Monday, 3 August 2009

The Space Squids Part 3: Three Chaplains I

“The Scales Of The Emperor Protect Us!”
His Venom Blind Our Foes!

Battle-prayer of the Steel Cobras Legion (declared Excommunicate Traitoris)

Consider almost any conceivable method of worship or image of masculine divinity, and the chances are exceptionally high that either one of the millions of cultures and societies of the Imperium currently pays homage to the Emperor in such a manner, or that such was once the case, before an outraged Inquisition declared the variation heretical and swept it aside in a wave of purifying flame.

As endlessly varied as the encouraged (and tolerated) declensions of the Church of the Emperor are amongst the Imperial citizenry in general, the Chaplains of the Adeptus Astartes frequently extol their Battle Brothers to worship images of the Emperor far stranger. A combination of tradition, a respect for the separation of powers, and (most importantly by some distance) the sheer insanity of declaring war on an entire Chapter absent any other alternative (even declaring the Steel Cobras heretical has meant nothing more than unsuccessfully attempting to quarantine their system) means that there are a number of Space Marine forces that espouse beliefs and practice rituals that could condemn whole words to Exterminatus.

Even within this ludicrously large range of doctrine and zealotry, however, the Krakens of Greyjoy stand out. Not for any specific outlying idea or method (though every Chapter has its idiosyncrasies), but because of the unique complications brought about by the Three Chaplains.

These records have already touched upon the destruction of the Emperor’ Shields fleet at Raxos, and of the solitary Thunderhawk that survived the massacre. Included amongst the handful of survivors were two Chaplains, Tolosson and Orfirsson, all that remained to teach the new recruits from Four Feathers the ways of venerating the Emperor through prayer and through battle.

Before that tale can be told, however, we must consider the histories of two worlds. The first is Krinngrim, the homeworld of the Emperor’s Shields. Krinngrim is one of the most beautiful worlds in the Imperium. Wide expanses of pale crystal plains terminate at ranges of sapphire mountains. Deep valleys cut from jewels score the landscape, their shining walls reflecting each other to infinity. Inquisitor Hermans once remarked “Could the High Lords but sell Krinngrim, they could buy themselves afford a second Imperium.”

With the beauty, however, come danger. The fiercest sandstorm of ruined Tallarn is but a gentle shower compared to a Krinngrim Shardwind. Tiny pieces of razor-sharp crystal are blown to hurricane speeds as they travel across the smooth land. Indeed, this is the very method by which the plains are levelled and the valleys cut, but a force that can polish diamond will cut a man into particles before he can take in enough breath to scream. A tank, if it can find shelter, and is particularly-well armoured, could perhaps last just long enough to vox for help. Maybe.

Worse than the Shardwind, though, is the Glitter Rain. A Shardwind is highly visible, the swirling tower of particles reflects enough light to be visible at great distance, and the sound it makes audible from almost as far. Glitter Rain begins high in the atmosphere, and the first sign of the tiny jewel fragments falling is the occasional spark of light in the surrounding air, before they begin to bite. If the Shardwind is certain, immediate destruction, then the Glitter Rain is maddening agony. A person can survive a Rain for an hour or so, longer if they have been caught short before and have enough scar tissue to delay their deaths, but with a third of that time what staggers into the caves the Krinngrimmi use for shelter will no longer be easy to identify. Much longer, and the natives are liable to put their unfortunate comrade to death, for the sake of easing their pain.

As dangerous as the surface is, the inhabitants of Krinngrim cannot stay underground forever. Once, generations ago, the caverns were home to many native species; and perhaps that is where life began on the world, but the colonists consumed those scattered ecosystems long ago. Now, nothing moves in the caves except for humans, and whatever surface life wanders in, searching for tender flesh.

Out on the Diamond Plains what life there is unfolds from giant, almost indestructible shells, foraging for food in-between Shardwinds, laying rock-hard eggs in deep pools of gem-dust, or inside other creatures using long, spear-sharp ovipositors. Most of these creatures are good to eat, but difficult to kill, given their impenetrable shells, and their possession of a vicious temperament borne of a constant life of borderline starvation.

The combination of insanely dangerous weather and rampaging fauna makes life on Krinngrim exceptionally difficult, which in turn makes the tribes of the Krinngrimmi ideal candidates for Space Marine recruits. The Emperor’ Shields used the planet as a recruitment ground since their initial Founding, building their fortress monastery on the nearby moon of Orinoi. As so often happens, the beliefs of the culture from with initiates were chosen bled into the teachings of the Chapter’s Chaplains. To the Krinngrimmi, and hence ultimately the Emperor’s Shields, the Emperor was a master sculptor. Whilst mortal man might carve the decorations on a domicile, the Emperor carved the Imperium. Where others would sculpt a statue, the Emperor manipulates the very realm of space itself. The legends of the Krinngrimmi state the Emperor himself carved their planet, for no other reason than to prove the task did not lie beyond him, and because he found it beautiful, and for the tribesmen of the Diamond Plains, beauty is always the same thing as the threat of destruction.

Naturally, when Tolosson and Orfirsson began to preach to the first recruits from Four Feathers, they told them of the Emperor’s skill with the chisel, how he carved the world on which the last survivors of the Emperor’s Shields had been born, how he had created the Imperium as the greatest work of art in the galaxy, and how he brought the gift of beautiful death to his enemies, so as to carve their bones into the shapes that pleased him most.

It was a creed unrecognisable to those from Four Feathers, and not one accepted easily. The Chaplains had preached for centuries, though, and the recruits had received sufficient mental conditioning for the transition to be made essentially smoothly. For a time, it seemed as though the Krakens of Greyjoy would be differentiable from the Emperor's Shields only by the colour of their armour.

Then, a brother marine born of Four Feathers became the first Chaplain to join the ranks of the Space Squids since the Battle of Raxos, and everything changed.

His tale, though, and that of the strange world of Four Feathers, must wait for some other time.

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