She was standing in a large oval room with a high ceiling and an enormous round table dominating the middle of it. Three quarters of the round wall were translucent and showed the void, with its darkness broken by the dim lights coming from the surface of Granithor. The vessel of the Targonans “Countess Roskolana” was anchored in low orbit of the cemetery world and it was overlooking its night hemisphere. The surface of the planet was littered with small purple pecks of light. These were shrines of those buried on this solemn place.
A steady stream of coffin pods formed a column running from the ships docking bay to the surface. It had a look and feel of an ant colony traveling through the dark recesses of earth in one final exodus.
Addyene did the research. Targon was a star system near Mackan in the Segmentum Solar. The system consists of six planets named: Red Targon, Yellow Targon, Targon Prime, Targon Secundus, Targon Verdant and Targon III. All of the worlds are inhabited. All are agri worlds. Only Targon Prime can attest for one large Hive, where the elite of this star system resides: Garpinnea.
The story goes that Targon paid the Emperor’s Tithe mostly in produce, and that the people of Targon war far too valuable to the Administratum as skilled farmers than as guardsmen. Hence, the system had only a parade type planetary defense force made up from the youth of aristocratic families. This force consisted out of five battalions which never fought in a true battle.. Most of their officers were sent to prestigious military schools and from time to time, a battalion or two was deployed as reserve troops or sentries, but they never saw any real action. This was perhaps a small boon bestowed upon the Targonan aristocratic families, to ensure their productivity and support.
One dramatic event changed the course in which this community was heading and it occurred in Garpinnea approximately two centuries ago.
Valamar Tor, the son of the incumbent Planetary Governor was to be wed to Allisia Delleon, a lady of high and noble birth. Traditionally, he was to take few of his close friends, the night before the matrimony, to a hunting outpost were they would eat and drink as was the old custom on this world. However by this time, the youth of Garpinnea had become corrupted, perverse and sadistic. What should have been a modest gathering of friends became an all out large scale orgy with hundreds of young Garpinnean aristocrats attending. Three dozen underhive girls and women were brought as entertainment. What started decadent, ended inhuman. At some point the orgy became bloody and ended as a massacre.
Why the killings started, that was never truly determined. Were all the attendees the perpetrators? Was it planned and envisioned before, with malice and premeditation? Some speculated that the youths were so privileged that they could not satisfy their appetites by merely ravishing the women. Some said it was an occult séance orchestrated by the followers of the Dark Prince. Accusations of heresy arose... A later inquiry, made by an ordo maleus Inquisitor Damaclus Odon, debunked such theories. But the wrath of the populace was immense. And there were some legitimate worries coming from the Council of Terra. Some speculate that the event might have been used as a trigger, and that the farmers of the systems were unsatisfied with their leaders for a long time. Those people argue that farmer guilds communicated with Terran agents and orchestrated such a theatrical massacre in order to choreograph a coup.
The Planetary Governor Braban Tor did what no one had expected. He raised an Astra Militarum brigade which consisted of all young males under the age of thirty, who belonged to the aristocratic circles (Hive level 143 and higher). Valamar Tor was named the sergeant of the storm troops. Whether the Governer (targonan: Count Palatine) was genuinely mad, and whether he condemned a whole generation to death in this way, is not known. What is known is that the Brigade was deployed on Cadia.
The Brigade fought in eight campaigns. When the Targonan First returned to the planet, twenty two years later, Terran standard, it was at 12% of its strength. The decadent boys who left Targon Prime were no more, and in their stead there were men. Repentant, bloodied, battle tested men. Men, who have served for humanity and Holy Terra. Men, who praised Cadians and their battle doctrine. Men did not return to Targon as prisoners returning from a long time spent behind bars, ready to fall back into their old habits. They did not come back. They came for more.
Whole under hive quarters were turned into barracks and training camps. Those who survived the gauntlet, were now officers and trainers. They lived and fought by Cadian creed. The time spent on the Imperiums Fortress world had taught them much. The hell of battle showed them what lurks beyond the hazy sunsets of Garpinnea outskirts. What malevolent entities roam the warp. On the first barracks erected a sign was fixed: First Targonan – For the Emperor, for Targon and Cadia Immortalis. In time, Targon would raise twenty full regiments.
Addyene winced and committed this to memory, as the door opened and Colonel Marad Bellerin, flanked by five of his company officers and regimental advisors entered the room.
“The Emperor protects, Inquisitor!”, he greeted her.
He was a tall man in his fifties with close cropped silver hair, short beard, mustache and very thick eyebrows. He was wearing the ranks of an Astra Militarum Colonel, but the uniform of a tank officer.
“Indeed he does.”, answered Addyene.
He offered her a seat, and she took it. The men around him were of various ranks and offices. She did not remember their names, but she knew their station: Master of ordnance, a female Officer of the fleet, two company commanders and a Techpriest. His name she did remember. It was Stephanus.
She opted for a curt and harsh approach and hence she fired from all cannons as soon as she sat down.
“Colonel Bellerin of the 18th Targonan Imperial Guard regiment, You have been blessed by the Emperor’s providence for he has granted You a task. You are to travel into the Calixis system and there conquer the world of Lyttovel Prime. Get Your affairs in order and be ready to set out in two weeks time!”
She was ready to get up and walk away. But the colonel pinned her with his gaze. It was calm but unyielding, and it contained a promise of unfinished business. She remained seated, invisible heat, still evaporating from her fiery tongue.
“My Lady, am I being ordered by the Emperor of Mankind or by You?”, said the colonel in a calm and measured tone.
“Is there a difference!?”, she replied haughtily.
“In some measure, yes. If the former is true, then I need not worry about preparations because the Emperor’s divine light will provide me with anything that I might require to complete such a task. If, however the latter is the case, than I might be inclined to emphasize that it might be more prudent to burry all of my men here rather to murder them gradually by venturing unprepared into the Halo stars.”, echoed the soothing voice of the Colonel.
“I bear the Inquisitorial seal, which means...”, retorted Rhea, furious.
“Which means that You may sequester any Imperial unit You desire. I am aware of that, young Lady. You may even sanction me and my headquarters for disobedience, but this will not put the Lyttovel prime world in Your hands.”
She hesitated for a split second. The officer took it as victory and pushed on.
“You would then have a full regiment of men, for which You have no general or operative knowledge how to handle and command. You are not familiar with principals of attack and defense, tank maneuvers or of creating killing fields by overlapping fields of fire. You do not understand logistics or requisitioning. By the time my corpse dries out, Your companies will be decimated by hunger, sickness or insurgency.”
Rhea was silent. “This will be more difficult than I imagined”, she thought to herself. “At least he is an apt tactician, I’ll give him that.”
“I know Your office and the power it bestows upon You, young lady. But please bear in mind that this is a two way road. Having the power to order something is quite different than being able to follow through with that order. If You agree to abide by our regimental principles, we will take this planet for You. But there needs to be a certain amount of trust between us... Even a modicum of respect.”
She was defeated in word play. But the sting of that failure will blunt very soon. In the demeanor of the Colonel she could see that the Targonans will go to Lyttovel, and that the old officer is using his wit to establish jurisdiction lines. Addyene was pragmatic, and she was prepared to leave the command to Bellerin whilst she achieves her goals. She retorted, now smiling almost seductively, and completely changing her approach:
“You know Your craft well Colonel. I agree to Your terms.”
“My Regiment will be ready within twenty days. Where is the fleet rendezvous point?”
“At the Gnome.”
While Inquisitor Addyene Rhea was feasting with the head quarters of the Targonan 18th and with the officer staff of “Countess Roskolana”, her ¸fellow agent was led through the dark corridors of Niddhogur, the battle barge of the Space Wolves second company, to meet the Wolf Lord Engir Krakensdoom.
Inquisitor Orrelya de Polen, despite trying to hide that from herself, was very nervous. She had told herself time and time again, that she was on an allied vessel, of an Astartes chapter, that she bore the inquisitorial seal and had power over life and death in the Imperium of Man, that no one would oppose her, or... harm her.
But, there were stories... Stories of Space Wolves vessels firing upon ecclesiarchy and inquisition ships... Of howls in the night and wolf packs in the morning gloom... Of the Old Wolf teleporting to an Inquisitorial vessel with murderous intentions... She hoped these were not true.
The company thralls, all clad in letherwork clothes and knotwork leather masks were flanking her, three at each side, and they were showing her the way through the unbelievably old space ship. The corridors ware barely lit, but she knew in advance that this would be so. The vessels of the Fensrisian chapter were famous for being dark and cold. Niddhogur was both.
She brought night-vision lenses, as she did not want the Wolves of Fenris to use her human sight as her weakness. She had also acquired a rare translator which understood the Fenrisian language. All of these made her consider herself as well prepared.
The shadow figures beside her opened a large gate made of bone, rock and steel, decorated with an etched relief representing the changing of seasons on Fenris. The thralls did not enter. This had to be the throne room, the command deck, of the vessel.
Orrelya entered the hall with audacity and dominance. Striding forward relentlessly, her boots echoing her every step.
At this point, she noticed the Wolves.
Engir Krakensdoom, an imposing figure, with his long hair knotted high on his skalp and white beard, clad in grey power armor, was seated at a high chair resembling a throne in the bottom of the chamber. From behind the throne two skeletons of Fenrisian Boourdulakki – large sea serpents – were hanging. The skeletons were set up in such a way as to resemble the slaves or pets of a person sitting on that large chair. The wolf lord had rested each of his weapons against a separate head of the long dead monsters. Hence it seemed as if the left sea serpent was holding his frost axe, and the right his frost sword.
There were other wolves around the throne or in its close vicinity. Beside the wolf lord stood a rune priest. From the info she had collected, Orrelya knew that this was Fryel Threadcut. On the other side of the Wolf lord, an immense figure loomed, clad in terminator armor, with a skull of a wolf as his face guard. This was Olaf Murdermaker, wolf priest of the second company. Their stations gave up their identities.
In a deeper sector of the chamber, resting on his tempestas hammer was the Iron Priest, Ingvarr Eldhand.
Two more figures, wraped in pelts, stood behind the throne, but she did not know who they were. She saw their eyes thou. Golden and black pinned, Peering at her. Declaring condemnation.
The Astartes commander was silent and still.
“Lord Krakensdoom...”, she greeted him, aware that she would have to be the one to start this parley.
“Inquisitor.”, he answered.
“I greet You in the name of our divine Emperor, The Council of Terra and our Lord Commander. I come with a request for aid.” She might have had a plan to be more determined, but this plan faltered in the company of wolves. She continued.
“I am to lead a mid scale task force of imperial troops into the Halo stars, to the world of Lyttovel. The world has been infested by the plague scions of Nurgle and I am to take it from their grasp. I need the help of the Space Wolves to achieve this goal.”
Engir nodded. His voice was calm and he was being as serene and polite as his vulpine vocal chords permitted.
“Tell me Inquisitor, which forces have You already acquired?”
“The Targonan 18th company, a Deathwatch shield under Watch Captain Anselm, a Blood Angels sixth company tactical squad and crusading knights of the Ecclesiarchy along with a Rogue trader.”, she answered.
Engir nodded again as if he confirmed that he committed this order of battle to memory and will now comment on it.
“A formidable expedition force... but a weak invading army. So, Inquisitor Orrelya de Polen, which one of the two are You planning: an expedition or an invasion?”
She made her melodic female voice as determined as possible and said:
Engir nodded again and she realized that this was a habit of his, to nod in between statements.
“In that case, Inquisitor, I must say, with all respect from one war lord to another, that You have badly planned this invasion.”
She felt tension in her stomach. The negotiations were taking a bad turn.
“The Targonans are not drop troops, and although they have proved themselves to be effective battle line troops, they will not be able to make planetfall on a moderately defended planet. Lyttovel is not a moderately defended planet, Inquisitor, now is it? The traitor Death guard, along with deamon forces, is fortifying the world to be their outpost in the Halo Stars. So it is a heavily defended planet, with elite heavy infantry troops, deamon engines and commanders with ten millennia of experience defending it.” the wolf lord concluded.
Orrelya could not calm her choler which had mixed with fear and anxiety into an awkward cocktail. How did this barbarian know all this?
“I have never perceived the Wolves of Fenris to be so concerned by the strength of their enemies.”
This drew a response, but not from the wolf lord. First words of Juvjk, the Fenrisian language were uttered, by one of the shadowy figures standing behind the throne. She understood the words through her translator, but did not want to show it.
(juv)“Is this inquisition jester mocking us, or does she think she can goad us into fighting for her with this feeble farce!?” the voice said, insulted.
Olaf Murdermaker replied calming the warrior down.
“Be still Brecca, this is an agent of the Thorne. Regardless of her cowardly demeanor and lack of argumentation, we fight on the same side. And she does carry the voice of the Allfather.”
Olaf’s interpretation of events was enough for Brecca, but Fryel Threadcut brought the argument home, quickly adding his opinion.
“Besides, Oarsman, she uses whatever assets she has available to her. If she had a better argument, I am sure she would have used it.”
Brecca nodded in deference. The discussion in Juvjk ended, and Engir Krakensdoom, as if untouched by the debate of his fellow warriors replied:
“Every warrior is concerned with the strength of his enemies. Every warlord takes the numbers and the quality of troops into account when planning a campaign. These are the basics of tactical thought regardless of whether it is employed in tribal warfare, regicide or a planetstrike campaign. If a commander is able to determine the strength of his enemies, he will be able to determine the strength of the forces he needs to employ against them. Two score of Crusaders, an Imperial Guard brigade and five Blood Angels space marines would not be enough to overcome a defenses of a small Traitor Fortress World. However, if one would add a Great Company to the equation and the outcome changes significantly. Do You see now, Inquisitor, why I ask You this? Do You see now why it matters?
He nodded and let his words sink in.
“We are en route to meet with Erik Morkai and join the Valhallan theatre of war and hence do not have the necessary time and resources to get sidetracked by Your campaign.”
“You would grant Lyttovel to the Death Guard!? That is just a step short of treason!”
As soon as she uttered the word “treason”, she realized she went too far. Growls and curses were heard in the chamber. Her translator was not able to translate them. They were not in Juvjk.
Engir Krakensdoom was still calm, and soon his officers became silent so that he can reply. He did.
“No, Inquisitor, I would not let Lyttovel remain in the hands of the Death Guard. If I had theatre command, I would raze the planet to the ground. I would inflict a kill shot upon its surface and blast it out of the Halo Stars. By the reports I have seen, the Imperium should have void superiority in the system. And this is even if we count in just Your fleet. If You are asking for my opinion, Inquisitor, I would order an Exterminatus on that world if I were ranked as high as an Ordo Hereticus Inquisitor.”
A nod followed.
“Lyttovel is an accursed Xeno terraform planet that has been tainted by the plague wights for over half a century. It is located in a turbulent and unclaimed part of space. It is a husk, a nuisance, a risk, a threat. There is nothing to reclaim there. There are no verdant fields or promethium deposits which the mankind might harvest. The position is uncolonizable, undefendable... It should be destroyed and expelled from the Verse.”
His opinion had logic in it. She could not argue. There was a moment of silence.
“I would go so far as to say that a commander who wastes troops and equipment on the surface of this blasted world is either a very bad commander, or a traitor, with the goal of crippling Imperial forces in the sector. So, Inquisitor, why do You want to descend upon Lyttovel?”
She felt her skin burn and sweat. And she knew the wolves noticed it. They felt the change in the color of her voice, the uneasy demeanor, the flickering of her eyes. They smelled her fear.
“I am an Ordo Hereticus Inquisitor and bear the seal of the Emperor of Mankind... How can You accuse me of treason?!” she retorted in one final effort to break the wolves.
Engir was calm and collected.
“No accusations were given, Orrellya de Pollen. Only questions were asked. Greater beings than You have committed treason... Succumbed to the Gods of the Warp. Sons... Even Warmasters. Is it than so strange that we ask for the true purpose of Your orders, when, quite frankly, they make no sense? Only few months ago we heard a story of a similar sort. It was an account of a Deathwatch kill team, manipulated by a C’tan into doing its will. It occured in the Tranis system. The C’tan was under the guise of an Inquisitor. If it happened then and there, why is it so strange that we take precautions of preventing it repeating now?”
Inquisitor de Pollen knew that at this point she was no longer fighting to enlist the Wolves in her campaign. She was struggling to prove her innocence. Alone and speechless, she stood in a dark tomb filled with berserk murderers.
“Inquisitor?” the wolf lord muttered, not willing to give her a moments respite.
When she opened her mouth, a torrent of words gushed out. Orrelya de Pollen told them about the Scroll, about Praxites, Arkawash Massacre and the Null icon of Auel Shirien. She told them about her actions, of Addyene, of Elucia Vhane and of all the plans she had concocted. In short, all of the secrets she knew. All of that time she was persuading them and her own self how she acted for the benefit of mankind.
The Wolf lord listened and consulted briefly with his officers. What he uttered next shocked Lady de Pollen:
“Inquisitor Orrelya, I understand now why You want to go to the Pest World of Lyttovel. The Icon, it is a worthy artifact, one that bans evil magic... one that prevents malificarum. You bear the inquisitorial seal and title, and the warriors of the Allwinter World are obedient servants of the Imperium. We will accompany You in this campaign as is Your bidding.”