In Search of Peace

4.58/5 (3)

The heavy bolter thunders, eye-smiting flares belching from the barrel, the grips skinning palms already red-raw and slicked with blood. The fusillade is devastating; her skull throbs, her eyes burn like a house fire. Target acquisition is impossible.

It hardly matters. The corridors of the Verdict of Terra are tight and the bolter well-fed, hardly fired before the death of its previous owner. The charred smell of her fallen Sister mingles with the acrid smog of weapons’ discharge. Keight suppresses a gag.

The enemy advances with inhuman tenacity, metal deathsheads lurching from the industrial gloom like nightmares from a children’s story. She mows them down, but they are unrelenting. Wholly devoted to this crusade of death.

The irony is not lost on her, though she is quick to trample the realisation with hymn:

‘By His light, I seek my enemies! In His name, I do smite them! I am Adepta Sororitas, His might made manifest! We do not waver! We do not falter! We stand in His name, an eternal bulwark against the darkness…’

An energy bolt strikes her shoulder, a sharp-tongued debater keen to prove the falseness of her words. She screeches at the touch of the liquefied ceramite, and in the throes of agony her aim fails. Explosive rounds impact the walls. Something erupts, a dull whump of sound and a brilliant flash that takes her vision and footing both. She is shoved back, weightless. It feels like ascension. She smiles. Her heels clatter together, a phantom rhythm that has followed her since girlhood.

Papa, swaying from the rafters like some limp puppet, the beams protesting the weight of his decision, even as the heels of his shoes dance in celebration. And, there is the message left for her, penned by the lingering ghost of a smile:

‘Find your peace.’

How fitting to find it now, she thinks, at the end of everything.


The water is a black canvas painted with moonlight and the shapes of bodies breaking its surface.

Graela floats beside her, a tangle of gangly limbs and wintry hair. Her fingers clasp Keight’s, tethering them. The night is cold, the stone of the fountain colder still, but Graela’s nearness keeps her warm. She is, Keight imagines, like a star herself: bright and full of radiant energy. Keight closes her eyes, the staccato of swaying heels absent in the presence of beating hearts and measured breaths.

‘Do you think they’ll place us together?’ Graela asks.

‘I don’t know.’

‘I suppose we’ll have to graduate first.’

Eyes open, Keight sees the smile in Graela’s celestial gaze. ‘I know you will,’ Graela adds. ‘They’ll write songs of your deeds, I’m certain.’

She ripples —- not at the teasing, but the misunderstanding and the memories it conjures. ‘I’ve no wish to be remembered.’

Graela’s hand squeezes. ‘I know,’ she replies. ‘But I will do so, anyways. No matter where life takes us, I’ll always cherish you, Keight.’

‘I know…’ It borders on admission, one that leaves Keight feeling terribly known. It frightens her. Graela cannot know. Her heart is soft, wrought from the kind of infectious love that could bridge the divide Keight has cultivated.

She reminds herself those proffered feelings of peace are ephemeral; like this moment, they will erode against the unrelenting cruelty of existence, and the loss will only weaken her. Her path requires strength, lest she make her father’s mistake. Graela is not unlike a flask of water, necessary to continue. But she must never mistake the flask for an oasis.

No matter how tempting.


She snaps awake to a thousand pains, but none so greater than the realisation that she is still alive.

With suffering, however, comes clarity: The suffocating tomb of the corridor is replaced by the graciousness of space and the beauty of stained armaglass. The ship’s cathedral.

Why am I still here?

‘Keight!’ Graela is a rush of colour in the flickering dark; she falls upon Keight like starlight, gentle and warm. ‘I thought I’d lost you.’

Keight keeps silent, even as screams tear her apart inside. It is some time before she feels she can speak without compromising herself.

‘The necrons…’ She prepares to move. She will not be denied her peace.

‘They’ve gone.’


Graela bows her head. ‘Oh, Keight. It all happened so fast…’

Her friend’s voice breaks, but not for her. It draws Keight to attention.

‘What happened, Grae?’

‘Terra is gone,’ she whispers. ‘The boarding was a distraction. They deployed a weapon —- I don’t know. One minute, Terra was there, the next… nothing.’ She dries her eyes on a blood-crusted sleeve. ‘We were knocked off-course, critically damaged. When it was over, I went looking for survivors, found you in the access corridor…’

Keight hardly hears her. ‘No.’

Against Graela’s protests, Keight surges to her feet and confronts the unnatural darkness at the cathedral’s edge. A space devoid of stars… of rightness. The armaglass is cold to the touch, like fountain stone, or a death-shrouded hab.

In that instant, her barrier crumbles, and she reveals herself. ‘No no no… I earned this! You can’t do this to me, you can’t!’


‘Don’t!’ She flinches from Graela’s touch. From the warmth. Tears burn her eyes. ‘I just wanted peace, like papa. But I was good, I never strayed like him. I proved my faithfulness. He can’t deny me this!’

The bolt pistol is in her hand. She doesn’t remember drawing it. But she feels it, pressing against her chin.


‘Why?’ She sobs. ‘Nothing matters now.’

‘That’s not true,’ Graela is a shape, surfacing from black canvas. ‘The Imperium may be lost, but we are still here.’ Her smile is fractured, yet radiant. ‘We can make our own peace, with the time we have. Let us make it together.’

Graela extends her hand. A tether. She is hardly changed by all these years. By this. A star eternal, burning bright in the abyssal dark.

The gun trembles. Keight closes her eyes.

‘Make your peace.’

Warmth floods her.

About the Author

Vince Salamone, is a US-based author of speculative fiction. From 2019 to 2020, he was a frequent contributor to the Kyanite Press Journal of Speculative Fiction. By day he’s a supervisor of man and machine at a print shop; in-between, he freelances for BookLife as a critical assessor, while finding time to work on his own stories, and sling paint at an ever-expanding pile of miniatures. He got into the hobby (and 40k) during lockdown, and hasn’t looked back since. Also, iguanas are the best.