Dramatis personae

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Germax Sahawat, genius

Dramatis personae

B: 550M40
D: 776M40
D: 875M41
Presumed to be still at large – C/F: Inquisitorial docket Omega-Elipson-VII/III

Thought for the day: “Fear the mind with purpose”

The tale of how the name of Sahawat came to be one of the most feared and accursed words in the entire Anton Australis sector, is a dark and convoluted one. Legends, myths and rumours spring up like leaves in his bloody wake, but all credible sources agree that for the longest time, he lived a contented life on the world of Gossemine, famed across three star systems for his skill with all manner of mechanical devices. In truth, he was (and regrettably still is) a craftsman of rare and extreme talent, the sort of freakish genius that only comes along once every two or three trillion births. While he could turn his fine hands to anything, Sahawat favoured timepieces and the bionics reserved for aristocracy above all else. It is his genius that spawned the synchronised hearts that allow countless worlds in the sector to be sure that the vessels approaching them are allies, not foes.

Despite the passion and countless hours he invested in his creations, his true loves were his wife, Sarisha and his two children, Horst and Demelza. When the latter were still young but showing great promise of their own, the planetary governor, Ashek Norr came to Sahawat with a singular commission, for a heavy burden lay upon him. In recent memory, the world had been torn asunder by a series of wars as rival houses vied for the right to rule. Norr was the last of his line and bride after bride had failed to give him the heir he desperately craved. At first, Sahawat rebuffed the man, saying that this task was beyond his skill and that a Genator of the Mechanicus would be far more suited to the task.

Norr slowly wore him down, saying that he could not trust the Mechanicus in this matter or become beholden to them in this way. Sahawat took up the challenge and was soon consumed by it, as he had by no other project before or since. Such was his obsession that he stopped asking if this thing should be done, instead asking only how it could. It was only three years to the day later, after he had wound the masterspring and the thing crafted into the perfect likeness of a young boy began to move that his doubts returned.

At first all was well. Norr was instantly besotted with the mechanical boy, seeing in him a future that had been denied for him for too long. He spent a fortune to provide the boy, now called Golti, with the finest tutors and provided Sahawat and his family with the finest lodgings and everything they could never need. But something was wrong. While Golti devoured the lessons of his tutors in all things, his comprehension instant, his memory eidetic, there was one area where they failed. Try as they might, while Golti understood ethics and the strings that tug at the hearts of men, he was utterly without empathy.

Worse was to come. When Elkrites discussed the nature of the soul in his customary dialectic manner, Golti’s normally exquisite face darkened, twisting into something beyond hideous. The same expression was seen again, when Eata-Beta-Pi, a massive and unusually gluttonous priest of the Mechanicus instructed him on the basics of the Martian creed, specifically the sin of the silica animus.

Shortly afterwards, tech-priests began to go missing, their fleshy parts torn open by someone or something with huge strength, their bionics violently ripped from their frames. The world began to slide into poverty, as machine-spirits grew fickle or ceased their wonders altogether, without the whisper chants and unguents of their now-dead masters. 

Golti started to befriend minor nobles, those with a hungry look in their eyes and a willingness to look the other way in exchange for the slightest advantage.

Norr suspected the truth but did nothing obvious. He removed much of his favour from Sahawat and his family, forbidding them from attending court due to a minor breach of protocol. This affected Demelza the most, for she had grown into a woman possessed of her parents’ wit and her mother’s beauty and was being courted by Saveric Ortundey, a scion of a noble house, known for his daring and skill as a duellist. Unable to see each other, their relationship withered, for court held many distractions for a man of Saveric’s élan.

Norr’s actions were to have terrible consequences. While they helped divert attention from the many surgeries that Sahawat was performing on Norr to extend his life and delay the awful day when Golti would succeed him as King, it was easy for Golti to begin wooing Demelza. For her own safety, Sahawat had not told his daughter of the man’s true nature. Slowly Golti took from her the knowledge needed to maintain his form. The difficulty of this task was made trival, when Sahawat forbid his daughter from seeing Golti, without giving any explanation. Naturally, this had the opposite effect, driving her further into his cold embrace.

Once Golti was convinced that he had learnt all he could from Demelza and that he had enough of a following, he struck. Openly weeping, he led Norr’s servants to their master's bedchamber where the King’s body lay still. If the servants observed signs of a struggle or the use of make-up applied post-humorously to hide the tell-tell signs of strangulation, they chose to ignore them – perhaps all too aware of the chaos that would be unleashed by the slightest accusation.

Even as the arrangements were being prepared for Golti’s succession, his allies struck, blocking up Sahawat’s home and throwing firebombs through the windows. Blueprints, plans and all manner of equipment went up in flames in a matter of seconds, while Sahawat’s collection of priceless timepieces chimed crazily. The inventor had to hear his family’s anguished screams before the smoke rendered them unconscious, his self-surgeries and master-wrought bionics rendering him immune from the fumes, but not the flames. By the time, he had painstakingly clawed his way to safety, the damage was done – his eyes had cooked in his sockets, their amber hue replaced with the white of poached eggs, while much of his remaining flesh was burnt and blackened. Fortunately, for Sahawat, his would-be murderers had drunken too deeply to gather the false courage needed to carry out so despicable a commission, that they failed to check the ashes of his former home.

Within the ruins, his trembling hands ran over the only thing to survive the conflagration – a jewelled stasis box, resplendent from better days when the House of Sahawat had lands of its own. After several fumbling attempts, the inventor cracked the seal, releasing Nogon, his father’s skull. It rose smoothly into the air and sync’d its optics with Sahawat’s subdermal implants. False vision came to him and as it did, he knew what he had to do.

Years passed until none cared to recall the king before Golti or the man who had crafted wonders for him. Darkness bled into the world, as its false-man, false-king, remade it in his image. Men and woman began to go missing with distressing frequency and some brave souls whispered of a macabre theatre where still living human marionettes were jerked around by sadistic puppetmasters, held up by the veins and nerves of their painstakingly vivisected limbs. The torments were so great, that it is said that strange bonelessly elegant figures clad in shadow made themselves known to the court, offering to provide its king with the expertise to solve the issue that so vex’d him – his lack of an immortal soul. This they could provide in exchange for a yearly tithe of flesh. This bargain pleased Golti – who cared if the human beasts were culled? What matter the course of a human lifetime, when even the longest of lives was a scant instant against the measure of eternity?

Even as Gossemine’s population began to dwindle, its citizens herded into the visitors’ barbed vessels and destined for torment and slaughter, rumours began to surface. They told of a man who clicked and whirred as he walked, his face a mass of cogs and gears, always accompanied by a unearthly floating skull. Others spoke of wastrels and footpads found face down, their eye sockets empty, their faces contorted into expressions of utmost agony. Squatters in the rusting tech-dens that once were home to the Mechanicus soon regretted their choice of dwelling. Strange noises were heard from the largest of such hovels, together with flashes of roaring blue flame, sparks of motive force and the chiming of clocks.

On the thirteenth night of the thirteenth month, under a new moon, the dark-kin at last begun the ritual that Golti had bought with the lives of so many of his subjects. The Coven of the Perfected Flesh began their work, placing four great sarcophagi at the corners of a square chamber. At its centre they placed a great chair and motioned Golti to sit. Even as the automaton reclined against its cushions (stuffed with human hair and made from human skin), Sahawat was making his bloody way through the keep, slaughtering his way through Golti’s guards. The inventor  was an indifferent swordsman, but his reforged frame’s speed and reflexes were so above human norms that killing them was a trivial matter.

The haemonculi deployed all manner of esoteric equipment and when they were at last satisified that all was in place, the most senior of their order pulled a single bright teardrop from the depths of his voluminous robes. Golti regarded it in anticipation – seeing in it the climax of all his desires. He was mistaken. As the essence engines spun up to a shrieking wine, and the soul surgeons affixed the gem to his forehead, the subject begun to writhe in impossible agony.

The soul the dark kin had gifted Golti with had been carefully selected. Stolen from the infinity circuit of Craftworld Ythranmir, in life it had been Yssandriel Alamesh, pacificist and curator of the gardens within its Dome of Crystal Seers. With perfect empathy, Eldar soul and clockwork mind relived every atrocity, every bloody deed wrought in Golti’s name.

The relived suffering poured into the four sarcophagi, their occupants devouring it with unthinking hunger. It wasn’t long before wet moans of joy were passing through newly remade lips.

Almond eyes turned, drawn by the sound of clapping. Sahawat had witnessed all he needed to see. His masterwork hands began to blur as he clapped harder. He started to laugh and beings to whom agony was sustenance and atrocity was a calling, found themselves recoiling at the sound. Swiftly, such an unfamiliar and unwelcome feeling was replaced by far more familiar sensations, curiosity and greed. The Haemonculi expressed genuine awe at the craftsmanship that had gone into the creation of Golti and Sahawat’s clockwork cybernetics and bid him disrobe. Even as he did so, allowing the creatures to gaze upon perfected chrome and fine-wrought adamantium, Sahawat regarded the aliens, seeing them through stolen, dying, eyes. In them and their unspeakable science, he saw opportunity.

A pact of sorts was agreed – Sahawat would furnish the Coven of the Perfected Flesh with an elaborate upgrade for their pain engines, giving them the appearance of vast clockwork insects, in exchange for all the pain-lore and fleshcraft he could understand. The haemonculi’s hubris prevented them from suspecting that this mon-keigh might be able to plumb the depths of their secrets, only to find them wanting.

During his induction into the coven’s basic rites, Sahawat obsessively reviewed the footage and data from Golti’s ensoulment, finding a kind of peace in his creation’s supernova-bright suffering. But after many viewings, he noticed that the agony had affected the synchronisation of his many internal clocks to a minuscule degree, as if it had been enough to warp the flow of time by the tiniest fraction. Lacking the knowledge to investigate this further, Sahawat returned to his studies with renewed focus. However, it was all in vain. Unlike the Eldar, pain alone was not enough to achieve the resurrection that the inventor so desperately sought for his loved ones.

Swallowing his disappointment, he returned to Gossemine. He begun to produce beautiful replacement limbs and other bionics for the aristocracy of nearby systems, spending the fruits of every elaborate commission on procuring all manner of esoteric and forbidden lore. Such was the demand for his services that he could not possibly fulfil every request alone, so Sahawat begun to recruit apprentices to aid him in his work. Such was the esteem – and fear – in which they held their master that his studio began to resemble a cult. Wealth and prosperity returned to Gossemine, though joy did not.

Part of the reason for Sahawat’s runaway success, was that his patrons were becoming obsessed with replacing every last scrap of flesh with his creations, spending long hours gazing at their new perfect limbs in mirrors or exalting in the extra strength, speed and stamina they conferred.

One of the most marked elements of Sahawat’s insight, was that for every two hours spent at the workbench on one of his many projects, he would spend another hour researching new techniques or creating better tools. He begun to turn his vast intellect and growing knowledge of the sorcerous arts to the problem of time, for no matter how skilled the craftsman, there are only so many hours in the day. Sahawat meant to change that. He already knew that suffering could cause minute changes in space-time and used that as his starting point. Progress was painfully slow, until he chose to focus on the timeless nature of the warp and how such a property might be conferred upon real-space. He began to build entire rooms walled with nervous issue, wired to pulse with agony to the time of a grandfather clock, with its pendulum replaced with a human heart. To his delight the passage of time within the chamber compared to the world beyond it began to slow – nowhere near enough for his purposes, but it was a start. Soon the chamber was lined with brains swollen with abnormally enlarged pain centres and kept alive by intricate clockwork feeding mechanisms.

Around this time, Elizabeta of House Temporis came to Sahawat in supplication, for his fame as a chirurgeon had reached far and wide (with much effort spent to prevent the dissemination of other details off-world…) and the long years of warfare had taken their toll on the ageing queen. She knew in her brittle bones that it wouldn’t be long before she could no longer muster the strength to pilot her Knight Titan, the Ferrum Venenatus. Sahawat remade her in exchange for three things: much of the knowledge the House’s navigators had gathered about the warp and the time-twisted ruins of the Saurthi, the right to dissect a third eye taken from one of her fallen kin, and for her to see him with her warp sight. This last gift, Elizabeta acquiesced to only after considerable persuasion, no matter of his declaration that he would be without his ‘borrowed’ eyes when the time came.

The pact made, Sahawat reforged Elizabeta into the vision of dark beauty she had been in her prime, but preserved from time’s ravages forever more. When she looked upon him with her third eye, the man cried out in ecstasy, while Elizabeta slumped to her knees in shock. She saw the countless neverborn surrounding him, whispering of the massacres and atrocities yet to come. The light of the warp illuminated the loss that gnawed at his soul, filling it the way a canker spreads throughout a body until all vital functions are chocked into uselessness. Despite the oaths she had made and her code of honour that vilified the foresworn, Elizabeta reached for a weapon, intend on slaying the source of such abhorrence before it could come to pass. It was only then that she realised the full extent of the bargain she had struck. Not a single gear in her beautiful new limbs would move until she dismissed all thought of doing their creator harm. She spoke not a single word more to the one who had remade her, leaving Gossemine with a curse on her lips and a heavy heart.

Death and rebirth
With the lore he had taken from Elizabeta, Sahawat made rapid progress until he could spend days within his chambers only to leave them scant seconds after he had entered. His initial task achieved, the inventor took time to consolidate, pouring all his new-found lore into improving his own frame of dark iron and blood-quenched brass. The flow of wonders from Gossemine grew to a raging torrent, until it was all but unknown for a noble of any standing within 100 lightyears not to possess at least one example of his work. This fad was to have dire consequences and was said to instrumental in House Tlavepki's decent into madness and the Crimson Coronation that caused Coseminede IV to go through four planetary governors in a single day.  

Sahawat's fame begun to reach further afield and as it did, covetous eyes began to turn towards Gossemine and the source of its many wonders. In 776M40, a cabal of Xanthine inquisitors, the self-styled “Sinistram Viam”, descended upon Sahawat’s demesne, seeking to relieve him of his hard-earned lore and the tools he amassed over long centuries of toil. Under the light of a crimson moon, they carried out their bloody work, culling Sahawat’s coven of apprentices (many of whom would be regarded as master craftsmen on any other world) and after an uneven duel that left two of the cabal dead and dying, slew the wonderworker and took his home for their own. But after the deed was done, none could find Sahawat’s gold-inlaid skull and two of Zoloch Kull’s acolytes swore blind that they had seen it skitter away into the shadows.

Sahawat’s lore and demesne were not the only things the Sinistram Viam took from the dread craftsman. Overcome by avarice or a strange compulsion, the surviving inquisitors split his corpse, replacing their own limbs and organs with his master-wrought counterparts. After a fierce debate, they chose to use their new-found expertise to craft a blade that would aid them in the struggles to come. For a hundred years they worked, folding the blade’s steel thousands of times, and anointing it with the heartblood of hundreds of great beasts. All this work reached its climax on a night of absolute darkness. Nature itself cried out in violation as the essence of Karrash-Garr – “God Cutter” was imprisoned within the blade. Said to have been created in the instant in which man first slayed a beast intent on devouring him, the daemon greeted its confinement only with mocking laughter for it had stared deep into the souls of its would-be wielders and seen the fate that would soon be theirs. 

Oblivious to the blade’s distain, the inquisitors exalted in their accomplishment, but their joy soon turned sour, when even the strongest could not take up the blade without shuddering in agony. To their great misfortune, the least of their number, Ontonius Klasnod, spotted what the others had not – Hessian Zorr, the member of the cabal who had exchanged his heart for that of the murdered inventor had seemed able to withstand the blade’s torment for longer than his fellows. As disappointment set in and the long arduous task of finding a way to wield the blade began, Ontonius began to make his move. Underestimated by his peers, it was easy at first to find reasons to meet with them in private. Gregor Hofels died first, slain when his back was turned. Ontonius’ surgeon, Trias, at first refused to graft Sahawat’s freshly liberated right arm to his master, until the cold look in the Inquisitor’s eyes made him choose discretion over principle.

Solten Vrol was the next to die. The murderer had long noted the way his colleague lingered in the presence of Ontonius’ comely savant, Zamzin, who despite being fair of face and innocent in mien, had little in the way of scruples, hailing as she did from a feral world where it is unusual to have not killed another before reaching one’s name-day. One night, Zamzin kept Solten’s eyes from seeing the blade that slew him and Trias had more work to do. Two more deaths swiftly followed, leaving only Hessian to go. The man was no fool and in fact was secretly pleased that Ontonius had rid him of so many rivals. Confident of his unmatched prowess with a blade, he challenged Ontonius to a duel. 

It is said that when Ontonius drew God Cutter from its scabbard of human hide, all colour fled Hessian’s face. Three times they thrust and parried and two of them were gifts – the daemon within the blade too intently trying to understand its own heft and balance to be of benefit to its wielder. The fourth strike saw Hessian’s head roll to the floor, blood from the stump spraying the wound in a great gout, followed by pulsing, waning trickles. Ontonius immediately cast the daemonsword to the ground, unable to bear its torment any longer.

Once again, Trias begged his master not to go through with the surgery, but Ontonius – or the dark compulsion that guided him – could not be denied. The heart that had once beaten for Sahawat would beat for him.

When the anaesthetic had worn off, enough for him to rise – Ontonius stood, his blue eyes strangely blank, uncaring of modesty as his surgical gown slipped to the floor. Slowly, relentlessly, his finely wrought black and gold limbs took hold of his still human head and begun to pull. 

Trias and Zamzin screamed like terrified children as their master tore his own head from his body. Then even as the body slumped to the ground, a golden skull skittered forth on bones made from black iron and impaled itself upon the stump.

The reborn Sahawat’s first action was to reach out and tear Ontonius’ eyes from their sockets before placing them into his own, all the while ignoring the wailing and weeping acolytes before him. His nightmarish gaze focused on the blade resting at the foot of the bed. As he grasped its hilt, Karrash-Garr fought him on every plane of being, a desperate unbroken stallion too proud to be rode, but it was no use. Sahawat weathered the weapon’s onslaught with the patience born from centuries spent in unceasing toil. The pain was nothing – nothing compared to the loss of his family or the agony of his every breath, for all the fleshcraft he had learned from the Coven of the Perfected Flesh couldn’t stop his pain centres rebelling against his metal frame. Its energies exhausted, the God Cutter had no choice but to call him master.

Sahawat spent the next few decades, memorising the blasphemous grimoires of the Sinistram Viam, rebuilding his own cabal of artisans and would-be apprentices, and learning the extent of God Cutter’s powers. Formidable as they were, it still depended on its wielder’s skill with a blade. Recognising his defects and his instincts for survival sharpened by his recent death and rebirth, Sahawat left Gossemine for seven years - turning once more to the Drukhari and setting up temporary residence in Commorragh. There he learnt bladecraft at the feet of Sanzel’ra Volani, the Succubus of the Cult of Tears.

Sanzel’ra had lost much standing of late, having suffered scars from a prestige-bout with Lelith Hesperax. She desperately needed a way to bring back the crowds, so when a strange metal-man came to her proposing to overhaul her training facilities and gift her with clockwork insects of incredible lethality (naturally pre-programmed to dismember their opponents in spectacular ways) in exchange for tuition in the lethal arts, she choked down her gall and accepted.

Despite being a mutually beneficial arrangement, Sanzel’ra saw Sahawat’s presence as a physical reminder of her previous humiliation and did her best to make his training as torturous as possible, towards the end even going to the expense of paying a haemonculus of the House of Wonders to create crude copies of his family for him to rend and main. Her ire was stoked still further by Sahawat's complete immunity to her beauty and the speed at which he devoured her lessons - threatening her notions of Drukhari superiority. Shortly after the completion of Sahawat’s training, a strange new art installation was discovered at in the centre of the Cult of Tears’ arena – a flower made from incredibly thin slices made from Sanzel’ra's body and kept alive with a profusion of pulsing tools and complex mechanicms.

The Yor-Soggoneth
On Sahawat’s return to Gossemine, he focused once more on his ultimate goal – restoring his family to life. He bent all his efforts and those of his followers to creating a strange device, one capable of transporting a small party to anywhere and anywhen. Once again, the inventor hit a stumbling block – his knowledge of the empyrean was vast but not sufficient. Turning to the tomes gathered by the Sinistram Viam, Sahawat invoked and bound the daemon, Tzamel, keeper of the burning tome and servant of the Changer of Ways into the body of Ontonius’ former surgeon, Trias. Compelling Tzamel to reveal the lore that would allow him to bend the laws of space and time to his will, Sahwat’s work began to progress once more. 

It was around this time that Sahawat came to the attention of the Ordo Chronos – their sensitive instruments could sense the disturbances caused in the tapestry of possibilities caused by Sahawat’s attempts to craft the Yor-Soggoneth, a craft capable of transporting its inventor, his entourage, workshops, storerooms and dungeons through the warp to any event, regardless of when it occurred – while appearing on the outside as a massive Grandfather clock, festooned with all manner of blood containing hourglasses and strange glass tubes occupied by thousands of enslaved souls. 

To the Ordo’s dismay, they found the lines of fate had been already tampered with. All attempts to interfere with his timeline failed, as if some other agency had welded them shut. The most bold called for a military strike against Sahawat’s demise on Gossemine, but this course of action was doomed. House Temporis, which by this point had long acted as the Ordo Chronos’ Chamber Militant, refused to participate and several inquisitors with Xanthinite and Thorian sympathies withheld their support – the latter speculating that Sahawat’s researches though blasphemous could one day pave the way for the Emperor’s resurrection.

The Yor-Soggoneth complete, Sahawat's descent into madness deepened when he realised that due to someone else’s meddling, he could only witness his family die over and over again, without being able to stop the event from taking place. Frustrated, he turned again to the darkest lore, seeking instances of true resurrection from humanity’s distant past. After finding references to the “Blessed Lady”, Sahawat eventually witnessed the rebirth orchestrated by Erebus on the Fidelitis Lex.

Gathering the necessary sacrifices, Sahawat enacted the rite flawlessly over the bones of his wife, daughter and son but to no avail for their souls have long been consumed by the maws of the neverborn. The clockwork man’s screams of rage at this discovery killed those acolytes not consumed by the ritual. The mad inventor was forced to start probing and dissecting the fundamental nature of daemonkind, requiring the gathering of yet more esoterica across the length and breadth of the Imperium.

Sahawat is said to have run afoul of Archmagos Sherlak Kolmez of Forgeworld Janus and his apparently bumbling but deceptively lethal ally, Genator Zorson, at a digsite on the world of Bolthusion Prime, following rumours of a strange complex having been unearthed by Tyranid macro-harvesting. Records hold that artefacts alleged to be the remains of Sahawat were sent to a number of Inquisitorial fortresses and that these subsequently were penetrated by an actor capable of by-passing all mundane and psychic security measures.

The crazed artisan was allegedly sighted in 956M41, near the vicinity of the Vectum Isolation, during a parley between the traitors of the Word Bearers and the Death Guard. One of his acolytes, Pollox Altenberry, broke rank and fled towards Imperial space, to warn that Sahawat is planning to ally with the sons of Lorgar and Mortarion to bring about a second ruinstorm, having exhausted all other options. To him, the slaughter of trillions is a price worth paying – his ancient and warp-touched mind failing to comprehend the horror with which his loved ones will regard him, should he ever succeed in this final roll of the dice.