Jairus told me that Zephyr had spoken highly of me before his death. While it was not as irrelevant to me as it seemed to be to the Brotherhood Champion I knew full well that Zephyr would’ve spoken well of every single member of Dothrac, including Mordred. Therefore Jairus’ words did not reassure me as he probably thought they would for I knew that for all that Zephyr spoke highly of me, he spoke highly of the man Jairus had called a disgrace to the Grey Knights and to the Emperor. Zephyr had been many things, but a great judge of character was not one of them. He was an excellent warrior and commander who would have no doubt risen to the ranks of the Brotherhood Captains and maybe even beyond had not Kartha cut his life short but he had never been one to understand the nuances of the members of his squad. He knew how to utilize us in a battle, how to inspire us to fight in the Emperor’s name. But he was never a peace maker. It had been left to me to balance the emotions of the squad, a role I had taken to and greatly enjoyed.
His words about my fear of failure struck me harder than I would’ve liked as I realised their accuracy. I was afraid. Afraid of failing my brothers, of failing Zephyr. Afraid that I would not be strong enough to do what was necessary. My greatest flaw had always been personal loyalty. I would sacrifice myself to save even one of my brothers without a second thought, no matter who they were or what their role was. Even now, after he had been disgraced and stripped of his position as a battle brother, I would still give my life before allowing Mordred to lose his.
His words about the Galahad who rallied Dothrac after the death of Zephyr and drove the Forsworn from The Darkest of Days were the ones that really made me look at him. I was quiet when I spoke. I knew Jairus was not going to respond, but he had to know the truth, even if he didn’t understand.
“The Galahad you want to know is one that I would choose never to free again Brotherhood Champion. He was not a Grey Knight, not a soldier. He was a killer, feeling only rage and hate, fighting only for vengeance. That Galahad is not a man you would wish to meet Brotherhood Champion. He was impulsive, reckless and had no concern for his own life or those of his brothers, only the death of his foe and the next fight. Had he been there today instead of me, he would have stood beside Initiate 437.” God, it hurt to call Mordred by that title. He was my greatest friend, the man I had fought side-by-side with for over a century and now I had to speak of him as if he were some recruit rather than a man who had proven himself to me a thousand times over and would go on to prove himself a thousand times again.
“But he would not have stood beside the initiate because he wanted to protect his brothers, but because he wanted to fight. He would have done anything to drown out the memories of the deaths of his brothers. On that hulk he didn’t care how many brothers he lost, provided the Forsworn he was facing died No Brotherhood Champion. No, Jairus. You would not like to meet that Galahad.”
As I had expected Jairus did not respond and I did not respond to his later words either until he handed me the lash to strike Talerion. I stared at him, disbelieving as Jairus said the words that would etch that moment into my memory for the rest of my life. “Now you must learn to discipline your brothers as well as comfort them.”
Talerion announced he would be taking the lashes intended for Mordred before looking to me and speaking with a warmth and understanding that had not been present when he first addressed myself and Jairus. "Justicar Galahad, my sincerest apologies for my actions,” Talerion said, his attention shifting to the lash held weakly in my grasp as I gazed at my friend in silent horror. "I know I have forced you to take action and I ask for no reprise for my sentence, I ask only that you not mar the scriptures,"
I looked at Jairus with eyes that showed no emotion, eyes that were dead. “I pray that you have not unleashed more than can be controlled Brotherhood Champion by commanding me to do this.” I addressed both of them then, speaking louder. “I will not disgrace Talerion or shame you by refusing this task Champion, but I hope that I never need to do this again. If it becomes necessary for me to do so, I do not know whether it will be the Galahad you know or the one I wish I did not.”
I whispered into Talerion’s mind then, hiding our conversation from Jairus. ‘You need not apologise to me brother. You did only what I would have done.’
I wondered if he felt the lack of emotion in my mind when I spoke to him, wondered if Jairus noted it as I brought the lash back and struck with it, leaving a diagonal red line across Talerion’s back from his left shoulder to his right hip. It was the first of many as I brought the lash down again and again. Eventually Jairus turned away, going to continue his work. I was grateful he had left, for it allowed me to let the tears run down my face as I punished my brother for something I could never blame him for doing, for it is what I would’ve once done without a second thought.
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.