Backcloth For A Crown Additional (Short Story)
|Series||Eisenhorn (Novel Series)|
|Preceded by||Malleus (Novel)|
|Followed by||Hereticus (Novel)|
|Collected in||Crucible Of War|
Backcloth For A Crown Additional is a short story by Dan Abnett in the Eisenhorn (Novel Series), taking place between the events of Malleus (Novel) and Hereticus (Novel). The story was initially published in Crucible Of War (Anthology), and later collected in the series omnibus edition, and as a stand-alone e-short.
The death of an old friend brings Inquisitor Eisenhorn and his companions to Sunsable's Touring Fair, where something sinister haunts the portraits tent. Just what is causing people to disappear, and if there's a taint of the warp about it, will it doom an entire world?
Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn is having breakfast with Alizebeth Bequin on the terrace of his house on Gudrun. Her work with the Distaff has kept them apart for several years, and only allowed her a week to visit before she has to return to Messina. Eisenhorn is determined that no official business should interrupt their time, but an urgent message arrives from the widow of Lord Aen Froigre, a good friend of Eisenhorn who died the night before. He feels obliged to investigate, and Bequin accompanies him, quipping that if Lord Froigre's death turns out to be from natural causes, they will be back home by the end of the day.
Over the grounds of House Froigre are strewn the remains of a party, and Lady Froigre explains that her husband threw a carnival to celebrate his son's homecoming from the Imperial Guard. Mindful that he is dealing with the death of a nobleman, Eisenhorn runs through all the natural possibilities: assassination by a rival house or mercantile enemy; intrigues by an unfaithful wife or an ambitious son; or simply the result of too much hard living. Nothing seems to fit: up until last night, Lord Froigre was in robust health, barely past his eightieth year, and there are no signs of foul play. In fact, there are no clear signs as to what killed him at all. As near as the medicae who examined the body could determine, Lord Froigre died of fright.
At a loss what else to do, Eisenhorn draws Barbarisater, his force sword that is semi-sentient and sensitive to the presence of Chaos, and uses it like a dowsing rod. He finds faint but unmistakable traces over the patches of ground where Lord Froigre died, and where the hololithographer following the carnival troupe pitched his tent.
The next morning, Bequin shows Eisenhorn a report from Uber Aemos, who spent the entire night analyzing the data from House Froigre and the surrounding regions. Not only have there been dozens of similar deaths on Gudrun in the past several years, but all the deaths have one, and only one, thing in common: each occurred shortly after the area was visited by the same carnival troupe.
Eisenhorn and Bequin enter the carnival at its latest fairground, and zero in on the hololithographer's tent, whose sign advertises his rates for portraits, group images, and, for an additional Imperial crown, a backcloth for the image. Bequin enters the tent and meets the man himself, Bakunin, a kindly old man who proudly points out that his images will last for years, unlike traditional hololiths. He points to several that are years old, yet have never faded and remain as crisp and clear as the day they were taken. While Bequin is posing for a portrait, Eisenhorn browses around the tent with Barbarisater, picking up the same traces of chaos from the small side-room used as a darkroom. He bursts into the tent and quickly sees that Bakunin is innocent, and no disciple of Chaos. Eisenhorn demands to see the darkroom from the inside.
Bakunin opens the door, and the glass picture frames themselves rise up and attack, spinning through the air like throwing knives. As Eisenhorn deflects them with Barbarisater, he sees ghostly figures rising up from the picts and tells Bakunin and Bequin to get out. Outside the tent, Bakunin realizes what the source of the contamination must be: a small vial of fixer that some old woman in a village the troupe was passing through sold him. She assured him that it would do the same job, if not better, as the chemical he was seeking; he should have realized something was amiss from the fact that, no matter how often he used the bottle, it never emptied.
Bakunin tells Eisenhorn where the bottle is, but, in his desperation to fix what he has done, rushes in after him and is seized by the ghosts and dragged screaming into a vortex. Eisenhorn, with his own psyker abilities and Barbarisater, is only just able to fend off the ghosts long enough to smash the bottle, and the tent comes crashing down.
Later, the Adeptus Arbites fence off the area while Eisenhorn and Bequin incinerate all of the remaining hololiths. Superimposed on each and every one is a ghostly image of Bakunin, screaming.
Gudrun, 355.M41 (ten years after the closing events of Malleus (Novel)). The Drunner region of the world features heavily. Principal locations are the estate of the noble House Froigre and Sunsable's Fair, a travelling amusement fair.
- Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn. At the time of this incident (355.M41) Eisenhorn is approaching his apogee, having defeated Quixos, expanded his retinue into a significantly-sized and capable organisation and begun secret study of the daemonhost Cherubael. His motivations intially stem from a need to exorcise retribution and justice for his friend's death, but once the taint of Chaos is detected in the investigation he shifts into a higher gear. Has a high level of fondness for Bequin.
- Alizebeth Bequin - Untouchable and senior retinue member to Eisenhorn. Accompanies him throughout the investigation.
- Uber Aemos - Savant and senior retinue member to Eisenhorn. Provides essential investigative support during the investigation.
- Lady Freyl Froigre - Matriarch of House Froigre and widow to Aen Froigre, whose death sparks the investigation.
- Bakunin - A rather frail old man and member of Sunsable's Fair, his pict-capturing business is the focal point of the investigation.