Chapter One: Ladies in Hating (Part 1 of 2)   Leave a comment

Prologue

Our story begins in the investiture ceremony at the Basilica of the Sacred Name on Holy Terra. Archbishop Sigmond Drual, Syneculla to the Patriarch, led the ceremony, while the Patriarch dozed on the throne, occasionally rousing himself for a benediction. We meet our pilgrims properly for the first time. Captain Halford Manx, Apprentice Fannagus Hawthorne and Sir Victor Hyperius Swindon, we know already, but today we meet the remaining four pilgrims:

Brother Talisker Sand, mendicant friar, returned from preaching to the Kurga Caliphate;
Lady Corezza bin Hamoud al Malik, noble relic hunter and pleasure seeker;
Acolyte Huifang Gwinn, of the Brother Battle order of warrior monks;
Deacon Saundra Nedeau, Avestite Inquisitor.

As the mass went on, our heroes flashed back to conversations they’d had with their fellow pilgrims in the weeks leading up to the ceremony. Fannagus had actually cornered the Syneculla himself in the gardens of the Basilica compound. The dour priest dismissed his coterie in Latin, listening patiently while Fannagus expressed his gratitude for this opportunity. “You weren’t selected for your youth and curiosity,” Archbishop Drual said. “You were selected as a favor to the Engineers – a favor which we expect your order to one day repay.”

Archbishop Sigmond Drual

Victor caught up with Brother Sand, who had spent years preaching among the Kurgan worlds. The two of them reminisced about Castilo University on Ravenna, which Sand hadn’t seen for forty years. “The planet hasn’t changed much,” Victor said. “Architecturally. Culturally.” Sand gave Victor some friendly advice not to mention his friendship with the Eskatonic monk Fr. Flavian around the Inquisitor. The two orders don’t always get on so well.

Brother Talisker Sand

Captain Manx was able to get some time alone with Lady Corezza, escorting her to dinner one evening. He was so bold as to volunteer his desire to learn more about Ukar (a possible lead on his son’s whereabouts) and even to ask the noble lady for her help. Corezza was touched by the passion that drove Manx, and a bit of a sport as well. “I have some unfinished business on Ukar,” she said. “If our pilgrimage takes us there and you help me with it, I’ll help you find your contact.”

Lady Corezza also made time to talk to Victor. The two of them got on much more warmly. Corezza was surprised, but only cordially disappointed, to learn that Victor had postponed his betrothal to Lady Maryam Windsor. She sounded him out to see how much he was looking forward to this adventure and was apparently pleased with Victor’s answers.

Lady Corezza bin Hamoud al-Malik

Our heroes broke from their reverie as the mass ended. They were presented with a patriarchal bull by Archbishop Drual, sanctifying them as pilgrims on this sacred quest, charging any of the Faithful to give them all expedient aid and outlining a menu of indulgences available to any devout who donated alms to their task. Then they were ushered out the door.

This was a bit disheartening to Captain Manx and Apprentice Fannagus, who had hoped for an official Church starship and weren’t exactly flush with cash. Being a noble, Victor could pay his own way from Terra to the gates of Nowhere itself; being a minor noble, he couldn’t do the same for the other pilgrims. Brother Sand had no problem begging his way along (“that’s what ‘mendicant’ means, you know”) and Deacon Nedeau was content to wait for what aid the Creator provided. Which left the problem up to our heroes.

Captain Manx flexed his contacts in the agora, finding an accommodating Charioteer named Tomas. Tomas had just completed a run from Sutek, transporting some Second Republic relics of questionable legality, and didn’t want the added attention that human passengers would bring on the return trip. Manx, an experienced hand, pointed out some outdated regulations that Tomas could take advantage of. After hours of negotiation, Tomas agreed to take the pilgrims, provided Manx could cough up some firebirds.

Meanwhile, Fannagus returned to his quarters to find his companion, Ferezzio, fretting over his things. Apparently someone had been rifling his possessions, an observation which Fannagus confirmed by finding his tools out of order. The two of them went about securing their room: pressure sensors on the doors and windows and pinhole cameras embedded in the elaborate carvings. While in the gardens the next afternoon, the remote alarm went off for the pressure sensor: the intruder had returned! Oddly, the pinhole camera’s closed-circuit feed was obscured with static. The two Engineers sprinted through the garden to get back to their rooms, only to collide with Archbishop Drual near the fountains. By the time they’d picked up his coterie’s notes and apologized profusely, minutes had passed and the intruder was long gone.

Victor found Lady Corezza in her quarters and tried to sweet talk her into bankrolling the entire group. “This is the first pilgrimage in a century,” he said. “The eyes of the galaxy are on us.” Lady Corezza was unimpressed by Victor’s rhetorical prowess, however. “We could spend weeks in steerage with those tiresome pilgrims,” she said. “Or … you and I could take my private yacht to Sutek ourselves.”

Catching a glimpse of some of the provocative dresses that an al-Malik apparently considered suitable pilgrimage attire, Victor agreed.

Chapter One, Part 2 coming soon …

[In game terms, Manx won his challenge to secure passage to Sutek, but Fannagus and Victor lost their challenges. I made clear that the pilgrims wouldn’t be stranded on Terra if they failed the challenge, but that they wouldn’t get to leave on their own terms. So on whose terms could they leave?]

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Posted September 5, 2011 by John Perich in Uncategorized

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