We took our souvenirs and said our goodbyes to Aurum, then lifted off. Destination: Watch-Fortress Erioch.
None of us had seen Erioch before, and I must admit, it’s an impressive sight. The system itself is something of an enigma, as if it had been made for the Deathwatch’s purposes; I wonder whether the Librarians or the Mechanicus know more about it than they’re letting on?
We transferred to Erioch in a small shuttle, and disembarked to be met by a squad of Deathwatch marines. I noticed one was from my own Chapter, and was about to greet him – I have missed my gene-brothers more than I expected – when their captain (Black Templars markings) headbutted Hrolfgar and yelled “ATTACK!”
From there, things got chaotic. My opposite number went for me with a chainsword, and I fought back; elsewhere, Ogur was being menaced by one with a power fist, and Hrolfgar and Thorhammer were holding back. The Raven Guard (Castellan, his name is) landed a few light taps on me, and I hit him somewhat harder, but we were reluctant to fight back with deadly force without knowing the situation. Perhaps some malefactor had falsely informed them we were traitors? Perhaps some hostile power had overtaken their very minds? I had no desire to kill a brother Marine without being sure of myself. So I dropped a blind grenade, which was very effective in the confined space, and was pleased to hear the captain calling off his men. Apparently it had all been a friendly greeting to test our skills.
I was rather less pleased when Brother Castellan continued to attack me – despite his commander’s repeated orders to stand down – and I got the impression he wasn’t going to pull his blows. I switched off my chainsword and side-stepped, easy to do in the blackness; he was easy to locate by the noise, and he flailed wildly until I flicked the weapon from his hand with my own, and his comrades pulled him back.
When the chaos settled, Castellan and a Dark Angels Marine had left, and the Captain continued with a more friendly greeting. He assigned servo-skulls to act as guides – the constant movement of the place makes navigation difficult for novices – and asked to debrief us individually.
I was rather surprised to hear that he’d been accessing my personal journal, but if he wants my unvarnished opinions, he is very welcome to them. He interrogated me as to the reasons for my posting to the Deathwatch; I told him that I believed it to be because of my reputation as a jinx in the Raven Guard. (From later events, I suspect he had probably heard as much from Brother Castellan already.)
He also questioned me on my behaviour – in particular, on my retreat in the Grensvayl engagement. He seemed to think this was somehow dishonourable behaviour. I might have been gravely offended by this, perhaps inclined to suggest a duel, but I remembered the advice Brother-Chaplain Umbrator gave me when he told me of my assignment to the Deathwatch:
“Remember, Brother Trippetta, that other Chapters have some very curious notions of honour. There are those who believe the Emperor’s will is better served by a Marine who makes a hopeless stand – dying with the loss of his gene-seed and his holy wargear, to no tactical purpose – than by one who withdraws to strike again on another front. Were that our way, the entirety of the Raven Guard would have perished on Isstvan V, before these newcomer Chapters were even dreamt of. Be always proud of your ancient Chapter and its superior tactics, and do not throw your life away cheaply – but understand that in the Deathwatch, you will fight alongside other Astartes who did not have the good fortune to spring from a Primarch as shrewd as Corax. If they cannot appreciate our wisdom, let that be a cause for your pity, not wrath.”
I understand Rune-Priest Hrolfgar had a particularly vigorous debriefing; I cannot imagine a Black Templar captain taking well to the presence of a psyker.
After my own debriefing, I had my servo-skull escort me to my quarters. When I got there, I found a bird skull over the door – I assume it was a message of some sort from Castellan, but I was unable to decipher it (probably for the best).
From my quarters I went to the armory, to have my armour and weapons seen to – they had taken quite a battering on Aurum. While there I felt a scowling presence behind me and turned to welcome Castellan.
But he did not return my greeting. He was angry with me, and I doubt I’ll be able to change his mind easily. Seems his Brother (or perhaps an actual flesh-and-blood brother?) was lost while fighting alongside me; I’m not sure which one he’s talking about, but I have no doubt he’s telling the truth. I am sorry for it; I would have given my own life for any of the others, but no such opportunity arose. I will have to watch him (or perhaps pass word to one of the Chaplains?) lest his anger at me impair his judgement.
After that rather awkward conversation, Castellan made his exit. We were shown around the fortress, including the vaults and the Omega Gate – I wonder when THOSE will open? – and then at last we were sworn into the Deathwatch.
Our stay on Erioch was fated to be a short one: Watch-Captain Remiel sent us to assist Inquisitor Quist, one of those attached to the Deathwatch. She’d received a message a few hours earlier from another Ordo Xenos Inquisitor on a planet named Karlack, relating to old xenos structures under the sea there and to xenos cultists on the planet.
Brother Hrolfgar was quite intransigent about this; he declared it to be a mission unsuited to Marines, and point-blank refused to go until Remiel showed up to “clarify” our orders, i.e. to accompany and support Quist. (Me, I’m glad to put some distance between myself and Brother Castellan, lest things turn uglier than they already are.)
Before departing we stopped by the armoury again. On Aurum I noticed that several of our more hazardous moments came when we needed to breach and clear buildings – since this forced us to come up close with genestealers – and our standard-issue frag grenades seem less than ideal for tackling such creatures, so I requisitioned some heavy concussion grenades, as well as nova and my usual blind grenades for maintaining the initiative. I also selected a power augur (it looks as if it would be useful for getting through obstacles both stationary and living) and a seismic escalation detonator, but the quartermaster knocked me back on the latter – seems it requires special expertise.. Since I hadn’t yet exhausted the quartermaster’s patience I threw in a camo-cloak and stummer for recon work, an automatic shotgun for crowd control, and some cryo-grenades… let’s see what those do.