The Shilwulf Dynasty
Chapter 11 - Fallen Angel
The man standing closest to the witch’s prone form points an accusatory metal finger toward the retinue.
His bionic eyes shine at them like malevolent green flames as thin mechadendrites extend from his back, drawing the las pistols holstered on his hips.
The retinue dives for what meager cover there is while angry red lasgun beams streak across the chamber. The heretek laughs maniacally as the Mortressans’ return fire plinks uselessly against the psychic field surrounding the witch.
‘Marastraza is going to bleed to death if we don’t do something,’ Erata shouts to Janus over the gunfire.
Huddled behind a command console, the two psykers consider their woefully few options.
‘Indeed,’ Janus nods sagely.
’That’s it?’ Erata shoots him an incredulous glare. ‘No words of wisdom, no verses about the God Emperor?’
‘The lamb lies dying at the lion’s feet, child. This is not the time for words, it is the time for action. What do you think He would have us do?’
She ducks reflexively as a lasbolt ricochets nearby striking the console’s power distributor, showering the two of them in sparks. ‘I think He’d want us to kick some ass.’
The astropath’s mouth widens into a smile, but the expression holds no benevolence. His brow furrows over the dark hollow sockets of his eyes, giving his countenance an aura of venomous enmity. ‘Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!’
Together they stand, islands of calm amidst a churning sea of mayhem. Bolts of flame fly forth from Erata’s hands, striking several enemies in quick succession, setting them ablaze. Giving herself over to the exhilarating rush of power flowing through her, she is unconcerned by the strange deep purple hue her fire has taken on.
‘Heretics, you stand judged by the God Emperor,’ Janus bellows, his voice unusually strong. He bows his head as if in prayer before spreading his arms wide. ‘And have been found lacking.’
‘Ignore Hob!’ Devalt shouts at the Mortressans, ‘Focus on the witch!’. Though reluctant to stop concentrating fire on the biggest threat in the room, the soldiers follow his order.
Unfortunately, as Erata starts towards Anna’s body Hob turns his attention her way. Their eyes lock and a mad grin spreads across his face as he waves his armored hand over the doctor’s body. The ruby droplets of her waning life force splatter against the blue metal with the motion. With his blood-smeared hand he motions with two of his fingers, beckoning the psyker to dare an attempt to take his prize.
‘You can burn too, big guy,’ she vows, willing the familiar flame into existence. ‘Woah!’
She dodges out of the way as the vicious blade barely misses her shoulder. Despite the weapon’s size, Hob is moving with an unexpected preternatural speed and recovers far too quickly for her liking. Her flame slams against his chest but does little more than inflict a rather disappointing scorch mark on his breastplate. All too soon the psyker finds herself with nowhere to go.
Suddenly his attention shifts and he twists around. With a snarl he bats the melta-pistol from Devalt’s hand, sending the weapon tumbling away.
‘Go!’ the seneschal orders as he draws his backup weapon. Taking advantage of the momentary distraction, Erata scrambles to the doctor’s side.
‘Way too much blood,’ she mutters, placing her hand over the two-inch long gash in Anna’s chest. The doctor’s limp body pulses as a jet of concentrated flame travels along the wound’s path before emerging out of her back. The distinctive odor of freshly scorched flesh wafts to Erata’s nostrils, though this time it fails to bring its usual joy to her heart.
An infuriated growl brings the pyromancer back to her senses. Incensed by her intention, Hob steps toward her menacingly.
‘Get away!’ Janus screeches. ‘I can’t hold her much longer-’
The possessed giant takes an unsteady step toward Erata, and she realizes the astropath is trying to fight the witch telepathically. She rolls to the side, desperately hoping it’s enough to escape his considerable reach. Hob’s deep and unsettling laughter echoes throughout the chamber before she finds herself paralyzed by searing pain.
As Hob turns away to deal with the seneschal, Erata watches her own blood evaporate from the staff’s force blade. She looks down at her mangled leg, slashed open from ankle to thigh. Darkness looms at the edges of her vision, but she pushes the threat of unconsciousness away.
I’m not going out like this she vows. Not without a fight.
With a wavering hand she traces a circle in the air around one of the burning corpses of her earlier victims. Slowly the flames begin to arc away from the body as she sculpts them into a new form. With a flick of her wrist the fire jumps to the closest cultist, setting his robes alight. The victorious smile on Erata’s face wanes as the pain in her leg comes to the fore in its demands for her attention.
Realizing her time is growing short, she motions her hand in a quick swoosh. The flames engulf the now screaming cultist before leaping to several of his comrades. For a few surreal moments she admires the raw beauty of her work before an insistent tingling sensation compels her to look down at her leg. Like ethereal snakes, tendrils of ominous purple energy wind their way over the slashed flesh before seeping into the wound.
‘That…’ she pants to no one in particular. ‘Is not good.’
The heretek raises his hand, drawing the seneschal’s melta-pistol toward his waiting palm as it tumbles slowly through the low-grav environment. With an air of confidence he draws a bead on Janus but, much to his disappointment, the witch’s puppet steps in front of his target at the last moment. Striking Hob in the lower back instead, the thick metal armor melts away before sizzling through flesh and bone. Like a banshee’s keen cutting through the night air, the witch’s agonized wail assaults their ears.
Seeing his opportunity, Devalt disengages his magboots and uses the nearby wall as a springboard. Cartwheeling through the air in slow motion over the battle, the witch’s prone form comes into view behind her remaining defenders. Hoping her concentration has been broken long enough to bring down her protective force field, he fires his ripper pistol before the others realize what he’s doing. With great relief, he looks on as the metal shards rip open her skull, killing her even before the deadly toxins can take effect.
When Hob steps to the side, the heretek finds himself staring into the void of Janus’ eyes. The astropath’s thin lips curl into a cruel smile as viscous blue tears stream down his cheeks.
‘No! No, no no…’ the heretek screams as his hand involuntarily begins raising the melta pistol.
Propped against a wall and barely clinging to consciousness, Erata narrows her eyes at the heretek. With the last ounce of willpower she can muster, a small flame appears just above her palm.
‘Frak you,’ she mutters before casting her creation forth. With satisfaction she looks on as the hem of her target’s robe ignites just as the gun reaches his temple.
Feeling the cold weight of condemnation pressing against the side of his head, the verdant blaze of the heretek’s eyes fades away the moment his finger pulls back on the trigger.
An eerie silence falls over the chamber, and the survivors find themselves surrounded by a scene of absolute carnage. Corpses hang in mid-air like macabre marionettes, most still smoldering from Erata’s vengeance. The living find themselves thankful for their respirators, as the air is thick with blood and ash.
The peace is suddenly broken when Hob growls deeply, causing everyone to turn their attention to the maddened behemoth. The heavy boots of his power armor punish the deck plating as he leaps toward the body of the witch. Lost in a primal frenzy, he begins rending and tearing her remains with his bare hands.
Realizing it would be futile for anyone to attempt to stop him, Devalt motions toward the others to stand down. He bends down to pry his melta-pistol from the heretek’s steel hand, but his finger instinctively slides over the trigger when Hob suddenly becomes still.
‘Hob, what’s going on?’ the seneschal asks cautiously. The Mortressan turns slowly, a look of absolute feral rage in his eyes. Without a word he sprints toward Anna’s body, scooping her up and heading for the door.
‘Hey! What about Peskin?’
Hob stops as he reaches the door and looks back at Devalt. ‘You got your orders. I got mine.’
‘Frakkin’ fantastic,’ Devalt mutters as the echo of heavy footfalls fade away. Glancing around he finds a curious black leather-bound tome lying within the ritual circle drawn on the floor. The book is suddenly in his hands, though he cannot recall reaching down to pick it up. Running his fingertips over the swirling runes on the cover, they seem to hum in a way that plucks at the strings of his very soul.
‘Devalt,’ a soothing voice whispers his name. ‘Devalt…’
‘Do not gaze upon its pages,’ Janus rasps. ‘Lest Chaos take you into its fold.’
The seneschal starts at the astropath’s seemingly instantaneous materialization at his side. He looks down at the book once more, but the voice has grown silent for now. Wiping the cold sweat from his brow, he shoves the accursed thing into a knapsack before placing it alongside the witch’s staff.
‘Sir,’ one of the Mortressans says. ’There’s something you should see.’
Devalt finds himself disconcerted by the look of alarm on the man’s face. By birth alone Mortressans are renowned for their toughness, and those trained by Hob even more so. He finds himself reluctant to find out what terrible thing could have rattled his resolve.
Suddenly, one of the soldiers screams and begins to smack himself in the head. Another takes a few unsteady steps backwards before puking, sending the contents of his stomach floating into the air. Devalt raises his pistol as he approaches the doorway.
‘Janus, cover me,’ he hisses into the comlink.
Peeking around the corner he sees a surgical table bolted to the center of the floor. The unconscious man strapped to it wears rust colored robes, marking him as a member of Peskin’s team. A long IV needle has been inserted into the man’s exposed arm and at first it is perplexing why the needle isn’t attached to a bag of solution.
Devalt’s stomach sinks as the reason becomes clear. With each second or so, a tiny droplet of blood seeps from the needle and floats away. Glancing around the cubic chamber reveals an identical setup at the center of each side, with Peskin and his team members strapped to a table.
‘Holy Emperor,’ Devalt gasps as his mind finally allows him to comprehend the thousands of droplets floating through the air.
Every so often their trajectory inexplicably changes, seemingly drawn to the massive sphere of blood hanging in the center of the room. The meter wide ball undulates menacingly, pulsing rhythmically as if it has a heartbeat all its own.
‘The Emperor holds no sway here,’ Janus rasps. ‘This is the work of Chaos.’
‘All nine members of Peskin’s team are accounted for,’ Devalt reports over the comlink. Suddenly he grips the doorframe tightly as his head begins to swim. Each wall of the room is perpendicular to the adjacent sides, so logically there should only be six sides to the room. However, the seneschal can clearly identify Peskin and the eight other members of his team, each of which is located at the center of a side.
‘Stop trying to make sense of it,’ counsels Janus, ‘That way lies madness. Let us take our people from this accursed place.’
Devalt nods in agreement. He’s always considered himself a man of strong faith, but whatever vile energy dwells here is far too powerful for any of them to contend with. Though each of them is reluctant to cross the threshold, they manage to pull themselves together long enough to retrieve Peksin and his team.
‘Make certain we take those,’ Devalt says nodding toward the knapsack and bladed staff. ‘We shall see to their destruction before we leave the system.’
‘Pulse extremely weak,’ the medic yells over the rumble of the evac lander’s engines. ‘Tell base we’re coming in Prio 1.’
Hob and Octavius sit on one side of Anna while the lander’s medics start IVs and search for their patient’s vitals. The Lord Captain hasn’t said a word other than to usher him aboard the waiting medevac lander. Though the ship itself is unfamiliar, Hob recognizes the crest the medics wear on their uniforms.
The Livingston Dynasty. Why didn’t he bring the Hymn’s medics?
In all honesty it’s more curiosity than dynasty loyalty. Looking down at Anna’s deathly pale face, he doesn’t really give a damn if they’re walking right up to the Emperor himself. He glances at Octavius but finds him far too focused on Anna to even realize he is there. In an uncharacteristic show of affection, the Lord Captain takes one of her small hands in his, holding on as if his grip could pull her from death’s door.
They dock and disembark in a blur of activity and in seconds the medics disappear with Anna behind doors labeled ‘Medicae Bay 1’. After being caught in a whirlwind of the insistent sounds of emergency, the beeps and alarms of machines, medics shouting to one another, the two men find themselves surrounded by an uncomfortable silence.
‘I-’ Hob begins, but stops himself. What can he say? How can he explain that, out of all other possibilities, he’d been the one forced to betray the Lord Captain’s trust?
‘By the God Emperor man, what happened?’ Conrad Livingston says urgently as he strides in. The barrel-chested rogue trader, though Shilwulf’s senior, looks just as dapper as a man half his age. His close-cropped silver hair matches his perfectly groomed horseshoe mustache, but his wild blue eyes belie his refined exterior. This is a man who has hunted sabre wolves on Cortesia and tracked the lions of the snowy plains of MOR-641, far from the usual afforded comforts of a rogue trader’s lifestyle.
‘There was an incident during a salvage mission,’ Octavius explains, glancing at Hob. ‘Unexpected hostiles.’
‘A damn shame,’ Livingston says, shaking his head. ‘Just the other evening the three of us had the most pleasant time together, and now…this.’
One of the medics emerges from the restricted area, the solemn look of a messenger bearing bad tidings etched on the young man’s face. ‘The weapon caused irreparable damage. Despite the cauterization she’s lost a tremendous amount of blood, and we cannot stop the internal bleeding. If any of you would like to see her, I would recommend it be soon. It is unlikely she will see morning.’
He retreats once more to the ward, a silence falling over the room once again.
‘Conrad,’ Octavius begins. ‘You and I have been close for many decades. If there is any way you can save her, I would be greatly indebted to you.’
Livingston nods slowly as he considers the Lord Captain’s words. ‘I have a way but,’ he pauses. ‘There is risk. You must understand, what I am proposing is not legally sanctioned by the Imperium. If the Inquisition were to find out, I cannot guarantee they would see it as a noble effort on your part.’
‘Damn the risk!’ Octavius growls.
’We’ll need him,’ Conrad says nodding toward Hob. ‘The man under my employ is an unsanctioned biomancer. He has been effective in the past but, as you can understand, I cannot guarantee your safety.’ He turns on his heel motioning for them to follow, tapping the combead tucked in his ear. ‘Brader, transport Taglios to containment bay four immediately.’
By the time they arrive, Anna already awaits them. All of the medical apparatus have been removed, her small body lies upon a cold steel gurney at the center of the room. The matte black corrugated metal walls and thick rubberized floor seem to dampen sound, muffling even Hob’s heavy footfalls.
A few minutes later four armed guards wheel in what looks to be an upright sarcophagus. The ebony doors open slowly revealing a toga-clad occupant who appears to be the picture of physical perfection. Like a statue of a god from ages long past, the olive-skinned man allows the others to gaze upon him for a moment before he steps forth. His green eyes settle upon Livingston briefly before shifting to Octavius.
‘I am Taglios,’ he says with a slight bow. ‘I live to serve.’
’Don’t screw this one up, fiend,’ Conrad warns.
The biomancer turns his gaze to Anna and flashes a flawless smile of straight white teeth.
‘I see the mark this one carries with her,’ he nods, the smile quickly fading from his well-defined lips. ‘I wouldn’t dare harm her, Master Livingston.’
‘You damn well better not. Come with me, Octavius.’
‘I will remain here,’ the Lord Captain replies. His friend smiles knowingly.
‘With her til the last, eh?’
‘Until my dying breath.’
‘Good luck, old friend. I truly hope it is within his power to bring her back to you.’
The door closes behind him, followed by the sound of several heavy lock bars slamming into place on the other side. Taglios extends his arms over Anna’s body, the thick sleeves of his black robe falling back from his wrists.
‘Her life force is weak,’ he whispers. ‘She is not long for this world.’
‘Tell us somethin’ we don’t know,’ Hob sneers, but Octavius motions for him to quiet.
‘I can bring her back to you, but it will not be easy. There may be…complications.’
‘Do it,’ Octavius says drawing his power sword. ‘We will be ready.’
Taglios begins languidly waving his hands over her body in a deliberate pattern. Slowly, a red mist begins to materialize above her prone form. At first it just seems to hover in the air, but then begins to follow the motions. He chants under his breath in a language neither Octavius or Hob understand. The blood swirls around the biomancer’s hands before travelling into the wound in Anna’s chest.
A thunder-like boom suddenly echoes throughout the chamber, punctuated by Anna’s scream. Both Hob and Octavius find themselves momentarily blinded by a bright flash of light. Their ears assailed by an otherworldly roar, Hob draws his mono-swords while still struggling to clear his vision.
An abomination stands at the center of the small room, its many insect-like eyes rotating independently in their sockets. Thick pale-green mucus drips from its skinless body to the floor, pooling around its gnarled feet. Raising its muzzle, its nostrils flare before snapping its head toward Octavius. With a canine-like snarl it leaps through the air, swiping at his face with raptor-like talons.
His power sword flaring to life, the Lord Captain swings in an upward motion. Though still partially blinded his blade strikes true, severing one of the beast’s thick arms.
The creature lets loose an infuriated roar, bathing the rogue trader in vile-smelling spittle. Suddenly the thing flies through the air and crashes into the opposite wall, leaving a bloody smear as it slides to the floor. Hob quickly follows, severing the thing’s head before it can recover.
‘Well-played,’ Octavius commends his friend.
‘Like kickin’ a void rat, only bigger,’ Hob shrugs.
Taglios begins to chant louder as the chamber fills with the sound of rushing wind. Freezing rain begins to pelt their faces, their ears hurting from the concussive thunder crack that follows soon after.
’What’s goin’ on?’ Hob yells over the loud wind.
They hear a deep scream, one filled with unrestrained fury. They glance toward the beheaded warp spawn, but it remains motionless. Squinting into the storm, they can barely make out Taglios’s form standing just a few feet away before Hob is suddenly knocked off his feet.
He slams into the wall, leaving a huge dent in the metal. Like something from his darkest nightmares, he sees the daemon that has materialized between the Lord Captain and Annatolla. He attempts to stand, but finds himself inexplicably pinned in place.
’Cap’n!’ he yells, straining to break free from the supernatural restraint.
Even choking on the overwhelming odor of sulphur filling the room Octavius readies himself, though he has no illusion that he is any match for the creature standing before them now.
Forged from the fires of the Warp itself, magma drips from the beast’s fang-filled maw. It roars, unfurling bat-like wings of ash and flame. Unconcerned by the presence of the others, the massive thing turns its attention to the woman lying defenseless on the table.
‘No!’ Octavius growls, raising his power sword to strike.
The daemon twists around, back handing the Lord Captain across the face. The rogue trader falls backward, landing near Hob. Dazed, he struggles to sit up, his stomach sinking when he realizes he’s too late.
The hellish thing looms above Anna, its obsidian eyes gazing hungrily upon its prey. It reaches a taloned-hand toward her but then hesitates. As if startled, the beast looks around as if hearing a troubling sound. Unexpectedly, it takes a step back from the gurney.
‘You have no dominion here,’ an unfamiliar voice declares.
A man emerges from the far shadowy corner of the room, casually strolling to Anna’s side. Standing roughly as tall as Octavius, the young man is dressed in a tailored grey suit. His dark hair is swept back from his handsome face, the corners of his lips drawn down in a slight frown of disdain. Despite being completely unarmed, the man doesn’t seem the slightest bit perturbed as he stands confidently before the monster.
‘Be gone,’ he says, flicking his hand as if he were shooing away a mere insect.
The daemon screams as the wall near its predecessor opens, revealing a swirling portal to the void. The tortured wails of the damned fill the room as both daemon and the headless beast are sucked back to whence they came. The portal closes as quickly as it appeared, leaving almost no evidence of the creatures at all.
The winds die down, the rain changes to a gentle snowfall. Though the chamber still remains incredibly cold, a sense of peace falls over them. The man in grey looks upon Anna, shaking his head slowly.
‘No, now is not your time. There is still much you must accomplish.’ He looks up as both men stand and flashes them a reassuring smile. ‘Fear not, Captain. I will always be with her.’
Hob looks into the eyes of Anna’s savior and his breath catches in his chest. In that brief moment, he is overwhelmed by a sense of infinite sadness, almost as if he’s staring into the abyss itself.
And just like that the man is gone. Now there is only snow swirling down where he stood but a second ago.
‘Who the frak was that?’ Hob asks, still uncertain whether or not what he just saw was real.
Ignoring the inquiry, Octavius rushes to Anna’s side. Gently he places his still-flesh hand against her cheek.
‘Anna! Annatolla, can you hear me?’
Slowly her eyelids flutter open, snowflakes landing in her fiery red curls.
‘Octavius? What…what happened?’
‘God Emperor! Annatolla, my love, I thought I’d lost you.’
She smiles weakly and pats his hand reassuringly. ‘Have faith, Octavius. He walks with me.’
‘I do not blame you personally for what happened,’ Octavius says. He stands near the void windows in his private study, hands clasped behind his back, looking out upon the rust-colored ball of Omnicron. ‘But I’m afraid what occurred on the Intent cannot be overlooked.’
Hob stands at parade rest in front of the Lord Captain’s desk, his amber eyes looking out into the void. Just over a week has passed, with many of the survivors still recovering in the medicae ward. Though Taglios had managed to save Annatolla’s life she is still confined to bed rest, a sentence she has made clear she is quite displeased with.
As if the memories of what he’d been forced to do on the Intent weren’t horribly vivid enough, Libram had given him news that felt like a kick in the gut. The enginseer managed to repair the damage cause by the melta-pistol, but Anna’s bloody handprint could not be removed. Libram tried to rationalize how this could occur, but Hob already knew the reason.
A permanent reminder of your failure, he thinks sullenly to himself. He shuts his eyes for a moment, willing away the memory of the look in Anna’s eyes after he’d impaled her on his blade. Confusion, pain, and worst of all, fear. Even after he’d been forced to reveal his mutation, she hadn’t looked at him that way. He silently vows to never give her cause to again.
‘I must transfer the Warrant of Trade much sooner than I’d planned,’ Octavius continues. ‘There are private matters which require my immediate and total attention.’
’It’s been an honor to serve you, Cap’n,’ Hob replies, though even he is surprised at the rogue trader’s sudden announcement.
Octavius turns, his deep blue eyes stone cold and resolute. ‘And you will serve me still, Hob. Even after my replacement arrives.’
Hob has served as bodyguard for three rogue traders of the Shilwulf Dynasty, including Octavius. His duties are to the current holder of the Warrant alone, so he finds such a demand perplexing.
‘Annatolla will remain on the Hymn. I feel she will be safest here,’ the Captain explains. ‘And I’m putting you in charge of keeping her in one piece until I return.’
‘With all due respect, Cap’n, don’t think I’m the best one for that job,’ Hob says, shifting uncomfortably. ‘I mean, in light of recent happenin’s and all.’
The Lord Captain walks right up to the giant until he’s inches away, a move that would get any other man a solid ass kicking. Hob, however, not only respects the rogue trader as a man but knows he is quite capable of defending himself. Completely unintimidated, Octavius stares his bodyguard straight in the eye.
‘You are the only one for this job. We do not have the luxury of your self-doubt, old friend. She trusts you with every fiber of her being, even now. I cannot imagine anyone better for this task.’
‘What about the new rogue trader?’
Octavius waves his hand as he turns, pouring himself a glass of amasec from the decanter on his desk.
‘If it should come down to a choice,’ he says, swirling the dark-colored liquid in his glass. ‘Choose her.’
The Captain gives his words a few moments to sink in. ‘Do we have an understanding, Hob?’
‘We do, Cap’n.’
A knock on the door brings their conversation to an end as Devalt comes in.
‘That will be all, Hob,’ Octavius says as if he’d just given him orders to have the Aquila lander washed instead of betraying his next commander.
The seneschal barely represses a sneer as he passes by. It’s no secret Hob wasn’t the hero of the Intent, he’d almost single-handedly sent all of them to their graves. Ironically, the only one other than the Lord Captain who doesn’t look at him with a distrustful scowl is the very person he ran through with his mono-blade.
‘Lord Captain,’ Devalt says as the door closes behind Hob. ‘I had no trouble securing the Righteous Intent as you requested. Though I must admit curiosity as to why you would want to take possession of such an accursed ship.’
Hob isn’t the only one plagued by visions of the horrors they encountered on the Intent. Several times the seneschal has awoken to the voice that called his name when he held the witch’s book in his hands, beckoning him to Emperor knows where. He wonders if that’s how the witch herself fell, by merely answering the tome’s call.
You’re tougher than that, he reassures himself, though even as he thinks the words he finds doubt creeping in. He pushes the dark thoughts away, taking small comfort in the belief that his faith would at least give him the strength necessary to take his own life before succumbing to the taint of Chaos.
‘I would like to personally oversee its destruction,’ Octavius explains. ‘By towing it into the closest sun.’
Devalt arches an eyebrow at the suggestion. Certainly that would go a long way to easing his nerves about the entire experience. ‘A good idea, Lord Captain. Best to not let it fall into the wrong hands. I shudder to think what would have happened if we hadn’t stopped what was being carried out aboard that ship.’
‘Indeed,’ Octavius agrees. ‘Have you received word from my nephew?’
‘I have, Sir. Holt says he will arrive before the week is out, Warp willing.’
‘Excellent. In the meantime, there is another matter I need you to attend to. An old friend who owes me quite the favor heard that we are in need of a gifted pilot for the race. I would like you to greet them personally when they come aboard tomorrow.’
‘Of course, Lord Captain. But, if you’ll forgive me for saying so, this race seems a bit risky.’
Octavius smiles. ‘Careful, Seneschal. You’re starting to sound like my brother’s watchdog, Harzon.’
‘No offence, Sir.’
‘None taken, I assure you. But the life of a rogue trader is all about taking risks. Quite frankly it feels refreshing to get a break from our usual routine of scheduled stops and deliveries. And, should we win, the dynasty will have enough in its coffers to support an exploration mission into the Koronus Expanse. I don’t have to tell you how many doors that can open for us. No, it’s time to start taking some risks, Seneschal. We are going to bring this dynasty to greatness, I assure you.’