The Enemy Within
There was a nearly imperceptible hiss and the door closed behind the aspirants. With its closure, all light from the corridor outside was quenched. The only light in the cold flagstone chamber came from servo-skulls bearing candles hovering by the shoulder of each of the assembled boys, and circling above the giant of a man that stood behind them clad in baroque armor of jet black. Occasionally, the light would catch an engraving on the flagstone walls of the room, but never well enough to make out the markings to the unaided eye.
“Your final trial,” intoned the bass voice of the Chaplain from behind the aspirants. A pair of glowing eyes pierced the darkness beyond, and the distinct sound of heavy footfalls and the scrape of steel manacles on the flagstone floor echoed. The aspirant at the fore of the group, Varnus, found his breath catching in his throat, and his heart rate increasing.
After several moments, the footfalls and the scraping stopped, and another giant man, clad in a simple robe stood before the aspirants. His hands and ankles were bound by massive chains, though he was free to walk and could outstretch his arms. They were very obviously symbolic more than practical. In one hand, he bore a set of obsidian beads, ending in a small, horned, golden skull. The Astartes spoke quietly, in a voice starkly contrasting the stern Chaplain’s. “Who is first?”
Varnus stepped forward. The Librarian outstretched his free hand, and placed it on Varnus’ forehead. There was a flash of light from the psyker’s palm, and Varnus found himself no longer standing in the cold chamber in the Librarius. He and the Librarian, who was now clad in royal blue armor, but still bearing the heavy steel manacles, stood alone on a mountaintop.
“I am Erias, and I am a witch,” said the Librarian softly. “You are Varnus, Aspirant of the Lions Rampant Chapter.” Varnus nodded, looking around. Warm fog swirled about both of them, and he could see little past it.
“Where are we?” asked Varnus.
“You tell me,” replied Erias. “You are in control here.” Varnus appeared confused, and looked up at the tired features of the Librarian. “We are in your mind,” explained the witch.
“What am I supposed to do, Brother Erias?” asked Varnus, finding no sign of anything other than endless swirling mists, the distinctive thin air of a mountaintop, and the stone beneath his feet.
“What do you think you are capable of, Varnus? Shall we see?” said Erias.
Varnus found himself now standing on broken earth, churned mud saturated with the blood of slain men before him. He felt larger, and stronger, and distinctly powerful. He became aware of the weight of a sword in his hands. He looked up, and men fled before him. Varnus felt a fire building within him, and without consciously trying, he outstretched one of his hands, and cerulean lightning leapt forth from his fingertips. One of the men fleeing from him was struck squarely in the back and instantly reduced to little more than ash.
Varnus became distinctly aware of himself being disembodied, and saw himself from several yards away. Horns jutted from his brow, and his eyes glowed an unnatural color. He continued throwing psychic lightning, contemptuously slaughtering those who stood before him in witchfire. He moved with inhuman speed, and his shadow appeared to move of its own accord behind him. Everything about this version of himself was utterly monstrous and plainly wrong.
“I don’t understand,” said Varnus.
“This is your soul,” said Erias. “Mine is little different. It is unnatural. It is flawed. It is dangerous.” The vision ended, and the pair stood alone on the mountaintop again. Several moments passed, and Erias spoke again. “Do you understand what will happen now?”
Varnus felt his stomach knotting. He pushed down the growing rage and disbelief at what the Librarian had shown him. “I am not like you,” said Varnus, voice wavering.
“I wish things were different, Varnus,” said Erias. “I will tell you what I tell all who come before me like this—you are innocent. You are dangerous. But you are innocent. You have not become that monster you saw, and soon, Chaplain Loren will ensure you never do. Had you only endured the trials of the Black Ships, and not come before us like this, perhaps you would have found a place amongst these weary ranks of the Librarius.”
“Why does it matter?” snapped Varnus. “You can’t know the future! What does it matter if I might be able to do the things you showed me?”
The mists surrounding Varnus and Erias faded, and a sky the color of freshly-spilled blood appeared. Winged monsters swept across it, gnawing at men and women clutched in gore-slicked talons. The thunderclap of bolter fire punctuated the relative silence of the mountaintop. It came from white-armored Astartes, trimmed in green—Lions Rampant. But their helmets were horned, and the trim was irregular and ended in arrows and spikes. At their fore was the same twisted version of Varnus, clad in similar armor. Great, leathery wings came from his back, and he towered over the other Astartes. Great lightning strikes flew from his hands, and before them, men bearing the Aquila on their breasts perished.
“This is why it matters,” said Erias, shaking his head. “This is one of several possible futures. But in every one, you are a witch, just as I,” he said. “Here, you have damned us all. Though you have not yet done anything wrong, we cannot risk this becoming so.”
The vision of hell ended. The mountaintop faded, and Varnus became distinctly aware of the glow from Erias’ palm receding. He found himself standing in the chamber in the Librarius, covered in a cold sweat. Warding runes glowed on the walls, stifling the psychic energy unleashed moments before. Erias looked to the Chaplain, quietly said, “There is psychic potential,” and then looked down at the flagstone floor.
Varnus turned around, and found the Chaplain’s bolt pistol leveled at his forehead. “The Emperor forgives you,” said Chaplain Loren, and pulled the trigger.
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Last edited by The Son of Horus; 12-11-12 at 12:34 PM.