In Our Darkest Hour
The Strike Cruiser “Holy Wrath” was an ancient machine. She had her origins at the turning of the 34th millennia. She had endured terrible pain and damage over the millennia, but after each dock at the Broadsword Station she, like the many other vessels in the service of the Grey Knights, was repaired and made to look as if this were her very first voyage against the Great Enemy. Ancient technologies and hexogramic wards laid into every bulkhead, armour plate and component protected her as the tore through the currents of the warp. She was unmatched in her speed, save when compared to other Cruisers in the service of the Grey Knights, and the journey the planet Corphelus would take her only a week rather than the conventional 3 months for a standard Imperial vessel.
Brotherhood Champion Jairus had spent the time thus far tending to matters which needed to be addressed before the coming battle. Most had been resolved but one still loomed and that was the matter of squad Dothrac. It was a squad which had, until recently, been on loan to the joint force of Inquisitor Jaezil, her retinue and Magos Tayber to purge the space hulk designated ’The Darkest of Days’ which had recently reappeared in real space. However, the mission had not been as simple as blasting the thing apart from a distance, since Magos Tayber was particularly interested in some kernel of Mechanicum technology buried in the mashed together hulls that made up the hulk. The report he had read told the exact details of how the events had transpired, but for the scraps of knowledge gained for the Magos, three of the squad had fallen; Brother Inoe, Brother Emrys and Justicar Zephyr.
Whilst the squad was not under-strength and so given back to the current task force, a new Justicar did need to be chosen. Jairus had watched them over their time in transit and read extensively about each. Each had admirable traits that given time and training would become assets to the order. At least two had the makings of fine swordsmen in them, and Jairus knew he saw a little of himself in them. Others were more inclined to try and offer wisdom, although he doubted any of them had lived long enough to offer anything deeply profound. Then again, he had been wrong before and one key he had learnt from his years fighting besides Brother-Captain Atreyu was to never underestimate a man unless you wanted to find his blade imbedded in your chest. Brother-Captain Atreyu had left this decision up to him and he had made it. “Captain…” Jairus’s spoke to the master of the ship even as his feet made his way to the Chapel nestled in the heart of the vessel “…dispatch a serf to bring Brother Galahad to me at the chapel.”
“At once my lord.” Came the reply and the link was severed. Jairus’s heavy footfalls echoed down the hallway as he made his way to the appointed meeting place…
All: Welcome to the Strike Cruiser “Holy Wrath”. You are all part of squad Dothrac, recently redeployed from your mission on board ’The Darkest of Days’. A relatively short period of time has passed between losing two of your brothers and your Justicar. For most if not all of you, the lack of three voices in your psychic choir will be strange and likely still emotionally painful. You all know that a new Justicar will be chosen soon. Perhaps you have an inkling of who it might be? Do you consider yourself an obvious choice or do you esteem one of your battle brother’s highly enough to believe they should be chosen? Such concerns will likely occupy your minds as you go about your business, regardless of your activities.
Talerion: You have been in the training halls occupying the same cage for several hours now and your body is dripping in sweat. You only wear the combat robe that keeps your bottom half decent and after so many hours it has become sodden and drips sweat from the corners. In the corner of the cage lay three swords, broken, dented or otherwise damaged beyond repair by your continual training. A fourth sword is currently in motion in your hand, cleaving its way through the latest batch of training servitors.
You dispatch them with a flurry of swordsmanship and pause for a moment in the fresh wreckage you’ve created. You notice Brother Mordred entering the training halls. Challenging the other swordsman of your group might be more interesting that fighting simple servitors. However, you are near the end of a longer than normal training session and so may not be at your peak. Perhaps you may still wish to converse with your brother, or you may choose to ignore him entirely and run the simulation again.
Auril: Whilst the others have been going about their tasks, or eating, or sleeping, you have been in the chapel for hours, memorising liturgies and re-dedicating yourself to the Emperor and perhaps seeking forgiveness for allowing your brothers to fall in you last mission, or perhaps not. As the time has passed other members of the strike force have come and gone. Some have knelt beside you and been uplifted by your zealous words and thanked you politely before leaving.
As you go about your prayer and supplication a figure you instantly recognise kneels beside you; Brotherhood Champion Jairus. He bows his head in quiet contemplation. You feel a tendril of psychic energy reach into your mind as you continue your liturgical chanting. *As noble as your zeal is Auril, I have private business here and I would appreciate it if you left for the time being.* Whilst his words are framed like a request, the sternness of his psyche impressing on your own makes it clear that it is not. You get up to leave and pass Galahad making his way to the front. Do you ask his purpose here, or do simply assume he is here for prayer like you were? You may choose to remain in the chapel at the back, hoping that Jairus will allow you to remain as long as you leave him alone. Alternatively you may seek out your other brothers, or make your way to the training halls, as it is the other place you are most commonly found.
Mordred: Likely the transition has been hard on you. You saved Zephyr before, perhaps several times although he might not have admitted to them all publicly, and this time you could not. Magos Tayber called the mission a success based on the intel and technology you gathered, but can you say you agree with that?
Whatever your thoughts on the recent past are, your feet lead you to the training halls, one of the places you feel most at home other than on the field of battle. Brother Talerion is training and given the sheen on his body, discarded swords and broken combat servitors, he has been here for a while. Do you speak to him, and if he speaks to you do you ignore him and go about your own training or do you answer, even if it is a challenge.
Galahad: You have chosen isolation for the moment and so you are in your quarters meticulously cleaning your armour. Perhaps you find the ritual of cleaning the holy weapon you find analogous to cleaning your soul of doubt and shame in order that you may perform your duties to the Emperor best? Or perhaps you are thinking of how to best sooth the various tempers of the squad now that Justicar Zephyr is no longer with you?
Whatever thoughts occupy the time you spend alone, they are soon interrupted by a knock at your door. Placing the piece you were cleaning down on the matt in front of you and answering it you find one of the many mortal serfs who serve the vessel at your door. “Brotherhood Champion Jairus requests you at the chapel. He would not say why.” With that the serf bows lowly and leaves to attend the other business he has. Not wanting to leave your acting commander waiting, you make your way to the chapel and find him kneeling at the front, his head bowed in petition. As you enter you pass Auril walking in the direction to leave the chapel. Kneel next to Jairus and ask what you will of him, why he has summoned you or wait to be spoken to.
Ianus: Your armour was the most damaged in the recent operation on board ’The Darkest of Days’, due to your self-sacrificial nature. Even as skilled at the artificers of the Grey Knights are, they could not repair it in time for “Holy Wrath’s” departure and so it was turned over to the artificers on board to finish the repairs. You are on your way to collect them from the armoury. As you approach and ask if your armour is repaired, Magos Kane retorts “It is, although quite why you seem to try and block every blow with your armour rather than avoiding it I will never know.” Do you scold the Magos, laugh it off as a joke or try and explain the notions of brotherly sacrifice to a man who is mostly machine at this point.
Whatever you decide you may either take your armour with you or choose to don it and then you are free to do as you please. You may decide to do some battle training in the training halls, either melee based or firing ranges. You may decide to spend some time in pray at the chapel or retire to the Librarium to acquire more knowledge on your Great Enemy. The choice is yours.
(Note: Hello everybody and welcome to the start of In Our Darkest Hour. Just a note to say that in this update (and possibly in others) I will say things like "You might feel this way." That doesn't mean that you do, but it is my guess based on your character sheet and a sort of pointer in case you are stuck for ideas. Feel free do make up your own thoughts as they are, after all, your characters. Similarly, please don't choose the words of my NPCs. If you'd like to know what person X would say, PM and we'll hash out a conversation. Once again, welcome. It's going to be a fun ride!)
Letting out a small pent of breath Mordred looks around the training hall of the ‘Holy Wrath’ with his gaze flicking from Talerion to the several broken blades and then the wrecked servitors and shakes his head ever so slightly at the anger the younger swordsman of Squad Dothrac before he moves over to the sword wrack and begins inspecting the blades for one similar in dimensions to his own obsidian and gold hilted sword that lies back in his room with the rest of his armour. As his blue eyes flicker from blade to blade with his fingers brushing ever so slowly along the edge of the swords as if his merest touch would break them he allows his gut and psychic instinct to pick one out.
Mordred decided that he could not fault Talerion for wanting to vent his anger at the death of Brother Inoe and Emrys along with Justicar Zephyr as each and every member of the Astartes, not just the Grey Knights but those of other chapters each feels and reacts to the death of their comrades, friends and brothers-in-arms differently. To Talerion that reaction seems to be anger and frustration, Auril has not been seen for several hours after going to the chapel to pray and commune in some way with the Emperor, Mordred had not seen Galahad or Ianus since they had left the space Hulk but suspected that they were in someway dealing with it in their own way, though he suspected Galahad would be feeling the loss more keenly than himself or his brothers thanks to his Telepathic and Emphatic link to his brothers.
Mordred himself however only felt shame coupled with a deep sense of resignation after having meditated alone inside of his room for several hours ignoring the calls off all his brothers especially that of Galahad as he did not wish for perhaps his closest brother to pick up on his feelings of loss to add to his own. The shame Mordred felt was the shame of a warrior and a friend who was unable to protect his battle-brother and mentor, the shame of having been able to protect Zephyr in the past even though it was rarely acknowledged either psychically or vocally but not being able to protect Zephyr when he needed it the most.
The deep sense of resignation that Mordred was now feeling was that he knew no matter how hard he tried, how strong he became or how great of a warrior he ended up becoming he could not be everywhere at once to protect his brothers and that should he continue to serve the Emperor for centuries still he would lose more brothers in time. Shaking his head from left to right and back again the raven haired Grey Knight shook off his depression and resignation almost as quickly as it had came moments ago before he closed his eyes and gripped the large two-handed sword he had retrieved from the sword wrack until his knuckles turned white before he swore an oath to himself and to the Emperor.
“Never Again. Never again while I still draw breath and my hearts beat will I allow my vigilance of the battle and the future to falter, I shall predict our foes intend and use that to guard my brothers from death even if it means making the greatest of foes single me out and slay be instead so that my brothers may do their duty for: Only In Death Does Duty End. Ave Imperator.”
Having sworn his oath Mordred turns on the spot and strides purposefully over to Talerion and slaps him on the shoulder in a rare sign of camaraderie before stepping back to put ten feet of room between himself and the younger swordsman. “Come Talerion, I want to see if breaking servitors has improved your blade work or if your still as skilled as a Green Skin in a butchers shop.” Mordred declared challenging Talerion with the very faintest curl of the edges of his lips into a smile.
Ianus sighed lightly as he rose to his feet from bed. The artificers had promised to finish his armor within the day, and so he was now heading down to get his armor back. He'd been without his armor for awhile now, and in all honesty... he knew he'd have to curb his habit of jumping in to save his brothers, sadly he'd not been able to save his Justicar, and his two brothers... rather he had only delayed their deaths, though he wished he could've taken their places, as each of them were good men, better than he. Though his Chaplain had told him it was the Emperor's protection that had seen him through that horrid place. However he quickly shook all thoughts from his mind as he walked up to the artificer.
"Good day Artificer. Is my armor repaired and ready for combat once again?" Ianus asked, a small smile across his face.
The retort from the Artificer came at no surprise to Ianus, as he was used to such jokes, and remarks. He did after all have a habit of getting into the faces of his enemies. Getting close and personal with an enemy in the heat of combat was far more effective than staying at a distance, more so when facing Daemon's. They were quick, but not as quick as his blade, which proved true on board the space hulk. Either way his smile grew wider across his features as he grabbed his armor, passing it to his servitor that had been at his side since he left his room.
"Well, you know me. I attract bladed weapons to myself, a blessing if I say so myself." He replied as he turned away from the artificer, and began to make his way towards the Library. He wanted to do some light reading, while he still had time. He knew it wouldn't be long before they would arrive upon their next objective. That and he wanted to keep his mind off of his fallen brothers, and focus his thoughts towards something productive. Training would only help relieve himself of his anger, but he would need that for when he faces his new foes. And he was one of the believers of self prayer, so he'd save his questions and blessings from the Emperor later. So of all his choices he chose the better of the three. Study helped hone his mind and prepare him for certain enemies. And if he were called to combat, his servitor was by his side holding his armor ready for him to don it on at a moments notice. For now however he would be okay with just his robes.
As he entered the Librarium, he took a look around, taking note of a few Imperial naval personal, but no one of real note to him, but he gave a gentle smile and nod towards each that passed him. Before long he found a small place for himself and had managed to find a couple tomes, each shedding some light on how to combat his Daemon foes.
The Emperor was not a forgiving god- not to the unworthy nor the worthy alike. No, there would be no forgiveness, not for this error nor for any others; all that remained, the Chaplains taught, was atonement.
Inoe. Emrys. Zephyr. Three names, three brave warriors, three souls who would fight by the God-Emperor's side in the final battle. They had been strong in life and would be strong in that which came after, beacons for the faithful and instruments of His divine will. Each of them would be remembered; Auril had engraved their names upon the hilt of his sword, that their memory would continue to smite the heretic and the daemon even in death.
They had fallen in battle, deaths worthy of eternal remembrance, deaths such as any in the Chapter would be proud of. They had done their duty to the end.
Auril's murmured prayers continued, his supplications to the God-Emperor strengthened and filled with his psychic prowess. The candles in the chapel wavered with each word- their fires were maintained through the Grey Knight's power, burning higher and brighter than the natural flame produced when they were lit by the menial servitor that puttered around and kept this place of worship clean- and as he intoned the final word of the prayer, they leapt once more.
Another presence entered the chapel, causing, it seemed, the entire ship's framework to thrum with psychic excitement. Auril's eyes remained closed, beginning another prayer, one of the thousands that he had memorised as a neophyte at the behest of the Chaplains, despite the approach of the other soul; he felt this other kneeling beside him.
A voice, strong, powerful, that of someone who expected obedience without question, worked its way into Auril's skull, bypassing the wards tattooed upon his scalp. A fellow Knight- in fact, the Brotherhood Champion himself, Jairus, he of the shining blade, the glorious warrior who defended their Captain against all that threatened. The Champion spoke, requesting that Auril remove himself from the chapel- and his word was law.
The Grey Knight's eyes snapped open, bright and green. He stood, the burlap robes he wore when war-plate was not required rustling over his musclebound form; with a respectful nod to the Brotherhood Champion, he turned to leave.
Brother Galahad, also of Dothrac Squad, had entered; bare feet padding on the cold chapel floor, Auril gave another nod of acknowledgement, mouth remaining set in its normal grim position; passing through the entrance, he pondered what to do. They were in the warp, on their way to the next battle; he had been in the chapel for full six hours. Spiritual preparation taken care of, it was time for the physical; the Grey Knight moved through the Holy Wrath's corridors, finding his way to the small cell in which he had made his home away from the fortress-monastery on Titan.
Within lay only a bed, a stand for his dull grey war-plate, covered in inscriptions of prayers and liturgies, and a small shrine- a triptych, the first panel a portrait of the Emperor as he had been before the Great Crusade, the third that of Him clad in His golden Terminator plate, a flaming sword held aloft, and the center that of Him, seated in His Golden Throne. Each of the images were brilliantly rendered by the artist, coming as close as a mortal, or, indeed, a demigod of the Astartes could to depicting His perfection. Making the sign of the holy aquila upon his chest, mirroring the tattoo upon his neck, Auril stepped in and retrieved his sword.
It was a beautiful weapon, longer than most mortals were tall, its blade forged of the strongest iron, flecked with psyk-reactive silver, strengthened with psychic power. Its golden hilt positively hummed with mental energy as it met the Astartes' palm, the bond between transhuman and sword melding the two into one.
The training halls were not far, not for the massive stride of an Astartes warrior; Auril was there in seemingly a moment. Brothers Talerion and Mordred were there already; allowing each of them that same silent nod, the Grey Knight moved past them and to another training cage.
Upon the walls there were displayed weapons of every kind, swords, halberds, hammers, blades of all types; Auril disdained such things, preferring to practice with his own weapon, forging it into an extension of his mind, not simply of his body. Inputting commands for three practice-servitors, armed with random weaponry, the Astartes stripped away the top half of his tunic, baring the corded strength of his torso. Scars of old battles stood proud, the white traceries a chronicle of the transhuman's life as one of the God-Emperor's chosen; muscles in his neck flexed as he held his sword ready.
It was a heavy weapon, meant for use by an Adeptus Astartes wearing power armor; yet despite this, Auril wielded it like he would any other sword. Decades of practice allowed him to handle it with ease, psychic talent lightening the burden even further.
The first servitor came, the amalgamation of man and machine wielding a flail; the second closed in from behind, twin swords ready to strike, while the third, with a trident, remained back.
Auril's sword fell, a precise strike severing the first servitor's arm as it swung at him, the second blow opening its skull and blasting a pulse of psychic energy into it to detonate its torso. The second lunged; rotating out of the way, the Grey Knight lashed out at the third as it advanced, sending its left shoulder and head whirling away.
It had been two seconds since the fight had began. Dispassionately, his movements as mechanically precise as before, Auril put the thick point of the blade through the last servitor's torso.
Too easy. As a serf moved in to remove the wreckage, Auril stepped over to the console and put in a command for five servitors, maximum difficulty level, random weaponry.
One could never practice enough...
Talerion breathed heavily for a moment, the pile of combat servitors had mounted, there were three or four, maybe five, he had lost track. Time was not a concern of his now, but perhaps it should have been, ministrations in the Chapel were being held and perhaps that would have been a better place for him at this moment...Never the less, he was here in the training cages, for longer than he should have been. He was not festering in his anger, rather he was releasing what anger and frustration remained within, he needed to cleanse himself of these feelings. His mind kept trying to replay events from the Darkest Hour and each time the result was the same; Three of his battle brothers were dead, names he would never speak again, save for in tones of reverence and in memory. His blood was hot, near boiling still from the mission that accomplished so very little. That was what grated him most, they had so little to show for their great loss. They had not repelled the hated foes of Chaos from a bastion or fortress world, they had recovered mere trinkets from the space hulk that the Inquisitor had deemed worth the lives of three decorated Astartes. The price was high, but it must have been worth it. The Emporer had willed it, and thus it must have been worth it...
Brother Mordred's entrance to the training cages had not gone unnoticed out of the corner of Talerion's eyes, and he had hoped that the slightly eldar Astartes would simply move along without trying to interrupt. Talerion did not hold anything against Mordred, he could not help but feel a certain pull of aggravation as the man addressed him "Come Talerion, I want to see if breaking servitors has improved your blade work or if your still as skilled as a Green Skin in a butchers shop." Mordred already had entered the cage, wielding his preferred weapon in the form of a two handed sword. Talerion wordlessly exited the cage, leaving Mordred to wonder if perhaps there was something more to Talerion's aversion to him at the moment.
Making his way to the weapons rack the broad Astartes smiled letting out a satisfied 'humph' as he nodded to himself. Returning to the cage he allowed himself to return Mordred's faint grin with a broad, jovial smile "Of course Brother Mordred, I have learned much from the servitors...Patience chief among them, seeing as I have to wait for them to be repaired so frequently, haha" his boisterous laughter echoed throughout the training hall. "You may be so bold as to 'challenge' me now that I am weary from training brother, but you shant catch me without my favorite glaive Brother," there was a distinct playful banter to his tone. They were rivals to some extent as they were both notable in their bladesmanship, but both seemed to have separate goals. Even if they had the same goals, it mattered not, Talerion knew that training with Mordred over time would only help him to improve and vice versa, iron would sharpen iron.
"Would you prefer an affixed round count Brother Mordred or shall we go until first blood?" Talerion was somewhat fond of first blood, but only because it allowed him to fix his shortcomings, it was a clear indication that a certain technique or stance needed to be improved upon, though some battle brothers took training to being blooded as a challenge against their honor. Talerion's intentions were only to improve and become the best warrior he could, but perhaps Mordred might take offense? His tone and mannerisms though suggested he was merely asking out of courtesy to Mordred and not challenging him beyond simply sparring. Talerion allowed the glaive, which mimicked his force halbred quite well, to slide down in his grip so as he held it firmly in his right hand about a third down the haft of the weapon, his left hand rested loosely against the lower mid portion of the weapon's handle, awaiting Mordred to make the first move.
My quarters were enough for that, thank the Emperor. Enough to allow me the peace to focus on what was important. My brothers Inoe and Emrys and our Justicar, Zephyr, all fell in the battle to take The Darkest of Days. How could I keep the squad together after such a loss? Even now, I could feel them in the back of my mind, a bundle of emotions that more often than not were sadness or anger at the deaths. I had made it my task to keep us bound together as brothers but then I was failing. There was too much loss, too much anger to be smoothed over. So I would not try to. I would focus those emotions, direct them and so bring the squad closer in the shared goal of vengeance. If it would keep us together, I would fashion the squad into a weapon for the next Justicar. I would do anything for Dothrac.
My armour rested on a stand before me, the shoulder pad in my left hand. With my right I ran a cloth over its gleaming surface. The motions were mechanical, instinctive. Something to allow me to think.
While cleaning the armour may have been mechanical, they seemed a way of cleansing my soul of doubt and shame in order to prepare myself for the battles that were yet to come.
But my meditations were not to last, interrupted as they were by a knock on the door. I flowed upwards from my cross legged position and moved to the door, hesitating before opening it. The door opened silently to reveal one of the many mortal serfs. I read his mind and was moving off before he even finished speaking. “Brotherhood Champion Jairus requests you at the chapel. He would not say why.” He bowed and turned away as I strode past him. I had no wish to leave my acting-commander waiting.
Reaching the chapel without incident, I stepped aside to let Auril move past me as he left. I nodded to him and he returned it, a gesture of respect between two brothers. Entering the chapel, I saw Jairus kneeling at the front with his head bowed in petition. I moved quietly to him and knelt beside him, bowing my own head and resting my hands on my thighs.
Not wishing to disturb the silence of that holy place, I communicated with my mind. ‘Brotherhood Champion?’ Jairus responded in the same way, presumably for the same reason. "Ah, Galahad I'm glad you've come." I almost smiled at that. It was merely a formality for I had had little choice in the matter but still, I appreciated it. “Do you feel any of your brothers can be trusted with the mantle of Justicar Galahad?” So much for most of my ideas on why Jairus wanted to speak with me. I had expected a Justicar from another source, a more experienced brother and one that I would not be asked for an opinion on. It took me a moment to collect my thoughts.
‘I believe that Mordred could take up the mantle Brotherhood Champion. Auril could also.’ Jairus’ response was simple and to the point. “Why?”.
I settled on my heels and contemplated my reasons for picking them. Satisfied that they were accurate, I communicated them psychically. 'Mordred has the strength of mind and soul to ensure that he will always achieve that which he must in order to lead us to victory. I would quite happily place my life in his hands without a thought for he is a man that can always be trusted to see us through if it is within his power. Auril has the strength of faith to bring us through the darkest of times, even when compared with the rest of our brothers. With a power such as mine, his mind is a shining beacon of it.’
"I trust your assessments of them, and they confirm what I have already read about them. Mordred's conviction is admirable, but it is that which makes him unsuited for the title of Justicar. He may well make a fine Brotherhood Champion or Paladin some day, but he is no leader. Similarly, Auril's faith will serve the squad, and hopefully someday other brothers besides that, as a guiding beacon of truth. However, a lamp must be held by someone with the will to walk the path. What Dothrac needs right now is someone who can bind his brothers together. Someone who can utilise their strengths and manage their short-comings. They need a leader with a voice of reason and control. Someone who can temper them. From what I have seen and heard, you possess many of those attributes and the capacity to learn the rest."
I turned to him, shocked. I had never considered myself as fit for what he was suggesting but apparently he thought differently as he turned to look at me for the first time and rested a hand on my shoulder. Still, he communicated psychically. "Thus, I name you Justicar Galahad and leader of squad Dothrac."
I bowed my head and rose to my feet. I also still spoke with my mind. ‘Thank you for the trust you have placed in me Brotherhood Champion. I will try to honour it.’
Then I left.
I walked through the halls of Holy Wrath as if in a daze, trying to understand what Jairus had just granted me. I was now responsible for the lives of Auril, Talerion, Ianus and Mordred. My friends. My brothers. I had always viewed it as my task to look after the bond of the squad but now it was up to me to ensure they survived the battles to come. I knew with a sudden passion that if any of them fell while under my command I would find their killer and end them if it was the last thing I did. It seems my mind was already used to being a Justicar as I started thinking on how I was going to keep them alive as well as my usual thoughts on how to preserve our bond.
Reaching out with my mind, I sought Mordred’s. His focus and stubbornness was a beacon that outshone even Auril’s faith. ‘Where are you brother?’ I sent. His response was a mental picture of the training cages, Mordred squaring off against Talerion. I sensed a slight irritation and so withdrew my mind. Mordred always did get annoyed when I drew his attention during or in the moments leading up to a fight. Now knowing where Mordred and Talerion were, and I had noticed Auril in the background as well, I walked towards the training room. As I walked I sought Ianus and found him in the library. ‘Brother, meet me and the others in the training room.’
I entered the room in time to see Mordred and Talerion fight. Once Ianus had entered and they had finished, I called them and Auril over to me. I spoke, using my voice for the first time since we left The Darkest of Days. “Brothers, I am now your Justicar.”
Galahad left Brotherhood Champion Jairus alone to his petitions in the chapel. Although his psychic talents were far more focused on combat prowess, he still had the sensitivity to know that the young newly appointed Justicar was reaching out to those who moments ago had been his equals. Now he was above them and Jairus was content to leave him to manage his new squad however he saw fit and to inform them of this news in the same way. The young Knight must manage the squad’s internal bond on his own if he was to be truly realised as Justicar by the rest. Thus, all matters that required his immediate attention dealt with, Jairus fell back into silent prayer.
All: You are all embroiled in your various training, three of you choosing to hone your physical prowess whilst the other seeks to sharpen his mind in the same way. Either still contemplating the ramifications of your previous mission, immersed in the training you are participating in or contemplating what will be your next mission, you all find yourself drawn to the training cages by Galahad to receive the news that he is your new Justicar. Perhaps it feels uncomfortable but necessary for a new Justicar to be elected? Perhaps your feel Galahad is unsuited for the role and that someone else, maybe yourself, should have been offered the exalted position? However you feel about this turn of events, you must respond to it in addition to whatever else takes place in your update.
Galahad: You watch the faces and skim the surface of your brother’s psyches as you tell them that you are their new Justicar. Do you detect any sense of hostility or resistance to your recent promotion? Do you try to stifle feelings of either dread at now having such responsibility thrust upon you, or is this natural to you and a first of many promotions you expect to receive in your life as a warrior of the God-Emperor?Whatever your own internal feeling about becoming the Justicar are, you now have a decision to make. You note that most of your brothers responded to your psychic touch with hesitancy, perhaps implying that the squad’s cohesion has decayed since the calamity aboard ’The Darkest of Days’. How, if at all, do you seek to rectify this?
Within the training hall there are enough fire ranges for you all to practice purely fire-fight based technique. There large enough training cages for the whole quad to fit in and practice against one another. There is also a full combat simulator, which would allow the squad to practice a combat scenario against a mixture of combat and ranged servitors (firing non-armour piercing bullets with a mild neurotoxin, not fatal to Astartes but enough to discourage being hit by too many) in a mock section of a hive-city. However, Auril, Talerion and Mordred were all involved in something before you arrived and Ianus was likely also training, albeit mentally rather than physically. You can either try and initiate a group training exercise or dismiss everyone to resume what they were doing and then decide whether you yourself will do some training or perhaps go back to the chapel or to the Librarium.
Talerion: You and Mordred exchange a few more quips and decide upon three rounds, each consisting of first blood. You both immediately launch into fighting each other with enthusiasm, you both fighting a bladesman who could be considered your equal in the squad. Whilst neither of you are at Brotherhood Champion Jairus’s level yet, you both enjoy the challenge the other provides, if nothing else. However, even Astartes can become worn-out and after your extensive training session pervious to this, your movements are only fractionally slower than Mordred’s allowing him to win the first bout.
You may accept this first loss as only natural, since Mordred is fresh and unbloodied and you are already dripping in sweat and several of your muscles ache in protest to such a prolonged training session. Alternatively, you may view such things as inadequate excuses for those less skilled than you to fall back on. Perhaps you feel neither or something in between. Regardless the next round continues. Even slightly tired as you are, you pose a formidable opponent willing to exploit any weakness however brief. So when a look of absent mindedness and frustration flash across Mordred’s face, you press the advantage in your opponent’s lapse in concentration. He fends you off for a while, but he has lost the advantage over you and loses bout two.
Before you two can resume round three, you notice Galahad and Auril watching you from outside the cage and Ianus walking through the entrance. Before you can start again, Galahad uses the break in your fight to call you all round him and announce that he is the new Justicar of squad Dothrac. How do you react to this news? Galahad may well try and introduce some form of squad based training, which you should oblige to since he is your new leader but which will leave your sparring match with Mordred as a tie. If he doesn’t, do you still finish it there and allow your body to recuperate a bit or do you simply jump back into sparring one another?
Auril: You are steadily working on destroying all five of the servitors which you requested, your Nemesis Force Sword humming with latent psychic energy with every swing, block and parry you preform. In a very short space of time the servitors are reduced to little more than broken mechanical parts and shattered limbs. You are about to set up another round, your daily training having barely gotten started, when Galahad calls you over, his voice psychic contact a slight shock to you, perhaps suggesting that the squad has been separate entities for too long and needed to be brought back together. Then again perhaps not. Either way, you cancel your next bout and make your way over to the training cage and stand by Galahad watching Mordred and Talerion duel, both too involved to have noticed the two of you.
Ianus enters from behind both of you and Talerion and Mordred step out of their training cage and you all gather round Galahad as he informs you that he has been named Justicar of squad Dothrac. How do you react to this? Galahad may well try and introduce some form of squad based training, which you should oblige to since he is your new leader. However, if not you can feel free to go back to training by yourself, or follow Mordred and Talerion’s example and challenge one of the others to fight.
Mordred: You and Talerion exchange a few more quips and decide upon three rounds, each consisting of first blood. You both immediately launch into fighting each other with enthusiasm, you both fighting a bladesman who could be considered your equal in the squad. Whilst neither of you are at Brotherhood Champion Jairus’s level yet, you both enjoy the challenge the other provides, if nothing else. Whether you personally put it down to the fact that you are simply superior to Talerion or that the other Grey Knight has been training for some time now, you win bout one.
Having scored first blood the two of you break away and adopt fighting stances again before launching into attacking each other with what some might mistake for, at best, cathartic release of dislike for one another. However, you know that there is nothing so personal invested in this match, save possibly pride. However, after a sudden intrusion from Galahad, you momentarily lose focus which Talerion exploits to win bout 2. Does this reflect badly on your skill as a bladesman, possibly convincing you that your inadequacy was the reason Zephyr fell? Or does is suggest to you that you have all let the psychic bond between you be silent for too long?
By the time you have reflected on this loss however it affects you and are ready to fight once more, you notice Galahad and Auril watching you from outside the cage and Ianus walking through the entrance. Before you can start again, Galahad uses the break in your fight to call you all round him and announce that he is the new Justicar of squad Dothrac. How do you react to this news, especially given your relationship with both Zephyr and Galahad? Galahad may well try and introduce some form of squad based training, which you should oblige to since he is your new leader but which will leave your sparring match with Talerion as a tie. If he doesn’t, do you still finish it there and allow your body to recuperate a bit or do you simply jump back into sparring one another?
Ianus: You are ravenously devouring information from the tome in your hands. It denoted the effects of a gas which often accompanies daemons of the Dark Prince, know to ale the mind and dumb the senses. The tome denotes various methods and psychic protection one can use to resist its warp-imbued potency. As you take this information in, a presence in your mind startles you. It is Galahad, calling you to the training area. Whether you desired it or not, combat may well be upon you, although perhaps you wonder why Galahad calls you to be anywhere, since you are all equals. Likely expecting combat, you servitor carrying your armour follows you and goes to stand in the corner of the room with your armour, should you require it.
As you enter, Auril is already with Galahad and Mordred and Talerion are getting out of the training cage, both sporting one fresh wound presumably from one another. Galahad then announces that he is the new Justicar of squad Dothrac. How do you react to this news? Galahad may well try and introduce some form of squad based training, which you should oblige to since he is your new leader. However, if he does not, what do you do? Since you are in the training halls now, do you challenge one of the others or do you begin training yourself since your squad now has some form of coherent structure to it now that you have a Justicar, despite what you might think of him. Alternatively, you could chose to leave the presence of your brothers and return to the Librarium, or elsewhere if you desire.
(Note: Ok to it's 20 minutes past 1/2/2014, but hopefully you'll be alright with this. Galahad's portion of the update is first because his decision on how to proceed will likely dictate the second half of your updates. So you could either post up until hearing the news that Galahad is the new Justicar and wait for Santaire to post before posting what happens after that after Santaire's posted. Alternatively, you could wait for Santaire to post of ask Santaire what he will tell you to do and then write pre-preemptively about that before he has posted. Also, bear in mind that whenever you're actions will affect other players or NPCs I haven't given you license to hurt/maim/kill/otherwise effect PM them/me and discuss what will happen before you post. Otherwise, hope you enjoy the update!)
“The ring of blade on blade, steel on steel, the controlled breathing and focus of when a warrior battles another warrior, a private war between two whose skill is evenly matched is something that has always been one of my personal favorite things to either experience or watch. Today I am taking part in one such ‘battle’ and I am enjoying it and the challenge that comes with it, Talerion is a master with his weapon as I am with mine however his Halberd affords him more reach than my sword does and it gives him an advantage is being able to strike at me before I get in range…but while he has that advantage I have two over him: The first is that I am fresh from my room and have not been training relentlessly so my muscles are not tired, the second is that his advantage is also a disadvantage as once I have stepped within his guard I am able to reduce his ability to thrust or bring the blade arcing around and force Talerion to move back to regain his advantage.” The raven haired warrior says to himself though the words do not leave his lips.
The bout had been going on for a matter of minutes when Mordred scored his first telling hit using the point of his two-handed sword to carve a thin red line across Talerion’s left bicep before stepping back and nodding to his brother wielding the Halberd. First Blood was his and as was the first round. Mordred was now focusing on the way which Talerion fought with his favored weapon and was now starting to be able to watch out for his tricky feint that led into a rather impressive counter attack by which Talerion thrust forward with the point of his Halberd but while turning to dodge from the point he would whip it around bringing the edge of the blade arcing towards his opponents chest. He had seen the younger warrior use it on many a daemon and heretic but he had never been on the receiving end of it himself. Mordred had to admit to himself that if it came down to it then Talerion was definitely the one more suited to eventually ascend to the ranks of Brotherhood Champion.
The second bout started much like the first with Mordred and Talerion flying at each other and the flash of silvered steel and ring of blade on blade once again signaling an impressive spar between two brothers but for all of Mordred’s ability to predict the future in most cases when it came to battles and their outcomes he never would of seen the outcome of the second bout, or the reason for it coming as Galahad intruded upon his thoughts asking for where he was. Mordred’s face curled into a visible frown which along with his near permanent ‘sneer’ made it look as if he was snarling in anger at Talerion as while he was not able to give his brother Galahad a full answer he was able to send him a mental picture of himself sparring with Talerion in the changes but in doing so he had stopped giving Talerion his full attention when he should of.
Thanks to Galahad’s intrusion Talerion was able to use those moments in which Mordred was not fully focused to go on the offensive and while Mordred was able to hold his Halberd wielding brother off for another two minutes he lost the second bout when Talerion’s halberd carved its own red line down the center of his chest electing an annoyed grunt from Mordred shortly followed by an approving now to Talerion as he stepped back to his original position and for the third bout which would result in the winner. However it was then that Mordred noticed Galahad, Auril and Ianus waiting for himself and Talerion with Galahad looking as if he had something to say, stepping out of the training cage Mordred rested the point of his blade on the steel floor with both of his hands resting upon the pommel of the blade while listening to Galahad make his announcement to the rest of Squad Dothrac.
Mordred listens in silence as watches the facial reactions of his fellow battle brothers on the news that Galahad is now the Justicar of Squad Dothrac though he knew it wouldn’t do him much good trying to read his brothers as he was no telepath or empathy like Galahad himself but he was just trying to get a sense of his brothers approval or disapproval. Mordred himself turned his gaze to meet Galahad’s and gave his battle-brother an inclination of his head to show his approval and acceptance of him as Justicar with a slight smile coming to his lips for the second time today. Privately he knew that Galahad would be a worthy successor to Zephyr though recalling the name of his old Justicar still brought slight pans of guilt and pain, Mordred knew that each Justicar was the focal point of a Grey Knight Squad and that they needed to know their squad inside and out to best utilize them and bring them a chance of victory. Galahad’s personality and psychic abilities made him the perfect choice for such a role though he lacked experience and Mordred decided to rectify that so he closed his mind off to all of his brothers save Galahad before speaking mind-to-mind to him.
+“Congratulations on ascending to the rank of Justicar, Brother Galahad”+ Mordred sent in overly formal tones which he never had really used with Galahad before as they had been equals but now he was the Justicar he would treat him with the respect that he had given Zephyr. +”You are a worthy successor to Zephyr’s mantle, Brother Champion Janius chose well when he picked you. I can only really guess how you are feeling about your ascension in the ranks my Brother however I would make a suggestion given that we are heading into an active battle zone and you have yet to test yourself as the Justicar.”+
+“So you learn how best to lead and direct Dothrac, I propose that until we reach our destination we spend atleast four hours running full combat drills and scenario’s so that you are able to learn more of your duties of being a Justicar. Do not think that I am telling you what to do Brother; it is merely a suggestion that is all. In the end the choice is yours and I shall comply with your decision.”+
+“Thank you Mordred, but in private such as now I am only Galahad to you my friend. Feel free to question me in private, it will keep me sane.' Galahad’s tone was only half joking as he sent that in response to Mordred. 'As to your suggestion, it is an excellent idea.”+ Mordred inclined his head once again and waited for Galahad to address the entire squad as he already knew what was coming.
Ianus' mind was absorbing all the information from the tome, using his physic abilities to block out the touch of evil that began to pour from the tome itself. In truth he had learned a number of new ways to combat his Daemon foes, and where to strike from and how to get to good striking range. Though sadly it had done little to actually advance his true goal. His want to destroy the Daemons for good was still proving to be a harder task than he would've liked. In all honesty Ianus was getting slightly annoyed at his inability to actually learn anything on his goal... More so since it might have saved his brothers. The thought made him frown slightly as he closed the tome. Placing it off to the side along with a number of other tomes he had read through in a short amount of time. Old ways of fighting hidden under the ruse of new. However he quickly shook his head, slapping himself mentally before reaching his bare hand out, gripping another tome in his hand. The moment he opened the great book open, he was bombarded by a number of daemonic tricks and mental games, all of which he had successfully blocked from his mind. There would be no taint to touch him, this he swore.
After some time reading page after page, his mind was suddenly felt a gentle nudge as it were. Ianus lifted his head from his studies, slamming the book closed. His eyes remained locked on the wall ten feet away from himself. A small sigh escaped from between his lips. He knew who it was that was calling him. Although he was slightly annoyed at the sudden distraction he couldn't keep upset long. A small yet gentle smile crept across his features before he placed the recently closed tome atop to join the others piled on it.
"Well then... I guess I should address this call. Though I believe I might already have an idea what it could be about." Ianus muttered softly, as a gentle tug pulled his mind towards last nights dream during his meditation.
The Emperor had given him subtle hints. He'd seen a gentle, brave, and loyal Astartes stand above them, with the Emperor's light shinning upon him. Although he had not known who it was seeing as how many of his battle brothers were all of those things. Either way he would have to wait until he met with the others before he made any assumptions on who became the new Strike Squad Justicar. So with a glance and nod towards his servitor to follow, he made his way out of the librarium.
As he walked down the great hallways of the ship, growing ever closer towards the training halls, he couldn't help but feel slightly... happier. There was hope for his squad and his brothers. More so if the Emperor's message proved true. Even if it was incredibly vague, it was still nice to know someone with a wise and gentle heart towards humanity was going to lead the squad. Just the thought of it saw to a smile form across his face. The smile remained even when he walked into the training hall, a wave of heat hitting him hard as he walked in. In truth he was quite happy he chose to wear his robes rather than his armour... even if it has it's own environment once put on. Although right now he didn't believe he needed it right now, he wasn't expecting to train his body. His mind was still hungry for knowledge, to gain a foothold towards his real goal of destroying Daemons for good without having to into the warp like his beloved Chapters Grand Chapter Master.
However all thoughts were pushed aside the moment he took his place near the practice cage followed closely by his servitor carrying his armour. By the time he turned to face his brothers, Galahad had just announced he was the new Justicar. In truth he was a bit surprised, but at the same time his smile didn't fade, his brother was worthy of the rank, he was everything the Emperor had shown in his vision.
"I agree with Brother Mordred. I'm glad to see you rise up to take the mantle of Justicar. The Emperor has always looked upon you with much love and hope." Ianus congratulated his brother, his friend, his Justicar.
Although the one thing he was a bit unprepared for was the training. He was unarmoured and unready. Though that in itself would prove to be a good form of training if ever a daemon managed to get aboard their ship during their travel through the warp.
Either way he had to get himself ready, so with a quick glance towards his servitor holding his armour, he began his oaths as he put on each piece of his power armour. Before long his entire body, save his head was fully armoured. His helm was held under his left arm, before he turned to his other brothers. Although he could still feel a tint of shame as he remembered the large scar across both his helm, and torso armour. Each piece had a number of large scars that had been filled in and repaired leaving something that seemed like an unhealed wound. The scar could be well seen as it stood out upon his grey armour. A gentle sign escaped him before he looked up smiling.
“Well Brother Justicar, what do you request of us?”
Talerion's pride was great, but his respect for his battle brother Mordred was greater. The two collided in what would lightly be referred to as 'spirited' sparring sessions and this was no exception. Though his muscles no longer possessed their full freshness that would not be any excuse. Perhaps that was in part responsible for Mordred gaining advantage, pressing beyond Talerion's extended range, closing the distance and forcing Talerion to make use of the glaive in tighter quarters than he would like.
The blood ran fast for only a moment as the blade flashed across his upper shoulder, surgically sharp, the wielder clinically precise. His enhanced clotting factor quickly kicked in, the flow of the blood lessening within moments. Talerion nodded, almost in appreciation of his brother's great swordsmanship. Of all his brothers he felt a kinship moreso with Mordred, they were all bonded by blood, but he and Mordred were bonded by blades. They had spent many excessively long sessions in the training cages, many "best of 5 sets" that had extended into "best of 15" and so on.
While they fought with different styles, Talerion utilized broad sweeping, powerful arcing attacks designed to be chained together into highly lethal combinations that forced an opponent to go on the defensive. The drawback being that if the opponent was able to force the fight into closer quarters, and put the pressure on Talerion, his weapon was not purpose built to excel in that situation. Mordred's two handed sword was a wonderful compromise, while not possessing the long reach of the glaive, he had more reach than the standard power sword and the weapon was still nimble enough to be wielded very effectively in close proximity to his enemies.
Never the less, being better equipped for pressing the advantage in close did not help Mordred as his attention momentarily slipped from their sparring session. Talerion pressed back, a massive upswept strike flashing outwards at Mordred put him on his heels before the weapon smoothly transitioned in Talerion's hands, bringing the weapon in a follow up slash that came from the left, cutting toward's his right at a slight downward angle, followed up by what was often the 'final blow' for many of his enemies. A massive sweeping motion brought the glaive blade from pointing at the ground just in front of his right foot up above his head and crashing back straight down with enough force as if to split Mordred in half. Mordred's skills were immense and he found ways to parry Talerion's first two strikes where others simply would have been without response. But the final downward cut found its way past his defenses, leaving a razor thin mark on Mordred's upper torso, the wound only revealing itself as the slightest hint of red poured from the wound for several seconds.
Talerion then noticed why Mordred's attention had been drawn away and followed his fellow bladesman out of the training cage. He straightened himself up, holding his glaive upright as if they were falling in line. The entrance of Galahad, Ianus and Auril could only mean one thing, and it made Talerion proud and happy for his battle brother Galahad, he was a truly worthy successor to Zephyr.
"Well met Brother Justicar Galahad," he exclaimed, his voice was deep even by Astartes standards, but there was clearly a sense that he was happy for Galahad. He felt that with a Justicar once more, especially one as qualified as Galahad they would be back on the right course the one that had been set for them centuries, eons ago, the one that Brother Justicar Zephyr had walked before, the one that Brother Justicar Galahad would lead them on now. There was a serene feeling within Talerion, a feeling that squad Dothrac would be whole again. "What are your orders Brother Justicar?"
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