Veptus lay back against the harness of the Revenant, grimacing slightly under his helm whenever the flyer would shudder and pull the harness straps taut against his mangled collarbone and ribs. He would definitely need that seen to when they got back to the Maiden. The new-comer, Kesh from some company Veptus hadn’t even bothered to retain, was something of a curiosity. The fractious politics of the VIIIth Legion meant many Astartes past between squads at the whims of themselves or their masters. He wondered how long it would be before the upstart began to try to climb the ladder of Xandrek’s favour and how long after that he would have to put the pup in his place. Pelegon had seen reason and adapted quickly enough, but other Night Lords were less reasonable. Often, it came to blood.
Veptus kept his ear open to the tales of the others regarding how their various personal battles on Isstvan had gone, but he kept his own council. His thoughts were still occupied by his meeting with the VIIIth Primarch. Although he maintained a close orbit t Xandrek, he had never been regarded by the Night Haunter until this day. He had only ever seen his father from afar. Although they were out of Isstvan’s atmosphere and Konrad Curze was many miles below, likely still carving red ruin through the Loyalist lines, he could still feel those abyssal black orbs piercing his soul. Even now he felt them questing, judging him. Veptus wondered if his encounter with the Primarch would lead to further audiences and, although he did his best to silence the thoughts, he wondered if that was truly what he wanted.
The Revenant touched down and it pulled Veptus from his introspection. He noticed very quickly the stench of viscera. It was a heady, metallic smell, a different cocktail to what he was used to. Clearly Pelegon had suffered catastrophic damage and from the small amounts of blood leaking from his cracked breast-plate, Veptus suspected it was either his heart or his lungs that had been severely damaged, if not destroyed in its entirety. As Xandrek left he bade Veptus to head for the Apothecarion and take care of himself, then Pelegon, then Azrael. He made it clear enough that Azrael would live, and preparation for bionic limbs made it apparent he would continue in some form other than the cold metallic un-death of becoming a Dreadnought. However, Xandrek was still sure to punish him for whatever his sin on Isstvan was and Veptus mused on how involved he would be in Azrael’s punishment. Although they could be considered friends, he would not defy Xandrek. That and there was something alluring about breaking the psyche of one so trusted. As always, the teachings of the Primarch would prove true; waywardness can only be perturbed by bloody retribution.
The four of them swiftly made their way to the Apothecarion . “I’m glad to see you made it Xheng…” Veptus commented idly as they walked “…it would have been so frustrating to have to train someone else to fill your position.” Xheng scoffed, it was as close as he’d get to an acknowledgment of his worth from Veptus. He was hardly a sentimental soul.
“And I see you survived your brush with the Raven Lord. It seems your devil’s luck continues to hold Primus” Xheng retorted.
“Don’t call it devil’s luck. Surprisingly I have no desire to participate in whatever madness currently holds sway over Bloody Bones”
“Aye, long may it be so. Although, I doubt you can do too much more to dismember him…” Xheng nodded at Azrael as the approached the Apothecarion. Veptus laughed an eerie laugh.
“You of all people should know there is still much I can do to him. The Captain need only give the word.” As Xheng unceremoniously dumped Azrael on a medical slab Veptus was sure he understood how precarious his position was now. Whatever bonds of friendship they had would not spare him from Xandrek’s wrath or Veptus’ blade.
Xheng ordered a couple of Apothecary Minoris’s to deal with the worst of Azrael’s wounds and Veptus removed his chestplate and helmet. His chest was a patchwork mess of bruises. His right pectoral was slightly caved in, indicating far worse wounds to his ribs than Veptus had suspected.
Xheng fussed about him Veptus nodded and waved him dismissively as he lay down. He felt the cold metallic kiss of his Minoris’s narthecium and everything below his neck began to feel numb. Although he had a great affinity for causing pain, he had no desire to experience it when it was not necessary. Xheng had injected him with a small semi-liquid disk which secreted hormones which bound with the nerve fibres below where it was injected, the disk itself preventing the same chemicals worming their way up his spinal column and disabling the neurons in his brain. He was still free to move his body and his limbs still felt pain, but they were deadened at his spine, barred from reaching his brain.
He heard Xheng’s chainblade attachment of his Narthecium cut away at his shoulder as Nyx walked in. Nyx and Azoth had been sent to subdue Pelegon, no doubt word having reached Xandrek of what it had taken to subdue Pelegon last time. The two began to struggle with the Iron Warrior. “Nyx, whilst I appreciate your assistance I very much doubt that will be necessary. I think our friend here, despite whatever notions of stoicism he may adhere to, accepts that he is in need of surgery and will comply…” Veptus fixed Pelegon with a quizzically avian stare before the Iron Warrior nodded shallowly. Slowly the two terminators released him. “…Lie back Pelegon, I will be with you shortly.” Xheng had reset his collarbone properly and coated it in an osteoblast secreting gel. His body would decompose it in a matter of hours, but by then his bone would be almost fully knit back together.
As Xheng moved to remove his rib-plate in order to examine his vital organs and the rib-plate itself, Veptus spoke. “While you are here Nyx, perhaps you would regale me with the stories of the wider battles fought today. And don’t leave out the interesting bits.” Veptus grinned mercilessly. Nyx chuckled, although Veptus always felt he had a certain nervous quality to his laugh as if he were only pretending to laugh and wasn’t sure if he was convincing enough.
“Ferrus Manus is dead.” Was his opening line. Veptus’s eyes widened in shock. Although no one said it, there was an unspoken belief that Primarchs were immortal.
“Well that puts to death that notion.” He muttered to himself.
“Slain by Fulgrim, so they say. Most of the rest of his Avernii we cut down by Fulgrim’s bastard Children. The report I’ve been hearing of the things they have been doing to the dead and dying almost put Bloody Bones to shame. The Salamanders have been resolutely obliterated, the XXth, the IVth and our kin took care of that. I heard Perturabo nuked Vulkan out of spite, but the reptile survived. He had to be beaten down by hand before he’d realise he was doomed the stupid nas’ethi…” Nyx swore in Nostraman.
“You said doomed, not dead?” Veptus interrupted. Nyx sneered.
“Oh, no. Far from it. Reports from the 8th Company are that the Primarch found him still breathing. A nuclear missile, innumerable blades and bolt shells later and he’s still alive. Although, I suspect when the Night Haunter is through with him he’ll wish he was. Perhaps he’ll even let you have a go, if you’re extra good. On a related note, our own casualties have been estimated at about 30% of our fighting capacity are either wounded or dead. I suspect the Apothecarion will be busy for some time yet Veptus.”
The thought of torturing a primarch was…exhilarating and worrying. Only one he had mastered Astartes physiology could he elicit the levels of response he wanted from his subject. A Primarch’s structure was all but unknown to him.
“You haven’t mentioned Corax yet. I was there; Curze had him in his talons. What happened to the Raven Lord?” Veptus commented noting that Xheng was almost done fusing his ribs back together, his work completed. Nyx’s face darkened.
“Do not mention the Raven Lord to the Primarch or Sevatar, not unless you are tired of living.”
“What happened Nyx?” Veptus almost growled
"What do you think happened? He snuck away, as he always does. Thousands of his legion escaped with him, plus stragglers from the other legions. Although all sources suggest they’ve done little more than choose a different place on this blasted planet to die, the Primarch was furious, a feeling I’ve heard he shares with our ‘Warmaster’.”
Veptus nodded to himself. Once more Xheng’s narthecium pierced his spine, this time removing the disk previously implanted. Now extracted, his body quickly metabolised the chemicals. Although it would take about an hour or so for his pain receptors to be as responsive as normal, feeling quickly returned to his extremities and as it did so he began to feel the first aches of his surgery.
“Much obliged Xheng.” Veptus said sitting himself upright again. He looked over at Azrael, stricken on the medical slab. He was not doomed but Veptus would not heal him totally until he knew what Xandrek had planned. “Get him prepped for his bionic limbs, but don’t attach them yet…” he told Xheng in hushed tones “…I will speak to the Captain before I restore him completely.” Veptus reattached his chest-plate. Time to get to work.
“Now Pelegon, normally I would anesthetise you, but I assume you won’t play along now will you?” Pelegon confirmed as much. Veptus sighed, it was as he suspected. “Can you believe that Azoth? He doesn’t trust me to only cut him open.” Veptus turned his head to the hulking terminator, his face feigning indignation. Azoth grunted.
“Shocking Corpse-Master. Truly this latest betrayal supersedes today’s, frankly, insignificant events.”
“I knew you’d understand…” Veptus turned his attention back to Pelegon. “…fortunately I have the same distain for general anaesthesia. So…” Veptus’s narthecium mirrored the incision Xheng had made on him “…you should be feeling numb below the incision point right about now. Now try to move your left hand.” Pelegon obeyed, his fingers twitching.
“The CSF implant coats the nerves in your spine so that they don’t receive pain signals, like insulating a wire…” Veptus spoke as he began his work peeling away Pelegon’s breastplate, sheering the metal rather than artfully removing it. The chestplate was a mangled mess and would need replacing anyway. Veptus had to ascertain the damage to Pelegon’s chest and he only wanted to remove as much of the chest-plate as he physically had to as it was probably helping to hold Pelegon’s vital organs in place. “…the pain signals never reach your brain. However, before you think about using your new found immunity to pain to batter your way out of the Apothecarion, the membrane-disc that secretes the chemical is a delicate thing. And over exertion of your spine can cause it to split and the chemical to flood your brain, cutting off all your neurons from all the other neurons in your brain and whilst you may have fewer to lose than the rest of us, it’s no more advisable.”
“So, Pelegon…” Nyx spoke at Veptus worked “…did you claim any glory for your Legion today? I’d hope it wasn’t some insignificant legionary that wounded you thusly, otherwise we might need to assign someone to baby-sit you.” Pelegon’s lip twitched in a momentary sneer. Veptus didn’t doubt he was weighing up the ability to reach out and throttle Nyx with Veptus’s hand beginning to cut away at his chest and a precarious CSF implant. Obviously he decided not to retort now, but even if he did later Nyx was capable to taking care of himself. One did not rise to being lieutenant to the 4th Captain by chance.
As Pelegon recalled his fights on the black sands of Isstvan below, Veptus focused on his work, Although coated in adimantium, Veptus’s narthecium could still get through his ribplate although the fact that it was practically shattered into shards helped too. Veptus removed each shard individually, constructing a macabre jigsaw to the side of him until he had a square hole in Pelegon’s chest and all the pieces arranged. He called a junior apothecary over to begin reassembling Pelegon’s ribplate. The adimantium coating it made it easier than fusing bone. They merely had to fuse the metal together and it would hold the bone in place while it healed.
While his junior worked on the ribplate, Veptus examined his organs. The most significant damage was Pelegon’s primary heart. Shreds of it lay scattered around the chest cavity and Veptus removed them. The heart had simply exploded in his chest. One of his lungs also had a massive rent in it, causing it to permanently deflate. Veptus closed the hole and the lung began to re-inflate, and he also began so suture several perfusions inside the chest cavity. There was significant trauma to his second lung as well as the beginning of his digestive tract. His small intestine had accrued several blood-blisters where there was bleeding within the lining of the intestine. Veptus stopped the bleeding and released the pressure of the blisters.
The conversation between Pelegon and the rest of those present was beginning to lull and Veptus was nearly finished. He excised himself from Pelegon’s chest and went collect the bionic heart he would use to replace the one Pelegon had lost. He could replace it with a flesh one either now or at a later point using DNA from Pelegon’s own tissue but he suspected that having a bionic heart would he the dour Iron Warrior’s preference. Returning with the metallic replacement in hand, Pelegon handed him a storage-vial stored at his waist, requesting that he re-attatch his true hand instead of the poor bionic one he currently possessed. Perhaps he was wrong about the Iron Warrior’s desire to keep bionics. Veptus took Pelegon’s vial silently, nodding in acknowledgement and placed it to one side. Veptus quickly sought, found and connected the severed arteries to the new bionic heart. As soon as they were all in place, the bioelectrical energy activated the machine which began to tick over a steady rhythm.
“And you Veptus…” Azoth addressed him now that the conversation had clearly drawn to a close. “…any new trophies from this most recent war?” Veptus smirked viciously as his junior apothecary returned Pelegon’s repaired rib-plate to him.
“If you are curious whether I did my duty, have no fear Azoth. Several of Corax’s gene-smiths lie dead by my hand, something that is sure to only rub salt in the considerable wounds of our corvine cousins. Many more are maimed or dead, as is always the case…” Veptus finished fusing the ribplate back together and began to sew up the open chest before moving onto Pelegon’s hand as he continued. “…in war like this. But facing Legionaries is such poor sport. They’re only ever indignant or furious. They are angry without comprehension that they are not different than us, save that their Primarch’s are idle fools chasing a dream that cannot be whilst we understand that acts of brutality are necessary. Besides…” Pelegon’s bionic hand came away with relative ease and Veptus took his original flesh one from its casket and began to reattach tendons, muscle and key veins. “…they all have this wide eyed wonderment that’s a mixture of shock, incredulity and horror, as if they have never faced a dagger in the back…”
Veptus sniggered mirthlessly to himself as he sewed Pelegon’s skin back together. He finished and looked as Azoth as he began to rinse the sinner’s red from his hands lest others confuse his duty for a sentence. “…it’s quite quaint really.” His narthecium reached round and retrieved the CSF implant from Pelegon’s spine. “You should regain the feeling in your limbs soon enough, although the full effects will take a few hours to wear off. Feel free to exercise your arm, but try not to damage it again so soon, else I might think you are trying to find reasons to be down here. Though if that is the case…” Veptus wiped the last of the blood from his hands and chestplate, before flashing his psychopath’s smile at Pelegon “…that can be arranged.” His eyes darted between Nyx and Azoth who nodded shallowly back at him, sharing in his jest. “Well gentlemen, I shall leave you. I must locate our Captain. Xheng…” his Minoris looked up from his work on Azrael for a moment. “… have him prepared for his new limbs by the time I return. No doubt the Lord of Lies will have something planned for him, and I would know what it is before continuing.” With that Veptus left the Apothecarion.
His intuition taught him that Xandrek would most likely be in his personal chambers. Xandrek often preferred to be insolation, bound only to the duties of his writing desk although Veptus was not quite sure what he ever wrote about. Certainly no Remembrancers had lasted very long on the Maiden, even when the Imperial Decree to entertain those mewling artists had meant anything to the VIIIth legion. Azrael had cast a pall over Xandrek and so Veptus decided to enact an old tradition, something with a significance known only to him and Xandrek. His vox crackled into life “Naomi…”
“Yes Lord Veptus.”
“Bring one of the unmarked crystal decanters and two glasses to Xandrek’s study, post haste.”
“Yes m’lord.” The link died and Veptus made his way to Xandrek’s study.
His own quarters were closer than the Apothecarion and so he found Naomi dutifully waiting outside. She would not risk the ire of the Captain by disturbing him, favoured as she was by Veptus. He took the platter bearing his offering from her and released her to her other duties. He entered Xandrek’s study and set the platter down on a small side table he had in his sparsely furnished room. Xandrek was intent on staring at his accumulated weapon wall. Veptus noted one plinth was bare, it was the plinth belonging to the Captain’s bolter. Clearly it lay somewhere down below.
Veptus began to pour the dark ochre liquid into the shallow, stocky glasses provided as he spoke. “Nyx speaks positively of the battle. Dead and wounded account for only 30% of our numbers, which I imagine is better than most. The Gorgon is dead along with his Morlocks, and the Salamander’s fate is in the Primarch’s hands now. A manhunt for Corax is underway since the Raven Lord managed to evade capture or death, although that’s hardly surprising. The only Primarch more slippery than him is Alpharius himself.” Veptus giggled softly to himself.
"But that's not why you are here instead of the apothecarion, letting me preen as it my duty..." Veptus sighed, picking up the two tumblers full of dark liquid. "...It's Azrael isn't it?" He placed one on his Captain’s writing desk just behind Xandrek, and took a sip from his own. It was a tradition between the two men's fathers, whenever difficult decisions had to be made this concoction was broken out and shared. It was less of a tradition between him and the Captain, but whatever was bothering Xandrek the message was clear; Veptus stood with him, as he always had.
Xandrek finished hanging his sword on its assign place before turning to Veptus, clenching and unclenching his fists.
"Azrael spared one of the Raven Lords company Champions, Veptus. And because of such it makes me question his loyalty and not only that but I have gotten reports that said Champion slew twelve members out Fourth Company. Eighth Claw is now under half strength and Sergeant Nilhus as you have probably seen in the apocatherion will require extensive Bionics." Veptus had not seen Nilhus yet, perhaps he lay in one of the adjacent rooms. The sergeant shared a gang link with both Xandrek and Veptus, although Veptus could think of no reason why Azrael would bear a grudge against him.
Veptus hmmm'ed to himself and glanced over to Xandrek's writing desk, briefly wondering if he could discern Xandrek’s subject matter from the scattered notes. He considered this only briefly before returning to the conversation in hand.
"No doubt the scale of slaughter soured his Terran sensibilities. Although, perhaps it is not his loyalty that should be questioned, but his commitment to do what is necessary. I do not question his loyalty necessarily, no doubt some misguided sense of it was what made him spare the Raven Guard. Perhaps he has simply lost the stomach for war. In either case..." Veptus smirked "...he's just as useless to you." Veptus drank another sip from his glass.
"However,..." Veptus turned to face Xandrek "...the Raven Guard I can at least rationalize, even if it proves him a fool. It is the slaughter of the Eighth Claw I question. By whatever hypocritical code of honour he clings to, Azrael is not one for wanton slaughter. Either he has gone mad, or he has truly betrayed you..." Veptus wondered, if that were the case, if he would be handed Azrael to deal with, or if Xandrek would entrust that to someone else. "...or someone else has picked a very opportune moment to blame your Champion."
Xandrek picked up his glass for the first time and raised it modestly to Veptus, who reciprocated the gesture. He took a sip and savoured the liquid. It was a Nostraman vintage, harvested from the moon-grapes that grew in the false light of the stars that only faintly illuminated their destroyed birth-world. They were bitter and metallic to the taste, a flavour Veptus estimated to be something akin to the combination of blood and vinegar. It was an acquired taste to be sure.
"It was Azrael himself, I have reports from several squad leaders along with the sworn accounts of over twenty battle brothers who saw him allow the Raven Guard to run." Xandrek fixed Veptus with a stare for a moment, and Veptus felt it mirror the probing glare he had received from Konrad earlier. Xandrek was truly his father’s son.
His corpse-pale face cracked into the hint of a rictus grin as Xandrek broke his stare to study the glass he was holding. "There must not be much of that left Veptus, or did you manage to secure several bottles from our homeworld before we cracked its mantle?" Xandrek waved a hand, confirming that he wasn’t really interested in the answer. "I have the makings of Azrael's punishment in hand. Upon returning to the apocatherion you are to speak with Tech-Marine Zho-Zhang. He has been given orders to prepare for Azrael a new helmet which you will need to help the champion into."
Veptus grinned his unhinged smile and drained his glass to half way. Xandrek was teasing him.
“I’m almost tempted to ask what it is I will be helping him into....” Xandrek met him with one raised eyebrow. Veptus cocked his head. “…almost. But then, I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise from myself.” Xandrek gave a brief, quiet nasal laugh. Veptus put his half full glass back on the platter with the decanter. “When you deem it appropriate, I still hold it as my duty to confirm your bill of health and so I would like to see you in the Apothecarion. However, you don’t appear to be dying so I’m sure such formalities can wait until we have concluded our duties here. I shall return to our ‘esteemed Champion’ and will ‘assist’ him in any way I can.” Veptus bowed as he went to leave.
“See that you do so Corpse-Master.” Xandrek said suddenly stern. Clearly whatever he had designed for Azrael was enough punishment and the Captain did not see the need to leave him at Veptus’s mercy. Veptus left his Captain alone with his weapons and his thoughts and returned to the Apothecarion to resume his duties. Now that the battle was over, Nyx was right, he would likely have a lot of work to do…
Last edited by Deus Mortis; 04-05-15 at 07:28 PM.