The Alchemy of the Word

Brother Koris - Journal Entry Nine

Official Journal of Brother Koris, Deathwatch Apothecary, Blood Angels Chapter
Entry Eight – Babel Seventeen Shrine World

Brother Siegmund is unable to contact Brother Ramiel by vox. He thus attempts to contact Brother-Lexicanium Aemilianus and Brother Zariel; Brother-Lexicanium Aemilianus is also out of contact, but Brother Zariel responds and is able to boost the vox signal through to Brother Ramiel (though the machine spirits of the vox howl and shriek in protest at being forced to exert such effort). Brother Ramiel has not yet reached the art history section, being still in a landspeeder driven by one of the Sisters and just approaching the musicology section. Brother Siegmund orders him to wait there until we can join him, and then contacts Sister Superior Winifred once more to request a landspeeder for our own transport. Sister Superior Winifred soon arrives, along with another Sister driving a spacious landspeeder, and we pick up Brother Zariel then proceed to meet Brother Ramiel. As we travel, Brother Calibos informs us that according to his observations the script used by the Sisters of Babel for their signs and markings has its origins in one of the scripts used by the Inquisition.

Meeting with Brother Ramiel, Brother Siegmund informs him of the discovery that “Sister Marian” is an impostor and the Kill-Team begin to plan an ambush for her. While we are discussing I hear a rhythmic clanging that I assume to be the complaints of nearby machine spirits, but when I bring it to Brother Zariel’s attention he avers that it has some other source. Following the noise, we arrive at a cargo lift which has had its entrance clumsily boarded up some time within the past week. Brother Zariel uses his servo-arm to pull the boards aside and with our weapons ready we peer down the shaft and spot what appears to be a Techmarine in Deathwatch colours, his armour decorated with a large wolf pelt, laboriously climbing up the shaft. Brother Siegmund demands that he identify himself and he gives his name as Brother Thorgrim Skalswolf of the Space Wolves, assigned as a Deathwatch bodyguard to Inquisitor Albertine Hoffman several years past. We back off that he might exit the shaft, and he informs us that slightly over one week previously he was set upon by an unknown assailant of incredible strength and thrown down the shaft, where he was forced to spend some time recovering before beginning the miles long climb back up.

We explain that our mission involves investigating the activities of Inquisitor Hoffman on Babel Seventeen, and that we cannot go into any more detail than that. Thorgrim tells us that Inquisitor Hoffman had two main acolytes, an astropathic psyker named Selene and a savant named Althesius, and that shortly before he was assaulted he had expressed his concerns over Inquisitor Hoffman’s researches. He tells us that the Inquisitor spent some time in the art history and musicology sections, some time in the section on ancient history around the time of the Horus Heresy, more time in the sealed vault nearest her quarters, and most of her time in another sealed vault approximately two hours’ travel from her quarters by landspeeder, and that he was required to wait outside while she was in the sealed vaults.

We then continue making plans to ambush “Sister Marian”. The reading room in which Brother Ramiel is due to meet her is a shaft some ten metres wide at the corner of one of the library vaults. There are various entrances and walkways, including several ways in through narrow maintenance tunnels, but given the size of our armour and its hindrance to stealth we decide that the optimum tactical decision is for the rest of us to wait in a nearby store room off the reading room’s antechamber while Brother Ramiel enters and engages “Sister Marian” in conversation, with the rest of us rushing in once the signal is given. Thus we wait for some minutes amongst spare servitor parts and materials for bookbinding, Brother Zariel informing us that his auspex shows another life sign in the reading room as Brother Ramiel enters, yet Brother Ramiel’s vox link remains silent. We are discussing whether to wait any longer before springing the ambush when we hear Brother Ramiel’s scream.

Throwing open the door of the store room, we run for the reading room. Brother Calibos and I arrive first and are confronted by the sight of a female human (clad in the garb of the Sisters of Babel and otherwise unremarkable in appearance) standing near the centre of the room while the lectern burns with pale eldritch fire, as does Brother Ramiel where he writhes in agony on the floor near it. Brother Calibos pauses in the doorway and opens up with a hail of fire from his heavy bolter, but the woman holds up one hand and the bolter shells stop motionless in the air a metre away from her. Drawing my chainsword, I charge the woman (shouldering some of the suspended bolter shells aside to reach her) and deliver a slashing blow across her torso. Viscous ichor flows from the wound, a luminous purplish gold in colour and catching alight with the same pale eldritch fire as it comes into contact with air, but the woman does not appear much troubled by this. Brother Zariel arrives at my side and reaches out with his servo-arm to crush the woman’s skull in its grip, but her head flows like syrup and reforms apparently undamaged. Then Brother Thorgrim arrives alongside us, his servo-arm misses its mark but his hammer deals her a dolorous blow that sends her staggering backwards into a corner of the room. She slumps to the ground, seemingly curled up in pain, but then her flesh flows like liquid and what once appeared to be human rises from the ground in the hideous aspect of a demon. Its legs are fused into a monstrous serpentine tail, wings unfurl from its back, six arms sprout from its heavily scaled torso and each bears a taloned claw, its face is a sickening parody of humanity. A painful buzzing whine begins to clamour in our heads, the sound of reality crying out in rejection of the foul spawn of the Warp.

The demon flings out one arm and a crackling bolt of Warp energy flies out to strike Brother Zariel’s chest, but the Emperor is watching over him and he shrugs off the impact. Brother Siegmund rallies the Kill-Team and invokes the Emperor’s protection to armour us with the steel of our faith as he charges forwards, the demon’s mockery of a face shaping itself into an arrogant smirk as his chainsword carves only a thin furrow in its armoured scales. Brother Ramiel continues to writhe on the ground within an aura of Warpfire as Brother Calibos unleashes another hail of bolter fire, but again the demon throws up a hand and the shells pause in mid air. Yelling imprecations, I attack it with great fervour, but the demon bats my chainsword aside and the blade embeds itself in the wall. Brother Zariel draws his bolt pistol but neither his shots or his servo-arm find their target. Brother Thorgrim manages to get the demon’s torso in the grip of his servo-arm and squeezes, which causes it some discomfort, but is only able to deal it a glancing blow with his hammer. The demon spreads all six of its arms and calls forth a great cloud of pale eldritch fire that washes over the four of us standing close to it. Brother Siegmund’s faith is so strong that the Emperor’s grace keeps the fire from touching him, but Brother Thorgrim, Brother Zariel and myself are not so blessed; the fire passes through our armour and skin as if they were not there, only to burn inside us with unholy agony. Brother Siegmund’s chainsword now finds purchase and tears a gash in the thing’s flesh as he calls on us to strike the Warpspawn down with holy vengeance in the Emperor’s name. Behind us the flames around Brother Ramiel finally burn themselves out and he lapses into unconsciousness. Brother Calibos continues to fire his heavy bolter, but this time instead of holding the shells in mid air the demon’s influence perverts their trajectory, causing most of them to go wide and one of them to severely wound Brother Thorgrim in his right arm. Inspired by Brother Siegmund’s words, I pull my blade from the wall and rain a flurry of blows upon the demon. The first gashes its arms, driven by my righteous fury the next cuts open its belly and spills its guts, the third cuts it in half, and twice more I hack at its form as it shudders and shrinks back to the size and shape of a small dismembered human woman, her eyes the milky white of an astropath and her skin covered with painted writing in some unholy script of the Ruinous Powers. Brother Thorgrim identifies her as Selene, the astropathic psyker in service to Inquisitor Hoffman, whom he last saw shortly before he was assaulted. The corpse gives off a faint scent of lilacs and ozone, which Brother Thorgrim recognises from previous meetings with the psyker and also from the moment of his assault.

As Brother Thorgrim engages Brother Calibos in a furious row over his unfortunate bolter wound (with Brother Zariel and Brother Siegmund stepping in to keep the peace) I rush to Brother Ramiel’s side. It is apparent that the unholy fire left his armour and skin unscathed yet burnt his flesh from the inside outwards, and I inject him with the appropriate chemicals and elixirs to aid and speed his body’s healing. Soon enough he comes to, fatigued but conscious, and his first words are to enquire after the fate of the enemy and to express remorse that he was not strong enough to subdue it alone. I reassure him and help him to his feet, and become aware that the conversation has turned from the raking over of ancient feuds between the Dark Angels and the Space Wolves to speculation as to what the omophagea organ might be able to teach us of Selene’s nature and activities. Shocked by the foolishness of such a suggestion, I unlimber my flamer and push Brother Zariel aside from his inspection of the corpse that I might cleanse it with flame until little that is identifiable remains. As I then douse the walls with cleansing flame where they were splashed by the demon’s ichor, Brother Siegmund contacts Sister Superior Winifred over the vox. He tells her that the section must be sealed off until it can be properly examined and cleansed by the Ordos Hereticus and Malleus. Sister Superior Winifred asks for our assistance in finding the missing Sister Nineane, and we ask for the help of the Sisters in locating the savant Althesius. Brother Thorgrim announces that he will attempt to follow back Selene’s distinctive scent to discover where she has been spending her time.

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