The coming months will be long and dark indeed, Grimaldus thought as he chased an unknown objective through the decks of the Eternal Crusader. He favored empty locations but never stood still, better to be with himself but appear as natural as possible. The news had not been broken to the masses onboard the vessel; plans would have to be made first, and so the High Marshal’s crusade continued onward, bound for… Grimaldus’ mind flickered, his temples wracked with pain. He forgot the vessel’s destination. He forgot their prime direction.
Forget it, he thought. The gentle scraping of his armor’s chains against each other and the hefty slabs of ceramite soon took his mind away into their frigid embrace, but he allowed it. He realized that he had stopped walking, but he allowed it. At least he was alone.
Behind fierce, glowing lenses, Grimaldus’ eyes slid effortlessly shut. And he allowed it.
“My Lord,” a familiar voice intoned.
Grimaldus stirred, still stood as tall and proud as a brazen statue of old, his eyelids beat open and a sense of pride filled him.
“Cyneric, my young Reclusiarch, what is it?” his voice broke several times, like a cogitator grinding to life after decades of dereliction. Cyneric was garbed in casual robes of the Black Templars; a fine, white silken tunic with the bold, iconic cross of the Templar Sigismund across his chest. Golden filigree littered the edges of his garb, occasionally flowing into symbols of the reclusiarchy and his badge of office as a Chaplain. His shaven head looked up slightly to the towering, armored form of High Chaplain Merek Grimaldus.
“Lord, I could ask you the same thing… I didn’t want to disturb you but there comes a time when standing in the open loading dock alone in this dim half-light just becomes,” he searched for a word that wouldn’t offend the High Chaplain, “odd?”
Grimaldus’ visage remained fixed on his young protégé for a protracted moment longer than Cyneric felt comfortable. He grunted.
“How long was it?”
Contemplation struck Grimaldus as Cyneric stood confounded for another enduring pause, It would be silly not to seek assistance outside of my peers, he thought. The joint between his helmet and chestplate scraped as he tilted his head. Desiring to appear more approachable, contrary to his inner feelings, Grimaldus decided to remove the helmet altogether.
Breathing deeply of the chilled, recycled air the revered Chaplain began again,
“Cyneric, we need to talk about how we, as a Chapter, are to proceed,”
“Guilliman?” Cyneric was newly inducted, but he was far from foolish.
“Indeed, if you could confide in me without sin or penance, what would you see done?”
Cyneric hesitated, but began carefully,
“My Lord, you once taught me yourself that we, not just as Black Templars but as Space Marines, are becoming more and more isolated from the Imperium,” he faltered, but quickly gathered his words and the teachings his mentor had once imparted, “every day we are fighting harder for the Emperor, but less so for the Imperium itself… there is corruption within, from all places; maybe not as depraved as worship of the Ruinous Powers, but even just the base desires of all mortals…”
Grimaldus held back a smile as his former student turned his humble life-lesson into a barely-restrained oration. He snapped back to reality as Cyneric fumbled his words,
“… what I’m saying, Lord Grimaldus, is that Guilliman is not the future of the Imperium… not a bright one, anyway. He’s becoming a totalitarian. An autocrat.”
“Becoming?” Grimaldus smirked.
“But what I’m talking about is purely theoretical, to put this in motion would be heresy,” Cynaric began, “Lord Guilliman is the Emperor’s only living son, and has authority to rule in His stead.”
The looming Chaplain’s mood quickly soured, he had almost opened himself up to admitting to heresy. He might still have, if Cynaric felt something was wrong and told the right, or wrong, people. A foggy notion blanketed his mind, like he had water drifting about inside his skull, was this confusion? Anxiety? Guilt? All one and the same – feelings he had not touched upon in a long time, and ones he did not wish to again. He glanced at his arm as he saw Cynaric grip him,
“I know what you’re doing, my Lord,” a wry smile split along one of his cheeks, “if I could speak without penance, Brother, I’d say I would follow you to the end of the universe as we know it…”