Teaser from the book (this is from one of the most 'Black Crusade-esque' parts of the novel):
His papers identified him as Preacher Molevoch, but that wasn’t his real name. Molevoch was just the name of the Missionaria Galaxia preacher whose identity he had assumed. After the Imperials had gained the upper hand on Protasia it became something of a necessity to be part of the winning team. A Galaxia preacher was a nice cover, since moving around and sticking your nose where it didn’t belong was part of the job description.
Such was the power of the sorcerous rite he’d employed to steal the preacher’s identity, that for all intents and purposes he’d become him. If he looked like the preacher, talked and acted like the preacher, had most of the preacher’s memories, and his papers said he was the preacher, it followed that he must be the preacher.
Indeed, if someone had scanned him with an auspex they would have found nothing untoward. Even a full screening test would not breach his cover. Only a trained psyker, such as an anointed Inquisition psi-legate, would have any chance at all of seeing through his cover. But there were no snooping legates here, not anymore, his empyrean allies had told him as much.
The Preacher was standing in the hill country outside of Thira. The sun was setting, but there was still light enough to see by. From this distance the city looked eerily untouched by the war. Very much unlike the other regions he’d been through. Then it was true, what he had heard whispered; First Minister Verrigan was going to make this place his seat of power.
Verrigan, damned be his dark soul! If any one person was to blame for all this, it would be him. The Preacher sincerely hoped that Verrigan would slip up and disappoint his master, fail to deliver on the bloody promises he’d no doubt made. Fail, and end up as just another skull beneath the crushing weight of the Skull Throne. Damn Verrigan, damn all the bloody followers of Khorne.
Things had been going so well here on Protasia. From that time, long ago, when the first of the Brethren of the Word had taken passage upon a Protasian merchantman, and all the way up to the present: Slowly, but surely the Word had spread. First to a few select members of the ship’s complement, then on to their relatives and relations on the planet. From there the web had slowly grown, spreading out across the surface of Protasia, and finally onto other ships of the Protasian Merchant Marine. Those ships had in turn carried the Word to other, distant planets of the Calixis Sector.
Everything had been done in accordance with the Will of the Prophet of Light: Always in secret, always careful not to attract the attention of the Imperium in general, and the hated Inquisition in particular. The Word repeatedly stressed the need for secrecy and caution. The Brethren must never be exposed; the Word must never fall into the hands of the nonbelievers. Not until the day of the Second Coming – the promised End Times, when the True Gods would send their Prophet back to lead the Brethren against the followers of the Corpse-God.
But the Imperium had known anyway. He didn’t know how they had learned, only that they had. Maybe they didn’t know any particulars, but had simply learned enough to begin to take an entirely unwanted interest in the Word and the practices of the Brethren. Learned enough to become afraid; enough so that they had alerted the Accursed Orders of the Corpse-God’s Inquisition.
The Deacons of Light had been forced to convene – in direct contravention to established dogma – to deal with the threat of an Imperial intervention. It had been an exhausting affair. To the Brethren the Deacons always presented a unified front, but between themselves they frequently disagreed. Molevoch hadn’t been overly optimistic, but took it as a good sign, all things considered, that his peers had been willing to come together at all.
After days of heated debate – and the ritualistic murder-sacrifice of the Deacons most vocal in their opposition – they had eventually agreed to suspend off-world operations, to cut the ties to those Brethren living on other worlds. They would also rescind all contact with one another, reverting to the isolated congregations the strictest interpretation of the Word dictated.
Molevoch had approved. Should the Imperium come, the Inquisition would follow. Under no circumstances must they be allowed to trace a connection from one congregation to another. Things had gone so well, the Word had spread far and wide, gaining countless adherents scattered across Protasia and beyond. Call it enthusiasm. Call it zeal. Call it hubris. Call it whatever you liked; they had created a glorious Church of the Word, but now their very success threatened the survival of the Word. If they were to survive they must adapt; they must separate and hope that in isolation salvation could be found.
It might have worked, save that the headstrong Protasians had done something quite unexpected. They had rebelled. None of the Deacons had anticipated that, not even the ones that maintained lives in the higher strata of Protasian society.
Rebellion against the Imperium always brought retribution. Retribution in the form of a reclamation campaign. A campaign that quickly spiralled out of control and left Protasian and war-torn wasteland. As a result the Deacons would never know if their efforts would have been sufficient to keep the Inquisition in the dark: Most of them were dead, alongside the majority of the Brethren. Killed by conventional warfare, strategic weapons, or the hardships that followed on the heels of planet-wide war.
As far as Molevoch knew, he was the last Deacon left on Protasia and he was all out of Brethren to guide. The last two members of his failing congregation had given their lives to fuel the ritual that provided him with his current identity. Molevoch didn’t have much of a plan. Not yet anyway. He just knew he needed a virgin start. Someplace new. Someplace to start spreading the Word again. He was a Deacon. Spreading the Word was his purpose in life. Such was the Will of the Prophet.
So he’d come here, to Thira, because the city was supposedly still intact and home to millions of forlorn Protasians. Millions of forlorn souls, eager to receive the soothing guidance of the Word. That Thira was to be Verrigan’s city was only a bonus, an unexpected opportunity to repay the architect of Protasia’s destruction. By the time vile scum arrived, the Preacher would have the entire city in his hands, and the bloody-handed fool would not even realize.
He waited for it to get dark before he approached the building. It wasn’t a very big house. Sufficiently large for a small family, nothing more. He liked the way it was nestled in between the hills. You could walk past at a distance of a few hundred meters and never notice it was there. At the same time you had this magnificent view of the lake and the open countryside. If you turned east you could even spy the great white-capped Mastari Mountains rising in the distance.
The house wasn’t new, but it was well maintained. Or it had been, before the war. Now it was beginning to show the signs of neglect. The house seemed so warm and welcoming, such a pity to let it go to ruin. Once he had made the inhabitants his followers, he would make sure they took good care of the building.
He knocked at the front door.
There was no answer.
He knocked again, harder.
He could hear two pairs of booted feet approaching.
“Who’s there?” a brusque male voice barked out.
A foreigner by the sound of him. An Imperial Guardsman then.
“Preacher Molevoch, of the Missionaria Galaxia,” he replied. “I was headed for Thira on the God-Emperor’s business, but darkness descended and now I seem to be lost.”
The door was yanked halfway open. Two males, one a young man, the other middle-aged, both in IG uniforms, stood in the doorway, lasguns casually pointed in his direction.
“Yeah well, this isn’t Thira,” said the elder man with the brusque voice. “Just follow the road, take to the right at the junction. You’ll reach the city before dawn.”
Molevoch put on his most winning smile. “I shall be on my way then. But tell me, do you have a moment to contemplate the Divine Word, as delivered to us by the great Prophet of Light?”
Both men looked about to object, but neither did. Instead they blinked, as if confused. They looked at one another, seeking affirmation, but finding none. They looked at the preacher, and in his warm smile they found the answers to all their questions.
“May I come in?” Molevoch asked.
Both men nodded eagerly. “Please do, reverend,” the elder one said and stepped aside. The younger one quickly opened the door all the way and gave Molevoch a deferential bow, as you would the give the minister of your local church.
Molevoch stepped inside, smiling. His new congregation had gotten off to a good start.
Edited by Green Knight, 07 May 2014 - 02:36 AM.