Thirty-sixth day of Bloom
third day of the new moon (waxing crescent)
Olive then sought out Valon Sarqhardt, studying the Sacramentarium of Saint Veronica in the shrine. Valon shared his plan to return to Fairbanks, arguing that the refugees were doomed without protection, and prepared to gamble on the good will of the sisters of the Order of the Argent Shroud. Despite Olive’s strenuous objections that the Argent Shroud were at least as bad as the 8th Breslin Infantry, Valon was determined to try. Before he departed, he found Justicar Turomot, absorbed in the examination of a lasgun. Valon enacted the Rite to Increase the Understanding of Others upon him to impress upon him that Olive was vital to the refugees’ safety. The rite connected the two men’s minds with shocking, trans-sexual intimacy, and both Olive and Valon witnessed in the aftermath of the violation a look of unadulterated hatred upon Turomot’s face directed at the confessor. The justicar deliberately handed Olive the lasgun, saying that she was in fact vital to his plans to defend the refugees, and expressed his support of Valon’s plan to leave the refugees with thinly veiled loathing.
Olive demanded that Valon explain what he had just done. When he explained, she shared with him that Turomot had no prejudice against mutants, having had his life saved by one as a younger man, and that in fact the justicar had always treated her with remarkable kindness. She pleaded with him one last time to be safe, and not to rely so heavily upon the sacramentarium. Valon then departed for Fairbanks, walking the familiar path back to the town.
Olive took the lasgun to the treeline and, after some experimentation, discovered the rudimentary rituals of its operation. When she shared the news with Turomot, he excitedly gave her a smaller version to attempt the same rites with. She had similar success with that spell.
Meanwhile, Valon was halted by sentries at Fairbanks a thousand yards from the walls of the town. He identified himself and asked to speak with the sisters of the Argent Shroud. After an uncomfortable delay, Sister Odell met him a few hundred yards from the walls. Valon approached deliberately, holding the sacramentarium before him, and repeated his greeting only about ten yards from the armored sister. She identified herself as Sister Superior Odell, and informed Valon that she was the last person he would ever see, before firing upon him.
Valon had another vision of St. Veronica Invicta in which time seemed to slow almost to a halt. Unable to move, he saw the projectile from Odell’s spell inching closer to him. Cupping her hand around the projectile, Veronica offered to save Valon if he would swear allegiance to her. Confused and suddenly wary, Valon said that he would happily swear his allegiance to the God-Emperor and to her. Veronica, seemingly disappointed, replied that her cause and that of the “moldering” Emperor were not at all the same. She explained to a bewildered Valon that she was not Saint Veronica at all – that Saint Veronica would not have reattached his head after the First Battle of Fairbanks, and that if he had been bearing the sigil of Saint Veronica, Odell likely would not have fired upon him. At this, Valon noticed for the first time that the sigil on Odell’s armor bore no resemblance to that on the sacramentarium or his own facial tattoo. With the projectile closing in toward his nose, “Veronica” gave Valon a choice: give himself fully to her, or die.