Storm Heralds Reading List
Book 1 Maledicti Venator, Serrati Stellas, Tenebris Resurget, Finis Fide, In Tergum Cultro, Omni Honore, Carpe Posterum, Vacuus Cymba, Noctem Oritur.
Book2 Umbram Ignis, Ancra Mortis, Fame Cimex, Crux Lapis, Seava Abyssi
Captum Ante: Chapter 1
It was going to rain, that was what Kommandant Renhardt thought to himself as he stood looking up at the thick heavy clouds. It was going to rain and spoil everything, just as they had finished all their preparations and got dressed up in their formal blues. Renhardt was an ageing officer, long past his prime and with short grey hair. His face was lined with endless cares and old woes, but he retained a straight spine and there was yet muscle under his uniform. He was stood in his long formal frock, the one he despised with the hanging coattails but he had to look presentable.
Renhardt's eye roamed his surroundings, taking in a squat and unlovely military base. It was a collection of concrete buildings, looking dull in the grim light conditions. There were the usual barracks, communications buildings, observations posts, messes, armouries and training courses one would expect of a military camp. All set within a barbed wire perimeter and overlooked by machine gun towers. Yet there were also several larger buildings scattered around, the kind the Soldats had quickly learned not to ask questions about. In fact this entire facility was hush-hush, the kind of place whose existence the government in faraway Konningsberg categorically denied. The base was set high in the Central Mountains, where civilians were encouraged not to go and from here one could see all the way down to the lush farm belt that was the heart of Nordlund. Nordlund, the greatest nation on Camollum, undisputed powerhouse and leader of the Northern League.
Kommandant Renhardt was the senior officer overseeing this base and all the personnel within. Personnel who were currently lined up along the concrete driveway, awaiting the arrival of two very special guests. Renhardt looked them over, the Soldats were stood in proud lines, dress uniforms clean and well pressed, with their rapid-firing Blunderbusses held upright before them. However the civilian Technologists and Mechanikers were more slovenly, slouched in small groups and whispering to each other. Renhardt had never understood how civilians could let themselves get so fat and lazy, but in truth they were the reason this whole base existed and without them the work would never be completed.
Renhardt sighed, "They're late."
From beside him a thin, weasely voice said, "It is a long way from Konnigsberg."
Renhardt glanced to his side, seeing his adjutant, Kaptin Gobels, standing straight in his own dress blues. Renhardt bit back on the instinct to snap back at him, the man was an odious brown-nosing little weasel. The man had been assigned to Renhardt purely to negotiate the mountain of paperwork that never seemed to stop building up. A pen-pusher playing at being a Soldat, whose rank was bestowed purely to keep the junior officers from disrespecting him.
Renhardt diplomatically commented, "It's not like First-Marshal Urkle to be late."
Gobels replied, "Maybe Vice-Chancellor Donner had some important business to take care of."
Renhardt couldn't help but spit, "Donner, he's one slimy piece of work. I know he was behind the last bloody push to take the Monroe islands and I hear he's cajoling Kongress for another go."
Gobels looked offended as he said, "But the Monroe islands were stolen from us. We can't let those redskins usurp our lands!"
Renhardt sighed and said, "The Southern Concordance has held those islands for two hundred years and every attempt to reclaim them has ended in abject failure. Seven times Nordlund armies have gone forth and seven times it has ended in a bloodbath. Vice-Chancellor Donner doesn't care though, not when he has voters to appease. Dead martyrs look better in the newspapers than boys living in peace."
From the other side of him a voice said, "You don't think that they've forgotten the visit?"
Renhardt was glad of the interruption and looked over, seeing a man in a white coat standing there. This was Herman von-Grod, chief Mechaniker of this base and the genius whose intellect was pushing their research forward. He was a thin man with wild hair and he was smoking an iho-stick, despite Renhardt's firm admonition not to.
Renhardt sighed at the absent-minded technologist's habit and answered, "No, they haven't forgotten."
Gobels wondered, "Maybe they didn't believe our report."
Von-Grod nearly dropped his iho-stick and said, "Impossible, what we found was too important to ignore. They have to see it for themselves!"
"Don't worry," declared Renhardt, "Here they come."
Beyond the outer wire a convoy of vehicles was coming into view over the crest of the hill, churning up dust from the gravel road. They swiftly approached and passed through the checkpoints at the gate, revving their black-smoke producing engines as they did so, leaving a cloud of gasoline exhaust in their wakes. In the lead were a pair of motorbikes, with the stars and bars of Nordlund flying on pennants behind them. Then came four long staff-cars with blacked out windows and at the rear another pair of bikes.
Kommandant Renhardt waited as the convoy approached, spewing clouds of fossil-fuel exhaust. Renhardt stood proudly, waiting for the guards to disembark first but was surprised when the men stepping out turned out not to be Soldats but rather men in black suits. They stepped out lightly but with strength and speed bunched in their muscles. They wore civilian garb but the lining was broken by the tell-tale signs of concealed pistols. They were the Kongressional guards and they shouldn't have been here.
Renhardt muttered, "Oh... this is bad."
Von-Grod stubbed out his iho-stick under his heel and said, "How so?"
"Just look," said Renhardt as two more men alighted from the vehicles.
The first was a fat man, in a brown suit with ridiculously long-coattails trailing behind and a white moustache, which must have taken careful waxing and grooming. He was carrying a large briefcase which was handcuffed to his wrist but otherwise he was the familiar face from the newspapers. This was Vice-Chancellor Donner as expected, yet the second man was not the First-Marshal. This man was stick thin, and wore a tightly-buttoned long coat; he was a bald man and he wore darkly tinted glasses even in the dim light.
"Who is that?" asked Von-Grod.
"That," muttered Renhardt, "That is Herr Neadler, Director of the Psychic Intervention Agency, Minister for Truth and commander of the Sturmtruppes."
"P.I.A." stammered Gobels nervously, "The P.I.A. are here?"
"Seems they did take our report seriously," stated Renhardt.
The two men approached, surrounded by the Kongressional guards. They strode straight up to the waiting officers who saluted as protocol demanded. Renhardt was about to welcome them but Donner got there first and spat, "Well Kommandant, this is a fine mess you've stirred up."
Renhardt was instantly reminded why he disliked this man so much but he politely nodded and said, "Welcome Herr Donner, Director Neadler, thank you for coming. May I present…"
He was cut off as Neadler stated, "I know who you all are… let's not waste crucial time."
Renhardt felt a shiver run down his spine but said, "Very well, if you will follow me. Soldats dismissed."
The waiting crowds broke up as Renhardt led the party towards a tall building, one of those that people weren't supposed to ask about. He led them straight into the gloomy dark and said, "Did you read the report on our discovery?"
Donner replied, "Yes, and I for one thought you had lost your mind. The Chancellor hardly believed it either."
"Neither did we when we found it," replied Renhardt, "But I can't deny my own eyes."
He led them within the gloomy interior which opened up to become a large hanger. Within that space was a towering object, it was vaguely ovoid in form but with large doors that had opened up to make it look like a flower in bloom. The bottom half was scorched black but the top half was distinctly blue. The inside was strange too, fitted with odd devices and what looked like restraints, but the bars were too widely placed: no normal man could hope to use them.
Donner walked around the strange object, gazing in wonder and said, "What is it?"
Renhardt replied, "We're not sure, we've never seen anything like it."
Neadler stated, "The more important question is, where did you find it?"
Von-Grod answered, "As you know we here were tasked with developing the next-generation of rockets to carry Atomonic bombs, and may I say despite the Southern Concordance having quite a lead on us we are making good progress. Anyway we were setting up for our next test launch when the high-altitude radar detected something coming down: straight down."
Renhardt took up the narrative saying, "I sent out some Soldats to investigate and they found this in a crater… along with a passenger."
"Yes the passenger," stated Neadler, "Are you saying that the Concordance has built a rocket capable of carrying a man into space?"
"That was my first fear too," replied Renhardt, "But the passenger was very odd, not quite normal. Maybe if you examined the artefacts we found then you would understand our concerns."
He led them over to a table and Von-Grod lighted another iho-stick as he did so. The Mechaniker waved at various objects and said, "We have no idea what most of these things do but they are obviously advanced. The material components are made out of some form of super-hard ceramic, stronger than steel but half the weight. Even the genuine metal isn't anything we recognise, some form of plastek-metal hybrid, which I would have sworn was an impossible combination."
Donner poked what looked like an enormous Blunderbuss with a finger and said, "The Concordance has this kind of technology?"
"No," answered Von-Grod, "This is totally beyond them too."
Neadler eyed them suspiciously and said, "I hope you're not suggesting this came from the stars, have you been turned by Concordance propaganda?"
"No sir!" leapt in Gobels, "Better dead than Red!"
"Good," stated Donner firmly, "Reason tells us that life exists only here on Camollum and for three hundred years that has been the bedrock of Nordlund's beliefs. The idea of our ancestors coming here from some mythical place called Terra is just a Southern fallacy, as is their laughable belief in an Emperor of Mankind and a star-spanning Imperium."
Neadler broke in to say, "Was the passenger alive?"
Renhardt answered, "He was practically dead when they brought him in but his recovery has been remarkable. He's fit enough to talk."
Neadler stated, "Then bring him to us."
Renhardt waved a couple of guards to go fetch the stranger and after a few minutes they reappeared. Emerging into the space were a half-dozen Soldats, each one broad and tall, yet the prisoner between them made them look like puny weaklings. Shuffling along in thick, heavy chains was a being in a prisoner's loincloth, with his head lowered to stare at his feet.
He was inhumanly broad and almost seven foot tall, swollen with grotesque muscles that spoke of immense power in his body. Yet across his chest was an odd black layer, like a carapace of dark skin, dotted with penetrating metal plugs. His skin was covered in old scars and burns, and judging by their size and positioning most of the wounds should have killed a normal man.
The Soldats brought the prisoner to an exposed metal chair and made him sit down, chaining his manacles to the ground. Renhardt sat down across from him, followed by Donner and Neadler. They took in the odd prisoner, this peculiar being from who knows where. Then the prisoner raised his eyes and the look in them immediately set everybody on edge. It was not the gaze of a captive nor that of someone who had recently been on the edge of death. It was focussed, honed and hungry, like a hunting predator sizing up big game. Despite being surrounded by Soldats the prisoner still gave off the impression of being the most dangerous individual in the room.
Renhardt had the uncomfortable feeling that his six guards were not nearly enough but he refused to be cowed. He had served Nordlund all his life and fought in wars almost forgotten by most. He drew himself up and stared back at the prisoner as he said, "Okay son, you know the drill: let's have your name, rank and serial number."
The prisoner's lip twitched and then he spoke, it was a strange accent, thick and akin to the old tongue. With a feral snarl the captive spat out, "Battle-Brother Jediah, Third Company, Storm Heralds Chapter."