The Crimson Falling

The Phoenix or the Flame?

I thought I had been on the tracks of glimpsing the truth behind the Emperor’s mysteries and His enigmatic Will, our cell having been led to some deep-Warp location where Darius had been in hiding.

Now I know it was purely arrogance and pride to think so.

We had walked straight into a trap, a cage in which dangled the sweet, succulent bait that was Darius, saliva frothing at our mouths as we strained against the bridle of better judgement to attack – when the floor was thrust away and we found ourselves in a steel coffin, falling, yet weightless, into the open Warp.

We should have been torn apart. The Lazarus certainly was. As were its captain and crew, ripped asunder and swallowed into the infinite depths of the Immaterium. We fell, weightless, adrift in the currents of the Warp until we found ourselves positioned above some unknown planet. Our futile and pointless efforts seemed all the more superfluous in the face of this overwhelming defeat, yet they weighed a thousand times a thousand tons against my very soul, crushing my mind and spirit as my body was by the pressure of atmospheric re-entry. Recognizing that we faced imminent death, my thoughts were drawn solely to the condemnation that awaited us for our now-apparent traitorous acts in obeying Rhogan. I knew, not just as a Moritat but as a proud citizen of the Iimperium, that we were destined for eternal damnation.

I don’t know what would be worse: eternal damnation or the fact that I was to be killed without shedding blood – without even a chance to fight! The very core of my soul, shivering in rage at how we blindly obeyed the commands that led us to such a fate.

Yet we were reborn.

Despite Rhogan’s evident betrayal and his attempt to leave us to the perils of the Warp, the Emperor saw and smiled upon us. Well, no, to say ‘smile’ would perhaps be too presumptuous. Rather let us say He pitied us.

After an eternity of darkness, I did it. I saw Him. I met He who sits upon the Golden Throne, our Lord and Emperor, and He said unto me: “Go; redeem your soul by killing the Traitor with your own hands.”

I then woke up to the feeling of pain.

No. I was pain. Every fibre of my body screaming in wretched agony; whether it was from the stress of re-entry or some infusion of Warp energies, I shall never know. I found myself next to Scarlet and Mathias, lying on the side of a road in what appeared to be a shanty town of sorts. The Emperor protects. Passers-by gave us only the most casual of glances, the careless look one gives an inanimate object in one’s path.

As we slowly regained control over our near-lifeless husks, a man calling himself Azul approached us. Apparently, he and his people viewed us as a sign of divine intervention in their fight against what he called “foreign invaders”. We were on the planet of Zel Tertius, and the date was 700.998 M41. We had been thrust into the past.

After picking up Arl and reviving him from his catalepsy (using a method I hope never to find necessary again – though even I was pleased with myself at the quality and craftsmanship of those impromptu dolls, given the materials at hand), we made a tentative agreement with Azul and his people, bargaining our support in his war for their support in getting off-planet. The cell had decided unanimously that the only meaningful road left to us would be pursuing the note Rhogan had left for us on Kulth, to find the Immortal on Faldon Kise.

The note was dated 850 of this year, giving us just under two Standard months to act. Clearly we could not afford to waste time in a prolonged campaign for these backwater people. Their area of control had been largely reduced to the rural sectors of the planet, whereas their conquerors lay claim to almost all the industrialized and urban centres. We sketched a quick plan to infiltrate the spaceport, commandeer some vessels, and fly out, using what ships we could lay hands on to support the frontal assault against a defensive wall that had been erected.

I am personally glad this plan became obsolete.

The ‘invaders’ turned out to be the Imperial Forces. We should have suspected something when we woke up to find that all our possessions had the Aquila removed – as if they had never been emblazoned to begin with. I’d assumed it was something warp-related, but hindsight is always 20/20. The paramilitary, agrarian people we had woke up amongst turned out to be some population of psykers, wielding ethereal blades into battle and capable of quickly boring tunnels deep in the earth with their bare hands. We’d surrendered ourselves to the Imperial authority, claiming to be, as we’ve a right to, agents of the Inquisition.

Whatever had dissolved the Aquila from our equipment worked its poltergeist magic on our Inquisitional ID’s as well. Instead of burning the air blue as their security features were meant to, our badges burned up in an orange flame, like some common newspaper.

I don’t know whether it was indifference in a busy time of war, or if it was simply his overwhelming sense of self-superiority that prompted the decision, but this man, Tiberium, allowed us entry into the city anyhow. In exchange for the intelligence on the psykers that we offered, as well as our assistance in the defense of the city, Tiberium gave us quarters and a promise to aid us in establishing our identities. (As a security issue, this may have been a matter of necessity on his part; I shan’t speculate any further, but I do hope to investigate these strange events in more detail if given the chance)

Faced with no other choice, we accepted his offer. I spent the day praying at the altar, hoping desperately that some agent of the Emperor might appear before me and give me direction. None appeared, but my time was not wasted – it is thanks to this time of contemplation that I am able to organize my thoughts and put them to this record.

At any rate, the psykers bore their tunnels under the wall that night. Contrary to what we had been told by Azul, their tunnels were many, as were their numbers. We managed to all but close one such tunnel opening, withdrawing to the spaceport where a smuggler known as Yurik, whom Scarlet had met during the day, had arranged our passage to Faldon Kise for the price of one of Scarlet’s pendants and Mathias’ xenos-bone chain-sword that he fancied.

In our fight to buy time for the dropship’s preparations, we once again faced the unexplainable threat of flesh meteors burdened with Xenos life-forms. Having been reborn as instruments of the Emperor’s holy wrath, I (and the others, I’m sure) knew no fear as we slew the vile creatures. Were it not for the opportunity of escape and the importance of our sacred mission, I am of the firm belief that I, and possibly Mathias and Scarlet, would have happily waded into a bloodbath of heathens and Xenos in the name of the Emperor.

Ahh well. There’ll always be bloodshed to look forward to.

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