62. Farewell

After the midday prayer, Titus was picked up by two keepers to renew his oath. They were Allarion Cumbersant, the one who had fetched him the first time and Petrus Calesar. Titus had to smile when they introduced themselves. It was a strangely personal touch for the Deathwatch. The constant fluctuation of members made it hardly worth learning new names and faces.
The repetition of the oath was a lot like the first time with only a few adjustments. Chaplain Loor had taken the place of Chaplain Sandris and for the second round, spilling blood was apparently not required. Aegis waited for their sergeant outside. Like last time, the day became a working day again. All participants departed and left to attend their different tasks and duties.
For the kill team, this meant joining the training.
It took place in Erioch’s garbage dump today. Here, difficult terrain was handily combined with bad air and the occasional poisonous fumes. Also, it had more than enough space for the sudden increase of brothers on the station. There were twice as many men here as usual. Most of the comrades were Space Wolves.
Titus had noticed it during the meal. When he saw the fighting packs all over the area now, this circumstance struck him again.
“Did I miss something important?”, he inquired.
“You could say that”, Vyron growled.
“Cadia has fallen”, his brother added. “We’ve got the next fucking Black Crusade rolling through the galaxy.”
Suddenly, the demeanour of his comrades got through to him. The others had been brought up to speed while he had taken his oath. All of them were tense but none more so than the wolves.
“The Jarls call us home”, Vyron informed him. “You understand, right?”, he asked. Never had the brothers been more alike than when they turned to their sergeant now. Bitterness burned in their eyes, righteous wrath darkened their brows. As casual as they liked to act, they had never taken their duty lightly. Now they revealed what it looked like when they were called to war.
Titus nodded.
“I’d expect nothing less.”
“It’s been a year”, Hyron snapped. “The warp storms have interfered with the communication. The last wolves close enough for the transport are in real space now. We’ll leave tomorrow.”
In unison, the twins turned to the training ground and hefted their weapons as if they had spotted the enemy.
“Vox, you stay close, you hear?”, Hyron demanded. “Windstalker almost killed that other librarian this morning.”
“They’re kinda unhappy about psykers right now”, Vyron added.
For a moment, Titus saw something burn in Vox’s eye. A steely pride as if he was willing to take the risk but his features softened presently. He patted each Heartrock on one shoulder guard.
“Thank you, guys”, he said. “Let’s go.”
The training unit featured a conquer and defend mode. Two heavy lumps of scrap metal had to be captured and moved to different stations in the junkyard. Each team could score only once per station and the group with the highest count won. It was a mode well suited to the sheer number of squads. The fact that the lumps could only be dragged by one Space Marine alone, provided an interesting twist.
Like Titus and Vox, Tiberius and Dankwart had missed the morning training to see to their other duties. The apothecary, however, had treated the wounded librarian and drawn his conclusion. He and the twins had a far better grip on the severity of the situation than the two Ultramarines.
They rather sabotaged the endeavours to capture a target than leave Vox exposed.
More than once, sergeant and techmarine found themselves alone and forced to retreat before they could capture the disputed object.
This way, it took several hours before the presence of a psyker had come to the attention of enough Space Wolves to coordinate an attack. Unfortunately, it also caused the severely annoyed Ultramarines to be out of reach when it happened.
From one moment to the next, Titus and Tiberius were cut off by snarling Space Wolves who crawled out from under piles of garbage.
They fought for higher ground to provide cover but too late.
The others had held an advantageous position but the onslaught of half a dozen squads was too much, even for Aegis. Having gained a pile of rubble, Titus could only just see one of the twins tackling into Vox to get him out of the way of a salve. Something went wrong. Maybe Vox had foreseen the movement and acted on purpose or it was just bad luck. Whatever was the case, they tumbled over each other briefly and then went down the steep flank of a garbage mountain. A ten-strong pack of Space Wolves followed them. The Ultramarines saw Dankwart and the other twin go after them and did their best to take the edge under fire so that no one else would be able to follow or shoot down into the fight. What happened in the chasm escaped their observation.
The next thing they saw was Vox ascending with his jump pack. Titus knew immediately that something was wrong.
His little brother had lost his helmet, his blonde hair flew wildly around his head. The whole picture he presented spoke of wrath. Even the way he landed in the rubble was filled with boundless rage. He drew his training sword and rammed it into the ground, abandoning it there.
“Windstalker!”, they heard him roar. His voice echoed through the space, amplified by his armour.
“That’s Sergeant Windstalker to you”, a dangerous voice replied from behind some cover. The man had added no insult but they all heard it swinging in his tones.
“I challenge you!”, Vox hollered and flung his bolt pistol back to where the sword stuck.
“You do?”, Windstalker inquired and came out behind his cover. He was tall and wiry for a Space Marine. His brown hair was bound back pragmatically, his reddish beard long and unbraided. A black Tattoo covered half his face. While Vox stood before him without weapons, he remained fully armed with his bolter in hand.
“Oh yes, I do”, Vox growled and loosened the connections of his jump pack. Muffled by the uneven terrain, it thudded to the ground.
“Then I’m to choose the weapons”, the Space Wolf informed him casually and delicately slotted a fresh magazine into his bolter. Vox must have invoked some kind of ritual. All other attackers had fallen silent mid destruction frenzy.
“Oh yeah, go ahead”, the librarian snapped with biting sarcasm and strode forward. “Choose something other than fists! I wanna see you live that down afterwards!”
Windstalker went pale. He had hardly time to put his bolter away before Vox was upon him. In fact, Vox’s first attack left him without the ranged weapon. A well placed kick sent it spinning. While the man clearly had expected an attack to his head or belly, this took him by surprise.
The impact of Vox’s forehead on his nose sent him stumbling backwards.
Titus knew to his cost that Vox was a good close range fighter even without a sword but the blind grimness of this onslaught he had never seen before. Had Windstalker found a split second, to collect himself, he would have gotten Vox into a controlled grapple with ease. Usually so very adept at keeping out of harm’s way and waiting for his moment, the black shield now left himself open everywhere. After his initial feint, it was only the sheer rapidity and randomness of his attacks that forced the Space Wolf to retreat.
Both of Aegis’ Ultramarines were watching the proceedings in growing concern.
Regardless of its being in abeyance on Erioch, Titus took his new responsibility as bailsman very seriously and this behaviour was unusual for Vox. The final decision to interfere came when his friend brought his opponent to the ground and still continued his assault. The submissively lifted hand was ignored.
Even though Titus made haste, he was beaten to the fighters by Dankwart. The apothecary had appeared over the edge of the slope a moment ago and went for Vox at a dead run. He tackled into the younger brother and grabbed him, holding his arms down as tightly as he could. Having closed in enough, Titus heard what he repeated to the incoherent friend: “He’s alive Vox. It’s alright. Calm down. He’s alive.”
Vox kept struggling in his grasp. It took seconds on end until his rage subsided. He sagged for a moment. Then he screamed. It was a long, inarticulate roar that seemed to relieve enough of his emotions to enable him to speak again.
“Do you yield!”, he demanded of Windstalker, who had come to his knees again.
The man nodded without lifting his eyes.
Vox patted Dankwart’s hands.
“Lemme go, I’m good”, he claimed. Free of his restraint it was easily apparent that he still vibrated with aggression but he seemed to have a grip on it now.
“I am Vox Draconis of the Deathwatch and my Primarch is Sanguinius!”, he roared for the bystanders to hear. “Space Wolves, who is yours?”
“Leeman Russ!”, the multivoiced reply echoed back to him.
“In the times of betrayal, our fathers stood shoulder to shoulder”, Vox continued and started to walk around. “We all know, these times are not over! The traitors are upon us again! I know the ways of the warp. I walk them every day and you are weary of me for it but I tell you: The best way to give a daemon hell is trust and fraternity! We will not allow them to drive a wedge between us! We will stand as one like our forebears did! Against our might united, the traitors will strike in vain!” Vox spun around to his kneeling opponent. “Deregon Windstalker!”, he snapped. “To your feet!”
Staring at the blonde librarian in slightly weary puzzlement, the man obeyed.
“As the victor of this fight, I send you out to war!”, Vox let him know, still loud enough for everyone else to hear. “I demand that you take your brothers and carry the violence where it belongs: To our common enemy.” He stepped up to the taller man and dropped his voice. “I will never, do you hear me? Never have you rampaging through your own ranks again and I expect you to keep your brothers in line as well. Next time I see you, I will have you at my side, not in my back. Do you understand?”
The bewildered Windstalker needed a moment before he nodded.
“Then we’re good”, Vox conceded and turned away. On his way back to the slope, he collided with Titus. He glared at his sergeant as if he had never seen him before. Carefully he circumvented him and headed for Vyron, who had appeared at the top of the chasm.
“Bloody hell Vox”, the Space Wolf said, his bolter casually balanced on his hip. “Where’d all that come from?”
Vox ignored the question.
“Where is he?”, he wanted to know instead.
“Some blokes took him off.”
Titus and Tiberius needed a moment until they were up to speed. Hyron had been heavily wounded in the melee. A sword strike had cost him an arm and buried itself deeply in his side on top of it. Being stabbed by a second attacker had sent him into hibernation. Vox had deemed him dead and lost his temper about it, resulting in the challenge. Now, the librarian was sitting to one side and stared moodily at the ground while the others explained.
Luckily, it was almost time for prayer. Aegis therefore refrained from reentering the dump yard competition.
Vyron and Titus both sat down beside their psyker.
“It was my fault”, Vox mumbled.
“I’m the leader around here”, Titus pointed out. “Being at fault is my job.”
“I should just have taken another turn in the library.”
“Yeah right”, Vyron sneered and fiddled with his earrings. “It’s your fault. My idiot brothers in blood had nothing to do with it.”
“It was unnecessary”, Vox insisted. “You warned me.”
“I could easily have kept us out of the main fight”, Titus added.
“Oh shut up the pair of you”, Vyron grumbled. “I’ll tell him that you asked after him when he wakes up, yes?”
There was an uncomfortable moment in which they both started to grin sheepishly.
“Yes, please do so”, was their common request.
A moment later, Vox focussed on Vyron.
“What about you?”, he inquired.
“I’m the one still standing”, the Space Wolf chuckled. “Well, sitting… Come on”, he urged after a moment and stood up. “Time for prayer. Big day tomorrow. We’ll write you a postcard when we get to the front.”
“Oh, I’m looking forward to that”, Vox joked. “The colours will be interesting.”
“Of course, it will be a blow for our investigation on Implicit that you are leaving”, Titus joined in.
“Good point. Can’t imagine how you’ll manage without us”, Vyron grinned.
They made their way to the prayer together and spent their free time reminiscing. The shadow of Hyron’s injury and their imminent separation hung over them lightly enough to avoid too much gloom. All in all it turned out to be a pleasant evening and they drew it out a little longer than was strictly allowed. It was Titus who felt the need to point out that he was the one pointing things out now and ordered them to bugger off before someone important would notice.

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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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