New chapter. As always, the next chapter is up on my P-a-t-r-e-o-n, here: h*t*t*p*s :/ w*w*w . p*a*t*r*e*o*n user - ? - u = 52718582 (remove the spaces and stars)

Ahzek and Ohrzmud Ahriman both looked visibly nervous. From the reports, the Emperor knew that they were both brave, clever and accomplished soldiers, who had distinguished themselves well in campaigns so far. Right now, they were clad not in the simple iron-grey armour of a Space Marine, but simple white robes as they both knelt on the marble floor of his private training hall.

But anyone would be a little nervous at being abruptly summoned by himself for a private meeting.

"Your Majesty," They both said, kneeling.

"Rise," The Emperor bade them with a wave of his hand. "I have a task for both of you."

They both stood. They were both seven feet tall, as large and muscular as any Space Marine could be expected to be, but against the cavernous hall in which they stood, buried deep in Bai-heng but still easily able to accommodate a thousand men and more, they seemed small.

Both of them were silent for a moment, clearly hesitating, before Ohrzmud spoke. "What is it you wish of us, sire?"

Ahriman maintained a stoic demeanour, but the Emperor could feel his embarrassment and frustration with his twin for being so bold.

A spark of amusement stirring in his breast, the Emperor spoke. "I wish for you to demonstrate your knowledge and skill in psychic techniques to me. Hold nothing back, no matter what damage it might do."

He could feel their confusion and surprise at the command. He had been the one to provide the first basic lessons to the psykers among the Space Marines, after all. And while new aspirants had come through whom he had not personally tutored, these two had been among the very first.

Nevertheless, they were both well-indoctrinated and so turned to obey without question.

"Well, this should be interesting." Isha's voice came in his ear, though the Emperor gave no visible reaction to it. "They both seem talented."

After so long, it felt odd to wear an earpiece again, but he needed some way to communicate with Isha while she and Malcador watched a video feed of this training session from his office. They could just have spoken mind to mind, but the Emperor wasn't ready for that just yet.

The hall they were in belonged to him, though in truth, he had not visited it for decades until today, not since he had personally tutored Valdor and the first hundred Custodians in the arts of war. These days, it was exclusively for the training of his Golden Ten Thousand, though they had cleared out for the moment on his command.

Ahzek and Ohrzmud began with the basics, both of them conjuring fireballs and holding them in their palms. Then, they hurled the fireballs into the air, where they expanded and twisted, becoming streams of flame that flowed through the air. They even directed the flames at each other, dangerously close but never enough to do any actual damage.

Such a display would likely have done tremendous damage anywhere else, but not here, in this cavern.

He had carved out it personally and layered many wards and protections around it, there was no worry that the twins would damage anything beyond repair. Even if they did, it would be easy to fix it.

"Not bad," Isha remarked in his ear. "Nothing exceptional, but a decent enough start."

He felt a flicker of nervousness from the twins at his silence even as he watched them intently, but they didn't let it affect their performance. Instead, they dispelled the flames and began sparring instead, augmenting their physical abilities with the Warp.

It was a superb display of martial ability, a dance as much as it was a spar and a testament to their excellent training.

But as he watched, the Emperor felt his sense of unease grow.

Twelve hours later, the assessment ended and the twins both knelt in front of the Emperor once more, silently awaiting his judgement.

"Well, this will not do," Isha murmured. She had been unusually quiet, and the Emperor was surprised she had not commented more. But she was not wrong.

He said nothing of that to the kneeling Space Marines, however. Instead, he chose his words carefully.

"This is the general extent of what you can do, I take it? I understand there are more techniques in your arsenal, of course. But this is the pinnacle of your control and precision, I take it."

"Yes, Lord Emperor," Ahriman confirmed.

That was what he had been afraid of.

The twins had tensed, clearly expecting some sort of reprimand, but the Emperor simply sighed. "You are dismissed." He said. "Speak of this to no one. If anyone asks, tell them I have decreed that this is a secret."

"As you command." The twins said, bowing once more before leaving. They were both nervous and bemused, emotions that not even the hypno-indoctrination could stamp them out completely.

But the Emperor paid little attention to it, waiting only for them to leave before he stepped through the Warp to return to his office. Malcador was seated in his usual chair, while Isha was sitting cross-legged on the floor instead. They had been both looking at the holographic projection of the training hall on his desk, but their gaze shifted to him the insant he appeared.

When Isha opened her mouth to speak, the Emperor raised a hand. "I know," He said wearily. "They are not ready."

Isha seemed faintly surprised at his quick acknowledgement, which was a little offensive. "Indeed they are not." She agreed.

The twins were both powerful and talented, wielding the powers of the Immaterium with amazing deftness for those with such little knowledge and training.

But therein lay the problem.

They had taken the basic lessons he had imparted to heart, but from there, they had been fumbling in the dark. Trying to refine their abilities without violating his rules of not delving too deep into the Warp.

Despite their talent, they most certainly did not have the discipline and skill to use psychic navigation techniques. Not because they were incapable of it, but simply because their grasp of the fundamentals was too lacking to even begin to learn.

And the Ahriman twins were both Space Marines he had personally tutored, and geniuses in their own right. Outside of Malcador, they were likely the most capable psykers in the Imperium.

There would be perhaps a handful equal to them, and none better. Most would be inferior.

Isha was right, this would simply not do.

Taking his seat, the Emperor switched off the projector before focusing on Malcador. "If we are to use psykers as navigators, we must give them a stronger foundation to build from first. We will need to draw up a new educational program for psykers, and retrain all those in our service."

"Of course," Malcador said, his gaze turning thoughtful as he considered it. "We will need a campus, of course. I will give orders for its construction immediately. The existing facilities can serve temporarily, but we will need more." The Sigillite snatched a dataslate from the table and began inputting commands, his mind already awhirl with ideas and plans.

The Emperor nodded. The current training programs for Imperial psykers were limited by design, but they would no longer serve.

"I can help," Isha offered. "I know several basic psychic techniques to help control and discipline, which I can teach you and then can be taught to your psykers."

"Thank you, Isha," The Emperor nodded. Eldar techniques would indeed be very useful in training more psykers.

"Of course. But if I may…I do not understand why the psychic techniques being used by those two were so crude. I thought you had personally tutored them before." Isha ventured.

The question was a valid one, but even so, the Emperor wished he didn't have to answer it.

"Psykers are dangerous," He told Isha. "And yes, I am aware of how that sounds coming from me. But many were the horrors unleashed by psychic warlords during the Age of Strife. You know some of them, of course."

"Kalagann," Isha murmured.

"Yes," The Emperor agreed. "And while Kalagann stood out for his immense power and intelligence, he was by no means alone. Most psykers during the Age of Strife fell to Chaos, and even now, the Warp remains far too dangerous. I felt it best to keep their training specialized, to ensure their ability to do harm was limited even if they fell."

Of course, what he didn't want to admit right now was Imperium was always going to need psykers on a larger scale eventually. Even before Isha had come along and opened this path to him, he would have had to train psykers as Astropaths at the very least, to connect his empire as it spread across the stars.

During the Golden Age, humanity had opened microscopic Warp portals to broadcast information across interstellar distances, but such devices were far too dangerous now.

But he had intended for Astropaths to be specialized, able to serve in their intended role but do nothing that could be a threat. They would be soul-bond to him, and the cornerstone of their training, of the training of all psykers in the Imperium, would be that they should never delve too deep into the Warp.

But navigation, by its very nature, required the ability to look deep into the Warp for extended periods of time.

Imperial psykers would require more comprehensive training and a better foundation to build on to even begin to learn navigation.

Even so, part of him baulked at the idea of trusting ordinary humans or even Space Marines with knowledge of the psychic arts. He remembered the psychic warlords of the Old Night all too well. Kalagann had been dead for less than a decade, and the memories of his empire were hard to forget.

The Lord of Ursh had industrialized ritual sacrifice, feeding millions of souls to his forges. He had shackled daemons to his will and bound them to great machines to serve him. As weapons to be pointed at an enemy, as sources of power, or even as pets. Other mortal psykers had either been conscripted into service or had their souls devoured by Kalagann himself. He had courted the favour of the Four, who had found his cruelty and ingenuity entertaining, and blessed him with power and forbidden knowledge.

Ursh was a testament to both the ingenuity and cruelty of humanity and what psykers in particular could do if allowed to run rampant.

Isha must have seen something on his face that he had not intended because her expression turned sympathetic. Her ability to read him was truly annoying sometimes. "I understand, sire. We should continue work on the dreamstones, then."

"Yes." The Emperor agreed, even as he felt a flash of irritation at the mention of dreamstones. Even after a week, he was struggling to create one.

It was childish to be so impatient, he knew, but he was still annoyed at his inability to master this as swiftly as he had mastered everything else.

And yet, part of him was also excited by the challenge.

"It might help to test the dreamstones with psykers who are not Malcador?" Isha suggested. "Just to begin with."

Malcador said nothing, continuing typing on the dataslate, but the Emperor could sense the tension lurking just below the facade.

"No," The Lord of Terra told Isha. "Outside of emergencies, I would prefer that the only dreamstones used by human psykers are my own."

"As you wish," Isha said, disappointed but unsurprised.

A part of the Emperor did want to begin distributing Isha's dreamstones to the psykers. They were dangerous, and every barrier between them and the madness of the Warp was a good thing.

But he could not risk it. It would delay his plans, but Malcador was correct, he would have to wait until he could make dreamstones of his own.

For a moment, he was tempted to discard the plan entirely, as being too risky. Simply use Isha's methods for creating Navigators and bring the existing clans into line.

But that carried its own risks. It would be centuries yet before he could fully devote his attention to taking control of the Webway, and even once he could, it would take centuries more merely to establish a foothold.

He could not afford for the Imperium to be solely reliant on the Navigators, not when there were other options available now.

At the very least, he needed to see if using psykers as navigators was viable. Perhaps, in the end, he would have to discard the idea, but it had to be explored first, if nothing else.

It wasn't ideal, but things had been not ideal more most of ten thousand years now, and he had made worse, more dangerous choices than this.