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The Saint of Comedy

Chapter Text

The Saint of Comedy awoke within her personal quarters of the ship she commanded, Corpus Catenatus. It was of Ninth House specialization, although her status as a Lyctor meant that its loyalties were only to the First, directly through her.

The saint’s face was nude for she had yet to apply her ceremonial face paint, a relic of her past and a ritual that would help bind her to reality. But first, she must conduct a different ritual. She shambled from her bed, filled a flask, and took a sip of water.

Then, she performed her daily exercises. It was a rigorous and thorough routine, honestly more than was necessary for a necromancer, especially a bone witch. This whole ordeal was also repugnant to her, she would much rather bury her head in theorems than face the moisture and stench of sweat. Nonetheless, she accepted such penance daily for it was a vow to one whom she had lost and thus it was an act of reverence.

Once she had finished, she drank the flask of water in a series of careful gulps and washed herself with a quick blast of the sonic. She put on her typical outfit of black and its complementary bone exoskeleton, all shrouded in a pearlescent robe that marked her as a member of the First House.

Her subsequent flair was an ornate mask of skull paint. In order to apply it, she was forced to look at herself in a mirror above the sink. The Lyctor thus had to stare at her unpainted face, which she still vaguely loathed, and into her eyes of amber-gold, a reminder of her greatest failure. She then placed her two-hander in its proper place on her back, held in a sheet of osseous matter, as well as a pair of ancient sunglasses, and departed to command her ship.

The Ninth Saint silently stalked through Corpus on her way to the bridge, passing several members of her crew carrying out their duties. She had long since ground out the absurd reverence that they had once shown to her, only the newest crew even still bothered to give her more than a cursory salute. They respected her abilities, that was more than enough, and the fawning quickly grew tedious.

As she passed through the ship, she performed a quick scan of the ship with her Lyctoral abilities. One of the older soldiers had arteries that were beginning to clog, the Saint made a mental note to deal with this later. Finding nothing else awry, she headed onwards.

Once she had reached the bridge of her ship, the Lyctor was greeted with a short salute by her second-in-command, the Captain of this vessel. Recently some of his black hairs had started going gray, giving him a salt and pepper appearance. The Saint of Comedy could hardly remember his name, typically referring to him by “Captain.” He was far from the first person to fill this position and, despite his being middle-aged, she could hardly think of any of the ship’s crew as much more than infants in comparison to her lifespan.

Still, he was thoroughly Ninth and maintained his skull paint admirably, personality traits that the Lyctor valued highly. In particular, he had prominent zygomatics that had a wonderful way of flowing into the frontal and knew how to apply the black and white paint to best accent this feature.

She asked, wholly flat in tone, “Captain, any reports?” “No ma’am, all appears in order.” He had been formal at first, the Saint vaguely remembered, although she was uncertain exactly how long ago that had been. However, the Captain now spoke little more than she did and conversations longer than two sentences had become the exception rather than the rule.

The rest of the bridge’s crew stiffened up when they first noticed her speaking, making sure to look like they were all very diligent soldiers of the Cohort. They all knew by now that she respected results first and foremost.

The Saint was always cold and distant with them. After all, why should she try to befriend things that would die in a blink of an eye? They were far too ephemeral to hold value to her in this way.

Her Lyctoral senses allowed her to tell at a glance that their heart rates always accelerated when she was nearby as their endocrine glands pumped out a frankly unhealthy amount of cortisol into their bloodstream. To them, she was a dreadful, fearsome thing.

She stood there for a few moments, like some sort of district manager dropping by to make sure nothing was obviously amiss. Of course, she was more like a district manager that was also a demigod and could, and would, kill her subordinates, so perhaps that is a poor analogy.

Just as the Ninth Saint started to head elsewhere in the ship, off to perform one of any number of other duties, the comms officer stood from her seat and coughed twice before stating, “Pardon me, mam. I have just received a message to report to the Saint of Comedy.” She was clearly terrified as her heart was beating precariously quick.

The Lyctor wondered for a moment why her crew was more fearful than usual before remembering that she had just carried out the culling of an insurgent population and the execution of Cohort soldiers deemed too amicable to the enemy. That was the first time some of the people serving under her command had witnessed what she could do.

She replied wordlessly, turning to look directly into the eyes of the comms officer. The command was understood as the officer repeated the message she had received, “In light of her recent victory, the Saint of Comedy is invited to Caelia by the Saint of Awe.” The Lyctor asked, more of a command than question, “Estimated time of arrival?” “Two days, roughly,” answered the Captain.

Again the Saint’s amber eyes turned to the comms officer as a command and her subordinate paused for a moment before realizing the message she was to send, alerting Caelia that Corpus would arrive in two days time.

The Saint of Comedy left to go help her bone adepts complete the replenishment of their stories of osseous matter after the recent battle. It was easy enough for them to remove flesh from bone, but few of these mortal necromancers had the capacity to preserve this precious material in a manner that she deemed sufficient.

**********

Once she had returned to her room, the Lyctor’s thoughts moved to meeting her wife. They had been separated for three, no four, years. She and Awe were suited to different sorts of tasks and so spent much of their time apart. Both suspected that there were ulterior motivations for their assignments to keep them isolated as well.

In any case, she was not yet ready to think of such things yet, the Saint of Comedy needed to complete her nightly ablutions and prayers first. She removed her glasses and washed off her face paint, staring at two points of beautiful gold the while, before stripping down and removing her robes and exoskeleton. Next, the lyctor carefully and meticulously cleaned the sunglasses, which had only survived these millennia due to her diligence and, even then, they had required repairs on multiple occasions. But she would never discard them.

Then Comedy turned to her two-hander, what was once nothing more than a simple infantryman’s weapon, pouring over every square millimeter for damage and obsessively ensuring that it was both cleaned and well oiled. Finally, she gathered her prayer knuckles and began her most crucial Ninth House prayer:

“I pray the tomb is shut forever, I pray the rock is never rolled away. I pray that which was buried remains buried, insensate, in perpetual rest, with closed eye and stilled brain. I pray it lives, I pray it sleeps. I pray for the needs of the Emperor All-Giving, the Undying King, His Virtues and his men. I pray for the Second House, the Third, the Fourth, the Fifth; the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth. I pray for the Ninth House, and I pray for it to be fruitful. I pray for the soldiers and adepts far from home, and all those parts of the Empire that live in unrest and disquiet. Let it be so.”

As she prayed for the Tomb and the Body within it, Harrowhark spoke with the same zeal and reverence she had possessed since childhood for this entity. Once she reached the part that referred to the Emperor, to John, to Dad (how she hated having to call him that), however, the Saint of Comedy’s coldness and distance returned in full and she continued in monotone throughout the rest of the recitation. The reason why she bothered to say the whole thing despite disbelieving in much of it was simple, it was tradition and her duty as one of God’s Lyctors.

Once finished, she returned the prayer knuckles to the small box she kept them in and lay down on her bed.

Staring at the ceiling, she pondered how her meeting with the Saint of Awe would go. If she remembered correctly, which she often did not, the two Lyctors had tried to kill one another the last time they had met. Well rather, she, The Saint of Comedy, had tried to murder her wife over a slight against her cavalier. The Saint of Awe had merely fled for survival.

They made up afterwards, they always did. After all, each of them needed the other one and, to be fair, neither interpreted the occasional assassination attempt as something to fret overmuch about. Millennia of scheming and backstabbing everyone around them made it impossible for them to conceptualize existing differently. The only real mercy they showed one another was that these attempts were almost always half-hearted at best.

Making things only all the more confusing for her, Harrow and Ianthe had quickly swapped to fucking each other senseless following their fight, as was normal for the two of them. Given the preferences each of them had, this was not significantly different from trying to kill one another from an outside perspective.

Eventually her fatigue overcame her anxiety and the Lyctor passed into unconsciousness. In her slumber, the Saint’s mind often wandered through a collection of nightmares or, perhaps more accurately, reflections of her past traumas. Tonight would be no different. Two-hundred one souls were trapped within her body, fused to make her, and she bore the collective pain of two-hundred one people who were so ruthlessly slaughtered.

**********

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House, woke up inside some sort of shuttle, tossing her black robes from her body. At first she thought she was still trapped beneath something, but upon touching her face found that she was wearing an archaic veil.

“Hey, asshole,” called an all too familiar voice, “wake up! I’m not carrying you into the First House.”

Harrow looked up at her cavalier and into the sunglasses covering her amber gold eyes. Her face paint only met the bare minimum of formality and was sticking to her ginger hair in places. She was beautiful and handsome at once. The necromancer could not help but to show her longing for the other woman.

“Oh shit, did I bring the defective Harrow with me, I was pretty sure I got the right one. What’s wrong with your face Nonagesimus?” Gideon was mocking her, to be sure, but was simultaneously both worried and disgusted. And perhaps something else too.

Harrowhark was about to reach out to the redhead, but hesitated, uncertain as to what she should do. Her mind was at war with itself, between past and present. As a desire to embrace Gideon clashed with that to reprimand her, she sat there frozen, muttering only a single word, “Griddle.”

“Yeah, no, this is getting too weird. How about you do necro shit over in the creepy corner and I’ll go to the cool swordsman side of the ship,” Gideon commented as she strode to the far corner of the shuttle.

The two of them sat in uncomfortable silence until they had landed at Canaan House, Harrow unable to say anything and Gideon unwilling to. The only interruptions were the occasional update given to them by the shuttle’s pilot, who was not even there with them.

The necromancer realized that she was trapped, witnessing this alternate past, but incapable of changing it. By now the battle in her mind had concluded, with this past overwriting her current present.

She could sense that something was off about what was going on around, although she had not yet determined exactly in what manner this would be the case. Worse still, her past self in this dream (or perhaps reality?) was less than helpful.

This fact only became more obvious once they had landed as Harrow looked over to the Seventh leaving their shuttle, noticing that Dulcinea, not Cytherea, was present and that Protesilaus was still very much alive and not a puppet. They were not the killers. A sense of dread eclipsed over the Reverend Daughter as she tried to think who it might be.

She then forced herself to try to speak and the other three individuals looked towards her in confusion as she was muttering half-words at seemingly no one. Finally, she was able to grunt out, barely more than a whisper, “This. Isn’t. How. It happens.”

**********

The Saint of Comedy woke up in her bed, a terrible burning sensation in her chest and gut as if she had swallowed a sun and was now battling to digest it. This always happened during her especially horrid dreams, although given that she didn’t recall anything particularly terrible in the last one, it was atypical.

Harrowhark the First hypothesized that the dreams about her cavalier always called upon the soul of the same individual trapped within her and that the burning sensation she experienced sometimes as a result was a reflection of the way this soul would be burned as fuel to generate her near limitless thalergy and thanergy.

At times she wondered if that meant that Gideon felt this pain constantly, an eternal form of torture that she certainly did not deserve. She had been repeatedly assured that, as she no longer had a brain nor nociceptors, it was impossible for her cavalier to experience this agony. But what if that was a lie too?

Along the same line of thinking, Harrow could never forget Gideon, she would never truly be separated from her, after all their souls were now linked. She bore the responsibility of carrying on the lives of Gideon and all of their cohort at the Ninth House, even after all these millennia. They were all so close, and yet, impossibly far out of reach.

The Ninth Saint threw herself out of bed far earlier than her scheduled time of waking, but she was unwilling to risk falling asleep again. Rather, she once again started performing her daily exercises and prepared to appear before her crew.

Later that same day, Corpus Catenatus would reach the nearest stele and, from there, they would soon reach Space Station Caelia.