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Harlequin (Novel)

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Harlequin
Harlequin.jpg
Author Ian Watson
Publisher Black Library
Series Inquisition War
Preceded by Draco (Novel)
Followed by Chaos Child (Novel)
Editions Harlequin ISBN 1-84154-255-5

Cover Description

In the grim darkness of the 41st millennium, the Inquisition protects mankind from its many enemies, whether foul daemons or the inscrutable, alien eldar. But who will protect humanity if even the Inquisition becomes corrupted? Renegade Inquisitor Jaq Draco and his motley companions find themselves caught in a war that no one can win, unless he can somehow access the ancient secrets hidden in the legendary Black Library.

Synopsis

In the prologue, a Tech-Adept assigned to the Ordo Xenos discovers an old tome of unknown contents and origin.

One hundred years since the events of Draco, on the world of Xenophon an Inquisitor is ambushed by a killer taking the guise of another Inquisitor. The assassin then steals the face of the fallen Inquisitor, crumbling it into a ball and swallowing it. On Terra, within the Inquisition headquarters deep within ice sheets of Antarctica, the Master Inquisitor has taken notice of a series of murders of Inquisitors, supposedly by other Inquisitors (supposedly of the Ordo Malleus). Aiding the Master Inquisitor is Baal Firenze, Jaq Draco's former Proctor. Since the events of Draco, Firenze was implicated in the Exterminatus of Stalinvast, for which Jaq Draco was declared renegade. Firenze was subjected to an extreme interrogation, which left his mind in an infantile state, after which he was retrained as an Inquisitor. Firenze continue have faint recollections of his previous life. While recollecting the location of a particular book, the librarium is attacked by Eldar who set the library ablaze. As Firenze discusses the attack with his master, it is revealed they are both part of the Eternity Project, which seeks to exterminate immortal mutants.

On the planet Orbal, an Inquisitor Ion Dimitru is hunting down an immortal mutant known as Inquisitor Errant. Before cornering the Wandering Inquisitor, he is killed by some other agent.

Aboard the Tormentum Malorum, Draco finally awakens from a century of stasis within a food container. He recalls his retinue's escape from Terra, wherein Grimm the Squat got seperated from the group during a riot. It was during this riot that the remaining members of the retinue found a ship with its occupants dead under mysterious circumstances, and then proceeded to escape to the Tormentum Malorum. Once aboard, Draco recorded and sent the Liber Secretorum before he and his retinue entered stasis for what is to be a century. Back in the present, Draco finds Meh'Lindi also roused from stasis as well as Vitali Googol, their Navigator. However, Googol has clearly been corrupted, due to his thinking of the daemonettes they encountered in the Eye of Terror during the previous events. Despite being half-crazed, Googol successfully navigated the ship to the nearby world of Luxus Prime.

Luxus Prime is a planet in the midst of a Slaaneshi cult uprising, which is being opposed by the Planetary Governor Lagnost. However, while Draco opposes the cultists and expresses his intent assist in suppressing the cultists, his true intent is to find an Astropath and a new Navigator, as Googol has already lost much of his sanity. Unfortunately for Jaq and his retinue, the cultists has murdered any Navigator or Astropath they could find, and the rest have gone into hiding. In the process of searching for a Navigator, Googol finally loses his sanity before he is killed by a Daemonette which his corruption and warp eye likely helped manifest into reality. A few hours later, the group encounters Grimm leading a group of other Squats on trikes. Grimm, who lived through the past century, claims that he came to Luxus Prime in hopes that Jaq would arrive there first, being the most nearby system to the Tormentum Malorum. Grimm then leads the group to a Navigator named Azul Petrov. Returning to the Governor's palace, and left with little option, Draco has Governor Lagnost killed, before leaving with Lagnost's personal Astropath Fenix. As the retinue leaves the planet, Draco laments upon the death of Stalinvast in the previous events, and how likewise he had left Luxus Prime to its doom.

Aboard the Tormentum Malorum, Fenix spends weeks listening to Astropathic messages. He overhears talk of a hidden war between the Ordo Malleus and an unknown Inquisition group, rumours of Eldar initiating a ritual above the dead world of Stalinvast and Baal Firenze dispatching a group of Space Marines to stop them, and finally rumours of the renegade director-secundus of the Callidus order (Tarik Ziz) performing experiments on the planet of Darvash. Tarik Ziz is the one responsible for the experiment upon Meh'Lindi that allows her to only transform into a Genestealer, an experiment that likely led to his expulsion. Draco develops a plan to have Tarik Ziz undo the experiment upon Meh'Lindi, so that she may once again take the guise of any humanoid being, in particular an Eldar. From there, they plan to infiltrate the ranks of the Eldar performing the ritual above Stalinvast, and confront Baal Firenze. However, Jaq and Meh'Lindi had their suspicions about Grimm and his supposed activities during their century in stasis, they also noted that someone had disposed of Jaq's truth serum, Veritas.

Jaq and Meh'Lindi proceeded to interrogate Jaq, where he admitted he had destroyed the truth serum andthat he had been contacted by Zephro Carnelian, who was a member of the Illuminati. Grimm explained the story of the Illuminati, the Sensei, Sensei Knights, the Numen, the shining path with which it leads, and the truth behind the fall of the Eldar. Grimm explained that the Ordo Hydra were in fact led by rogue members of the Illuminati who had grown impatient and abandoned the shining path to create the Hydra. Members of the Illuminati, like Carnelian, were those who had become possessed by daemons, but expelled them of their own will, thus msking them immune to the powers of the warp. It is this immunity which granted them the ability to create the Hydra without any ill effects upon themselves. Finally, Grimm explains that the Illuminati are assisted by the Eldar, just as the Harlequins had assisted Carnelian, who likewise wish to defeat the powers of Chaos. Besides being sent to Luxus Prime in hopes Jaq would arrive there, he was also sent to monitor Slaaneshi activity, which is of concern to Carnelian and his Eldar allies. Jaq is taken aback by this information, thinking that perhaps a larger lie was used to make it appear as truth, but regardless freed Grimm.

Arriving on the world of Darvash, the group is repeatedly attacked by the local Darvashi. After successfully fending them off another agent of the Callidus temple, sent to report on Tarik Ziz's whereabouts, reveals himself to the group. Just as he began to question the retinue about Jaq's purpose, Meh'Lindi killed the assassin, taking with her proof of her kill to present to Tarik Ziz. Meh'Lindi was however warned by the Callidus assassin that her plan to kill Tarik during her reverse surgery was a mistake. When they arrive at Tarik's compound they are welcomed, but are dismayed to find that Tarik now exists within a Dreadnought body which he stole from a Space Marine, making him invulnerable to any assassination attempt by the retinue. This event is possibly being the cause of his expulsion from the Callidus temple and the reason the Callidus man Meh'Lindi killed was warned she was making a mistake. Tarik and his chirurgeons proceeded to revert the Genestealer-mimicking implantations within Meh'Lindi. Free of her previous modifications, Meh'Lindi could now take any humanoid form she wished for. Tarik and Draco's retinue leave each other on respectful terms. In preparation for the upcoming mission, Meh'Lindi transforms herself into the guise of an Eldar female.

Aboard the Imperial Power, Imperial Fists Captain Lexandro D'Arquebus makes way towards the orbit of Stalinvast, where the Eldar are performing an unknown ritual. Accompanying Lexandro is Baal Firenze, who has disturbed the Imperial Fists with his sadistic tendencies towards the Eldar. During the journey, Lexandro recalls a prior encounter with the Eldar upon the world of Hannibal, his earlier life prior to becoming an Imperial Fist, and and meanwhile he and his fellows continue to share worried glances and suspicions about Baal Fireneze.

In Stalinvast's orbit, Zephro Carnelian is joined by his Eldar allies, who are preparing for the upcoming battle to protect their ritual above Stalinvast. Carnelian and an Eldar Farseer discuss the hidden places of the Webway. One such place is the the Crossroads of Inertia, where time moves forward more quickly. Carnelian had spent time there to leapfrog through history. There also a rumoured node of the Webway where time flows backwards, as hinted in the Theory of Uigebealach, the theory of the Webway. He also recalls his own early life on the planet of Hurrah. Hurrah was a world that was cut off by a warp storm, which accelerated the psychic talents of its denizens. Carnelian would use his talents to create phantasms, before being able to manifest succubi and eventually degraded into a psychic torturer. As the world fell to Slaanesh, Eldrad Ulthran and the Striking Scorpions Aspect Warriors descended upon the world. A Warlock named Ketshamine accompanying Eldrad would rescue Carnelian from the daemon possessing him. Having expelled a daemon from within himself, Carnelian had become Illuminated, and from the Harlequins had learned of the Numen, the god of the New Men which the Emperor had expelled as his own goodness.

As the battle above Stalinvast rages, Jaq and his retinue use Meh'Lindi's Eldar form to sneak aboard the Eldar vessel by pretending to be prisoners of Meh'Lindi, later overpowering the guards. Carnelian then reveals himself to the group, beckoning them forward before disappearing. Soon after, Jaq encounters Inquisitor Firenze, accompanied by the Imperial Fists. Both Inquisitors accuse each other of heresy and conspiring against the Imperium. During the argument, Lexadandro attempts to shoot Meh'Lindi, but Jaq intercedes with his retinue later escaping. While escaping battle, Fenix was mortally wounded and died as Petrov was carrying him. Lexandro follows Jaq and his retinue, where the collective group passes through a Webway portal and eventually aboard Craftworld Ulthwé. On the Craftworld, the members of the retinue and Lexandro are ambushed and held down. Meh'Lindi, still being in the guise of an Eldar, manages to extract information on the Illuminait from a Harlequin. The Harlequin claims that the Illuminati actually intends to sacrifice the Sensei in order to usher in the new god, who will be advised by Cegorach himself. It is revealed that these Eldar no longer believe their dominance over the galaxy will return, but instead have settled with being able to influence mankind. Carnelian then appears, telling Jaq he is to be demonically possessed, and then have the daemon expelled, so that he make become Illuminatus.

However, Carnelian's plan is undone when a group of Imperial Fists following Lexandro's scent intercede and free the group. The Imperial Fist company and Jaq's retinue escape the Craftworld back to the webway. It is there Petrov receive's a vision of the Black Library from, who he claims to be, Fenix. Prior to his death, Fenix claims an astropath would hear all astropathic messages at once, forming a single mega-word to reveal some grand truth. Fenix's message was of an Eldar rune, which Lexandro etches upon the Navigator's eye as the retinue and Imperial Fists battle Eldar and the forces of Chaos (when they leave a gate leading to the Eye of Terror). Before escaping the daemon world, the group punctures the protective barrier to the Webway, which later provides a path for the forces of Chaos to attack Ulthwé. Guided by the rune, Petrov leads the group through the webway to the Black Library. En route, Jaq receives a vision of himself warning him to turn back, before a Phoenix Lady picks off Lexandro's battle-brothers and eventually kills Meh'Lindi, much to Jaq's dismay.

Jaq then resolves to unwind the plans of the Ordo Hydra, the Illuminati, and to find the secret node within the Webway where time could be reversed, so that he may save Meh'Lindi. Entering within the Black Library, Jaq and his remaining retinue find that they may have entered a time that is out of sync with the other inhabitants, who appear as mere shadows. Jaq then manages to steal the Book of the Rhana Dandra, the Eldar book of fate, upon which Jaq's name is also written.

Draco manages to find a way into the Black Library of Chaos using the combined talents of a Navigator, a dead Astropath and an Imperial Fist Marine, and steals the Book of the Rhana Dandra. Gazing at the jewels that studded the book, Petrov motions to remove the bandanna covering his warp eye, to which Lexandro immediately reacts to shoot Petrov in response. The remaining retinue: Jaq, Grimm, and Lexandro believe that Petrov's warp eye can be harvested to make use as monocular for its wearer to use. Upon harvesting the warp eye, Jaq and the last of the retinue return to webway to follow an unknown path.

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