Testament

Testament

 

Khanid Region, Ibani System,
Ibani VI, Fortress Teakh tak-Teakh,
YC110.06.10

“The Order of St. Tetrimon welcomes Her Royal Highness Jamyl Sarum home. God’s children rejoice as His light returns home, and the light shall bring death and despair on His enemies.”

Grand Master Groven Horm finished speaking, entered two priority commands and turned off his terminal. He sat back from his desk and contemplated the future that was now unfolding in the heart of the Amarr Empire. He looked over at the narrow windows of his work room, noting the weak light of distant Ibani filtering through the layers of glass and air that helped to keep the heat of the room from wasting out into the frigid realm of the sixth planet. It was the middle of the day here at Teakh tak-Teakh.

Horm got up and walked over to the nearest window. He stood there, gazing out at the wind-blown banks of snow that stretched from the foot of the mountains here, to the distant peaks of the next great range to the south. As always, when he contemplated this world, his thoughts wandered to the ironies of the Order’s exile here. A grim smile played about his lips until his reverie was interrupted by the sound of raised voices in the corridor beyond his chambers.

The Grand Master steeled himself, returned to his desk and sat in his chair. The voices had quieted and Horm turned his terminal back on. He glanced at his intel and news feeds, reassuring himself that the situation in the Empire was contained. There was a firm double knock at the door.

“Enter,” said Grand Master Horm.

***

Khemon Dulsur an-Tetrimon, Seneschal of the Order and Master of the Mother Chapter, had been in the main hangar bay overseeing preparations for the Order’s combat ships here to lift off and join the main Tetrimon fleet assembling over Ibani VI. The Grand Master had been incommunicado since news of the Minmatar invasion but Khemon had understood that Horm was likely deep in discussions with the Khanid and Amarr commands. As Seneschal, he was quite prepared and empowered to take the initiative absent any instructions from the Grand Master. The other Chapter Masters had been in full agreement with his provisional plans and were even now preparing their own flotillas with a view to the combined Order fleet making rendezvous in the Amafi system.

Dulsur had been about to make a brief call to his wife when the news of Jamyl Sarum’s appearance over Mekhios ripped through the cavernous hangar like wildfire. In moments, the shouting was turning to cheering as the destruction of the Minmatar Fleet at the hands of Sarum became known. His own instinctive shock and rage at what could only be a blasphemy turned to amazement as he accessed the intel feed on his hand terminal. Using some kind of unknown weapons technology, Jamyl Sarum had destroyed the enemy fleet over Mekhios and was even now rallying the Imperial Navy to strike at the remaining Minmatar fleets. The priority now was to destroy the enemy fleet operating in Kor-Azor Region, precisely the region of the Empire closest at hand to the Order’s forces.

Exulting in the prospect of joining battle against the subhumans alongside the Imperial Navy, Dulsur was about to begin hurrying the preparations anew when the hangar bay’s announcement system blared its priority message warning. He stopped in his tracks and turned to the nearest speaker array.

“The Order of St. Tetrimon welcomes Her Royal Highness Jamyl Sarum home. God’s children rejoice as His light returns home, and the light shall bring death and despair on His enemies.”

The voice was clearly the Grand Master’s and Dulsur winced at such an effusive welcome to a heretic who had apparently cheated on her sacred duty. Yet this was no doubt the price for the Order being permitted to join in the defense of Holy Amarr. They had swallowed worse indignities before now.

When the announcement system broadcast the ‘stand down’ signal, his immediate reaction was that it was some error. When he saw the signal flashing on a nearby screen, he checked his terminal and was astounded to see the stand down order confirmed in the name of the Grand Master. Now the shock and rage returned and his throat seemed to close as he struggled to master his emotions.

By now, the hangar was in chaos as everyone looked to their comrades in confusion and anger. Dulsur glanced at his five personal guards, hard men and women, devout even by the standards of the Order. He could see the cold rage that was dominating his thoughts mirrored on their faces. Dulsur gestured to them like a man bringing a boarding axe down and left the hangar bay with his guards forming a wake behind him.

***

To get to the Grand Master’s chambers they could have taken an elevator and made a relatively short walk along the corridors of the upper donjon. Dulsur chose to climb and stride through the many stairways and passages required to walk from the hangar to the donjon. Though his anger urged haste on him, knowing that his inner turmoil should not take him over had led him to make the longer walk. By the time he and his guard approached the entry to the Grand Master’s work room, he was in full control of himself.

Standing sentinel at the door were two of the Grand Master’s guard, including Udo, the Paladin Senioris of the Order. Dulsur feared no-one in single combat but Udo was among a select few that the Seneschal deeply respected as a formidable warrior capable of besting anyone on his day, despite his advanced years. Udo had shifted his stance to meet the advancing knights, his guard partner moving to support his offhand a pace behind him.

“Lord Seneschal, if you have business with the Grand Master it must await his pleasure.” The Senioris respectfully inclined his head.

“Senioris, please give the Grand Master notice that I wish to speak with him and allow me entry.” Dulsur was in no mood for protocol and delay but there was no reason to speak poorly here.

The old paladin shook his head. “Forgive me but I cannot. The Grand Master has instructed me to guard the privacy of his chambers during this emergency. He will see no-one and receive no notices.”

Dulsur was about to reply when one of his own guards pushed forward and shouted an oath in Udo’s face. “Damn you, the Empire is in flames and we sit on this ball of ice doing nothing. The Seneschal will be seen!” Udo’s stance shifted again, his hands readying for action but he remained impassive in the face of the insult.

Dulsur pulled his man back, marking who it was and shouted on his own account. “Be silent! Know your place and get out of my sight!” His guard, Joakhim, reddened and looked as if he would question this order. Dulsur raised his hand to his own weapon and repeated in a low, deadly tone, “Get out of my sight.” The man bowed his head and retreated back down the corridor.

The Seneschal turned back to the Grand Master’s personal guards. “What is my office, Udo?”

“You are the Seneschal of the Order, Lord Dulsur.”

“Indeed, and what is my rank?”

“You are Chapter Master, here at the Mother Chapter, Lord Dulsur.”

“Then on your cognizance of my office and rank, I invoke my privilege to enter the presence of the Grand Master on a matter of utmost peril.”

The Paladin Senioris considered these words and again inclined his head. “I am sworn to the Order, yours is the right but these others may not enter with you.”

Dulsur sensed his remaining guards bristle at this but nodded and held up his hand in a gesture of dismissal to his retainers. Udo’s partner returned to station as the Senioris knocked at the door to the Grand Master’s work room.

“Enter,” said Grand Master Horm.

***

Groven Horm watched as Udo showed Khemon Dulsur an-Tetrimon into his chambers and stood at the door.

“That’s all right, Udo. The Seneschal and I will speak privately.”

The Senioris nodded and closed the door behind him as he left. Horm waited as his Seneschal walked over and stood before the ornate wooden desk that dominated the otherwise austere work room. A moment passed and it was evident the younger man would not speak first. Horm shook his head slightly.

“Khemon. Please, sit and give me your thoughts. I see them near bursting forth as it is, you may as well speak your piece.”

Dulsur nodded and sat in one of the scattering of chairs readily available for private conference here. He still did not speak for a moment and Horm understood that he was fighting for self-control.

“Grand Master, I am confused by your actions. Surely yours is a wisdom that escapes me but I would respectfully ask for explanation.”

“Khemon, we are two fellows in the Order here. There is no need for ceremony, speak freely and in fraternity.”

Dulsur nodded. “Very well. Groven, what is the meaning of all this? You welcome home either a heretic who has denied her sacred oaths or worse, now that I think it, an imposter and deceiver. Yes, it seems she has saved the Empire from ruin at Mekhios. The reports continue to confirm this,” he tapped his hand terminal. “I took your message for a piece of diplomatic coin to buy our passage and assurance of allied status in the Empire but then…”

“Then, I issued the stand down order. I understand your confusion. I fear that I will not be able to allay your concerns in full. My son, my dear friend and comrade, you are of the line of our noble exemplar. You may very well sit where I sit one day. I hope and pray it so. Yet there are things that I cannot simply tell you that you may understand. I have to ask you to keep faith. To have faith.”

“Is this all you can say to me, Groven? You invoke faith as if I am no more than an acolyte fresh from the ranks of the novices? You pray in aid St. Tetrimon and my own blood? What is this between a Grand Master and his Seneschal? Is this how you will explain it to the other Chapter Masters?”

Grand Master Horm smiled sadly. “Yes, Khemon, this is exactly how I will explain it to the others. Do not think I take you lightly or believe that I abuse you or injure faith in this matter.” Horm paused a moment then spoke in a firmer tone.

“I am the Grand Master, and I tell you this, the Empire is saved and will be made stronger than it was before today. A great heresy is even now being undone, not founded. We will see a new princeps upon the throne and I tell you that this will be the one who has saved the Empire. We shall do nothing to imperil this. Nothing.”

Khemon Dulsur an-Tetrimon sat stunned at this, clearly the throes of his anger had left him and been replaced by wonder. After a moment he stood and bowed to Horm.

“I hear your command, Grand Master, and I obey.”

Horm watched, his sad smile returned, as the man who had come to be as a son to him left the room. He closed his eyes and sat for a moment before returning to his window. The eyes that now looked out at the ice and snow of Ibani VI were bright with moisture.

***

Fortress Teakh tak-Teakh,
YC111.01.08

“Grand Master Groven Horm, you have been brought before this Council of the Chapters to answer for your judgment in the matter of the Order’s doctrinal attitude to the rule of the one enthroned as Empress Jamyl I, previously known as Jamyl Sarum.

“Further, your instructions as to doctrine have been accompanied by direction of the Order’s policies with regard to the Amarr Empire, Khanid Kingdom and Ammatar Mandate. These policies also entailed an absolute restriction on activity that would aid Holy Amarr’s war with the rebel provinces and the infidel Federation.

“This Council charges that you have injured faith and broken the compact of this Order of St. Tetrimon. Your failure to supply any arguments of reason in aid of your call to faithfulness in these matters, even despite the gravity of recent events, gives this Council grounds to consider stripping you of your great office of Grand Master. Can you answer this charge?”

Khemon Dulsur an-Tetrimon laid his hand terminal to one side and looked the Grand Master in the eye. Horm was sitting at a table that had been placed so as to be at the center of a line that might be drawn from one end of the half-circle formed by the Council’s meeting table to the other. The Grand Master was looking his age but cut a dignified figure that nevertheless wore his martial green, copper-trimmed robes of office lightly. Those robes echoed the notes of green and copper incorporated into the numerous chapter gonfalons hanging from the walls of the council chamber.

Horm wore on his face that sad smile Dulsur had grown accustomed to in the months since the Battle of Mekhios. The Seneschal nodded slightly to his erstwhile mentor and waited for the other to speak.

“Ah, my brothers and sisters, do you truly believe that faith must be justified at the time of its greatest testing? Have I been so neglectful that these are the straits the Order is in? To lose sight of what we stand for, even today when the truth has so long been at bay?”

“Groven, you are in peril of your position and future here.” The speaker was Chapter Master Aelis Zhovoar from Sakht, a silver-haired woman of great charismatic force. “This is more of the same talk you have leaned on since the heretic took the throne.”

“How is it you call the Empress of Holy Amarr a heretic? You are aware of the supernatural signs. All the other Royal Heirs bowed to the divine will. The Theology Council confirmed it and, yes, this counts for little in our reckoning but did not the Apostles also pledge fealty?”

“The Apostles can do no other or they join us in exile. We long ago accepted that the Apostles must remain at the heart of Holy Amarr while we stand vigil without. But this means that they are not free to speak their hearts. It is of no moment that they pledged fealty in the face of the deceiver’s might.” This was Chapter Master Okkarin an-Ardishapur, an ancient presence who had long been a thorn in Horm’s flesh, even from his fastness hidden deep in Querious.

“Am I to understand, then, that this Council arrogates to itself the determination of what constitutes signification of the divine will? What then of the judgment of our protector, the King?” Horm’s tone now was acid with irony, no great love here for Garkeh Khanid, despite his patronage of the Order.

Shaking his head in dismay, Dulsur responded before any of the others. “The position of the King is not in question at this meeting. How the thawing of relations between Kingdom and Empire affects this Order will no doubt concern us at another time. But not now. Let me also forestall you on the point of the arch-heretic Karsoth. Yes, you have been vindicated on the issue of his fall and the revelation that a vile nest of Blooders had penetrated so deeply into the Empire. Many mysteries have been clarified. Not least how it was that an Emperor was assassinated within the precincts of the Imperial Palace.

“This is all beside the point. We are all aware of what has followed and what gives grave cause for doubting the hand of the divine is truly at work through the person of Jamyl Sarum. Is it truly the act of a just and holy sovereign to intrude on the most basic rights temporal and religious of her loyal Holders? The so-called ‘emancipation’ is an abomination that has allowed untold numbers of slaves to escape from the dominion of Amarr and into the arms of the rebels. Not only that, bad enough as it is, how has she treated those who stood upon their God given rights?”

“Like an empress,” interjected Horm.

“Like a mad empress would! This is to trample on the rights of the Holders to oversee the Reclaiming within their fiefs, according to their obligations and those of their lieges to them, and so on. The True Faith has rested on the bonds of fealty and faith owed to both high and low for millennia. Now this heretic upon the throne would destroy that!”

Horm chuckled and shook his head. “Have I taught you nothing of our history? Of the history of the Empire and our people? The system you believe to have survived until this past couple of weeks was brought down centuries ago. The Moral Reforms achieved that and we alone preserve the true memory of it in practice and in faith. But you are confusing memory with reality. You allow the illusion maintained by the very ones you disdain as in error to cloud your vision.”

“Enough! Do you know what was done in her name but yesterday? You do know it. We all know it. To free subhumans to join the rebels, noble Holder houses were bombarded from orbit. Bombarded, murdered, declared slaves along with their families and loyal retainers. This done in the name of God only knows what base evil moves her. And you have no answer to the charges but more talk of faith in a future that only you can see. It is not enough.”

“Aye,” spoke Okkarin an-Ardishapur. “It is not enough.”

“It is not enough, Groven,” said Aelis Zhovoar shaking her head sadly.

Horm looked around the table as more voices joined the chorus. “It is not enough,” they all said. He nodded and allowed himself to slump back in his chair, deep exhaustion mingling with strange relief.

“Groven Horm, this Council of the Chapters finds you have injured faith and broken the compact of this Order of St. Tetrimon. We therefore strip from you the office and rank of Grand Master. You are reduced to a brother penitent. Who on this Council dissents?” Dulsur looked around the table. There was the absolute silence, the total stillness, of all holding their breath. “Very well, it is so found and ordered.”

Brother Groven Horm nodded once and closed his eyes.

***

Fortress Teakh tak-Teakh,
YC117.08.21

Grand Master Khemon Dulsur an-Tetrimon climbed the spiral staircase of the Penitent’s Tower slowly, deep in thought as his mind worked through the implications of the news from Amarr. The Empire was in turmoil but the situation did not seem critical. There had been no follow up attacks and he had merely placed the Order’s fleets on the highest state of readiness. Now he was on his way to consult a man who had once been his mentor and master, and now, after the passage of some years, had become an oracular advisor of sorts.

Dulsur reached the highest level of penitent cells and turned into the corridor. A wan light streamed through the narrow window at the end of the passage. Noon here on Ibani VI. The old man would be sitting by his window. That was good, Dulsur knew. He knocked at the door to the end cell. A courtesy.

“Please enter,” said Brother Groven, his voice muffled by the thick cell door.

As Dulsur had expected, the older man was sitting by the window, gazing out at the blue-white expanse stretching away from these mountains to the far southern peaks at the horizon. The cell was very austerely furnished with cot, plain desk and two chairs. All normal, a penitent would regularly be visited by a confessor or chaplain. The shelf of the desk had some books in it and this was also normal. The only startling feature of the small room was a bookcase well stocked with works of several kinds. This was a luxury that Dulsur had allowed Groven Horm in view of his service.

“How are you today, Groven?”

“No better, Khemon. Perhaps worse. I can no longer tell, I am afraid.”

Dulsur hesitated at that. His news might be too much for the old man. Yet he sorely needed the insights of a man who had foretold much that had happened in the last seven years.

“Groven, the Empress is dead.”

Groven Horm had seemed to shrink these last few years, age and isolation taking its toll, but at this news he seemed to collapse within his penitent’s robe.

“How?” whispered Horm.

“I have told you of the so-called ‘Drifters’. The new threat from Anoikis. They are responsible. A swift strike on the Empress’s ship. They destroyed an Avatar-class with her aboard it. There were no survivors.”

“None?” asked Horm, turning to look up at Dulsur.

“None have been reported and the Empress is most certainly dead.” Dulsur sat in the empty chair. “There have been no further attacks. The situation appears to be under control and the Empire seems to be in no immediate danger.”

“No immediate danger,” repeated Horm in tones of wonder.

“Groven, I know that this is shocking to you. I know that you had always placed great hope in the reign of Jamyl. Hope that I still do not understand but have come to respect.”

“How can you respect it when you still believe it to be in error, my son?”

“Groven, please, this is no time for our argument. I need your wisdom.”

“Truly?” Horm had turned his eyes on Dulsur’s and the Grand Master noted they still had that old force.

“Truly. Half a decade in your shoes has taught me enough to value your counsel, Groven. Please believe that.”

“I believe it, Khemon. But I can only ask you a question. How deeply have you read of your family’s works?”

“My family? I do not understand you. You mean our inspiration? St. Tetrimon?” Dulsur was beginning to wonder if the old man was in shock and babbling.

“Your entire line, Khemon. All those who have carried the noble name of Tetrimon. How far have you read into their writings?”

“I have read enough of their history. Their doings and achievements. Perhaps a little of their works on Scripture, the Apocryphon.”

“Have you read the commentaries of Tetrimon the Fourth on the Apocryphon?”

“No,” Dulsur thought he had probably glanced at them as a novice but this was not reading them.

“I believe that the only counsel I can give you today is to read them. His ‘Testament’ is unquestionably the mature expression of his ideas. Here now, you can have my copy.” Horm reached across to his desk and picked up a volume lying flat on the top.

Accepting the book silently from the old man, Dulsur stared at his mentor a moment before looking at the volume in his hands. The cover had the words ‘The Final Testament of Tetrimon IV’ lightly embossed on the front. He opened it, noting how well-used this copy was. The frontispiece had a passage from the Apocryphon quoted in full.

My word lies within all,
All it requires is the breath of faith,
To ignite the fire,
So the lost can find their way,
So the fallen can rise,
To take their place as my chosen,
For you are all my creation,
And are all equal in my kingdom.

Dulsur shook his head slightly and thumbed through the book. It was heavily annotated in a hand that he knew to be Groven Horm’s. Dulsur looked up.

“I cannot take this. This is your study copy, isn’t it?”

“Yes, indeed. But I have no need of it now. You should have it. I want you to have it. Also, it is the answer to your request for counsel. You should read the book.”

“You can tell me nothing more?” Dulsur felt vast disappointment. It was clear the old man’s mind was overwhelmed by the news of Jamyl’s death.

“I fear not.” Horm hesitated, he seemed to want to say something more, then collapsed back in his chair again. “I am tired, Khemon.”

“Of course, I will let you rest.” Dulsur stood up and opened the cell door.

“Khemon,” Horm whispered.

The Grand Master turned in the doorway and waited.

“I am glad it is you, Khemon. Be true, my son.”

Dulsur nodded, not trusting himself to speak and left the cell with bright eyes.

Later, in the night, Grand Master Khemon Dulsur an-Tetrimon received word that Brother Groven Horm had been discovered dead by his evening confessor. He had apparently died peacefully in his sleep.

***

Khanid Region, Molea System,
Royal Khanid Navy Border Post MoNak1,
YC117.09.21

They had docked at the border post almost an hour ago and Khemon Dulsur was becoming impatient. The journey he had just made was significantly longer than the journey from the Throne Worlds. He knew his irritation was unfair to the person who had requested this meeting but it was a way of displacing his unease at the situation. Much as the Order had long lived at the sufferance of Garkeh Khanid, sitting at a table in a Khanid Navy installation was rather too pointed a reminder of this for Dulsur’s taste.

Dulsur glanced at the Khanid officer sitting a little way down the oval conference table that filled a room for which it had clearly not been designed. Colonel General Soshan Fayez had struck Dulsur as a hard but shrewd man upon meeting him in the hangar bay of the border post. Dulsur had also noted the Khanid ancestry of the soldier and the Uhlans insignia on his uniform. An experienced, elite soldier. Garkeh not missing a trick in his messaging.

“General Fayez, do you have any word of your other visitors?”

“I believe their ship has just docked. They should be joining us momentarily, Grand Master.”

Dulsur nodded and resolved to show no further emotion for however long ‘momentarily’ might actually be. As it turned out, a few minutes later a chime sounded at the door and the General got up to welcome the delegation from Amarr.

Into the room came a tall, handsome man of advancing years but clearly hale, and striking Dulsur immediately as a person of some perspicacity. From his ornate yet dignified robes, it was clear that this must be High Chaplain Kalefa Sufrin an-Kador of the Emperor Family. Two others accompanied Sufrin, a man wearing similar but much less ornate robes and a woman wearing a military uniform that Dulsur recognized as that of the Imperial Guard.

Dulsur stood up and walked half-way around the table to meet the High Chaplain, who had swiftly advanced with his hands extended. They clasped hands, Dulsur somewhat taken aback by the warmth of the gesture from Sufrin.

“General Fayez,” the High Chaplain turned to the Khanid officer. “The other Heirs saw no need to have representatives present, nor would I have agreed to it. I see no reason why His Majesty should benefit from your attendance at my meeting with the Grand Master.”

Dulsur started at the words ‘the other Heirs’ but all the same caught the flush that darkened Fayez’s features. The Khanid officer hesitated then nodded and left the room. High Chaplain Kalefa Sufrin an-Kador watched him go before turning back to Dulsur.

“That was perhaps a rather superfluous act,” Sufrin waved at the ceiling of the room, smiling wryly, and Dulsur immediately took his meaning according as it did with his own assumptions. “However, a man in my position must insist on the appearances, even if the reality is not quite as we would wish it. Shall we sit?”

Dulsur nodded curtly and returned to his seat. As he lowered himself into the chair, he noted that Sufrin had followed him and sat almost next to him at the table. Dulsur’s questioning glance evoked another smile from the High Chaplain.

“I would rather not have us bellowing at one another across this absurdly large table, Grand Master.”

“I suppose that could be tiring after a while, though I hope our talk will not take too long, High Chaplain.”

“I do not think it will but let me first thank you for making the trip from Ibani, I realize that your office is one with many demands on your time. I am sorry that I am perhaps adding to them.”

“All courtesies aside, your own time has surely been fully occupied these last few weeks, not least yesterday. I admit to being curious as to what is so important that we must meet in person here.” Dulsur waved vaguely around the room. “But one point first, I marked your words to Fayez. You said ‘the other Heirs’ when speaking of Garkeh Khanid. What does that mean?”

“Ah, there you come very much to the point, Grand Master. Very much to the point. Put simply it means that the right of Garkeh Khanid to lay a claim to the Throne of Holy Amarr will be recognized as valid by the Privy Council and Theology Council. This was agreed in certain discussions I was party to yesterday. I have no doubt it will be formally agreed by the councils and proclaimed within days.”

Dulsur was thunderstruck at this but managed to contain his astonishment. He nodded slowly and decided to attack.

“I see that the capacity of the pretender houses for blasphemy and heresy is undiminished even when it comes to their very own unholy interpolations into Scripture.”

Sufrin was clearly pained by these words and looked at his two companions. The man remained impassive. The woman smiled and shrugged. Sufrin nodded and turned back to Dulsur.

“Grand Master, your Order figured heavily in the informal discussions between the Royal Houses and those others of us with some, let us say, influence in this matter. This was no idle fancy or bizarre gambit by any one house. It’s true that there was disagreement but in the end the compromise was reached and you have your part to play in it.”

“We have our part to play in it? Do you actually have any idea what part the paladins of my Order would like to play in it, High Chaplain?”

“I can well imagine,” replied Sufrin drily. “Be that as it may, little in this affair is palatable to anyone except perhaps our present host.” Sufrin reached inside his robes and drew out a datapad. He glanced at it before sliding it along the table until it lay in reach of Dulsur. “This will explain everything.”

Dulsur looked at the slim, book-sized object without making any move to touch it. “What is this?”

“That is the Final Will and Testament of Her Imperial Majesty Jamyl I. Unredacted. It is a most important document and writing it may yet prove to be the most important act of our late lamented Empress.”

Grand Master Khemon Dulsur an-Tetrimon reached out and picked up the datapad, thumbing it on as he did. He read the contents in silence from beginning to end while the High Chaplain waited patiently. Finally he looked up, almost dazed, and turned the datapad off.

“You bear witness to this as her rightful testament?” Dulsur asked, his voice hoarse.

“I do and so does Pomik Haromi. Is there any more we need to discuss?”

“Not here. I must return to Ibani and call a Council of the Chapters.”

The High Chaplain nodded and stood up. “Then you will play your part?”

“On my own oath we will play our part. The Chapters will require persuasion.”

“I have confidence that you will persuade them, Grand Master.”

***

Khanid Region, Molea System,
Apocalypse-class battleship, OStT No Other Lord,
YC117.09.21

Grand Master Khemon Dulsur an-Tetrimon sat in his cabin thinking about the implications of what he had read in Jamyl Sarum’s last testament. He still had the datapad in his hand and suddenly realized that unconsciously he’d been gripping it tightly enough to hurt ever since leaving the meeting on the border post.

Dulsur stood up and went over to his cabin’s reading desk. He carefully placed the datapad on the desk and picked up the book that was sitting there. Horm’s copy of Tetrimon IV’s ‘Testament’. Dulsur had carried it with him in memory of his mentor ever since the old man’s death. He stroked the cover where the title was embossed before opening it and reading the frontispiece.

Here in the privacy of his cabin, Dulsur was suddenly overcome with emotion and had to sit on his bed, holding the old book.

“I’m sorry,” whispered Khemon Dulsur an-Tetrimon.

The Grand Master opened the book again and began to read.

~~~

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