The Black Shield and The Watch Commander

“Okay, so this one’s actually a fanfic of a sort.  Recently I’ve gotten more into roleplaying, especially within the Warhammer 40k universe.  This was the backstory to the character that I play as, so a lot of people will probably not get a lot of the terminology or significance of the names and ranks within this short story (more of two flash fictions really).  If you’re interested here’s a link that would greatly help with defining what’s what in this fictional universe, otherwise, I sincerely apologize if the lack of context lost your interest in this one.” -Justin, September 2014.

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A Black Shield

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A Watch Commander
Pictures taken from here

Watch Commander Mordigael read the files of the young marine in front of him, studying his features. From his medium length, dark brown hair, to the posture of his body under the black and white armor, every feature pointed to a youth. Indeed, his file’s basic information said that the young battle brother was barely half a century old. Yet his eyes seemed like they had already lived three Astartes’ lifetimes. Unfortunately, the files contained little else except his combat capability, which is substantial. The Watch Commander looked at the young marine.

“Normally I would not pry into the business of one wishing to be a Black Shield,” he shifted his stance, the power sword at his side reflecting the dim light of the chamber. “But normally a space marine doesn’t get dumped at my doorstep by an Inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus, escorted by a squad of Black Templars.  This kind of… treatment raises a few questions,” he gave the files another glance, “Jester.”

Jester moved his steady gaze from the floor as the Mordigael addressed him, the tired dark brown eyes fell on the senior commander of the Deathwatch. “What would you like to know Commander?”

“Everything.”

The two held their silent gaze at each other, until the Watch Commander realized that his vague question may have confused the youth, who probably endured much at the hands of the Inquisitor for the past few weeks. He rephrase his response, “Tell me, what happened to your chapter, the First Sons?  Where are they now?  Why did you leave?”

Jester broke his stare at the older veteran.  After a moment, he began,

“Our first company was tasked with clearing out heretics at the underwater hive world of Cilix 225.  I was attached to a veteran squad for my success during our last engagement.  Kathal, the 1st company captain then,” Jester grimace, “thought it would be a good opportunity for me to gain additional experience, and for him to take note of my abilities.  The mission was successful, and we captured a few heretics for the… victory rituals back on Scelus, the homeworld.

There was an Inquisitor that accompanied us during the mission, Pietias, I think her name was. She found out about the victory rituals we do, where we would take some our enemies, xenos or otherwise, spill their blood at our fortress monastery, and consume them.  It’s an eon old tradition, where we would thank the Emperor for the enemies he delivered into our hands, and the strength we would gain from devouring their flesh.  The Inquisitor took offense by what she saw and requested a force from the Sororitas to halt the rituals and arrest Kathal for purity tests.  She also requested that the chapter suspend the practice of all rituals until a thorough investigation into the nature of rituals can be completed.”

Jester took a deep breath, “Kathal ordered us to slay them on the private chapter vox channel, saying the Inquisitor and her troops had no right to interrupt the blessings of the Emperor and that they were insulting the honor of the chapter.  The first company fell upon the Celestians with no mercy.  By chance my squad was stationed on the outer perimeter of the ceremonial anti-theater, and a squad of Sororitas were near by.  Locius, my sergeant, turned and gunned downed one of them before the rest of us could even raise our weapons.  I… I just reacted, and by the time I understood what was happening all nine other members of my squad were dead, and my chainsword was dripping with their blood.

The three remaining battle sisters were still clutching their weapons, one of them losing a lot of blood from her lacerated mid section. They wanted to rescue the Inquisitor, and to regroup with their larger force and fight their way out, but I knew there was no possible way that could happen. The Sororitas were already outnumbered at least three to one, and that’s not counting those that went down during the the initial assault.  Add the home advantage in and it would take a primarch to fight a way in and out of the fortress. It took some convincing, but eventually they relented.

We managed to make our way to the launch bays and took one of the thunderhawks.  While we were flying away in low attitude to avoid the anti-air defence we caught a glimpse of the anti-theater below: Kathal had completed the ritual using the Inquisitor herself.  We flew to the other side of the planet and then out of the range of the scanners as far as possible.  The Emperor must have been watching over us that day, not only we avoid being picked up by the orbital chapter fleet’s scans, we ran into an inquisitorial vessel just on the edge of the system.

Long story short, the wounded sister expired from her wounds, but thanks to testimonies of her squad-mates, I was spared the swift blessings of the Emperor’s Peace.  However, the Inquisitor in charge, Kinious, was a close friend of the fallen Inquisitor, the one my former brothers consumed.  Under his… watchful eyes, I undergo a series of tests to prove my purity, needless to say, the fact that I’m standing before you proved my… lesser degree of guilt.”

The Watch Commander’s blank expression did not change as he heard Jester’s story, not even when the ritual was described.  As the young marine concluded his answer, Mordigael asked, “So that is it? Kinious just gave you a longer version of the purity trials, and left you here? If that is the extent of this Inquisitor’s grudge then I would say you got off easy.”

A slight smile hinted at the edge of Jester’s mouth, “as much as I had prayed to the Emperor that the Kinious would have done that, like you said, I would have gotten off easy.”  The Watch Commander prompted Jester to continue, “The Inquisitor wanted me to be executed, but someone on board the vessel accompanying him forbid a seemingly innocent Astartes to be killed so wastefully.  I cannot remember who.  Nonetheless I could not be released so freely into the Emperor’s galaxy, so a compromised was reached.

I would take a death oath, and undertake that quest alone, or die.  Only upon the completion of that oath will I be allowed to return to the Emperor’s light.  So either I will find peace in death, or my penance will be paid for my efforts.  Without much of a choice, I agreed.  I would be dropped off at one of the worlds on the edge of the Eye of Terror to search for a certain relic from the ancient days before the Age of Apothesey.  So a lone thunderhawk took me to a planet called Crasis, and left me with my armor, a chainsword and bolt pistol with one clip.”

Mordigael rubbed his chin thoughtfully, “Crasis, isn’t that one of the planets that was swallowed by the Eye for a while?”

Jester nodded, “the same. I’m sure you have better things to attend to than to hear me speak all day, but-“

“How many did you come across?”

Jester stared, “I’m sorry commander?”

“How many of the First Sons did you kill during your search?”

Jester stopped and dropped his eyes to the floor, and after a minute, looked back up, a quiet fury in his eyes “They took the name Sons of Malice, a final betrayal.  I killed six of these ‘Sons of Malice’.  Three with my chain sword, two with pistol, last with my hands.”

“Was Kathal one of them?”

“No, Emperor forgive me.”

“And the rest of the story?”

Jester sigh softly, “I found what I was looking for on a distant planet from the Eye after a period of time, the warp storms throwing me time and time again to different planets, and was able to flagged down a passing cruiser with an old imperial beacon.  Coincidentally, it was a Dark Angel’s ship, the Formidable.  The Battle Brother in charge immediately place me in quarantine and contact the nearest Inquisitorial authorities for instructions.  By the Emperor’s will, it was Kinious who responded first, arriving with his ship and transporting me another prison of Ordo Hereticus for a much longer and intense test of purity than our first encounter.  Once more, by the Emperor’s grace, I was found cleanse of any influence of the archenemy.  After a long… discussion between the higher powers of the Inquisition it was decided that I have earned my chance to rejoined the Emperor’s fold, and I was transported here.”

“Do you believe that?”

“I… I live to serve the Emperor commander.”

“That’s not an answer.”

The two Astartes held their gaze at each other, each trying to penetrate the other’s steel shield to the other’s true intentions underneath.  It was Jester who faltered first, dropping his eyes.  The Watch Commander studied the assault marine before him, and after a while, spoke, “I will permit you to join deathwatch as a black shield,” Jester looks back up, his eyes hopeful,” but under one condition.” The Watch Commander watched the determined youth carefully, “You must swear to me that you will never place your interests ahead of that of your kill-team, the Deathwatch, or the Imperium, this includes your hunt for the Sons of Malice. And if you fail in this oath, I will issue the Emperor’s Peace on you personally. Do you accept my offer?”

Jester hesitated, then nodded. “I accept.”

“You accept with your words, it remains to be seen if you accept with your heart.” With a motion of his hands, a servitor entered the chamber, “please show Brother Jester to his chambers and provide him with his new Black Shield armor, he’s one of us now.”

——-

Three men stood in front of Mordigael, the Master of the Hunt, a Master of the Forge and Deathwatch Sanguinary Priest Ethros of the Blood Angels.

“-and I want an inventory of the basic armament of this fortress in three days, nothing about secretive weapons, just everything between bolters rounds to the macro-shells.” The three men nodded and prepared their departures when the Watch Commander remembered what he wanted to ask, “Brothers, how is our newest Black Shield adjusting to his new home?”

The trio looked at one another, and the Master of the Hunt spoke first, “Jester is diligent when it comes to his training, he spends a good majority of his days either training in my hunting grounds, fighting as much as I’m willing throw at him, or he is at the armories, checking on his weapons and armor.”

The Master of the Forge nodded in agreement, “Although I cannot teach him the ways of treating machine spirits, Jester has been most attentive during my instructions on how to maintain his equipment.  The machine spirits both in his armor and his weapons are well pleased, and the equipment themselves in fine conditions.  Were he of a younger age, I would recommend sending him to Mars to train as techmarine, but it would seem as though his interest lies more in battle, and the casings of the machine spirits but the simple tools of war.”

Noticing the lack of response from Ethros, Mordigael dismissed the two other Astartes, and when their footsteps faded in the distance, the Sanguinary Priest spoke up, “Jester spends the last two hours of each day in one of the sanctuaries, either praying to the Emperor or consulting me for counsel.  He’s… he’s been asking about the Red Thirst and the Black Rage.”  Ethros looked unsurely at the Watch Commander, a Blood Angel himself.

But Mordigael simply nodded and gestured Ethros to continue.  “In addition to questions on faith and forgiveness from the Emperor, Jester seek to understand how we overcome our urges for uncontrolled bloodlust in the midst of battles, to not lose ourselves to our urges and place our minds on our honor and duty.  He does not know or pry our conditions specifically, but have read enough reports to know of our chapter’s ferocity.  I told him I could not answer him yet, as I do not know how to put our resistance quite in terms that could be understood by those outside our chapter. But Watch Commander,” Ethros leaned forward slightly, “I do not wish to pry, for I have asked nothing of the young Astartes and he has revealed nothing in return, so forgive me for asking.  But Mordigael, is he one of us?

The Watch Commander received the question thoughtfully, then replied, “no, Ethros, he does not suffer as much of a temptation as us, yet he must resist another form of darkness within him.  Do all you can to guide him, as you would any Blood Angels, without revealing our lusts.  For one day he must face that darkness head on, and on that day he will either fall from the Emperor’s light or ascend to greatness.  I cannot order you to do this my friend, only ask you to do this one favor for me.”

“Of course commander,” the Sanguinary Priest bowed his head, and walked away as Mordigael dismissed him.  The Watch Commander ran a gauntlet over his head, sparing another thought at the young Black Shield, and turned his attention back to the other responsibilities that awaited him.

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