I smiled as Xandrek turned to face us, his hands still clasped behind his back. The captain was a fearsome sight in his lightning crossed battle-plate. Rusted chains hung from his waist and his bat-wing crested helm’s blood coloured lenses stared at me and Raskeria. “Azrael, Raskeria. It is good to see you my ‘brothers’.” The word ‘brothers’ was so loaded with malice and hatred that my smile spread into a wry grin. I knew of it was directed at me after all. Then Xandrek turned his focus to me. “I am the same as I always am Champion. If there was something wrong with me I’m sure the Corpse-Master would have notified you.”
Unclasping his hands Xandrek marched to his throne and settled himself on it. I am Raskeria ascended it as well coming to a halt with Raskeria on his left and myself on his right. Xandrek spoke again, this time speaking of Raskeria’s news that Jallus was on his way. “As for the psyker making his way here…that is unfortunate. Azrael if the witch-kin comes within twenty paces of me but a bolt through his helmet and should he speak without me giving him permission, Raskeria. Feel free to remove his tongue using a rusty blade.” He laughed, a growling sound inhumanly distorted. I joined in, as did Raskeria.
"Well what if merely stands insolently? Remove his left or right leg Captain? Though it is good to see you laugh again as you have been gloomy lately, almost as if you were part of the Raven Guard My Lord." I chuckled at Raskeria’s words until he mentioned Xandrek’s gloominess lately at which I fell silent and looked at my captain with a considering gaze. Xandrek removed his great helm, exposing his paper white skin and black eyes the colour of his shoulder length hair. The Lord of Lies spoke. “Now my brothers, let us see what news the psyker has for us.” Jallus entered the bridge a moment later with Jaekal. I turned to face them and my left hand, unseen, reached up behind my back to my bolter, ready to draw, aim and fire at a moment’s notice.
The psyker bowed and Jaekal approached. The atmosphere took on an edge of tension that had not been there before. Watching Jallus with all the plain intent of a hunter watching his prey I nearly missed the opening of the door as Veptus strode into the bridge, flesh cloak flaring out behind him. I smiled at the Corpse-Master but my smile slipped from my face at his cloak though I held myself in check. Had I not it is likely I would have torn the thing from his neck, friends or no. The Apothecary’s voice was almost purring as he spoke to us. “My liege,” he said with a bow to Xandrek before straightening. “Champion Azrael,” he said, bowing only his head. I returned the gesture of respect. Except for his habit of wearing flesh cloaks, Veptus was one of my closest battle-brothers in the company, second only to Xandrek and Raskeria the latter of whom Veptus turned to last. “Bearer Raskeria,” he said in the same manner as he had spoken to both Xandrek and me, inclining his head.
“You will be pleased to hear…” Veptus continued, talking to Xandrek. “…I have begun with Shen’s ‘interment’.” The Corpse-Master chuckled cruelly and without mirth, undoubtedly remembering what he had put the marine through. He began speaking. “I’m sure…”
Whatever Veptus was sure about would have to wait it seemed as Var ploughed through the conversation like Zhasal through civilians. "I hope you remember my requests Captain. Every weapon, every piece of armour, every tank, must all be collected and utilized. I expect aid from the main body of the Night Lords so that the process is quick and efficient. We do not know how long this war will be, and we need every piece of equipment we can." I controlled my sudden anger though my right hand tightened on my sword hilt. It was the only sign of anger I gave.
I heard Raskeria murmuring to Xandrek and my enhanced hearing picked up what he said. "I know he is important for now but may I take his tongue and vocal cords with a rusty, and hopefully poisoned, blade Lord?" I smiled grimly, speaking to them myself. “I hope you will at least grant me the pleasure of watching, if not doing the deed myself.”
Veptus, smooth as always, simply continued as if nothing had happened. “As I was saying, I’m sure you’ll be pleased with his suffering. He begged for death in the end, and I will make him beg again before his final interment.” Veptus turned to Var and when he spoke it was in a condescending tone. “Now you can speak. A little courtesy goes a long way you know.” Raskeria spoke in agreement with Veptus. "Well said there Corpse-Master. Though maybe if he didn't spend so long down in the bowels of the ship with his fetishes maybe he would know some proper Nostramon courtesy."
I walked up to Var and used my height to stare down at him. “I’ve never liked you Tech-Marine,” I said quietly then my voice rose and became firm. “But I respected you. The least I expect from you is that you return the respect. We all fight the foes of our Primarch and some have suffered more than you could ever dream. But it is not they who march in here and assume themselves above all others already gathered. When this war is over, I will face you in the cages and we will fight, but till then I will have respect, not only for myself but for Xandrek, for Raskeria, for Veptus, for Corvis, for Fundae, for Jaekal. Even for Zhasal and Jallus.”
We stand upon the precipice of change. The world fears the inevitable plummet into the abyss. Watch for that moment - and when it comes, do not hesitate to leap. It is only when you fall that you learn whether you can fly.
The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.