Fulgrim did not stare, but he came pretty close to it. While he was happy and flattered that the Emperor of Mankind, beloved by all, had chosen him to be the mentor of another Primarch, he found the choice odd. There was no question of him doubting his father, nevertheless the word “but” hovered in his mind and begged for him to finish the sentence. His brother was so… grey: his clothes, his complexion, everything. It was almost as if he had been somehow drained of all colour, save for the amber eyes.
The Phoenician also took note of the scars on the other Primarch’s face. Some of them appeared old, but others were new and still red. To be honest, Fulgrim’s first impression was bad—couldn’t he have at least tried to look less... mundane? Still, he could not help but wonder what could have caused those wounds? Primarchs were a pretty durable lot, after all.
“This is Mortarion,” the Emperor, beloved by all, announced, placing his armored hand on the shoulder of his other son. It did not escape Fulgrim’s notice that Mortarion flinched, even if it was only ever so slightly. Puzzling as it was, he could not ignore it. Had something happened between Father and this new brother?
However, this was neither the time nor the place to start inquiries. Fulgrim smiled at Mortarion and closed the distance between them in several steps.
“Welcome, brother,” he said, embracing the other. “I am Fulgrim.”
A moment later, he stepped back, feeling awkward. Mortarion hadn’t done anything and that was the reason for Fulgrim’s unease. The other Primarch hadn’t moved an inch; it felt like he was hugging a pole. Perhaps, in retrospect, he shouldn’t have assumed that Mortarion would react positively to being suddenly touched by somebody whom he had only just met. To Fulgrim it seemed natural to cordially welcome each and everyone of his newly discovered brothers, but this was no reason to forget about cultural differences, or not to take into account the differences in personality.
“Greetings,” Mortarion replied quietly after a moment – long enough to make the silence awkward. He didn’t sound pleased, either. If anything, he sounded uninterested and maybe regretful, but of that Fulgrim was not certain.
Nevertheless, it was a little hint of sadness there that kept the Phoenician from announcing that as flattering as his father’s request was, he was not going to tutor Mortarion. He could have declined, as hard as that would have been, but he didn’t want to simply abandon one of his brothers. Grey and gloomy as this one was, Fulgrim couldn’t just go away. Brothers should help each other.
“I am glad to finally meet you, brother,” he replied a smile creeping back onto his face. To be completely honest, it was a lie, but he’d be damned if he wouldn’t somehow make it become reality. At that moment, he had to deal with a suspicious look that Mortarion gave him. He tried to deflect it with a smile and it seemed to work, as Mortarion’s features, or what was visible of them, eased back into neutrality.
“You will be able to learn much from Fulgrim,” the Emperor addressed Mortarion. “Take his advice to heart, my son.”
Fulgrim’s heart lept at the praise and he basked in its glory. Father appreciated him; it was all he wanted from him.
“However, I think you can learn from Mortarion, too, Fulgrim,” the Emperor continued.
It took not only Fulgrim by surprise, but Mortarion as well. Both looked at each other: Fulgrim taking in the gaunt figure in a drab grey cloak. Out of all his brothers, he would have placed Mortarion fairly low on the impressiveness scale and when it came to assigning value, Fulgrim usually placed a lot of it on appearance.
Slowly, it dawned on him that Mortarion was equally surprised. They appeared so different; Fulgrim in his golden and purple armor, dashing and bold; Mortarion looking like a gloomy specter, withdrawn and silent. Being the one to introduce somebody so fundamentally different from oneself to the duties of a Primarch was a daunting perspective and Fulgrim felt a small pang of doubt. Was he really up to the task?
The Emperor was watching him, though, and Fulgrim was not going to give up on something his father asked him to do before even trying.
“As you command, Father,” he said, nodding.
Mortarion poked a golden leaf with his finger, looking at it as if it had offended him on a deep and private level. He shook his head, still taking in the ornaments decorating the corridor that led from the deck of the Pride of the Emperor to Fulgrim’s private quarters. This was a military space ship; its purpose was to carry troops from one place to another and yet it appeared to be more of a flying art gallery. What could be the point?
He didn’t feel comfortable on this ship. It was so impractical, so different from what he had known his whole life. Fulgrim was the same. He could close his eyes and remember the elaborate golden ornaments decorating the purple armour, the long lustrous hair and the unblemished face. He didn’t look like somebody who had ever had to work for his life, let alone fight.
The attempt at a warm welcome had been quite nice, though, and he felt rather bad about not reciprocating. He had meant to, but his wounds from his journey to his father’s stronghold had not fully healed. Fulgrim, quite unfortunately, managed to place his arm over one such spot. It had been unpleasant enough for Mortarion to freeze. He supposed he’d have to explain it later.
With a sigh, Mortarion thought that the Emperor simply didn’t like him: otherwise, why would he have chosen somebody so fundamentally different from him to teach Mortarion? It didn’t make any sense at all.
Nevertheless, Mortarion had promised to serve the Imperium of Mankind and that meant following the Emperor’s orders. He would try to learn from this Fulgrim. If nothing else, the other Primarch had more experience in leading Astartes.
He finally stepped away from the wall and continued his way to Fulgrim’s quarters, trying to ignore all the ornaments that simply did not belong on a battleship. Once he finally entered the room, he had to wonder if he really was in the right place. Surely, a room like that did not belong to a general? The ornamental furniture, the paintings decorating the walls, everything really, screamed of decadence and wastefulness to him. All the resources that went into furnishing this room; he couldn’t help but to consider how he’d use them.
He looked around, still, almost in fascination. He had never seen so much luxury in one place. His gaze met white stony eyes. There was an unfinished sculpture in the corner. If Mortarion was right it was meant to be one of the Marines from Fulgrim’s Legion. He stepped away from it; there was just something wrong about it. He could still feel it staring at the back of his neck with its empty stone eyes.
“Good day?” he said.
Fulgrim did not appear to be there, but this didn’t mean he shouldn’t announce he was present. There was a reply, but it was distorted by a wall and then a door creaked. Fulgrim emerged from what appeared to be a bathroom, from the glimpse Mortarion managed to catch.
His “brother” was dressed only in a towel.
“Oh. I thought you’d take more time to explore,” he said grinning, quite unperturbed at being essentially naked. “I’m quite sure this is all new to you and you must be curious about your new surroundings. Really, there is no need for you to-”
Mortarion stared. He really had nothing to say, well other then ohmyyourpretty, which was definitely not what one said to his brother. Then he realized he was staring and said, trying not to sound too cowed, “I can wait outside.”
Belatedly, he realized he interrupted Fulgrim. Still, it had mostly been the same over and over with a side-dish of ego.
“I’m not sure, if I follow?” Fulgrim’s tone made it quite clear he had no idea what Mortarion had wanted to say.
“For you to get dressed,” the newly-found Primarch of the Dusk Raiders supplied. His lips twitched, as he realized that the situation was rather humoristic. It was not the highest sort of humour, but nevertheless, he was beginning to feel amused.
Fulgrim looked like he was about to say something, but he closed his mouth before making a sound and smiled. Only then did he address Mortarion. “Take a seat; I shall go back to the bathroom. There is no need for you to wait outside.”
Once he was properly attired, Fulgrim re-emerged from his bathroom. While still somewhat puzzled at Mortarion’s reaction, he didn’t begrudge it. Logically, he was aware that culture was responsible for such things like reacting to seeing your long lost brother dressed only in a towel with embarrassment. It was the same situation as with demonstrating public affection. Obviously, Mortarion just didn’t feel comfortable around Fulgrim.
The realization knocked his mood down a peg or two. He had tried to welcome his new brother and yet it wasn’t helping at all. The thought had him falter mid-step. What if he never managed to close the distance between him and Mortarion? Father would be disappointed. The mere thought made him feel sick. He did not want to fail in living up to Father’s expectations.
Then he looked up and noticed Mortarion looking at him with a faint smile. It was pale and barely noticeable, but once he observed it, he could tell it was friendly.
Fulgrim, true to his nature, grinned at the sight. If somebody like Mortarion was smiling then clearly things were not nearly as bad as he had feared. Besides, if Father chose Fulgrim for the task, then clearly, even if the Phoenician couldn’t see it yet, he was the right person. He should never have doubted Father.
“Is there anything you wish to learn first?” he asked.
Mortarion looked at his hands, his brow creasing in a frown. Fulgrim wondered if he’d somehow managed to spoil whatever had made Mortarion smile. Perhaps he had even misinterpreted it? He’d already done so twice. Clearly, he wasn’t very adept at reading his brother.
“About you,” Mortarion replied, looking up.
Interview with Kharn will be coming back in next chapter.
@Adrian: That's something I'm aware I sometimes have problems--I'm working on improving that, hopefully it will get easier to follow as I write.
Er... did you notice any spelling mistakes? I sometimes do miss them.