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  1. The Cabal The velvet void bubbled and rent itself open. The swirling pulsing energies of the Immaterium flowed and swelled through the rift; the lapping waves on the shore of the esoteric ocean. Fingers and claws of eldritch power curled outwards, clutching and dragging at reality's frayed edge. The hole existed for only a moment, before its own impossibility caught up with it and with a silent cataclysm of glowing light and roaring immaterial winds, it collapsed. But in the seconds it had existed, something had passed through. The great battle ship moved with steely purpose through space away from the last crackling remnants of warp energy. The trailing tendrils of blue-white vaporous power seeming to push it forwards deeper into the material realm. The sleek prow that tapered into a fine edge the split the space it passed through, the massed ranks of laser batteries and battle cannon that lined its expansive mid-section a testament to it's lethality. A cold, deep blue the ship sped quietly onwards, not propelled by the vast nuclear thrusters that clustered at its aft. No, it drew power from a far darker source. It was the Battle Barge Prospero's Fury. In ancient days it had campaigned from one corner of the galaxy to the other, bringing the light of knowledge and the strength of Imperial truth to the far sundered scions of humanity. It had been the pride of the 857th expeditionary fleet, and had carried the proud warriors of the 4th Fellowship of Thousand Sons in their quest for enlightenment and victory. Such days were long past now. For ten thousand years this great ship had plied the non-space of the warp at the bidding of its sorcerous masters, for ten thousand years it had borne its new Captain on his own quest for enlightenment. And victory. Deep within, the halls and corridors of the ship were silent as the grave, save for the rhythmic pounding of armoured boots on obsidian floors. The cavernous interior spaces, once providing the nerve centre and beating heart for a crusading fleet had long since been redesigned. Now these rooms and galleries held an endless horde of artefacts. At every corner, in every available space there was piled great and ancient books, brass instruments and outlandish oddities collected painstakingly from all corners of reality. Where once the Prospero's Fury had been a ship of death; leading the wave of humanity against a hostile cosmos, now it was, or seemed to be, little more than a floating museum of curiosities and long lost wisdom. Yet within its dark and silent depths there still burned a flame of life. Hunched low over the carved wood of the lectern, under the dim and flickering light of the ethereal blue of the torches, an armoured figure worked industriously. His grimoire open before him, his hand scratching the ageless quill of some xenos-avian over the delicate page. Resting close by the great four-horned helmet lay, its deactivated eye-lenses stared back at the lowered face of its owner. Charn the Blind, once Captain Hekat of the 4th Fellowship, though for him, like his ship, those days were long past. His blue, simmering armour shone fitfully with its own inner light, his waxy, taught, aged skin gleamed creamy yellow in the dim, shifting hues. The white bandages that covered what were once his material eyes glowed eerily bright, the light from what replaced those mortal sense organs. The pen scratched over the parchment of his grimoire never pausing, never resting as it consigned, in the most sacred traditions of the sons of Magnus, every thought, each revelation, all the secrets of the author. "Still the tides of the warp trouble me. The many crystalline paths of Tzeentch hide themselves from my sight. The future is clouded, so many possibilities vie for dominance that the shape of things to come cannot be brought into focus." The pen scraped on as behind his gently humming power pack the ornate door slid open. Through the frame there stepped another armoured figure, his head bowed in reverence of the work his master was performing. "My lord. We shall have orbit in one hour. What do you command?" The pen paused, though Charn did not move his head. "Make ready our brethren." He said, his voice dry and creaking. The sound of a thousand ancient books opening echoed his every word. The dust of ages was heavy on his breath, "And prepare the Sending. We must to take to the surface as soon as we can. We must prevent our quarry from escaping." "By your command, Lord Charn." The ornate helmet of Semik bowed lower as he retreated from his master’s room. The pen began again. "The signs have guided me to this place. It is an ancient site, the footprint of our history has never reached this far, what lies below will not be of our making. Yet here my steps have led me, and here I will find my answer. The Eye is still waiting." And now, for the first time the pen faltered. He had not intended to write those words. The eye is still waiting. For months now those visions had been creeping gradually upon him. The single great eye, a Cyclopean giant. Once, when he was still young Charn might have believed that the primarch was calling him home. But no. Millennia of silence had banished such thoughts even from his imagination. Magnus had forsaken them, there was no returning now. But then who was the Eye? Resolutely he put the pen down and reached up with both gauntleted hands to release the ties that bound the silken cloth to his ruined eyes. The pale fabric fell away in his hands, and the room was suddenly brightened. The fierce white-hot yet ice-cold light burned forth as if it resented being bound. The white holes in Charn's face flared like stars, and his tears of pain issued forth as tendrils of the Immaterium. Though these unclad eyes the world melted and warped. The image of his work and the chamber in which he was sitting fell away. Dissolving into multi-coloured chaos as he seeped out from and lived through those warp-spawned eyes. To look for answers. --- Prospero's Fury slid quietly onwards, hiding in the fierce solar winds that buffeted this remote system. Below the planet loomed, a dry, dirty brown ball hanging lifeless in space, spinning silently around its unstable star. Semik Sorcerer of Tzeentch and First Acolyte of the Cabal of Charn watched the deadly light ravage the surface, exiting the thin atmosphere and creating fractal patterns of green and red light that coruscated over the dead planet. On the far side, shrouded in perpetual night by the planet's rotation, was the destination. Lord Charn had guided them here, to this place. So remote it had no name in the tongues of man. Yet here they came, and here they would find the answer to the riddle that had begun to plague them all. Who was the eye? None of the Cabal had been ignorant of it, and all had guessed at what it might portend. Charn was content to sit and write his endless tracts and treatises, clinging to a forgotten past. Semik was not. He knew what the Eye represented, he knew what it meant. He knew what they should be doing. But the Blind Fool was too lost in history, too bent with defeat to see it. A growl curled his lips as he barked forth silent, psychic orders to the rest of the Cabal. His brother sorcerers reacted at once and the ripples of their assent found him one by one as he marched onwards towards the High Gallery. The Gallery was a vast, many pillared hall. It rose from an embossed, rune encrusted floor past buttresses of steel to the many impossibly high vaults of the ceiling. It had once been a hanger, those heights had buzzed with the legions of drop ships and fighter craft of the Great Crusade. But now it was hung with gilded incense-burners that poured perfumed smoke into the cavernous space, and lit by hundreds of braziers whose flames glowed blue with eldritch power, their flickering light cast dancing shadows over the runes on the floor. Shadows, Semik knew, that were not really shadows at all. He entered the Gallery sedately, walking slowly; his armoured feet rang on the polished marble and sang on the engraved gold of the many runes. His comrades were arriving too; processing solemnly, one from each of the eight doors. They all converged on the epicentre of the Gallery, where the huge eight pointed star waited. On each of the points was a tiered dais, and at the centre, the red eye of chaos was a vast ruby plucked from the craterous eye-socket of a deamon-planet by Charn himself, set with an obsidian pupil that glimmered in the dancing shadow creatures. Semik strode forwards into the raised, polished surface of the eye and inhaled. This was the spot. The hall, the very ship had been redesigned by the mind and naked will of the Blind Prophet, warping it and bending it to focus energy through this point. It poured through the pupil of the great eye upwards in an invisible yet tangible torrent that seeped up through the distant ceiling and round again through the attuned bulkheads and rune-carved gantries of the ancient vessel. Now Semik stood tall in the centre of that fountain, one place away from the glowing, gushing spout of power that marked were Charn would stand. His scowl returned, the intoxicating pull of knowledge, of abilities that ought to be is. His muscles twitched, trying involuntarily to move his body onto that sacred spot, but his will prevailed. No, not yet. Around him the procession of Thousand Sons had reached their appointed places. He and the seven other Acolytes around the rim of the great eye, the eight captains around them on the dais situated at each point of the great star, with their Rubricae brethren set around them, so that each point of the star was a star of its own. Semik surveyed the Cabal. The other Acolytes, exiles of Prospero, just as their leader, had followed him through the galaxy for ten millennia. Semik’s fists clenched. The fool had taught them much, it could not be denied, but he had no vision. The old man would wander space forever, as the dust deepened all around him. The armoured figure relished the image of the blind old man, walled in by his own books, the pages of his interminably long life piled up all around him and collapsing in a dry, dusty tide to drown him in his own history. Yes. That would be fitting. Then Semik would rise. He would heed the many signs his master was too afraid to notice, he would answer the Cyclops’ call and he would be the one to return the Cabal to glory. It would he him, sat by the feet of the primarch in the tower or sorcery, his fate that would be woven into the future of the galaxy, not Charn’s. Not that old, dusty, fool. ---- Looking out now over the vista of the Warp Charn's disembodied eyes soared onwards. Always he was aware of the room, the chair, the table and his own body, but they were vestigial now. A useless add-on to a higher consciousness. Through the portal of his eyes Charn watched the ripples and eddies of the Immaterium. Close by there was the inert footprint of the planet. Faint tendrils of energy clung to it like mist to a lake. The echo of history. All around the pandemonium of Chaos reigned; ravening wills battled in the silent spaces for the legions of souls that illuminated the galaxy. Their multitudes blurring into a smear of glowing life that stained the stars. And there, in the centre, at the brightest point in the maelstrom of thought shone far off the Corpse Light of Terra. The sputtering flame of humanity, fed by the daily sacrifice of millions. Charn scowled at it, and it seemed to scowl back; a living memory of the Great Failure. But he looked away, quelling the feelings of bitterness and returning to the imposing planet before him. He soared closer, letting his swirling comet-tail soul ripple the dim billows of old life that hung to the vast orb. It crackled as he passed, vibrating to the resonance of his will, reviving sounds millennia old. Over the vast distance of years Charn heard, distant and faint alien voices calling. Souls departed so long ago that the memory of their memory had evaporated. He listened to their lament, the sounds of sorrow, of battle and of gradual ignoble death are the same in every language. The melody rose and fell as Charn orbited the planet, combing with his mind the craters and gorges that sprawled lifeless below him. The song lilted through space, a species last defiant whispers against a cold and unfeeling universe. When the last note ended, and the chorus of lost souls was stilled Charn felt a moment of grief, and silently he marked the loss of this world. Not for the creatures that once crawled on it, not for their lives, spent as lives always are in futility, but for their knowledge, for their creations. For the artifice of a civilization, that was what was important. That was what remained when breath had died and the soul had fled. The testament of a species was what it left behind, and for this species, so long had passed even that had crumbled into dust and been forgotten. An electric tingle exited the warp around Charn as he sprang out of his contemplation. The faint resonance of light made the warp-stuff all around jingle with trepidation; light meant life. The Sorcerer focussed on it, crawled through deep vaults of time in the inert matter of the planet, swam through long darkened seas far below the surface, listened to the sound ahead making the minerals in the crust ring as it pulsed through time and space like a beacon. As he gained on it features resolved. He could see the structure, buried far down beneath the equator, the blocks of stone and wraith-bone shell vibrated with the life they contained. A few, not many, their souls were indistinct, hidden by the ancient technology of their architecture, but there was something else. Their light burned low, but hot, ravaging, rapacious fire stung Charn’s senses as he drew closer, the solid earth passing through him like smoke. Too few, all the same. He felt a wry grin twitch his wizened material cheeks, and he turned away, letting his body draw his mind back, through the rocks and bones of the planet, through the echoing halo of dead aliens and back into space, towards Prospero’s Fury. --- Semik glared through his helmet at Charn when the old sorcerer finally entered the hall, leaning on his wooden staff. The sound of its embossed base striking the floor carried like ghostly music around the High Gallery. Charn walked with his head bowed, his eyes were bound, and their light seemed dimmer to Semik than when he had reported their arrival to him only a little while ago. The fool grows older every moment, he thought wickedly, imagining snapping that wasted and emaciated neck and watching those warp-eyes go out forever. Never the less he stood straighter as his master neared the centre of the hall. The hush that always pervaded Prospero’s Fury deepened, the circles of automata stiffened as the minds of their champions prickled with the approach of their master’s formidable will. Charn joined Semik and the other Acolytes on the glowing eye, lifting his face to the ceiling as he stepped into the eruption of ethereal energy that fountained from the obsidian pupil. Semik heard his master sigh, and thought that up close Charn’s hunched form suddenly seemed mightier, swelling as the iridescent, invisible arcane energy washed over him, the old man suddenly seemed like a coiled spring. But then the moment passed, Charn lowered his blind gaze and the image vanished. Semik’s scowl returned at once. The illusion; perhaps the after image of a Charn from thousands of years ago, before he surrendered to history. When Charn spoke Semik and the seven other Acolytes echoed his words and from their stations on the eight cardinal points of the star the Captains took up the chant. “Twisting Chaos, build our path. Burning Chaos, light our way. Deceiving Chaos, blind our enemies. Fractured Chaos, take us there.” Charn’s speech was keen and sharp, though Semik could hear, behind the force of the magic, his master’s dry wizened voice, and he smiled to himself as the chant continued. “Twisting Chaos. Shifting Chaos. Deceiving Chaos. Fractured Chaos.” The Acolytes and Captains intoned the words and Charn’s leading voice changed as he recited other words in other languages not of mankind’s making. His words counterpointed the continued chants of the champions, the dissonance in the tones and pauses grew over the seconds, making a pulsing wave of low frequency sound that moved around the Gallery like tension on a string. The air became heavy and acrid, the smell of the warp prickled Semik’s nose as in unison the Acolytes raised their hands palms directed to the solitary figure of Charn, his own hands holding high the staff. The staff. It was, once, made of plain wood, taken from the gardens of Prospero. It had blackened and turned to carbon by the warp-fires of Charn during the siege of Terra. The wood had burned, charred and been forged into a smooth, solid and unbreakable pole. It gleamed now in the half light of the braziers, and it resonated with the sounds of the chanting. On its head was attached by a gilded socket the symbol of Tzeentch, wrought in gold and azure gems gathered from distant worlds in distant times. The runes on the symbol pulsed with inner light as the chanting rose, and Semik could see the pinpricks of white light appearing above each Captain with their rings of automata staring up at the gleaming singularity. Charn now was holding the staff high over his head; psychic charges earthed themselves along it, their arcs throwing up instantaneous lighting flashes over the scene. He was chanting still, in a language that seemed constructed on one long interminable world picked out by long strings of incoherent vowels and infrequent, harsh, guttural consonants. The vortices above each cohort were growing now, swirling eyes of blue-white energy, Sehem knew there would be identical ones forming at the place his master was bending all his strength to, using the focussed power of the Cabal through the psychic lens of the High Gallery to project a bridge through space and time onto the planet below. It was a potent spell, the forces they were building filled the vast space, pressing down against the armoured figures around the eight pointed star, but they were unmoved by it. All the sorcerers there had been working arcane magics for ten millennia, this was little more than an exercise for them. Then at last the ritual reached its climax, the air hummed with the pent up syllables, air molecules strained as the energy strained their bonds. Every breath tasted of the warp, even though the heavy helmets of their legion, the glare from the swirling micro-warpstorms over their assembled heads outshone the torches. They bent and twisted space as they hovered, and at their epicentre could be seen a darker shade. Charn spoke the final words. “Fractured Chaos, take us there!” And brought his staff down, the metal on the base crashed off the obsidian pupil and in a cascade of light and heat the stored energy of the ritual was released. The vortices ballooned outwards, spiralling arms of warp fire licked over the Rubricae and Sorcerer alike as all readied their weapons. Semik felt the space around him split, the sound of glass shattering filled his ears and the floor below his feet, the ruby eye and its black pupil, the eight pointed star, the High Gallery, evaporated and he, Charn and the rest of the Cabal were flung through the warp towards the nameless, forgotten planet below.
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