135. Comrades New and Old

Their friends stayed by no means unaffected by the struggles of their commanders. Most of them approached Titus with careful questions. He had spoken to Vox about it and convinced her that honesty would be their best policy. Only the true reason for their journey to Terra could never be revealed. At first Titus had thought Vox feared to be accused of heresy by her comrades but found out that this was only a minor consideration for her. Instead she was concerned about the ‘ruinous powers’. If their comrades knew what they were bent on doing, passing daemons might have snatched the knowledge from their minds and carried it to the chaos gods.
So, Titus told those who asked what he could and left out most of the details.
It was Dankwart’s guide, Sister Gerneya, who surprised him most pleasantly in this matter. She bluntly asked how she could help after she had gotten the relevant information out of Vox herself. At this point it dawned on Titus that the two female apothecaries in their middle were sanguinary priests as well as.
Since Titus was at a loss in this matter, he asked for her opinion. From this bloomed a longer discussion in which Gerneya proved that she knew how to explore a topic verbally. Where Dankwart listened closely but passively, she phrased questions, offered suggestions and pleasantly moved points along. Having spent several hopeful evenings like this, Titus decided that tangible measures were in order.
He brought up the question of personal apothecaries for Vox and carried his point. When the angel informally asked Dankwart and Gerneya for their willingness to take up this duty, the Blood Drinker fell to his knees and sobbed his confirmation in far more words than they had heard from him in a long time.
The two of them soon had their first mystery to solve: Vox was often dead tired in the evening. Sometimes she had trouble staying awake until Titus had joined her in bed. While they were in real space, this was no problem but in the warp, it could easily get dangerous.
A check on her implants delivered the result that her Catalepsean Node worked normally and should have enabled her to stay awake like usual.
The medical checkup turned up another anomaly, however. Titus had already noticed that Vox had lost weight when he had carried her. It had not merely been the loss of her armour. Vox weighed less than two thirds of what she used to and was supposed to weigh. The seasoned healers figured out that her bone density had dropped dramatically. Vox had lost the next to indestructible bones of an Astartes in exchange for a body light enough to fly. On top of this the loss of her armour meant the cessation of constant nourishment. The amount of food she consumed was not sufficient to keep up her strength.
Within a day of these results, Vox had a feasible meal plan and servants at her disposal who guaranteed that she could eat. It made the situation a little better and to compensate the rest of her fatigue she got into the habit of helping Titus out of his armour instead of waiting for him in bed.
Later he regretted this hasty remedy. They should have pushed on to find the core of the problem but for the moment it was hard enough to get by at all and so they left it.
Yet another problem they had to deal with was that Vox suddenly was slow to learn. Especially when it came to facts about people. Had she once been the first to know personal details about anybody around, she now was greatly unable to take in information. Titus’ good memory partly made up for this depressing deficiency but he quickly found out that accumulating facts was not sufficient and not as easy as he might have thought. Not everybody was ready to share their stories with him. He lacked the ability to turn himself soft and slow and was at a loss as to how to acquire it until he noticed that the women of Aegis and Gladius had it.
Most of them cared for their assigned partner on a deeper level than strict necessity called for and by watching and listening, Titus got an inkling of how they turned their voices low and their stance soothing. How their faces could express silent concern or amusement and how gently lifted eyebrows could replace almost all the questions in the world.
In the tightening circle of their friends, Xavor and Arhia posed a noticeable exception. They quarrelled often while Corven, whose guide had been left on Thetis, alternately appeased or spurred them on. Each of them had already called their right to dispute and both arguments had led to a fight afterwards. Titus had not heard it himself but the word among the comrades was that they had agreed to go straight for violence next time. The group as a whole dreaded the day this would happen, except for Rogan. He merely asked to be informed so he could watch the show.
With the women coming to the fore of his perception, Titus could not help but compare them to their partners.
As he had already ascertained, Dankwart and Gerneya were quite different but complemented their fields of expertise very efficiently. In social context, Gerneya would be the one who spoke but she always kept an eye on Dankwart. This enabled him to communicate with quiet gestures and they both profited from this.
Tiberius’ guide Luriel, was lighter than he was in most respects. In fact the solemn Ultramarine was pleasantly counterweighted by her easy-going nature and ability to talk utter nonsense if the occasion supported it. On the other hand she was just as willing and fully able to go out of her way to accomplish things she deemed important. Like Tiberius, she rarely judged but once a judgement had been rendered, she did not budge from it readily.
Cephaya was even grimmer than Grimfang, hard-shelled and rough and although she was protective of the warriors under her command, she proved reluctant to take anyone’s feelings into consideration. In contrast, this brought Grimfang’s soft spots to the fore. He gave her lead in all respects, supported her and defended all her decisions in front of the others. Yet, Titus overheard them talking in a corner once where he criticised her calmly but without hesitation.
Mohrah was the guide of Tobias Caregar and the two of them were very similar. They both were serious characters, verging on the grave and none of them talked readily. When they participated in any discussion, they usually stood for the unbending faith and trust in the Emperor.
Ignatius and his guide Lairah looked very similar but where he clung to the unyielding necessities in their lives, she was able to see the moments that swirled between them. She was an even better listener than Gerneya, even though she lacked the older sister’s eloquence. Titus grew quite fond of her because she reminded him of a younger version of Vox.
Virenne, the guide of Serebus Rogan, matched her protégé in dark cynicism but was louder and far more cordial than he was. She also had the most infectious, dirty laugh Titus had ever encountered.
Reth, the sister who was the guide for Irdan Yorg, was rather slightly built for a Space Marine and had a strange intensity about her. Her whole body resembled a spring and she mostly seemed to be occupied with ascertaining when to let go and when not. In a conversation she had a very distinct way to pose a statement that usually brought the exchange to a standstill. Apparently aware of this, she had a very distinct way of singling people out she never interrupted. Naturally, this included her saint but strangely it also comprised Arhia, Xavor’s guide. The tall Arhia on her part consistently ignored her as well and there seemed a careful mutuality about this state of affairs.
Apart from the very manageable points of tension, the two squats were pleasant to have around and Titus used their steadily growing cohesion to counterbalance the uncertainty he and Vox had been plunged into.

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Guide Me Through the Darkness by Julia M. V. Warren is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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