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Vigil

 Post subject: Vigil
PostPosted: Wed Sep 01, 2010 4:35 am 
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Joined: Thu Mar 16, 2006 5:51 am
Posts: 24
Location: Forgetown, on the Reacher's Folly - Broken Stone trade route
Written as bg fluff for a friend's SM Chapter. The only change from the original is that I've formatted with bold and italics to help seperate the stories of the two men.


I am Tiberius, an Inductee. I need no other name, for if I conquer the volcano I will take a new name that will be entered into the Legion Registry, if I fail, I will not be remembered.

The tribesmen behind me are quiet now and have been since we entered the Monster's shadow. The path winds up the side, and I see the cave in the distance, many miles ahead. The trek is not an easy one, and the trial awaits at the end.

Every prospective Chaplain in our Chapter, the mighty Phoenix Legion, has undergone this trial. We are not told how many fail, we only see the success of those who pass the test. We only hear the stories. The legends.

Even now, I think of those who have gone before me, who's feet have made this path. And none stand higher in my mind than Chaplain Pyrus of the First Cohort. Pyrus who was once Titus. The man who is a legend..

I know only a little of his story, for details are never spoken by those who succeed, not even to their Chaplain brothers.. I find myself wondering what went through Pyrus' mind when he got to this point..


~

The tribesmen mutter and pause, and make the sign of the aquila, they will go no closer. Inductee Titus simply sneers and walks on, he knows they dare not step even to the foot of the Monster. He begins to climb, his fingers blistering as he uses the steaming rock for handholds. Leaving spatters of his noble blood boiling and sizzling off the rocks, he steps up to the cave. It is even hotter in here, and the soles of the Titus' shoes become warped as they begin to melt. He wipes his arm across his forehead, wiping away the sweat. Ahead of him, he sees a light, an orange-red glow that can only mean he is nearing the end of the tunnel, and the start of his trial. He squares his shoulders and walks forwards. He is ready.

~

These rocks are hot! I'm losing skin just climbing, and I can even feel blisters beginning to form on the soles of my feet. It takes me half an hour just to climb to the entrance of the cave, and I am bleeding freely from my fingers and the palms of my hands. The trial proper hasn't even started yet and I'm already burning up, sweating freely.. How I'll manage to spend a whole solar day in vigil stood over the volcano bowl, I have no idea.. But it must be done, it can be done.

I peer into the cave, wiping the sweat from my face, far ahead I can see a glow. I step forward..


~

Titus steps out onto the promontory, the heat which was already unbearable hits him with renewed force, he does not falter, but grins. "Monster they call you" he calls aloud, the lava below boils and spurts. "Well I'll tell you now, no monster can claim the sure of heart. The pure of mind. No superstition will cause failure. I will be a Flamen Imperialis!" He leaps forth to the very edge of the precipice, looking down past his toes to the bubbling magma. As if in response, the liquid rock blups and sends a small gobbet of fiery lava to land by his feet, scoring a mark in the rock. The Inductee laughs and stands, his hands on his hips, "Do your worst" he mutters, closing his eyes and waiting for the visions to come..

~

If anything this tunnel is hotter than the climb up to it, I no longer wipe the sweat from my face, it flows freely, dripping from my chin. It gets into my eyes and I stumble, flinging out an arm for balance. A mistake, as I leave a layer of skin on the rock wall, I stand still for a moment, aghast as I watch it sizzle and cook, then char and fall to the floor. The palm of my hand hurts like the Emperor's own wounds. I falter..

~

Hours have passed and night is falling, Titus remains still on the precipice, the dark sky underlit by the orange glow from the volano's bowl. He frowns, all this time and no visions.. He cannot fail this trial, his faith is absolute, his heart pure, his resolve strong.. "How strong exactly, Titus?" Titus flicks opn his eyes at the voice, he half-turns, but there is no-one behind him, then turns back, confused.. But now the sky is not the dark-blue of impending midnight, it is a livid purple, and the liquid below him is no longer lava.. It is boiling blood. He grins. "Strong enough, o' faceless voice" he calls out. "Strong enough to not be worried by parlour tricks! Do you hide from me, o' coward of the volcano? Show me your nature, tell me your name!"

"The last human who saw my nature died insane seventeen seconds later" comes the voice again, this time from directly below Titus, he peers forwards over the edge. "And my True Name would cause your mind to become enflamed and burn away in your head. Your mortal kind remember me as Monster"

"Monster!" laughs Titus, "The name of the volcano! Show yourself, trickster of the crater, and we shall see if you are as fearsome as you pretend!" As if in reply, a plume of the superheated ichor erupts mere feet in front of the edge of the precipice, causing Titus to step back a pace, shielding his eyes. The plume remains, fountaining upwards at the same height of the Inductee. The blood shifts, and takes on the form of a face. But no human face, this, it is a horned wolf, snarling and gnashing, only holes where it's eyes should be.

"Nice trick" comments Titus, regaining his footing and stepping again forward. "No trick, Inductee Titus" snarls the wolfshead, "Merely the least of my myriad forms. Though I see you still quail before me.." Titus laughs, "Quail, my unimaginitive friend?" he asks, "No, I shake only with laughter for one who styles himself such as you, one who names himself after a volcano. Quail? No, I laugh!" The wolfshead moves closer to Titus, "Laugh all you like mortal, laugh all you can. When I claim you as I have thousands before you, your pain will be such that you will not even be able to scream.." The head leers, "I am not named after the volcano, little one. The volcano is named for *me*" The wolf appears to draw in a breath, and Titus sees flame roiling deep in it's throat, "Emperor on Earth.." he mutters, holding out his left arm and making the sign of the aquila. The head breathes out, and with it comes a plume of liquid fire, heading directly toward Titus, a spear of flame.


~

Fire! My hand feels as if the very flesh is burning away and my bones are charring, a low moan escapes my lips as I grit my teeth against the pain. I shake my head, thinking on the trial of Pyrus and what he endured.. That hero would have willingly had the skin stripped from his hand a thousand times over, rather than suffer his fate..

No, I must go on. I step forward again toward the light, the pain in my hand subsides to agonising, and I cope. I must cope. The rock below my feet trembles as if in sympathy to my pain, and I realise with a stab of panic that the volcano is going through one of it's more unstable periods. I was advised to wait a season until I took my trial, let the Monster calm down.. But no.. In my arrogance I chose to take the trial as soon as I could, though I may pay the price..

I step on, the ground shakes again, cracks appear and steam issues forth. Avoiding the worst, I step and hop forwards, until a large fissure opens in the tunnel right before me, and from those sulphourous depths burst fire..


~

Fire! Titus' left arm becomes immolated in the flame streaming from the volcano-demon's mouth, he screams aloud to the heavens as he watches the flesh melt away, sees the bone beneath begin to char. Fire licks around him, sending his shadow darting behind. Though the pain is complete, Titus manages to gasp aloud coherent words, "Though you burn my body, my heart is pure!" he yells, "Though you destroy my flesh, my faith is strong! If I die, my soul goes before the Throne!"

The torrent of fire stops, and the Daemon grins at Titus, "I don't want your soul, little human" it retorts, "I only want your pain. See how your very muscles melt and fuse under my glare.. How delicious.." Titus glares at the Daemon, "This.." he gasps through the pain, "This is only a vision, when I best you I will return a Chaplain, with both arms intact.." Titus' belief seems to empower the man, and he raises both arms to the sky, as if in prayer. "Hear my words, false-god!" he shouts, even as the last few tendons in his left arm burn away, and the blackened bone of his forearm ceases to be attached to his body, dropping into the crater, "My faith denies you! My strength repels you! The Emperor protects me! The Emperor destroys you!"


~

I balk from the wall of fire before me, cursing my luck. If I had only waited a season, this would not have happened.. The flames are relentless, barring my way. They teach us early in the Tacticae, if you cannot go around an obstacle, if you cannot go under, go over.. You must endure. You must go through. I steel myself and take a step back, judging how much of a run-up I will need to leap through these flames, how much speed I will require to clear the distance without going too far. How much strength I will need to jump, but not open my head on the tunnel roof.

My head is clear now. I take one step back and crouch slightly, bunching the muscles in my legs for the leap. I close my eyes and ready myself. The Emperor protects. I jump.


~

"The Emperor Protects!" shouts Titus, his lungs burning in the oven-like air. The Deamon grins, "I'll enjoy your death" it says, drawing in another breath, "Your pain will make a fine addition to my collection" Again, Titus sees fire brewing in the Daemon's throat. Maybe this is a vision, he thinks to himself as the flames lick around the Daemon's teeth. But did anyone ever mention if visions can kill? He shakes his head, laughing aloud, "If this be my end, then so it be as The Emperor wills. You hear me Daemon? So be it!"

The sky seems to split, and Titus is almost knocked from his feet. At first he thinks a gunship is passing over, a gunship sent to give him relief from this fate. He looks up to the purple sky in wonder, then flinches as liquid hits his face.. This is it, he thinks, the molten rock will claim me, burn me away to nothing.. But the liquid is cool, it runs down his cheek.. Water?

The first arc of lightning winds it's jagged course through the onrushing clouds and destroys an outcropping of rock on the far side of the crater, sending shards of stone dropping into the blood below. The rain, now lashing down turns instantly to steam as it hits the boiling ichor and surrounding rock. The wolfshead mimics that of Titus and looks upwards..

It wails and howls as the cooling rain hits it, but where the water evaporates in the crater, it rends holes through the head of the beast, dispersing the roiling blood that makes up it's face. "You have no escape, Titus!" it screams as the head falls back toward the surface of the lake, "I will be behind you for all of your days!" Titus watches as the wolfshead impacts into the magma, and now realises that it is indeed molten rock once more, not blood. Looking up the rain spatters his face, falling from a dark blue sky that is reaching toward dawn. He spits into the crater and turns on his heel.


~

As I leap through the fire I see flashes of memory in front of my eyes. Some are my own, some are not.. I see myself falling from the rocks into the lava below, I see myself immolated in fire spurting from eyeless sockets in a wolf's head. I see my arm burn away. I know I am not going to make the jump. I know now that the fissure was wider than I could possibly manage, I know that the last thing I see in this life will be the far edge seeming to drop away from me as I fall into the depths.

'The Emperor protects' I whisper, knowing now that my fate is my fate. If I am to die here then I will accept my death. It is as The Emperor wills. So be it.

My feet land heavily on rock, the impact jars my very bones and the breath that I didn't realise I was holding escapes from my lungs with a gasp. I look around, just behind me is the end of the cave, the wall of fire dissapates even as I catch my breath, ahead of me is the edge of the precipice. Above, the sky. Below, the crater. I grin and step forth, placing my hands upon my hips. My trial has begun, my vision awaits..


~

"Inductee Titus?" calls a timid voice from the path ahead. The tribesman cowers in his furs, shaking despite the heat of the region. "Do I look like an Inductee, dolt?" replies the approaching figure. "No, I do not. I require transport to the monastary, and an Apothacary to be waiting when I get there. Also a Tech-Marine versed in the creation of augmetic limbs" The figure straightens up and waves the tattered remains of it's left arm at the tribesman, "My name is Pyrus, and I am a Chaplain of The Phoenix Legion. Do as I bid or I'll feed you to the volcano"

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