Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Nature of the Beast

The winds that were blowing in gently from the north brought with them the salty tang of the sea. Sitting on the breakwater Sister Samantha, a most chaste member of the Blessed Order of the Little Sisters of Charity let the wind rustle through her hair and the sun beam down onto her face and body. All around her the other members of her order who were with here were relaxing, praying, reading, sleeping, or just enjoying themselves. They had all been here for a while, integrating themselves with the locals and trying to ask questions of a race who had it seemed, only two answers. Two answers to everything. Can we hunt it, or can we eat it. She sighed and looked over the small bay to the great starbase of Basilisk, bastion of the Dewiek in this system. It reached skyward, it's hiports and buildings majestic in the midday sun, all around it the growing urban sprawl mixture of old and new looked, well, alien compared to the starports of Darkfold.

With a smile she watched as her translator, Rengern walk over to her. The fluid movement of the muscles of the great wolf always filled her a longing to just squeeze them and examine them, the investigator within her curious about their physiology. How sharp were his claws, how much bigger will they become as he grown old. She blushed as she caught her eyes roaming over his chest and turned away to pull her robe back around her and stand up.
"Rengern, my friend. I hope you are well?"
"Indeed, little sister. I see you are putting the governors gift to good use?"
"The shuttles? Yes. We located a prime location and are awaiting confirmation from out scientists to verify if the plan is possible. It is a lovely planet."
"I dont like the sand though. It gets in the fur, takes ages to get it out."
Rengern shook his head, his mane fluffling for a moment before he smoothed it out. He looked off at an angle for a moment and sniffed, wrinkling his nose.
"You hu-mans have a distinctive smell. It takes some getting used to."
Sam laughed and pulled the rest of her outfit back on and set her wimple correctly.
"So do you Dewiek. Especially your adolescents, they stink to high heaven."
Rengern looked genuinely upset.
"By the claws of my forefathers why would you want to smell a cub? Do you realise the risk you put yourself in to get that close? The young ones do not have the ability to recognise that you are not prey, they might attack you and..... Oh."
He sighed and rubbed his paw over his face. Sister Samantha was laughing behind her hand. Again with this humour. Bloody woman!
"I came to tell you the Elders of the village you visited have agreed to see you and answer your questions. After that, I recommend you return to the starbase, it is easier for us to protect you there."
"So you can keep an eye on us at all times?"
"You must understand, your safety is paramount to us. It has come down from the highest authority that you are not prey."
She nodded and fastened her belt. Two answers, she sighed. Subvocalising she issued an order to her party and waited while they sorted themselves out and filed into the shuttles.
"Come Rengern, lets see how much trouble I can get myself into."
"I swear, you have been sent to test us."
"The True One moves in mysterious ways, I am sure that there is some influence in you somewhere of him."
Rengern rubbed his temple and whispered under his breath. They are not prey, they are not prey, they are not prey. Samantha just smiled at him as they strapped themselves into the shuttle.

Later that evening an angry Sister Samantha took her usual table in the bar. Most of the rest of her party had retired to their quarters, but she and two of her guards remained, as did Rengern.
"It was not my fault Sister. You touched on delicate matters! Matters that outsiders shouldn't even know about!"
"You could have helped more than you did!"
"Listen female, you do not provoke a wolf in his lair and you certainly don't poke it with a pointed stick!"
"I didn't use a pointed stick!"
Several of the other patrons turned their heads and looked at the argument then laughed and returned to their drinks.
"If you had one you would have! You don't question an elder like that, they are revered and respected and your questions were insolent!"
"If they didn't keep changing the subject I wouldn't have to keep asking the questions!"
"You are a guest here, Sister. You would do well to remember that."
Rengern got up and walked away.
"Rengern, where are you going?"
"To get some air. There is a bad smell here. I will see you in the morning."
Samantha put her hand on her companions shoulders and stopped them from causing more of a scene than was necessary.
"Get the beers in. I need to get this report written up and sent of."
"Sister, how long are we going to be here?"
"Until the job is done, may the True One give me strength. I swear I was given this assignment as a punishment."
The monk laughed and slapped her shoulder.
"At least we are not with the Flagritz. These Dewiek are amieable enough once they have a few drinks in them."
She sank back into her chair and groaned as a large pack of Dewiek boiled into the bar, howling and laughing and punching each other. One of them pointed in her direction and they all looked, silently, unnervingly at her before going back to their carousing. Pulling out her personal computer from her bag she set it up and started to write her report.

"....Are even more than those living in the starbase. The parallels are striking, and under any other circumstance the standard training would have taken hold but I have yet to find the key to get into their mind. Their ability to communicate amongst themselves with a complex auditory and visual system, made possible by their empathic abilities makes them....."
A small leather ball bounced off of the table and hit her in the shoulder. She picked it up and looked at it, recognising it almost immediately. It was a training tool for the cubs, to increase their hand to claw co-ordination. When she first saw a group of them batting the ball around between them she was intrigued. Now she seemed to be hit by one or more most evenings when she came in. Recognising where it came from she threw it back.
"... their empathic abilities makes them work well in a small pack, and on the battlefield I have no doubt they would be very dangerous. I hope I do not have occasion to see this. Even with isolated villages on the planet they have shown a level of connectedness between each other that is astounding. I may have a visit from the Inquisiton for saying so, but there is much about the Dewiek that I have found to admire...."
The ball flew at her again and she caught it in her off hand while continuing.
".... but also much that is hard to live with. A full report will be made by evensong tomorrow. Sister Samantha, Avoir Mission."

She closed the computers top and threw the ball as hard as she could, hitting the offender on the back of the head. The pack, as one, turned to her. Keeping eye contact she drained her beer and watched as three of them came over to her, from the look of them, older cubs. One of them picked up the table and casually threw it aside. A yelp from the corner was met with a low growling from the rest of the young pack. The one she had hit on the head with the ball stood infront of her. Even as an older cub he was still two meters tall and had all the tools inbuilt that were needed to kill her with one well aimed swipe of his paw. He pushed her in her chair and sniffed several times.
"Why are you here? This is not a human place. This is a place for warriors, for the Dewiek!"
There were howls of agreement, literally.
"You are not wanted here, with your stupid robes and questions and arrogance. Your softness offends me, and your hairless bodies are revolting. And that singing you do that is murder on the ears and the mumbling under your breath. Pah! All humans are good for is being hunted! And our warfleets have done that, hunted humans."
The cub stood up and howled long and spread his arms wide.
"We have heard the tales of our brothers, fighting humans, killing humans, laying waste to them, scattering them like cattle before the howl of the pack."
"Oh really? I heard about the Dewiek fleets being decimated, hunted down and destroyed. Maybe your stories are just that, stories, made up to tell those who cannot fight what the real Dewiek do."
"You humans cannot fight properly, you fight from distance instead of getting up close. Even the lowliest of us here has more honour than you, hairless worm of the noisy god."
Samantha stood up and put her hands on her hips, squaring off against the cub.
"What do you know of honour, you.... a cub... barely out of the nest. You insult my God, impugn my honour and stand here with a pack to support you knowing full well that I can't do anything about it. You are nothing but a spoilt child, a drunken lout and a coward!"
The silence in the bar became apparent at that time as she looked up at the dewiek before her, the scent of him filled her nostrils, the sound of his breathing, the smell of his hot cloying breath near overwhelming. At that instant, she knew, she would never leave this planet. And she smiled.

Because of the silence, the slap when it came was heard by everyone. Stools were pushed aside as wolves stood up. Behind her, her two companions stood up as well. The tension in the atmosphere was palpable.
"So, human, what are you going to do now?" The cub growled at her.
"Liam, go and get two large beers ready. Now."
He scurried off to the bar and she pulled a low stool around and stood on it and looked at him, eye to eye.
"We of the Brotherhood are peaceful. We spend our days in pious contemplation, in study and forever looking for the word of God. The True One tells us to turn the other cheek," she turned her unslapped cheek towards him," So why don't you hit me again? Or are you not man enough to do it?"

The dewiek pulled his arm around to slap her, an evil wolfish grin on his face. As his arm came around she kicked him, hard in the groin, following up with a punch to his head that stunned him and then bodily leapt on him. They crashed to the floor, scattering patrons and she straddled his chest, one hand holding her long dagger from her belt and at his throat, her eyes looking directly into his.
"While I have your attention I will tell you a story. It is a story of honour and mutual trust. When your great Elder Gath Edhoras stumbled upon a lost group of survivors from a flagritz attack he offered them a choice. Duel him with honour, fight him one on one and if any survived they would be rescued and returned to safety. If he died, then there would be no recriminations. And so my people, people from my sect dueled him, and one by one they died until one finally killed him, after he had been wounded. He died the way all Dewiek wish to die, in combat, with the blood of the enemy on your claws, with honour and remembered by his enemy as a true warrior and a hero. I know that under usual conditions if I fought you, I would die because I am simply not strong enough to fight you, but I would do so and die, and I would die well!"
She slammed the knife into the floor next to his head.
"Liam! Beers! Now!"
She took one and drank it, drinking much, but splashing a lot down her front, throwing the glass away when she had finished and taking the second, pouring it into the mouth of the Dewiek beneath her. Standing up she walked over to the bar and handed the bartender her credit chit and turned to the assembled Dewiek, including the cub who had made it to his feet, wiping his mouth.
"We are here to drink and celebrate! I celebrate my God and you celebrate the hunt and we both worship to the best of our abilities! So let us drink and howl at the moon for tomorrow we may all be dead!"
The dewiek walked up to her and stood infront of her. She looked up at him and waited for the blow. Softly and gently he picked her up and sat her on the bar and looked her in the eye.
"I have never seen a human who could stand up to a dewiek, in his own bar with his pack behind him and knock him down."
"Your pack is strong, but my pack is stronger. My pack is my faith and my belief in the True One. My faith gives me the strength to face down a fearsome Dewiek and his pack. On his home turf. All of my followers would do the same. But enough of that. Now show me what it is to be Dewiek, let us drink and fight and I'll run with your pack! I swear on the Bible of the True One I will spend a month with you and I will see what it means to be Dewiek!"
The Dewiek grinned and laughed at her and slapped her shoulder so hard she moved. He threw his head back and howled, his pack howled. Sitting on the bar, in a Dewiek tavern, covered in beer but with a grin on her face Sister Samantha threw back her head and howled.

A few days later Samantha awoke slowly, dull pain radiating from her, dulled by powerful drink. Looking around she found herself in what looked to be a back alley in the starbase, partially buried under a pile of snoring Dewiek. Feeling around gently she groaned in pain in her side, guessing a couple of broken ribs and her tongue found a gap in her teeth that wasn't there before. Looking down she noticed her robes were in tatters, but covered, mostly, what needed to be covered. Pulling her right arm around she noticed the rune shaped scars on her arm, Dewiek equivalent of tattoos. With no small amount of pride she read what they said. Little Howl.

As she pulled herself from the pile other Dewiek began waking up and pulling themselve together. Facial hair matted with drool and blood, other smells of a not so nice nature. As she stretched and leant against a wall some of the Dewiek congratulated her for keeping up with the run, though they didn't explain what the run was. As some of them departed the majority started to gravitate towards the starport, Sister Samantha went with them, looking, as they eloquently put it, for more of the tooth of the shark that bit them.

As they stepped out into the sunlight of one of the main streets and located a tavern Sam mused, it would be a long month, but that was the nature of the beast.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Sister Murcia leant against the last survivor of her party and wept. Before her lay nine unlit pyres, eight held the remains of those who had followed Sistar Pilar, and the last one was empty. Around them the engines of the reinforcements she had called in were loud in the desert silence and she was making damn sure that no one got in the way of this ceremony. That the natives had come and attacked them was annoying, that they were the most likely people to have taken the Dewieks body was unforgivable. She pulled out the bone necklace that was her friends and placed it around her neck and took the flaming brand from the last survivor. Standing by the pyres she turned and faced the group that was there, taking care to catch eye contact with the Zealot Ezikial and his native guide.
"We have lost over the last few days a considerable amount. People have died, friends, loved ones, the faithful. Butchered by the attack of the Flagritz, attacked by the natives of this planet, and finally, at the hands of this most noble Dewiek."
She moved from pyre to pyre, lighting each one.
"I have not fought in many battles, but I have seen strength, and I have seen courage. And I tell you truthfully, with the True One as my witness, that without the honour of the Dewiek Elder, none of us would have been here to tell this. I looked into his eyes at the moment of his death, I held his hand as the life faded from his eyes. I saw..... "
With a faltering voice she stopped at the last, empty pyre.

Empty, why had they taken the body? What would those savages do? How dare they interrupt such an important event? They would burn, their villages would burn, their children would burn, they would reap what they had sown and the True One would judge them!

"We have a choice.... We can ignore what happened here, and let it blow away in the dust. Or we can honour the fallen. Our fallen, and the Dewieks. They have already offered to take us away, transport us to safety. But I say no, our honour demands we stay. We can not stand by while the godless heathens desecrate the body of a fallen hero of the Dewiek. I will return to Ascension and I will ring the great bells in the Cathedral to let Gath's ancestors know he is coming and he died a worthy death, which is all a great warrior can ask, and honoured by his foes! I care not if the Inquisition comes for me, for I have the righteousness of my faith as my shield, and I will carry this spear, with his blood on, to the Altars of the True One and bless his name this most holy relic. I will ring out his name with praise and let everyone know that he died a true Dewiek, a noble Elder, and a leader of his people!"
She threw the torch onto the empty pyre and watched the flames dance high and started to sing a hymn, her voice shouting out so all could hear, and before long everyone was singing, everyone was remembering, and none would forget.

The Desert Rat looked over at the Zealot with a little confusion in his eyes.
"Can she do that? Will your superiors not punish her?"
"Probably. But do you think that would stop her?"
"No. I will go to my people, I will ask them about the tribe that stole his body. Maybe they know who it was."
"I hope so, because I very much doubt that this has ended for her."
The Zealot turned to the camera mounted on his shoulder and turned it off.

Inquisitor D'morenta watched the transmission with interest. That such things would happen now, at this time. Was this fate? Or just faith? Perhaps she was right in her belief that the True One touched not just her people, but others. It was dangerous talk, but once more she would talk with the Dewiek. She pressed a button on her desk and waited for her assistant to arrive.
"Send a message to the Cathdral of Ascension, start the bells ringing. We are honouring those who fell. And get me the Dewiek Ambassador and ready my estate for a week of hunting."

I Believe

Sister Pilar watched the Dewiek while her companions argued between themselves. It was obvious that there was some hatred amongst the troops, it wasn't easy to have an outpost taken so quickly. It may not have been by the Dewiek, but she had no way of checking. Definately the Flagritz were involved, but weren't the Dewiek and the Flagritz allies? Was this just a ruse? She watched the hulking Dewiek and wondered why. The scent of the orange that he was eating with obvious relish was in her nostrils, it seemed to be a cloak that surrounded her, reminding her of days gone by at the Convent..... for a moment the memories closed over her and the arguments and pleading of her band were so many grains of sand on the breeze, her hand reached her throat and touched.....

She sat in a semi-circle with the other acolytes, listening to the stories that the Sister was giving to them. She remembered the day as if it was yesterday. Although the others considered her a dragon and a harsh disciplinarian she was always in awe of her, always listened, always remembered. That day, while she was talking to them about compassion and the martyrs of the True One she was eating an orange as well. The small knife she had working each piece as she told the tale, the way she would use the blade to emphasise points as she said them. That day she had openly wept at the teachings, something no other acolyte had done. They had laughed at her for it, until the Sister has scoulded them and sent them away in a howling fury. None of them had seen her so terrifying before. And yet when she sat down next to her, there was only kindess in her face.
'Pilar, my dear. You of all of them it seems have understood what I was trying to teach. I hope in your darkest hour you will remember that. It doesn't matter who, or why or where, always have compassion, always believe in yourself. I see something in you that I remember in myself, that I lost.'
She took her necklace off, it was one that we all talked about, the symbol of the True One that she had made herself. A piece of bone, scrimshawed and coated with a microscopic layer of silver.
'This is my rosiary, it came from a person I fought, who nearly killed me, but he let me live. Though we were both wounded severly, he was less so, and with a working hand he could have killed me. But instead, he stabilised me and left me where our brethren could find me. Three days later he was captured and executed. I risked excomunication in pleading for his life, and was punished more severely than you will ever know. Compassion for an alien was unheard of, they said. A thousand lashes over a hundred days. Through the will of the True One I survived. When I returned to my cell I found his skull fragments on my table, and a message from the Abbot. In defiance I took the largest piece and scrimshawed the piece with the most beautiful artwork of the True One I could muster. No one could destroy it after that. I have no daughter to pass it on to, so I give it to you. One day, I hope you will pass it on as well. Polish it well, look after it, and it will look after you.'

Pilar looked at the Dewiek and her hand squeezed her necklace. The scent of orange bringing tears to her eyes as she remembered the past. Slowly she turned and walked to her companions. The sergeant stood up and cast a dismissive wave at the warrior.
"What are we going to do about it? We do not give in to the demands of alien filth. We kill them."
"Sergeant Sergio, if you do not keep a civil tongue in your head I swear by all that is holy I will remove it."
He was shocked at her tone, quiet and cold and took a step back.
"You are going to agree with it?"
"Let me put it this way. If we stay out here, we are dead. If we fight him and die, we are dead. If we win I believe that his people will keep their word. And some of us may live."
"Sister, your talk is heretical! I would be within my right to kill you now and bury you beside him."
"Our outpost was overrun, we don't know how many survived, we dont know if the rest of the convoy was destroyed, we don't know if they reached Dune Cove and were destroyed there."
"We can get to high ground and try the radio...."
"We did.... there was nothing. We may be the only Brotherhood forces left on this planet. Even in this system. And if I am given a chance to save even some of our brethren I will take that chance. I would fight the devil himself to save your soul. I know your pain and anguish, I feel it more so. How many people lie dead, or captured? I don't know. I DON'T KNOW!"
The Dewiek looked up at the shout and shook his head, scratching at the sand which seemed to get everywhere.
"What I do know is we are alive. And we have been given a way out. Some of us will die, that is for sure, maybe all of us. But we will do this because it is the honourable thing to do, it is the right thing to do and because I believe....."
She pulled out her necklace and kissed the symbol of the True One scrimshawed onto the bone of an enemy who showed compassion, with effort she stopped herself from crying, just.
"Because I believe."
The Sergeant looked at her and lowered his weapon.
"Sister, we will all do as you say. Won't we?"
One by one the others, even the civilians agreed.
"Sister, please forgive my arrogance. I could only see through my rage. If you will lead us in a final prayer, we will be ready. And I would be honoured to be the first to fight."
Sistar Pilar reached over and placed her hand on his face and rested her forehead on his.
"The strength of the True One will be with us. It is in the hands of the True One if we fail or we succeed. Either way, I hope that our story will be retold. If not at one of our convents, then at the Halls of the Dewiek."

The Dewiek looked up as the woman walked over to him. He stood up and flexed and looked down at her.
"Your people have made a decision?"
"We have."
He could tell from the look on her face, a grim stoicism that they had accepted.
"There is a place near here that we can use, a natural arena."
"Give us a moment and we will follow you. Before we do, I have a question. What is your name?"
The Dewiek smiled at her.
"My name... is Gath."
"Gath. My name is Sister Pilar of the Blessed Order of the Little Sisters of Charity. If you do.... if we all fall, leave us here, but will you let the others of our Order know?"
"Yes, I will. If I die...."
"I will. I give you the word bond of my Order. We all will."
He looked down upon her and nodded, holding out his hand, his claws retracting slowly. They shook and looked each other in the eyes. They both understood.

Lost in Purgatory

The sandstorm howled with a fury of almost biblical proportions. Those safely inside the tanks and what civilian craft they could acquire did, protected from what was seen as the wrath of god, the mother of all storms. Almost bumper to bumper they pushed on, not knowing if the superior flagritz forces were following them, or if they would ever meet up with Ezikiel again. The mood was sober, only the singing of hymns from the acolytes kept their spirits up. Onwards they pushed, into the unknown.

With a whine and a stench of burning the tank ground to a halt. Smoke billowed from the rear compartment, hastily extinguished by supressors, but making the atmosphere unbearable. The wounded groaned and moaned while the hatch was open to vent the smoke and acrid air. Sand immediately began cascading in, but the wind was able to vent the smoke and the hatch was sealed quickly.
"This is tank alpha seven seven do you read me?"
"This is tank alpha seven seven do you read me? Over?"
More static, then fragments of someone talking then more static.
"Keep trying soldier."
A nun sat down and removed her headgear ruffling her hair and massaging her neck. She looked around, a small group of heavily armed soldiers, some civilians, acolytes and some who were wounded.
"You, take stock of what provisions we have here. Driver, check out the engine if you can, see if it can be repaired. Keep a look out of the vision slits, this storm can't last forever."
"Sister, will we get out of this? The True One says that in adversity the truly blessed will be known. Is this adversity?"
The driver as he was peering into the engine compartment spat and pulled his goggles down.
"No, this is purgatory."

It was several hours later when the hatch was thrown back and Sister Pilar pulled herself out onto the turret. Over half of the tank had been covered in sand, and most of one side was up to the turret. Taking a set of binoculars from a soldier she stood on the turret and scanned the horizon while others pulled themselves out. The area was a sandy wasteland, barren and empty. She pulled out her communicator and started to scan the channels. There was nothing, just static. Sitting on the edge of the turret she drummed her heels against the hull and jumped down.
"How many are we?"
"Just ten, including walking wounded."
"I thought there were others?"
There were three brief gunshots and then a junior sister pulled herself out of the tank, tears in her eyes. Pilar looked at her and smiled.
"You did right sister. Now come, we need to move, help the wounded. We need to get to that outcrop of rock, it's a long way, but we can make it before night fall I think."
"What about the weapons?"
"Bring everything you can carry. We will fight, but I'd rather we survive. So make sure you bring the water."
The driver pulled out a bottle and waggled it.
"And the holy wine?"
She laughed and took the bottle, taking a mouthful of the aniseed liquor.
"Blessed be. Now, move out, and keep an eye out. We don't want to be ambushed or run into anything...."
With a sigh she handed the bottle back.
"Unexpected.... May the True One carry us to safety. If we are worthy of your blessings, hear us now O Lord."

Slowly, but with determination, the small group of survivors, lost in purgatory, headed out.

Storm in a Teacup

The sandstorm howled through the streets, alleys and plaza's of Sandstorm City. Awnings and signs flapped frantically, people cowered behind closed doors and even ships were grounded. It was a bit of a misnomer calling the outpost a city, but it provided a function for the Brotherhood, an important station to look after new recruits. From his residence the Zealot Ezikial watched the power of the storm. He was not happy. But then when you incur the wrath of leader of your order, you did not expect a plum assignment. But this?

He opened a bottle of wine and whispered a brief prayer and poured a glass. Even that grated him, having to pour his own wine. Maybe that was part of the punishment, he was too.... comfortable with luxury. All had gone, his estate on Mobile Bay, his artwork, his books, his wine cellar. He groaned at the memory as his fellow zealots smashed every single bottle before his eyes, destroyed every piece of artwork, burnt most of the books. There were some that are just too holy to burn. And banished here.
"Are you sure this is the best wine you have?"
"Aaaah, my friend. You would not believe me when I said even a glass of water is a luxury to us. And this wine, which has so much waste when you make it, and fills the mind full of shadow and desire, it is not for us."
"Yes I know... you are a simple people...."
The figure sitting on the stone steps leading to the drained pool kept talking despite him.
"We are a simple people, we need only the desert and the gifts that she brings...."
"I swear, you were sent here to test me desert rat."
The figure laughed and picked up the glass of water from a nearby table and walked over to Ezikial.
"You see this? I have killed men before for such a glass, and you give it to me freely."
"I do. I don't have much.... but I offer it freely."
"You are a strange man, Ezikial of the True One. But your heart is in the right place."
In a blur of robes the desert rat leapt at Ezikial and lunged his weapon, at his heart, stopping mere inches from his chest. Ezikial sipped his wine.
"You would be dead if I was an enemy, you are too soft."
"Look down.... And I do hope you didn't spill your water."
The desert rat looked down at the heavy pistol that was also inches away from him, but from his stomach, his finger tight on the trigger.
"I wasn't sent here because I was soft...."

When the storm abated the sound of bells started ringing properly from the small church. People started to clear away the sand and assess the damages. Ezikial and the desert rat headed out into the outpost, watching the storm as it moved on. Slowly, over the course of twenty minutes the various guard posts reported in. All was well it seemed.
"My friend, I must go and perform my duties."
"It is as expected, I must speak with my people. And see if there is any progress."
"If there is no progress, then again I offer my house to you and yours."
"You are most gracious. I will see you soon."
Ezikial watched as the wiry desert man pulled his robes around him and ducked into an alley. He smiled and walked on, waving at various people he recognised and waving at those he didn't. They recognised him, at least if not who he was, at least what he was. And if there were any who knew what he had been, they kept their fear hidden well.

From a flat roof near the church, under a tattered awning the desert rat sat and waited. It wasn't long until several others arrived, like him, they had the look of the desert on them. They made their greetings first, after all the rituals had to be made and obeyed.
"What news?"
"It is grave. There is an army building, it came down during the storm."
"They are coming here?"
"Yes. Already their scouts have been seen. We have intercepted a few, but there must have been more."
"Why? Do we know?"
"The scouts we intercepted were paid by the Flagritzi, it is as we were warned."
"Flagritzi and the Dewiek, plus the other aliens. They warned us they would come."
"No, the old man did, not this one. He is too brazen, too soft. It may be well that he dies. He does not know how to rule."
"He is not a ruler, he is a leader though. And he is not soft."
"He is no leader, he was an inquisitor, a bad one. There is bad blood on him, and if you associate with him, then there will be bad blood with you. I speak now, from our mothers side, and you will listen."
The desert rat held up his hand in submission and then rubbed it over his stubbled chin.
"How long do we have?"
One of his companions pointed to the horizon, there were glimmers of sun on metal.
"Less time than you think."
"I speak now from our fathers side. I will stand by him. I care not what he was, I only know what he is and what he may become."
"You were warned."
"And would I be any less of a man for breaking bread with he who I call friend, and then leaving him to die? What honour do I have from that? I might as well be a water thief and join the northern clans than live righteous and true."
"You are the son of our mother and our father. Go brother, with honour and if you make it, we will judge then your friend."

Ezikial was in the middle of a benediction when the desert rat burst in to the church and ran up towards him. Already from both sides of the church guards were standing and raising their weapons.
"Peace brothers I plead it. Ezikial my friend, we must go. Now!"
A thousand words filled his head and he could feel his hand shaking from anger, that he would dare to burst in like this. But, from what he knew of the man, he would not do it. Unless it was necessary.
"What is wrong my friend?"
"Enemies are coming. Lots of them. We need to leave."
"No. I will not leave my...."
The first sounds of gunfire started to be heard, and then the sound of heavier weapons, lots of them. Almost as one, the guards and several of the congregation raised a hand to their ears and listened. Several headed out the door, others went to the exits and looked out, weapons ready.
"A mercenary army is attacking us. You are heavily outnumbered."
"We are the Brotherhood, the unfaithful always outnumber us."
One of the guards came down the bell tower and saluted.
"Sir, it's bad. Tanks and troops, thousands of them."
"Tanks or troops?"
"Sir, thousands of tanks... thousands of troops. Probably about four thousand, coming straight at us, but with pincers moving either side. Our outer defences are already heavily engaged and there are reports of squads of them breaking through."
"Sir, movement in the street, looks like a lot of troops, they are not ours."
"How can you be sure?"
"They are alien?"
Ezikial pulled out his pistol and took a combat staff from one of the guards.
"Are you with me, Desert Rat? Will you fight with us?"
"You need to ask? I am with you, by this fight I call you brother and will introduce you so to my clan.... if we survive."
"If we survive. Blessed be, brother."

The mercenary unit moved into position around the church while their leader kicked in the door.
"In the Flagritz...."
A shot took him in the throat, throwing him back and a black sphere followed, scattering the troops before it exploded. Screams and oaths were shouted followed by a scream of fury from the church. Ezikial leading his small band engaged the mercenaries in vicious hand to hand fighting. Blasts from his pistol and the scything arc of this combat staff knocked the merc back despite their weaponry. He stood, breathing heavy and threw his staff away, checking his pistol and pulling out a curved dagger. One of the surviving guards pulled out a tac map and checked it briefly.
"Sir, our defences have crumbled, our people are fighting to the last and making it very costly for the enemy."
"Ezikial, we must flee, this outpost is lost. It never had a chance. But we can escape and we can come back better armed and ready for them!"
"I will not leave my people to die to an alien horde! I owe them better than that!"
"The people will mourn your death and then you will be forgotten!"
"Better to die with honour than fight a dishonest war!"
"May your True One damn you for a slow brained moron! How do you think they were able to attack without the HBO stepping in? They are only attacking you! The civilians are not being targetted!"
Ezikial stopped for a moment.
"Aaaah, I see that got through to you. You are not fighting individual people, you are no longer an Inquisitor, you are only a functionary, a government lacky. And you failed at that! People are dying because you do not recognise that there is no hope here!"
"There is always hope!"
"Sir,"one of the guards pulled him back into the ley of a house,"It's been confirmed over the net, the HBO sees this as a fight between two opposing cultures. There has been no orbital bombardment, damage is being limited to a minumum."

For a moment he was lost in thought. The enormity of what had happened was now only beginning to get through to him. He pulled out his communicator and switched it to a wide band transmission.
"This is Zealot Ezikial, acting governor of Sandstorm City. All Brotherhood troops will attempt to break out of the city and escape into the desert. If you are not Brotherhood you will not be targetted. For your safety, stay in doors. I repeat, all Brotherhood troops break out and escape into the desert."
He closed the communicator and sighed.
"Forgive me, my friend. Let us escape before there truly is no hope."

Several hours later Ezikial looked down from the bluff overlooking the outpost of Sandstorm City. There were still sporadic firefights within the city limits, but the majority of fighting had stopped. He had seen a large motorised convoy leaving fast heading away under heavy fire, but it had also escaped. The desert rat placed his hand on Ezikials shoulder.
"My friend, there was nothing we could do. There were simply too many of them."
"I failed them. Do you understand how much I have failed? Do you have any idea?"
"Yes. I told you, we are a simple people. This... is bad. But we are alive. And that is good. Now come, there is another sandstorm coming, we can hide in there while it comes and then I will take you to my home. You will be my guest."
"I will return here. One day, some how."
"Yes, but not today. Now come, let me tell you about home...."

Far, far away in her office in the monestary complex on Mobile Bay Penitant Inquisitor D'morenta looked at a folder she was handed. It was labelled simply 'Battle: Persian - Mithras'. She opened it and read it, frowned and then handed it back to her assistant.
"Burn it. Send out a warning to all acolytes in Halo that their training facility has fallen."
"Shall we mount a force to retake the outpost?"
"No. My man on the ground will have to make do with what he has there. We can't go sending the fleet out for every storm in a teacup."
As soon as her assistant had gone she sat down at the computer console and brought up the excommunication proceedings for Inquisitor Ezikial and started reading.

Matters of Faith

Zewt System - Brotherhood Assault Transport 'Ecumenical Matter'

The inquisitor paced up and down in the hold of the transport, her fingers caressing the beads on her rosary as she muttered a prayer under her breath. Every now and then she would look up at the readout on the wall, and start pacing again. Around her, strapped into their seats a dozen nuns were checking their weapons and whispering prayers, all occasionally looking at the Inquisitor as she paced.
"Inquisitor D'morenta," a voice came over the tannoy, "We are approaching the co-ordinates, we need you on the bridge."
"I'll be there shortly Captain. Melissa, keep an eye on things, I'll be back."
She slipped her rosary into her belt and made her way along the walkway towards the bridge. Strange sounds echoed along the corridor, machinery deploying outside the inner hull and the thrum of shield generators coming back online. As she squeezed through the doorway onto the bridge she listened for a moment to the coversations.
".....Caliphate control to Brotherhood transport. If you do not transmit clearance codes you will be escorted to a holding area and your complement placed under arrest pending....."

She tapped the captain on the shoulder and held out her hand, he passed over a headset for her and clipped it into the main console.
"Caliphate control this is Inquisitorial Transport code 56 dash Alpha. We are going to be in dock for an hour to recharge shields and perform maintenance on some exterior shielding. Prepare a landing bay for us. Thank you."
"Uuh... Transport 56 dash Alpha we do not have you on our....."
"Caliphate control. I understand that this class of ship requires a somewhat smaller berth than you are used to. May I recommend you allocate us the level 7 berth spinward of the main dock. I pray that I will not have cause to bring this to the attention of the Inquisition, though I will utter praise to your superiors for a quick docking. Inquisitor out."
The Captain looked at the screen and swore softly.
"Inquisitor, look at this. These readings I've not seen before. I'm unfamiliar with these designations."
"It's nothing to worry about. It's just a GTT squadron. Looks like three ships, fast boarders."
"Look, I'm not happy about this. It's one thing to go against the Caliphate, but the GTT as well?"
"Allies are allies. There were bound to be more in the area. There are several other Brotherhood ships landed here. What's a handful more of the faithful? Most of them will not notice anything out of the ordinary."
"I signed up for this because...."
She glared at the captain and pulled her rosary out of her belt and started rubbing one of the beads between her fingers.
"Jake, the Confederacy is dead. Not just dead it's now a handful of pirates and drifters operating on the outskirts of civilisation. You will get your revenge one day, but that day is not today. Now if you can't land this transport and wait for us while we perform the True One's Will then I swear I will pray for your soul and then kick you out of the nearest air lock. Do you understand?"
The Captain turned and looked at her and shivered under her gaze. Damn these religious fanatics, damn them all.
"Caliphate control to 56 dash Alpha. You are cleared, standby for docking beacon."
"Thank you control, transport out."
She turned back to the Captain.
"Get us down there. And do not draw any more attention to yourself."

Few noticed the transport landing, even fewer noticed the Inqusitorial markings on the side. Transports of all different types and affiliations landed here, but only those who were given permission to land. Hence, any that landed were beyond reproach.
Inquisitor D'morenta led the two columns of nuns down the landing ramp and into the docking bay. She checked the weapons strapped to her upper arms and slipped her hands into cowled sleeves and walked towards the exit. It was guarded by two heavily armed troopers who held up their hands.
"Hold it, ID papers please."
"I am here on Inquisitorial business. I am not bound by the petty concerns of the Caliphate. Step aside, I will not ask a second time."
The troopers looked at each other then back to the Inquisitor.
"That may be, but you are required to be signed in. If you do not do so, you will not be able to pass into the station."
"Melissa?" Carmilla turned her head to the nun behind her who pulled out a scanner.
"One camera and these are the only two in the area."
One of the quicker troopers reached for his communicator only to find himself looking at the fat barrel of the silencer on Carmilla's weapon. A second silenced pistol was pointed at the second trooper.
"Weapons down, hands up."
Their weapons clattered on the floor and for a moment sadness flickered over her face.
"I will pray for your souls."
She fired twice.

Outside of the docking bay she let the nuns past and pulled the last two aside. From their look they were Kastorian, but slight for all that.
"Okay, you two know what you have to do?"
"Yes Bishop, we do. We have memorised the layout and where to be."
"If you are caught...."
"We will leave that to the True One. We will meet you back at the Transport."
"Go with God."
"And you, Bishop."
Carmilla watched them go and then returned to the head of the other nuns and moved off quickly. It didn't take long to find themselves outside a nondescript door in a back corridor. Despite being out of the way the corridor was clean and well travelled. Unfortunately it was also on the security grid, security cameras moved back and forth slowly. She stood by the side of the door as one of the nuns pulled out a device and attached it to the control panel. It whirred softly as it hacked the panel and the door lock slid back allowing them to enter.

The bored guards looked up and saw the nuns approaching. One pulled himself to his feet and yawned.
"Security authorisations."
He held out his hand and gasped as the lead nun pulled two pistols out from her sleeves and fired twice. His confused face slammed into the floor as his life leaked over the floor. As the light in his eyes faded he felt his body being rolled over and his security pass snatched from his body.
"Spread out, any guards retire them quickly. No alarms. Someone keep an eye on the consoles. You two, with me."
She ran towards the main door and inserted the card, then prayed her intel was correct, tapping in a code. The door flashed and opened revealing two guards who fell back under a hail of bullets. Inside she looked at the readout on the wall and cursed.
"What's wrong?"
"There are too many. There shouldn't have been this many. How much room do we have on the transport?"
"Maximum? About six hundred seats.... Oh."
"Doesn't matter. We take them all. Pull the doors.....," she checked the list and found the name and ran down to the cell and looked in," Open it."
The door to the cell opened and the light flickered on. She looked in, then looked up... then was slammed against the cell door behind her. A large furry clawed hand grasped her around the neck and lifted her off the floor until she was eye to eye. The Dewiek leaned in closer until it was just an inch away from her face and sniffed.
"Why do I not smell any fear on you? Death, yes, but no fear."
She grabbed his hands and pulled them enough to speak.
"Because I do not fear you."
"You will learn! Did you think you could torture me as you have done and not get your throat torn out? I have killed more humans than you know, what is one more in a dress?"
"I did not let you out so you could kill me!"
"Then you should not have let me out! Your death will lead to my death and I will die fighting!"
"You are not going to die here you stupid creature, I'm here to release you!"
The Dewiek threw it's head back and howled with laughter. It turned its head and saw the other nuns with guns pointed at it, then noticed the bodies on the floor.
"Why are they dead?"
"Because they would not let us let you out."
"So you killed them?"
"That would be an ecumenical matter and one I do not want to talk about while I have bloody dead troopers lying around. Now do you want to be fucking stupid and kill me or do you want to help me figure out how to get you all out of here and onto my transport?"
"Who are you, human? Who are you who do not fear the revenge of the Caliphate and would help your enemy?"
"I am Inquisitor D'morenta, and why I am doing this does not matter. It is beyond your comprehension. Now let me down so we can get you all out."
"All of us?"
"Yes. If we can."
"Who sent you?"
She told him. The hand opened and she dropped to the floor, gasping and rubbing her throat.
"Open all the cells, lets get them ready. Pick up any weapons you want, but we'll get out quicker if you don't start killing everyone in sight."
"You seem to have done that."
Behind them both more Dewiek prisoners were being released, snarls and low rumbled filled the air.
"I hope you know what you are doing, little human."
"In matters of faith I always know what I am doing. Doesn't mean I'm not in over my head."

The nuns at the prison door looked back at the horde that was pouring out of the cell block.
"What in the..... You didn't say it was this many. Where did all they come from?"
"Don't ask. I don't know. But we should be able to fit them all on the transport. I think."
"If there are any who cannot fit, they will fight to the death to let the ship escape."
"It won't come to that!"
With a hiss the door to the prison opened and a squad of caliphate troopers marched in and stopped. Before she could stop them, the Dewiek leapt. She thumbed her rosary and whispered a prayer.
"You are strange, human. You kill without mercy, but pray when we kill."
"I pray for the lost souls."
"Will you pray for mine when I die?"
"Don't make me find out. Now lets go, follow the nuns."
She pulled out her comm unit and spoke quickly.
"Is the diversion ready?"
"Yes Bishop, it just needs you to give us the word and the charges will be fired."
"Keep the channel open, we may need it. Have you located the wires for the security feeds?"
"I think so."
"Then cut them now."

In the central control room the officer of the day looked with interest at the screens. On one of them he noticed the corridor filled with dewiek walking with a purpose then the screen was filled with static. All around the other screens were filled with static. He dialled a number and spoke to the gruff voice at the other end.
"Governor, I think we may have a problem. "

Alarms sounded through the station and troops grabbed their weapons, listened to orders then departed for stations. Carmilla and the lead Dewiek looked up at the ceiling and cursed.
"Was this not part of your plan, little human?"
"No actually it wasn't."
"Did you have any other plan than walk in and walk out with a prison full of angry Dewiek?"
"Nope... actually I'm playing most of this by ear."
She pulled out her pistols again and let out a high pitched whistle. The nuns all pulled out similar weapons.
"And yet you are all armed?"
"Listen fur ball, I'm doing this for a reason. I don't have to put up with your sanctimonious spouting of the bloody obvious. I'm releasing you all because you do not deserve to be held in a small cell and left to rot, or be tortured until you beg to be slaughtered! I'm risking everything because I believe it's the right thing to do and I would risk the fires of hell to do it and no one can stop me!"
"Stop right there!"

The voice that rang out was a tall officer commanding a small unit of marines, they all had their weapons ready, though the look on the faces of the marines as they saw what was infront of them told her all she needed to know. She raised her pistols and fired, the nuns fired as well. Turning back to the Dewiek she poked him with a pistol, a fury in her eyes.
"No one. You got that? Or do you want to go back to your cage?"
She waited a few moments then pulled out her communicator.
"Set off the charges and get back to the ship."
A few moments later the lights went out and slowly came back on. The alarms sounded even louder.
"Captain, this is Inquisitor D'morenta, fire up the engines we are coming in hot."
"Inquisitor, be careful, it's all over the net that there was a prison break."
"Really? Well just get the engines ready and drop all the ramps."
Turning to the Dewiek she grinned.
"So how fast can you run?"

By the time the screens came back on the officer of the day saw the Dewiek and started to issue orders to the troops, the madness in the control room was reaching fever pitch as troops requested order confirmations.
"Governor, we have reports of a couple of nuns firing on our troops."
"Nuns? Get who ever is in charge of the Brotherhood ships up here now. I want to find out what is going on. And print out a list of every ship that is in dock and a verification of who is on my station."

It took several of the nuns to pacify the Captain as he saw the horde of Dewiek that poured into the hanger and onto his ship. But by the time they were all on board and Carmilla had stormed onto the bridge followed by one of them he quickly strapped in.
"Damn you Inquisitor."
"Don't worry, if we are caught you won't have to worry about anything."
"Why is that?"
"Because if I know the Caliphate they will ask the GTT ships outside to stop us. So keep going."
The Captain cursed again and backed his ship out.

The GTT captain in charge of the squadron looked over the orders that had just come over the command console.
"Detain ship trying to escape? Which ship?"
"Just says a troop transport, sir."
"Do they give a reason?"
"No. Just that it is in violation of Caliphate law."
The Captain saw a ship leaving the docking bays and ran a scan on it.
"Ignore that ship, it's a Brotherhood Inquistion transport. Okay, send an order to the squadron to power up weapons and get the engines fired up. When this ship comes out we'll be ready."

Yank System - 2 Days later

Several days later the ship landed on a tropical planet and began to disperse it's cargo. Carmilla stood outside, the Dewiek with her and looked out over the forest. Already the other dewiek prisoners were dispersing into the forest.
"Why did you do this human, really?"
"I told you, because I believe it is the right thing to do."
"What are you getting out of it?"
"Something, certainly a bollocking."
They looked up as a large transport ship took off from a nearby starport.
"And why here?"
"Who would think of looking for you here?"
"We could easily find our way to one of these starports and return to the Empire."
"You won't though. I promised to free you, or if I couldn't, to execute you. Either I was told would have been acceptable."
"Yes. That is true. You are wise, little human."
"No... I just believe."
She pulled a copy of the True One Bible from a pack and handed it to the Dewiek, and then the pack.
"Food and a communicator. You are always welcome."
"There are those who would say that that was unwise."
"There are those who do not understand the way of the Hunter, but plenty who understand how to be prey. Go with God, and don't be a stranger."
Turning and heading back onto the shuttle she didn't look around and waited until the ship had taken off.
"Someone get me the Lord Inquisitor. And set course for Varnasi, we have some matter of faith to discuss.

Welcome to Kastor

In her personal chapel at the highest point of Yank Humanitarian Mission Inquisitor D'morenta looked out over the bustling vastness. The ships taking off and landing, the local population going about their day, the occasional tolling of the church bells. Divesting herself of her garb and habit she slipped into a casual dress and sat cross legged just watching. Clutched in her hand the official orders from the Lord Inquisitor as to her next post.

The sun was just dipping below the horizon when she heard the door behind her open. She didn't move, just kept watching her starbase.
"I'm not interested in eating now. Bring it back in a few hours."
Footfalls and the sound of a walking stick brought her head up and around, her eyes glancing to her pistol, just out of reach.
"I thought I taught you better than that, daughter. Leaving yourself vulnerable, even here in your sanctum is just bad form."
She rolled towards the weapon, hand reaching out grabbing the pistol and she came up pointing at the voice. There was nothing there, only the darkness of the room.
Slowly the lights raised and she him in the corner of the room, in her favorite chair, a similar, but larger pistol pointed at her. She stood and lowered her weapon, a smile coming to her face.
He smiled, and shot her.

As he walked over to the body on the floor the door behind him burst open, three armed nuns came in. Two pointing their weapons at the man and the third going over to Carmilla. She checked her pulse and let out a loud sigh, thumping the but of her pistol onto her chest. The sound of the form fitting body armour clinked below it.
"You are a royal pain in the ass Carm."
Carmilla breathed in deeply and sat up, her pistol still in her hand.
"Body armour. One of these days Carm you'll come to some harm. And you.... why did you shoot her?"
"Because where my daughter is going next will need more than just her pretty face and her faith. Faith only stops so much, but won't stop a bullet."
"Actually...." She pulled herself to her feet, "I find faith can move mountains. But I accept the point, thank you Father."
He got to his feet and the two faced each other than fell into a loving hug.
"It's been too long."
"And you have come far in such a short time. But now, you are going to be facing a challenge that will make even you seem insignificant."
"I can handle where I am going, but I feel that you are after more than just a hug and stand at the pier and wave me off."
He pulled a crystal from his pocket and handed it to her.
"I'm here for prophecy."

From a bag slung around his shoulders he pulled out an old book wrapped in a heavy plastic protection. Carefully he selected a page and started to read.
" ...And thus the emissary walked forth and to them said, ‘This is what the True One, our Lord says: I will take the Kastorians out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the plains of Sargo. There will be one ruler over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms...."
Carefully closing the book he rewrapped it and left it on the table.
"There are more passages there, all written a long time ago."
"So what? It could have been planted by missionaries. Where did you find it?"
"I found it in a submerged city off the plains of Sargo."
"Never heard of Sargo."
"Of course not, it was a ruin long before the ice caps melted and submerged the city. Sargo is now a stretch of fields surrounded by the ruins of three merged cities. As I said, it was written a long time ago."
"And this has what to do with me?"
"You are being sent to Kastor. You are the reincarnation of the emissary. At least, that is how I have told it to the locals I have been with."
She knew better than to laugh.
"How could you, it was under Detinus control until recently."
"That's why I have not been in touch until recently. But it gave me time to talk and lay some groundwork."
"Well the Caliphate is there now."
"And the Brotherhood."
"It's still a bloody warzone!"
"And when did that ever stop you? Or I? Or those of faith? This is one you cannot hand over to a subordinate. You need to go there yourself."
"And bring the Kastorians together? Look, I believe in prophecy more than most, but I can't believe that I will be the one to do this!"
She paused....
"Can I?"

The fast freighter Rising Sun landed in the ruins of the old starport, it's thrusters forming a cloud of dust and debris. Once it had died down the ramps lowered and the troops and monks started unloading and forming a perimeter around the ship. Carmilla, clad in her full robes and habit walked down, her closest nuns behind her. She reached down and took a handful of the dirt and rubbed it in her hands, coarse and hot.
"So, this is Kastor."
"Sister, we're showing a high background radiation and pollution. And there is a group of life forms watching us, that way." The little nun lowered her instruments and pointed. Carmilla started walking towards where she pointed, a collection of mostly intact ruins.
"Get everything set up. Regardless of what happens we are here now."

From the second floor of the ruins the Kastorian scout altered the magnification on his rifle. He cursed under his breath and pulled the ragged mask from around his mouth so he could breath in the acrid air. Once again the off worlders were coming to pillage and steal the wealth of the Kastorians. It must not be allowed, he mused as he centered on the woman in the lead. He breathed out and pulled the trigger.

The impact knocked Carmilla off her feet and her nuns leapt forward, one of them holding up a pistol.
"Find the shooter, take him alive!"
One of them pulled Carmilla to her feet. Groggily she fingered the hole in her habits and cursed.
"This was a new robe. I don't think they have any idea how much these things cost to get fitted properly."
"At least the body armour works."
And still she checked the Inquisitors body with experienced fingers, finding no wounds she dusted her off as best she could. A few moments later there was a few shots and a cry from the ruins.

The Kastorian scout was thrown to the floor before Inquisitor D'Morenta. Defiantly he stood up and looked at her.
"I must say that was a good shot," she held up her symbol of the True One, "And if it wasn't for my faith in the True One it might have killed me."
"Then give me a gun and I'll shoot from here and I will kill you! You come to pillage and loot and rape our people.."
"Actually we are here to learn and help your people."
He laughed and spat.
"Foreigners, you are all the same."
She held out her hand and a pistol was placed in it and she handed it to him.
"I am here on behalf of the True One, it is his will that I am here. It even may be prophecy that I am here. Regardless, my faith says I will either stand here or I will be buried here."
Placing a kiss on her symbol of the True One she looked at the short man before her, could feel the anger radiating off of him.
"Do as you will, my son. I will forgive you, no matter your choice."
She closed her eyes and started to pray.

The Kastorian hefted the pistol and checked it, then pointed it, at her head. He knew that from this point on he would be remembered. Behind him in the ruins others were watching, would make sure his sacrifice was not in vain. How dare they come here and do this. Was it not said by his grandfather that legions of off worlders fought and died not far from here, at Sargo? What better place for them to die than.... his finger relaxed on the trigger. She looked up at him, her eyes looking into his.... no, not into, beyond. The look of tranquility on her face, there was no fear, no anger. To look on her executioner with such a look.... it spoke of the old days, when the monks came from beyond and....

"Tell me..... why are you here? You women?"
"I told you, my son. We are here to make your planet whole. We are here to bring peace and prosperity to you and your people. We are here to make the Kastorians one people, one race, to stand against those who would bring you down."
She offered her hand.
"Will you join me? Will you be the first to welcome me?"

From both sides people watched, the Kastorians in their ruins, and the faithful of the Brotherhood stood behind their Sect Leader. What would transpire here today would echo down the ages.

"What is your name?"
"I am Carmilla of the Blessed Order of the Little Sisters of Charity, Inquisitor of the Brotherhood."
"Then I welcome you Carmilla of the Brotherhood. Welcome to Kastor."