"What in the Eye is going on that my rest had to be interrupted?” Korvus was irritable. It was said that marines seldom needed sleep, but he hadn’t slept since they left Fort Goethe. Eyeing the cluster of nervous-looking officers around the comm, he had a bad feeling. Good news never came over the comm. “Well, I’m up now brothers, what is it?” he said, trying to temper his voice.

“A broadcast message, sir, from the sector Cardinal.”

“Well, let me see it!” Korvus snapped again. A scroll was hastily passed his way, and he unrolled it, scanning the regular machine calligraphy. “Blah, blah, blah, the Ecclesiarch patting his people on the back. You woke me for this?”

Lane, the senior brother straightened, “Read further, brother.”

Korvus nodded and gestured an apology, which Lane accepted with a nod. Then he reached the part that had raised the excitement, “An excommunication? This is most irregular. Were these Fortunas not the ones we heard about?”

Lane nodded again, “I believe so sir.”

“Wake Secundus, If we’re awake, we might as well have some company.”

One of the junior lieutenants laughed, saying, “Yes sir.”

Secundus arrived minutes later, looking face calm, robes unwrinkled, “Some late night excitement brothers, or did someone drop out of the dice game?”

Korvus had to laugh, but it was short lived. “Fortuna, they were the ones who sabotaged the titan on Kaliegh?”

“Yes, and kept the Eldar off the grand battery. Why do you ask?”

Korvus passed Secundus the now crumpled scroll, the offensive section in clear sight.

The chaplain’s face darkened as he read. “This is evilly done.” He briefly made the hand signal for evasion, and the lieutenants faded away. He leaned back against the comm console he fixed his eyes on Korvus’.

“What does this fool of a priest think he’s doing, excommunicating the troops that just saved half his damn army?”

The chaplain shook his head, “Well, speaking as another priest, I have no damned idea.”

Korvus nodded, “Our hands are tied.”

“I agree. We lack the influence and allies to act openly here.”

“True.” Korvus crossed his arms over his chest, “Openly.”

“I see your mind is not as tired as you look.”

“Don’t remind me.” The legate turned towards the sensor station, which now served as a new focal point earnest discussion among the lieutenants. “If you’re not too busy brothers, is the Fortuna flagship still on screen.”

“Yes sir, but moving away fast.”

“Are any of our scouts in range?”

“Two sir, Revenge and Retribution, but the windows are closing fast.”

“Thank you brothers.” He turned back to the console to find Secundus was already securing and encrypting channels. A nod from the chaplain was all he needed to ensure himself before he began. “Revenge, Retribution, make these signals to the Fortuna flagship, Duke Fortuna’s eyes only, confirm.” He paused once more, choosing his words carefully while awaiting confirmation.

“Message begins: The Red Guard remembers brave deeds as we remember the Twelfth. Within our halls there is sanctuary for brave men in need that have served the Emperor well. Message ends. Confirm success.”

They waited, Secundus nodding gravely while Korvus held the edge of the comm console so tightly the metal buckled and his knuckles showed white.

“Confirmed. Receiving response.”

Secundus briefly muted the channel. “Obligations make for good allies.”

“We shall see.” The channel open again, Korvus said Relay, voice only, no storage.”

“Retribution here. Message begins: Duke Fortuna sends your eyes only, message received and understood. All praise to the Emperor.”

“All praise to the Emperor, brother.”

“Retribution sends Amen.”

The channel cut, and Secundus reset the board, gesturing that the brothers could return to their posts. “Something is seriously awry here.” the chaplain said as they walked away.

“So it would seem. I want you to find out everything you can about this Cardinal Thrackos.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

Lane called out, “Sir!” interrupting the pair. “I’m sorry, another message has just come in.”

Korvus felt a flush of frustration, “What now?”

“Victrix Astartes codes sir, priority one.”

“What do those dilletantes want?” Lane started to approach with a scroll, and Korvus cut him off again. “Just sum it up.”

“Tribune Fortus sends his regards, and demands to speak with you immediately. In person.”

Secundus chuckled, “Perhaps you shouldn’t have offered to help them with their target practice.”

Korvus laughed out loud, “It felt good though. Did you see that tape segment?”

“Yes, I’ve seen guard regiments do better.”

This drew another laugh, then a serious face, “I’m too tired to deal with this fop, and I don’t want us rolling out the red carpet for a Captain with a fancy title.”

“They might say the same about you.”

Korvus nodded

The bridge of the Redemption was a hive of activity, the watches shifting. Korvus sat in the command chair at the eye of the storm, his brothers moving about him with a grace and efficiency that he could find no flaw in. Ahead the screen showed the unrelenting light of the stars, and his eyes looked out into the darkness between them. “Are you out there somewhere?” he wondered, looking for a ship he knew he wouldn’t see.

Then he did see something, a burst of multicoloured light as a ship dropped out of the warp. Alarms sounded on the bridge, and the new watch settled into place with alacrity. The old crew lingered, eager to see what was happening.

“Contact on screen sir, fast transport, Imperial markings.” the brother at the sensor station called out.

“Thank you brother, comms?” Korvus said.

“Receiving now sir, ship identifies itself as free trader Fencer, requests docking to deliver message, your eyes only.”

Korvus templed his fingers and spun his chair to face the watch lieutenant, brother Frey, “Secure docking bay three and send a squad meet him, full search and scan. I’ll join them when they are complete. You have the bridge.”

“Sir.” Frey stepped forward, taking command of the situation as Korvus left the bridge.

The bay was still cold from being decompressed, and frost was forming on the shell of the Fencer, her bulky hull pinging as it warmed and expanded. Sergeant Paar from the first company came out onto the Fencer's loading ramp armoured, but with his helmet dangling from his left hand, bolter hanging from its strap. He gave Korvus a thumbs up all clear signal while another pair of marines led a tall man in a long dark cloak out the lock.

Korvus met him at the base of the ramp, detecting vestiges of a military bearing and was greeted by a firm gaze from steely eyes. “I am Korvus.”

The man paused before answering, “Captain Price of the Fencer.”

Korvus thought he looked uncomfortable with his answer. “You have a message for me Captain?”

“His grace of the house of Fortuna sends his regards, and this message.” A veined and bony hand withdrew a silver message cylinder from within the folds of his coat, and extended it to Korvus.

The legate took it cautiously, inspecting the seals on the cylinder. They matched the ones the Librarium had recorded for Dukas, but he was cautious. “How can I be assured of the origin of this?”

Captain Price looked serious as he said, “His grace said it was a brave act to offer Sanctuary to a declared excommunicate.”

Korvus nodded, “That will do.”

He broke the seal, and unrolled the document within, reading the contents slowly.

Captain Korvus,

As you have seen from recent events, my House is in dire straights. However, you stand, head and shoulders, above others in our Sector, having a full understanding of the terms loyalty and honor mean. With that in mind, I come to you to ensure that the best interests of my people are defended. I am requesting that you and Lord Dukas establish a joint protectorate over the worlds I hold in feof from the Emperor until this crisis is over.

I would ask that you share responsibility in warding off would-be invaders, whatever their origin. You will have the assistance of the Fortuna militia garrisoned on each world. Word has come to me that since the Cardinal's proclamation, their numbers have grown three or fourfold. It saddens me to have to risk my citizenry for such support, but I see no alternative that will ensure their survival.

As repayment for your assitance, House Fortuna will tithe 5% of any profits received during this crisis to your chapter.

What say you, My Lord?


Duke Daimyo Dominic Fortuna

Korvus raised his eyes from the scroll to meet the trader’s gaze once again. “You put yourself at great risk carrying this.”

“I would not be alive to do so were it not for his Grace, may the Emperor smile upon him.”

Korvus nodded, convinced that he had not made an error in his decision to offer of sanctuary. “Tell your Duke that our honour binds us, and shortly in the Emperor’s name we will declare sanctuary for his worlds, with or without this Dukas. If you have any needs before you depart, inform sergeant Paar and he will see to them.”

Price only nodded as Korvus turned and left him standing at the base of the ramp.

Secundus was waiting patiently out of sight, and joined Korvus as he left the bay. “What now?” Was all he said.

“Fortuna is calling us on our offer.” He thrust the scroll over to the chaplain, then clasped his hands behind his back as they strode through the corridors.

Secundus read quickly as they walked, “We should meet with this Lord Dukas before we do anything.”

“Yes, we should, but what he says will not matter.”

The chaplain’s face tightened “What have you done?”

“If we are to protect his people as he desires, we must declare the sanctuary, and we must do it soon, before his enemies in the sector can act.”

“That is reasonable, but we cannot do it alone.”

“There is a little time before we must act, and his people will back us. We will meet with Dukas, but whether he is for us or against us, our promise of sanctuary binds us to act.”

Secundus nodded, “We didn’t expect this.”

Korvus knew it wasn’t a question, “No, it forces us to act where we would prefer not to. I only hope this Dukas proves to be an ally in the matter.”

“Or things will go badly for us. I will contact him immediately, and arrange a meeting.”

“Yes. Tell him we need to discuss the affairs of a mutual friend.”

Korvus 21:29, 9 February 2008 (UTC) Nicholas Cioran