Thursday, 24 September 2009

The Space Squids Part 5: Three Chaplains III

Already you have heard of the massacre at Raxos, and the blasphemy that befell Kringrimm, and of the strange continent of Cauda on the world of Four Feathers. You know now of the stern, unbending artisan worshipped by the Krinngrimi, and of the endlessly destructive force of nature to whom the Caudans pay homage, and how both call their God “the “Emperor”. Above all, you know the three names around which this tale is centred: Tolosson, Orfirsson, and Tegatchi.

To those few people who know the story of the Three Chaplains (perhaps none of which lie outside the ranks of the Krakens of Greyjoy themselves, save your humble scribe), it must seem as though the crisis was as obvious as it was inevitable. In those early days, however, the Krakens were under intense pressure from every direction; pressure from Rekasson to learn his new way of warfare, from the local governors and the Inquisition to hold the line against the alien and the heretic, from the memory of the Emperor’s Shields to live up to their example, and from the basic laws of attrition and recruitment to not vanish in the night before they had ever had a chance to make their mark. What might be going on in the shadows of the Reclusiam was a question nobody felt particularly compelled to answer.

As always in these matters, things started small. The various litanies of faith and fury employed by the Krakens date in the main back to the days during and immediately following the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy, and remain almost entirely untouched by the dogma of the dour Krinngrimi. Relying on such ancient wisdom, the first few months Tegatchi spent performing his duties could not be faulted by his more experienced counterparts. And if the Four Feather recruits sought him out over Tolosson or Orfirsson for spiritual guidance or the application of penance, then this seemed not out of the ordinary. After all, at that time there were few Caudans in the Second Company, and none whatsoever in the First, and the scramble to ensure those two companies were battle-ready spiritually as well as physically meant that the Krinngrimi Chaplains were all too happy to leave the nascent Third, Fourth and Tenth Companies in the apparently very capable hands of Chaplain Tegatchi. The occasional combined manoeuvre demonstrated the Caudans’ capacity for recalcitrance and impertinent questioning, but beyond requests for more tightly-focussed hypno-indoctrination procedures during recruitment, nothing seemed to come of it.

Some would point out that given the weight of those dark, desperate days, in which a tiny, inexperienced chapter attempted desperately to be worthy of the dream their Chapter Master had shared with them, perhaps Tolosson and Orfirsson can be forgiven for failing to consider the long-term possibilities of their situation. Those same people might argue that Tegatchi, too, can hardly be blamed for attending to the spiritual well-being of his countrymen in the only manner he and they had ever known. It is those self-same voices who condemn entire sectors to flame and ruin in their attempts to understand problems rather than to solve them. The truly enlightened know that it matters not why mistakes were made, why cracks were allowed to appear that would one day become chasms: all that matters is where the chasms opened, what we lost to them, and how much blood it will cost us to seal them once more.

The unofficial and unconsidered segregation of the Krinngrimi-born marines and their young Caudan counterparts continued until the Kraken’s first major military action during the Hestanian Crusade. A strong force of rebels had staged a counter-attack against Warmaster Chellak’s overstretched flank, allowing hordes of daemons and legions of rebels and cultists to spill out into the Allagon sub-sector. Most of these forces were eventually countered by the hastily reformed picket fleets, but a small fleet of traitor guardsmen, along with several warbands of Word Bearers, managed to push their way through into the Vestan system, an otherwise insignificant system that contained the shrine world of Vestan Prime.

The colony on Vestan Prime predates the Great Crusade. Indeed, had the planet evaded discovery until the Age of Strife began, the newly humbled and ignorant mankind could never have attempted to build the seemingly endless interlocking spiral-towered cathedrals of Carella’s Maze, a multi-hued labyrinth of chapels, spires and cloisters constructed across the floor of Vestan Prime’s planet-wide ocean, its serene corridors dimly lit by whatever wan sunlight penetrates the depths. Azure fish would stare through bafflingly intricate pressure-resistant stain-glass, casting doleful glances at the confessors, missionaries, preachers and Imperial cultists that swept aside the strange, orange-gowned monks that inhabited the Maze ten thousand years earlier. There are more holy relics on Vestan Prime than in any three other local systems, but the defence fleet had been pared down to aid in the Crusade, and the traitor forces succeeded in making planet fall. Within minutes of splashdown the attacks had gouged their way inside the Maze with diamond-toothed daemon engines, and were mercilessly hacking down the horrified holy men.

The resulting terrified distress call was received by the Intractable, and Rekasson saw his chance to fully blood his chapter for the first time in the theatre of war he had chosen. Almost immediately, the Kraken fleet ripped its way into the Warp, their course set for Vestan Prime.

It was their first and last action as a united chapter.

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