Hraxis hung heavy and red, half eclipsed by the horizon. In the ruddy half-light of the urDay the faces of trainees stretched out before Memnon were ruddy masks, grim revenants running through basic calisthenics. Veterans of the Chapter’s wars towered over them, directing, or correcting the awkward or weary. On the right, in the place of honour, the faces of boys as young as six years showed they pushed new found limits of endurance. So desperate, yet so full of hope. A bitter blend, his memory of the ordeal centuries past reflected before him.
To be found worthy was to be elevated so far above their origins in the primitive backwaters, remade into the likeness of a God. 'How little I knew the burden of death and loss that came with the gift.' He frowned as a boy faltered. 'Not that I would refuse it, even armed with the weight of centuries.' All gifts have a price. His voice was a murmur. "I would pay it twelve times over."
On the left were older men, and a sprinkling of women. Too old for the gene-seed, or unable to assimilate it, they could still serve under arms in defense of their faith. 'Oh to have their courage, to fear but still strive and stand.' His eyes rake the ranks, but there is nothing to stir him to action. 'Can I even remember fear?" But there is not even a dim memory, though the image of the ravening hordes of the ruinous powers is fresh in his mind. 'How can you be brave when you are never afraid?' He knew the faithful, trained them, fought with them, and seen them stand before horrors that no doubt shivered them to their very souls. 'Oh for a taste of their fear." But all gifts have a price." 'And I have paid it twelve times over.'
“You have done well Memnon, they will suffice very well,” a quiet voice said from behind him.
“Thank you Brother, you are too kind.” Memnon replied, not needing to turn to know it was his brother, Korvus, the Legate.
“Not at all." The Legate stepped up beside him to stand before the straining ranks. "Have many fallen so far?”
“Only a handful in a thousand, less than usual.” Memnon grimaced. 'My failure.'
Korvus nodded. “More from Scylla?”
“Indeed.” As they talked a boy of no more than ten clutched his chest and collapsed. A white robed apothecary and his attendants moved quickly from the edge of the field to where he lay, kneeling and tending to the child’s shaking form. Memnon started forward, but Korvus restrained him with a hand on his elbow.
“For my part,” the Legate said, “it’s the loss of the children that is hardest to bear. What might they have become, what might they have achieved had they not chosen our service?”
The apothecary shook his head, and made the sign of the Golden Throne over the now still form of the child. Memnon shook his head sadly, and said, “It is better they have tried and failed, than to have never tried at all.”
“A cold philosophy brother.” Korvus' voice was not mocking.
Memnon shook his head. “I did not say I do not mourn their loss, but you know well there is a price to be paid for survival.”
Korvus nodded quietly as they watched the boy being borne off the field. “Brother, the time has come for you to put aside this task to others.”
'At last!' His hearts pounded fast, but Memnon kept his face composed. “I had wondered how long this respite would last. We are stretched thin.”
“Thin indeed, but not so thin anymore thanks to your efforts.” Korvus turned his back on the trainees as he spoke.
Memnon smiled. The Legate was not free with his praise. “Where would you have me go, Brother?”
“The Council of Houses has officially requested we provide a security contingent for their hallowed assembly." Korvus grimaced. when he was done.
Memnon nodded, “A difficult task.”
“The Emperor guide and protect you.” Korvus extended his arms.
Memnon stepped into his brother's embrace. “I shall have much need.”
Korvus 16:15, 9 February 2008 (UTC) Nicholas Cioran