Well Inquisitor, I hope you’re happy. If there’s one thing I hate more than hospital food, its prison food. So my experience of two weeks in an Arbites medical treatment cell, being fed cold porridge and shot full of anti-coagulants so that the arteries in my heart don’t collapse has been less than a holiday. One last look at Sinophia Magna from the takeoff platform, and we’re into a shuttle and finally away from that rotten, stinking, corrupt, rainy, disintegrating hell of a place. As I say Lemarre, I hope you’re happy. I know I am.
We walked out of the bloody remnants of the Clockwork Court like nothing had happened, the present Arbites and Enforcers rather more concerned with the massacre that had occurred than helping us with directions. We did, however, have pretty decent directions already. To Arbitrator Skarman’s office, in fact. Given the terribly suspect nature of his actions, what with being present as the Judiciary had his brains blown out by a guy who was pulling heads off valets two rooms down the hall, we came to the conclusion that we’d pay him a visit with not too much discussion.
And we walked into Haarlock’s Folly like we owned the place. “We need to talk to Skarman” was all we needed to get past the strong arm of the Emperor’s law, and we took a leisurely stroll from the elevator to Constantine’s office, to give the poor blighter a break from the whole city wide anarchy and doom thing. He did look tired, but he agreed to tag along as we headed up the stairs for our chat with the head of this fine group.
Now, we found Skarman in his office, in a beautifully repurposed observatory on the tower’s top floor. Assuming you haven’t burned it to the ground for being a corrupt locus of evil or something to that effect, if I were to have a summer home anywhere in Sinophia Magna, you know… no. I think I can speak for Ravia, Titus and myself when I say that none of us really wants a summer house on Sinophia Magna. Anyway, we found Skarman pacing up and down his office like a big old alley cat, he asked us what we were doing. I tried to wheedle as much information out of him as I could, then sort of changed tack. My plan was basically to confront him with the evidence, he’d slip up, Constantine would stage a legitimate coup, and we’d all be back to the good old days. Failing that I’d pull out some evasive psychic jiggery-pokery and get him in a headlock, Titus and Ravia could work his knees over and you could interview him yourself. Ravia even found a door behind his tent sized Imperial flag that I thought would give him no option but to confess. But then he did something that I don’t think any of us expected.
Skarman seemed to grow bigger and darker, his presence filling up the room and sending shadows skittering about the walls in ways they had no right to. The glow lamps dimmed, and with a voice like worms tearing into your eardrums took a sledgehammer to our collective morale. Contstantine, Titus and I were frozen in horror, the monster in the flesh of a man before us revealed as a being that could crush our very souls and extinguish us utterly, every mistake that had bought us to this point thrown with mocking laughter into our faces.
Ravia, apparently not bothered by this, exclaimed something to the effect of “What the-” before opening an express tunnel from Skarman’s left ear to his right one. We all felt heartily relieved, and I don’t think that this is an inappropriate time to say this;
Ravia, if you’re reading this; I love you.
If it weren’t for those little lead angels that seem to do your bidding right when we need it, I don’t doubt for a minute that we’d all be at the bottom of the Canal with Sinophia Magna’s most famous architectural wonders. Thank you.
So we thought we were out of trouble. Imagine you’ve met that feeling a few times before this point Inquisitor, and I don’t doubt you’ve learned to ignore it. Because feeling like one is out of trouble at a point before one has fully explained how the most trustworthy lawman on Sinophia got his brain boiled out through his eyes seems…well, I don’t even know what it seems like. This isn’t a situation I come across very often. But yes, we thought we’d done it. We thought Ravia had cut out the heart of this heresy with another of her perfectly timed lead based trans-cranial polishes.
Suffice to say, something interesting happened.
From through the Imperial Flag, forming itself from a thousand twisting tendrils of smoke, rose a monstrous figure, humanoid but utterly inhuman, ethereal but terribly real, a vision of bloody hell that corrupted the very air around it. I’d only ever seen such things from far away or in dreams, and I could barely shake the fear from my muscles, because I could feel what it was. A daemon manifest.
So we did what any reasonable people would do in such a situation. We shot it.
Or at least, that’s what we tried to do. After a few seconds of shaky fire, the thing waved its tenebrous hand at Ravia and she started choking. She hit the deck seconds later, and the thing split its image, and I went after one of them. As the image faded in the wake of my shotgun blast, I knew I’d had it. I could feel a burning heat in my chest and face, and I swore that my heart was going to leap out of my chest before everything went black. I was a goner.
I don’t think it’s an inappropriate time to say this, but Titus, if you’re reading this; I love you.
I don’t think I could think of a more welcome sight than your wrinkly-ass face and snide comments as you brought me back from the dead. “That’s right, leave Titus to clean up the mess…”, that’s what he said! Having just dissipated a daemon and stuck a syringe into my heart. Pity it was too late to save Constantine, but I shot Ravia full of Stimm, and we figured we’d have two minutes to finish off whatever arcane monstrosity had managed to raise the dead and throw this place into total chaos. How hard could it be, truly?
We ducked through the door, and headed up the marble stairs to another room where two mirrors faced each other. One shattered, and reassembled. Looking into the other, we came face to face with the Mirror Demon.
The creature claimed that it had been here for centuries, trapped here by Haarlock himself before the enigmatic Trader’s disappearance. The thing behind the glass, that had tried to kill us only moments ago, tried to bargain with us, offering us power and health if we would just set it free. But Ravia picked up something else. That the thing was afraid.
A daemon was afraid. I was surprised too. It was afraid of Haarlock, worrying within its glass prison that he was going to come back and cast the sector into darkness.
All very intriguing, but I’ve never taken kindly to people giving me heart attacks. We took the pieces of the mirror, and scattered them. There’s probably a couple still in the harbour. Damn thing can wait for Haarlock. I doubt he’ll be the only one.
So that’s where the prison/hospital comes in. Constantine and Skarman were dead, the Arbites were very obliging to not kill us on sight. Admittedly Ravia and I were unconscious and surrendering, but I’d wager that Titus was as spry and smug as ever. We were expecting interrogation and execution, really. That was the other very unexpected thing that happened this week.
I’m a noble. At least an extremely well fabricated one. As long as I stay on Sinophia, I am legitimately Nache van der Kroken. Admittedly, now Judiciary Margrave reopened some of my facial stitching when he yanked on my ear, but the compliment was appreciated. We’re heroes. We were responsible for the de-braining of the planets supercop, and somehow we’re heroes. Outlandish, maybe. But big thanks, Inquisitor. That could have gone much worse than it did. For now, I think some time off is necessary, to wallow in our money and try on outfits with our shiny Sinophian Blood Laurels. And think of all the glorious, lovely places we can be that aren’t Sinophia Magna. Or all the truly wretched places we can be, that still aren’t Sinophia Magna. And relish in the fact that we (probably) don’t have to go back to Sinophia Magna! Please… really, I hate it there. Always fucking raining.
It’s been a strange couple of weeks. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been shot. Titus might not need a new leg, and Ravia and I may need new veins. We’ve been jumped by hooligans, warp-things and mooks in every imaginable position. We made lots of money from drug dealing creative enterprise. We’ve made enemies, and friends I wouldn’t trust with my jacket for a five minute smoke break. And what do you know? Haarlock’s coming home.
So what are you going to do about it?