Courtesy photo of Battlefleet Gothic: Armada
Back in April, Black Library, an affiliate of Games Workshop and Warhammer 40k called on writer’s and authors to come up with a short story to bring on new creators. This is the story I had written – and despite it not making it through the door, I wanted to continue.
The sound of metal clanged hard against the cell bars that were wedged into the limestone. “Wake up, Prisoner!” an Adeptus Custodes ordered as he continuously tortured the convict by banging his shock maul against the bars with an echoing annoyance. “You’ve got company. Now get up and put your hands through.”
From within the dark, grimy cell, a cot creaked as a shadow moved towards the gate. A tall, dark figure neared. With only one lantern in the entire hall, a strip of light caressed a deep violet eye that resembled a phyrr cat. A long scar ran from her forehead to her sharp jaw. Her mangled hair had grown out, strands of her original, pale silver hair sprouted from her scalp before abruptly turning to a blood red colour. Around her neck was the tip of a broken spear,
She gazed, not at the custodes, but at the two taller and heavily armoured Adeptus Arbites behind him. “What’s going on?”
The guard’s golden helmeted head tilted slightly, “You will be tried for the heresy committed against the Imperium of Man.”
“Come.” One Arbites ordered, completely ignoring the Custodes.
Knowing that this may be her final moment, the woman followed the two who had come to retrieve her. Dressed in nothing but her old prisoner’s rags, she looked almost like a dissident rather than a prisoner, on her way to be tried and publicly executed. There were catcalls and jeers that echoed from within the other cells. Some wished her good luck, others laughed and spat at her feet; they tried to take away any honour or dignity she may have had left; it was pointless.
As the guards led her from The Vault and into the dry, hot sunlight; the woman shielded her eyes; this was the first time in twenty years that she had felt the natural light.
“Follow us, prisoner.”
It was not a cruel command; in fact, it was more of a suggestion as they walked towards the large Valkyrie merely yards away.
As they entered, the guards seated themselves on either side of the prisoner, albeit she felt a little small compared to the hulking Space Marine sized soldiers. After the cargo bay door had closed, the guard on her right hit the interior hull of the ship, and the engines started up.
The trip was long and uneventful. To break the monotony, the prisoner lifted her head. “So, where are you taking me?”
“I assume it’s not my execution since that would have been held on Terra. And since you both have the Inquisitor’s symbol surreptitiously beneath your cloaks,” the proctors shuffled uncomfortably, “I guess that you are taking me to see an Inquisitor.”
“Silence, prisoner.” Was the only response.
The engines slowed, indicating that they had arrived. Dull thuds and loud cranks told the passengers that the transport had landed. The guards stood, motioned for her to stand, and walked out as the cargo door opened. Tech-Priests and lowly soldiers greeted the newcomers with salutes and small nods. The incense hanging from the Arbiter’s belts emitted a strong aroma, something that the woman had not breathed in a very long time. Around her were nearly twenty Valkyries, all aligned perfectly within the brightly lit cargo bay. The ship’s room reached nearly four stories, from what the woman could tell; There were many catwalks and plasteel doors on all different levels, yet all were perfectly aligned.
Leading her out of the landing bay and guiding her down a long corridor, it was not hard to notice the growing crowd of other acolyte trainees standing in the doorway, watching her. Unmoved by their watchful, and possibly glaring eyes, she only stared straight ahead, her lips thinning the more people stared.
The guards led her to an empty room and stationed themselves on either side of the door. One guard removed her shackles and silently ordered her to step inside. Bracing herself for information, or execution, the woman stepped forward, and the door slid open. She looked in and found not a desk, no chairs, no tomes, nothing. Instead, there were rows of shower heads in a medium sized, cube room. In the middle were lockers and benches.
Clearing her throat, the woman said, “I think you have the wrong room.”
“The high Inquisitor wants you cleaned up before you meet him. There are new clothes in the lockers.”
Mouthing the word, “Okay.” the woman looked back at the closed door, and started undressing. As she did so, she looked around the room, wondering if there was any escape route before finding a small, almost undetectable camera in the shadowy corner.
Even in the Inquisition, she thought bitterly as she ignored the camera and washed, privacy is not an option.
An hour later, feeling cleaner than she had when she was in The Vault, the woman was pulling her long wet hair into a high braid when there came a loud knock from outside. “Are you done in there?”
“Well hurry up.”
“Yes, Sir.” she saluted mockingly, and uttered an unheard curse at him.
Stepping out, the guards immediately faced her; one held up the shackles. “Arms.”
“Oh, come on. It’s not like I’m going to run. I’m hardly a threat.”
Sensing a foreboding anger, and almost hearing a silent scoff beneath the helmet, she huffed and begrudgingly let the man bind her hands before taking her to the Inquisitor.
This time, instead of waiting by the door, the guards entered first, then she followed. Inside was what she imagined an Inquisitor’s office would be like. To the right was a wall covered bookshelf with dusty, ancient tomes, primitive scrolls rolled and stacked upon another, and even small, personal trophies from the Inquisitor’s acolyte days. To the left was a wall-mounted monitor and nothing else.
Straight ahead, past four chairs, and an intricate, mahogany stained desk, sat a man who has seen hell and lived through it. They stared hard at each other; he was sizing her up, she was studying his features. A large, age-old gash ran from his forehead, across the bridge of his straight nose, and ended right at his sharp jawline. A matte of black hair was tied back, although a few strands fell in front of his wolfish grey eyes. His bronzed flesh told her that this man spent a lot of time in the sun, and spilt a lot of blood to get where he was. Donned in Imperial armor, he finally said, “Sit.”
Seating herself in one of the closer chairs, she leaned back, crossed her legs, and held her knee, as if this was a friendly visit.
He looked down at a data-slate and spoke after studying the unseen facts, “You know, we don’t know your real name other than ‘Shiv’. You look no older than forty, and yet you have the highest assassination rate known to man. Three hundred kills, Seventy of them being nobles, not including the two hundred who have died under ‘unusual circumstances’. All were poisoned with an untreatable concoction…”
“I also enjoy Tarot.” Shiv cut him off as if this was a game.
“Like the Deathcard?” The Inquisitor cocked an eyebrow. “All of your victims have been left with one piece of evidence, a Deathcard.”
“And yet, I am not linked to any of those kills.” she responded calmly, but quickly.
“But the Deathcard links all of those kills to you.” This time, the Inquisitor stared at her eyes.
“It’s just speculation.” Shiv gazed back with unafraid, unblinking eyes.
Knowing he was getting nowhere with her, the Inquisitor clasped his hands together and stated, “Denial or not, we know what you are, and what you are capable of, and if you want to avoid execution, you will work for the Inquisition.”
Shiv opened her mouth. Closed it. Then looked away. This was not what she was expecting. In all honesty, she was expecting them to force her confession, judge, then execute her. Again, she tried to talk, but the words would not come.
Realizing that he and the guards were waiting for her to react, Shiv sighed and asked, “Why? Why would the Inquisition was an ex-Callidus Assassin?”
“Because only assassins can successfully track and hunt assassins. And there is one recruiting younglings to serve chaos, against the Almighty Emperor. Those who deny such heresy are killed in public.”
While she had a moral code of refusing to murder innocent children, there was no outcome where she would survive. “If I agree to help, what do I get out of this?”
“Your life.” Was his simple answer.
“Tempting.” she hummed tauntingly, then threw up her hands, “Fine. I’ll help. On one condition: that I have all my effects back.”
“No. You are only to use Imperial-approved weapons.”
“Can I, at least, have my ring?”
“Yeah. A piece of jewelry that fits on a person’s finger?”
Glaring at her, his dark eyes twitching ever so slightly, he barely leaned down, opened a drawer and held out a black onyx ring. The band depicted a carving of death, its wings wrapped around to complete the perfect circle.
She leaned forward to take it when she realized she still had her shackles on. With a false, pleading look in her eyes, she glanced at the guard. He looked at the Inquisitor, who gave the ‘okay’.
Freed from the restraints, she grabbed the bulky jewelry and slipped it on her middle finger. Her lips curved upward as if reuniting with an old friend. She then stood and said, “Okay. Are we done here?”
“Yes. You will meet your team tom-”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. ‘Team’? I don’t work well with teams. Last time I had a team, they were sucked into the Warp, and they are probably still being chewed out by one of the Chaos Gods.”
Standing to his fullest height, over six feet, the Inquisitor stated darkly and clearly, “You are working with a team if you want to keep your life. And there will be no arguing the point! Dismissed.”
Smirking slyly, Shiv turned away before stopping at the door, looking at him and saying, “That’s the Ozpin I know.”
As she stepped out into the dim corridor, Lord Inquisitor Ozpin Maellus was left wondering. He insisted that his name not be revealed in her presence; so how could she know of him? Who was ‘Shiv’?