Brother Helenus followed the Tribune up the steps to the podium. All around were the faces of the house representatives and their lackeys, the roar of their massed shouts of outrage and argument exerting a palpable force as he climbed into its midst. At least no one has been killed yet, he thought, watching two ancient representatives pushing at one another with words and hands. Their bodyguards stood by looking anxious, to afraid to act. Not yet, but soon. He nodded thanks to the Tribune, handing him a small but heavy pouch. The man nodded in return, and went off with a nervous look over his shoulder.
No point in waiting now, he thought, and took the microphone in his hands and said, "Noble Cousins..." But the words were drowned out by the din, amplified though they were. Helenus shook his head and frowned, irritated. He took his helmet from its place at his hip, and cradling it in both hands he looked into the eyes of skull painted on its face. "Forgive me", he said, and with a mighty heave cast it out over the floor below.
The flying object caught many delegates eyes, and every bodyguards. The latter acted quickly, seizing their charges and pulling them to some measure of safety behind their persons. The roar died to the occasional muffled protest as some dignitary was unceremoniously hauled to the floor or behind a pillar. When the ceramite helmet struck the marble flor the crash of shattering stone was clear to all, as was the skittering noise as it tumbed to a halt.
The room suddenly silent, dignitaries slowly rose, looking down at the skull on the floor. Helenus pushed the microphone aside, and using only the power of his voice spoke again, "Noble Cousins." His voice echoed off the walls, and all eyes turned on him, many showing surprise at his presence. "I came hither at the orders of the Legate of my Order, with all haste that could be made. The Emperor has sped the heels of my ship that I might stand before you today," He made the sign of the Golden Throne, "for which I give him thanks." He paused, and across the room the gesture was repeated, sometimes piously, sometimes perfunctorily. But none failed to repeat it.
"I come before you as a supplicant," he said, and opened his mind to the warp ever so slightly, "and like a child I beg your attention." from the power at his disposal he made the air about him glow ever so faintly. Lowering his voice so that all must give it their full attention he continued. "We stand at the brink of war. Not a holy war against our foes as we have fought since my Order arrived here in the Agrippa Sector, but a dirty, ignoble war among ourselves. A war fought not for survival against the implacable enemies of humanity, but a base, crass war fought over the possession of baubles and trinkets."
Breathing in slowly he rose to his full height, allowing the glow to expand ever so slightly at the edge of concious vision, "Millenia ago, to our enduring shame, my brothers fought such a war. In memory of that pointless slaughter we still brand ourselves with the symbol I have cast before you. It reminds us that we too must die, and calls us to ensure our deaths serve humanity, and not ourselves."
He slowly gazed across the room, catching the eyes of the delegates one by one. "So I beg you, step back from the brink and consider the cost. Debate among yourselves the price of your high words. When old men talk of war, young men die." He shook his head in sadness. "And if they should die because you quarrel among yourselves," and stepped down from the podium and walked across the floor towards his helmet. The room remained silent as he bent down and retrieved it. He looked once more into the skull painted there before turning his gaze back to the crowd, "who will guard you from the enemies at our gates?"
Helenus put the helmet over his head, and the lights in the hall dimmed as he strode out. The tribune had earned the rest of his fee. Helenus wondered if his performance would make a difference. But from the chamber can the sound of voices once more, growing steadily in volume and vehemence. He shook his head once more, and bowing it prayed, "Emperor, preserve them, for they will not preserve themselves."
The hush following Helenus's speech was broken by a single pair of clapping hands rising off the vaulted ceiling. A lone figure in black, bearing the azulene sash of House D’Hautville stood from the lord’s benches among his Dummonian brethren. All eyes drew forth on the Red Hydra of Dummonia, a lean vyper of a man, with surging voice and sharp gallic features.
The Speaker of the house nodded towards him and activated a spotter used to help focus on members who had the floor.
“Very impressive brother,” The man announced ceasing his sardonic applause. “Very dramatic indeed. Lord Speaker, remind me to warn the Theatre district we’ve rising talent among the Adeptus Astartes.”
A low snigger rumbled across the house.
“Sincerely Lord Speaker. As gracious as our dear brother’s little speech is, he fails to grasp what we do here, and at the same time, seeks to denigrate our work and our history as nothing more than prattling children. He calls us old men, and acts as though none of us have ever seen war before nor know our own sons who are now willing to lay down their lives in defence of our rights. Lord Speaker lest I must remind the esteemed brother, that many of us "old men", including myself are veterans of half a score wars in maintenance of the Emperor’s greatness. Before you Lord Speaker, we have heroes of Scylla, The Bastion, Armageddon, and even Hibernia. I myself rank as an Admiral in the house Navy, or perhaps that does not count with our esteemed brother. Perhaps as is typical with the Astartes, our contributions in war do not weigh with the Emperor’s finest. Perhaps we’re merely toy soldiers to him despite the fact many of us have shed blood for the Emperor’s distinction."
"I suspect our brother here, as is illustrative of his kind, forgets that the Adeptus Astartes are not the only warrior race in this sector!“
There was a short murmur of approval among the house.
The Red Hydra paused to let it sink in. Until now his manner had been droll and entertaining, however like so many times before in the house, he unleashed his trademark and his manner suddenly turned. With it the cold tension could be detected across the entire chamber as if his blue eyes held some sort of psychic charge.
“My Lord, I will not stand here to be reprimanded by the arrogance of a marine as to how we should proceed. I will not stand here to be told I know nothing of war when ten thousand years ago my ancestors had the courage to risk the perils of the stars, to lay down seeds and build up this Sector to what it is today. And, my own hands bloodied in conflict in defence of this legacy. And my Lord, I will not stand here and listen to the lecture of an interest whose known connections with the Xenos extend to awarding them with Imperial decorations.”
There were several hollers of support from the benches.
“Is it only me or has anyone else noted our Marine brother has failed to include the peculiar relationship of our own Lord Dukas, the Tau and his chapter in a cabal of alliance that would shake the Emperor on his very throne!”
At this the Dukas bench erupted into standing shouts and remonstrations. It took a dozen hard thumps of the speaker’s mace to bring order.
“Know this, and know your place esteemed brother of the Adeptus Astartes. We intend to proceed with elections and if we see fit as regents of this sector we will arm and we will discipline and we will expect the Astartes to do their duty and assist the Emperor’s work or stand aside. The esteemed brother Bishamon seems to know who the Emperor’s rivals are. Why is it the Twelvers waver, as if eating bread buttered by the Dukas traders? or Xenos masters.”
Again the Dukas bench erupted in a violent protest, mistaking the word traders for traitors. Pandemonium reigned for several minutes until the speaker activated sound suppressing shields tocalm the house.
When all was quiet the Red Vyper finished his speech. “I will close Lord Speaker and say only this. No threats from a Dukas navy, a provincial army, Xenos or Twelver will falter our cause. Our cause is just and blessed by the sister superior and warmaster himself. The governance of this sector has been challenged by radicals and revolutionaries, and they will be crushed. Loyalists to the government will flock to this banner and see the enemies of order chastised. Anyone who stands in our way will fall."
The Red Vyper took his seat amidst the roaring ovation of the legislature.
Korvus 20:39, 8 February 2008 (UTC) Nicholas Cioran and Steven Sandford