The touch of a hand on his shoulder caused Japhel Magellos to stir uneasily in his bed. "What?" he said with eyes still half shut and a brain full of fog.
"My lord, your esteemed uncle has called for a full meeting of the family," said Clara softly. The petit valet was barely over one hundred fifty centimeters and wore a vermillion uniform that proclaimed her status as a retainer of House Magellos.
Japhel yawned and motioned the blond woman away. "Lay out clothes, comfortable, and an overrobe." He staggered out of bed naked. "And a new headband."
He lurched across his bedroom and into the marble tiled bathroom. The shower enclosure opened automatically and hot water started running before he reached it. The door closed behind it and he luxuriated in the spray. After a few minutes he was fully awake and reached for the soap. The water sluiced away the foam and he stepped out of the shower. Clara and Danica stood waiting, their gaze averted. Japhel had not removed the black silk band that had covered his third eye in the shower. "Proceed," he commanded.
The body servants dried him with fluffy towels and anointed him with scented oils. He stepped into the next room and dressed himself in the clothes that had been laid out. Plain black pants, a simple white undertunic, and a black over tunic with gold buttons and a stylized zig-zag pattern worked in cloth of gold. His servants handed him a robe of vermilion silk and he draped it over his body, belting it with a sash. "Leave me," he commanded. They departed.
He removed his headband and stared into the mirror. He was almost handsome, by human standards. Almost. Tall, lithe, with a well formed face and a short, thick dark hair. His skin was a touch too pale by some standards and his eyes were wells of black ink. All three of them. On his forehead was the black orb of his warp eye, the mutation that allowed him to stare into the warp and stay sane. The mutation that granted unparalleled ability to navigate the dangerous tides of the warp and helped make a far flung human empire possible. A mutation that brought death to those that looked upon it and the finest of gilded chains to those that bore it.
He covered his warp eye with a navy blue headband shot through with streaks of gold and departed from his chambers. Alyss was waiting for him outside his chambers. She wore a black gown under her robe. Physically, Japhel and his cousin were much alike. Tall, graceful, pale, and dark haired they were the scions of bloodlines that touched frequently. However, her eyes were shining blue. She had not begun to succumb to the inevitable tide of mutation that consumed all Navigators. The genetic changes that made them what they were, tied them so closely to the warp, and the prolonged exposure to the power of the immaterium eventually combined to warp and alter Navigator's flesh. Webbed fingers, claw-like hands, and gross variations in weight were the most common of the changes. Webbed fingers, claws, weight change, and eyes as black as the void.
"Hello cousin," he said.
She inclined her head gracefully. "I decided to wait for you."
"Courtesy or a desire not to go to the meeting alone?"
He snorted. "Do you have any idea what it is about?"
"Our first course, I would imagine. It's getting about that time."
The two Navigators walked down the hall towards a pair of four meter tall ebony doors. The dark wood was inlaid with platinum stars and moons. A pair of guards wearing vermilion and black carapace armour stood guard, automatic drum fed shotguns in their hands.
The Navigators passed and the doors closed behind them. Inside a room with nests of throw pillows piled around a hololithic table. The gross physical deformities that Navigators could develop sometimes made sitting in chairs impossible. The others were waiting for them.
"Glad you two could finally join us," said Tiberius. The eldest's toad-like body was half buried in pillows. "We have matters of importance to discuss. Our honour and dignity are at stake."
Philippos nodded like the gutless sycophant that he was. Yvenna remained motionless and noncommittal, a slender statue of living marble. Alyss settled down in one of the patches of pillows. Japhel walked to the other patch. "And what grave offense has been committed against our honour?" he asked skeptically. The old bastard was just pissed that he actually had to do some damn work.
"Only the gravest!" said Tiberius. "A course has been set without consulting us. As if we were mere servants!"
"We are servants," said Japhel as he sat down cross legged. "Our entire purpose is to serve. And because our service is so very vital we are rewarded with wealth and power, but we exist to serve mankind."
"Very pretty," said Tiberius. "Are you finished with your recitation or may I continue? We are Navigators! We set the course, we are masters of the warp, and we are owed the respect our position demands!"
"The captain is the master of the ship," said Japhel, a smile on his lips. "The sole master. The Navigator controls the course in the warp. He is captain and Mustarios. A young, unproven captain. He cannot be seen to yield. To anyone."
"We are not servitors!" roared Tiberius, spittle flying from his lips.
"No," said Japhel, "we are not. But we do take his orders."
Tiberius sneered. "You're a good little dog, aren't you?"
"Want to test my teeth?" asked Japhel sweetly. "Or do you want to throw a fit before we've left dock? Do you think he'll back down under those conditions? Or will he replace us with a more . . . tractable house? How do you think that will go over with the Hierarchy? What do you think that will do to your position?"
Tiberius growled. "Don't threaten me boy."
"Throwing a fit will get you off this ship," said Japhel, "but it won't get you someplace better."
"And your solution is to let this insult pass?" said Tiberius contemptuously.
"Not at all," said Japhel. "One should politely remind the rogue trader and scion of the ancient and noble House of Mustarios of the place of wise and puissant Navis Nobilite in deciding such matters. Without offending him or appearing to undermine his authority among the crew."
"You're such a tame curr," said Tiberius. "Alyss."
"Yes uncle?" the young Navigator said sweetly.
"Educate the boy on the right way of doing things."
"As you wish," she said with a bow.
"This meeting is over." Japhel, Alyss, and Yvenna stood up and walked out the door.
"You provoked him deliberately," Alyss hissed.
"The fat fraud is looking for an excuse to scuttle this contract, a contract we need, and get back to sitting on his overfed arse," whispered Japhel. "As if I'm going to let his manufactured tantrum scuttle our chances at careers of note and this opportunity to rebuild the family fortune."
"Out there, there is no Hierarchy for him to answer to. He's the highest authority."
"Out there, he's just a lazy never was with delusions of adequacy," replied Japhel. "Out there, the Navigator who can get the ship to where the captain wants it is senior."
"Your ambition is going to get you into trouble."
"We're already in trouble, cousin dear. We're up to our necks in it and you'd better learn how to swim."