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Literature / Dark Heresy

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A series of novels written by Sandy Mitchell based on Warhammer 40,000's pen and paper roleplaying game Dark Heresy. The novels star the "signature characters" used by the Dark Heresy rulebook for its gameplay examples: former arbitrator Mordechai Horst, tech-priest Hybris Vex, sanctioned psyker Elyra Yivor, Redemptionist assassin Keira Sythree, and guardsmen Danuld Drake and Vos Kyrlock.

So far, two novels, Scourge the Heretic and Innocence Proves Nothing, have been released. A third book was obviously planned to clean up the plot threads left hanging by Innocence Proves Nothing, but something seems to have happened and there's been no word on it, even though it's been four years.


The novels provide examples of:

  • Badass Boast: Keira uses one to force a psyker out of her mind.
    Keira: "If you know me, then you know I will kill you. I am Keira Sythree, and I am death, and the hand of the Emperor Himself. You are nothing, and you are dust, and you are dead!"
  • Badass Creed: Keira again - after being subjected to an Emotion Bomb and failing to mute the emotions, she latches to the rage and channels it with her old Redemptionist litanies.
    He is blood and He is fire and He is vengeance incarnate. The Emperor is all, the Emperor is pure, and every last trace of the sin that stains His galaxy will be swept away so that the righteous can bask in His radiance forever.
  • Berserk Button: Keira's is impiety (usually in the form of Drake's off-color sense of humor), though most of the time circumstances force her to restrain herself when the button is pressed, rather than giving in to her murderous instincts.
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  • Blue Blood
  • Call to Adventure: Drake and Kyrlock. Their world Sepheris Secundus was recruiting for a Guard Regiment, and Drake was an experienced member of the Royal Scourges who decided he would rather be seeing the wider galaxy, while Kyrlock was a woodsman who got pinched for tax dodging and given the choice between being hanged or military service. The two quickly formed an Odd Friendship and were subsequently placed on guard detail for one of Sepheris's military facilities. They were on patrol when it was attacked by a mystery force which was well equipped, elite, and organized, and a mob of captive psykers got loose. The fact that they were resourceful and skilled enough to survive the chaos got them picked up into the Angelae.
  • Cast Speciation: The reason almost all of Quillem's team dies in the second book. The casualties' skills overlap almost perfectly with some of the Angelae.
  • Chainsaw Good: Kyrlock's signature weapon is a chainaxe, which he wields with surprising dexterity.
  • Color-Coded Patrician: Red is strictly reserved for royalty on Secunda. Keira, who always wears red because she considers red a holy colour, gets around this by buying red underwear. Probably - from any other person, this would sound like a joke, but she isn't in the habit of joking about her faith.
  • Dark Action Girl: Keira, a Sociopathic Hero though she's growing out of it and trained assassin, who serves as The Big Guy of the team due to her expertise in close combat.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tech-priest Vex, occasionally. The rest of the time he's just deadpan.
  • Deliver Us from Evil: In Innocence Proves Nothing Jenie lies to inquistorial agents, claiming she can lead them into the tunnels. After her ruse is discovered, she reveals that she was desperate to escape: as a Gatherer of Diversity, her duties are to whore herself out to passenger and get pregnant, so that her sons will be raised by other castes (to introduce new genes to the gene pool) and her daughters will become Gatherers, too, and she is pregnant and wants better for her daughter. The Knight Templar Kiera is awed at someone being brave enough to lie to the inquisition to escape her sinful life.
  • Delusions of Eloquence: The older of the two watchmen Kyrlock chats with briefly in the lower levels of Hive Tarsus in Innocence Proves Nothing. If he uses a word with more than three syllables, it's the wrong one.
    First Watchman: Delegated to meet your acquiescence, your worship. How may we be of assurance?
    Kyrlock: I want directions to Lower Chrysoprase. Fifty-third level, south terrace.
    First Watchman: Ah, that's alimentary from here. Deduct your steps to the temple yard, and you'll see Chrysoprase from the South Present. Across the causistry to your left, and you'll arraign at the fifty-second littorel, one down from your destitution.
    Second Watchman: You won't find many of the scholastical gentlemen there at this time of night, though.
    Kyrlock: Not a problem, I'm not after any of the scholastical gentlemen. Just the one.
    First Watchman: Would that be one particulate indivisible, sir, or by way of a germane inquiry?
  • Demonic Possession: Exploding bodies, rogue psykers, and tentacled not-quite-physical monstrosities all seem to add up to a string of possessions. The victims were actually inhabited by Enslavers, a distinct breed of Warp entity that also has the potential to threaten entire worlds. Exterminatus was necessary in one large-scale infestation.
  • Driven to Suicide
  • The Enemys Weapons Are Better: The pilot of Faxlignae's Tau gunship thinks its beyond anything Imperials ever came up with.
  • Emotion Bomb: Keira experiences a multi-emotional one at the climax of the first novel. After her attempts at muting the emotions with the techniques of the Collegium Assassinorum don't work, she embraces a strand of rage and channels it via her Redemptionist Credo. Cue Curb-Stomp Battle, at least for the most part.
  • Fake Defector
  • Fantastic Caste System: Shipboard in Innocence Proves Nothing. Each caste or guild has a distinct role aboard the Misericord, along with traditions that make no sense to outsiders. Like the officer caste's masks or the Stewards being forbidden to speak to passengers (or anyone else, for that matter).
  • Feudal Future: Scourge the Heretic takes place virtually entirely on Sepheris Secundus. The gap between the nobility and the serfs on this planet is wide even by Imperial standards, the world is technologically barely above Medieval Stasis, and yet is tithed more heavily than most worlds in the sector, for its minerals are quite valuable. While most serious mining worlds in the Imperium use powered mining tools and explosives for excavation, Sepheris has to get by on hand tools and backbreaking labor. While most populated worlds give their population some Bread and Circuses, the serfs on Sepheris get more work. While other Imperial citizens get to go to temples to worship, the Sepheris serfs get yelled at by lay-preachers while they push heavy mining carts. While other Imperial commoners have some flexibility in how they choose to serve the God-Emperor, vocation on Sepheris is determined exclusively by birth. The one time a local noble did try to introduce more advanced mining techniques, education, and progressive social restructuring, he was brought down by other nobles who thought he was making a power-play.
  • The Fundamentalist: Keira, by her Redemptionist upbringing. Her training has allowed her to "focus her zeal" so she can keep perspective on the big picture, going after the "bigger fish" instead of wanting to smite every sinner she encounters. Her own coming of age and experience begin to soften her views somewhat, a development that causes her no end of confusion.
  • Giant Wall of Watery Doom: Horst and Vex narrowly avoid being flattened by one in the first novel, an event that gives Horst nightmares long after the fact. The Angelae use one to kill a powerful rogue psyker in the second novel.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Horst and Drake end up playing this role respectively when talking to an aristocrat, without Horst being aware it was going to happen. Drake explains afterwards that in the rigidly stratified Secundan society, politeness is deference, and being rude gets far better results than simply being from the Inquisition, so he had to be snotty enough for them both.
  • Good Shepherd: Keira runs into a young priest who tries to be an example of this trope in Innocence Proves Nothing, but he comes off as well-intentioned and simple-minded.
  • Green-Eyed Monster
  • Groin Attack: Elyra shoots a thug in the crotch with her laspistol when he tries to rape Zusen.
  • Gunship Rescue: The Tau gunship used to attack the psyker prison on Sepheris Secundus, and to rescue the surviving wyrds at the end of Innocence Proves Nothing. Hey, the bad guys need a Gunship Rescue every once in a while too, y'know.
  • Happily Married: Lord and Lady Tonis. They even commit suicide together.
  • I Was Never Here: After Drake and Vex kill two rogue psykers onboard the Misericord, Drake flashes an Inquisition rosette and orders some ship security officers to dispose of the bodies and invent a cover story. They'll need one because he and Vex were never there.
  • The Infiltration
  • Insufferable Genius: The Navigator aboard Inquisitor Grynner's ship.
  • "Join the Army," They Said: The first time we meet Drake, he's complaining about his decision to join the Guard.
  • Knight Templar: Keira. And she used to be worse.
  • May–December Romance: Keira and Horst. Keira is explicitly described as a teenager, while Horst is probably at least in his early thirties (given his level of experience both as an arbitrator and as the leader of the Angelae cell).
  • Military Moonshiner: Kyrlock got some alcohol from one.
  • The Men First
  • Moment Killer: Keira and Horst are discussing certain feelings they're unsure of how to act on, hinting that they know these feelings are mutual, and are just about to confess their attraction to the other when Vex barges in to announce he's made a breakthrough.
  • Nice to the Waiter: During her "bratty princess" disguise, Keira is nice to the servants, which is nearly unheard-of in that planet's society and gets her a lot of gratitude from them.
  • Oblivious to Love: Keira and Horst, mutually. Keira, due to her strict Redemptionist upbringing, and Horst who is too much of a By-the-Book Cop to start something with one of his subordinates.
  • Pet the Dog: Kyrlock's interactions with Zusen; even though she's a rogue psyker, and therefore makes his skin crawl, Kyrlock puts up with her clinginess and goes out of his way to be nice to her. Zusen's an empath, so she realizes exactly what's going on, and she appreciates the effort.
  • Playful Hacker: Vex is decidedly not playful, but this is one of his major skills.
  • Playing with Fire: Elyra is a pyrokine.
  • Power of Trust: Elyra and Kyrlock both pull this on the other.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Innocence Proves Nothing includes a semi-explicit example when Elyra reminisces on the last night which she spent with another psyker who used his telekinetic powers in somewhat... interesting ways.
  • Punny Name:
  • Princess for a Day: Keira, as part of a plot to infiltrate a suspected Chaos cult.
  • Psychic Powers: Inquisitor Finurbi and Elyra are both sanctioned psykers, and much of the plot revolves around finding and countering rogue psykers.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Our heroes, the Angelae.
  • Reverse the Polarity: Happens to a mad psyker at the first book's climax, unintentionally and catastrophically.
  • Right Hand vs. Left Hand: Inquisitor Finurbi invokes Special Conditions at the end of the first novel, essentially giving orders to his Angelae not to trust anyone else from the Inquisition. This leads to a lot of tension later on when two other Inquisitors actively attempt to offer their assistance. As it turns out, Finurbi was right to be worried, as the leader of Faxlignae on the Tau gunship turns out to be a fourth Inquisitor.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Keira. Who's a teenager. But she's playing a woman over a century old.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: Keira, whose Redemptionist upbringing taught her that in no uncertain terms that Sex Is Evil (referring to it has Lustful Thoughts, in capitals, every time). When she develops a crush on Horst, is leaves her very confused. It's doesn't help her that her standard clothing is a stealth bodyglove that leaves little of her gorgeous figure to the imagination (especially Horst's).
  • Snipe Hunt: An elderly librarian in Innocence Proves Nothing assumes Keira has been sent on one when she asks for information on Demonic Possession of techpriests, something previously established as practically unprecedented.
  • Spy Catsuit: Keira spends most of her time in a chameleonic synskin bodysuit.
  • Stealth Pun Shout-Out: Not terribly stealthy, but Carolus is Latin for Charles, making the Angelae... Reinforced by the fact that "Finurbi" is Latin or at least Dog Latin for "Townsend". (Of course, since the author is Sandy Mitchell, we were expecting no less.)
    • There's another one: Inquisitor Jorge Grynner (Ordo Xenos) is a reference to George Smiley. Smiley has a protege named Peter Guillam; Grynner has Pieter Quillem. And Grynner shares Smiley's habit of polishing his eyeglasses with his necktie.
    • And slightly shady bar owner Muon in Innocence Proves Nothing.
    • Still another: the xenos-tech-collecting organization that seems, to Inquisitor Grynner, to be behind all this is the Faxlignae — High Gothic for "Torchwood."
    • Inquisitor Karnaki of the Ordo Malleus may be a reference to Carnacki the Ghost-Finder, occult detective in a series of short stories from the early 1900s. Supporting this is the inquisitor's reference to bringing his "plasma pentacle"; the detective sometimes used an "electric pentacle" in his investigations.
    • And who can forget Danuld Drake?
    • Rufio, an assassin who works for Inquisitor Grynner, uses poisonous janus thorns as a weapon. Coincidentally, Janis thorns were favoured by Leela, a companion of the Fourth Doctor.
    • Mention is made of a fictional detective by the name of Chastener Domus. Domus being Latin for "Home"...
    • At the end of a haggling session selling stolen jewelry for fifty thousand thrones, Elyra negotiates her cut to 40 K.
    Has a nice ring to it.
  • Talking in Your Dreams
  • Team Mom: Elyra.
  • Token Minority: Tech-priest Vex has dark-colored skin, a detail mentioned once in each book.
  • Tsundere: Keira is a particularly dangerous Type A — she's an assassin and a Redemptionist, so when she's feeling tsuntsun, she kills you.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The Angelae spend most of the first novel and all of the second split up into at least two separate groups.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: In Innocence Proves Nothing, the Angelae never quite get around to informing the reader exactly how they plan to defeat a powerful rogue psyker that can dodge all of their attacks. As it turns out, they do so by dumping an entire lake on him.
  • Urban Segregation: A particularly egregious example is the setting of the first book, in which the city's wealthy and nobility live in a city made largely of stained glass suspended by gigantic chains over a valley. The poor and working class are mostly miners who live in that valley, which is barren but for the scattered settlement and plentiful industrial detritus.
  • UST:
    • Between Elyra and Inquisitor Finurbi, Keira and Horst, and Keira and Drake.
    • Drake realises that it's impossible to resolve his end of it with Keira, since it's obvious to him that Keira likes Horst, and also that he's not stupid enough to even try anything sexual with her. By the time of Innocence Proves Nothing, the Keira/Drake UST has mostly dissipated.
  • Vader Breath: Vex's respirator unit doesn't work very well, so he's constantly having to fine-tune it, and most of the time he's wheezing and battling a persistent cough. Ironically, the one time his respirator does work properly is when the Angelae are storming a burning mansion, so Vex is able to breathe perfectly fine while everyone else is coughing and choking.
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": Keira, when undercover as a noble, makes up a story about how she hates the inquisition, which involved them killing her pet horse. As a symptom of her UST with Horst, she chooses his name for the horse, which of course leaves her questioning why she chose his name of all things.


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