This is a short piece (roughly three pages in the word processor) I wrote about a week ago out of boredom. It occurred to me that there never has been anything about how Space Marines deal with loss and frustration, which even they feel.
There are a couple references to my Chapter, the Lions Rampant, which you can read about here: https://www.heresy-online.net/forums/...ad.php?t=53763
The chamber was cold, small, and poorly lit. A servo-skull hovered on either side of the door to the room, a mostly-melted candle casting a warm glow across the age-worn flagstones. In one corner was a spartan cot, covered in a simple cloth sheet. In the other was a footlocker, in which rested the instruments of the occupant's work. Upon the walls of the room were dozens of worn devotionals and hundreds of purity seals, each won in bloody combat. At the center of the chamber was a large, plain chair, built from Elysečan hardwood reinforced with worn bronze. And upon that chair sat a huge man, flowing green robe failing to conceal the massive slabs of muscle upon him. The candlelight reflected off of the polished metal forming the man's left forearm.
The man's breathing was ragged and heavy, still slightly forced after the apothecaries' tending of his wounds. He looked down at his new arm, and with his hand still made of flesh and blood, traced the line where the ork's ragged axe had cleft through. His flesh was still raw around where the adamantine connected to him. He was conscious of every wire connected to each nerve, and the subtle pinch of copper on tissue. He moved his hand downward on his arm further, running his fingers over the raised fleur de lys and etched verse below it.
With his cracking, hoarse voice, the man spoke the verse, forcing each syllable, "He teaches the humble in judgement; and He teaches the humble His way. All the paths of the Emperor are loving kindness and truth to those who keep His faith and His vision."
It was Sergeant Ephrus Augustine's favorite psalm, but he found that in his current state, it offered little comfort. He wondered whether the Emperor had shown him that loving kindness by letting him be so greivously wounded. He wondered whether His vision included the death of his entire squad, nine other Astartes with whom Augustine had served for nearly sixty years. One of them, Augustine had served with since he was taken from his homeworld and transformed into an angel of death. Brother Saul Luthar had been with Augustine as a neophyte, then as a Scout. They had served together in the same Devastator Squad after their initiation, and when Augustine was promoted to Sergeant, Luthar was also transferred to serve in his Tactical Squad.
Luthar's death had given Augustine the chance to complete their service on Proserpina, and it had been Augustine who delivered the killing blow to the ork warlord. It took a supreme act to give an Astartes pause, but seeing his long-time comrade lying battered and broken, meltagun still clutched in lifeless hands and bloodshot eyes gazing skywards, that Augustine found himself reminded of his own mortality.
There was a dull knock on the heavy wooden door to Augustine's chamber. The sergeant did not speak, but simply waited for the door to open. He blinked several times to adjust his eyes to the bright light outside his cell, and took in the figure who stood in the large door frame.
Augustine still said nothing, and the man who had come simply closed the door behind him. The man was armored, though not in the white of the Chapter, but in jet black. His helm was masked by a leering skull, and from his belt hung a relic six thousand years old; the crozius arcanum of the Lions Rampant Fifth Battle Company.
"Are you able to speak, Sergeant?" asked the chaplain, his strong bass voice filling the otherwise deathly silent chamber.
Augustine nodded, and waited several seconds before doing so. "You know, Chaplain," he said, forcing each word, "I never thought something as simple as a cloud of hot ash would lay me so low."
"The injuries you have sustained were severe. But you have recovered, for the Emperor still has need of you," replied the Chaplain.
"But He had no need for those Brothers who served under me any longer?" replied Augustine, coughing and rubbing his raw throat.
"Their service to Him has concluded, and He found it time to call them to His side," said the Chaplain.
Augustine met the Chaplain's gaze, and did not break his stare for nearly a minute before speaking again. "Bless me, Chaplain, for I have sinned," Augustine whispered, reaching down to his belt and clutching his chaplet ecclesiastus, still covered in the soot and gore from the fields of Proserpina. "It has been six weeks, three days, and... I do not recall how many hours, for I do not know what time it is," continued Augustine, intermittently pausing, "Since my last confession."
"Tell me of your failure, Sergeant Ephrus Augustine," said the Chaplain, removing a vial of holy water from a pouch at his waist. The container was comically small in the armored hands of the priest, and was perhaps half-full, stopped by a simple cork. The Chaplain removed the stopper, and waited for Augustine to continue.
"I have doubted His work," said Augustine quietly. "Though my flesh has been torn and my comrades lie dead in the vaults beneath us, the Emperor has decided that I shall continue to draw breath. It is our creed that while we still draw breath, we shall serve Him in all things, and in doubting His need of me, I have failed to serve Him."
"It is human to know doubt, and to be intimate with fear," said the Chaplain, pouring the holy water over his black-armoured gauntlets. "We are no longer human, though, and we must rise above the confines of the mortal soul. For us to doubt in the divine work, or to embrace fear, is to know the sin that we must be without."
"What is to be my penance for my doubt, Chaplain?" said Augustine, slouching slightly in his seat, feeling the Chaplain's speaking of the word "sin" like a wet glove slapped across his face.
"Fast tomorrow, and meditate on the Emperor's works," said the Chaplain, drawing a fleur de lys with the holy water upon Augustine's forehead. The Chaplain took a step back, watching the holy water run down off of the sergeant's brow, flowing down into the scars criss-crossing his face, onto the fleur de lys branded upon upon his cheek, and dripping down onto the verdant green robe he wore.
The Chaplain then removed his helmet, and set it on the ground. "Now that your confession is out of the way, Ephrus, how are you?" Chaplain Hector Krassos's features were surprisingly soft for a man with so stern a position, and the occasional scar and the pair of service studs did little to harden it. His rust-brown hair was close-cropped, and his piercing green eyes seemed to shine even in the relative darkness of the cell.
Augustine no longer was required to speak, and gave his injured throat a rest by switching to battle sign. He held his right arm out, formed a fist, and extended his thumb to the side. Then, he sharply raised his thumb. While the gesture literally meant "cleared" or "success," it was understood here as simply "acceptable."
"Good. Brethren have been transferred from the Seventh Tactical Reserve to replenish casualties, and when you have healed, you should speak to them. The Fifth Company is being deployed to respond to a labor uprising on a critical prometheum refining world about eight hundred light years from the Segmentum Solar border," said Krassos.
Augustine nodded, surprised that the Chaplain had moved so quickly back into business. Krassos smiled, and said, "I'm not that heartless, Ephrus. They were my brothers as well, and I knew them at least as well as you." Krassos withdrew a flask from another pouch on his belt, which normally contained a spare magazine for his bolt pistol.
"Affirmative," gestured Augustine, forcing at least one corner of his mouth to curve into a grin. He stood, for the first time in what seemed like days, and walked to his footlocker, from which he withdrew two silver goblets. Much like his new forearm, they were the work of master artisans, their value out of reach of all but the wealthiest noble families of the Imperium. And yet they sat, largely unused, in a footlocker in a dark cell.
Krassos removed the stopper from the flask, and poured half the contents into one cup, and half into the other. "This is an 887 from the Lucrezzi vineyards, about thirty kilometers south of the start of the northern mountain chain. It came with the Captain's highest regard," he said, handing one cup back to Augustine.
The sergeant very deliberately took the cup in his new, metallic hand. "To my brothers, who now know peace," he croaked, lifting the cup.
"In nomine padre nos, Imperator, nosci in pacem
," said Krassos, offering his own devotional, draining his share of the bottle in one swift gulp. Krassos and Augustine then sat in silence in the cold, dark chamber, remembering those who had died while they had lived.