Fortieth of Bloom
seventh day of the new moon (waxing crescent)
Reunited with his magic armor, Polynikes Callistos attempted to communicate with his missing companions via the armor’s apparently magical gorget. His hails went unanswered, though he seemed unsure if that was because they were dead or some manner of eldar trickery.
The convoy continued through the jungle towards Green Rivers. Polynikes seemed interested in Olive Mollin’s arsenal of scavenged weapons, and took it upon himself to instruct her in the rituals of their care and operation, beginning with her Astor L Lasgun – a weapon he seemed to view as more amusing than threatening. When the convoy stopped to make camp for the evening, he took her beyond the camp perimeter to practice shooting in the jungle, an activity that went on for many hours.
Ereen Almoner and her husband offered to share their food with Valon Sarqhardt, but he could stomach neither bread nor salted meat, nor beer. In desperation, he invoked St. Veronica Invicta. The daemon unfolded herself out of a bush that had not been there previously, then folded the bush into a small packet that she ate. Valon asked her whether his apparent inability to eat or drink was a condition of his soul or his body, and Veronica answered that it was his body. Valon attempted to bargain with her to heal whatever malady afflicted him, going so far as to offer his body to her. This surprised and delighted the daemon, and Valon said that he was willing to give up his soul if the resulting power would help his flock. A disappointed Veronica admonished him that this was not a negotiation, and if that was all he had to say on the matter, she would leave him to his own devices. She fished the folded-up bush out of her breastplate and unfolded it into the shape of a swan. Finding this apparently unsuitable for some reason, she waved a hand to cause the swan to vanish, and then widened a bole in a nearby tree with her tongue until she could step into it.
The bole snapped shut behind her, and a moment later a squirrel climbed partially down the tree to chitter at Valon. Seized with a sudden desperate hunger, he pounced on the squirrel and wrung its neck. A tentacle then extruded itself from the scar where he had been shot in the catacombs, flayed the squirrel, and offered one of its limbs to Valon. He ate the limb and, finding it not only palatable but delicious, proceeded to consume the entire animal including its fur, vomiting up the contents of its bowels a moment later. Sated for the first time in days, Valon fell into a peaceful sleep.
Philippa Darry and Connor Darry shared a small tent to sleep in. Connor asked why Philippa had accepted Valon back into the convoy if she was so certain that he was a heretic. She replied that she wanted to believe that he could be saved, and so did not want to execute him outright, even if there was no way to turn him over to Ecclesiarchy authorities at the moment. Moreover, she said, she wanted to take care of Olive, and did not feel she could take one and not the other. Connor accepted this reasoning for now, and the two fell asleep. Philippa woke at Interval to find Connor curled up against her, drooling in his sleep on her neck, and spent the hour holding her sleeping husband.
Meanwhile, Polynikes continued to drill Olive into the night, long after the jungle was plunged into darkness. He seemed oblivious to her hunger or fatigue, until at last Olive worked up the courage to suggest that perhaps they should stop for the night. Polynikes seemed surprised by that, saying that he had been training much more strenuously at age 11. When Olive pointed out that she was only human, he said that at age 11, he had been too. He hesitated, and then, seeming to want somebody to confide in, told Olive about the process by which men become angels. During this conversation, Olive learned to her surprise that Polynikes was only 17 years old.
Polynikes began to patrol around the camp, asking Olive to walk with him. He asked her about those she had lost, his mind seemingly on his own missing companions. The discussion of the war wandered into broader topics, including Polynikes’ speculations on the kings of Nova.
Before Olive returned to the camp for sleep, Polynikes asked that, if he fell, she preserve his body at least until it began to rot. He said it was possible that others would come for him, and that “the chapter must have its due,” though he declined to explain what that meant beyond saying that his body would be useless once it began to rot. A slightly mystified Olive agreed.
At last she stumbled into camp to sleep on the bare ground. Polynikes woke her when it was still dark for more instruction, telling her that he had let her sleep in.