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The Daemon Within

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Vaden blinked. Debris rolled down the mountain of rubble that was at one point the Cathedral of Saint Richard. The silver power armor of the fallen Champions glimmered in the morning sun. A breeze blew the tattered pages of the Writ of Fortitude. Vaden slid his arm under him, pushing himself up. A shockwave of pain seared through his body, as numbing agents shot down to calm it. Finally getting his footing, crouching on the shattered ruins of Imperial glory, he put his hands to the helmet of his power armor, twisting and pulling it off. Crimson stained the pitch helm. Vaden looked into the shattered eye pieces, his mind flashing into a quick memory he had no knowledge of.

Discarding the helm, he looked around. Dazed, he tried to remember. Hatred and anger surged through his veins at the sight of his dead comrades, but there was nothing to exact this on. Shaking, he clasped his head in his hands, thinking hard. A slight sound pierced the quiet. The rustling of a flag. Looking up, he saw the tattered remains of his Covenants banner fluttering in the cool breeze. The deep black and bright white background was stained with blood.

Standing upright, Vaden forced himself forward. Even with the numbing agents coursing through his body, the pain was unbearable. Vaden grasped the flags pole in his hand, lifting it into the air. He reached to his side, drawing his chainsword. The blade was at least two decades old, serving him since his time as a Sergeant and before. He looked intently at it. He saw more than a weapon. No, it was an extension of his body. He had spent years mastering its arts, its ways. The sword was no longer something one simply held in a clenched fist. It became part of you, like an arm or an ear. You could not part with it. Without it, you were nothing. It was a plain blade, much in the likeness of those issued to the Tactical Marines. No detailing, save for a gold Aquila near the hilt.

“One last time,” Vaden murmured, “one last time over the hill. One last push into the breach. One last fight for all we see true and holy. It matters not where we end, it matters not where we go. One last stand, one final push, for Home, for Emperor, and for Imperium.”

With a yell of war and of pain which pierced the silence like a sword, he charged forth. He ascended the hill, stopping at the top. A trail of crimson, spattered across the ruin, followed him up. Looking about, he hung his blade at his side. Grasping the flag with two hands, he reached high up, thrusting it into the largest solid piece of debris he could find. Toppling over, he leaned himself against the rock. His eyes looked upward, toward the sky. Within a matter of minutes, hundreds of what looked like fireballs were falling from the clouds.

“We are the Angels of Death.” Vaden muttered “We are the Heralds of His might and His will. It is our duty to stand against the Enemies, and face them at all costs. We are clad in the greatest armor, armed with the best the mighty forges can give. We are the Defenders of Humanity. We are the Angels of Death, the mighty Emperor’s Space Marines, and we shall know no fear.”

Closing his eyes, Vaden let final peace overcome him. He felt blood coursing through his veins as his heart slowed. He drifted off into worlds he never had thought of. His mind wandered. Dreams of life and happiness were suddenly replaced by anger and hate. The dreams all Champions had to face, those that drove them to the brink of insanity, yet held them there at the edge, not letting them fall, not letting them back. Vaden tried to awaken, but the dream would not end. Then something manifested itself within his mind. It was terrible, its skin black as midnight and standing thrice the height of a man. It beckoned to him. It promised Vaden eternal paradise, and the right to control his own fate, rather than fight for an Emperor billions of miles away. But Vaden would not come. He defied it, telling it to be gone and leave him to return to his fathers. But it would not yield so easily. It raved, it stormed. The thing leered down upon Vaden.

Vaden exploded. His pent up anger was let out in a sudden gust of voice and shout. He yelled the thing down. It cowered before him, before finally retreating into the blackness of nightmare from whence it came. But it still stalked his dreams, sprinkling them with hate and greed.

As his mind once more wandered, the first thing in it was the memory of the last Commander he had fought under. The Commander, Brother-Captain Markus, had died at the Siege of Vraakoes, his head smashed apart by a large Greenskin. Vaden remember how they had fought to get to Markus’ body. Five of Vaden’s Battle-Brothers had fallen to the Orks, but they finally reached the body. It was carried back promptly. There was a most proper funeral for Markus. The full Covenant paraded upon the Avenue of Peace, Markus’ body in the total solace of death. Many hundreds of the other Covenants had been there. They climbed the steps to the Palace of Solitude. The Chaplain recited ancient texts, and the whole procession prayed for nearly a day. The command then took up the body again, bearing it into the tomb to be lain beside the great heroes of the Champions.

Will this be what I get? Vaden thought. His mind shifted through the possibilities. Many thoughts came through. At first, he believed the descending Champions would recover the body. Then darkness began to descend on his thoughts. What if this didn’t occur? The anger welled up inside of him. He thought of betrayal, of being left here alone. Why would another deserve this, and not him? The thing began to climb back once more, reappearing from the descending darkness.

Vaden turned to confront it. It reached out a leathery hand. It whispered to him, promising him that he would never fall in battle. He could do the one thing he could ever do for eternity, and never have to lose himself. He could go on forever. The thing told him that, should he take the hand, Vaden would never have to worry about a fine burial. He would have a throne and a palace in a land of immortality. Vaden poured out his rage, yelling and beating the thing back with words.

The thing raved, spitting forth an unending tirade. Still Vaden denied it. It drew closer, staring down on him. Vaden gusted out challenges, drawing on pent-up anger. With words he shot the thing out of his mind, buts its filth was not gone. As Vaden’s thoughts wandered, he once again came upon familiar faces and sights.

Vaden remembered the Hunts which had elevated him to his position of Sergeant. How many ferals had he killed? A hundred, if he remembered the number correctly. A hundred lives ended. But it mattered not, he thought. They were animals, and they restocked themselves quickly. Vaden had hoped to one day join one of the legions, leading his squad on the Veteran Hunt. What glory that would have brought him.

Sadly, his whole unit, Mannus, Ferrus, and Koda, Dorin and Baeth, Aggus, Moldun, Varkas, and Omien, had all died in the battle. He would surely be retired to the Forgotten, the Unredemable. The thought displeased him, but he saw their deaths as his fault. He could still see Ferrus with half his face blown off, Koda clinging to his side to stop the fountain of blood, Aggus lying on the ground, his face contorted in unrestrained pain. He could see them all dead. If he lived, he deserved to be put in the Forgotten.

Even as his mind drifted away, he heard a few last words.

“Oden, we’ve got a live one over here!” It shouted, “Quick! Get the Apothecary! We’re losing him!”

?????????????


Vaden blinked. He awoke in a medical ward. A view of Baskus greeted him out of the ship’s nearest porthole.

“I’ve got to say, Brother,” the Apothecary said surprisedly, “You’ve got one hell of a will to live,” he.

“Wh-where am I?” Vaden inquired.

“Aboard the Penitent Savior, 800 miles above Baskus,” the Apothecary said, “Medical Ward Gamma.”

“Did anyone else make it?”

“No, I’m sorry. Brother-Sergeant Vaden, I believe?”

“Yeah, that’s me.”

A sharp pain pierced Vaden’s side.

“Sorry about that,” the Apothecary apologized.

“It’s fine. Am I getting a repost? To the Forgotten?” Vaden asked. It had just come to mind.

“Believe it or not,” the Apothecary said “no. There wasn’t much chance. They brought the whole damn Cathedral down on you. Who’s going to survive that? There was no chance for anyone to get out. We’re all surprised you did.

“Anyway, the Covenant Commander wants to see you. After Davus got killed down there, Captain Havlar needs a new Champion. Surviving that massacre, he thought you’d fit the bill.”

“What?!” Vaden screeched, “I got all my men killed, and now I’m being promoted to Champion!?”

The Apothecary sighed. “You didn’t get them killed. It was Davus who was so eager to take back the Cathedral. As you should know, the banner was to be placed in Victory Square. It was his fault.”

Vaden calmed, loosening up.

“You’re expected in two hours. He wants a little face time before you go out on your Hunt, Vaden.” the Apothecary said, wiping off his tools. “Well, you’re all ready as far as I can tell.” He smiled. “Good luck.”





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