+ inload: Ouranos, Waterre Fontayne +

+ inload: Ouranos, Waterre Fontayne +

+ Four of Hands +

+ Extracted from Childeric's notes on Cepheus – Day of Arrival + 

+ Representing integrity, manual labour, and intrigue, the Suit of Hands is the most recent part of the traditional Cephean card deck. Inverted, these qualities become associated with corruption, idleness and polemicism. 

+ Replacing the Suit of Bells used in earlier decks, cards from the Hands represent everyday life. The symbol of the Hand is commonly used to demarcate areas suitable for the Vulgurre (a local term for private Imperial citizenry), and an inverted hand is often used as tattoo to mark Serfitores, by which term Cepheans know all slaves – encompassing what we would recognise as labmats, monotask servitors and even sapient servants. On landing, I was fortunate to avoid being branded as such by demonstrating my ability to read and write – an uncommon skill that demonstrated to the indocksman that I was Vulgurre, if not higher in social standing. + 

+ In any case, renewed bombings sent us scurrying to shelter as the indocksman retracted his demands; rendering the potential problem moot. Playing my hand so early – if you'll excuse the pun – would likely have proven problematic.+

+ The being pictured – Ouranus – is a serfitore; and of a style that would be recognised throughout the Antona Australis system. As we waited in the shelter for the all-clear siren, the shuffling hulk made his way back and forth in the cramped space; tugged this way and that by the sustentet-putto who held his wrist chain. +

+ Occasionally, one of the others sharing the shelter would proffer a wooden chitty, and the sustentet-putto would direct the servitor to stand still. The donating figure would then give the chitty to the putto, kneel in front of the hulk, and fill the basin that jutted from its groin. Some would wash, some would drink. I made small enquiries of the burgher-merchant to my left – another off-worlder like me – who confirmed that the it was a cerebro-tonsured servitor; likely an ogryn from the Southern 'Coldde Flats', or possibly an imported criminal imported from somewhere like Dorin Antrum. +

+ I am informed by Ludi, my secretrix, that much of the ogryn's flesh and organs have been pared away in order to allow its entrails – kidneys, gall bladder, liver – to better filter the tainted salt water with which it is fed. A number of large tanks, both internal and external, then store the 'purified' water for transport. An inelegant solution, perhaps, but one that allows benighted souls such as this a chance to serve the Imperium. +

+ Water, it seems, has a cultural connection to royalty on Cepheus. Most of its fresh water is locked in Polar icefields, and only badly-filtered brackish water – often tainted with seawater – is commonly available to those Vulgurre with no access to wells. As a result, the artistocracy show their wealth and generosity by maintaining 'a goodly number of fonts, whereby the good and true of localle vulgurre stock may watter themselves, that they need not pysse-rinse, as is theirre way in the usuelle.' +

+ This generosity, naturally, does not extend to making the water free. Technology – even that which relies on guidance and maintainence by biological components – is a scarce commodity on Cepheus, and the local Mechanicus makes heavy demands of the feudal world's aristocracy. In return, the artistocracy vie for the greatest expressions of expense to delight and impress the locals. Ogryns are little known on Cepheus, so the sight of such a massive creature must be simultaneously terrifying and reassuring. The latter due to the fact that the aristocracy are puissant enough to enslave such a beast. + 

+ After a little more conversation with the off-worlder, who seemed pleased to meet someone with a little more interest in wider Imperial culture, I learned that 'Ouranos' is named after a local ogre or monster of myth; and that he has been dressed to match the fearsome creature. In this way, folktales are maintained and used by the influential to strengthen local culture and keep the common folk swathed in comforting tales of old. The fact they are forced to kneel to drink from the bowl drives home the difference in rank between the artistocrat – symbolised by his slave – and the commoner. This is reinforced by the Imperila Aquilla that decorates the back of the trough – the drinker kneels before his betters and is rewarded with a clean drink, while being reminded of his place in the galaxy. +

+ The sustentet-putto is a simple solution to the servitor's near-mindlessness. Rather than the expense and difficulty of improving the ogryn's mental abilities, one of the City's feral children has been partially lobotomised and acts as a guide. These are usually fitted with crude suspensors – an exorbitantly expensive luxury on Cepheus – that the aristocracy vie with one another to fit to their slaves. I have learned since that it is rare to see a flying putto on a water fountain, but in the case of this example, few would attempt to steal from an ogryn; even a lobotomised one! + 

+ The servitor has a second vox-caster built into its back; this one maintained by a limbless torso jacked into the bulk of the servitor. This burbled local news, hymnals and – after what seemed an age in the stuffy, straw-strewn bunker – sounded the all-clear. I thanked the burgher, wished him well on his onward journey, then made my excuses and proceeded to the 'desanitation and importte' pound to continue my own travails on this new world. +

No comments: