+ inload: Astropath Diocletian Mercurial +

+ The Five of Cups: Diocletian Mercurial +

Sandesman of the House of Oadwadh +

[Nota bene: This follows directly on from the short story in the previous post. It's not vital to read it, but it'll help the Court of the Sun King story flow if you're following it.]

+ Astropaths tend to have relatively short lifespans caused by the trauma of the soul-binding coupled with the unceasing toil of sending messages across the cosmos. Stronger astropaths tend to burn out quickly as the focus of an astropathic choir sending messages from system to system, or even sector to sector. Those whose gifts are less powerful tend to end up on backwater worlds like Cepheus, their task relatively mundane, though no less miraculous, in reading the dreams of their masters and directly touching the minds of those like them on nearby planets. A lucky few are blessed both with a relatively powerful talent and tasks mostly limited to intercontinental or, at most, interplanetary communication, which adds less strain. Such astropaths may expect to survive upwards of forty years. +

Estafette is the usual title given to Astropaths on the feudal world of Cepheus; and the honorific Sandesman is reserved for those with a military background. Given Diocletian's fastidious nature and slight frame, this may be thought an affectation, much as a smallholder might claim nobility through some antique relative. However, the Astropath does have a military past, having served as the psychic equivalent of a runner in the Ambitine Readyfleet (the Anton Antecedent subsector Naval force) before taking up his current role on Cepheus. His cadaverous face and slight limp seem to some mute testimony to his having witnessed the horrors of war, but in truth, he served his duty far from any active front, steadfastly but unremarkably ferrying mind-stories from post to post. +

+ His service commissioned – a euphemistic term for what is essentially slavery, however the Adeptus Astra Telepathica would like to claim – from the Navy by the influential highborn family of the de la Oadwadhs, Mercurial was honourably discharged during a stop-off at Port Cassian. Today, he is at the centre of a family influential enough to be of importance and wealth, but not so prominent that its servants meet unfortunate ends at the hands of rivals. At least, not commonly. +

+ Astropaths are nearly all blind, their delicate optic nerves damaged beyond repair by their conjunction with the Emperor. As a chained prisoner granted leave to see the sun for the briefest of instants, the aching sense of loss this leaves makes the communion a cold reward. Most also find their auditory or olofactory capacities diminished or lost, and some are unfortunate enough to lose their haptic or proprioceptive senses, becoming almost entirely reliant on those around them. Nevertheless, the Imperium simply would not function without them, the yawning depths of the void between planets making conventional communication worthless, if not downright impossible. To be an astropath is to be a mote in an empty sea of velvet. +

To the faithful masses of the Imperium, Astropaths have touched the mind of god in a quite literal way, and so they are held in a curious mix of awe and terror by the ignorant masses of Cepheus. Mercurial's upright and soldierly bearing and eyeless gaze belie the loneliness of the position – honoured, shunned and simply avoided in equal measure. +

+ While Mercurial does not relish his outsider status, he has suffered persecution enough – in boyhood as a psychic, then as a cripple, and finally as an off-worlder – that it comes almost as a second nature to him; a protective shell of otherness that he maintains as a shield. As a result, he bears the marks of his position: a white sight-cane topped with the mark of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica, a green robe decorated conservatively with Imperial key patterns, and perhaps most obviously of all, his defiantly unmasked eye-sockets. These all serve to ward away the superstitious when he is called to his duty, even if it means he remains unloved by the other Oadwadh servants. +

+ Of particular note are his Note of Marque and his Terran purity seal, written as is traditional, in the curious tactile script of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica. This is read by running one's fingers along the lines and feeling the textured bump-glyphs. +

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