Thursday, December 29, 2005

Tales of the Rancid Blade: Prolouge: The Sunward Side of Mordia

The sunward side of Mordia is a twisted fractured tumult of blasted rock and glass. Desolate and lonesome, it stands in contrast to the night strewn side of the planet with its hives of congested humanity. The hive cities cling parasitically to the forever night side of Mordia.

There is a pilgrimage from the sweltering nighttime side of Mordia to the sun scrutinized side. It is told that Confessor Sylax made this walk once, as an accolade, a sandal footed novice. Long before he wore the mantel of Arch Confessor and long before the siege of Haruum. It was at Haruum where he led the newly formed 27th Mordian Regiment to victory. For fifteen years he led them against the vast alien horde and prevailed. He renamed the regiment the “Hammers” and they swore fidelity to him for all time. It is said Colonel Steib, the leader of the 27th, can withstand the horrible wounds wrought on him only because Sylax wishes it.

Preachers, zealots, evangelicals, pilgrims all have walked the eight year trek through the hive grottos and residential cylos, down across the Grand Gateway of Night, into the twilight shanty towns that surround the hives for hundreds of miles. Two years walking the Trail of the Desperate through the hive shanties fighting off underhive scum and brutal gangers. As the pilgrim walks he walks farther and farther from the protective watch of the Iron Guard and the calculations of the Tetrarchs of Mordia. Sylax walked these ways, sometimes in shadows and sometimes holding the light of the Imperium high above his head as a torch. He walked using the darkness when it suited him and revealing the light when he sensed fear among his foes.

The ‘sunrise’ of Mordia is one in which the farther one walks toward the sun the higher it rises in the sky. The point at which the pilgrim first sees Mordia’s stationary sun peaking above the horizon is called the Balance of Mordia. The ground in the place where one first spies the sun is strewn with the dead and their possessions. It is cursed. Shacks sit, many empty and dust strewn, where pilgrims have stopped on their journey often never to leave. Whispers tell that decades after Sylax first passed this way on his pilgrimage, he chose this place to parley with the cursed Eldar. He shared drink with the devil and his mistresses. Wretched fools who saw the horrible handshake were driven mad by Sylax’s scheming. Shrines have been erected to the mighty balance of day and night that this place represents. As one proceeds one finds the humidity of the night receding to reveal Mordia’s true character: the nearby sun’s hell blasted fury.

Pilgrims who have made it this far, when the sun is full above the horizon, are called the Wayward. The trail becomes vague marked only by the cracked bones of the fallen, the broken shoes, discarded objects, the skulls of twelve thousand years. Pilgrims have made this trek since before Horus made his foul pilgrimage to the halls of Terra so long ago. Pilgrims pick their way through badlands of razor rocks and blunt glass, of salt fields and sand dunes. They walk past the face of the Morall Mountains, and the Horn itself. As they walk for days the sun rises slowly, never setting, only as they move does the sun seem to slide toward the highpoint of the sky. There is a place, marked only by a sand torn imperial icon where Sylax’s last follower fell. Though the sun is high in the sky Pilgrims who make it this far know they still have a year to travel before they reach solace.

That place where the sun is at its most highest the pilgrimage comes to an end. It is called Mission Del Mordia. When most reach this spot they see only the lonely image of a shanty town. Many structures have fallen and others are scattered about the landscape encircling a small icon to the Emperor. To have traveled for so long and to find only ruin have driven men to die of madness. However, it is told that those of faith who see this desolation and still have faith in the Emperor find something beyond the shacks. They find an oasis in the desert. For those still faithful an old Mission stands along with a vineyard and a lake tended by cloistered sisters. The Order of the Cloistered Madam tends the grapes and bathes those that make it to the Mission and still have faith.

Though Arch Confessor Sylax has made peace with the Archons of Commoragh and holds sway over a vast Imperial Guard Legion and has hundreds of minions tending to his vile plans throughout the Imperium he still finds this garden when he visits, he gains sustenance from the wines of The Cloistered Madam, and is tended in by the sisters because he has faith in the Emperor of Man.

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