out. Apologies in advance for the inconsistent capitalisation, but this is how it got typed.

Oh, and there seems to have been a little misreading, based on a missing 'and'; there are two weapons involved, the standard Guard issue sniper rifle does come in a laser version, and it was one of those that was handed to Bohr because his laspistol doesn't look like it's going to be up to it.

The Astartes-issue man portable lascannon Brother Ignatius needs the use of himself, and how.


Even the Eldar, theoretically a psychic race, couldn't see a Grey Knight coming, not at anything really like distance. Not unless he had given them cause to expect him and they were specifically on the lookout, then they might manage it.

Normally, though, he could ghost up to them- not as close as to ordinary humans, true, but avoid actually alerting their suspicions until he was close enough to do...all sorts of things I can't actually afford, Ignatius realised grimly.

Anything like full blown mind war would send up so much psychic turbulence I might as well hang out the old "Come and Eat Me" sign, he thought- not entirely joking; it had sometimes been useful to make noises in the warp like a frightened emergent psyker.

There were always daemons greedy or stupid enough to fall for it, and while baiting like that was looked down on by some as an easy way to a cheap kill, it was also a good way to trap a minor daemon and flense it, strip all its' experiences and knowledge from it before ritually rending it and casting its' shreds on the winds and tides of the Warp.

More was collected about the enemy, more of the actual natures and vulnerabilities of the larger, more important targets, the greater daemons and daemon princes, than any other way- he supposed it was not that different from a mortal sting operation.

Except that sometimes the Arbites' flesh and blood targets' own instincts warned them, sometimes they were wise to it, and suspicious of the stinger- it was seldom that way among lesser daemons, prisoners of their own unearthly needs, trapped by their own natures.


Although it was always a good idea to be suspicious of the Eldar. The idea of one of the older race deliberately appearing to be unsubtle was almost comical, but they could and did sometimes- did they have their own "totally legitimate easy prey here, honest" sign out?

If they did, they were doing it so subtly, they couldn't be meaning to use it to attract very much...it was painfully difficult to be truly passive in the warp; possibly suicidal, too, but there were always lines of contact established, currents set up, chains of sympathy and contagion.

The easiest way to describe it to a non-psyker, and there were very few of those he had ever had to, was as if there was no sense but touch. To truly get the measure of something, it was necessary to interact with it, to pick it up and heft it, run your fingers over it, turn it around, feel the shape. Simply watching was very hard to do.

Probing with active vision sufficiently gracefully that the subject did not realise, that it remained below their threshold of awareness, did come within the order of the possible. How far within, how much time and effort it took, depended greatly on the relative subtleties of prober and probee.

Ignatius was good, exceptional for a human; his squadmates, once such an enormous amount of trouble ago, had enviously jested that he must be part- Navigator for his ability to see the currents of the warp- and the Eldar were, when all was said and done, looking the other way.


Even if they weren't expecting him, though, they had done a good job of being ready to meet him; it was a frighteningly psi- heavy force they had sent. Farseer and his bodyguard appeared to be the overall commander, the threads lead outwards from him. Bodyguard were Warp Spiders. Well, that was just insane.

Warlock and, no, High Warlock and half a dozen not so high others making a coven, and they seemed to be the animating force behind the veil that had let a hundred odd Eldar materialise in the middle of a full five hundred regiment Guard Army without attracting attention.

Doubly unfortunate, they had brought their friends; a troupe, no two, of Harlequins, with a Warlock of their own. And, botheringly, a Solitaire. Whatever they were here for, it really was important enough to them to send their very best.

The rest, some tanks, some aliens with guns, bah, details.

Four heavy hitters, serious warrior- psykers, half a dozen minor ones and quite a lot of their theoretically rank and file touched by some kind of warp influence. Not necessarily outclassed, Ignatius thought and wondered who he was kidding- against one, yes. Against so many, with so much to spare, the best road to victory was definitely not the most direct.

Therefore, change the rules a little. I knew there was a reason to bring this lascannon, he thought. At a shade under two kilometres now, he was well within the operative field.


Target Primaris was the one that would open up the battle the most- the high warlock. Repeat the ancient sniper's mantra; see without being seen, so that you can kill without being killed. At that moment, it practically was a prayer.

Confine, confine, let no radiance emerge, leave no touch, be not seen- but at the speed of thought bless the lasbolt as it formed in the chamber; a trick that would only have occurred to someone who had spent years around such a technosorcerous phantasm as their battle barge's psychic cannon.

Form the bolt as it streamed forth, telekinetically- photokinetically?- press a shape into it, a message, a runeform- bless and bind into the bolt itself a carried thaumaturgical strike of wardbreaking and unbinding.

The same could be done with bolter shells and jeweller's tools, writing tiny little runic damnations and execrations on the head of the bolt; to do so in light seemed more appropriate to the Grey Knight, even if the mind was never meant to operate at such speeds and it made his head hurt terribly.

Billions of fighting men across the Imperium, probably tens of thousands at this very moment, prayed or were praying for something of the sort- very few could help themselves to the extent of making it come true. One of the Emperor's Own could.

It was a worthwhile use of energy, although the farseer probably sensed him, because the power did it's work- and it hit exactly where it had been intended to, the head of the high warlock's staff.


The staff exploded, the veil exploded, the high warlock convulsed- Ignatius had tried that trick years ago against a potent Weirdboy, and the ork's head exploding had done vastly more damage than anything short of a bombardment cannon round.

Eldar, unfortunately, were much more self contained. It was more of an implosion, as the runes woven into the high warlock's robes and armour started to flare off energy sun- bright, and the eldar psyker fell, kicking and thrashing as if undergoing a seizure- more or less true, and the screaming in the warp of a mind tormented by overload and backlash drew attention in the immaterium as the blazing runes did in the materium.

Even a subtlety-free zone such as the Sisters should notice that. Their advantage of invisibility gone, the xenos- most of whom were attuned enough to see that and suffer from it, but there was an interestingly large proportion of hardened hearts not visibly affected by the psychic scream; most of them wasted little time, surged forwards.

What was so important to them that, even after that for an opening move, they would press the attack? Was one of the Sisters due to become a Living Saint or somesuch? If that is the case, Ignatius thought, I might have been better off leaving them to it... no, that was just the headache talking.

Just to confirm it, the relic that had pointed the way- frak, Ignatius thought, it pointed them to a pretty defensible position at that, the Emperor really does work in mysterious ways; there would be many of them near the hand, wondering what it had meant. He made it move again, give the standard tactical signals for enemy, many, there. If nothing else got through to them, that should.


Time to think self preservation; the Farseer must have a fairly good idea of where he was, and the problem with not being seen while firing a laser cannon that left searing violet streaks all over the landscape was obvious. Who was looking to him?

There were four Dark Reapers, they had the firepower to reach him and they were faster-reacting than the tanks; one of them was glowing, twitching and seemed to be bouncing slightly, but the other three were each covering a section of the land in his general direction and trying to see him. Which one was clearest and fastest thinking, closest to being right- that one. Very well, then.

The Eldar had a marvellous technology for their missile launchers; they could get an impressively large bang in a very small round, so they carried pods of thirty or so that fitted on to the end of an accelerator tube, the tube generated the force, clever gates in the pod directed the impulse to the individual round the firer had selected. Much faster firing and more versatile than the human version.

Unfortunately it meant that they had a lot of things each of which could detonate, and they carried them in a state best described as bunched up and sticking out. Ideal for a very good shot with a lascannon.

Ignatius wouldn't describe himself as a brilliant shot- but the standards he was judging himself by were very high indeed. The bolt slammed into the business end of the reaper launcher, and the mix of frag, krak, plasma and melta rounds detonated quite impressively.

Now was a good moment to find a hill to hide behind. They undoubtedly had a sense of a hostile presence, and something to go on, and did they not have to honour the threat and send someone after him?


Essentially in the middle of the Imperial Guard, surely someone in all those five hundred regiments remembered to bring a Basilisk? Should be a stonk any moment, come on lads, extricate digitatii. The eldar should have no time, the Astartes didn't want to risk another open attack, but only let him see the blade, which way it was moving- against this, sooner parry and riposte.

Apparently not. There was a ripple in the immaterium, lapping quickly outwards and diffracting around invisible meanings, with a strangely flat place; the Farseer, ruthlessly quashing his own grief and reaching out to find this cannon-wielding madman.

Wasn't expecting subtlety. To be fair, most human psykers were not very subtle. Right, stop playing with toys and get back to your proper job, set some kind of warp trap; what?

Dammit, the farseer's operationally right; I don't have time to be subtle, the best I can come up with is a kind of a cartoon of a personality, a fake mind for him to probe with enough sharp corners and repulsive bits to get a gut reaction, even if it is revulsion, that I can ride on the feedback of into his head and turn the tables.

Quinsigamond Penvortigan Rhinoceroptis, notorious fish fetishist, champion moopsball pi-back in his squandered youth, rouge (and occasionally chartreuse) trader, and grossly overpaid remittance man of the Spectron 33 nebula; hopelessly infatuated with the shining purity of one of the sisters, and planning to be heroic in her general direction until the rest give up and agree to pay for his sex change and let him join.


Right, let's see if there are enough barbs in that grotesque mockery of a human to draw blood...hellfire, it worked. It was the fish that he objected to? Ew. And no, mate, you're wrong, those came from Earth; the Eldar did not invent the trout.

And worst of all, the cartoon was really a caricature, actually based on a real and thoroughly disgusting being, albeit one who no longer existed in this reality having been found eccentric enough to be worth the notice of the Inquisition- and he had done good service to Humanity at last, although from beyond the grave.

Did they really think so little of humans that for that vital half-second, the farseer actually took this farce, this gargoyle seriously and accepted it at face value? Evidently, and longer than that. And he engaged with it, if only to abominate it. As a species they really do deserve to have "poor impulse control" engraved on their tombstone.

Right in at the gut level. There is a great deal more in this being's head about the piscine than I ever needed to know, his lifepath loops back to them again and again in between bouts of psychic violence; perfectly accepting of trans-sexuality, familial decadence and sharp trade practise, (still two to one against), but hurt as much as a single guppy-

speaking of Eldar priorities, stop woolgathering and find out what they're here for, yes? Hm. Oh. It was necessary to give that to them at least, they were stunningly good at building castles in the air.


There was indeed a plan; it made so little sense that Ignatius was sure he was touching on all the contingencies and branches of it, and it would take more deep thought than he had time to spare to unravel it all.

It was a trap aimed at stealing the hand, the one the Grey Knight had been playing with, and using it as bait to draw the survivors and the rest of the Order, and as much else of the Sororitas as they could get, on a long complicated wild goose chase that would ultimately leave them far out of position, in a place that would leave a gap for a roving Chaos warband to strike at the Imperium, instead of the Eldar.

That would also weaken the sisters here and cause the siege to take longer, give Chaos more opportunity for reinforcement of their own, turn into a major sore requiring an extended campaign, tying down Imperium forces- and leaving the pointy eared ones a freer hand at the edge of the sector.

We may have a lot to learn from the Eldar about the details and technicalities of warpcraft, Ignatius thought disgustedly, but never anything at all on the subject of integrity and comradeship. Flawed as we are.

Mind you, if it came even close to playing out the way the farseer wished, the Grey Knight would eat a sororitas, armour and all. It depended far too much on far too many separate factors that could each go wrong far too easily- one of them being a stray daemonhunter sticking his oar in.

Of course this could have been a well prepared double bluff, but the angst over the poor dolphins was too genuine; and while the human race had enough of itself that it could afford that, there were too few top-flight Eldar psykers to let them wander around with burdensome fake pasts in their heads- and it didn't feel like the sort of invention an eldar would come up with on the spur of the moment, anyway.


Cut both ways, though; the farseer realised that most of the underpinnings of the mind he was trying to probe- the autonomic systems like how to breathe- were not there and that he had been had. He slammed down his own shields as opposed to making a mind war of it, but Ignatius didn't need contact to tell that the farseer would be pointing troops in this direction.

Look at the ground and the plants- such hardies as were left- and the wind, look at the terrain, do it at one remove- prevent them seeing him watching and waiting. Very lightly and very faintly, but there; bugger, he'd sent the Harlequins. Considering the mass of flamethrowers the Sisters could have met them with, detaching the lightly armoured close combat troops was wise from their point of view, he supposed.

Minds? Perhaps the Warlock- no, the harlequins' warlock had taken over the masking and misdirection operation. They had sent the Solitaire instead. They may have been thinking that what was out here was an Inquisitorial warband.

I specialise, Ignatius thought, in relatively small numbers of huge, tough, terrifying, tricky and quite often stunningly obvious creatures; two troupes of Harlequins are almost exactly the opposite, apart from being tricky. This is what I need conventional backup for, and I have three men. Should have brought the entire bloody regiment.

Perhaps there's something to this farsight lark after all, and I should worry more about it instead of focusing on the deep now. This was not on today's 'to do' list, after all. Although perhaps not at this precise moment.


Speaking of which, the Solitaire can afford to fight a battle without a tomorrow, can spend everything and has to hold nothing back; is there a way of getting a quick, cheap kill and stopping it coming to that? Maybe...not on him though, but might whittle down the numbers a bit.

On that one there, then, that Harlequin passing the rocky outcrop; hex him, corrupt his machine spirits- or the eldar equivalent, which was why it wouldn't have worked on a warlock. Psychoplastics and wraithbone fought back, drew on the strength of the mind they were attached to- would invite a full mental duel if tried on their leader.

On one of the troupe, though, it could be done, was feasible to force through. The harlequin's grav belt malfunctioned, pulling him sideways at many times the force of gravity- into the outcrop; breaking every bone from the waist down.

The leader of the troupe paused- had caught the flicker of force; stood for a sensing moment, posing like the artiste she was, with the brathau- angau held- vertically, next to her head.

Flicker the jinx across, and the casing of the Harlequin's Kiss popped open, and the top fell off the coiled spool of monowire. Instant Eldar sushi. Or was it more like sashimi? Ignatius could never keep those two apart.


The Solitaire had enough of a target to go on now; the grey knight felt the psychic force start to rise around him, and thought through his list of defensive options- active counter, defensive aura, built in hexagrammic and pentagrammic wards (as well as quadragrammic and septagrammic- you never knew what was out there), refractor field, physical armour, brute willpower, feet- and opted for the latter.

He bolted for it, as the Eldar spent too long refining his spell and making it more gracious and deadly; bloody craftworlders, he thought glancing over his shoulder, they get to choose their fights most of the time, so they usually have everything to spare.

Mind you, solitaire or not he must be from Biel-Tan originally; that was the most literal sword-wind I've seen in a long time, Ignatius thought. A shower of flickering glints like the light on the edge of a blade moving too fast for the eye to focus on, lashing into and shredding the hill he had been hiding behind.

Gouts of chem-stained earth and dying weeds flew into the air; the blasted zone was large, and the power of it- fragments more solid started to fly, the kinetic hail of ghost-blades reached and savaged bedrock.

Right, so either he's guessing Terminator Librarian or he's just trying to be sure, that was a tank-breaker; no, the scent was there of more than that, this was definite and terminal vengeance he's after. Can I get him to overextend, try too hard? Unlikely, the cold anger is too strong in him, he won't let his rage override his actual talent-

which is remarkably unusual for Eldar, and probably the main reason he's a Solitaire rather than anything less astounding. Should have expected exceptionality from the exceptions.


There was a useful hill there, the ground was dotted with them, low rises and falls; would be a good observation/firing position, but there was a mind's eye lingering on it- a shade too obvious then. The obvious thing to do was to leave some kind of eyebite, but what? If the obvious option was out, then-

grief might be a better angle than rage. The solitaire must be already suppressing some of that, so not individual, needed a broader canvas than that- but what would be fundamental enough to cause a Solitaire, whose part in the endless dance was to play the villain, to lose his sangfroid and control of his defences?

Ignatius knew something of the Eldar's vanished gods, scarcely enough; but the basic trick of suggestion, of letting the target see what they wanted to see and thus fill in the details for themselves, may work- may suit a solitaire rather well in fact.

So set the hill a-twinkling with the ghostly memories of a vanished age when the race was a whole and wonderful thing and their deities were alive and lived in them, with the footprints of vanished lords of light whose names he barely knew.

It was easy for him to do, because it so closely resembled his own dreams, of that brief moment after the great liberation of the Crusade but before it all turned sour in the Heresy, so that he had to be careful to merely let the eldar use it as a mirror, and not allow too much humanity to filter in-

and from a simple epsilon-class twisting of light and temperament, such a small impulse, a trans- alpha class result.


The sentinel at the gates of damnation- for such seemed to be a better translation than solitaire- practically fissioned; the darkness- the victory of the great chaos power Slaanesh- he had to embody reached out in hunger, seeking innocence to savage. The light, that he stood with his back to and shielded with his soul from the radiance of the dark, cried in loss and yearning.

The divided, tormented being utterly lost control of his defences as he lashed out in rage and grief, dimly realising that it must be an illusion and determined to annihilate the trickster; Ignatius had his shot- but first he had to survive the mighty blow the sentinel lashed out with.

There was a brief flicker of cunning as the solitaire-sentinel glanced at and passed by the option of drawing the weaver into the illusion, mastering it and turning it against him, which had been what Ignatius was expecting him to do; passed it by on the way to the simpler choice of unleashing hell.

flowers and flickers and rings of coloured light swirled through the sky and started to converge; unable to follow the traces back into the grey veil, if the last bolt had been a tank- killing stroke, this one would have been calculated to engulf a Warlord Titan. The vortex of annihilating light was massive, savage overkill.

How to survive it? Avoid being at ground zero; a dart and roll away, half a second before the spreading flower of light reached him- enough to raise the cannon, feel the runes and the wards and the psychic hood start to glow; defences start to stiffen under the pressure;

to temporarily shed the veil, look the shock-spirited solitaire in the eyes, link to him, 'You have no power, over a man whose gods are not dead.' The blast from the blessed lascannon took the defenceless solitaire full in the heart.
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Simon_Jester
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-06 04:05pm 

Emperor's Hand


Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm
Posts: 21355
Eleventh Century Remnant wrote:
This reply comes on view 666, which is actually quite appropriate- this is just pouring out. Apologies in advance for the inconsistent capitalisation, but this is how it got typed.

Oh, and there seems to have been a little misreading, based on a missing 'and'; there are two weapons involved, the standard Guard issue sniper rifle does come in a laser version, and it was one of those that was handed to Bohr because his laspistol doesn't look like it's going to be up to it.
Ah. So, essentially the same sort of weapon as the "long las" sniper rifles favored by the sniper units in Gaunt's Ghosts?

Quote:
Did they really think so little of humans that for that vital half-second, the farseer actually took this farce, this gargoyle seriously and accepted it at face value? Evidently, and longer than that. And he engaged with it, if only to abominate it. As a species they really do deserve to have "poor impulse control" engraved on their tombstone...

We may have a lot to learn from the Eldar about the details and technicalities of warpcraft, Ignatius thought disgustedly, but never anything at all on the subject of integrity and comradeship. Flawed as we are.

Mind you, if it came even close to playing out the way the farseer wished, the Grey Knight would eat a sororitas, armour and all. It depended far too much on far too many separate factors that could each go wrong far too easily- one of them being a stray daemonhunter sticking his oar in.
I like this too- it does seem to sum up a lot of their problems: impulsively destroying their empire by creating the God of Squick, then persistently, repeatedly giving in to the impulse to ignore and mock, rather than steer and support, a younger empire that still has the resources to conceivably do anything about the problem.

Quote:
The Solitaire had enough of a target to go on now; the grey knight felt the psychic force start to rise around him, and thought through his list of defensive options- active counter, defensive aura, built in hexagrammic and pentagrammic wards (as well as quadragrammic and septagrammic- you never knew what was out there), refractor field, physical armour, brute willpower, feet- and opted for the latter.
I like this guy, he's got perspective.

Quote:
...to temporarily shed the veil, look the shock-spirited solitaire in the eyes, link to him, 'You have no power, over a man whose gods are not dead.' The blast from the blessed lascannon took the defenceless solitaire full in the heart.
Bravo!
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Lerryn
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-06 05:25pm 

Redshirt


Joined: 2010-03-24 09:18pm
Posts: 25
I love the trick of blessing a lascannon bolt. That is truly awesome. And the mind war was excellently done.
Also, "rouge (and occasionally chartreuse) trader"(italics mine) - I bow to your skill at mocking inferior writers and one of the more annoying persistent typos.
Also, Moar! Yay!
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Simon_Jester
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-06 05:39pm 

Emperor's Hand


Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm
Posts: 21355
I too am glad to see this flowing, though I hope it doesn't entirely choke out the Hull 721 storylines; that would be a pity.
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Andras
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-06 11:12pm 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2002-07-08 10:27am
Posts: 545
Location: Waldorf, MD
ECR- Missed the first couple chapters posted but have caught up now. Good story so far. Do you see the GK as being a full Librarian, or a psykically 'adept' Brother? All the GKs have some minor psychic ability, but he seems to be pretty good at it.

Last line reminds me of a game under the 2e rules, a Solitare took a lascannon shot, but the player only rolled a 2 for damage and the Solly had 3 wounds.

I also had a 2e Dark Reaper Exarch shoot an Ork twice with a Krak missile and fail to wound each time, the Ork killed him with a Knife :(
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Eleventh Century Remnant
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-07 07:10am 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2006-11-20 07:52am
Posts: 2249
Location: Scotland
The fluff has fluctuated on this one over the years; as I recall from their first appearance in White Dwarf (passed around in photocopy, before PDFs existed), they were originally supposed to be all psychic, but the current fluff has them chosen from the ranks of the absolutely and totally not a little bit psychic at all, and what powers they do have come in with the geneseed- which has also been something that has changed over the fluff.

The version I prefer comes from somewhere in the middle, where they are basically chosen from those brought in by the Black Ships who test out as pure, and further as genetically suitable for augmentation into a Marine. I'm also going with the take on it that the very first Grey Knights were those individuals from the ranks of the Traitor Legions who did not turn against the Emperor, remaining loyal when their brothers fell; but that since those days, the seed has tended to come from...another source.

Brother Ignatius is basically a Grey Knight Terminator from the very, very old version of the lists, although currently in a handed down set of archaic Mk IV (Armorum Ultimum) rather than the full suit, easier to maintain in the field on a long chasing deployment- and with a touch of Movie Marine about him.


Simon, partly this started as a diversion; Squelch has not had anything posted to it for too long, because the manuscript version (I handwrite and then type up) of Caiaphas' side of the boarding action was written in too many short bits in too many separate places, times and moods, and getting it all to link up and flow together has been- well, it just isn't clicking. The plan is to outmanoeuvre the problem by chasing other plotlines and then double back to it, there is something on paper and I can't promise tomorrow, but before too much longer I think.
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Eleventh Century Remnant
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-08 12:08pm 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2006-11-20 07:52am
Posts: 2249
Location: Scotland
Next section; bloody hell, this is coming fast.


The Eldar Host basically fought at medium range and rapidly closing, with torrents of fire pushing forward into shock action; so, essentially, did the Sisters of Battle. They were a good match for each other.

The Eldar had actually been looking forward to it, to match and overmatch with superior skill and craft the lumpen-human, but they had just spectacularly failed to inhibit the Sisters' ability to call on their friends, and drawn or had drawn massive amounts of attention to themselves in the process.

Explosive attention. Somebody in all those five hundred regiments- in fact, about fifty of the regiments- had indeed remembered to bring a Basilisk. Not all were tasked, despite the massive blaze of light of the psi-strike- now fading away rapidly, a little had backlashed through the Solitaire and killed the two Harlequins he had had as close protection detail, leaving their corpses burning with a black flame.

Ignatius was quite happy they chose not to actually use the storm of light as an aim-point, because he would have been under it. Caught in the fringes of the strike itself, nailed the Solitaire before it could build to lethal intensity- but damnation, it had been close. Wards and defensive aura still jangling, singing with the impact. He suspected he was quite obvious, now.


Scan up ahead, the shells were starting to fall; 'Basilisk' covered a world of variety- there were Munitorum specifications, and most decent forge worlds followed them, but for a deployment like this the Guard took whatever they could get.

The shells falling around the Eldar were anywhere from five to a hundred kilos, filled with everything from dubiously blessed water (ah, the obviously touching ignorance of that regimental commander- must have a word with him later)- through cornflour (someone on the take again), various lesser sorry-but-it's-all-we-could manage low explosives, to standard fyceline, to half-remembered possibilities from the Dark Age.

There was one regiment that was firing shells that seemed to be filled with explosive gas; they would land, there would be half a second, and then a wide and brilliant burst and a ring of fire- Ignatius could practically hear some of the younger sisters looking at them and thinking 'Oooh. Could we?'

Did they have the sense and the self-control not to charge out into the hard rain themselves and try to come to grips with the Eldar, but to wait in their positions? Looking at them in mind's eyes...no. Frak.

Urgent signal via the Hand, then; standard tactical code, derived from the- well, derived from the past actually, which is why it was standard; from the Emperor's armies as he unified Earth, although they had borrowed it from older sources yet. Hold position, give fire. Adding a personal touch, because Ignatius knew they would chafe at the bit; I know it's not easy. Shut up and do as you're told.


The surge of love and loyalty they felt to it was an embarrassment; stopping them wandering to heresy through overdevotion to a mere artifact afterwards might be a...someone else's problem. It had only been this afternoon he had been planning to get them all killed, and now here I am trying to save them, not least from themselves, Ignatius thought.

Mind you, whatever Inquisitor gets landed with probing the matter is probably going to wet themselves laughing, assuming they can manage to figure it out...and it looks as if the farseer actually has. Mind's moving this way anyway.

Have to stop him before it gets to that; he's expecting the cannon shot- warding and shielding himself against it, expects to reach out and engage in mind to mind duel. Should win, might not. Of course he's also trying to kill me with infantry at the same time- two can manage that. Right, plan. He's got bodyguards. He's also got tanks, and that Fire Prism is far too close to him.

The streak of violet light was preceded as it had to be by a brief shaping surge of power, a thin but ballistically significant ward, a gradient in the curve of events- most of the blast and shrapnel was meant to be directed in the way of the Farseer, catch him from an unexpected direction and shred him.

Strike, on the thing's thinner rear armour yet; missed the weapon power- got the fusion bottle. The Eldar mobile gun blasted itself apart, but the Farseer had been quick enough to see the fields form, see the twitch of fate that could have taken him and be elsewhere. Missed- although the gun crew probably don't think so.


Hm, most of what the farseer's doing is looking up; predicting the fall of shot and guiding his people out of the way. Trying to invite the Sisters into the beaten zone, too. I can see a possible move- slippery and likely to fail, but at least they're coming over in battery groups now, makes it easier to keep track of.

Where's the mind I need, thank you ground for being so undulatory and giving lots of little rises and dips to see from the peaks of and hide in the valleys. Although both terms might be too generous, scarcely more than one or two men high. Back side of a hill then and, there was Fire Direction, part of the headquarters that- break in or do so openly?

Telepathically mimicking a voice of the other sex was a damned sight harder than mimicking physically, but again the basic technique of misdirection served; nearest sanctioned psyker, pour into him a rich, commanding contralto,

'Relay this; thank you for your assistance, but these are ours to take now, you may cease bombardment. Commend the batteries responsible for their fire and water. All we do is in the Emperor's name. Sororitas command out.'


There were two crackles of laser fire nearby, and two screams in the warp; well done, lads, Ignatius thought. They got the tactics right. Find a vantage point, find a blur, ignore the admonition about only shooting at things they think they could take, and hose it, trying to get a bolt through the ever-shifting colour screen and into the Eldar flesh within.

They were too far away from the dancer to be mesmerised or taken in by the equally-shifting aura of confusion the Eldar projected; the troupers really were close- quarter troops, anything like a normal infantry fight hopelessly disadvantaged them.

The guardsmen dropped one, and then Hasek guessed that the other would change course towards them, shifted to wait, let the Eldar run into an open pass between small rises at least two hundred metres from them trying to flank their hill- but they had already moved to cover the pass. Space and time were the enemy for the Eldar, which were pretty fundamental enemies to make when you thought about it. They got her too.

Out of immediate danger and observation then, enough time to repair the tattered veil a little and sling the lascannon- thanking it for it's service as he did- and go in with psycannon and halberd at the ready. The farseer still had track of him, but none of the rest of the host did, and the time he would waste pointing the human magos out- he actually thinks that, the cheeky bastard- was time the Grey Knight could use.

Shooting had begun, the Eldar had mostly gone to ground too to avoid the artillery blasts; jog forward, close the distance a little, and wait for the last salvo, set up a telekinetic curve, saddle-shaped, in the air; artillery command had believed it- the eldar had set enough static jamming the vox links to be believable that such an odd route for a message would be chosen- and the last salvo was on it's way.


He would have some very rude words to say to them about operational security later, too. For the meantime, the incoming shells- couldn't do this reactively, not that good, not that fast. Already trying to do another thing at the same time anyway. Those, from that segment of sky- the sparkle was right. Direct them down and forward, skid them off the kinetic wall- towards the Sisters.

At the same time, the hand gave the signal, the one they were waiting for; rise and strike. As the last blast pattern fell around them, the Sisters were already moving forward to drive the Eldar out of where they had gone to ground- and a twelve round volley landed right in the line of them.

They were the shells from the primitive-world regiment, filled with crudely but earnestly blessed water, of course.

Ignatius had one dreadful moment of doubt in the last splinter of time- frak, I've just basically pulled the same stunt twice, if the Farseer was thinking about it, if he had the quickness of wit to see it form and direct a veil of mock blessedness over the shells, if those are the fire in air ones-

but the splash that came out of them was liquid, not gas. Thank you, Grandfather, the Grey Knight thought. And I'm sorry. One of my highest hopes and ambitions was to be able to put my strength to serve You and leave You unburdened and able to protect others in need, not to require Your blessing, at least not this often.


Hold on a minute, his common sense caught him up. That mockery of a prayer doesn't just border on hubris, it practically came in on an immigrant's visa, opened a shop, decided it liked it, brought it's family across, made a reputation in commerce and is standing for election as a councillor.

Perhaps it would do me good to swallow my dislike and spend some time talking to the sisters, after all. At least now it looks like there actually will be some of them left to talk to.

Being caught in splashes of blessedness had inspired them, if more inspiration was what they needed; hurling themselves forward, stopping for a second to shoot, charging again- closing in and closing down the Eldar who were starting to rise and give fire back.

The Seraphim and Swooping Hawks were fighting a strange aerial duel, one of the Immolators was blazing high having been raked by a Falcon grav tank that the Retributors were racing to get under the flight path of, multi-meltas already pointing into the sky; a squad of ordinary Sisters were suppressing a shielded cluster of Dire Avengers for the fire-spitting Dominions to close on and take-

the psychic balance of the fight, the courage and devotion and belief in their cause, was all with the Sisters now, between holy relics and holy water, Ignatius knew it and he could see the Farseer knew it too. The Eldar psyker- warleader had missed a beat of the battle trying to gauge the best future they had left to them.


Ignatius concentrated on the segment of the fight of most relevant interest to him; there, and it was about to be a clash of blades- a group of nine Banshees led by an Exarch, flashing powerswords sprinting forwards, more than that- fourteen and their mistress- of penitent sisters, chainsaws waiting. Waiting? Mercifully unlike the repentia.

Their chastener is doing an iron job of holding them back, most unusual; perhaps I was wrong about where the spark lay, the Grey Knight thought- and then the mistress leapt forward, as if challenging the Exarch to single combat.

Under the circumstances bound to be declined- and then if there was such a thing as elegant whip- work, this was it; the mistress' neural stinger whiplashed out, catching the overbold Exarch perfectly around the throat, the human pulled with the strength of power armour, the eldar tried to wriggle free- the Mistress Repentia pulled her in, the Exarch twisted and slashed to split the human in half with her paired powerswords-

One, but only one, bit, and before the Exarch could twist the blade in the wound and turn the wound to a lethal gash she was there, touching, the Exarch pulled round by the force of the whip to face her sisters- and the Mistress thumbed the other neural whip to full and flickered it up the length of the Exarch's spine. She screamed a banshee's howl, all right- all the greater for her failure.

The blast of the technomagic- amplified scream paralysed her own command, and the sisters penitent needed no further encouragement- charged forward into the baffled, angry, agonised Banshees.

One of them did pause by her mistress, to take the Exarch's head- with a stroke of surprising delicacy- and help her wounded lady to regain her balance, before sprinting forward to join her sisters; as the mistress herself did a heartbeat later. Ignatius, watching them move in the immaterium also, thought, well, I was right about the spark- there just happens to be more than one.


There were a few things left to do; the harlequins' own warlock had recognised the utter unfeasibility of restoring the veil- the sisters, guided by their relic, had refused to fall for it anyway- and was calling the surviving troupers to her, intending to make a fighting withdrawal to the webway gate. Pain and wrath laced through her call; how few answered.

One was close to his three, too close- Ignatius urgently sent the harlequin's location to them, the warlock sent a counterwarning but too late; the three laced the trouper with las- fire, hitting him in the gut; the Grey Knight decided to do a dirty thing- amplify the pain through the telepathic link, pour power into it until it agonised, paralysed, deprived of clarity, deprived of sanity.

He knew why they were here, but no-one else in the rest of the Imperium did; it would be good to leave a prisoner or two for the Ordo Xenos. And perhaps he had been inspired a little by the lass with the whips.

The Warlock realised what he was about; realised, for the first time for anyone on her side, exactly what he was. Guessed that, sooner or later, he would taunt her, drive her into succumbing to the suffering and becoming ward of the Inquisition, with the thought of how her ancestors would have taken to this- a thought she could not stand.

Turned to the nearest other Eldar- a fire team of Avengers- took her helmet off, said 'Carry me back to the waygate,' took one of the hallucinogenic grenades all the Harlequins carried, and detonated it in her hand, under her nose and mouth.

I wouldn't have sunk so low, Ignatius thought. She's wrong about that. It would have crossed my mind, but I would have considered the option, and rejected it. Mind you, what I was about to do was equivalent to torture anyway, so perhaps she had cause to believe otherwise.

At that dosage she'll be lucky to keep her sanity, but perhaps better than falling to the ordo xenos at that. Likely have nightmares of this the rest of her days. Just punishment for spending her talent in a foul cause? Perhaps.


Their surviving tanks- minus the Falcon that the Retributors had left scattered over the landscape- were too important to them now, those who could fit in the inside were fitting in and those who could hang on to the outside were praying to what gods they had left to strengthen their hold; they had made the decision to retreat.

The Farseer could find room, but his bodyguard, bounce troops- Warp Spiders- could make their own way. And he had directed them for vengeance, anyway- it had never been passed on to him, the harlequins' warlock had not communicated that, hadn't had time.

He had sent them to hunt a daemonhunter. Troops that bounced through the warp- in what to Ignatius looked more like a sacrifice than a sensible military act, jetpacks did not risk the devouring of your immortal soul after all; no, they existed largely in order to dance with death, to take that risk, that their species should retain such people within it.

The problem with doing it that way was that they tended to retain rather fewer such people. Normal mischance aside, they were up against someone who specialised in slamming shut the doors of the warp.

It was actually trivially easy; he was more worried about the special effects. Place a ward right...there, and sign and seal it with, of course, the symbol of the fleur de lys in brilliant, even sacred, fire. That should be their last touch back into the real before they try to surround me.

He hadn't been doing this for the best part of three centuries for nothing. Spot on; and the Warp Spiders crashed into the ward from the other side, found themselves unable to reenter the materium. Howled in horror and fury, although they must have known that would only make their doom come the faster.


No, have to give them a chance, Ignatius thought. I eliminate the damned, not make them- 'Leave your weapons behind and vow by-' he dredged a name up from xenothaumaturgical studies class- 'Asuryan that you mean no harm, and you may come through.'

They considered it for a moment they did not have to spare, Ignatius could feel it going terribly wrong; the Exarch led off by half a thought and the others followed in chorus, 'And let you know as we do? To protect our people- we embrace damnation.'

'Too many of your people have already said that, you bloody stiff necked idiots!' Ignatius screamed after them, but there was nothing left to offer a path to. Then brightened up a little; if they had been stupid enough to die horribly rather than yield to what, even if seriously flawed, still approximated the side of light, how saveable, how worthy of being saved, had they been?

More than that like of thought would lead me to like to think, he knew. Still enormously stupid, though. Speaking of stiff-necked, time to go down and meet with the sisters. If anything can quickly restore a shaken soul, it's a good look at the alternative.
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Purple
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-08 04:18pm 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2010-04-20 08:31am
Posts: 2353
Location: In a purple cube orbiting this planet. Hijacking satellites for an internet connection.
This is brilliant, that is all I have to say, simply brilliant.
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InsaneTD
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-09 08:33am 

Padawan Learner


Joined: 2010-07-13 12:10am
Posts: 335
Location: South Australia
I guess this means we won't be getting that update to Squelch today? :P

This is a really interesting story and I look forward to reading more. I really like you're take on the Grey Knight.
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Eleventh Century Remnant
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-11 06:46am 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2006-11-20 07:52am
Posts: 2249
Location: Scotland
Thank you, everyone, for all the positive comments- this really is flowing fast, and with luck I should be able to springboard off it and have a bit of Squelch up tonight or tomorrow morning. This segment's mainly backstory, but- well, see what you think.



Titan, and beneath;

the little moon had long since been burrowed into, plated over, exploited- the hydrocarbon stews and methane skies were far too valuable to ignore, in the long millennia of technological man.

Unrecognisable to it's discoverers now, a fortress carved deep within, layer on layer of nested defences, some of them that passed comprehension far beyond normal knowledge in the deep and eldritch reaches of technosorcery, but for most of them their purpose was brutally clear.

The frozen slushbowl with the giant ringed planet filling half the sky was one of the strong points, one of the chiefest of the high crenellated towers of Fortress Sol, and so much more and stranger besides.


The change of command ceremony was a week past now, and the new chapter master was settling in- as the way the chapter had originally been set up demanded, not an Astartes; a senior officer of the Malleus was to command them, for security's sake and that the disasters of the forming- time should not repeat themselves in this of all things.

It was not wise that beings as pure and fearless as the specialist daemon-hunters of the Astartes should be allowed to choose their own targets. Virtually everyone- the majority of the Ordo Malleus for a start- would fall beneath their standards.

Politics entirely aside, the Space Marines made poor commanders of armies even in this latter day because so many of them had utterly lost touch with the limits of the ordinary men they led; once-in-a-lifetime trials that would wreck the majority of even the skilled human warriors that were put through them were the daily bread of the Astartes.

They would lead the ordinary men they had charge of far beyond the possible, because such challenges were more than habit to them, they were necessary. To do the same on the spiritual plane would be disastrous beyond measure.


So the commander of the Grey Knights had to be a mere human, and a Lord of the Inquisition, and a pure, wise, bold and capable fighter against Chaos in his own right- but with all that, still and mainly a human.

There were some things, some temptations and curses no human was immune to; Lord-Inquisitor Fournier had faced down many of them, but he could still be entangled and defeated by bureaucracy. He had spent most of the week bringing himself up to speed on the affairs of the chapter.

If only, he had grumbled (carefully, where none but the Emperor could hear him) someone had had the wit to declare red tape one of Chaos' most cunning creations, an inflitration and subversion, a potent force of anti- order, and have it declared extremis diabolus...

but the Administratum predated the Inquisition and it was no longer politically viable, even if that were safe or right, and he was honest enough to admit that it was not. Still, it was hardly as if the paperwork of the Grey Knights was short of details of high interest.

They were an active chapter; the majority scattered across the galaxy, only a training group and enough to serve as a reaction force remained- but one detail had caught the new chapter master's eye, and he decided to find the senior Astartes present and quiz him about it.


'I was looking through some...administrative matters, and I find that you have more than a few missing. Entire patrols lost with no-one to report the fact, ships lost in the Warp, most of that is regrettably expectable. There is one single marine, a Brother- a veteran of some years- posted missing over fifty years ago, fate yet unconfirmed.

Despite, as I find out after some digging, updates and references in his file considerably less than fifty years ago. Approximately a week, in fact. It becomes stranger yet, as I notice that many of his after action reports practically glow with praise. An exemplary Marine.

Yet you seem so totally unconcerned with him that not only do you do nothing to rescue him, you don't even change his status, seem content to let him roam the galaxy on no-one's authority but his own.

There is a hidden story here, Brother-Captain, and I am demanding it. With the authority of the Inquisition.'


Brother-Captain Falco groaned. He had thought this matter adroitly disposed of, if not exactly dead and buried then at least safely hustled away into the marginalia. Perhaps he could convince the Inquisitor. 'You mean Brother Arkady.' Falco stated.

'If that be his name, yes.' The Inquisitor practically demanded that it be the truth or nothing else.

'The name he was born with was, as ever, so thoroughly erased from the records that I doubt even he remembers it; but at that time there was something of a revival of the deep past, and many of our brothers of the period chose day-names, by which they would be known to each other, after detectives and crime fighters from the far legends of Old Earth.

They felt it was appropriate, you see. Or should I say we. Brother-Captain Endeavour, of the eighth company, recently died of his wounds, was of that shining band; as was Brother-Captain Hercule of the third, and my predecessor in command of the first company, Brother-Captain Jen-Djieh. Operational names change on a regular basis, of course. I believe our missing brother goes by Ignatius at the moment.'


You have just mentioned a shining band, many of whom rose to rank; and yet we are speaking of an ordinary brother. What manner of mark can there be against his name that that, and that alone, was suitable punishment- and justifies him being left loose for half a century?'

Falco paused, unwilling to say too much but- 'Out with it.' The Inquisitor demanded. 'I am supposed to be your new chapter master after all- chafe at the arrangement as you may you cannot deny it. The tale.'

'He was involved in one of the legends of the chapter, one of our legends. The death-ride of Brother-Captain Lothar. If you don't know the story then you'd better hear it, hadn't you?

Lothar had Second Company some two hundred years ago, and he was...a precise and careful man, who went about his trade of demolishing demons as another man would disarm unexploded bombs. Methodical, all-seeing, leaving nothing to chance. He was unparalleledly brilliant at avoiding the traps of the warp.

Many of us learned much from him, not least to temper wrath with cunning and quickness of wit; some said he was overcautious, but it is courting disaster to scorn caution. The overbold fell in their spans, but Lothar himself- he stayed above the dark powers, ahead of them, for so long that in the end it was Time that started to score against him.


You know how long we live in theory, and how rare it is in practise for an Astartes to reach anything like that span- still less a daemonhunter. Lothar beat the dark powers' servants, and the odds, time and time again, until his body started to fail him.

His caution went with his health, for he decided that he would prefer to die fighting than do his bit to extending the frontiers of chirurgery; and if they could not get him any other way then...

He and a small band of brothers who agreed to follow and support him essentially hijacked an Imperial Navy warship- there were special circumstances; the ship was slated to be decommissioned, an old Sceptre- class destroyer on which the Captain and Navigator had been- well, an illicit relationship.

How I still cannot fathom, but they were lovers according to the account, and had decided to commit lovers' suicide together rather than be parted; Lothar and his followers persuaded them to put off their deaths for a little while.

They stole the ship from the reserve yard, and flew it as deep as they dared into the most brutal warp storm they could reach; Lothar climbed up onto the exterior of the command dome, outside the Gellar fields, and dared the warp to try and kill him. Challenged it to a duel.


Now you know perfectly well-' Falco snapped his fingers- 'that is how long an unprotected man can expect to survive in the storms of the immaterium, directly exposed to the nightmares of the universe. Not even long enough to suicide.

'Lothar did not last long in human terms, but he challenged the whirlpools of Chaos in their own territory, in their own sacred preserves, on the terms of Man- of a man and a warrior hero.

Destroy them there, and they are destroyed- no dismiss until they can find another idiot to call them back to the materium; no defeated and banished for a century or a millennium; scattered in the warp is gone forever, never to plague mankind again- in the short time he stood there on the deck of that doomed ship and hewed them down, he made up for a thousand lifetimes of caution, more.

After he fell, the ship flickered back into the materium long enough to jettison a survival pod containing the brothers who had aided Lothar on his quest, before pushing on into the storm beyond the point of no return and detonating its' engines as close to the heart of it as they could.

His name is on the Wall among the roll of honour of those who have no grave in this world, and those with younger, sharper eyes say it is carved just a fraction deeper than all the rest.'


The inquisitor was reeling slightly with the vehemence the old Brother-Captain had told the tale; but he filled in the obvious blank, 'Brother Ignatius was one of those who helped Lothar, stole the ship, witnessed his end. Censured?'

'The leadership at the time,' Brother Captain Falco sighed, 'believed that it would be dangerous to encourage such behaviour- that we had a job to do and a well established way of doing it, and that throwing one's life away like that was perilously close to dereliction of duty. We are not the light that burns twice as brightly; we are not the light at all.

Lothar was pardoned for his presumption, given that he was terminally ill, but those who supported him and stole the ship with him were most severely censured- and told, more to the point, that they could not expect to rise in rank and responsibility, not under that rule, not until the universe grew cold and the stars went out, and probably not then either.'


'Which still does not answer the question,' the Inquisitor said after a long time thinking about it, 'of why Brother Ignatius is a fit person to be allowed to roam the universe unsupervised. I would have said exactly the opposite.'

'Because he is one of us.' Falco said. 'Because the chapter master of the time was wrong. Because he should have risen- he was one of Lothar's quickest-thinking pupils, a master stalker and hunter even then. Because he is the truest crusader I ever met- be the eyes of the entire universe on him or none at all, he would still do his duty.

And also, because he is the last survivor. Now that Brother Aldred's gone these last four decades, there are none who even served directly under Lothar, scarce few who know him as anything at all except the author of a few lines in the liber daemonica, only one who accompanied him to his end.' And whom, Falco knew the tale, his brothers had to restrain to stop him going out to stand and fight back to back with his captain.


'It suits the leadership of the chapter that it should be so, for fear the idea might spread...' The inquisitor realised. 'Or that he would seek such an end himself, and take his brothers with him. The Imperium would be in poor state indeed, were we to run out of daemonhunters through excess of zeal. How sure are you that he will not reach out for such a fate?'

'I practically expect it of him.' Falco admitted. 'Eventually. When he reaches a similar state, if he lasts to do so, and it is far more likely for a cool, quick-witted seeker and slayer than for many others. I do not expect it of him tomorrow, though- what I do expect is that he does the work of the chapter, however physically far from it he may be.'

'Fifty years separate, detached from his brothers, and with all that he knows and has seen rattling around his head? With Halberd and Forbidden Book Across the Imperium?- a travelogue eminently worthy of being suppressed, would it not be?

No, Brother-Captain, I do not like this at all. You may have reason to trust his fealty, but what of his composure? Is it not overwhelmingly likely that without the supporting strictures of chapter life about him, he will become increasingly...eccentric? Keep watch on him. If he is as skilled as you say, perhaps a post as a training assistant- I believe that would constitute an effective demotion, and thus be in line with my predecessor's judgement.'



In the field;

Ignatius had thought about it, and decided his three followers were safer with him, even among the sisters, than they were out here in a field full of shell holes in front of the sisters, who might easily mistake them for something worth taking a flamer to.

He found them, noticing as he did that their spirits were turbulent; Hasek and Bohr had evidently not decided between them who was to be in charge. Something else to sort out.

'Do you honestly think you need a chain of command in a three man fireteam? Bohr, the fact that you were a commissar cadet gives you some reasonable expectation- but you're not a natural killer of the same class as Hasek, are you? Is that what the frown in the air between you is about?

I have need of you all. We're going to talk to the sisters, because if we don't they might come to us. Bohr, you would have known them in your schola, so you had better take point on this one- start by explaining the adepta sororitas to your comrades.' if you want to be a leader, let's see how well you lead, was the subtext.


'Ah.' Was all Bohr managed, between trying to pass over the desperately obvious and yet not come up with something that was hopelessly personal and probably irrelevant. He had to resort to the obvious after all. 'Female soldiers of the Ecclesiarchy?'

'Not a bad one sentence summary, but I did refer to your personal knowledge, that should have been a hint.' Ignatius prodded him.

Right, the commissar-cadet thought, now I have to think of something that doesn't go too far the other way- 'They were very...inside and outside.'

'I think I know what you mean, but only because I can read your thoughts.' Ignatius told him. 'What they were like, as people, just people, was nothing at all like they were when anyone was looking; what they were on the inside and what they were on the outside. And?'

'And the inside and the outside got further and further apart until their private selves-' her private self, although he wasn't going to say that, it was bad enough that Ignatius could tell- 'were too far away to reach at all.

It's, it was, that's what the schola's supposed to do; it seemed- we were supposed to be made cold hard and forbidding, it's pointless to object to that, but was that really how it's supposed to be?'


'Which answer would you think would do you less damage, lad, yes or no?' Ignatius said, before moving on to the explanation. 'They are semi- monastic, and there are five main historical monastic vows, the Astartes take some of them and the sisters some also; the full set is Piety, Obedience, Poverty, Chastity and Kung-Fu. I suspect there may actually be two separate traditions colliding there, but no matter.

The non- combatant orders, the famulous, dialogous and hospitaller, take vows of piety, obedience- to lawful authority- and chastity, for even though they live in society their role and purpose forbids them to be influenced by it. They do not take vows of poverty, because their purpose often demands that they manage material things, which is difficult when the vow says to give it all away.

The orders militant vow piety, obedience, and poverty- because everything they have is issued by the order- but interestingly not chastity, it's quite hard to come up with a fully reverent explanation for that. The official version is some mumbled nonsense about hot blood.' The unofficial version of the story involved several warrior-women since sainted, a high prelate of the Imperium and a waterbed, and was not for pious ears.

'I'm telling you this because the more you know, the less you'll be tempted to ask about- and therefore the safer you'll be. The Sororitas set a ferociously high standard for themselves, and they do not have the same advantages as the Astartes do in actually reaching it. They constantly push themselves, and each other.

I'm sure you all remember basic training- believe me, the scars on your souls are quite visible. Picture a basic training that never ends, that you never pass out of, that they never trust you've learned anything from and stay on your back, night and day, forcing, shoving, driving, demanding. Picture the kind of twisted wreckage of a human that could be produced by that. Now picture the products of that system given power armour and bolters.'


'You don't like them?' Hasek said, tone of slight disbelief. He had expected the marine to approve of their high standards and their deep faith, and was surprised that it was otherwise.

'I have so many separate issues with why they exist and how they operate that it would take far too long to explain, but- let's call it that we come from different traditions of piety and leave it at that.' Ignatius warned him.

'You missed out the fifth great vow- kung fu?' Aule asked.

'Oh, frak yes. Enormously. All of them. Some more than once, if possible. They are very dangerous, in the flaws they don't recognise even more than their virtues, so best behaviour; you're under my protection, don't make me need to protect you.'

'Brother- why do we need to do this again?' Aule said. They were closer now, well within weapons range although under the grey veil; the sisters seemed to be looking through them, but they were still on stand-to, and the team were getting the enemy's eye viewpoint.

'Apart from putting them at their ease,' Ignatius said, 'there are a couple of the Sisters who might have the soul-stuff I'm looking for, who should be able to face down the beasts without coming apart or escaping forwards; private selves that might be worth better things than a living tomb.'
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fractalsponge1
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-11 08:47am 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2006-04-30 08:04pm
Posts: 950
Quote:
Piety, Obedience, Poverty, Chastity and Kung-Fu


LOL

The story of Brother Captain Lothar was a wonderful bit of characterization - I got a very vivid sense of the character in just a few paragraphs. Well done!
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Simon_Jester
 Post subject: Re: Knight Errant (40K)
PostPosted: 2011-05-11 11:44am 

Emperor's Hand


Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm
Posts: 21355
Eleventh Century Remnant wrote:
'Which answer would you think would do you less damage, lad, yes or no?' Ignatius said, before moving on to the explanation. 'They are semi- monastic, and there are five main historical monastic vows, the Astartes take some of them and the sisters some also; the full set is Piety, Obedience, Poverty, Chastity and Kung-Fu. I suspect there may actually be two separate traditions colliding there, but no matter.
Hah. Truly, the main one shared by the Astartes and the Sisters is the Vow of Kung-Fu.
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