Whispers in the Warp
The story of Charbel Drusus Theodosius is one currently known in one form or another to many a common man in the Calixis Sector. A number of rumors continue to circulate even now, despite the best effort of those ruling the Great Cathedral of Illumination on Hive Tarsus. No two versions of the story are exactly alike, but most of them concur on a few notable events.
Roughly two decades ago, there was a Rogue Trader delivering several boat loads of missionaries to a Shrine World, Maccabeus Quintus. It was the Eve of the Feast of the Emperor’s Ascension, and the entire planet was gearing up for the week-long celebration. The captain and his crew were enjoying themselves at a pilgrimage stop before heading off-planet, when suddenly a group of women pushed themselves past his guard demanding passage to Scintilla.
“Well, ya see the cap’n was knockin’ back some rotgut wit’ his boys. Then all a’sudden a dozen raving harpies come burstin’ through the door! Dey ain’t just any ol’ buncha hags though…these was some of dem Space Nuns. I remembers it like twas yesterday!” –Jericus, bartender of The Lonely Pilgrim
The Trader recognized them instantly from the black disk pendants that each wore around her neck. The Sisters of the Void are an all-female group of clerics and priests that travel the space-routes between worlds, helping travelers and crew to deal with the stresses of the warp. Few captains would ever refuse passage to a Sister, and most crews readily welcome their presence. Unfortunately, he bluntly stated that his intentions were to shortly leave the Calixis Sector on new business. It was then that they shoved a particular woman forward…to the Trader’s surprise, she was very much with child. They had momentarily captured his curiosity.
“No, sir. I can’t say for certain why the Trader decided to ferry this pregnant woman of the cloth. I hear some say that the Sisters convinced him the child was a miraculous birth! Others describe the captain as being overcome with an unnatural compulsion to help her. Either way it’s a miracle…those Rouge Traders just do whatever they please.” – Tanelous, wandering worshiper
Whatever the reason, the Rogue vessel was hurtling through to void towards Scintilla soon enough. However, before the ship could exit back into real space, a strange warp phenomenon befell the ship and all those souls sealed within her. Supposed eye witness accounts recall everything from a blinding white light, to horrible tremors across the hull, and even a choir of beautiful voices singing a solitary note.
“You call me a liar one more time…an’ I’ll cut your damn balls off. I knows what I saw. Saint Drusus was standing in the mess hall clear as day, and the black flames of the cursed Tyrant star were all around us. I NEVA been scared in my entire life…but I think I might’a shit my pants that day.” –Rogue Trader’s Ship Master (allegedly)
The Sisters of the Void did their best to preserve the life of both the woman and her offspring, but sadly, only the child survived. He was an exceedingly handsome infant with calming grey eyes. The Rogue Trader parted ways with the Sisters upon arriving at Scintilla. Both he and his crew were visibly disturbed by the strange events, and to this day it is said that they rarely share the story with anyone (before the third glass of amasec at least).
All of Hive Tarsus was caught up in celebrating the Emperor’s Feast. The holiday marks a time when the Emperor looks down from His divine realm and remembers His mortal followers. When the Sister’s brought the child through the throngs of citizens to the Ecclesiarchy, the matter was quickly handed off to a lower ranked preacher. Recognizing a prime opportunity to appeal to the masses, he had the child brought to the steps of the Great Cathedral and offered it to the gathered worshipers. He spoke of the loss of the child’s parents in devoted service to the God Emperor, which in turn would be rewarded through the care of their son. For all those who help to spread His word are destined to be rewarded in this life or (more likely) the next… The boy, named after the great Saint Sebastian by his mother before her death, was carted off to one of the Ministorum’s Schola Progenium abbeys. There he was to be trained as one of the future backbones of Imperial Society.
It’s said that around the age of five, Sebastian once again entered the public eye. For close to two weeks straight, a young child with beautiful blond hair could be found on the steps of the Great Cathedral preaching the word of the God Emperor. All sorts of laymen would gather to listen to the youth speak, and some even say that elder members of the Ecclesiarchy engaged in theological debate with him. Soon enough though, the boy’s “extracurricular activities” were discovered and he was severely punished by the head drill abbot.
“Oh yes, that’s exactly the way I heard it. It was decided he hadn’t learned the lesson of “don’t speak without permission”. This fiercely militant abbot, an ex Commissar, grabbed the boy up and shattered his jaw with one fierce blow! The next day however…his bones appeared to be perfectly healed. Not even a bruise!” –Sargentus, Administratum Scribe
There are also tales of a fresh Guard regiment that was to set off from Scintilla and engage the enemy on a contested war world, Malice. The company commander was approached by a boy no more than ten years old. His blond hair was buzzed down to his scalp in the manner of a monk, and his pale grey eyes commanded an unnatural authority. This child instructed the leader of the regiment to kneel and accept the God Emperor’s blessing. The story goes that the commander struck the strange boy for his impudence. Despite repeated blows and the threat of execution, the boy refused to leave before conferring the blessing. Before he could pull the trigger, it is said that the man became humbled by a mysterious aura. He was overcome with the feeling that this child was truly the voice of the Emperor and ordered his entire battle group to kneel.
“Indeed! I have heard such a tale. The military brigade set off at once for the front…and after a dozen victories and two battlefield promotions…that very commander sent his praises back home. That was when the filth on the lower levels began throwing around titles like “The Blessed Child”. Pft! Those dredges of society can find a miracle in anything if you ask me.” –Callidia, Tarsus Noble
At the age of 13, official records state the boy graduated from the Schola Progenium and was immediately selected to attend one of the Ecclesiarchy’s special training shrines. As an Initiate Confessor, he learned how best to channel his firey faith into both rhetoric and oration. However, Sebastian became steadily more interested in preaching the word of the God-Emperor than dragging damning statements out of heretics. Beneath the shadow of the Cathedral of Illumination lie hundreds of minor chapels, priories and monastic orders, each serving some facet of worship, pilgrimage, or the monolithic bureaucracy of the Ecclesiarchy itself. Among these are the great chantries, colleges created to train those talented enough (or wealthy enough) for high rank within the priesthood. During his second year of training as a Confessor, the mysterious Drusine chantry approached him saying that he had been found worthy to enter their ranks (a great honor for someone so young).
Without Sebastian’s knowledge, Cardinal Kregory Hestor had been personally keeping tabs on him for most of his life. Kregory has spent decades undermining Arch-Cardinal Ignato, subverting his allies and slowly siphoning off Ministorum resources and servants to increase the power of his own diocese. Principle among his weapons has been the world of Maccabeus Quintus and its cult (the Drusines). These Imperial Cultists have seen themselves as set apart from the rest of the Calixian Ministorum and somehow blessed by the miracle of Saint Drusus’ resurrection. Kregory has been using the schism to try and drive a wedge between the faithful of his diocese and the rest of the sector, and Sebastian was to be the tipping point. He was ordained into a full-fledged priest, renamed “Charbel Drusus Theodosius”, and began his studies in earnest.
Charbel was greatly respected by those of the noble upper hive and was revered in awe by those of the middle hive. He was a champion of people…an “every man’s” man. What’s more, the miraculous events that surrounded him continued to spread his fame (even off-planet). During his 16th year, the young priest was delivering a rousing retelling of the great crusade to help celebrate Drusus Day. There had to be close to four hundred people gathered to witness his oration. At the apex of the story, a roaring wind buffeted the square, blasting the gathered crowd with near hurricane force winds. When all had quieted, a strange effigy appeared on the wall of the church behind Charbel. Nobles and commoners alike came in droves to bear witness to the miracle.
“I’ve never seen anything like it to this day. The winds were so strong and so cold. And then after they had passed?…a faint image of Drusus was there on the wall. It wasn’t painted or chiseled, but still looked like it was a part of the wall. Some say it was just a trick of the light, but not to those of the faithful. You should go to see if for yourself.” –Rebelus, middle hive factory worker
Although it was against their wishes, the members of the Tarsine Synod on Scintilla gave Charbel the rank of Preacher (youngest in the planet’s history) and allowed him to take up residence in the very parish that bore the holy visage. The sick were cured, the mutated became clean, and the heretics confessed. Word of Charbel and his miracles steadily spread across the entire Calaxis Sector. Kregory did all he could to fan the flames of his rising popularity, even dropping the first whispers that he may in fact be the Saint reborn. He was sent on charity missions to aid the downtrodden, asked to attend the most elegant of parties in the noble district, and taken deeper and deeper into the internal politics of the Cathedral of Illumination. However, not everyone was singing the boy’s praises. The Ignatian chantry, little more than a puppet organization of the current High Cardinal, was doing everything they could to belittle the accomplishments of the young preacher. The people are a stubborn force however, and once they’ve made their mind up about something…it’s not easy to convince them otherwise.
The Festival of Saints provides a day for all saints to be honored, as well as a time when new saints may be considered to join their ranks. While it is uncommon for anyone to be so bold as to try and claim that they themselves should become a saint, everyone seems to know of someone who died serving the Emperor and thus deserves the eternal recognition of the Ecclesiarchy. As a result, clerics and priests are subjected to long lines of supplicants and must listen to countless hours of prattle to then judge whether any are worthy of the greater attention of the church. Needless to say, it almost never happens; the last saint raised in the Calixis Sector occurred some two centuries ago. This fact did little to dissuade the multitude of Charbel’s followers from starting a movement to get him recognized (completely without his consent). Groups of religious zealots walked the streets proclaiming the glory of The Blessed Child. In every bar and tavern, you could hear people swapping stories they had heard or miracles they had supposedly witnessed. By the end of the day, an entire mob of citizens stormed the steps of the Cathedral and demanded Charbel be named a living saint.
“Why o’course I was dere. Saint Cha’bel…ya I calls ‘im Saint, so burn me if ya want! I went dere because he done saved my ma from tha creepin’ cough way back. Greatest man dat eva’ lived, ya ask me! Cute face on’im too! HA!” –Lyra, woman of the night
The Ecclesiarchy was shocked and outraged (mostly outraged). Arch-Cardinal Ignato made a rare public appearance and personally addressed the people from his majestic balcony. He condemned their actions as both blasphemy and borderline heresy. There hadn’t been a living saint named in over a millennia, and the next certainly wasn’t going to be this young upstart. He ordered the crowd to beg the Emperor’s forgiveness…shortly before ordering the Planetary Defense Forces to fire gas into the mob. The people dispersed, but it did little to quiet the movement. Ignato steadily became more concerned. Making moves to thwart Kregory’s separatist efforts, while also maintaining the stability of the sector, was often a dangerous game. He had no illusions that if he were to declare the Maccabian Cult and their young icon heretical, it could well escalate into a sector-wide war of faith.
Charbel for the most part had attempted to stay pious during this time. He saw each miracle as a sign of the God Emperor’s greatness and was simply thankful he was allowed to be His vessel. However, the fame and notoriety surrounding him had steadily influenced his outlook. Each divine act allowed him to get a step closer to wrestling control away from those less worthy. The power began to consume him, and before too long, he was himself convinced of his own living sainthood. He took to dressing in the most dazzling robes, carrying a scepter worth thousands of thrones, and wearing his golden hair very long. His puppet master soon became worried that his prized pet had shook his leash. Kregory’s ambitions had become increasingly overshadowed by those of this child. Many of his subordinates had already pledged their allegiance to him, and the cults on Maccabeus were one step from declaring the second coming of their revered Saint. Even his allies in the Tarsine Synod had begun to lose faith he was still capable of usurping Ignato’s power. Hidden in secrecy, he devised a plot to not only rid him of this “saint”, but also force the Arch-Cardinal to move against the Drusines.
“The time is now Alistair, we must strike before he moves beyond our reach! You know that this boy is no Saint Drusus. I have sent you more than enough evidence to prove of his heresy. Send your dog, and make it quick. I realize you don’t trust me, but your loss of pride is a small price to pay for the loss of his life..” –taken from a private missive from Cardinal Hestor to Ordo Hereticus Inquisitor Alistair Thorn
Because most Imperial citizens feel bad about themselves most of the time, it is not hard for the Ministorum to convince them that they are sinners, and more importantly, that they must somehow make amends. The holiday known as the Burning of Sins is a time when people are allowed to absolve themselves of their wrong doings and transgressions against the Ecclesiarchy through a symbolic burning of their sins. Great bonfires are built before cathedrals and shrines, and citizens gather clutching their sins written onto scraps of paper. Those who are brave enough can then come forward and let the presiding cleric or priest read aloud the sin and decide whether or not to grant forgiveness. If he does so, the sin is thrown into the fire and the citizen receives a blessing and permission to leave. If however, the sin is too great for such a simple “fix”, then the citizen has a choice: they may either tithe the sin’s monetary worth to the Ecclesiarchy or leap into the flames themselves..
Kregory’s agents convinced Charbel that he could further improve his status and image by making a show of good faith during the Burning of Sins. They explained that he would approach asking forgiveness for his pride, the head of the order would absolve him, and he would continue to win the hearts of the people. The feast day soon came, and close to twenty thousand souls gathered to witness the confession of Charbel the Blessed (as they had taken to calling him). Charbel held his torn scrap of paper bearing the word “PRIDE” in perfect script to the crowd and asked forgiveness for his transgressions. The Inquisitorial assassin hired by Kregory waited for the signal to fire atop a massive gothic buttress. Everything seemed to be going as planned for all parties involved.
However before the trap could be sprung, an imposing figure in Arch-Cardinal regalia appeared with his retinue. It seemed that Kregory wasn’t the only person using this opportunity to eliminate the saintly problem. Although this was highly unorthodox, as Ignato is seldom seen outside the walls of the Cathedral of Illumination. The man judged Charbel guilty of heresy against the church by claiming to be a living saint, ordered him to relinquish his position, and demanded he pay the sum of 100,000 thrones…lest he be cast to the flame. The crowd became deathly silent. The young cleric was terrified at first, his entire world crumbling around him. He studied the elderly man for a moment, and the terror quickly turned into a frothing rage. He demanded the “cardinal” to tell the crowd that he was merely a body double. He asked him where a lowly servant of a coward found the authority to judge a soul chosen by the God Emperor, and then he ordered him to prostrate himself before a true Holy Icon. The ancient clergyman clutched at his heart as if he might die from the sheer audacity. He quickly ordered his guards to take hold of the blasphemer. Up above, the assassin pushed the microbead deeper into his ear and asked for confirmation.
The old man began whispering something into his ear, but the words that passed between them were heard by no one else. He took the porcelain face of the youth in his shaking, winkled hand…almost admiring the beauty. Then without warning, he shoved a burning brazier directly into it. Charbel’s screams echoed off the stone walls of the churches and shrines. Before the crowd could even react, a dazzling light issued forth from beneath the flames. Half of Charbel’s face was covered in disfiguring burns, but the other half seemed as clean and untouched as it ever was. With his one remaining eye, he stared intently at his oppressor. Written accounts say that Charbel spoke these words in an otherworldly voice:
“May you live out the rest of your retched days in darkness, never again to witness the glory of your Emperor!”
As far as the gathered crowd could see, nothing was happening to the Cardinal. Meanwhile, safe within the Cathedral (or so he thought), Ignato was suddenly struck blind by an unseen force. To this day, he refuses to tell anyone how it occurred, vehemently denying it had anything to do with the events in question. A gunshot went off above the crowd, and a spurt of blood erupted from a large hole in Charbel’s chest. Moments later the entire square was engulfed in a riot. Many lives were lost to the flames that day…and the body of Charbel was never recovered.
The Drusines accused the Ignatians of murdering Charbel. The common people of Hive Tarsus and the Calixis sector as a whole were likewise distraught by his apparent death and disappearance. Elaborate memorials and shrines were erected to mourn his passing in both the most glorious noble blocks and the the lowest gutters. Tensions continued to run high across the Calixis Ministorum. The first whispers of “holy war” began to fill the halls of each and every diocese. It was all Arch-Cardinal Ignato could do to stem the tide…before long, someone would strike.
Unbeknownst to both his followers and the Ecclesiarchy, the cleric had been extracted from the chaos by an old friend (who had come to witness the spectacle while visiting Tarsus on business). Whether the assassin had missed his mark on purpose, or if it was merely another miracle, is known only to the shooter. The tech priest was well versed in the medical arts and tended to his injuries in the following weeks. This acquaintance had also spent the last few years as an acolyte in the employ of an Imperial Inquisitor. Realizing his situation was a dire one, the young priest beseeched this man for aid. Charbel needed protection from the church, from the public eye…and even from other members of the Inquisition. He also needed time collect his thoughts and plan his actions, perhaps attempt to rebuild a power base through those still trustworthy. It turned out that this Inquisitor was in need of an individual with the kind of social skills and political inclinations that Charbel possessed. However, he was not in need of someone with quite so much baggage.
He promised the Inquisitor the one thing that a man in his position can never have enough of…information. Information is power. After years of being behind closed doors and hobnobbing with some of the most important people in the sector, Charbel had plenty to offer: Alien artifacts the Ministorum had discovered but never reported, undisclosed reports of xeno activity near the fringe, you name it..
With the help of Inquisitor Balthar, he was established under a new identity as an out-of-sector cleric working with the Missionarius Galaxia. With his “new face” (courtesy of Siinter), it was unlikely anyone would readily recognize him. Charbel, now going by Sebastian once more, has spent the last several years working in the Ordo Xenos with his dedicated team of acolytes. He bides his time knowing that the God-Emperor will see him through this. His faith has never been stronger. Though he is hesitant to speak of it, he sees the miracle in the fire as true proof that he has been chosen for a greater purpose. He has seen the error of his ways, and his pride is now in check. Not only will he get his revenge over those in the Cathedral of Illumination…but he will use the power he gains by it to spread the TRUE message of the Emperor to every corner of the Sector…and perhaps beyond.
Woe to the individual, human or xeno, that dares to stand in the way of his divine quest.