Wednesday, 5 August 2009


Sister Aria Stood in the cloisters in a column of dim light filtering down from a stained glass window high above. She had spent the previous week fasting and shriving her soul of any taint of sin in preparation for this, and now she stood, awaiting her summons to the presence of the Arch-Bishop. She was as still as the statues lining the walls with her head bent and her hands clasped before her in an attitude of prayer. The wan light bathing her seemed to be magnified and reflected with a greater brightness, such was the holiness of her spirit at that moment. Where the weak light fell on her power armour, it shone back with renewed glory.
A man draped in the purple habit of the ecclesiarchy stepped out of the darkness between two of the massive granite columns supporting the vault of the cathedral. He paused at the threshould of the light and looking out from the depths of his cowl, took in the scene. The girl seemed to sense his presence and looked up as he moved into the light, her power armour whirring faintly at her every move. He spoke in a whisper but his words were picked up by the cavernous space of the great cathedral and sent back as a thousands of shattered sibilant wisps of sound. "His Holiness will see you now." Sister Aria gazed at him as if seeing him for the first time, and hefted the great hammer she had been leaning on. "Come" said the messenger and turned back into the shadow.
The chamber was mutely lit, and in the centre the Arch Bishop sat, slumped in his chair wreathed in a mist of incense. Sister Aria had never seen anyone look so old. Draped in purple vestments, the arch bishop looked more like a corpse than a man. His head lolled forward on his wasted chest, his gnarled hands lay twisted and useless like clumps of tree roots on his lap. Behind his right shoulder stood a tall thin man in a simple black cassock. Around his waste a red silk sash cut a bloody line on the garment, cinching it tightly into his his frame.
Sister Aria strode forward to the place on the floor the messenger had bid her to go and her armour clashed loudly in her ears as she knelt before the Arch Bishops throne. Aria bowed her head and made the sign of the aquilla on her breast. She could feel the weight of the ancient stones that had not known the caress of the sun for centuries as they looked down on the tableaux, mute witnesses to the comings and goings to millennia of the faithful.
The Arch bishop twitched his hand and the man at his shoulder knelt down until his ear was level with the archbishops. Aria could hear nothing but the wet and broken whisperings of a man crushed by the weight of his long life. The man nodded a few times as he listened and eventually stood up and walked halfway towards where Aria knelt in supplication. When he spoke his voice was rich and held an air of Authority. "His Holiness has expressed his desire to see once more the relic of Saint Celestia returned once more to the bosom of the church. This thing was taken by heretics when the temple of El'Shazia was defiled three years ago. The Inquisition believes this sacred thing is now held somewhere in the city of Vidighese. His Holiness has authorised any action to recover it. Any action that may be committed in the course of recovering this thing for the church has been forgiven. Do you understand this Sister?" "I understand" "Then go with the God Emperor, let faith be your shield".
Sister Aria rose from the floor as the Arch-bishops spokesman turned back to the throne.