In the decade between the Invasion of Ulric and my next meeting with Isimbard Kane I had achieved some modicum of glory. I was recognized as a survivor of the fight with the daemon, an event which took the lives of several Grey Knights and an Imperial Inquisitor, along with my own sisters. I had been retained as a bodyguard for the Inquisitor Gibbius Vecht of the Ordo Hereticus, along with the remainder of the Cleansing Fire Commandery. During this service I fought in the purge of Scarran, I participated the destruction of a chaos cult on MacCragge itself, and I found myself alongside guardsmen once more when Inquisitor Vecht was called to assist in a particularly dangerous hunt for the rogue psyker Dasar. I was promoted from Battle Sister to Sister Superior. But my career, as prestigious as it might have been, was nothing compared to that of Isimbard Kane.
Kane gained fame for his defeat of the daemon on Ulric and was adopted into the Ordo Xenos as an Interrogator. While an Interrogator Kane personally put an end to a genestealer cult on the eastern rim and assassinated a Tau leader. Upon being promoted to Inquisitor, Kane halted an Ork Waaagh in the Davoth subsector by using Navigators and Astropaths to create a storm in the warp large enough to wipe out the entire greenskin fleet. Then he led an assault on an Eldar Craftworld, driving the foul race from it with flame, fire and a Deathwatch company. In the ten short years since he had come to the galaxy's attention he had become the stuff of legends. He never tried to hide his identity, instead preferring to operate in high profile conflicts, unerringly following an innate instinct which allowed him to emerge victorious from every conflict with the foul xeno.
I will be honest, I felt nervous as I waited for him to arrive. He'd contacted Vecht about rumors he had heard of a xenos cult on the backwater world of Ondine. The planet, a lush place of verdant green fields and thick forests, had been colonized only a few years before. Some xeno race must have attacked the colonists, or Kane never would have involved himself. Vecht, smelling glory in the air, had invited Kane onto our ship, Nolo Contende, and offered him the use of our forces in his mission. Our forces, at the time, consisted of Vecht himself and fifteen of us sisters, cut down from the original twenty-seven who had survived on Ulric by the previous decade's conflicts. While it was true that he could have mustered a few hundred men from the ship's security detail, Vecht generally considered his group of veteran Sororitas bodyguard to be enough to handle any conflict, and so far he'd been right. If only he had been this time as well.
We were gathered in the great dining room on the ship, a vast room over a hundred meters long, with a dark wooden table that ran the entire length of the room, surrounded by plush chairs in crimson. The table had been made, according to Vecht, from a single piece of wood, cut from a tree over a mile long on some obscure planet that I could never find in the databases. Most of we sisters stood at regular intervals around the perimeter of the room, standing statue still with our bolters, a show of power. I was not with them, being a Sister Superior had granted me the privilege of dining with the Inquisitor. Along with me were my friend Kora Halquin, now a Celestian along with Angelica Cross, who sat across from her; and Analyn Lafollet, our Palatine. I never liked Angelica, and I don't think I ever will. I can respect her in battle, but she has always had a tendency towards recklessness which was not even remotely suppressed in social situations. She also curses like a bilge rat from the bowels of a pirate ship.
“Is he fucking here yet? You'd think a fucking Inquisitor would own a chronograph.” Out of our armor, the three of us wore the black robes of our order, though Angelica's was decidedly haphazard and lacking in decorum. She was frighteningly tall, even when sitting, with stark white hair that I would swear that she dyed were it not for the fact that it matched her eyebrows so perfectly.
“I'm sure he's on his way. His shuttle parked over an hour ago. He probably just had some business to attend to.” Kora said diplomatically. She had her light red hair up in a tight bun and was wearing her pince nez glasses again. I never saw her wear those in combat, where they might have done the most good, and I think they're an affectation. She stills wears them, even now, and over the years I've become convinced that she doesn't actually need them. Her robe was perfectly maintained, as always, with everything in its place.
“Angelica, keep your opinions to yourself when he arrives or so help me I'll make you my twin.” That phrase had become Analyn's favorite threat, and it was a dreadful one indeed. Though her robe covered most of her life sustaining bionics, nothing could hide the extent of the replacements she'd needed. Half of her face was covered by the tubing which powered her augmetic eye and the plate that protected the delicate machinery. The lens zoomed in and out threateningly when she grew angry. Her right arm ended in a thin, skeletal hand made of steel which twitched in an unnerving manner at all times and kept her from using a pistol in it anymore, which was probably for the best considering that she'd lost that hand when her plasma pistol had exploded on Ulric.
Never one to suffer authority lightly, Angelica glared at Analyn, but said nothing further. At the far end of the table sat Gibbius Vecht, Inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus, and our current patron and master. He was a tall man, and almost skeletally thing. His face was sallow and angular, his ears large and angled near the tops, his nose overly large and aquiline. He was dressed in the finest silk shirt with a cravat that tumbled from his neck in a cascade of lace; his jacket, long and black, was crushed velvet. Kora had described him as a man of refined elegance. Angelica just called him a useless fop. “Sisters,” he said, his voice somehow both melodic and grating, with a tenor harshness I could never quite place. “I would advise silence upon the arrival of our esteemed guest. Though you may feel personally connected to him in some way, due to your participation in the events on Ulric, I feel I must remind you that he is of The Emperor's own Inquisition now and likely cares little for your petty female squabbling.”
I believe that had the doors at the far end of the chamber not opened at that very moment Angelica would have likely ended her service to The Emperor that day with the blood of an Inquisitor on her hands. But the doors did open, and the man standing there was not what I had expected. When I had first met him, Inquisitor Kane was dressed in the armor of a crusader, made of polished silver and gleaming with honors and prayers inscribed in the minutest detail. Now before me stood a man in a ragged, tattered brown coat, stained all over and patched haphazardly in dozens of places. Underneath he wore black carapace armor, scarred and torn from battle. His hair, once close cut and tidy, now hung long and dark brown around a face too weathered for its age. But his eyes were still that intense blue that I remembered.
Vecht stood, as did we sisters, and our Inquisitor greeted the guest. “Inquisitor Kane, it is an honor to have you aboard my inadequate vessel. I welcome you and invite your to enjoy our hospitality. Allow me to introduce the senior members of my personal retinue. This is-”
“Palatine Analyn Lafollet,” Kane interrupted with a sly grin. “And Sisters Superior Angelica Cross, Kora Halquin and Regina Winterfield. We've met before, though it was quite a while ago.”
“Of course,” Vecht said. “I'm surprised you remember them.”
“I make a point of keeping abreast of comrades in arms.” He said, approaching the table. “In fact, they are why I contacted you in the first place, Vecht. I like having allies I know I can rely on, and the Cleansing Fire Commandery has proven itself to be exceptional in its service to the Inquisition.” he pulled out a chair and sat, slumping against the high back, then added, almost as an afterthought, “As have you, of course, Inquisitor.”
“Of course,” Vecht said, the sneer on his face leaking into his voice as he returned to his seat. We sat as well, and Angelica seemed quite pleased at the almost casual dismissal of Vecht by the great hero in the room.
“We've been told that you're investigating a xeno cult and would like our assistance,” Analyn said, cutting right to the chase. “Though I'm not sure why you contacted the Ordo hereticus about something like this.”
“Palatine, that's quite enough,” Vecht said. “I am sure that discussion of business can wait until after our meal. The business of Inquisitors shouldn't be discussed so openly.” The emphasis he put on the word Inquisitors made me sink down into my chair and pray he didn't look at me.
“No, it's fine.” Kane waved a hand dismissively. “My operations are very rarely subtle, and I like my allies to have as much information as possible.” He turned to Analyn, “To be honest, I need reliable people with me on this one, and my Deathwatch command has been drastically depleted after the assault on the Eldar Craftworld. I only have three marines with me at the moment, and I need more boots on the ground and bolters in hand.”
“This has nothing to do with my expertise then.” Vecht tugged absently at his cravat, and I sunk even lower into my chair. That was a sure sign of the Inquisitor's rising anger. I had only been on the receiving end of it once, and I didn't care to repeat it.
Kane gave Vecht a narrow, curious look, and said, “No. It doesn't. I need your resources, and if possible, your assistance. A sharp mind is as good as a sharp sword in the right circumstances, and to be honest, I don't know the circumstances we're facing.”
Before Vecht could respond Kora spoke up, obviously trying to diffuse this situation as diplomatically as possible. “This is about the disappearance of colonists on Ondine, isn't it? That's what we've been told. It seems like the cause could be anything, really. Are you certain that this mystery is Xenos in nature?”
“No, Sister, I'm not. It could be the influences of chaos, or simply traitors or accident, but I think it's of alien origin.” Kane pulled a dataslate out of his jacket pocket and slid it across the table to Vecht. “This is the last report we received from the colony. They claim to have found some sort of structures in the forests around the equator. They couldn't immediately identify them, but sent teams to investigate them, which never returned. They discuss the age of the structures in their reports, which places them at the height of the Eldar Empire thousands of years ago, but the descriptions they give don't match Eldar architectural styles from any age. To be completely honest, I don't recognize them at all, and that intrigues me. I want to investigate, and I think we'll find them very well defended.”
“Fascinating,” Vecht said, examining the slate, his anger apparently lost in favor of curiosity. “I don't recognize this style either, and I'm well versed in this sort of thing.” He put the slate down and looked across the table at Kane. “I'm interested, Kane. Very interested. I'll have my navigator plot a course immediately.”
May The Emperor forgive us for being so eager to set foot on that cursed world.
So ends the sixth passage of the Personal Record of Palatine Regina Winterfield concerning the fate of Inquisitor Isimbard Kane, and the beginning of her account of the Investigation of Ondine.