Part I, ‘Memento vivere’
‘Know this, above all else, your soul is infused with divine spark, but your heart goes forever dark with the venom of original sin. Within us all there is no greater force of putting inequity into motion, at willful defiance of the One True God, as that wicked thing does with every beat.’
Meditations on Stoicism for an Udorian, from ‘Tash-Murkon Catechism V VII’ by Artrus Arkkon
She was three years old, born just after the start of YC121, and now she lay dead in the permafrost of a grave dug for her in the black earth of Tash-Murkon V’s northern tundra.
Given the planet’s dimensions, surface gravity, and atmospheric weight, it was on the threshold of human open air survivability by nanite aided cybernetics. At this latitude, much of the year was a perpetual star on a horizon haze, an ever dawn. The tundra and its industrial bacteria plantations were archipelago in the far flowing cold wind moors, to the seemingly endless horizon of the planet with a near hundred thousand kilometer radius. Deep greens, browns, and blacks, with rust tones made up the hinterland, like a moss covered volcanic rock.
Anastzz’ia Coloria un Murk’Udoria was the child’s name, designating her as a slave, but also of the class of ‘proto lower vassal’ as she would have been the sixth generation of her blood being brought to God through the holy crusade of Reclaiming. Her tiny body had been wrapped in a fine Ammatar inspired funeral shroud of black and silver, small trinkets of gold adorned her with religious iconography. The Murk’Udoria Holder midwives knew this day had been coming, when upon Anastzzia being fitted for her initial compensator mods in utero, needed for the developing lungs and heart to grow properly under the high gravity and atmospheric pressures of V, unworkable genetic breakdown causing cybernetic neural synapse disorder was suspected. Over time the child’s heart and lungs would manifest neurological degradation. Whether in zero G, or high G, low or high pressure, she would have never survived the broad environments modern humanity adapted to for survival across the stars.
Uriel looked down to his side, as he felt the tiny gloved hand squeezing his, the young lady’s eyes looking up to him for answers he wasn’t going to be able to give. A sister of the departed had come over to stand by him, which none gave much thought. Dressed in fine blackest gown, the girl was eleven and despite being a slave, carried herself with the regality as an attendant servant in the Holder’s home should. Unlike the partially and ill informed by Gallantee mass media, the complicated reality of Reclamation slavery, even within Tash-Murkon, was a tortuous institution with as many answers as there were Holders and planetary regions. Here now, as part of the Holder’s house, Uriel and the child were in a recognized period of mutual mourning. As was the tradition among Udorian Holder’s of V in the north, a laxing of formal relationship to a familial was permitted for the time upon a slave child’s passing until the next morning’s dawn after the deceased was buried. For the slave’s family, of an indoctrinated generation, the loss of a child was recognized as a tragedy and potential for a crisis of spirituality. For the Holder family it was also seen as a light which was hoped to be brought to the greater light of the One True Faith, entrusted to them by God, was now extinguished just as it was coming close to that Grand Glow.
The two exchanged no words, as Uriel in a fraternal manner, took the girl’s hand firmly with the start of the funeral party going to give final farewell to the departed. All of them, Amarrian, Udorian, Khanid, Ammatar, and slave, were here dressed in conservative black mourning attire. House Murk’Udoria, under their matriarch, was an oddity in one clear matter; most minor Holder lineages came from roughly equally born male and female blood. Murk’Udoria was overwhelmingly a house of daughters. As such, given the Udorian ‘Liberalism’, they had more often than not welcomed in husbands, brothers, of Amarrian, Khanid, and all other free and Reclaimed bloodline as deemed by the Empire, to their fold. As often for political and economic security, as out of true and proper love under the eyes of Holy God.
Coming to the grave’s edge, Uriel kneeled down and took up some of the dirt, handed some to the girl whose one hand he still held. In an old dialect of Amarr, by tradition tied to the Udorian people at the start of the Reclaiming, they said the short prayer as they cast the sprinkle of dirt down to the foot of the grave.
‘So as thee, our beloved, we shall also be. For of the dust were we formed, and to the dust we shall return. Praise be God’s will, and go unto thee with our love.’
Uriel kept all emotion absent from his tone, a somber face, as did the young lady at his side. His heart ached with utter but not shown sincerity, holding the hand of the daughter, to a crew member of his frigate. A slave who at five generations, shown faith, and devotion, and submission to the scriptures and Vitoc method. Of the man’s genuine conversion to the process of the Reclamation, Uriel had no doubt. The capsuleer captain saw every breath taken by all aboard that ship. It was why they had with all manageable speed returned from anti Sansha Incursion patrols in the lower Tash-Murkon region on the border with Stain to be present for this funeral. That along with the matter of fitting, and preparing a recently procured assault frigate, of the Retribution class, to further aid in purging Sansha’s Nation from Tash-Murkon.
A benediction given by the attending clergy, a prayer of mercy for a slave from God, ended the funeral. With it, Holder, house vassals, and slaves quickly made distances from one another as they went to board shuttle craft for the brief flights back to estates, barracks, and industrial sites they resided in. For a beautiful, and beloved child, though a slave, a place in an estate cemetery had been given. The Murk’Udorian line, while devout Reclaimers, were as equally devout in the serious business of making faithful from wayward. To lose a potentially last generation slave, one who would have grown to give birth to Redeemed offspring, free of need for Vitoc, could not be easily lost on them.
Taking a seat in the Matriarch’s shuttle, in the upper vassal’s section, Uriel found a place to sit with his half Khanid cousin.
‘It was… Well. Right.’
Uriel tried not to smile, but a sense of having missed his cousin’s Khanid mannerisms for such things, as treating slaves with such care, rose up nostalgia in him. A look of returned fondness for his company was shared by the woman as she took her cousin’s hand when Uriel sat down. One for social affairs, and house intrigue, he could feel her tension as the shuttle craft rose away from the surface. V was a high G planet, and flight on it had a long, interesting, and often tragic romanticism to it.
‘Oh Cousin, Capsuleer cousin. How my heart aches holding this clone hand of yours. Even more so as I ponder, do things such as that funeral even measure with you now?’
Her deep brown, black, and gold flecked eyes looked into his, as she leaned in closer. Turning away, Uriel looked up to the chromatic and reflective gold dome top of the cabin they sat in as servants began to move about and serve their better folk’s drinks. Other than the somewhat oval Udorian face shape, his features were Amarrian and hers Khanid. His eyes dark emerald to hers, his skin pale to her olive, her hair raven black and his own light brown with reddish tinge.
‘Sweet Cousin, Lady of Murk’Udoria. and loved Sister in the Faith, I am of noble purpose in our House’s work in the Reclaiming. To have left my birth given flesh, to serve my Matriarch and Holder as her Capsuleer, was no sacrifice. I do it gladly, for Holder, Faith, Emperor, and God, regardless of the cost to myself. Stoic, stoic is the one who submits to God’s will for no one owns their own life. So if you must know, yes, the passing of a sweet child does have measure with me. But soon, such pause and grief I must let pass, for the enemies of the Faith and our blood have no measures at all for the evils they plot on us.’
A feigned look of being touched by his words came to the Lady’s face. But then a genuine sad expression for a moment, before a look of complete seriousness took her. If the House were a military, Uriel would be sitting holding the hand of its chief counterintelligence operations officer. When she went to speak again, it was with the measured tone of a commander to a subordinate.
‘When we arrive at the Beloved Holder Matriarch’s estate, I will need you to escort me to a House Counsel. Where a discussion will be had on matters militant and dire to our part in Tash-Murkon’s future. I am taking you from the militia naval forces, and re-assigning you to my office, effective immediately and with the Matriarch’s say on the matter.’
Uriel replied with some measure of curiosity, ‘The Holder gave you leave to make me your sword?’
To which, with a military officer’s sureness of an order she replied, ‘It was the Holder’s direction that it be you.’