It took Titus a moment to decipher the last headline on the list because Vox had blotted a bit. He finally recognized it to be ‘Veritas’. The High Gothic word for truth. As he understood it, it referred to the ability to take glimpses into the future. Apparently, Vox could do this over the span of a few seconds and also, via the tarot. The captain had heard of the first version. It was said that a psyker who could glimpse the future was a fearsome warrior since he could anticipate the tides of battle and react to them before they happened.
‘Which of these skills have you used today?’, he asked, still keeping to High Gothic.
‘Only Sensus in its most basic form.’
“Why?” Titus had long ago accepted that High Gothic also had no feasible single question words and did not let it stop him.
‘We did not need more daemons’, Vox answered simply.
Titus looked at the ceiling and thought. He thought about someone sensing everything connected to the warp. This brought a nuance of speech to mind he had not paid attention to until now.
‘When you told me how Leandros died, you said you did not ‘sense’ him. I had imagined he had approached you outside your vision but the Sensus was meant?’
‘Direction matters not to me’, Vox confirmed. ‘I had the means to notice him and I failed.’
‘Is this why you feel guilt?’
Vox shrugged a bit sadly.
‘When I diverge in attention, people die. I did not sense him and it cost his life. I will try harder next time.’
‘You should. Yet, there is no reason for guilt’, Titus said quietly.
‘Most humbly I wish to point out that this is my matter, not yours.’
‘It is as long as it does not affect me, young friend’, Titus dared to correct him. ‘But it hurts me to lay eyes on you. Let me try and ease your pain!’
Vox stared at him in stunned bewilderment for the translation of his own words and Titus pushed on before he could be interrupted: ‘Leandros did not die corrupted. This was your doing. He died as warrior and you managed to send him home. You made come true all an Astartes could ever want.’
To his astonishment, he saw that these words punched through all of Vox’s defences. A lot harder than he had thought they would too and it dawned on him why this should be the case.
‘I am sorry that this prospect is not for you’, he said quietly.
“Please stop”, Vox managed.
“Of course. I’m Sorry.”
Vox made a strange gesture. A mix between a nod and shaking his head.
“Well, so much for easing the pain. I really messed that up”, Titus said, managing a sheepish smile.
The brother needed a moment to sort himself out.
“I thank you for your intent”, he said wearily. “Most men don’t even try.”
Titus wanted to try again but he was running up against the Codex already. Not supporting any action specifically was one thing but on the subject of familiarity between ranks the Codex was very clear and hard to interpret otherwise. It was plainly forbidden. He tried to return to small talk: “How was Leandros when he was with you? Still all over the Codex?”
“Oh, yes”, Vox said and Titus was relieved that he seemed to relax again. “And he hated me because I was better”, the young man continued. The self-ironic smugness returned to his features. “I always made him quote if he started to annoy me and helped him with the exact wording. Things like that made him livid.”
“I can imagine. How come you are so adept in the Codex by the way? I thought Blood Angels were not overly concerned with it.”
“Well, I’m a librarian. We’re supposed to know stuff.”
“And the other reason?”, Titus prompted with a benign smile.
Vox looked at him calculatingly for a moment.
“Tiberius? Really? Did he do the same or why would you learn the Codex for him?”
Again, the brother hesitated, clearly deciding something.
“No, you misunderstand”, he said quietly. “I learned the Codex from him. When I got to Erioch, it turned out that the words I had learned were rather different from what your Primarch had written. I asked Tiberius to help me go through it. That got a bit out of hand because we both enjoyed it.”
It took him a second to understand this but Titus was stunned when it dawned on him that Vox had just told him something that was protected by his black shield. He felt honoured and also troubled that there should be a chapter that tampered with the Codex Astartes.
Vox continued: “Tiberius hasn’t much he talks about readily. I can’t match him with machines so we talk about the Codex when we find a minute.”
“Talking is something you’re good at…”, Titus said more to himself, glancing down at the paper in his hand. He had talked Leandros away from daemons… Something occurred to him when he thought about Leandros again and he changed back to High Gothic because he felt he still needed more practice.
‘You found Leandros in the forest of Veren, you said. It was the Sensus that enabled you?’
Vox lifted his eyebrows in another acknowledgement of his deductions.
‘You are correct. Sensus can be pushed far if I require it.’
‘And during our travel, it would push through our protection?’
The brother nodded.
‘How is it that the form you used today does not do so?’
Vox thought for a moment.
‘Imagine the difference between chasing and waiting for your prey.’
Titus went on tugging on little details.
‘Twice your height you said reached the Sensus. Why could you see the big daemon from further away?’
‘We use ‘see’ as allegory, but Sensus is seeing, hearing, touching, smelling all at once and more than it. When the daemon reached out, I could sense it.’
‘If it could reach further than you, why did it not break our protection?’, Titus wanted to know.
‘It is not to our knowledge’, Vox said quietly. ‘They only borrow their form when they take shape. What we lay eyes on is not what is there. May I invite you to note our point in time?’
‘By the Emperor, you may! May I refuse to acknowledge it?’
‘It is entirely up to you to acknowledge something or not, captain, but it is getting late and you lost the last sleep.’
Titus noticed that Vox looked tired too and remembered the fight he had seen. Of course, a well-trained Space Marine could go on fighting all day but not on full power in close combat against superior numbers without a second to rest and catch his breath. What he had witnessed, had been perfect focus all the way through. Although he was unable to name the time exactly, he knew that he had used up a lot of ammo. He was certain that it had lasted far longer than any close combat fight he had ever engaged in, even at the peak of his strength. On top of everything else, if Vox really had not employed his ability to foretell the next few seconds, what Titus had seen today was verging on the impossible.
“Come on, captain. You have nothing left to prove today”, Vox said, dropping back into Low Gothic. Maybe he misinterpreted his gaze. Titus asked himself when Vox last had to prove anything but he refrained from this question and stood up to turn off the light. He hesitated for a moment, again looking at the young man intensely.
“If you ever mute your line on me again, little brother, I will make your life an utter misery as only a captain knows how, same chapter or not.”
Vox met his gaze and something glinted in his eyes. Something hard and unforgiving like the prospect of battle.
“I prefer a miserable life for the Emperor over a needless death for your command, captain. So, do your worst.”
“Is that a challenge?”, Titus asked half amused, half affronted and saw the spark in his brother’s glare burn brighter for a moment. He did not fathom what happened inside the librarian’s head at this point but Vox drew a deep breath, closed his eyes for a second and when he spoke again, his voice was quiet and soft.
“I meant it when I said that a distraction could have proved deadly, captain”, he said in a conciliatory tone. “During warp travel I can’t employ my ability to foresee the future. Despite my confident words afterwards, it was a dangerous thing I did. Should your anger originate from concern for me, I ask you to revoke your order and trust that I will not mute myself for lesser reasons.”
“Your insight is quite disconcerting”, Titus said after a long moment. “I might even think you are able to read my mind after all.”
“I wouldn’t have talked back, had I seen your reasons sooner”, Vox answered quietly without meeting his gaze. “Forgive my impertinence.”
“No, I will not”, Titus said as softly as he could. “On the contrary, I ask you to employ it freely when we are alone.”
Vox looked up in surprise and a number of expressions crossed his features. The last one was a kind of sad amusement right before he rubbed his face and stood up. He came over to meet Titus eye to eye at the light switch.
“Look”, Titus said when he had arrived without a word. “The Codex bids us in its opening passage that we shall be free from self-aggrandisement. It’s one of the main rules it bestows on us. I’d like to hear your interpretation but I have always handled it as the imperative to remember that I am fallible. Sometimes, I just need a second opinion and opinion needs thought. I’m prepared to let the occasional lapse pass in exchange for your thoughts.”
“You are kind, captain”, Vox replied friendly. “You honour me.”
Vox grinned. “But look at us! We are getting all soppy for the exhaustion. Let’s get some rest!”
“Says the man who insists on guarding me at all times.”
“Good point! You go to sleep and tomorrow, I can be soppy and you can stop me from it! What do you think?”
“I think you could just sleep as well.”
The librarian smiled, leaned forward and switched off the light. “Captain, believe me, the little respite isn’t worth the risk”, he said into the darkness.
Titus reached out and found the shoulder plate that bore only bare black. What he did not find, however, was anything to say. He settled for patting it a few times before he turned to walk over to the bed.
“Good night, little brother. Get some rest.”
“Good night, captain. May the Emperor guide you through the darkness.”
“What’s the appropriate response to that? I only ever heard it from you.”
Vox was silent for a long time and Titus already assumed that he would not answer because this certainly was something protected by his black shield but then, the friend said quietly: “May He guide us together.”