+ inload: Sebastian Ottavus Arcimboldo, Scion of the Scarlet Blades +

+ inload: In the Coürt of the Sunñe Cyng +

+ The four advanced down the hall under Boliti's watchful, hidden gaze. Thrown by wall-mounted sconces that bled as much smoke as light, the illumination was patchy. More than half of the torches were unlit – either a cost-saving measure, a sop to the effects of the months-long War, or perhaps simply the sconce's absence through time and lack of maintenance. If it bothered any of the four, they gave no sign. Their pace was purposeful, if not particularly hurried. Like the Sun King himself, it seemed to Boliti as though the four were deliberately repressing a more martial air. +

+ A gaggle of nervous servants came trailing a respectful distance behind and the Watcher shook his head, as though mazed. The Sun King was the smallest of the group of four by a large margin; but the appearance of the servants in the cone of ruddy light threw everything into perspective. Conjured partly by the hallway – immense, mouldering and dust-caked – but mostly by the colourful figures at its heart, the illusion now seemed obvious. +

+ The Sun King was undoubtedly large and heavy-set, of a demeanour as confident and languid as a Prime Felid. Besides his charisma and his gold-chased armour, he was physically impressive. Boliti's experienced gaze knew him to be gene-bulked; enhanced. Next to the others, however, he appeared like a stripling; a doll. +

+ 'They do not call you Brother.' The Sun King's voice was commanding, easily projecting up the hallway to Boliti's ears. Without missing a beat, the figure nodded, his face steeped in shadow as the four met an area of still, damp, darkness. 

'There were only six others.' This voice was sonorous, deep, and tinged with an emotion Boliti struggled to place. 'I am the last. It is a mark of respect that your Scylds do not address me as such.' He paused. 

The Sun King's reply was simple. 'That is a part-truth.' He kept his gaze fixed firmly ahead, but Boliti could see that the shadowy figure had twitched. Anger? Uncertainty? 'They refrain from calling you Brother because they see you as ill-omened.'  +

+ The humming of their powered armour was becoming obvious to Boliti as they approached the cubby in which he was ensconsed, and so he could hear the momentary hesitation of the other two; even if they showed no visible break in movement. The first warrior's reply was terse; badly-hidden anger kept repressed. 

'That may be so.' The group continued. If the Sun King was aware of any tenseness, he made no sign. If anything, his walk seemed to gain a slightly jovial step. 

'An orphan, then.' The figure bristled. 'Hmm. It seems to me that I have met many orphans in my time. On Cambylon. On the fifth world of Melissa. On Veet Ling. I seem to attract them.' +

+ All of a sudden, fewer than a dozen yards from Boliti, the Sun King drew to a halt. The three warriors, and the servants behind, stopped a moment later. The three Astartes – for now there was no mistaking their nature – turned to the Sun King. The warrior removed his orange-and-white helm. His skin was deeply tanned, his hair close-cropped. The Sun King looked at him, his mask – as always –impassive. +

+ 'You came to me pursuing the trail of your last brother, Sebastian.' All of a sudden, the Sun King's voice was comradely; sympathetic but uncondescending. 'I regret that you found him dead.' Boliti had experienced a lifetime of false sympathy. He detected none in the Sun King's voice or manner. 'I make you this promise, Sebastian Ottavus Arcimboldo. If you will help me cleanse this world of its vicious infection, I will turn the strength of three worlds to tracking down word of the Scarlet Blades. I will find any of your brethren that remain; and if I cannot, then I will name you brother myself.' He reached out, unflinchingly, and placed a hand on the Space Marine's arm. There was a disarming sincerity to the Sun King, quite at odds to his station. 

+ Given their shared history, Boliti recognised the effect the Sun King's words – almost childlike in its optimism and zeal – were having. Arcimboldo gave no immediate reply; but simply dipped his head. His face became cloaked in shadow for a moment. At length, he looked up. 
'I pledge my oath, then, before those here present. I will be the tool of mankind; no more. With faith in the God-Emperor and my King; I pledge that I will not be the last Scion of the Scarlet Blades.' +

+ 'Direct me.' +

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