My legs were crossed but no part of me touched the floor. My mental powers kept me suspended, but that was less than a background thought. What was important was the deck of psychoactive cards that circled him. His mind moved them facing outwards, random paths and random directions. This tarot was a way that the servants of the False Emperor scry the future. They wouldn’t cast their souls into the warp like I would, but it was interesting to hear what their best voices would offer me.
I turned over the card in front of me. A sword. War. Pelegon would ask for him soon then. Next was a glaring wound. Opening like a maw. No wait, that wasn’t right I realised. It was an eye. It was an evil eye that burnt but offered no warmth. I felt a chill run up my spine at meeting its hateful glare. Was this a portent that the servants of Imperium would quake at, or was it a sign of infighting for the Grand Company. The room disappeared from around me and I soared into the Immaterium, searching for the truth. A burning world, the howl of wolves, the separating of flesh and spirit. I drank the emotional tides in, and caught a close approaching wave. Someone approached.
My eyes flung open and I opened the tumblers on my chamber doors. A serf, Borigan from hot-reading his thoughts, stood with his fist raised about to knock. “My lord…” he began.
“I am called to war?” I said, already sure of the answer.
“Yes, but there is another matter I thought you’d like to know.” Borigan continued, no doubt wondering why he bothered to inform a man who wore the title The Seer.
“Oh?” I said, collecting all the cards into a single deck which fell neatly to the floor. I uncrossed my legs, standing at my full height with my robes falling flat against my skin.
“Captain Iapetus will be arriving soon. Hanger 6.” I picked up the Iron Grimoire and Eternal Schism, strapping one to either hip.
“Thank you Borigan.” I said making my way past the serf.
I was about to walk out without pause, but a sight stopped me. Two men were shackled. One I recognised, for he was one of mine, Librarian Bronsk. As well as the physical shackles, he was bound with a psycho-dampening collar. How solemn it would be for a man who had always heard the voice of the warp whisper to him to suddenly separated from his constant companion. My mind quested, why was he bound? Possession of sorcerous tomes, contraband. I kept my face impassive, but chuckled to myself. The other, who was he. A hot-read told me his name was Rorke and he was from the 2nd company, but I didn’t need to look for his crime. A steadily weeping collection of abscesses marked his forearm. They were my problems and my duties to deal with, but at a later date. After I had seen my brother.
I walked into hanger 6 to find myself surprisingly alone, except for the lobotomised servitors who scuttled around guided by whatever machine-code that was running through their simple brains. My robes began to billow as one of the 7th’s Stormbird’s landed, but I didn’t move. The exhaust fumes caressed my robes until the engines finally died and the entrance ramp lowered. My larger twin stood, his form accentuated by his Tauros Pattern Armour and no less lethal for the lack of weapons. 'Brother,' Iapetus said, descending the ramp. 'It is good to see you.'
“Brother…” I said opening my arms to embrace a man to whom may greeting was far more than a mere formality. “…it is good to see you too. How fairs the 7th?”
Iapetus stepped back, clasping Coeus' hands between his gauntlets. One thought, one muscle-twitch, and he could crush the bones to dust.
“They are well.” He said, smiling. “A well-oiled cog…” His voice dropped and took on a harsh tone “…in a rusted machine.” Iapetus surveyed the hanger, perhaps looking for some intruder “And your witches?” The way he spoke about my charges was harsh, but not like the others. They spoke with a tone of derision that I hated, although I had long since grown accustomed to their ignorant mutterings. Iapetus’s term was born from familiarity, not contempt. The ramp to his Stormbird closed behind us as we began to walk towards our master’s chambers. “My librarian’s serve me well, mostly. They brought one to me, a man called Bronsk, to be tried. Interesting, they also brought me Rorke from the 2nd.” I left an empty space for Iapetus to comment, he would no doubt have something to say about the half-born’s bastard son.
“Bronsk?” Iapetus said, raising an eyebrow. We had known Bronsk for a while, a low born Olympian, but one of the true IVth Legionnaires. “One of us” I knew what my brother meant by that. I had to spare him. I pressed my consciousness onto his, something he was familiar with by now. It was the only sure way to know we would not be heard. *His sin is minor enough. Possessing contraband from what I could hot read. I’m sure he’ll be fine.* Of course he would, I held his life in my hand. He was still worth interrogating though, to find out what he knew.
I switched back to my audible voice “Kunzhurdt’s is certainly problematic. Some sort of infection. Perhaps I will have to investigate them closer.” My face remained fixed but Iapetus would have felt the wave of pleasure I sent him.
“Are there others? Among the Second?” Iapetus asked, his voice growing cold. He smiled, a knowing and sinister smile “Of course there are others. A formal investigation will have to be launched, will it not, brother?” It was not a question, but I could have launched one with less evidence. “And Kunzhardt? How could he have missed such a terrible thing - He should be charged with incompetence at best.”
I felt my curled lip turn into a smile briefly. It would do me good to see the Gorgon-spawn feel the icy breath of the Librarium down his neck. “Well, we can hardly expect a half-born to do much better than stammering impotence. You remember how Gneous fell?” I referred to my Ultramar born predecessor, and laughed unkindly. We knew the truth of his demise. “It’s always the half-born.” I tutted, making no attempt to hide my disgust.
“They are unworthy at best. Worse, still, is that bastard Night Lord,” Iapetus grunted. “Tyranus, bah.” I spat and left my saliva to burn a hole in the iron floor. He would always be Tyberus. The warp still sung his true name and the smell of his former brothers clung to him like the stench of a rotting corpse. Nothing could wash that off him.
“Where has our glory, our pride, gone?” He raised a hand, clenching it into a fist. “They stain us, this mongrel-breed. Blood, so pure, so glittering, has blackened and congealed. But we serve, brother, and faithfully. More faithful than the Night Lord, or the bastard-born, ever could.”
We were almost at the meeting hall now, ahead of the others, but we were not done. I walked down an adjacent corridor, pulling my brother aside. “Peace brother…”
*…we will purge them from our proud legion…*
“…let us not focus on what has been, but on what is to come…”
*…their reckoning will come and we will cast them down and grind them to dust under the hammer of Olympia…*
“…these half-breeds will have their day…”
*…and their end is neigh. We will see to that my brother…*
“…and we will be mighty, loyal and pure iron once more.” I spoke with two voices. Most regarded us as prejudiced relics, and secure conversations helped maintain that illusion of benign disgust.
I smoothed a crease from my robe and saw the Primus Medicae walk past. All the players were being summoned. “Do you know how Lugerev fairs these recent days? I heard one of your Apothecaries was at his side, but I’ve not been able to check on our troubled friend.” Iapetus sighed.
“Tirgivil, yes, he reports to me, on times. He is Lugerev's pet, that I know, but he is a true Iron Warrior,” He pursed his lips. “He fears for Lugerev, as do I. Has Lugerev grown worse, Coeus, or has he always been so mad?” He stepped towards the war-chamber. “If we watch his back, he shall watch ours. Lugerev is an Olympian, a friend, Coeus. We need him and his Apothecaries, so does the Grand Company. So long as Tirgivil warns me, I will look after him. I only ask the same of you, brother.”
I ran my tongue over my teeth, a habit when I am thinking about what to say. “I have not grown so old yet that I struggle to distinguish friend from foe, Iapetus...” I retorted with more than a little venom. “…I just wondered if Tirgivil had seen any marked change lately. As I said, I have been otherwise engaged.” Iapetus knew better than to pry into exactly what had consumed my time, especially given the lion’s den they were about to enter. “Rest assured, I will watch over him as surely as I watch over you.” With that we entered into this war council, infected as it was with those gene-seed abortions and deserters they were forced to fraternise with.
I took my place, two seats removed from our ally Lugerev. Iapetus sat between the two of us. I only half listened to the briefing, but then I was used to devoting half my attention to various things and taking it all in. If the other Astartes round this table had heightened senses, mine was on another plane of existence. As I listened to Pelegon I stroked each of their minds. Tyberus’ was a hot bed of rage and arrogance. Entirely misplaced. The Gorgon-spawn’s mind was a strange cocktail of joy and anger. Lucian tried to hide from him, but his title was the only thing deceptive about him. He was open before me whenever the pleasure took me. None of them knew, I wasn’t reaching deep enough into their minds to raise attention to myself.
The only being in this room who could resist my probing was the one who spoke. Only once had I ever managed to gain entrance to his mind, and that was when he had allowed me to erase my own name from his memories. I wondered if he knew he held me out, or it was just a natural thing he did without noticing. If Pelegon ever fell, I would take him for myself and break his mind open and gorge myself on his memories. We were to be killing the Space Wolves. The howling of wolves as the world around them burnt. Whilst blood-letting was always enjoyable, killing for killing’s sake seemed a frivolous waste of resources. However, before he got to the point of this mission, Pelegon concluded the briefing. Curious. Iapetus was asked to stay, along with Lugerev and the orphaned Dark Angel.
Iapetus grabbed my hand before I left. *I’ll be watching* I promised him, leaving a portion of my consciousness resting in his mind. Many struggled with another active presence in their mind, so I would simply observe unless my brother asked. At least I would know what the Warsmith was keen to hide from the rest of us. While my allies put this half-breed in his place, I had two prisoners to attend to. The warriors of the Eisenloss parted before me like water. Some sneered as me and I burst the blood vessels in their noses or eyes, depending on my fancy. Some bowed respectfully whilst others just moved out of my way.
As I reached the Librarium, I heard the quiet echo in my mind from the ‘private’ meeting of Lucian asking for me by denying my brother his right as Shipwright. Fool. Iapetus would feel that sentiment, but they would be in accord. “You will bring Rorke to my study.” I said as I moved towards my chambers. The shuffling grating of iron chains followed me whilst my mind resounded with the sound of metal on metal as weapons came out of their sheaths. “Leave us.” I spoke and the men who had forced Brother Rorke into my study left, shutting the door behind them.
“My lord, I swear…” the man began to frantically plead. He knew my reputation to not suffer fools or corruption. I paced him, searching his mind with none of the subtlety I had exerted earlier. These were scalpels, cutting away at memories and secret thoughts. “…I am not a servant of the Dark Gods. I would rather die than worship at their feet. I…”
“You will be silent Rorke.” My voice was empowered by warp and forced his mouth to dry up. I tore the corner of a blank page off and dipped it into his sores. The papyrus immolated in my hand and the black smoke screamed with a daemonic face in the short-lived flame. Rorke’s eyes were wide with horror.
At last, I stopped facing and stood in front of the man under Kunzhurdt’s command. “I know you don’t worship the Dark Gods, but sadly, they seemed to have taken notice of you regardless.” Slowly, Eternal Schism came into my hand. The signals etched into it burnt brighter. “You have been judged, and you have been found wanting.” Telekinetically, I etched the symbol of the Librarium into Rorke’s forhead. Smoothly, the axe-head separated the man’s head from his body. Normally that would be enough, but if this was a Nurglite infection as I suspected, the body needed to be thoroughly cleansed. Fire poured from my fingertips and engulfed the body. With a thought, the door flew open and several serfs rushed in to clear the room of the smouldering remains.
“Borigan.” My voice boomed harshly. The serf rushed in and performed a hurried bow. “Take the head of Brother Rorke here to Captain Kunzhurdt. Inform him that I will be speaking to the Warsmith in due course about the investigation of his company. He has until then to purge and heretics and fanatics from his midst. After that, his company is to be judge by the Librarium.”
“Of course my lord Coeus.” The serf left to do the business I had bid him, and I had another prisoner to interrogate.
“Bring in Librarian Bronsk.” I said as I listened to my brother tear the Caliban heathen apart. Things were getting tense in there, and the results of my investigation thus far gave me ample cause to disturb a meeting I may as well have already been in.
Two Librarian’s flanked Bronsk as he was shuffled into my now cramped chambers. One of them presented me with the materials he was found with. As before I bade them to leave us and as before they did. I turned the books over in my hands. Most were slender, but I could feel the weight of the secrets they held. I stared the Librarian down with my serpentine glare.
“My lord, you know I do not serve the Changer of Ways.”
“Why not?” I asked, an air of mischief about me. Bronsk seemed stunned. He began to stammer. “I mean, why wouldn’t you? The god of all magic in the galaxy and you aren’t at least tempted to bend a knee just to sip from his cup?” Bronsk hardened his face.
“No.” he said resolutely. I nodded for a moment.
With that, a spear of thought drove into the Librarian’s mind. It pierced to the very core of him, where the darkest secrets were held. “I know you are lying…” I said as I tore down mental fortresses and uprooted the worst parts of the man. “…because I feel that temptation too. I feel the draw of power calling me, asking for just an inch of compromise in exchange…”
“I will not yield!” Bronsk screeched. I stopped my mental onslaught for a moment. The man showed me the memory himself. A young Librarian haunted by mocking voices on a battlefield far from home. Playing on his paranoid. A great winged beast, taunting him. It was an obsession, but not the black kind. Bronsk needed a vendetta fulfilled and had resorted to forbidden tomes to break the hold a daemon had over him. It offered him power even as Bronsk tried to destroy it. He was tempted and he was ashamed.
But he was not tainted, at least no more than I or any other member of our order was. We all needed our weapons. “You will be demoted to a Lexicanum. I cannot have the weak leading the strong. Until you have overcome this daemon you will shadow Librarian Kolvax. He will notify me of your success or death.” With that, I unlocked the many chains that bound him. Had he been of impure stock, I would have dealt with him as I did Rorke, but he was my own and I would not abandon him. He was not broken yet, and this may only be his tempering. “Dismissed.”
My official duties attended to I spread my arms out wide. If I was going to disturb the Warsmith’s little council I would do so ready for war. Besides, Kunzhurdt would likely come looking for me after word reached him of his guilt. My monastic robes peeled off of me and my armour started to be drawn to me as if I were a new star being born. Usually serfs would dress their senior captains but I needed no such help. It took moments to slot everything into place and secure the Iron Grimoire to my shoulder and Eternal Schism to my hip. Now armed and armoured, I strode quickly back towards the meeting chambers of my current Warsmith.
The doors opened before me and I withdrew my splinter of consciousness from my brother’s mind. I didn’t need it now I was there myself. Lucian had just finished prattling about deferring judgement to Pelegon without even revealing his ‘grand plan’. Plucking it from just below his surface thoughts, it was hard to understand why he was so embarrassingly proud of it. It was foolish and Iapetus was right to dismiss it out of hand, even though he hadn’t heard it. “My Lord I thought it best to inform you directly of the results of my investigation. Unless I’m interrupting a meeting where I am not required?” Lucian, and possibly the Warsmith, would be irked by this intrusion. However, with a possible infestation of Chaos worship up my sleeve and Lucian’s express mention of me, I would be very surprised if I was sent away…