Artemesia "Mercy" Caria

Outraged Scion and Redeemer of House Caria, Vigil's Lieutenant

Description:
Name: Artemesia “Mercy” Caria Career: Arch-Militant Elite Career: Manhunter
Wounds: 13 Fate Points: 3 Total XP: 30000
Insanity: 26 Corruption: 14 Available XP: 0
Homeworld: Malfian Noble Birthright: Born to Lead Lure of the Void: Seeker of Truth
Trials: Dark Voyage Motivation: Tormented Lineage: Outraged Scion
WS BS S T Ag Int Per WP Fel
30 61 33 50 62 41 40 43 57
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Total Initiative: 1d10+14 (+16 if wielding Pistols)

Skill Talents
Good Reputation (Underworld)
Peer (Nobility)
Talented (Scrutiny)
Light Sleeper (Always test awareness as awake)
Bloodtracker (Chartered Bounty Hunter, may Increase PF gains from related activities)

Resistance Talents
Jaded (No insanity from mundane horror)
Armour of Contempt (Reduce CP gains by 1)
Resistance (Fear)
Resistance (Psychic Powers)
Strong Minded (Reroll failed attempts to resist psychic influence)
True Grit (Critical Damage is Halved)
Duty Unto Death (Will not stop or fall during combat unless dismembered or outright destroyed)
Sound Constitution (x1)

Combat Talents
Melee Weapon Training (Universal)
Thrown Weapon Training (Universal)
Pistol Weapon Training (Universal)
Basic Weapon Training (Universal)
Paranoia (+2 Initiative)
Lightning Reflexes (Double AG bonus for Initiative)
Rapid Reaction (Test Agility to negate surprise)
Last Man Standing (+1 to Cover, Immune to Pinning)
Step Aside (An additional reaction per round that can only be used to dodge)
Quick Draw (Ready/Stow is Free)
Rapid Reload (Reload Times Halved)
Ambidextrous (No off-hand penalty)
Two-Weapon Wielder (Ballistic)/Gunslinger (No Two-Gun Penalty)
Deadeye Shot/Sharpshooter (Called Shots are Free)

Special: Killer’s Eye – If an attack succeeds by Dos >= the target’s Ag bonus, a critical damage effect (1d5) is applied in addition to regular damage.

Special: Take Them Alive – May reduce damage by Perception Bonus (4) and inflict 4 fatigue. Armor does not help resist Vigil’s attacks with shock weapons. Targets suffer -10 to avoid or escape snare effects.

Special: Fearsome Reputation – Mercy’s reputation combined with her affiliation with the Stygian Guard has allowed her cultivate a presence that instills an almost supernatural terror in her opponents and prey. At will Mercy may generate Fear (1). Established allies are immune unless she wishes otherwise, but bystanders and new associates are not.

Traits
Etiquette (+10 social in formal situations)
Vendetta: House Caria (Schismatic)
Fear 1 (Must be consciously activated)
Unholy Insight (1 Insanity or Corruption for +10 on Forbidden Lore Tests, or to test a Forbidden Lore that is not known)
Weapon Master (Pistols: +10 to Hit, +2 Dam, +2 Init)

Malignancies and Mutations
None.

Skill B T +10 +20 Modifiers Skill B T +10 +20 Modifiers
Acrobatics (Ag) Literacy (Int) X
Awareness (Per) B X X X Logic (Int) B
Barter (Fel) B Medicae (Int)
Blather (Fel) Navigation (Int) - - - - -
Carouse (T) B
Charm (Fel) B
Chem-Use (Int)
Ciphers (Int) Performer (Fel1)
Climb (S1) B Pilot (Ag) - - - - -
Command (Fel) B X X
Commerce (Fel)
Common Lore (Int) - - - - -
War X
Psyniscience (Per)
Scholastic Lore (Int) - - - - -
Judgement X
Occult X
Tactica Imperialis X X X
Concealment (Ag) B X X
Contortionist (Ag) B Scrutiny (Per) B X +10
Deceive (Fel) B Search (Per) B X
Demolition (Int) Secret Tongue (Int) - - - - -
Dodge (Ag) B X X X Military X
Drive (Ag1) - - - - -
Ground X Security (Ag1) X
Shadowing (Ag) X X
Evaluate (Int) B Silent Move (Ag) B X X
Forbidden Lore (Int) - - - - - Sleight of Hand (Ag)
Heresy X Speak Language (Int) - - - - -
Mutants X Low Gothic X
Daemonology X X X High Gothic X
Pirates X
Warp X Survival (Int)
Swim (S) B
Tech-Use (Int) X
Tracking (Int1) X X
Gamble (Int1) B Trade (Int) - - - - -
Inquiry (Fel) B X X Armorer X
Interrogation (WP1) X
Intimidate (S1) B X X X
Invocation (WP) Wrangling (Int)

Advancement Record – Mercy

1 These skills may use different key attributes based on application

Important Personal Gear

Harlequin’s Whip
Mercy’s Ace card, of sorts. The “whip” is of Eldar make, and is extremely rare even amongst their own people. This pistol-like weapon fires a cable of armor-piercing filaments that bore into the target then expand out in an interlocked geometric design. This is almost assured to be gruesomely fatal, and is as effective on hardened targets (such as tanks) as it is on people.

However, ammunition for this weapon is difficult, illegal, and expensive to acquire. Simply owning, let alone using such a weapon is not merely illegal but somewhat heretical as well. While Mercy is technically under the legal protection of Rogue Trader Mayorga, she has no wish to test the limits of that protection. Therefore Mercy only draws this weapon in the most dire of situations.

Paired Customized Mauler Pistols (Best Quality)
Bolt Pistol – Base Range: 30m – Single-Shot/3-Round Burst
Damage: 1d10+10 – Damage Type: Explosive – Penetration 4 – Clip 6 – Reload: Half (Free)
Modifications: Custom Grips (+5 to Hit), Red-Dot Sights (+10 on Single-Shot Attacks), Quick Release (Reduced Reload Time)
Traits/Effects: Never Jams, Master of Pistols (+10 to Hit), Tearing (roll and drop an additional damage die)

Imperial Guard Long-Las
Basic Las – Base Range: 150m – Single-Shot Only
Damage: 1d10+5 – Damage Type: Energy – Penetration 1 – Clip 40 – Reload: Half (Free)
Modifications: Omni-Scope (Red-Dot/Telescope/Preysense), Hot-Shot Option, Quick Release, Custom Grips (+5 to Hit), Collapsable (2 Full Actions to break-down or set up, reduces bulk)
Traits Effects: Accurate (Aim bonuses are increased by 10, shots benefiting from an aim bonus gain +1d10 per 2 DoS, max +2d10), Reliable (90% of jams are ignored), Felling 4 (Reduce Unnatural Toughness Bonuses by 4)
(w/ Hot Shot Pack Loaded) Base Range: 150m – Single-Shot Only
Damage: 1d10+6 – Damage Type: Energy – Penetration 4 – Clip 1 – Reload: Half (Free)
Traits Effects: Accurate, Felling 4, Tearing (Add and Drop an additional damage die)

Storm Bolter Combi-Melta of the Fallen Sororitas – “Redemption” (Good Quality)
Basic Bolter – Base Range: 90m – Single-Shot/4-Round Burst/8-Round Full Auto
Damage: 1d10+8 – Damage Type: Explosive – Penetration 4 – Clip 60 – Reload: 1/2 Action (Free)
Modifications: Combi-Melta (See Below), Motion Predictor (+10 to attack with Burst or Full Auto), Quick Release, Custom Grips
Traits/Effects: Reliable (90% of jams are ignored), Storm (2 shots hit per DoS with Burst or FA attacks), Tearing (roll and drop an additional damage die)
(Integral Combi-Beamer-Meltagun) Base Range: 40m – Single Shot Only
Damage: 2d10+8 – Damage Type: Energy – Penetration 12 – Clip 1 – Reload: 2 Full
Traits/Effects: Reliable (90% of jams are ignored), Melta (Double Penetration at Short Range)

NOTE: All damage values take talents, traits, and modifications into account. Reload Times take all modifiers into account. Reload time is listed with and without the Rapid Reload modifier.

Inferno Shells – May carry clips of inferno bolt shells that add the Flame quality to bolter attacks (targets hit must test Ag or be set on fire). These do carry a small risk of exploding should Mercy somehow end up on fire herself.

Tempest Shells – Mercy has a very limited cache of tempest shells for her bolt weapons. Damage Type becomes Energy, attacks have the Shock trait (if a target takes any damage they must test Toughness or be stunned for a number of rounds equal to their degree of failure), and attacks do +3 damage to machines (including creatures with the Machine trait).

Pentagrammatic Shells – These are standard bolt shells that Mercy has individually inscribed by hand. Each shell takes hours to prepare and doing so carries a small risk of warp-phenomena every time. These shells are no different from normal bolt shells, except that they bypass the defenses of warp-spawn (including daemons), are fully effective against such targets, and can even result in disrupting their connection to the materium, banishing them back to the warp.

Stygian Carapace (Best Quality Storm Trooper Armor)
Coverage: All – AP: 7 – Weight 18 kg (Fully Loaded with Enhancements Below)
Modifications:
Warded (Protects against warp-powered attacks, +20 to resist possession and daemonic effects)
Integrated Diagnosticator/Injector (Monitors health of wearer, injects a dose of Stimm if they fall unconscious)
Chameleoline Cloak Attachment (+20 to Concealment, if stationary and beyond short range ranged attacks targeting wearer are at -30)
Clip/Drop Harness w Grapnel and Winch (+30 Climb, will not fall on failure, may launch 100m mag-line)
Emergency Void Seal (2 hours Life Support, can survive void exposure)
Magboots (when activated -20 Ag but can move normally in low/zero G)
Stummer (Suppress Noise in the immediate area, +30 to Move Silent. 20 minute power supply)

Deathmask of Judgment
Can be mounted as the faceplate of Mercy’s armor, or worn by itself. Has the following integrated functions:
Auto-Senses (Grants Heightened Senses: Vision)
Respirator (Adds +40 to tests to resist airborne toxins)
Preysense Photo-visor (Grants Dark Sight and +20 to vision based Per tests in the dark, may always test awareness against hidden targets)
Vox and Laud Hailer (Distorts the wearers voice when activated and allows volume amplification, +10 Intimidate)
Magnoculars (Magnification and basic analysis)
Micro-bead (Communication up to one km, further if boosted)
Pict-Recorder (May record video POV footage)

Bio:

Malfi is – and this may be the very reason the sector rulers passed over it to serve as the Calixian capital – a place of the most infernal political intrigue. It is impossible to count the courtly factions vying for power and the ear of the Matriarch. The central palace is a labyrinth of chambers and anterooms, a warren that, so Malfian proverbs say, many have entered and subsequently died trying to find a way out again. Guides may be procured to steer a visiting party through the warren of Malfi’s central palace: they cannot be trusted. Every act and motion of Malfian life is about dissemblance and intrigue in the pursuit of personal advantage. Hire the wrong guide and you may be damned to years of squabbling diplomacy and sudden duels. It is said of the Malfian Palace that “life has a thousand separate doors” and this is no exaggeration. Entering Malfian society, one enters a world of complexity and deceit. Few emerge alive.

Artemesia was born to the noble house of Caria and raised within the toxic intrigues of this corrupt world. From her earliest days something was notably different about Artemesia compared to her Malfian peers. With clear eyes and unclouded mind she cut through deception and falsehood with a decisiveness that would have been impressive even from the elders of her house. Initially this talent was highly valued by the masters of house Caria, and they began grooming Artemesia for ascension to house scion.

It was this grooming, however, that would reveal the full depth of house Caria’s corruption and depravity to the young Artemesia. The leaders of her house had become so entrenched in generations of degenerate heresy and corruption that it was impossible for them to conceive that one of their own would reject their ways. Thus, they proceeded with their plans without considering the would-be scion’s character.

To the masters of house Caria, Artemesia’s father seemed completely loyal to his house and complicit in their crimes. For the most part this was true. What they did not understand was that his support was born of resignation and a broken spirit, nothing more. As a young man he had come to understand the true nature of house Caria all too late, and knew that any attempt to move against the house or flee would likely result in a fate far worse than death. So, he kept to himself and otherwise served his house loyally.

When Artemesia’s mother died in childbirth, her father took the event as a sign. Initially he simply hoped to keep his daughter away from the family’s influence until he could marry her away from Malfi under the guise of political maneuvering. As she grew older, he began to see their mutual salvation in her clear, piercing eyes. Without revealing anything of the family itself, for fear of inviting reprisal against the both of them, he raised Artemesia as a proper servant of the Imperium and safeguarded her natural sense of justice.

Despite this, and in part because of her upbringing, Artemesia had a bit of a blind spot for her own house. As incisive as her mind was, she shrugged off numerous warning signs as her family began preparing her to join the house leadership. Even after enduring multiple “traditional rites of the house” that were intended to prime her as a house elite, she wrote off the obvious trappings of sorcery and warpcraft as unfortunate cosmetic echoes of Malfi’s degenerate corruption.

Her blind spot also allowed Caria’s masters to continue believing that Artemesia was a loyal vassal who was open to their ways. It wasn’t until the darkest secrets of the house were finally unveiled that the horrifying revelations she had been avoiding finally hit her all at once. House Caria had become associated with the Masqued cult of Malfi. Caria supplied the cult with equipment, resources, and mutants in exchange for their knowledge of warpcraft. In turn the house had used this knowledge to cultivate a stable of specially tailored mutants, even going so far as to stabilize certain strains.

These mutants were used for a wide range of purposes: combat, entertainment, pleasure, and even more twisted and perverse activities that discovered new depths of heresy. This mutant stable had been the secret to the house’s success on numerous fronts. Leveraged for extortion, blackmail, and an occasional framing of rival houses, the mutants of Caria were a powerful asset.

Even this was not the worst discovery, however. Caria had developed a reputation for being invincible, possibly even blessed or cursed in a way that ensured all who would move against them were destroyed before open conflict could ever erupt. Artemesia finally learned the truth behind these rumors: Behelith.

Behelith was a powerful daemonhost that had been bound to house Caria’s service centuries ago as payment for a significant favor performed on behalf of the Masqued. Unlike most daemonhosts, Behelith does not present a visage of warp-fueled horror or rage against his bonds like a daemonic beast. Behelith is a daemon of cunning, charm, manipulation, and diplomacy. Though capable of razing a hab-block with a flick of his wrist, he prefers words and psychic influence rather than overt force.

When Behelith was presented to the shocked Artemesia he immediately saw and understood the truth of her nature. Before she could give herself away the daemonhost dismissed her handlers so as to speak with her privately. While surprised, the self-confident nobles simply saw this as further confirmation of their wisdom in bringing Artemesia into the fold.

Though aware of Behelith’s true nature, Artemesia could not fully resist his silver tongue in her shocked state. Presenting himself as a sympathetic ally, he calmly explained the details of house Caria’s corruption and the full litany of its crimes. Though he was inexorably bound to serve Caria, Behelith pointed out that he could serve through Artemesia to help purify and redeem the corrupt house. All this, he claimed, he was offering simply in the hope that he would finally be destroyed and his essence returned to the warp, where both he and the remnants of his host’s soul could finally be at peace.

Desperate for a way out and unprepared to stand against the comforting charm of a powerful Slaaneshi daemon, Artemesia entered into an alliance with Behelith. He trained her in the ways of daemonology, going so far as to teach her the means of controlling, banishing, and warding against both himself and his kind. He prepared her for her meetings with Caria’s elders, allowing her to seem the ideal scion to the house’s secrets and legacy. Finally he helped her gather all the evidence she would need to bury her enemies for good. All the while secretly removing any threat to Artemesia or their plans.

Before their plan could be executed, the house’s seer uncovered a skewed version of what was to come. While Artemesia was shielded from the seer’s insights by Behelith’s influence, her father’s indirect involvement caused him to be identified as the threat and traitor in her stead. The torturous horrors that were visited upon him defied comprehension, though his limited awareness of the events unfolding within the house led the elders to conclude that he had intended to move against his daughter’s ascension to the inner circle.

When her father’s corpse was triumphantly presented to Artemesia the house elders had no idea what they were about to unleash. Where they had expected gratitude, they were met with cold fury. The loss of the only human being in her world that she had ever trusted, the only person to have given her the comfort of unconditional love and acceptance drove Artemesia deep into shock and pushed her beyond the mortal limits of despair and rage.

In a cold fugue Artemesia drew her ritual knife and carved runes of Chaos, Sorcery, and Behelith himself deep into her own flesh. A torrent of blood poured from her arm, shaping itself into a complex ritual circle before her from which the daemonhost arose. Her next words doomed her house, marked the materium of Malfi forever, would scar her soul until the end of her days, and would inexorably tie Artemesia and Behelith’s fates to one another; “Behelith, shatter your chains with the blood and souls of Caria’s traitors.”

Perhaps Behelith could have twisted the meaning of those exceptionally rash words, maybe he could have simply killed her, become unbound, and taken control of Caria for his own purposes. But who can truly explain the mind and motives of a daemon, especially one as old and powerful as he. Rather than twist her words he etched their intent into his shackles and unleashed more visceral violence and destruction in that moment than he had performed in the past century. Moreover, the slaughter of Caria’s leaders was merely the beginning of a scorched-earth campaign that would be marked in Malfi’s histories for centuries to come.

Watching the gory death of her father’s murderers brought a sliver of relief, as though an overwound coil had eased, but no feelings of peace or sense of resolution. While Behelith rampaged and ravaged her house, she fell to her knees in a fog. Hours, perhaps longer, passed as she mutely cradled her father’s mutilated and violated corpse in her arms. Behelith’s voice finally broke her from her fugue.

“The demesne has been scourged, but much remains before my task will be complete.” Looking down at the girl’s hollow, tear-streaked face the daemon’s voice turned both warm and concerned. Whether a calculated display or a sincere divergence from his central nature it was the moment of compassion she needed. “Artemesia, you can’t shut out this pain out or it will break you. Embrace your pain, feel it as keenly as you can or you will never be able to move forward. If you shut this out your mind and soul will never leave this room, and you will never truly bury your father. If you wish to honor his death and truly put his soul to rest then grieve now so you can stand.”

The last rational flicker in Artemesia’s mind reeled at Behelith’s words. It would not be for many years that the twisted irony of that moment would be apparent to her; when the greatest act of compassion and understanding she ever experienced (before or since) came from a daemon, a living embodiment of mankind’s greatest threat and most resolute enemy. However, his words could not be denied and whether it was cruelty or mercy the fog cleared from her mind.

Sobs wracked Artemesia’s body as the full weight of her father’s death sank into her. She felt a warm, comforting hand squeeze her shoulder before she was alone with her father’s body. It was shortly after this time that the door to the chamber was blown off its hinges as Inquisitor Miriam Ophala and her strike team swept into the room. Her face still wet with tears, Artemesia looked up to see a short, squarely-built woman in power armor looking down on her with a mix of compassion and pity. It was the last thing she saw before the former Sororitas knocked her out cold.

Artemesia spent a little over a week confined to a small cell guarded by silent storm troopers of the Inquisition. She only saw the stocky Sororitas turned Inquisitor once more before being turned over to specialists for her “debriefing”. Artemesia was no fool, she knew that so much as a hint of her past actions would send her straight to the pyre, regardless of the circumstance. So despite the remarkable talent of her interrogators and her desire to tell them about every sin and secret of her family Artemesia feigned ignorance and played up the appearance of still being in shock.

Her story was that her father had apparently learned some secret of house Caria that he was going to confront the house’s leadership with. By her telling, it was only hours after he left to do this that everything went to hell and people started dying. She went to find him, despite the insanity and death erupting all around her, only to find him ritualistically murdered and surrounded by the savaged corpses of Caria’s elders.

Satisfied that there was nothing more to learn from her and that she had not been personally touched by whatever had slaughtered the bulk of her house, Artemesia was released into the care of “her seneschal”, who turned out to be none other than Behelith. Despite the daemonhost’s audacity and her apparent surprise and discomfort upon seeing him, none of the Inquisitorial agents on site at the time so much as spared him a second glance (no actual Inquisitors were actually on site at that time, however).

Behelith led Artemesia back to one of the few Caria holdings not under Inquisitorial scrutiny or destroyed during his rampage. It was there that he revealed another, if more mundane, surprise: Artemesia was now the sole heir and leader of what remained of house Caria. On the other hand only a tiny fraction of the house’s members, vassals, and staff had survived without fleeing, most of Caria’s assets were wiped out, and the house’s name was now so tainted that it no longer carried any real weight of its own.

While Artemesia was still absorbing this revelation Behelith performed the final formality of his service to Caria, “The traitors of Caria are dead, destroyed, and severed. By our pact, my bonds are shattered.”

Dread and resignation were all Artemesia could muster when she saw her daemonic ally break free of his ancient bonds. As she watched the power of the warp visibly flow into Behelith she could hear the whispers interspersed within the buzzing of insect wings in her ears, smell ozone and sweat in the air, taste a mix of blood and other fluids in the back of her throat, and feel the sensation of silken needles scratch and crawl across her skin.

Once the experience ebbed away it appeared as though the very air surrounding Behelith sighed in relief. Artemesia was treated to a vision of unearthly horror, beauty, madness, and pain that will remain etched in her memory forever before Behelith restored his former appearance. Her mind rejected the implications of what she had seen and seized on the comforting lie of Behelith’s wicked grin.

“There is so much for me to do, so much business left unattended for all these years Artemesia. Despite what you’ve been told by the corpse-god’s propaganda, you have nothing to fear from me. We’re friends, after all. I will be busy for quite some time though, so I fear I won’t be around. Still, I have taught you how to contact me… I’d love to work together again.”

Despite his kind words and supernatural charm the overwhelming weight of the unbound daemonhost’s presence kept Artemsia’s mind crystal-clear. She could sense the sinister underlying implications of what Behelith was saying and only now was she beginning to appreciate the magnitude of what she had done. Only the memory of his earlier act of compassion and gesture of sympathy kept her from fleeing in horror or collapsing in panic. Before she could regain her footing Behelith simply vanished.

Given how little of her house, fortune, or influence remained it was a relatively trivial matter to consolidate house Caria and reestablish a small chunk of its former domain. Within weeks her estate was able to manage itself. A funeral for her father was held at the memorial she had commissioned in his name, honoring his sacrifice that had purged the corruption from house Caria (reinforcing her cover story as well as ensuing his name would not be forgotten).

With no one left to confide in, no one she could possibly trust with the truth of her recent traumas, Artemesia was haunted by guilt, shame, and despair. She might have descended into a self destructive death spiral, had an old associate of her house not made a catastrophic error in judgement.

Less than six months after Artemesia had taken control of house Caria a (terribly misinformed) faction of the Masqued attempted to reestablish contact to continue their previous business. This was the focus she needed to reclaim her sense of purpose and begin atoning for Caria’s crimes… and hopefully her own. The change in her personality was almost instant as she began plotting the destruction of her house’s former associates.

Meetings were arranged but they did not go as either side had hoped or expected. Artemesia had little trouble later capturing the cult’s agent and terrorized him into giving her what she needed before putting a bolter shell into his skull. When the explosive shell sprayed blood, brains, and skull fragments across her face and chest she felt a combination of relief and release. It was as though a heavy weight on her shoulders had grown slightly lighter and a dam blocking the blood flowing through her had broken.

Using the information she had acquired, Artemesia was able to ambush the cultists as they prepared for their meeting with her. While her initial assault was a remarkable success she had never before faced real opponents in combat, and was not prepared for the fight with the survivors that followed.

The element of surprise and superior equipment kept her alive (though not uninjured) long enough for the fight to devolve into a standoff in Malfi’s underhive. She was still outnumbered; however, the cultists had become cautious because their guns were only grinding her down with minor injuries, thanks to her armor, while her bolt pistols had been killing them outright whenever she got a solid hit.

In an open conflict with a servant of the ruinous powers the last thing anyone should do is give them the luxury of time. While crouched behind a ferrocrete dividing wall Artemesia felt the now familiar sensation of the veil between the materium and the warp thinning. Chancing a look she saw the cult cell’s leader advancing towards her position. As he advanced the air around him distorted and unnatural frost spread from everywhere his feet touched.

A burst of shells from her bolt pistol confirmed Artemesia’s fears when they detonated almost a meter short of their target. It was as though they had struck a solid wall. Her concern turned to grim resignation when she saw the air twist and warp to form the silhouettes of humanoid forms all too reminiscent of Behelith’s first appearance.

Artemesia never found out what the Masqued sorcerer was calling. Instead she watched a power blade erupt from his pelvis and rip upward through his collarbone, nearly bisecting the cultist’s body. Before the corpse could so much as fall to its knees a horizontal follow-up slash through the neck sent it crashing to the side, giving her a clear view of her unexpected backup.

The man was wearing armor similar to her own, though his head was covered by an armor-mesh hood and his face was covered by a disturbing clockwork death’s-head mask. He carried a power-sword with an unusually short blade in his right hand, and now held the sorcerer’s head in his left. Behind him the corpses of the other two cultists were face down in a pool of their own blood with their throats slashed so deeply they had practically been beheaded as well.

Concluding that she stood no chance against the man before her, regardless of his intentions, Artemesia holstered her pistols and gestured to the strange killer for peace. The blade he carried seemed to simply retract into his armor as his stance relaxed. He bagged the severed head and hung it from his belt like a trophy before finally addressing her.

The killer’s voice was unnatural, powerful, and had an unsettling mechanical timbre. “I’m pleased to see that I don’t have to kill you after all. I am Vigil, why are you here?”

Artemesia had heard of this “Vigil” before, he was known among the nobles and underworld of Malfi to be part murderous lunatic and part bounty hunter who fancied himself some sort of vigilante. Until now the story had seemed absurd. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe he existed, his bounty hunting charter with the Bloodsworn of Malfi was a matter of record. The idea just seemed ridiculous and a bit trite… at least until that moment.

“I’m… uhm…” She wasn’t certain how to approach this conversation, and the crash from the adrenal dump of combat was beginning to set in. Before she could continue Vigil cut in.

“I know who you are, Lady Caria, I’ve been watching you for some time now. Why did you seek out this filth just to kill them? I know your house was once an ally of the Masqued.” Something in his tone when he mentioned her house’s former association carried an undercurrent of accusation and implied threat.

Adrenaline pumping into her system once again, Artemesia collected herself and regained her footing in the conversation. “That’s exactly why. Their corruption ruined my house and murdered my father. I won’t know peace until I feel the life ripped from every last one of their corpses!” An anger and conviction she hadn’t even expected fueled her words. For the first time since her father’s murder, her sense of self had returned.

Vigil tilted his head slightly. “An odd way to seek revenge. Their involvement was conspiratorial, not hostile. They took no action against you or your house. What do you have to gain?”

Something in his questioning, almost mocking tone infuriated Artemesia. “Revenge, redemption, catharsis, whatever the fuck you call it doesn’t mean shit to me! I don’t care what it is, I’m going to kill everyone who so much as thought about getting involved in our crimes until I can feel clean again!” She hadn’t meant to say that, but it didn’t matter anymore. He was either going to kill her or not, and she didn’t care enough to put up with his bullshit anymore.

“I see.” As he spoke a strange whirring and clicking could be heard from Vigil’s mask. Removing the mask and hood, he revealed a surprisingly normal looking fellow that looked nothing like the hard-assed killer Artemesia had expected. No longer speaking though his mask, Vigil’s voice was firm but lacked the hard, threatening edge the mask had given it. “In that case, allow me to help.”

It turned out that she had needed his assistance, badly. Though she had been adequately trained to protect herself while she was being groomed as Caria’s scion and was exceptionally well equipped, Artemesia was thoroughly unprepared to take on a large-scale chaos cult by herself. On the other hand Vigil, though she came to know him as Victor after some time working together, had been waging campaigns like this for years.

The two worked out a plot was surprisingly straightforward in its execution. Artemesia reached out to the contacts her house had worked with in the past, which they uncovered by combining their findings. She claimed to have barely escaped the meeting with her life. The bounty of the cult’s leader had been turned in under Vigil’s charter, adding credibility to her story. Feigning terror, she conspired with the Masqued under the pretense of working together to deal with a mutual threat.

By the time the implications of Vigil’s improbable efficiency at dismantling the Masqued cults via extraordinary acts of violence became apparent, it was far too late. With the leaders of the various Masqued factions that had once associated with house Caria identified and marked for death, it had simply become a matter of closing the noose.

Of course, once it was clear that the cults were exposed and everyone was going to be hunted down some of the targets simply bolted. Running as far and fast as possible. Ultimately 4 cult leaders escaped in some form or fashion, all attempting to flee off-world. The rest banded together in the furthest depths of the underhive with their most valued followers to hold out against their enemy, hoping to overcome “him” with an entrenched and unified front.

The two hunters reviewed their findings and the labyrinthine network of partially collapsed tunnels and crawlspaces their quarry had scurried into. There was little question that they were looking at a deathtrap by this point. Victor eased back into his chair, pausing a moment to consider his words before addressing his companion. “Artemesia, have the past few months finally satisfied your bloodlust? Is watching this filth die really worth dying yourself?”

Artemesia looked up from her dataslate with shock and indignation, “What? There’s no way I’m letting these bastards get away! After everything we’ve done you want to just walk away? What, was it just about the bounties to you?”

Victor just laughed in response. “Oh hell no. There’s no way I’d let them survive just to go and spread new seeds of their corruption and heresy.” He chuckled again as her indignation turned into confusion. “I just figured we might want to wipe them out in a less personal manner this time. If you can tolerate not being there to see it.”

Her shoulders slumped in mild exasperation. “Victor, that was months ago. I mean, slaughtering them is still cathartic, don’t get me wrong. But I’m not the bloodthirsty psychotic I was when this started. Things were… well, pretty screwed up for me at the time and I was consequently a bit extreme.” Concern knitted Artemesia’s brow. “What did you have in mind though? They’re going to be ready for gas or chemical attacks and we already know we can’t collapse the tunnels in a way that does anything but scatter them.”

“I’ve been keeping an Inquisitor misdirected and out of our way for almost three weeks now. He’s been inadvertently cleaning up our trail in the meantime. One dead-drop and I’d bet that he rains the full fury of the Emperor’s wrath down on these cultists. I already made sure he picked up the trail of the four that escaped. From what I hear one has already vanished in a puff of violence.” His expression was flat, though he knew this was a bit of a bomb to drop on her.

Artemesia groaned and dropped her face into her hands. “You what? Oh, Emperor preserve me. Victor, then they have to know I’m tied up in all this. This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten the Inquisition’s attention. Somehow I got lucky and they let me go once, I doubt they’ll do so again after all this.” A resigned sigh punctuated her thought. “I’m probably dead now. I guess I just have to hope that this has been enough to make up for at least some of my sins. It’s not like I expected to make it to old age after… everything.”

Victor leaned forward over his entwined fingers and looked at Artemesia in wide-eyed mock admiration. Nonplussed, and still surprised at the incongruity between his normal persona and his masked personality, she just gave him a terse “What?”

Victor’s voice was exaggerated and breathless. “I’m just impressed. Such pathos, such drama! You should have been an actress.”

She threw her arms up in surrender. “Stuff it Vic. Can you please be serious about this?”

He snapped back into a proper professional, all levity dispelled. “Sorry, just trying to lighten the mood. I know this is a difficult issue for you. You don’t need to worry so much. From what he’s undoubtably seen along with what I’ve left for him there’s no way he should think you’re anything but another bounty hunter as far as this issue is concerned.” With that said he pulled a long, slim case from his coat and slid it across the table.

“What’s this?” Artemesia opened the case and removed the document within. She didn’t even have to read the title to recognize what it was, the seals and marks of office made it clear. “What the… why? No, how did you even manage this without my knowledge?”

“Simple, I paid the fee for the preliminary warrant after I turned in the first bounty. A few of the Bloodsworn owe me some favors and I convinced them that, since I was mentoring you personally, they should streamline the process a bit. Suddenly the next guy we’re after has his bounty flagged as gray and a week later you’ve got a Bloodsworn Bounty Hunter’s Charter. I had them sit on it until the cultists figured out you weren’t their friend after all. Half the bounties in the past month have been turned in under your charter. Oh, that’s right I nearly forgot.” Victor pulled out a cube and handed it to Artemesia. “That’s got your account codes, it’s already gene-locked to you.”

She was a bit dumbfounded by these revelations but recovered quickly. "Alright, that helps… I guess. Still not looking forward to another “debriefing” but it’s better than the alternative. Wait a minute, what’s this now? Mercy?" She raised an eyebrow at the pseudonym on the warrant.

Victor dismissed her concerns with a wave of his hand. “I had to pick something, you wouldn’t want your real name listed on their rolls for everyone to see. It’s not like you actually have to use the name for anything, it’s just how your bounties are recorded on the Administratum’s public records. With everything we’ve done and your given name, it seemed appropriate without being obvious.”

She sighed again then shook her head and put the cased document away. “So back to the original point of all this: Yes, by all means let the Inquisition have at them. As long as they’re dealt with at this point I’m satisfied.”

Victor nodded, hiding his relief. “Good, I’ll take care of that as soon as… ah!” He cried out, startled. His surprise turned to a deep unease as a chill went down his spine. Shaking off the sensation he finally explained himself. "Ah, well… nevermind. They’re on it now. I guess I didn’t have him as fooled as I thought. That’s… extremely disturbing. Let’s get out of here. I want to be as far from here as possible by the time they’re done.

The Inquisition made short work of the cult’s makeshift bunker, not a single soul escaped the Emperor’s justice. While the Inquisitor and his retinue were still mopping up Victor and Artemesia were already on Malfi’s orbital docks, sharing one final drink before parting. The two made their farewells and ensured arrangements were in place to keep in contact.

It wasn’t until that point that Victor explained his plans. Though he was always happy to chance down any particularly vile bounty, or even just a target he’d become aware of on his own, cultists were not his usual prey. More than any other heretic or recidivist, “Vigil” sought out every single slaver and slave cartel that he could possibly unearth. From what Artemesia could tell he’d lost family to slavers at some point in his life, unhinging him enough to take up his current life.

Victor informed Artemesia that he had picked up the trail of a crime lord and head of a splinter faction of the former Belasco slave-cartel. All he had was her general description, the name “Seven”, and a few slim leads, but Belasco had been one of the worst slavers in Calixis. So he was willing to commit to the investment this pursuit was going to entail. He also wanted to be well away from Malfi before the Inquisition came around to ask awkward questions.

Though she was hardly thrilled with being left to face the Inquisitor alone, Artemesia wasn’t about to abandon her house after all they had endured to get Caria back on its feet. After seeing Victor off on the first available transport, she took a shuttle back to her estate. On the way back she checked the account keyed to the datacube he had given her for the first time.

The numbers were shocking. She knew the Bloodsworn only took top-notch contracts, but had no idea they paid out so much for their contracts. Even after all she’d lost Artemesia was still quite wealthy. She had thought Victor’s decision to share his bounties was a token gesture of respect, but this account held enough to truly help smooth the complications her house still faced.

It was only a few hours after returning home that the Inquisitor arrived to take Artemesia in for questioning. She rehearsed her story and focused her mind to prevent any accidental flashbacks to events that would incriminate her, praying it would be enough to keep the Inquisitor’s psyker fooled. She’d never dealt with a Sanctioned Imperial Psyker in person before and wasn’t sure what to expect. She was sick with trepidation at the thought, but reminded herself that she’d faced a number of choas corrupted sorcerers and at least one true rogue psyker already… so how much worse could this be?

The Inquisitor was an imposing, stern man who’s manner and dress reminded her of a high ranking member of the Adeptus Arbites. He was accompanied by two servo-skulls and an efficient looking young man in a simple black body-glove who carried nothing more than a dataslate that he was furiously working over. Small tines extended from the assistant’s collar, neck, and head that appeared to be gathering some sort of sensory data.

The Inquisitor ignored any pleasantries or introductions, he simply presented his Rosette of office. The assistant looked up from the dataslate and spoke in his master’s stead. “Lady Artemesia of Caria, Mistress of the House, daughter of Tython the redeemer, hunter of the damned and chartered hunter of the Bloodsworn of Malfi. You are to present yourself to the Emperor’s Holy Inquisition for further inquiry. Inquisitor Praetus Dorn of the Ordo Hereticus has generously come to escort you to our facility personally.” His statement was perfectly structured in the formal, hieratic form of High Gothic to present the declaration as a neutral matter of protocol, rather than an accustation or arrest.

Artemesia knew this was all for show, that for whatever reason this “Dorn” was only doing this to avoid disrupting the rest of the Hive’s nobility further. Unable to meet the Inquisitor’s gaze she looked instead to his servant. Though he looked normal, he had signs of extensive augmentation, rather expensive augmentation at that to be so well hidden. He wore a small Aquila pin on his right collar, and the cogwheel of the Adeptus Mechanicus on the other. His gaze seemed to bore into her; though it was neither condemning nor approving.

Unsettled by both men she simply nodded and looked down to avoid either man’s gaze. She didn’t see their reaction but followed them to their vehicle. The assistant drove the luxury-grade ground-car while the Inquisitor sat across from her in silence. His gaze never left her and he barely moved. Too disturbed by his demeanor and wise enough to keep quiet Artemesia spent the ride focusing her attention outside her window.

Artemesia spent four more days in the custody of the Inquisiton, though her cell was nicer than the previous time. She also got a lot more attention from her wardens. First the assistant would interview her, priming her for Dorn’s follow up. Then the Inquisitor would take his place. He rarely said anything. He would simply enter the room with his servo skulls in tow, go over the dataslate his assistant left for him, and watch her.

There would be an occasional question, many of which didn’t make immediate sense to her. It wasn’t until the second day of this ordeal that she felt the cold pinpricks in her mind. She had initially thought the assistant had been the psyker that spooked Vigil, though it was clear after only a few hours that was unlikely to be the case. She had been relieved, assuming that the psyker was no longer with the Inquisitor. It was only when she felt the icy spikes in her skull that she realized the Inquisitor was the psyker.

For any Imperial citizen, no matter how cosmopolitan or familiar with the Scholastica Psykana they might be, being trapped and helpless in a room with a psyker is a fear straight out of their worst nightmare. The same can be said of an Inquisitor. So being trapped and at the mercy of an Inquisitor, who holds almost limitless authority and power, who is also a psyker is the sort of experience that would break lesser spirits before anything actually even happened to them.

Artemesia was strong in the face of her situation, but was still shaking uncontrollably and verging into panic when she first felt the cold, clawing sensation in her brain. It took all she had just to not whimper or cry. A few moments later the sensation passed. The Inquisitor looked annoyed and left the room. Once she collected herself again, she realized that she now had a means by which to ensure the Inquisitor didn’t chance on an incriminating thought or memory.

From that point forward Artemesia gave herself over to fear whenever the Inquisitor was in the room or she felt the sensation of something crawling through her mind. After another day of stoking her own fears and keeping her answers consistent with her explanation she was finally released.

Knowing she’d remain under scrutiny for some time after, Artemesia began pursuing other Bloodsworn contracts. This both reinforced what she had told the Inquisition and allowed her to strengthen her house at the same time. After a few months she had developed a taste for her work. After only six months under the Bloodsworn charter “Mercy” had developed a real name for herself, distinct from her house, among both the elite and underworld of Malfi.

Within another year house Caria had reached an equilibrium; it was once again secure financially and safe politically, though this was partially due to having become too small to be considered a threat or worthwhile target. After a significantly larger house (one that still held a grudge from before Caria’s fall) attempted to settle an old score, Artemesia’s overwhelming reprisal ensured no one else would bother to follow suit.

Artemesia had grown into her new role to the point that she could no longer see herself returning to her life just running her house. She had already cultivated an exceptional seneschal to run the house’s day to day affairs, and was rarely involved except when protocol or critical agreements demanded it. It was around this time that she heard from Vigil.

An astropathic message laid out quite a story for her, one in surprising (and unnecessary) detail. Vigil had tracked his target to a Rogue Trader vessel, the Corpus Dei. She had seemed to have gone to ground, working under the pretense of being a Skitarri pilot of all things. She had barely altered her appearance and taken a name that was almost obvious, “Feight”. So while her cover seemed ironclad he had little question, initially, that she was the target he had sought.

All the while, he had gotten up to his old tricks. After integrating into the ship’s society (with over 100,000 people living on the ship, he described it as being much like a hab-block had been carved out of a hive and thrown into space) he discovered a number of exceptionally vile people making life hell for many of the other civilian crew. So he started “purging” while he waited for his chance to go after his original target.

After a few months of this his quarry had remained frustratingly beyond his reach. She was always either in the Pilot’s block (a very secure high-class hab section specially tailored for the pilots that lived there), the hangar, or in the company of the ship’s Master Enginseer (whom he neither wished to harm nor pit himself against). Then he found out about a low-level but particularly vile slaver that had started operating among the population.

The slaver was supposedly kidnapping children and exploiting them in horrific ways for her personal profit. The rumors of the depredations she was guilty of, compounded by his frustration from waiting for his target to give him an opening, had spurred Vigil to act hastily and recklessly. He actually had little trouble tracking the slaver down. Had he been thinking clearly, all of this falling into his lap so quickly would have made the trap obvious.

Following his usual MO Vigil scrambled the security and monitoring systems in the area and jammed any chance she’d have to call for assistance. A modified subsonic stummer would agitate the target and incline anyone in the area to leave. Then he slipped from the shadows to take her down as he had so many times before.

He wasn’t really prepared for what followed. In a single flawless flow of motion the powerfully built woman slipped her body around his shock blade, managed to deflect the strike with the swords still sheathed across her back, then completed the motion by using the force of her deflection to spin around and face him. Before he could so much as bring his blade back to center her swords were ripped from the ruined harness and drawn against him.

Vigil’s prey was so fast and precise it was almost inhuman. At first he’d been able to press his advantage and draw first blood, delivering a nasty jolt that would have put down most opponents. Her armor was of higher grade than it initially seemed, however, and she shrugged the blow off without much trouble. So instead of slowing her down, he had only managed to enrage his opponent.

Unfortunately for Vigil, his opponent was not made any more careless or vulnerable for all her anger, in fact it seemed as though her fighting style improved with rage. A few exchanges later she managed to draw him into a feint, then sent his weapon flying well beyond any chance of recovery. On the defensive and now at a severe disadvantage he used every trick and surprise he had at hand, all of which she avoided with little trouble.

He’d managed to correct his footing as a consequence, however, and prepared for what he felt would be his last chance to come out of the fight alive. Seeing him defensive and vulnerable she came down with a powerful chop-and-draw attack that would have killed him three or four times over had it landed. This was exactly what he had hoped for and, using his bare hands, he managed to knock the spinning teeth of the chainswords aside in a half-circle motion with one hand while relieving his opponent of one of her blades with the other.

In the fraction of a second that he was focused on adjusting his grip on the newly acquired blade his opponent drew her remaining blade back and across, ripping his bicep and rending one arm useless. He also discovered some interesting things as a consequence of taking her sword. The fury she had shown before redoubled and she started screaming threats and obscenities at him of an increasingly improbable nature. All the while hammering away at him and demanding he return her ancestral weapon.

Finally, he saw the chance to do just that. At risk of being dismembered he drove the woman’s sword into her chest. The chainblade must have ripped through ribs, a lung, and shredded any number of other organs as it was effectively sheathed within the torso of his target. She was stunned by the devastating strike, but the injuries would take at least a few more moments to actually kill her.

No longer certain he would have those moments and hearing a group of heavily armed security forces descending on his position Vigil took the opportunity to flee. He snuck past the security forces, but when he saw them everything fell into place. These were naval military forces, not thugs or even civilian constabulary. Only a officer of the ship could have brought them to the hab.

He had heard of Kerchan Bran Kennock, the feral world warlord that had somehow been brought into the Mayorga Dynasty’s service as the Master-at-Arms and commander of their military forces. He had also heard of her talent for reaping a bloody harvest in battle with her ancestral chainswords. He went to ground immediately, gathering what he could and destroying anything that might allow him to be tracked down.

While in hiding he had time to reflect, and realized he had gotten overconfident and allowing himself to work under far too many assumptions. A few days later he was shocked, though relieved, to hear that Kerchan had survived her wounds, and was already back in command (though still recovering). He decided to risk reaching out to Kerchan with a formal apology and explanation for his actions. Going so far as to offer his services on the ship’s behalf in contrition.

At first she continued to pursue him, leaving him trapped and scrambling to stay hidden on a vessel he had no way of escaping. After a few days spent on the run, however, she apparently cooled off. They initiated an initially terse correspondence that eventually became cool but professional. Months of back and forth eventually resulted in their meeting face to face, and while he did everything he could to gain her favor he achieved nothing more than a more established truce.

While in port Vigil learned something else disturbing. His target’s cover wasn’t just airtight, it was actually true. Somehow, despite all the leads pointing to her and all the similarities she shared with the crime lord, Feight had never even met this “Seven”. This led Victor to withdraw Vigil for awhile, so he could reassess everything he’d done since leaving Malfi.

It was only a few months after that meeting, when the Corpus Dei was in orbit over Shathar, Kerchan’s homeworld, that things took an unexpected turn. An old and bitter enemy of her’s had come to power as the planetary governor of her homeworld. In an act of incredible self-control and professional discipline she kept herself from going down to the planet herself, as she knew she’d wreck the Dynasty’s operations if she did. Instead, she called Vigil for a meeting.

An arrangement was made, and Kerchan hired Vigil to assassinate the warlord-turned-governor. He negotiated an additional detail in this contract should he manage to somehow bring the warlord in alive without being traced. This detail was easy enough to secure as the thought of having her old enemy at her disposal was far too tempting, and she didn’t truly think he’d be able to pull it off regardless.

A few hours later she found out how wrong she was, much to her satisfaction. Handing over the person Kerchan hated most in the galaxy did wonders for her attitude towards Vigil. In addition, he now had a huge opportunity. The Dynasty agreed to honor Kerchan’s bargain with Vigil, though their Factotum negotiated the details of the ensuing contracts to the Dynasty’s favor.

Vigil was commissioned as an officer of the Corpus Dei and employed as an agent of the Mayorga Dynasty, tasked with internal security and keeping the peace among the civilian population. He was also granted all the resources and assets he needed to found the Stygian Guard. His organization was primarily a mercenary company, and structured as such on paper for the Administratum. The Mayorga Dynasty was a controlling investor of the company, though that was more financial than operational in nature.

Obviously Vigil sought far more than to run his own band of mercs, he could have done that years ago if he so desired. In addition to rank-and-file agents he also now had the resources he needed to train exceptional individuals in his methods and turn them into an extension of his greater operation.

Based on their past work on Malfi he was asking “Mercy” to join him as a founding member, one of the inner circle that would direct both the business and pursuit of their more personal goals. In addition, the Dynast was gathering minor houses across Calixis to his banner. In exchange for fealty he offered significant, even outsized, financial, political, and if necessary even large-scale military support.

While her predecessors would have been outraged at so much as a suggestion of becoming a vassal house, Artemesia saw the unusual opportunity for what it was. She was quite familiar with the Mayorga dynasty, the dynast had become a living legend over the past few years. Mayorga had risen from the ashes of near collapse to become a financial and political powerhouse in Calixis and the Koronus Expanse. Moreover, the terms on offer were unusually generous.

Artemesia began making arrangements immediately. She named her seneschal the regent of house Caria, and left him in charge of all local affairs. She then booked passage to Scintilla where she would meet with both Vigil and the Lord Captain and Dynast of Mayorga to officially swear her oaths to the house.

The meeting took place at a social event larger and more extravagant than any she had attended on Malfi despite its size, prestige, and competitive socialites. Even the Sector Governor, Marius Hax, was in attendance; Hax was well known for never attending anyone’s parties or events so this was quite a coup for Mayorga. Though impressed Artemesia was hardly overwhelmed, unlike many of the other minor houses in attendance.

Her audience with the dynast was brief but tasteful, private, respectful, and most of all reassuring. The only unsettling moments were later in the evening. One of the nobles in attendance, despite being from a house as small as her own with a name even less well-known, was received with more deference and respect than most of the larger houses had been. During their arrival Artemesia saw the Inquisitor’s assistant that had held her back on Malfi drifting through the crowd. It was a brief glimpse, but left her nervous and unsettled for the rest of the night.

This just left her all more vulnerable for the next shock she was to face. Another familiar face was seen in attendance just after the strange noblewoman departed, Behelith. This was no brief glimpse, the daemonhost approached her like an old friend he hadn’t seen in years. Unable to do anything but play along or risk discovery she found herself in “catching up” with her old ally for much longer than was comfortable.

While an outside observer would not have heard anything amiss, she could hear the undertones of meaning in the events and activities he described. Where someone else would have heard Behelith talking about current events, she heard about the wars he’d inspired. Where it seemed he was speaking of his patronage of the arts, she heard about artists being pushed to such extremes that led to catastrophic consequences for their entire community, city, or even their world. When he spoke of romances or intrigues he’d been a part of, she heard of unspeakable blasphemies and perversions.

The whole exchange was unquestionably friendly, despite the realities behind it. While Artemesia was a little shaken up, Behelith still had a knack for putting her at ease. Victor’s decision to join her was a complication she could have done without. Without any other options she introduced the two, calling Victor an business associate and Behelith an old ally that helped her get her house back in order after its recent collapse.

Everything went far better than she’d dared to hope, however. After the two unleashed their remarkable charm on one another and shared some comfortable pleasantries Behelith claimed he was going to retire for the evening. Of course, his parting words were no less unsettling. “I’ve missed you Artemesia, it’s been far too long since we last saw each other. You know how to reach me and I’d love to work together with you again.” And with that, he was gone.

The next few months were a combination of making the proper arrangements to transition house Caria as a vassal of Mayorga, training under Vigil to hone her particular talents, and in turn training the newer members of the Stygian Guard. She was subsequently entrusted with the internal security of the Black Doge, the transport clipper partnered with the Corpus Dei.

This effectively made her Vigil’s counterpart on the affiliated vessel, though the details of their work were dramatically different. The Black Doge’s crew and civilian staff had allowed the Astral Knives to cultivate a large cell among the population. As an Imperial Death Cult the scale of their presence and influence would be disturbing enough. However, the Astral Knives had been proscribed by the Ecclesiarchy for being too susceptible to corruption.

As Artemesia quickly learned, the sanction against the Death Cult was in truth more politically motivated. It wasn’t their methods that the Ecclesiarchy found distasteful, rather it was the underlying message of their philosophy and their complete unwillingness to bow to an outside authority. The Astral Knives felt they served the will of the Emperor directly, and therefore had no need for external direction from the church.

More surprising was that Mayorga had not simply ignored the cult but had been directly supporting them for years, going so far as to build them a monastery on the distant world of Grace, far beyond the Ecclesiarchy’s reach and protected by the rights of the Mayorga Warrant. This became more understandable when it was explained that Mayorga had been entrenched in a bitter conflict with the Ecclesiarchy and the Cardinal Astral of the Segmentum for many years, as he had been directly responsible for the house’s near destruction during a major power grab.

Now “Mercy” is commissioned officer of the Black Doge as the head of internal security. While Vigil’s efforts on the Corpus Dei frequently revolve around uncovering agents of the Ecclesiarchy and spies from other houses and dynasties, Mercy spends her efforts keeping the Astral Knives from getting overzealous or out of hand.

Even with all the safeties and checks Mercy has in place, the Black Doge averages about an 8% fatality rate within the first month of taking on a significant number of new crewman. On the other hand, everyone who isn’t murdered in their sleep or flayed alive and nailed to a wall in the commissary ends up forming a tightly knit community with exceptional morale and discipline. A side effect of her work is that she has a number of monastic assassins* at her disposal should the need for such assets arise.

*Yeah, they’re basically ninjas with some disturbing “quirks”.

Artemesia "Mercy" Caria

Rogue Trader - Rise of the Fallen Laughing_Man